Mark Damon Hughes Topic: News [Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics] [about]

Vanishing Point (1971) and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974) are the first two of my big stack of Grindhouse-related movies; they're explicitly referenced in Death Proof, and are some of the classic '70s chase movies.


I know I saw VP in my youth, but remembered only the endless chase, not the ending. I don't think I've ever seen DMCL before.

There will be SPOILERS ahead.


Vanishing Point (Score: *****)

Kowalski (Barry Newman), our first hero, starts out kinda scruffy, but you soon get a sense of character from him, even though he's clearly scraping bottom. As the movie moves on, you see more of his past, and find out that he was a hero in the most unheroic war we'd ever had before this one, then he was a hero cop until the realities of police corruption caught up with him, then he was a hero car racer, and now he's down to just delivering cars; won't be long before he's stealing cars. Even now, though, he has honor. He's perfectly willing to race and drive you off the road, but then he'll check to make sure you lived.

The desert's full of horrible, inbred mutant redneck white trash. It's horrific. It's a realistic depiction of Nevada, mind you, but still shocking to see it on film. One says, "Wonder what's goin' on? Here comes CBS News, must be important." ... 1971 was a strange time, back when the TV news was important in some way.

The second hero of the piece, blind DJ Super Soul (Cleavon Little), is awesome. Clearly this is the last place on Earth he should be, stuck broadcasting funky music from station KOW (soon renamed KOWalski) in the middle of nowhere. And sticking up for a hero when the Man wants to bring him down... isn't a good survival strategy for a black man in Nevada in 1971, you know? But he's a hero, he has no choice in the matter.

The weird characters Kowalski meets along the way are just bizarre and hilarious. A long stretch of it feels like "Kowalksi's Adventures in Wonderland"; maybe that's all the speed he's been taking, maybe the desert in the '70s was just that weird, maybe it's just this film. Whatever, I like it. There's prospectors and snake-handling preachers, hippies and hot chicks. Eventually reality re-intrudes on Kowalski's adventure, though, and you start to question how long Kowalksi can escape the organized forces of the Man...

And then there's the harshest ending I have ever seen in a film. It's the only possible way for a hero to be free when surrounded by the Man, unable to even do a simple car delivery without running into their control.

It's a classical tragedy, Kowalski and Super Soul are modern epic heroes, the equals of Odysseus and Cassandra[0], it's a fantastic movie, and it's very very depressing. When was the last time a movie actually made you feel anything? Trust me, go buy the DVD.

Naturally, there's some shitty fucking Hollywood remake, because modern Hollywood is incapable of doing anything good and new, they just shit on the corpses of the past. Anyone who produces, directs, or acts in a remake of a classic movie, should be used as disposable extras in my Bill Hicks-inspired sequel[1] to Death Race 2000. "BAM! THUMP! THUMP!" "What was that?" "Viggo Mortensen. He remade Vanishing Point WITH A HAPPY FUCKING ENDING." "Oh. He had it comin'." Seriously, everyone in Hollywood, kill yourselves today. Thanks.


Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (Score: * 1/2)

This is almost the diametric opposite of Vanishing Point, while sharing a similar structure and ending. Instead of a laconic but admirable hero, we get an amoral, unpleasant piece of shit Crazy Larry (Peter Fonda, looking uglier than ever, and at his most evil until The Limey); Dirty Mary (Susan George), the chick he banged last night; and Deke (Adam Roarke), Crazy Larry's supposedly-alcoholic mechanic, though he doesn't look like a man ruined by drink, he looks and acts like a serial killer, albeit a beta male to Larry.

After robbing a grocery story by holding the manager's wife and daughter hostage, not even having the balls to do their robbery at gunpoint like real men would, they take off, and can't get rid of Mary, who's latched onto Larry for some excitement. Oh, but don't go thinking it's all action and adventure. It's about 40 minutes in before you'll get a really good car chase. The chases start and end every few minutes, and there's a bit of low-brow banter in between, showing what useless scum all of them are, and how they're all out for their own interests only.

The ending is telegraphed a mile away by dialogue and characters reaching escape velocity from the group... And it's pointless. They made it out free and clear, and random chance got in the way. There's nothing noble in it, there's no reason any of them would want to die. Bam. Over. Idiotic.

I'm appalled. It was dull, the characters were spiteful and unlikeable, and the chase scenes were too short. I can't quite give it 1 star, because the few chase scenes were pretty decent, but a mediocre 2 stars is too high for the characters shown.


[0] Except in this case Odysseus is alone, already knows his wife girlfriend is dead, doesn't have a dog, and has nothing to live for except heroism, speed, and the thrill of the road. And Cassandra gets her ass kicked for telling the truth nobody believes. We worship hard and cruel gods these days.

