15 May 2009
Character Sets and Feeds
I work for a company which receives huge incoming text feeds from our clients, which we filter, transform and massage to go out to the major search engines. Much of the work of cleaning incoming feeds consists of replacing undesirable characters (e.g. fancy foreign characters and symbols) that come from the client. For search engines we have to provide the lowest common denominator of character type, plain ASCII. There are many ways these "bad" characters creep into incoming feeds. Some are mainstream ISO 8859 or UTF-8 characters that are accepted by most display systems, but are still undesirable for search engines. Less likely but still possible are errors caused by the use of a legacy non-printing control character. By far the most common offender comes from violation of ISO 8859 conventions that have come into practice, known as "Extended Ascii" (of which Microsoft's WinLatin1 table is the most notorious offender). This page explains the major character set types, along with a little history, and the problems that they cause to feeds.
The original ASCII table, a 128-value (7-bit) character set is formally known as ISO 646. In fact it remains the only real "Ascii table" (more on this later). This portion has survived unchanged as the beginning portion of all major character sets (even the ones tampered with by Microsoft).
|In feeds from our clients, mistaken input of legacy control characters is rare, although recently one client reported seeing 0x1D ("Group separator GS Left Arrow") in a feed.
Ascii remains to this day, strictly speaking, a 7-bit table of 128 characters and no more. However, since in modern times characters are rendered with 8-bit bytes, people have wanted to take advantage of what is available on their machine in the area of that top bit. Folklore, common practice, and whatever happens to be on the machine one is using, has mislead many into thinking some universal 8-bit ascii table exists. But in reality the 8th bit portion has been a playground for whatever people wanted it to be.
To answer this havoc, ISO 8859 defined a variety of 8-bit character tables cover most of the world's needs. For every ISO 8859 table, the 7-bit portion is ISO 646 Ascii. The best-known of the ISO 8859 tables, at least among the English speaking and Western European world, is ISO 8859-1, also known as "Latin 1." To some people, this is "the" Ascii table. The eight bit portion is shown below.
Note that there is an unused portion (greyed out) of the table between characters 128 and 159. Take special note of this; as you'll see below this special area becomes a huge area of controversy (Extended Ascii).
Other ascii tables in the ISO 8859 collection include Baltic, Cyrillic, Arabic, Greek, Hebrew and Turkish character sets, allowing each country to adopt the appropriate table, and software manufacturers to write compliant products. (You can see the various ISO 8859 tables here.)
|At my company, a feed using ISO 8859 8-bit characters will need to be cleaned before going out to search engines. If they are ISO 8859-1 (Latin1) characters, the mapping to a substitute character is well-known and easily fixed. We do this with Perl scripts and a simple mapping table. Another possible problem would be if we had a client that is using some ISO-8859 table other than Latin1 (for instance, a client from Scandinavia might use the Baltic table, ISO 8859-4). In that case we would have to create a new mapping table. Worse yet, files cannot identify themselves as being any particular ISO-8859 subversion, so if a client doesn't announce the table they are using, we would only find that out by seeing unusual errors. For example, seeing frequent use of a copyright symbol © in unexpected places would be a clue that some non Latin1 ISO-8859 table was in use.|
Due to the popularity of the Microsoft Office family of software products, WinLatin1 has achieved an unfortunate hegemony in the computer world. In the competition for the elusive "8-bit Ascii" table, WinLatin1 is ISO 8859-1's chief competitor. However, a sizable portion of the computer world (Macs and Unix flavored s
ystems) have settled on the real ISO 8859 standard, so problems occur when people paste, email or otherwise transmit text made from a Microsoft product to be displayed on a Unix or Mac box. When you see question marks or 'ascii garbage' in a file when you're not expecting it, you have probably been WinLatin1-rolled.
The term "Extended Ascii" has become the name to describe the format of any file which contains a mixture of ISO 8859 plus characters in the forbidden zone of bytes 128-159.
So what did Microsoft do with that precious block of 32 characters it stole from ISO 8859? Four characters comprise the notorious MS-Word 'smart quotes' (single and double: ', ', " and "). On the other hand they were remarkably prescient in including the Euro currency symbol (€) years before the currency was adopted. There are a number of punctuation and editorial marks or symbols, such as daggers († and ‡), ellipses (...), the list bullet (•) and several others that perhaps are used in European languages (ˆ, ‹, ›, and „). Many choices are totally inscrutable, however. Why define the comma-lookalike "‚"? Of what use can the few foreign alphabetical characters of Œ, œ (used in old German and old Romance languages), Ÿ (used in Greek transcription and rarely in French), Š, š, Ž and ž (Estonian, Finnish and Czech characters) be?
|Use of the "forbidden zone" of ISO 8859 accounts for most of the cleanup tasks in clean scripts at my company. The trademark sign (™) is a favorite of many of our clients, since it is unavailable in ISO 8859-1. The list bullet and daggers are also occasionally found in feeds. Most likely the source of these characters is from client use of Windows Office software.|
The next evolutionary step after ISO 8859 is UCS (Universal Character Set, ISO 10646). It dispenses with the approach of multiple table sets for individual languages in favor of a single giant table of all possible characters. Its table size of 2^31 (2,147,483,648) characters encompasses the character sets of virtually all the languages of the world. It goes by the more common name of Unicode, after the name of the consortium that merged with UCS.
The first 256 characters of Unicode are completely backward compatible to ISO-8859-1. Unicode's first 128 characters are classic ISO 646 7-bit Ascii set, while Unicode characters 128-255 is the top half of ISO-8859-1 Latin1.
With a character set of Unicode's size, single byte sequences with a maximum numberic range of 0-255 can obviously no longer be the only way in which a file stores text. UCS has spawned two different byte-sequence conventions, UCS-2 and UCS-4. UCS-2 files have two byte characters, and UCS-4 files have 4-byte characters.
UTF-8 is a byte-based sequence convention for representing Unicode. It can have 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-byte long characters, changing when and where it needs to. It is an efficient solution for English and other Western European languages that spend much of their time in the first 128, one-byte wide unicode characters. In fact, English UTF-8 files will often consist of nothing but one-byte sequences, no different than an Ascii file. Because of this UTF-8 is nicely backwards compatible to ASCII, meaning a file can be UTF-8 but still work on older systems that support ISO-8859 or earlier standards. Even when a UTF-8 file does use larger width Unicode characters, it is still a "one octet encoding unit" (single byte) encoding standard, as opposed to UCS-2 and UCS-4 which are two- and four-octet encoding unit standards.
|UTF-8 should always be spelled as shown. Referring to UTF-8 as utf-8, utf8, UTF8, etc. is considered bad form.|
For single byte characters, UTF-8 simply uses the first 128 Unicode characters, the ones that correspond exactly to classic Ascii 7-bit ISO 646. No special signifier announces a single byte sequence.
