As You Were

Devin Coughlin's blog.
Styles: Serious Spare

March 31, 2004

South Park Devin

This is what I felt like when I woke up this morning.

South Park Devin

Contructed using this.

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Bodies Hanging From A Bridge

Bodies Hung From a Bridge

These are the burned bodies of four dead American civilians hanging from a bridge over the Euphrates in Fallujah, Iraq.

Posted by coughlin at 11:09 PM | TrackBack (0)

Air America

I've been listening on and off to the new Air America today. I have to say, I think call-in talk radio is really, really stupid. Talk of the Nation on NPR is pretty much the bane of my life (although sometimes Science Friday is bearable). I really don't want to hear what some random person off the street thinks — I'd rather have in-depth interviews with interesting people like on Terry Gross.

Janeane Garafalo's show was pretty good — she had Bill Maher and Atrios and ever since The Truth About Cats and Dogs I've had a soft spot in my heart for her.

I caught a bit of of Al Franken's show and it didn't really hold my interest.

The problem with trying to capture a liberal audience is that you need content. It's a good first step to hire comedians as hosts — but I think liberal radio needs to be much more heavily produced than on the other side. I don't think liberals will swallow (too much) swill.

Posted by coughlin at 10:26 PM | TrackBack (0)

March 30, 2004

The Last of the Modernists

So you walk into a coffee shop, order a latte, and sit down.

While waiting for your friends to show up, you eavesdrop on the conversations of people around you.

You notice that everything everyone around you is saying doesn't make sense.

There are a couple of possible interpretations:

  • The modernist would believe that you are correct and everyone else is just a fucking moron.
  • The post-modernist would believe that you are correct — but so is everyone else, and how can you really question what they believe?
  • The third interpretation is that you are all wrong, but the truth is out there and it may be possible to find it.

We need more of the third type of thinking.

Post-modernism leads to paralysis because it is incapable of discarding false theories.

Modernism leads to failure because it arrogantly argues that the Titanic is unsinkable even after it has hit the iceberg.

Post-modernists aren't any fun because they accuse you of being too linear when you try and talk about any question that could possibly have a right or a wrong answer.

Modernists are a pain in the ass because they are arrogant pricks.

People of the third type don't seem to exist — or maybe they just never leave the house.

Posted by coughlin at 10:09 PM | TrackBack (0)

Fermi Paradox

Ben thinks that we haven't made contact with aliens because any species powerful enough to explore space would be destroyed by their technology before they could reach us.

I don't agree.

Even with all the modern dangers of genetic engineering and nuclear weapons, I am hard-pressed to come up with a scenario in which every human being on the planet could be killed. (And I think we are particularly vulnerable right now — in the near future humans will be spread around the solar system, making total annihilation that much harder).

Short of man-made blackholes in the center of the Earth (or the Sun) I don't think any internal threat could do us all in.

The best candidates for human extinction involve large external forces messing the the climate (large asteroids hitting the earth, something changing our orbit, supernova of our sun, etc.).

But there is still the matter of lack of aliens. My personal belief is that there is a vast conspiracy among all the aliens out there to not mess with us. But you could also use our apparent uniqueness (or at least rarity) as an argument that God exists and seems to think we are special.

Posted by coughlin at 9:46 PM | TrackBack (0)

Alistair Cooke Has Died

Trident

So Alistair Cooke died yesterday. It is fitting that I heard about his death on BBC Radio in the middle of the night, as this was when I would listen to his weekly Letter From America.

Letter From America was a 10 to 13 minute monologue by Cooke in which he recounted, in his slow, methodical way, some aspect of American life to the listeners of the BBC. Although he was too often overly-kind to America, his observations (interspersed with tales of famous acquaintances) were intended to explain American behavior rather then defend it.

You can find his Letters (some of them in Real Audio) here

Posted by coughlin at 9:13 PM | TrackBack (0)

March 28, 2004

An Appeal to Reason

Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Shiite cleric in Iraq, said recently argued that God had been acting on behalf of Islam when the World Trade Center was attacked. His outburst was triggered by our veto of a proposed UN Security Council resolution to criticize Israel for their assassination of wheel-chair—bound Hamas leader Sheik Ahemed Yassin.

This suggests to me two points:

  1. that you can't trust people to be reasonable when they've been told lies their whole life (see also)
  2. that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict represents an immediate threat to the national security of the United States and that a timely resolution of that conflict is in our interest. I believe the occupation of Iraq has changed the calculus behind our support for a strong Israel. The need to end the conflict is now more important than our unwaveringly support Israel.