[1] Yes, sequels are okay, if they're good and don't shit on the original. Consider Halloween. Halloween 2 is awesome and necessary as a companion piece to Halloween. Halloween 3 is a great movie, totally unrelated to the first. All of the others are unnecessary and bad. I nearly gouged out someone else's eyes after seeing H20.

7 Habits Of Effective Text Editing 2.0
Fri, 2007May04 10:44:58 PDT
in Software by kamikaze

Bram Moolenaar, the world-famous creator of Vim gave a Google tech talk, 7 Habits Of Effective Text Editing 2.0.


If I was still using Vim all the time, this would be awesome. For technical people on Linux and Windows who don't yet use Vim, you MUST watch this. It will make you vastly more efficient at working with text (source code, HTML, or even just plain ASCII like blog posts).

However, I'm mostly using BBEdit these days. It only works on Mac, of course, but that's not a problem for me. I almost never touch any other OS anymore. I have a Windows box at work that I use for Outlook. This site is still run on FreeBSD, so I use Vim for some stuff there. Otherwise I only work on Mac.

The thing that strikes me about this talk is how complicated and fiddly Vim is, and how hard it is to do advanced things with it. It's a fantastic editor, compared to anything else on Linux or Windows; it blows even KATE and Notepad++ out of the water; emacs is equivalent in power, but you have to be insane to use emacs. But BBEdit is just so much simpler, and much more powerful. You can easily write Unix shell scripts as text filters, or AppleScript as text filter, or to manipulate and control the entire editor. The Clippings and Markup menus, and the Preview in BBEdit/Safari/Firefox commands make writing HTML source insanely easy. The code folding is easy to use and looks pleasant, unlike Vim's. The BBEdit documents drawer and the disk browser make it easy to work on giant sets of files, which are difficult to manage in Vim.

Vim doesn't update very often, and doesn't seem likely to get much easier to use. It's open source, so it's difficult bordering on impossible to make money from it. Bram asked for donations to live on while working on Vim 7. Now he works for Google, and gets to spend some time on Vim, but doesn't really have time to add major features. Vim is one of the most polished and professional open source programs ever made, but it's still very crude.

BBEdit is a profitable, closed-source program by a software company; sure, it's $125, but it's worth every penny if you work with text a lot. They update it regularly with new features. The documentation is more than just a command reference. It's one of the most solid pieces of software I've ever used.

This is just another chapter in my long disillusionment with open source software. Photoshop makes The GIMP look gimpy. Mac OS X makes Linux look like the random scribblings of autistic college students (oh, wait, it is). Yeah, I like free stuff. But I like good stuff even more.

Hephaestus 3 is Coming
Wed, 2007May02 09:55:10 PDT
in Software by kamikaze

After a long hiatus, I've started work again on a new version of Hephaestus, and I'm looking for some feedback from RPG authors.


The main focus in Hephaestus 3 will be ease of authoring. In addition to the current Java-based system, you'll be able to use a simpler scripting language, probably Jython.

The standard art archive is low-res and pretty old-fashioned now, and the intention was always that people would make their own adventure-specific art. I'm strongly considering only including the old tileset with the Umbra adventure. Thoughts?

I'd like some specific, detailed UI requests and bug reports from people who've played it. Any serious problems? I'm considering making the UI more console-like, with a separate menu screen for character stats, more use of pop-up dialog boxes, and shrinking the text scroller to just a couple of lines. Thoughts?

What else? What's in your dream RPG creator? Especially people with notebooks full of game notes but no engine, what do you need?

Send me feedback.

My grindhouse movies just arrived, so tonight I'll start in on them. Probably gonna start with Vanishing Point, though that Bullitt 2-disc special edition looks awesome.


Also, over at Ain't-It-Cool, Quint has a rant about theatre etiquette, with perhaps the best set of responses in the talkback I've ever seen.

I almost never go to the theatre anymore; I can't stand all the jackasses screaming and shouting and the crying children in R-rated movies (get a babysitter, stay home, or drown your damned infant chimpanzee, you filthy humans, just don't let it screech in public). It's got so I'll only go to independent theatres where the ushers remove obnoxious people. The problem is that chain theatre managers have no financial incentive to make the movie-going experience good, and their bonus depends on nobody calling to complain.

One of the talkback posters made a petition, Enforce Etiquette in the Theatres!, but that doesn't really address the financial incentive problem. The next time you have a bad theatre experience, go talk to the manager immediately afterwards, and if he can't put it right with free passes (hurting him where it matters), call the corporate headquarters and complain. That is the only way to get them to understand that enforcing etiquette matters.