An easier way to understand the multi-byte signifier approach is by looking at the bit patterns in their binary values, as shown below. Two-byte sequences can be announced with with any byte having 110 as the top three bits; three-byte sequences can be announced with any byte having 1110 as the top four bits; and so on.
|Cleaning a file of any UTF-8 multibyte sequences is complicated by the fact that you have to "look ahead" in the byte stream to determine whether a byte is the start of a multibyte UTF-8 sequence, or an isolated ISO 8859 character. When a UTF-8 sequence is found, the n-byte sequence must be replaced with a single ascii character (if the appropriate substitute is known), or simply removed (if no substitute is known). In practice, our clients use a very small repertoire of symbols that are easily replaced (trademark, registered, bullet, etc.).|
Copyright symbol: 0xC2 0xA9
Not-equals sign: 0xE2 0x89 0xA0 (Unicode char U+2262)
Korean text: 0xED 0x95 0x9C 0xEA 0xB5 0xAD 0xEC 0x96 0xB4 (Unicode chars U+D55C U+AD6D U+C5B4)
Japanese text: 0xE6 0x97 0xA5 0xE6 0x9C 0xAC 0xE8 0xAA 0x9E (Unicode chars U+65E5 U+672C U+8A9E)
0x31 0x32 0x33 0xE6 0xD8 0xC6 (1,2,3, æ, Ø, Æ)
0x31 0x32 0x33 0x99 (1,2,3, winlatin1 trademark)
0x31 0x32 0x33 0xE6 0xD8 0xC6 (1,2,3, three Latin1 chars, one winlatin1 char)
0xE6 0x97 0xA5 0xE6 0x9C 0xAC 0xE8 0xAA 0x9E 0xE6 0xE8 0x31 (UTF-8 Japanese text followed by misused signifiers)
None of the character tables discussed so far (with a possible exception of UTF-8, discussed below) have any convention for a self-identifying start block or header. It has to be done based on some sort of pattern. In Unix, the 'file' utility (or 'type' on some versions of *nix) is a pretty good tool for identifying the character table type. Here's the pattern that 'file' seems to use:
|When:||Unix 'file' Reports:|
|All characters are 7 bit||"ASCII text"|
|ISO 8859 8-bit characters (with or without 7-bit ascii mixed in)||"ISO-8859 text"|
|Any use of bytes in the ISO-8859 forbidden range (0x80-0x9F) which aren't part of valid UTF-8 sequences||"Non-ISO extended-ASCII text". (This is how WinLatin1 files will be identified.)|
|Consistent correct use of multi-byte UTF-8 sequences||"UTF-8 Unicode text"|
How 'file' handles some edge cases:
|When:||Unix 'file' Reports:|
|All 7-bit, but containing odd combinations of control characters from the 0x00 to 0x1F range||"Data"|
|Correct UTF-8 code mixed with any 8-bit ISO 8859 characters, forbidden or non forbidden||"Non-ISO extended-ASCII text"|
What 'file' cannot do is read your intentions. It makes the simplest judgment call it can. For example:
Regarding the potential for confusion between ISO 8859 and UTF-8, this is what others have to say:
If you're dealing with a page you suspect is not rendering with the correct ISO 8859 subtable, both Firefox and Safari give you the option to change the interpretation. In Safari, check the View menu, Text Encoding. In Firefox, check the View menu, Character Encoding.
There is a convention called the "Byte Order Mark" (aka BOM) which (hypothetically) can be used to self-identify a UTF-8 file. This consists of beginning a file with the sequence 0xEF 0xBB 0xBF. Both Unix 'file' and 'vi' seem to be pretty good at interpreting it. When a file is pure 7-bit ASCII, but preceded by the BOM, it forces 'file' to report it as "UTF-8 Unicode text". An interesting edge case: if a file containing ISO 8859 8-bit characters that cannot be interpreted as UTF-8 multi-byte sequences is preceded by the BOM, neither Unix 'file' or 'vi' can be fooled: 'file' will report the three BOM characters as "ISO-8859 text", and 'vi' will display the BOM characters (as ï»¿).
Othan than BOM, refrain from ever calling ASCII, UTF-8, ISO-8859 or WinLatin1 a "file format." None have a standardized header or starting block They are more properly called "byte sequence conventions."
The entire corpus of Unicode is hypothetically available to browsers. For example the Unicode characters of Japanese that were mentioned earlier, U+65E5 U+672C U+8A9E, should successfully render on your browser when I put 日 ; 本 ; 語 ; in the HTML. Here it goes: 日 本 語. These work for me on Firefox. In practice, I believe that no browsers are 100% capable of correctly rendering the entire 2^31 Unicode character set via HTML entities.
Question: does the presence of the foreign characters you see above effectively make this page Unicode or UTF-8 format? No. The characters I used to make them were merely ampersand, pound, x, and digits, all 7-it ASCII characters. HTML Entities are merely instructions to browsers what to do with the characters.
|Do we want to use HTML Entities in the cleaned feeds we send to search engines? Do we want to figure out the intent of various WinLatin1 manglings and UTF-8 sequences that come from client feeds and turn them into HTML entities that will render safely on a browser? This is a subject still open to question. Our YSSP search engines can handle them, while our Comparison Shopping Engines (CSE's) do not. Currently we are leaning towards aiming for the lowest common denominator, 7-bit ASCII for all search engines.|
Can an HTML file be in actual UTF-8 format? "Yes we can." If it contains UTF-8 byte sequences, it gets interpreted by your browser as UTF-8. Here are two nice examples of "UTF-8 Test pages" out there that are just full of exotic Unicode in UTF-8 encoding: Markus Khun's sample file, and Frank da Cruz's UTF-8 Sampler. (How well your browser shows the page depends on how good the browser is. For me, Firefox and Safari got most of it, but IE6 failed on large numbers of the characters.)
After you look at one of these pages, try viewing source. What do you see? If your source viewer is UTF-8 capable, you'll see, well, the UTF-8 characters. Surprised? Expected to see the numeric bytes, did you? If you want to see the numeric value of a character under the cursor in vi, press ga. For UTF-8 characters higher than 8 bits you will see large values like 0xFFDD. Or if you want to get really deep into the binary encoding of a file, you could get a binary editor. On Unix, try 'od', or better yet, 'bvi' (you have to download it).
When an HTML page puts this in the block, what does it do?
"Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />
How do you compose (i.e. edit and save) an HTML file in UTF-8? Well, if you're using all 7-bit ascii characters you're fine, that's still valid UTF-8. But really we mean UTF-8 with higher level Unicode characters. Well, unless you want to enter the binary directly, you'll need a special editor for that; vi, textpad, etc. won't do it for you. Try Google.
XML is UTF-8 by default; the following declaration is actually redundant:
Bob Bemer (1920-2004) is said to be the "father of ASCII". His Ford Explorer's vanity plate read 'ASCII' surrounded by a plate holder reading "Yes! I'm the Father of".
Wikipedia has a picture of one of the earliest published ASCII tables, from 1968.
Ken Thompson, the Unix pioneer, invented UTF-8. "It was born during the evening hours of 1992-09-02 in a New Jersey diner, where he designed it in the presence of Rob Pike on a placemat" (source). You can also read the original AT&T UTF-8 Tech Report.