It seems to me that a necessary, perhaps the _most_ necessary, plank in our so-called War on Terror needs to be resolving the Israel/Palestine crisis. Period. And if an American president doesn't have the guts to stick it to both sides then s/he doesn't deserve to be President.

Update:

The morons running Iraq have closed down al-Sadr's newspaper because it lied and advocated violence against US troops.

Someone needs to tell them that you don't shutdown newspapers in free democracies. al-Sadr may be a bad guy, but did they really think banning his newspaper from publishing for 60 days would make Iraqi's think more highly of the CPA. For fuck's sake.

Posted by coughlin at 11:46 PM | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2004

45 Is Not Old If You Are A Tree

It was Collin's birthday, a while back (he turned 45) so Ben, Laura, and I celebrated with him by going to the Trident.

Trident
Collin and Laura at the Trident

Big surprise there, I know.

We then headed over to the Pearl Street Pub to play pool (in which Ben and Collin kicked my and Laura's collective asses) and consume grease.

Collin Playing Pool Laura Playing Pool
Collin and Laura playing pool
Ben With Food
Ben with the grease

This was followed by an impromptu visit to the Paris-on-the Platte, home of the world-famous latte pitcher, in Denver.

Trident
Yes, that's latte foam

We ended the night with a trip to Eco-Cycle.

[Picture with-held for obvious reasons.]
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Marbury v. Madison

The pledge case reminded me about the attempt by Republicans in Congress to claim judicial review as their own domain.

Nickel

I've argued, in the past, that the 9 un-elected members of the Supreme Court have acted like philosopher kings (and relatively good ones, at that) who protect us from the tyranny of the majority.

The received wisdom about the pledge case, however, undermines my previous argument. The justices seem to believe, without doubt, that having the phrase "In God We Trust" on money does not constitute an endorsement of religion (and the plaintiff feels the need to separate the pledge issue from the money issue).

How could we get here? No one could possibly believe that writing "In God We Trust" on currency is not an endorsement of religion — it was certainly intended that way when first added during the Civil War. The only possible explanation is that the justices (and most of the country) believe that we are a Christian nation and that our laws should reflect that.

Some philosopher kings. Not even Supreme Court justices can be trusted to enforce separation of church and state.

Posted by coughlin at 6:16 PM | TrackBack (0)

March 25, 2004

Ceremonial Deism

The pledge case reminded me about the attempt by Republicans in Congress to claim judicial review as their own domain.

Nickel

I've argued, in the past, that the 9 un-elected members of the Supreme Court have acted like philosopher kings (and relatively good ones, at that) who protect us from the tyranny of the majority.

The received wisdom about the pledge case, however, undermines my previous argument. The justices seem to believe, without doubt, that having the phrase "In God We Trust" on money does not constitute an endorsement of religion (and the plaintiff feels the need to separate the pledge issue from the money issue).

How could we get here? No one could possibly believe that writing "In God We Trust" on currency is not an endorsement of religion — it was certainly intended that way when first added during the Civil War. The only possible explanation is that the justices (and most of the country) believe that we are a Christian nation and that our laws should reflect that.

Some philosopher kings. Not even Supreme Court justices can be trusted to enforce separation of church and state.

Posted by coughlin at 6:51 PM | TrackBack (0)

March 23, 2004

Denver Zoo

Eagle

I went to the Denver Zoo with Emmett the other day. It was awful. All the vegetation was dead, the habitats empty, there was construction all around. I don't really consider myself an animal rights person, by any stretch, but you'd think we could do better than a concrete wasteland.

Posted by coughlin at 12:39 AM | TrackBack (0)

Virtual Linux

I've been thinking a lot about processor virtualization lately. It has been almost a year since I did any serious work in the area, but I've been thinking recently about quick and dirty tricks to get a virtual machine running.

I've heard rumors that Apple is working on providing some degree of linux compatibility for OS X 10.4, but it is not clear exactly what this means. Presumably, this would be source level compatibility whereby enough linux API's would be added so that most linux software recompiles effortlessly on OS X. I think getting an 80% solution here wouldn't be that difficult because of OS X's BSD roots and the availability of POSIX, but the last 20% would probably be pretty hard, as linux likes to do a lot of stuff (especially device dependent stuff) its own way.

It occurred to me the other night that if I were responsible for bringing linux compatibility to the Mac, I would use a virtual machine instead. Apple already runs a partial virtual machine to support its Classic environment (whereby a virtual mac starts up OS 9 to provide backwards compatibility) albeit without full MMU support and some weird juju to transfer control to and from the main OS.