Now, consider this. I just spent $267 on movies. On DVD. Which I'll watch in peace and quiet at home. On a relatively tiny screen, because I don't have a home theatre to speak of.

Why did Grindhouse do so poorly in theatres? Because the people who love movies, the people who understand what kind of movie this is and would go see it again and again if they could, won't go to the theatres full of screaming children. I'll watch Grindhouse on DVD, and until it's out, I'll watch the kind of movies that inspired it, also on DVD.

← Previous: The Grindhouse Brain (Media) Next: Hephaestus 3 is Coming (Software) →
The Grindhouse Brain
Wed, 2007Apr18 11:48:39 PDT
in Media by kamikaze

Apparently watching this film infects your brain, or at least my brain. I can't stop thinking about the great goddamn action movies we used to be able to get, and how unspeakably shitty Hollywood's garbage has been for the last 20 years.


I have now spent $319 on Grindhouse and related stuff. Grindhouse movie: $9; Popcorn + soda (shoulda drunk less soda in a 3 hour movie): $9; Planet Terror sndtrk, Death Proof sndtrk, and White Zombie's La Sexorcista on iTMS: $34; a dozen car chase and kung fu movies from Amazon: $267; being a psychotic movie fanboy freak: No, I'm not gonna do that goddamn cliché commercial tagline.

Okay, the kung fu movies aren't exactly related to Grindhouse, but I can't think about the old B-movies I love without a giant martial arts and swordfighting throwdown in there somewhere. And one of those is just something silly a friend recommended; "one of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not the same..."

I'm planning to put up at least a small review of each movie as I watch it. We'll see how that goes, my copious spare time being what it is.

  • Vanishing Point
  • Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (Supercharger Edition)
  • The Essential Steve McQueen Collection (Bullitt Two-Disc Special Edition / The Getaway Deluxe Edition / The Cincinnati Kid / Papillon / Tom Horn / Never So Few)
  • The Driver
  • 42nd Street Forever, Vol. 1

Kung Fu:

  • Hanzo the Razor
  • The Bride With White Hair
  • The Bride With White Hair 2
  • Five Deadly Venoms
  • Cutie Honey - The Movie (Live Action)
  • Butterfly Sword (Special Edition)
  • Shinobi - Heart Under Blade
Grindhouse Review
Mon, 2007Apr16 09:55:28 PDT
in Media by kamikaze

Saw Grindhouse this weekend. The only word for this is AWESOMETASTIC. If you're going to see one movie in your life... it should probably be Casablanca or The Third Man or Blade Runner. But for the second, go see Grindhouse.


Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror is just another "Go-go dancer amputee with a machine gun for a leg, and a motley crew of Texas heroes, vs. bioengineered plague zombies" movie, you know, like all the others. The action and gore are totally ridiculous, but the important thing isn't that; it's the film techniques. The film is grainy, and clearly worn from being replayed too many times in the smutty scenes. At one point, something happens to the film which allows the plot to advance and the characters to share secrets without letting the audience in on it; it's brilliant, breathtaking in its genius. This isn't just a movie, it's a movie about movies, about the experience of watching a movie. There's homages to everything in here. I'm particularly fond of the Terminator ending, but everyone will have something different to love here. I found myself honestly thinking many times in the movie that Rodriguez may be the greatest filmmaker in history.

The crazy prevues of coming attractions are fantastic. Several of these I want for real. Machete is every insanely-violent '70s "exploitation" action movie crammed into one (I put "exploitation" in quotes, because they weren't demeaning, they were the first and best opportunities ever for blacks or women or asians or hispanics to get into Hollywood movies, and those movies did more for racial tolerance than anyone or anything else; John Shaft and Bruce Lee were much more my heroes than John Wayne). Werewolf Women of the SS looked awesome, and even stars Sybil Danning (from Howling II), though I've already seen Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS (no werewolves, but Dyanne Thorne didn't need special effects to be a gorgeous and evil Nazi monster). DON'T miss DON'T! Ah, I love house of terror movies. There is nothing funnier than a bunch of stupid kids running in fear, begging for mercy, and getting eviscerated by a psycho killer.

Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof is a really good '70s car movie. I wish I could say it was great. The first segment lasts far too long, and Harry Knowles says it's some giant fantasy suck-and-fuck-fest for Austin, Texas, but it's a snoozerama compared to everything else in Grindhouse. Then Kurt Russell starts chewing scenery, and Stuntman Mike becomes a person; a really fucked up bitter old man who kills women, but a person. Then STUFF HAPPENS, and you're not snoozing anymore. And because you've spent ALL GODDAMN NIGHT following these girls around, you feel tense and give a shit about what's coming, and there's nothing you can do to stop it... So it's a hell of a payoff. Still, editing would not have hurt this segment a bit. So then the second segment comes... With Zoe Bell. "Who the fuck is Zoe Bell?", you ask? She's the real Xena, the real Bride from Kill Bill. She may be the most badass, unkillable, unstoppable fucking woman on the planet, for real. It's no spoiler to tell you Stuntman Mike doesn't stand a goddamn chance against her, any more than Random Japanese Soldier #37 stands a chance against Gojira. The final car duel is one of the most awesome chases ever, and unlike any but the very best from the '70s, concentrates on the people in the cars. It's not two cars doing this to each other, it's people doing it to each other with cars.

Despite the fact that Planet Terror is an A+ movie and Death Proof merely a solid B, I'm more inclined right now to follow up with more car movies, perhaps to scratch the itch that Death Proof didn't. I've added a ton of stuff to my Amazon wishlists, which I'll be picking up in the weeks to come as I wear down my current unwatched movie stack. And in a happy coincidence, Nathan Fillion (Mal Reynolds of Firefly) (and Richard Brooks, aka Jubal Early of Firefly!) is in a new series on Fox (ew) by Tim Minear (yay!): Drive; Cannonball Run meets 100 Bullets seems to be the concept so far. Good car-bashing chases, interesting dramatic conflicts. Not sure where it's going, but I'll be watching for a while, at least.

Oh, and there were non-Grindhouse, non-parody trailers, two of which were notable: Hot Fuzz, by the director of Shaun of the Dead, looks awesome and ridiculous; a badass maverick cop from the big city gets assigned to a teeny little village where nobody ever gets murdered. Hilarity and violence ensues. Will absolutely be going to see this as soon as it's out.

On the other hand, I don't feel any need to see Spider-Man III now, because I've seen it all. They could've stopped the preview at the first plot twist, and left something to surprise the audience, but no, they show that plot twist. Then the next. Then the third. Then the big finale... I'm no fan of the Whiney Spidey movies anyway, but completely destroying any suspense? If you ever wanted justification for my belief that Hollywood should be cordoned off, burned to the ground with fuel-air explosives, and everyone trying to escape shot in the head like the fucking zombies they are, here it is. Those useless cocksucking studios are shitting on the entire premise of putting suspense in a movie, by showing THE ENTIRE FUCKING FILM in the preview. There will be no mercy for the film butchers. This is why independent film is so important: so we can still watch movies after we terminate everyone in the current shitting-on-movies industry that is Hollywood.

← Previous: The God Delusion (Atheism) Next: The Grindhouse Brain (Media) →
The God Delusion
Fri, 2007Mar16 18:52:45 PDT
in Atheism by kamikaze

I very much enjoyed Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion (currently: "Amazon.com Sales Rank: #42 in Books"!!!). Nothing new to me, but it's a fun read, and the man has a good sense of humor. Probably you should read Climbing Mount Improbable and The Selfish Gene first, this isn't an introduction to evolution or genetics, and it relies on understanding those.


The book does have a fatal flaw, though: it relies on logic. And logic is one thing theists lack, by definition; if they could use logic, they'd have found their way out of their ignorant "faith" on their own. So it won't do much for converting theists to atheism, but it's a comfort read for existing atheists, might shift some agnostics into atheism, and exposes the insanity of theists. A good deal all around.

But the really funny part is reading Christians trying to comment or review on it. They all repeat the same basic responses (exactly as if they'd all been given the same programmed, autonomic response with no conscious intervention possible, which is of course the case):

"It's mean and hateful and spiteful! Richard Dawkins is a bitter jerk!"
Because apparently the last 2000 years of Christians torturing and murdering atheists, pagans, and anyone who wasn't exactly their own sort of Christian was just good clean fun, but a few unkind words from atheists is just too much for their compassionate, sensitive souls. Me, I think the time for being nice to lion food is long past.
"Dawkins doesn't repeat all the standard arguments we want him to use! He must not be a philosopher!"
It's so unkind of him to make theists have to think of all-new spurious objections to arguments, instead of reciting their stock spurious objections to previous arguments.
"This argument depends on God being complex! God, creator of everything, isn't complex! It says so in the Bible, and the Bible is true! The Bible tells you the Bible is true!"
Logic, Circular: n. See Circular Logic.

This stuff cracks me up. It's like they read this book, and then go out of their way to prove that they've had a giant chunk of their cerebellum lobotomized, rather than let us merely suspect it.