12 Apr 2009
My employer, iCrossing, has opened a search for a new member for the Merchantize team. Here's the description. To apply for the position, visit http://www.iCrossing.com/careers, select U.S. Career Offerings, Jobs by Location, then Jobs in Chicago, IL.
17 Mar 2009
Here are highlights of what was announced for the iPhone OS 3.0 release early this afternoon from Apple:
16 Mar 2009
Our local Java User's Group chapter, CJUG recently hosted a presentation by Rakesh Vidyadharan titled iPhone SDK: Java Developers Perspective (link to PDF). It wasn't so much an immersion in iPhone development per se, but an introduction to development in Objective C.
Some of the things I found interesting:
24 Oct 2008
Last Tuesday (Oct 21, 2008) was the Cloud Computing one-night conference "CloudCamp" hosted by Tech Cocktail. My company has some really time consuming web analytics tasks that take days to run, and we're exploring using GridGain to distribute the work over several servers, so it was a good chance for me to get an acquaintance with this field.
I've included a few photos from the event, that come from the conference's Flickr photogallery.
The meeting was alright. I didn't see anyone I knew there but had reasonably enjoyable small talk with mostly non-technical people during the drinking hour.
It wasn't a conference in any traditional sense of the word. There were no scheduled topic, no scheduled speakers. They did use the format used by O'reilly's "Foo Camps". They have a grid of sessions and meeting rooms on a whiteboard. All the squares are empty. Then they ask everybody who has a topic they are interested in to write it in a square on the board. Presto...you are now the moderator of that session.
I volunteered the topic "Software Engineering and Grid Computing". Eight really smart people showed up, including two physicists from Italy, two doctoral students, a guy from UBS, and a consultant from CohesiveFT, a Chicago company specializing in cloud computing.
Physics people have been doing grid computing for years, so they were levels above me. But interestingly, a lot of their problems have to do with resource sharing. There can be other research teams that also want to use the grid, and maybe they don't want the nodes installed with the same software you do, and the people with the biggest grants tend to win out.
The most interesting guy there was the consultant from CohesiveFT, Pat Kerpan. He had two pieces of memorable wisdom. (1) Rule of thumb: count on a 30% performance penalty imposed from the overhead of grid enabling your problem. (2) It's easier to bring the computing to the data than to bring the data to the computing.
He talked about the stuff their company uses for their clients called "Open Source Sun Hypervisor". This has an interface that allows you to trick out your nodes with whatever setup you want (e.g. pick and choose between java, tomcat, flavors of linux, struts, etc.) and get a multinode environment all set up in six minutes.
Several of the people spoke knowingly of "paravirtualization". Pat distinguished between problems that are "compute bound" vs. "data bound".
A few people referred to Hadoop. No one had ever heard of GridGain, but I don't think that Java development was strongly represented in that collection of people.
People have different aims in cloud computing. For a lot of people, they don't mind if a lot of virtual nodes are spread over one machine.
Virtualization was recommended as a convention even when you are doing one node per machine.
In many commercial applications, 4 virtual nodes per machine is typical.
Many people responded to my description of what we are trying to do at iCrossing with "why don't you just use Amazon's cloud computing"? To hear them describe it, Amazon gives you the flexibility to do whatever you want.
I could have attended some of the other sessions if I wanted to stay two more hours, but I split after mine. The other sessions were on pretty soft- or business-focussed topics. One guy led a session called “What color is your cloud?” There were two Microsoft people who found each other and made their own Microsoft-focussed session ("Cloud Computing in Windows 8 and SQL Server").
24 Oct 2008
Recently a friend from a company outside of Chicago asked me some advice on how they should go about hiring a java developer. I found myself offering advice on screening techniques for technical people and how not to blow it, and found myself thinking, damn, these are things that professional recruiters should hear.
Despite this economy, the market for programmers seems very hot right now. (Seller's market.) I get contacted by a lot of recruiters all the time. When I'm actually on the job market, I get more of these cold-call emails/phonecalls than I can possibly consider returning. So unfortunately I have to go on their voicemail or email as to whether they are worth my time or not. (First impression is a big deal.) Many people say things that send bad messages, like the job description doesn't make sense (they want strange mixtures of technical and business skills), or there's too much detail on company operations and history at the expense of core details (e.g., what the software development environment is like, whether it's Windows vs Linux vs Mac, what webserver they use, etc.), or they want you to complete some coding test before you even get a how-do-you-do. When recruiters get the message wrong like this, the more senior and experienced people know to stay away, and you get more junior or unqualified people who are willing to go along...and you waste a lot of time discovering that, or even make the mistake of making a bad hiring choice.
So here's my advice. Before you contact any software developer, get a complete job description. Keep the description of the nature of the company's business to no more than 1/3 of the description; the rest should all be technical specifics of the programming core responsibilities. Make sure that part is written by, or at least with the collaboration with, a person qualified to manage that person. Get coached by that person on how to describe that position over the phone. When you find a person to contact, either get them the description in their hands before the phone call, or try to send it to their email address during the phone call. On the phone, don't try to say more than you know. Don't bore the candidate with the history of your recruiting firm---trust me, all recruiting firms histories and mission sound completely identical. Don't ask the candidate to read their resume over the phone to you; do your due diligence and show them that you've digested it already. If you meet the candidate first, don't insult them by making the meeting be about nothing. The recruiters who did the best work for me never asked me to meet them first. Hope that helps!
24 Sep 2008
If you're a web software developer and in the market for a job right now, this list of questions to ask your potential employer could be helpful:
Now it's not a perfect list, since it's obviously skewed towards a open-source/java enterprise web developer. But if you find it useful, here it is! Good luck.
28 Apr 2008
I just replaced the Wikipedia Safari link on my iPhone with a link to iPodia. It will bring up a WikiPedia gateway that renders everything in iPhone-friendly output (see the pic of the home page). It's not perfect...it loads kind of slow and it interprets input a little differently than the real Wikipedia...but definitely very useful.
Another one I just found is Wapedia.
While I was searching for this, I also found an iPhone app called Geopedia that will use the internal GPS to bring up Wikipedia references to items that are currently geographically close to you.
26 Apr 2008
I've just "got religion" on Google docs, and I think I'm going to go whole hog into google photos, google spreadsheets and blogspot now. I am dead sick of the hassle it has been to manage my own webserver & Moveable Type server for my blogs OnTheCode, Atom Smashing, White Hot Thing, and Unsuspecting Air Molecules. I'm turning it over to Google, and here's my first post!
2 Nov 2007
I bought a Zune off of woot.com at a huge discount and tried it out. It's really a nice little box that compares favorably with the iPod.
The prices of Zunes have dropped to the point where I couldn't resist buying a 30 gig refurbished model off of woot.com the other day. (My 2004 vintage iPod is only 10 gig.) They've always seemed like attractive little devices to me, and lately the buzz has been that Microsoft did a pretty nice job with the latest software release.