If you're running on a modern ISA (i.e. NOT x86) virtualizing the processor is actually not that difficult (although getting good performance out of an emulated MMU can be tricky). The hard part is providing fake hardware so that guest OS's can run on the virtual machine. It is usually better to write your own special drivers for the host OS and then pass the hard work off to the real hardware or host OS -- but even this is not an easy task, especially for things like graphics cards and USB devices.

Linux's unix heritage and versatility are greatly advantageous in this area. A completely usable virtual machine (kernel + user-level processes) would really only need one device: an ethernet card.

The boot-loader firmware could load the kernel from a local tftp server. The kernel could load all filesystem data from a local nfs mount. The user could control the virtual machine either through a an ssh terminal or an local X windows server.

The biggest problem with virtual machine monitors is that the lag in the GUI is unacceptable. This is because things that have to handled on time in interrupts (mouse movement, screen refreshing) aren't guaranteed to be run when they need to on the virtual machine. Most linux graphical applications, however, are written for X Windows, so they are designed to not choke (too horribly) over high latency connections.

There are certainly some applications (industrial control, gaming) where this would not work -- but why would you run these on a mac, anyway?

So is there any chance RedBox could be joining BlueBox in the future? Doubtful. But one can always hope.

Posted by coughlin at 12:03 AM | TrackBack (0)

March 22, 2004

Panther

So I finally upgraded to Panther (OS X 10.3). Overall, it has been a pleasant experience, although a couple of kinks remain.

The finder is much improved. The "user-centric" directory presentation is a god-send — it is kind of like having a mini desktop in every finder window. Everything is always reachable. I think that if the sidebar we have now had been coupled with the NeXt-like column view early on there would have been a lot less criticism of the old Finder (disaster that it was).

Expose
Expose

Expose is incredibly useful (although I have dealt with the window jungle for so long I sometimes forget to use it). I still remember when I first learned that option-apple-W closed all windows (I guess this was when I was still using System 6) — using Expose gives me that same feeling: now I can cut through the crap to what I want.

Other nice things: shared windows printers show up like magic, networked file sharing is improved (although the GUI is still weird), and no more dragging volumes to the trash to eject them.

Also there's Xcode, Apple's new version of Project Builder. I like it, I guess, but more on that (and new API's) in a different post.

On the bad side: I had to redo all my user-specific apache configuration (the installer was smart enough to transfer my home directory, most of my settings, etc. but not my http data so my virtual hosts (for testing Spill) were down and cgi was turned off for my movable type). Also, my computer is too slow (and its hard-drive is too small) to use GarageBand effectively. I think I'm going to delete it.

The installer transferred half of my postgres installation (points for effort, I guess) but I had to do the rest by hand. I think there should be a new rule against using cp -R. I wanted to move the pgsql directory to /usr/local but copied pgsql/ instead of pgsql (damn tab completion) which meant that I copied the contents of pgsql to /usr/local. But the pgsql directory had subdirectories 'include', 'bin', etc. to these got copied directly to /usr/local, potentially over-writing those directories in /usr/local. Damn. Luckily for me, however, it was a new installation and Panther (unlike previous versions of OS X, ahem) installs nothing in /usr/local — so there was nothing to overwrite. However, I could only know this for sure because I had run OmniDiskSweeper and left the window listing directory contents open.

In the future I will be moving things with the Finder, thank you very much.

Posted by coughlin at 11:46 PM | TrackBack (0)

We're All Saints Now

So Ben is in Mexico trying to discover himself. You should be careful what you look for — you just might find it.

Posted by coughlin at 11:42 PM | TrackBack (0)

March 2, 2004

Christopher Lydon

Christopher Lydon, former host of the NPR radio interview show The Connection, out of Boston, has been running around the country interviewing interesting people and posting those interviews on his website.

His interviewees are an ecclectic lot, but he likes to talk to people about democratic politics and blogs. This leads to some cringe moments (for me, at least) like when he asked Harold Bloom what Ralph Waldo Emerson would have thought about the blogosphere. He asked the same question of James Gleick about Newton. A lot of his interviews about the Democratic presidential race took place in the summer and fall, so there are some interesting comments about Kerry being a "dead man walking", and the success of the Dean campaign, etc.

Nonetheless, these interviews are good quality stuff (although technically they sound awful — it seems a lot of them were recorded over the internet). I put a bunch of them on my iPod and am slowly working my way through them as I walk around Walker Ranch. He combined a bunch of interviews (200+ megs) into a single zip file, for easier download, but for all of the newer ones you need to work through his log.

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