← Previous: Disable Gimp splash screen (Mac) Next: Grindhouse Review (Media) →
Disable Gimp splash screen
Sun, 2007Mar04 10:18:57 PST
in Mac by kamikaze

The GIMP is a very nice image editor, but it has a few annoyances on Mac OS X. Obviously, it needs X11 (hidden on the developer CD that comes with your Mac). X11 eats the first click to focus a window, so choosing tools requires two clicks, which is pretty annoying. But worst of all, the splash screen comes up front and center, and can't be moved or put behind anything until it's done... And it's really slow.


Easily fixed: Edit /Applications/Gimp.app/Contents/Resources/bin/gimp, and change the last line to
exec "$CWD/gimp-2.2" -s "$@"

Yay! Gimp quits bugging me! Someone with spare time on their hands feel like adding a "Disable splash screen" checkbox to the preferences panel?

← Previous: Closures in Groovy and Java (Software) Next: The God Delusion (Atheism) →
Closures in Groovy and Java
Thu, 2007Feb15 11:33:12 PST
in Software by kamikaze

Lately, I've been playing with Groovy, and reading Groovy in Action. While I have some complaints about the optional syntax (I want minimal but absolutely rigid syntax rules... Groovy has elaborate syntax rules you can often ignore), it's a pretty good language, and it's trivial to embed into your Java code, or run standalone, or pop up a groovyConsole to execute some quick expression.


There's a new version of Jython now, but I'm spoiled by Python 2.5, so going back to 2.2 would be hard, and it's not as easy to hook into Java code.

One of the best features in Groovy is the ease of writing closures, which makes a lot of code easier to write. There are algorithms that are far easier to express with functional/closure-based code. There are algorithms that are far easier to express with procedural code. A pure functional language just isn't suitable for all of my work, never mind that most functional languages are hideous and unreadable. A pure procedural language like Java can fake functional programming sometimes, but it's never been pleasant. It's great to have something that's a usable hybrid of the two. I doubt I'll switch completely over to Groovy, but for my quick-and-dirty code, Groovy's becoming my first choice.

Java itself is finally catching up with closures, though. There's two proposals currently on the table. Doug Lea, et al.'s proposal, and Neal Gafter, et al.'s propsal (full version). The CICE proposal seems like the least disruptive, as it's built on anonymous inner classes, which are already usable, if ugly. Elliotte Rusty Harold's posted his thoughts and second thoughts about the two, and are worth reading.

← Previous: ed is the standard editor! (Software) Next: Disable Gimp splash screen (Mac) →
ed is the standard editor!
Wed, 2007Jan31 11:13:19 PST
in Software by kamikaze

IBM DeveloperWorks has an article on text editing tools, including use of ed, since ed is the standard editor.


Now, I love the Unix command line--one reason I love the Mac is that it's the best Unix workstation I've used in 20 years. But suggesting the use of ed, written over 30 years ago, reveals an interesting point: modern editors and software in general is significantly slower than software written 30 years ago. Yes, it does more. CPUs are also faster. Niklaus Wirth once half-jokingly said that software gets bigger faster than CPUs get faster.

← Previous: Music to Love Your Mac To (Mac) Next: Closures in Groovy and Java (Software) →
Music to Love Your Mac To
Mon, 2007Jan29 19:22:43 PST
in Mac by kamikaze

Music time!

Watch a cute girl singing "Mac Beautiful" to the Mac Pro, listen to a synthpop song I Love iPhone, and watch the "I Love My Mac" music video.


Now... where's the love songs to Windows? Is it even possible to sing one, without the tears of misery and betrayal choking your voice, or is it more like Luka singing "just don't ask me how I am"? Oh, right, there's always Dance, Monkeyboy and other antics by Uncle Fester/Dick Cheney/The Penguin/Steve Ballmer.

Me, I think Happy Slip's a lot sexier.

← Previous: Seattle Slogans (Society) Next: ed is the standard editor! (Software) →
Seattle Slogans
Wed, 2006Oct25 09:15:34 PDT
in Society by kamikaze

Mayor Greg Nickels has done it again, exhibiting his profound understanding of our city (with a little help from a wise and experienced PR agency), coming up with a new slogan for Seattle: Metronatural. And it's been graffiti'd onto the Space Needle.

Why haven't we fired these people yet?


The reader suggestions in the PI article are far more appropriate, especially "Come visit. You can't afford the condos."... There's nothing wrong with our old slogans, "Jet City" and "Emerald City", either.

However, the perfect slogan for Seattle would have to include high-priced coffee, Aurora Avenue, the Space Needle, and rain. "Starbucks, Wet Whores, and the Needle", perhaps...