19 Oct 2007
SHARC is a dataset of musical timbre information that I collected by analyzing over 1300 orchestral musical instrument notes. Specifically, the information is amplitude and phase data from a selected steady-state portion of each note. The dataset is now available in XML format.
Some time ago, when I was a grad student, and while holding various fellowships after I got my PhD, I did research in music, human hearing and digital audio (see my publications). One of the projects I undertook was to compile a collection of information on musical instrument tones, which I called SHARC ("Sandell Harmonic Archive").
I've described SHARC in a few places before: in an article from 1991, and in the release notes from the original distribution. Briefly, though, what I did was this. I had a collection of CDs consisting of individually performed notes of all the standard instruments of the orchestra, one recording for each note in the respective instrument's playable range. For each note, I chose a middle portion of the recording, during the note's steady state, and performed a spectrum analysis. I saved the amplitudes and phases of all the harmonics of the pitch's fundamental frequency up to a ceiling of 10kHz.
In my first version of the distribution (which you can still download in compressed tar format), SHARC consisted of a series of files, one for each note that was analyzed, organized into directories by instrument. That was 1994; since then, XML has come into being and I've now released SHARC in an XML format.
I'm calling this SHARC's "2.0" release, and back-versioning the original distribution to "1.0" (even though I timidly referred to it at as version 0.921 at the time). In this blog article, I'll describe the design of this 2.0 version, for the convenience of anyone who would like to work with it.
Let's consider the XML that specifies a single instrument and all of its notes, and their harmonics. The rough outline of the XML is:
<note> <!-- first note -->
<a/> <!-- harmonic 1 -->
<a/> <!-- harmonic 2 -->
<note> <!-- second note -->
id="CB_pizz" name="Contrabass (pizzicato)"
source="McGill" cd="1" track="18"
<note pitch="cs1" seq="2" keyNum="13"
<a n="1" p="-1.686">32.91</a>
<a n="2" p="0.309">2131.69</a>
<a n="3" p="1.764">5878.0</a>
<harmonicFreq harmNum="1" keyNum="12"
<amplitude freqHz="8449.15" keyNum="22"
<harmonicFreq harmNum="151" keyNum="25"
<amplitude freqHz="261.62" keyNum="48"
<pitches>c1 cs1 d1 ds1 e1 f1 fs1 gs1 a1 as1
b1 c2 cs2 d2 ds2 e2 f2 fs2 g2 gs2 a2 as2
b2 c3 cs3 d3 ds3 e3 f3 fs3 g3 gs3 a3 as3
b3 c4 cs4 d4 ds4 e4 f4
instrument (id, name, source, cd, track, numNotes)
harmonicFreq (harmNum, keyNum, pitch) [frequency]
pitch (fundHz, keyNum) [pitch]
amplitude (freqHz, keyNum, pitch, fundHz, harmNum) [amplitude]
(all same as lowest)
note (pitch, seq, keyNum, fundHz, numHarms)
amplitude (freqHz, harmNum) [amplitude]
harmonicFreq (harmNum) [frequency]
all same as lowest)
a (n, p) [amplitude]
22 Aug 2007
I own an iPaq rz1710 running Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition and I have been syncing it to Outlook data on Win XP for several years now. Before that, in the Win2k days, I had Win CE devices that I synced up. With Vista I couldn't get the Outlook data to sync up...at first. After fighting with it for a while, I finally figured it out.
A few basics: ActiveSync on the desktop has been replaced by "Windows mobile Device Center" (WMDC), while ActiveSync remains on the handheld. Your Vista machine may already have WMDC, but there is a critical upgrade you need to get from Microsoft (easily found if you search on WMDC). Whether you're installing WMDC or upgrading it, have your handheld connected by USB (or whatever you use) during the upgrade.
After getting WMDC upgraded, my desktop and handheld formed a parternership right away, but the Outlook data was not coming over. I may be a special freak case because I maintain multiple .pst files. My main .pst file actually resides on a jump drive, while the .pst that resides in the conventional location on the C: drive is just an empty shell. I noticed that when I added a new contact on the handheld and then sync'd up, the new contact did show up on my desktop Outlook, but in the C: drive .pst file. That's because Outlook regards the C: location of the .pst as primary and anything else secondary.
So I fixed it by (1) setting the jump drive .pst file as the primary; that wasn't enough to fix it so I also had to (2) delete the reference to the C: drive .pst file from Outlook. Microsoft has you do (1) in a funny way. You go to outlook, tools menu, email accounts, view or change existing accounts, then select the preferred .pst file from the dropdown titled "Deliver new email to the following location". Step (2) is done by navigating: Tools -> Options -> Mail Setup -> Data Files, select .pst file to remove reference to, and click Remove.
After that I had to shut down WMDC and Outlook, then restart WMDC. Now, when I pressed sync, I saw the little bugger go to work and download all my Outlook contacts, calendar items, notes and tasks to the handheld.
One other annoying thing about the Vista approach to handhelds is that the client software is really split between two areas, the "Sync Center" of the Control Panel, and WMDC itself. A lot of tasks seem to start in the Sync Center, but the real work (such as selecting what items you want sync'd up) is done in WMDC. Microsoft makes it hard for you to launch WMDC from the Sync Center, but here's the secret: go to View Sync Partnerships, then double click on your device.
15 Aug 2007
If you like running Tomcat from within IDEA and you want to be a Tomcat version 6, you need to stick with Tomcat 6.0.10 for a while. Any later version causes this complaint to come up when you launch Tomcat: "Error running Tomcat6: Cannot find configuration of jsp built-in servlet in C:\Users\greg\.IntelliJIdea60\system\tomcat_Unnamed_7dbqbe5b1\web.xml". I noticed just the other day that Tomcat 6.0.14 came out and I confirmed that this version has the problem too.
27 Jul 2007
I just bought myself a Lenovo desktop machine for my home office, and it came with Vista Business. This is the first time I've submitted myself to being a guinea pig for a new, pre-service-pack OS. Here are a few reactions, gripes and maybe even some left-handed praises.
It started out of the box okay, after answering all the usual first-time-start questions of name, timezone, etc. Early on, I started transferring files from one of my USB drive to the new disk, and I was appalled how slow it was going. Despite being a 7200 rpm disk drive, the time it took for the file transfer seemed about four times longer than it would have been on my Toshiba laptop, which is a 5400 rpm drive. Eventually I figured out that indexing was turned on for optimizing search and the disk was churning constantly. Since turning it off, file transfers copies are must more reasonable, although I have yet to try a side-by-side comparison. You can find instructions on disabling indexing on the web.
In the course of loading up my customary developer software, I had to use the Explorer a lot, set environment variables, etc. (Note that whenever I say 'Explorer' I always mean the file browsing app 'Windows Explorer', not the web browser 'Internet Explorer.') The customary alienation that one gets trying do to routine things in a new OS's GUI was running pretty high for me. Like every MS-Windows incarnation before it, if you don't want to blindly follow Microsoft's vision of where your files should be (i.e. "My Documents"), you have to work a lot harder. After a few evening's work, I know how to get around, in the course of which I learned two disappointments about Vista.
