A quote

. . . this year is going to be a year of patriotism and devotion to country. I am glad to know that people in every part of the country mean to be devoted to one flag, the glorious Stars and Stripes; that the people of this country mean to maintain the financial honor of the country as sacredly as they maintain the honor of the flag. --William McKinley (People's History of the US p. 295)

Four ways in which my life is just like Pac-Man's

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Four Ways in Which My Life Is Just Like Pac-Man's. by John Crownover

1. Ever-present wail of sirens
2. Relentlessly pursued by ghosts
3. Four special pills daily keep ghosts at bay
4. Occasionally eat some fruit

I'm so proud

My three year old daughter, Emma, is very particular about her radio habits in the car. Luckily, she does not make me listen to Radio Disney. Here are some of my favorite musical moments of the past week:

1. Emma saying, "Mom! (She is in the backseat of our SUV, a '95 Trooper which doesn't do much to reduce the wind noise outside--hence the exclamation point.) Play the 'Jitterbug' song! (This is what she calls 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go', one of her favorite songs on my 80's mix.)

2. Much like number one: "Mom! (still noisy in the backseat) Now I want 'Radio Staw'. ('Video Killed the Radio Star').

3. After driving to work on Monday (which takes about one minute), Emma had an important question. "Mom, why did they say 'The Planet'? They are supposed to say 'The Buzz'. (I had turned the radio to a different station during commercials. Apparently she shares my affection for Lazlo.

I love that kid.

Firefox hits 25M, Bill Gates interview

25000000_firefox.pngLess than 100 days after the 1.0 release, Firefox has reached 25,000,000 downloads. Most of my readers have heard me talking about how great of a browser Firefox is and how much better it is than Microsoft Internet Explorer. But if you're a new reader, or you've never tried it before, then by all means, get Firefox.

Bill Gates sat down with Peter Jennings in an interview recently. Jennings brings up Firefox:

JENNINGS: I read an article coming up here on Firefox (Web browser) and its perceived ability to do this better than you. Is that fair?

GATES: Well, there's competition in every place that we're in. The browser space that we are in we have about 90 percent. Sure Firefox has come along and the press love the idea of that. Our commitment is to keep our browser that competes with Firefox to be the best browser — best in security, best in features. In fact, we just announced that we'll have a new version of the browser so we're innovating very rapidly there and it's our commitment to have the best.

The fact that Gates admits that Firefox is even worth being called a competitor is fairly impressive. I think their public strategy has been to write Firefox off. He uses a very Bushian style when he sort of dismisses Firefox's popularity and blames it on the press. Gates and Jennings go on to discuss open source software in general.

In other Firefox news, I've switched a few people over at the office, and my dad has started telling his coworkers about it, too. I'm just waiting for the day when computer manufacturers start preinstalling it.


News from the left

My dad feeds himself a steady diet of conservative talk radio. I keep telling him that he needs more balance, and he said I should send him some links. So I'm looking for some left-leaning news sources that don't go so far as to freak him out. He's used to liberals being the butt of jokes, and I want him to be able to take the left seriously, so extremists need not apply. If you have any links, post a comment or email me.

Learning Computer Basics

Today a co-worker told me she wanted to learn how to do more on her computer. She just learned about Google, which will help her find a lot of information. She's still afraid to mess with her computer much because she doesn't want to ruin it. So, I'm looking for some online tutorials that can give someone some basic skills to build on. I looked at About.com, which usually has good stuff, but I wasn't impressed. I looked through several directories at DMOZ.org and found a lot of crap, but not much that would be useful. I know that the internet is roughly 93% worthless junk, but there's also a lot of good, free information out there. If you know of any good tutorials on the basics of using a computer and the intetnet, let me know.

An Unjust War

After an act of violence against us, the President took us to war against a sovereign nation. His proposal was approved easily, since his party controlled both houses of Congress. Many in the opposition party thought the war was unjust and only entered for political and economic reasons, but most of them went along with it. They knew that they didn’t have enough votes to stop the President, and they didn’t want to appear unpatriotic or like they weren’t supporting the troops. The debate in Congress was short, and the evidence wasn’t examined closely.

There was much talk of bringing liberty and freedom to more people, but the US troops were not welcomed as liberators. An insurgency developed and the military was soon understaffed and short on supplies. At home the country became sharply divided over the issue. The war was generally supported in the south and opposed in the north. The minority party proved ineffective and increasingly irrelevant.

What I've just given you is a description of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). I was reading in A People's History of the United States last night and I was struck by how familiar it sounded. Democratic President James K. Polk rushed the country to war after a border dispute left many American soldiers dead. The Whig party suspected that the war was an attempt to seize southwestern land from Mexico, annex it as southern states, and swing the balance of power further toward the Democratic party. But the Whigs did little to stop the unjust war, and less than 10 years later the party was over for the Whigs.

Out of the ashes of the Whig party came a new party with a strong, new leader. Abraham Lincoln had been an opponent of the war with Mexico, and his new party took a stronger stand against slavery than the Whigs had. The next great leader of the new party was Ulysses S. Grant, who had fought in the Mexican-American war and recalled it as "one of the most unjust wars ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory."

One hundred and fifty years later and the country is still divided. Will history continue to repeat itself? Will a new party, with strong leaders and good causes, come on the scene and tip the balance of power in another direction? Will the division deepen to the point of civil war?

For further reading:A People's History of the United States, Mexican-American War, James K. Polk, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Democrats, Whigs, Republicans.

School board election update

The school board election is April 5th, 2005. There are three spots open. The candidates are

Kellie Case
Steve Cooper
Jim Hester
Monte Johnson
Steve Lewis (incumbent)
Vanessa Tallman

Do they call them candidates because they're candid? We'll find out soon. Send me the questions you want answered.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that Monte Johnson is a friend. He and his family have been our dinner guests and he's a member of my church. I'll do my best to be objective, but I thought I should disclose that.

I'm on the radio

Adrian Bank has become the sponsor of Swap Shop, a call-in show on 92.1 KMOE in Butler, MO. We created a series of 60-second ads and I was asked to help. We recorded the ads on my laptop using Audacity. I wrote and voiced two ads about online banking:

Fourth Location

Id Theft

If you live in Bates County area, you can tune into Swap Shop from 11:25 am to noon Monday through Saturday.

Steve Balmer's two opinions of PCs in developing countries

Steve Balmer, CEO of Microsoft, needs to make up his mind. Out of one side of his mouth he says that there needs to be a $100 PC for people in developing countries, but out of the other side of his mouth he threatens that poor countries who use Linux may get sued. MS is now denying that this was really a warning, and they've had news stories that said so taken down, but I think his motivations for saying those things are pretty clear. FUD. How does he expect anyone to make a $100 PC that runs on Windows? Windows itself costs more than that. Even the ultra-cheap, pared down version of Windows that they're making for the Asian market costs $30. So, he's basically saying we should make a $70 PC. But wait, his idea for $100 PC isn't to make life better for people in poorer countries, it's to stop piracy of MS products. There's a reason that the real $100 PC project will be using Linux and other open source software. Oh, and in case you haven't figured it out yet, I think Steve Balmer is a jerk.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is planning to stop offering security updates for pirated versions of Windows. That's certainly within their rights, and I'm surprised they haven't done it sooner, but it's going to make the worldwide install base of Windows even less secure than it is now. It's also going to highlight the high prices that they charge for their software, and probably drive more people to alternative operating systems. ("Microsoft cracking down, making Linux look good" - ZDNet)

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