← Previous: Review: The Prestige (Media) Next: Music to Love Your Mac To (Mac) →
Review: The Prestige
Tue, 2006Oct24 14:09:18 PDT
in Media by kamikaze

*** 1/2

The Prestige is a film by Christopher Nolan of Memento, Batman Begins fame. Like both of those, it's a story about memory and secrets.


It's 1900, plus or minus a few years, in London's stage circuit. Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) begin as partner magicians, working with engineer Cutter (Michael Caine), until an accident divides them, starting Angier's course of revenge and one-upsmanship against Borden. Borden is the better magician but a far inferior showman, but Angier's professional jealousy and frustration at not knowing how Borden performs his signature Transported Man trick devours him, drives him to a Faustian bargain with Nikola Tesla (David Bowie!!!), and a radical solution to the trick.

The methods of performing the trick that the two magicians come up with are a good reflection of their personalities, but frankly I was disappointed at not seeing more tricks. There are several places where additional stage show could have been included, and would have contrasted their styles more effectively.

Jackman does a passable job--perhaps not a desperate enough demeanor to fit his character, but acceptable--and Bale is intense and nearly rabid. As with most of the real things Tesla invented, the machine is frightening and apocalyptically dangerous (how many people have been electrocuted by AC power, instead of Edison's far safer DC?), and Bowie's performance as Tesla is suitably crazy and sinister. Caine is almost overshadowed here, which is surprising--he's the lone calm, professional, mostly ethical voice. The women are attractive wallpaper, but this is appropriate for the time.

Little of the film is told in linear time; it's mostly flashback of Borden reading Angier's journal about his decoding and reading Borden's journal. It can be difficult to tell where and when things are happening, and with no visible change in the characters' ages, despite at least 7 years passing in the story, it's often confusing. At least Memento always had the prior events in the next scene... The time-jumping spoils the final revelation, which could have been far more shocking and unexpected with different editing.

Overall, it was enjoyable and somewhat suspenseful, especially for the schemes and trick-stealing approaches used by the two magicians, but not nearly as impressive as Memento or Batman Begins.

← Previous: Charles Darwin Online (Atheism) Next: Seattle Slogans (Society) →
Charles Darwin Online
Thu, 2006Oct19 11:04:30 PDT
in Atheism by kamikaze

The complete works of Charles Darwin are now online (or are coming online), thanks to the University of Cambridge.


You should also visit the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. He's touring right now promoting The God Delusion (current Amazon.com sales rank: #3 in Books). I just got my copy, sitting on my desk at work, but haven't had time to read it yet. Hopefully this weekend I can sit down with it. The shiny silver cover certainly attracts attention; several people have asked me about it already.

Other people are annoyed by the panic, hysteria, and fear-mongering the Bush/Blair administration is trying to froth people up into.


David Farber writes On the implausibility of the explosives plot, and The Register's Thomas C. Greene writes Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible?, both pointing out that the plot was nonsensical; binary liquid explosives are hard to handle under optimal conditions, and very improbable in an aircraft's bathroom.

Bruce Schneier writes What the Terrorists Want.

The whole thing is a scam to keep you terrified, to keep you giving up your freedom to the fascist-wannabe terrorist squatting in our White House.

zefrank concurs.

← Previous: People Also Buy Lottery Tickets (Society) Next: Charles Darwin Online (Atheism) →
People Also Buy Lottery Tickets
Thu, 2006Aug17 09:45:19 PDT
in Society by kamikaze

Regulation Vol.27 No.3's cover story A False Sense of Insecurity is interesting. Among other points:


Accordingly, it would seem to be reasonable for those in charge of our safety to inform the public about how many airliners would have to crash before flying becomes as dangerous as driving the same distance in an automobile. It turns out that someone has made that calculation: University of Michigan transportation researchers Michael Sivak and Michael Flannagan, in an article last year in American Scientist, wrote that they determined there would have to be one set of September 11 crashes a month for the risks to balance out. More generally, they calculate that an American’s chance of being killed in one nonstop airline flight is about one in 13 million (even taking the September 11 crashes into account). To reach that same level of risk when driving on America’s safest roads — rural interstate highways — one would have to travel a mere 11.2 miles.

The problem is that humans have a lethally incompetent intuition about probability. Until you've bothered to train your understanding of probability by studying statistics, any chance, no matter how remote, looks likely. Monkeys aren't good at statistics. While humans are still fairly stupid primates, they are capable of learning, of studying statistics, and of sitting down and figuring out what the actual facts are.

For example, buying lottery tickets is foolish. You won't win, and the state keeps most of the money, it's essentially just a tax on stupid people. Someone will win, somewhere, but the odds that it'll be you are so miniscule that you'd be better off giving that $1 to a homeless person in hopes that he's actually a billionaire in disguise, waiting to reward the first generous person. You're as likely to be struck by lightning... Or killed by a terrorist attack.