Disappointment 1: Vista is just a big shiny wrapper around MS Windows XP. Once you've dug deep enough, you find that the Explorer does little more than it did before, and all the Control Panel applets offer all the same functionality as before.
Disappointment 2: I'm guessing that the motivation for the Shiny Wrapper came out of a need to "keep up with the Jobses" :-) and give Windows a glassy, 3-d look like the Mac. But the imitation is so shallow and naive. I get the impression that it was designed by people who don't actually "get" the Mac. It's like they made decisions like "the Mac uses shiny red buttons in the lower corners, let's do that and then they'll like us too"...but the end result is an incoherent mess. With the clever GUIs that Apple makes for iPods, Macs, iPhones and the like, you immerse, understand and say Wow. The Vista folks wanted Wow, but all they're going to get is, "Sigh. Why?"
Okay, having gotten that gripe out of the way, I've noticed a few good things. I'm having no trouble loading open source and developer software on the machine. I've got Tomcat 6 with JDK 1.5 running. Ant, Vim, Cygwin, Gimp and Intellij IDEA are fine. I installed all of Office 2003 and so far Word, Excel and Outlook run correctly. But I've had some problems too. My cheap-o Visioneer scanner won't load. A favorite convenience app of mine, Shortcuts Map, will load and run, but I can't close the app without using the task manager.
My user 'home' directory are now c:\Users\greg instead of the old, space-character plagued c:\Documents and Settings\greg. As far as names go, I can see actually using that as my 'home' directory, except that it is filled with the usual junk that is unrelated to what I actually use my computer for: 'My Documents', 'My Music', etc. And not surprisingly, Microsoft still presents it in Explorer as though its a special entity, like Desktop and My Computer, and not just an ordinary folder, which it is.
Another good thing is that Explorer is now remembing recently used locations. It makes it much faster to get to your stuff that way. Nice to know that Microsoft finally found a way to do something the Mac has been doing for 20 years already.
Back to what I wrote about at the top, the indexing that slowed down the hard drive by a factor of four...I guess Microsoft, showing its usual insecurity over competitor's innovations, figured they needed to make Vista like Google, i.e. searchable. And they bet the farm on it to the point that they hoped that users wouldn't mind if the first 7 hours of their Vista experience with a disk drive constantly churning and taking away productivity. Can they really be so clueless? Indexing, whether for a 160 gigabyte drive, or a giant corporate website, should be done in the early morning hours, when noone is at work, or at least on dedicated machines. Oh, they could have included some instructions to this effect: "After you finish using your new PC for the day, we suggest that you run Index Manager (tm) and leave your machine on overnight. The next time you use your machine you will find that you can search the entire computer quickly and easily." But I don't think that fits in with Microsoft's estimation of their user base's intelligence.
The conventional wisdom I've read on the net about Vista, and which I now agree is: don't be a guinea pig, stick with XP until Vista's first service pack comes out. But if you're buying a new machine, and Vista is forced upon you, and you can afford a few days to re-tool, Vista is fine. You'll just be that much more on top of things when the first service pack comes out and you'll be wanting to switch...because presumably Vista has a bunch of features that we'll be wanting. As I discover what they are, I'll write another blog entry about it.
13 Jul 2007
Maven is gaining traction as the premiere form of Java code organization and managing builds. The entire world won't convert overnight, but adoption is likely to steadily increase once more people get over the learning curve and conceptual difference with ant scripts, the previous prevailing model of build management. In this article I'm going to try to take a bit of the steepness off of the learning curve for you.
The big sell for Maven is the dependency management and the coherence it brings to both your individual projects, and your code development overall. And by dependency management, I mostly mean where and which jar files you use. For ant users reading this, this is a way more than what the "depends" attribute of an ant target gets you. It's a way of:
mvn install:install-file -DgroupId=com.lowagie \
22 Oct 2006
Do you prefer 1099 or corp-corp?
Words and phrases for search engines that can help you find documents that you need are:
payroll tax, bi-weekly payroll period, FICA witholdings, Social Security tax rate, Medicare tax rate,
11 May 2009
During my various attempts to get in good shape over the years I've wasted my share of money on various diet & exercise books that try to tell you what exercise you should do, what muscles they benefit, what foods you should eat and why, and recipes that will make it more enjoyable. Big surprise, lack of willpower has tanked many of my efforts to stay on any kind of healthy eating program. But I really don't think that willpower is the whole story for me or other dieters. What about our ingrained habits of using food for reward, food to fix a poor mood, hedonistic eating, addiction to various kinds of foods (like my favorite, the Sticky Pecan Roll from Au Bon Pan)?
One diet approach that I thought took a step forward in talking about the psychology of diet was the Low-Carb diet (or "Atkins" in its most popular form). It talks about the role that carbs have in making us feel full, and thereby feel good. But I think you could do a lot better. I want to know the mechanics behind appetite, satisfaction and digestion: what actually occurs in the body to make you want to eat huge portions of your favorite foods, what happens as that urge becomes satisfied, and how you can use that knowledge to change your behavior.
I discovered the book You On a Diet while standing in line at a Jamba Juice one day. Using entertaining illustrations, it nails exactly what I was looking for. Some of the points in makes on the mechanics of body chemistry, food and appetite include:
13 Mar 2009
I read an article today called How to lose Twitter followers in 10 steps. I've probably read about 20 such Twitter Ettiquette articles, and most are pretty good. They don't even all say the same things, which means there are many, many ways to be an obnoxious Twit. Twitterer. Ahem.
And yet there are still more ways to lose followers, because they have yet to cover MY list. Here are things you can do to get me to stop following you:
14 Dec 2008
Here are a few sketches from a few years back.
This is of Chicago guitarist Eric Lugosch whom I sketched while he was playing at a restaurant in Lincoln Square maybe around 2003. That's his signature on the picture. While the detail in the hands is obviously a mess, I was pleased with the simple accuracy of his face and posture. His signature and his hair was done with a fading brown felt pen that didn't scan very well, so I enhanced these details a bit digitally.
This is a self-portrait sketched in pastels on paper at an open house at the Hyde Park Art Center in Winter '07. It was done in a room themed as Andy Warhol style portraits; hung on the wall were various classic Warhol portraits (Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, etc.) and we were encouraged to use bold, non-representational color to evoke the mood of the subject. At the time I was feeling kind of burnt-out about work, so I took the instructions pretty literally, as you can see.
19 Nov 2008
Karl Rove and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales found to be involved in a cover up of the U.S. attorney firings by the Senate Judiciary Committee?
Valerie Plame to take CIA leak lawsuit to Supreme Court?
A democratic-controlled White House, Senate and Congress?
19 Nov 2008
I'm pleased to announce my 4-year-old daughter Claudia's first photo gallery!