So now, because of a preliminary investigation that the U.S. government forced the U.K. government to blow early and arrest a bunch of people who may or may not have had anything to do with a potential terrorist attack on an airline, your luggage gets searched even more when you board a plane.

This does not make you any safer. This just irritates you, is a gross violation of the 4th Amendment, and costs an already-hurting airline industry millions or billions more. The enemies making it harder and harder for you to fly are not the terrorists, it's George W. Bush and the Republican party. They're the real terrorists here.

More Sun Lies About NetBeans
Wed, 2006Aug02 15:22:01 PDT
in Software by kamikaze

This is an email I just received from one of Sun's mailing lists:


Borland says that it is no longer investing in developer tools. Don't
worry. We've got you covered.

Sun has the tools to meet your needs, and they're available at no
cost! With NetBeans you can easily migrate your applications from
JBuilder to the NetBeans IDE. Additionally, you can be rest assured
that your investment is protected through training, developer
certification, third-party components and technical support.

Of course, this is all blatant lies, and they should stop letting their filthy lying marketing scumbags stop writing to developers who are smarter than they are; of course, this would mean they'd have to stop writing entirely, which can only be a good thing.

While Borland, Inc. will soon no longer doing development tools, they are still investing in the development team (see Allen Bauer's blog for some current news), and are spinning off "DevCo" (which will probably get a new name) into a new company. So Borland's tools are not dead, nor are they being neglected during the transition. Everything Sun says and implies in that first paragraph is a lie.

There is essentially no third-party support for NetBeans, that is simply a lie. To reiterate from last time I checked, there were 34 plugins for NetBeans vs. 1094 plugins for Eclipse. Let's ask the source of all wisdom, if anyone is even interested: netbeans plugin finds 17,600 hits. jbuilder plugin finds 746,000 hits. eclipse plugin finds 13,100,000 hits.

You can easily migrate your Java projects to any IDE, if you use industry-standard ant build.xml files, so this means nothing. "Training, developer certification, [...] and technical support" are nice ways of saying that NetBeans is so awful and unusable that you'll have to ask Sun how to do anything, and they'll charge you for that information.

Sun, please stop lying in support of your awful IDE. Accept that it sucks, and move on.

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GameScroll 0.7.1
Sat, 2006Jul29 18:31:04 PDT
in Software by kamikaze

Yes, I'm incredibly slow when I'm busy at work, but you may now rejoice! I have released a slightly-updated version of GameScroll, which no longer crashes when saving and loading (I think). <sigh> Serialization is a tricky animal.

The graphical editor is nearly usable, but I haven't enabled it in the current version yet, there's still a few things left to do in it. I'd say "It'll be out soon", but we all know that's a lie. It'll be out when it's out.

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Mac to Linux? Are you mad?
Thu, 2006Jul27 11:15:09 PDT
in Mac by kamikaze

Bryan O'Bryan (who desperately needs a last name) is quitting the Mac for Linux. I'm going to go over his points, because I'm not just not switching back, ever, but consider it the height of folly.


"1) The Mac Community": Bryan complains that Mac users complain when software doesn't meet their insanely great expectations. Well, yeah, of course! That's what I love. Everything on the Mac has been tweaked and adjusted and polished until it just works perfectly. The Mac is a Rolls-Royce. The Mac is Airwolf. Mac users are spoiled rotten by software that actually works. That does what you want, and then some.

The Linux experience of software is that nothing works, you always have to recompile the code, maybe fiddle with some compiler settings, download 10-20 new versions of the dependent libraries for every new piece of software (and if they conflict with some other program, you're usually screwed), then go hack on 500 different config files, recompile the kernel, email some college student in Croatia who wrote the device driver you desperately need to get your new $500 gadget to work, and finally give up because it will never actually work. Linux software is ugly. GTK may be the ugliest GUI toolkit every invented, rivalled only by Motif and Qt, which are the other two dominant toolkits on Linux. No two Linux programs look or act anything like each other. There's no goddamn documentation; if you complain, you're told to read the source. Linux software typically has half the functionality of a Mac app, but twice as many configuration options, most of which make it stop working. Linux software can't be scripted; there's no real equivalent to AppleScript. It's pathetic!

That's not to say that anything on Windows is any better; Windows is like a cheap Chinese knock-off of a Fisher-Price My First OS, and 99.9% of the software available on Windows is, in my professional opinion, absolute garbage. Compared to Windows, Linux is tolerable, especially for geeks. But compared to a Mac, Linux is stone-age technology.

So, naturally when you release software that just barely works on Linux or Windoze, they're overjoyed, just like an abused child is overjoyed if daddy is too drunk to beat them one night; it's not love, it's not acceptable, but it's better than what they're used to. When you release software that isn't up to Apple's standards of beauty, functionality, and elegance, you get flamed, because you are taking a shit on the hood of a Lamborghini. Stop sucking, and Mac users won't flame you. For what it's worth, my software, often unpolished, has got a lot of praise from Mac users, particularly Perilar, which is the first thing I've really bundled for the Mac.

"2) Apple and their practices". Yes, this is pretty rotten when it happens to you. But it's only happened twice, in both cases years after the original release. On the bright side, Apple's cloning and integration adds enormous value to the platform, and they tend to implement these features differently and better than the originals. Konfabulator didn't add a separate screen; the Dashboard takes some getting used to, but it's far more convenient. Watson was pretty bad at searching most file types, and of course wasn't integrated into running applications, like Spotlight is.

"3) Apple’s software quality". Frankly, I think Bryan's just insane or delusional here. I almost never see a Mac app crash; I can get Safari to crash sometimes. Haven't used Garageband much, but iWeb works very nicely. iPhoto does not work the way I need it to, but it doesn't crash. I'm still deciding if I should use .Mac permanently; I don't desperately need it, but it works very well. And this is during the transition from PowerPC to Intel; normally, the Mac is even more stable and perfect. So, he's just plain crazy.

"Apple’s bundled web browser, Safari, renders many pages I visit incorrectly (often in weird ways) and, when it doesn’t, it often crashes (or at least hangs for a minute or more at a time rendering my system almost unusable)." This is just comical. Safari uses the same KHTML rendering engine as one of the standard Linux browsers, Konqueror. Yes, KHTML, MSIE, Firefox, and Opera all render pages slightly differently. But you can use Firefox, Opera, or several other browsers on Mac, if you don't like Safari. No big deal.


As for the community feel, Bryan's just insane. I've never seen so many enthusiastic, happy users as on the Mac. I've only been to one Mac Users Group meeting so far, but it was awesome, and I plan to go whenever I have free time.

For me, the killer problem is one of ideology, though. On the Mac, writing commercial software is a good and noble cause, and you can actually make money at it. Open source has its place, but commercially-developed software is almost always higher quality. I release all of my games as freeware currently, but only because there's no viable distribution system for them. Soon, that looks like it will change, and I'll be changing my release-quality software to commerical, probably through Greg Costikyan's Manifesto Games label..

On Linux, you're surrounded by religious fanatics who label that "evil", and rip off your software because they're communists who don't believe in private ownership of property. I just got a series of strident, ranting emails from an asshole in Germany who said, in summary, "oh, I like your software, but I will only use it if it's open source", culminating in a long bullet-pointed rant comparing me to Microsoft. I've had similar encounters many times in the last 10 years I've been using Linux. Give something away free or shareware or sell it at a low price, but decline to give away the source code to the software you wrote, own, and want to continue to own, and people attack you. This is the typical charming motherfucker you deal with on Linux.

Not every Linux user is a problem; 50% of them are sane, pleasant geeks who just can't afford a Mac yet. A few normal people try to use Linux, but this is not really a viable plan, and while it looked for a while like it might get better, in the last few years Linux has moved firmly back into the hardcore geek camp. But the other 50%, the religious fanatics, are deeply offensive, and I have never seen any Linux user willingly part with money for software, which means the crappy software situation there will never change.

Since almost all of the software on Linux also runs on a Mac, there's no reason to do this foolish thing. Since the Mac is far more powerful than Linux, both for geeks and non-geeks, it's crippling.

Worst of all, trying to convince normal people to switch to Linux is a crime. They try Linux, find that it's unusable and ugly, and assume that all non-Windows OS's must be just as bad, so they go back to Windows.

I still use Linux for servers. It's a tolerably good server OS, though Solaris is better, and Mac OS X Server is at least competitive. But for a desktop OS, there is only one reasonable choice: Mac OS X.

Airwolf is by Ernie Cline. All of his work is just as funny.

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Intelligent DeSign
Fri, 2006Jul14 09:34:36 PDT
in Toys by kamikaze

This morning, I was waiting for the bus to work, doing my Animal Crossing morning "chores", and this nicely-dressed, friendly black guy came up to me and said, "Is that a DS?", and we had a few minutes chat about the DS. I was gonna offer to exchange name/email with him so we could swap friend codes, and then just as my bus is pulling up... He pulls out a copy of Awake, the Jehovah's Witness tabloid, and asks me if I'm interested. Me: "Sorry, man, Nintendo is my only religion." Him: "Okay, bye!"

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