We let her run around the kitchen with the digital camera, and she took these shots. Keep in mind that she composed each shot by looking at it on the digital display before snapping it. (Except for the self-portrait, of course.)
As you can see, she likes closeups. Now is that just a kid being silly, or does it somehow reflect a child's view of her world?
10 Nov 2008
What Babbette's Feast did for dinner parties, Rachel Getting Married now does for music at weddings.
'Rachel Getting Married' depicts a wedding that raises the bar on having music at your wedding that is played by friends, where you have an endless number of music-playing friends, who play in an endless number of styles, except for any style one might consider classical or non-rootsy.
My friend Andrew, who earns part of his living playing classical string music for weddings, will now be getting all sorts of odd requests he won't be able to meet.
"We'd like a quartet consisting of lute, guitar, ethnic percussion and violin. They will play at each of our meals, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and the wedding banquet. We want them there the entire weekend, from the first morning as the overnight guests trickle in, to the morning after the wedding while they are leaving. They should be sitting around everywhere, noodling around, tuning up, improvising, and never taking a break unless told to shut up. At the wedding banquet they have to morph into a backup band for an annoying folk-roots singer.
We also want a 'White Stripes' style guitar-and-drums duo that will play really loud, but far away across the lawn, so they don't hurt our ears. They need to be content with not playing any actual rock music, but standards such as the Wedding March in Hendrix-playing-the-National-Anthem-at-Woodstock style.
All the other musicians, however, will be playing in extremely cramped spaces like tiny dining rooms and small tents. But don't worry, this will not be your ordinary gig. Everyone is really going to have a good time. All at the same time, all the time. They will all sway together and sing. Nobody, not even the groom's family and guests who haven't met anyone before, will be withdrawing into a contemplative mood, or feel shy or disconnected to the group mood. Well, there might be one person in whom we'll concentrate all the types of dissatisfaction that someone at a wedding might experience. Because that would make a good story.
By the wedding banquet, it should seem to our guests like we've already reached our peak, but wait until the wild nighttime bachannale we'll have in a very cramped tent, with a soul band with five brass players and hot Brazilian dancers direct from Carnival de Rio. Can you supply that? By the way, the wedding is in Connecticut.
Bear in mind that our wedding party is extremely multi-cultural. The band should match this demographic, or if you can't do that, achieve it with outlandish costumes.
We're really looking forward to this!"
5 Nov 2008
It wasn't like a celebration after a Bulls victory or a Pistons victory in Detroit.
It wasn't like a Taste of Chicago or a Blues Fest.
It didn't lure hooligans or Obama-haters looking for trouble. They weren't in the neighborhoods either.
It wasn't a "complete mess" or any of the things some people said it would be. It was a gathering whose core was made of people deeply involved in the outcome of the election.
What it was, was an evening of watching CNN on a Jumbotron and then hearing McCain's concession and Obama's victory speech. And then it was time to go home. The Chicago Tribune has a time lapse photography video of the entire event in 3 minutes.
There were two high points for me. First, when at 10pm CDT, CNN announced a projected Obama win from Virginia, immediately followed by their projection of Obama winning the Presidency. The jubilation of that moment is something I will never forget. Next, and this is a funny one, was seeing Biden come out with that smile and his sky-blue tie. I like that guy.
The Chicago Tribune caught a pic of me in the crowd at one of the moments of jubilation. (It's pic #56 of this slideshow.)
The appearance of Obama himself was a bit anti-climactic. His energy level was not like the best we've seen from him, and his speech was more humility than jubilation. I was prepared for this by watching one of his campaign speeches earlier that day on the internet, where it seemed that fatigue from the final push was starting to get to him. Also, I already sensed a Barack Obama changed by his new responsibility. He knows his words aren't just for the purpose of bathing supporters and Democratic faithful in a warm glow. He's now on a higher plane, talking to all of America, the Congress and Senate, the World.
The majority demographic there seemed to be post-college people in mid to late 20's. One reporter described them as "poly-sci nerds." Plenty of people in their 30's, 40's and 50's too though.
There were a few negatives. The Chicago Tribune advised us to bring stuff to eat, but both our water and snacks were confiscated at one of the checkpoints. What's up, Tribune? The second is the standing and the waiting, which comes with the territory of course, but always requires some endurance. The third was the lack of cellphone signal (which everyone warned would be the case) so I couldn't do the Twittering I was hoping to do.
As previously announced, there was no live music (save for a solo singing of the National Anthem), but the choice of recorded music was very nice. Good mix of rock, blues, soul, funk and country, quality songs, but with none of the pieces being tired, worn-out overexposed classics. The African-American artist who sang the National Anthem sang in "the key of soul," but it wasn't one of those over-the-top, love-to-hear-my-voice Whitney-Houston kinds of renditions. The music that followed the Obama speech was of the same cinematic-sounding orchestral variety that was played after Obama's acceptance speech in Denver: a bit manipulative, yes, but not nearly as clicheic as actual movie music and not transparently patriotic sounding. I have good feelings about the music that will be associated with this Presidency.
For the walk back to our train, we were corralled by the police to go west on Jackson (although I needed to go north on Wabash). There the crowd really let some energy loose, whooping and hollering, where the echo from the canyon of skyscrapers was deafening.
Today, I can't find a copy of the Chicago Tribune or the New York Times...they were all bought up before 9am!
Congratulations to President-elect Obama and all his supporters!
3 Nov 2008
For my friends outside of Chicago, you may or may not know that Barack Obama's campaign has organized an Election Night rally on the lakefront in Chicago. If Barack wins, this may be the most televised event of the evening, and the likely location of his acceptance speech.
If you're watching TV that night scan the crowd for me, since as you can see, I was able to get a ticket! (Sorry, I've blurred the bar code, so you can't make a counterfit.) There was a less than 24-hour window before they all got snapped up, but all you had to do was fill out a form on a website. To get a feel for how hot an item this ticket is, see these Craig's List ads, and these items on eBay.
If you use Twitter, follow 'gregsandell' and I will try to make updates throughout the evening. I think you can also read my Twitters from my facebook page.
31 Oct 2008
For Halloween this year we took our four-year-old old to the burbs for some daylight hours trick-or-treating in a neighborhood of lots of kids under 6.
My poker buddy Josh is shown at the left with his election-timely Paul Revere costume...with a beer in his hand of course. Other costumes seen:
26 Oct 2008
|I don't recall the circumstances of this sketch, but I'm pleased with this sketch of a nicely tailored gentleman.|
|I'm pleased with how I captured this smoker's relaxed posture while reading his book. I had a nice long chat with the fellow after I showed him the sketch. His name is Ingo Petry and is a composer and recording engineer.|
|One of my best executions, and also an example of how much detail goes into rendering hair.|
|At this point I am already at the conference in Uppsala, having taken a train from Stockholm, and am sketching other participants. This sketch is of Christina Anagnostopoulou of Greece. While I overshot the length of her face by quite a bit, I still like this sketch.|
|Daniel Levitin of the US.|
|Jörg Langner of (I believe) Germany.|
|After dinner the final night of the conference, a group of us including Girilel Baars of Sweden and Helga Gudmundsdottir of Iceland retreated to a bar, where Girilel was playing a gig that night. The writing on the sketch is Girilel's.|
|My final sketches occurred on the train from Uppsala to catch my flight home from Stockholm. I remember the least about these sketches except that it was a hot sunny day, and this is a guy on the train.|
|Man trying his best to catch a nap in the heat.|
|A young blonde woman.|
|Although a misplaced line added a few years to this young woman's age, I'm pleased with the details of the woman's outfit, and how it captures the wilting heat of that day.|
25 Oct 2008
This is Part 3 in my Urban Sketches series: Jyväskylä, Finland
Part 1: Chicago Faces
Part 2: St. Petersburg, Russia
Part 4: Uppsala, Sweden
Part two of my 1997 trip, to travel to University of Jyväskylä (prounced 'gee-VASS-cya-luh') to give a presentation to the Music Department, produced a lot of sketches. The train trip on the way up there from Helsinki was full of lots of families traveling for their summer holiday and it was a gorgeous sunny day.
|An unusual character wearing the t-shirt for a Finnish Football team (that's US football, not soccer).|
|Sketched on the train from Helsinki. Once I botched this guy's eyeglasses, this turned into a cartoon, but I still like this picture.|
|Another train sketch. This mother reading to her child was actually a quite young woman, but a few botched lines aged her by 15 years and put on 25 pounds. (As my friend Mari told me, "the same is true whenever we put on makeup".) Usually I sketch inconspicuously, but in this case I was pretty overt about it since it was just me and the two of them in a passenger compartment. At the end, I felt compelled to show the picture, which I preceded by an explanation that I did a poor job and I didn't really think she looked like that. But I think she didn't understand my English so I got a blank stare.|
|My first night in Jyväskylä I stayed in University guest housing and I was on my own, so I wandered into town. I found a bar where I made sketches of three students. This one had a confident smirk which I captured only semi-successfully.|
|Another student in the bar. I remember thinking he looked a lot like Mike Meyers' 'Austin Powers' which had just come out that summer in the US, but was probably unknown in Finland still.|
|Another student in the bar. Notice the thing under his nose; that's called a philtral dimple. But when I showed them my sketches, the one in the beret pointed at it and laughed. I guess he thought it looked like his nose was running.|
|The evening after my presentation, my host Petri Toiviainen inited me to his summer home. He, his son and I enjoyed a hot sauna by their lake. Although it was well into the night, it was daylight out because of their land-of-the-midnight-sun latitude. We baked to unbelievably high temperatures, swatted ourselves with twigs, and jumped into the icy lake. I also learned about the mystical nature of the sauna, and also the correct pronounciation, which is "SOW-nuh."|
|This was on the train back to Helsinki. This guy was kind of an Elvis/tough guy who was making himself the center of attention in the dining car. He seemed fairly harmless, although he did whip out a switchblade and started doing tricks with it. I'm pleased with the way this sketch caught his looks and self-styled coolness. His response to the picture was ambivalent, but he did ask if he could keep the picture. He declined to give an address for me to send a copy, but he signed his name himself ('suomesta' means 'from Finland').|
|I'm very pleased with the way I caught the hunched-over attention this woman was paying to her book, with minimal use of lines. Her name is Simi Kouri, and she was in the dining car with me and Vesa Attonen.|
24 Oct 2008
This is Part 2 in my Urban Sketches series: St. Petersburg, Russia
Part 1: Chicago Faces
Part 3: Jyväskylä, Finland
Part 4: Uppsala, Sweden
In 1997, when I was doing research in Music Perception, I got a few papers accepted at the ESCOM conference to be held that Summer in Uppsala, Sweden. (ESCOM is the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music.) Through my contact with researcher Mari Tervaniemi I was also invited to give a talk in Finland at the University of Jyväskylä. That led to yet another opportunity, to go a bit east from Helsinki and visit St. Petersburg, Russia.
Taking a train to Russia by yourself is a pretty daunting experience. But since I thrive on foreign cultures and like using my wits to make the best of foreign situations, it was an amazing adventure. It was a pretty slow train with lots of stops, so I had lots of time on my hands to sketch lots of faces, many of whom were very different from faces one sees anywhere in the USA.
|There were many businessmen on the train to St. Petersburg. I spoke at length with one of them (not this man, though). He believed that Russians would take very long to "get" capitalism...two generations minimum. That's how long it would take them to learn not to expect the government to provide them with everything.|
|This is one of my best likenesses. Later I talked with him and he told me he is a policeman. He and his friends got a good laugh over the pic when I showed it to them.|
|Here's a few sketches of a very lean, athletic looking business man with a strikingly Scandinavian face. He and his colleagues got a kick out of seeing my sketches of them.|
|Another sleeping businessman who enjoyed seeing this sketch later.|
|An accurate likeness of a woman with a very stark Scandinavian face. Made me think of the Finnish composer Jan Sibelius.|
|Helen, who was my guide to the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, and also showed me around town. That's her handwriting, with her name both in Cyrilic and latin characters. She's right, it was a bad cartoon of her face, but it still helps recall the memory of a nice afternoon.|
|Young man with a very stark Scandinavian face.|
|Two sketches of a man from the dining car. Another unusually Scandinavian face...which reminded me of composer Richard Wagner's.|
|I vaguely recall that this young man was part of a tour group, perhaps as a guide, which explains his very "on" expression.|
24 Oct 2008
A few days ago I started enjoying a new blog called Urban Sketchers. Urban Sketching is a name they're giving to a casual kind of amateur art emphasizing simple techniques like line drawing and water coloring, not making a big deal out of making a "finished product" or eliminating flaws, and emphasizing simple subjects found in ordinary life.
I loved this kind of art in Mollie Katzen's self-illustrated cookbooks The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. And a few years back I found another fun book featuring a similar style: The Moonlight Chronicles. Also, there's R. Crumb's sketchbooks and "Waiting for Food" books.
Cartooning was an early love of mine, and in 1997 I returned to drawing to chronicle a trip I took to Finland, Sweden and Russia. During that time, inspired by the excitement of travel, and having a lot of time on trains, planes and boats, I think I became a halfway decent Urban Sketcher.
This is the start of a series of postings featuring some of my better drawings. I'm beginning with the pictures I drew around Chicago after I returned from that trip.
Other parts in this series:
Part 2: St. Petersburg, Russia
Part 3: Jyväskylä, Finland
Part 4: Uppsala, Sweden
|I sketched this woman on the Chicago red line el. I'm pretty pleased with the way I captured her bundled-up posture as she held on to her purse while trying to catch a snooze. People napping, or reading books are the best people to sketch, because they don't catch you in the act and make you feel self-conscious.|
|Another napper on the red line el. Generally I would start with the forehead, capture the indent of the eye socket, the nose, and the cheek of the subject. If I got that first stroke right, everything else would follow no problem. So that first moment would take incredible concentration and self-confidence, because I hated botching a sketch.|
|Shannon Russell, my girlfriend at the time, at Heartland Cafe. It's not the best likeness of her, although it captures her beauty.|
|This is Bill Yost of Parmly Hearing Institute at Loyola University Chicago, where I worked at the time. I was able to sketch Bill because he was concentrating on a seminar speaker---which I was supposed to be doing too. :-)|
|Yet another person snoozing on the Chicago red line el.|
21 Oct 2008
Youtube user sailingandmusic must have heard something really different than the rest of us when he listened to Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric. Check this out.
4 Oct 2008
If the polls keep going in the direction they are, knock on wood, we won't have to endure a McCain-Palin presidency, and our country will have a fighting chance of reversing the disastrous last eight years. But even if it were to head towards a landslide outcome, it probably continue to be one of the most interesting election years all the way to November anyway. And that's due not just to Obama being the right guy at the right time, but Sarah Palin as well.
The video in Gawker's recent post Palin's Failed Cute, although intended to make democrats cringe, is in fact a compelling portrait of Palin's skills. Watching how she paved the way for the corny line of "Say it ain't so Joe" with asking Joe Biden up front if "do you mind if I call you Joe", and then getting a 1000 watt smile out of Joe Biden with it, was both canny and charming. It was using charm to win minds. And although we can poke fun of her Beauty Pageant past and her Fargo-like accent, she demonstrated an incredible degree of control and finesse over a challenging situation. That's a gift on a JFK and Bill Clinton level. And don't forget that twice now she's surprised us, in the Republican convention and the Vice Presidential debate, in far exceeding our expectations. I even lost $17 on Intrade on the Sarah Palin to Be Withdrawn as VP Candidate Nominee Before the Election prediction market.
So I'll say it, hate me for it if you will, but Sarah Palin is not only a force to be reckoned with, but maybe even a positive one. Who's to say what she'll be doing ten years from now? How do we know that this role she's playing now, of appeasing the social conservative base of the GOP, isn't just a role? Maybe in reality she's only just to the right of center. The fact that she hunts and brought a Downs syndrome child to term may be a hallmark for social conservatism, but it's not necessarily a slam dunk.
I had a conversation recently with a conservative whose voting choices are driven by taxes more than any other issue. He said: "Obama, wow, what a great guy, fantastic speaker and inspiring. I say, God Bless 'im, give that guy a job. Just don't make it President of the United States." That's what I say about Palin. I'd like to see what she's doing in ten years. I'd just rather see her do something positive with those skills than give service in an administration that would most likely wreck the US beyond repair.
4 Oct 2008
See the original post here on flickr: Top 150 words spoken at the Biden-Palin vice-presidential candidate debate
19 Sep 2008
This is a widely circulated post on the internet right now. I'm not sure if the original author is known. It's a brilliant statement on the lies & hypocracy going on in the 2008 Presidential Election right now. Enjoy! - Greg
I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....
If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic, different.'
Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.
If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
Name your kids Willow, Trig, and Track; you're a maverick.
Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.
Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.
If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council, 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, and 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.
If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.
If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.
If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.
If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.
If your husband is nicknamed 'First Dude', with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.
OK, much clearer now.
Black teen pregnancies? A 'crisis' in black America.
White teen pregnancies? A 'blessed event.'
If you're a Democrat and you make a VP pick without fully vetting the individual you're 'reckless.'
A Republican who doesn't fully vet is a 'maverick.'
If you are a Demoratic male candidate who is popular with millions of people you are an 'arrogant celebrity'.
If you are a popular Republican female candidate you are 'energizing the base'.
If you are a younger male candidate who thinks for himself and makes his own decisions you are 'presumptuous'.
If you are an older male candidate who makes last minute decisions you refuse to explain, you are a 'shoot from the hip' maverick.
If you manage a multi-million dollar nationwide campaign, you are an 'empty suit'.
If you are a part time mayor of a town of 7000 people, you are an 'experienced executive'.
If you go to a south side Chicago church, your beliefs are 'extremist'.
If you believe in creationism and don't believe gobal warming is man made, you are 'strongly principled'.
If you're a black single mother of 4 who waits for 22 hours after her water breaks to seek medical attention, you're an irresponsible parent, endangering the life of your unborn child.
But if you're a white married mother who waits 22 hours, you're spunky.
If you're a 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton, the right-wing press calls you 'First dog.'
If you're a 17-year old pregnant unwed daughter of a Republican, the right-wing press calls you 'beautiful' and 'courageous.'
If you kill an endangered species, you're an excellent hunter.
If you have an abortion you're not a christian, you're a murderer ( forget about if it happened while being date raped)
If you teach abstinence only in sex education, you get teen parents.
If you teach responsible age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
5 Sep 2008
On Tuesday, two of McCain's surrogates bashed Obama's work in the community. Then, as if it never happened, John McCain himself made an impassioned plea on Thursday for Americans to contribute to their communities. Yes! He did! (See the quotes below.)
How can the Republicans do something so blatantly hypocritical? Easy, it's their theme! Bald -face lies make Republicans feel so good, they can't hold back their cheers of "USA! USA!" and "Drill baby, drill!" Now McCain is taking a page from GW Bush's "education president" strategy, and telling us soulfully that "education is the civil rights issue of this century."
Here's what Rudy, Sarah and John said in the last few days:
"On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer. What? He worked — I said — I said, OK, OK, maybe this is the first problem on the resume. He worked as a community organizer."
"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities. ... My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of 'personal discovery.' This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn't just need an organizer."
- Sarah Palin, address to Republican National Convention, 9/3/08
"My friends, if you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist…enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an — an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier, because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself."
- John McCain, address to Republican National Convention, 9/4/08
22 Aug 2008
In the 2004 Presidential election, Republicans took a quote from John Kerry about his vote on Iraq war funding and rode it all the way to a Bush win. Karl Rove described it as "the gift that kept on giving".
Well, it's Christmas for the Democrats at last. Besides the video above, we've got a lot of nuggets from the senator:
11 Aug 2008
18 Jul 2008
I was surfing around and was amazed when I stumbled across a link of Billy Graham speaking at TED Talks from 1989. It looks like they posted it for the first time just this month. Of course Billy Graham and TED Talks is on the face of it, a bizarre match. As a teen and young adult, Billy Graham was for me pretty easy target of scorn: a proseletyzer, an establishment figure, a Nixon associate. Yet the Ted Talks people counted him, at age 80, among the remarkable worth listening to. (Other surprising people have given him an audience too, such as Woody Allen.) I have to admit that it's hard not to be in awe of someone like Billy Graham---Johnny Cash was another---who has survived on the cultural landscape as long as he has, commanding audiences by just doing his thing. He didn't end up disgraced like a Nixon or a Richard J. Daley, was never unmasked as a hypocrite or fraud, and didn't cling desperately to his fame by reinventing himself every few years. His TED Talk was interesting, and although not earth shattering, what shines through is his sincerity, empathy and intelligence, and that makes his message worth considering.