Monthly Archives: February 2008

Why the English Still Have a King…

When I saw Michael Moore’s film on 9/11, I was struck by the fact that very few members of the US leadership had children that were in harm’s way.

And here we learn that Prince Harry was deployed in a front line unit in Afghanistan.

Amazing isn’t it?

There is, possibly, a connection between the fact that English monarchy continues to exist and the monarchy’s willingness to fight their nations wars.

I wonder how much more credibility the Republicans would have if their children were willing to fight their wars.


Book Review: World War Z by Max Brooks

This is an amazing book.

The conceit of the book is that a World War against the Zombies has just ended. The author of the book is a journalist who is interviewing folks who survived the war as a sort of living history of the events.

What makes the book work is that it as much a statement about our current society as it is about this fictional war.

What makes the book really work is that it manages to capture the horror, the unbelievable horror of the war and the massive dislocation the war creates.

But what makes the book grab your attention is that it asks and answers some truly appalling questions. Suppose you have this disease which transforms people into, for lack of a better word, Zombies? How do you fight that war? How do you deal with soldiers that get infected on the battlefield? What kind of battle tactics do you enforce? What is your grand strategy?

Everyone of those questions is answered, and the ramifications of those answers is dealt with. For example, what’s your grand strategy?

Consider the problem this diseases presents. In a normal infectious and fatal disease, the carrier gets sick and dies. Once the carrier is dead further spread is impossible. For every normal disease, the carrier will succumb to the illness and at that point be ineffective as a carrier.   Even better once someone exhibits symptoms, folks now to run away from the victim minimizing disease spread and typically ill people can not chase after the well.  A fatal disease normally carries the seeds of it’s own destruction.

Now consider this disease.  Every infected person is a carrier and once infected there is a 100% likelihood of transformation to Zombie status. Unlike normal fatal diseases where death and infirmity make it impossible for the victim to continue to spread the disease, with this disease once the victim dies, the victim becomes a walking, moving, disease carrying monster. 

Now consider the situation where the disease has spread to the general population. Once there the speed of spread increases as more monsters attack more uninfected people.

If you’re the government you have a problem. You’re fighting a war against an army that will never surrender and that has to be killed one soldier at a time.  So first you need to create  a defensible perimeter. But the perimeter has to be smaller than the nation because you don’t have enough troops. So that’s what you do, you define a natural boundary within your country and everyone within the boundary gets saved, and everyone outside of the boundary is left to fend for themselves.

But wait, you ask, why not bring the folks outside of the perimeter into the perimeter? Reason (1) not enough space. Reason (2) they represent an easy target for the Zombies while you perform your retreat into the perimeter.

That’s the kind of book this is. A book that looks at horror and does not flinch.

Highly, highly, highly recommended.

TV Review: Demon Hand – Sarah Connon Chronicles

The return of Dr. Silverman is the theme of this show. Played by Bruce Davison, Dr Silverman is no longer the smug confident psychiatrist who is treating an insane patient. No this Dr. Silverman has seen the scales come off of his eyes. The horrors that Sarah Connor described, he now knows are not the ravings of a lunatic but predictions of the future.

So he flees into the wilderness waiting for judgement day.

And when James Ellison finally catches up with the good doctor,  to provide evidence that Sarah was not insane, the poor FBI agent is captured by the now insane psychiatrist. Because this Dr. Silverman does not need any more evidence to prove anything.

This show continues to be the most compelling bit of television now playing.

Border Incursions

With the focus on Barack and Hillary, and the Oscars, the tiny little border war going on in Iraq between Turkey and the PKK in Northern Iraq didn’t even make the news.

It is interesting that this potentially horrifying development gets so little air time… In fact, I only found out about this developing situation, because I happen to read Greek newspapers.

In fact if you go to, you have to actively search for news about this.

Of course if you go to, you’ll find a lot of news about this invasion. Hmm… I may have to blog about this later.
Why is this so interesting?

Think about it. We have troops in Iraq. As the occupiers of Iraq we are obligated to protect Iraq’s territory. What a delightful little mess we are in.

Sarah Connor Chronicles

So what makes this show compelling is unclear.

One aspect that dearly works is the lead. Unlike Linda Hamilton who in T1 and T2 were the movie’s weakest link, in this show Sarah Connor is played with restraint. There is none of the mayhem or chaos or bad acting. Instead we have despair, desperation and hope finely balanced.

Another aspect is the terminator who acts as John’s bodyguard. Both in T1 and T2 the future warrior was poorly acted. In T1 the actor delivered some memorably poorly acted lines. In T2 Arnie had become such a star that we had him attempt to show the softer kinder gentler Terminator. So much so that he obliterated some of the scariness of the machines.

In this show the terminator is disturbing. We don’t see her as a loveable Data, the robot from StarTrek like we did Amie in T2, but something sinister. Something that could blow up at any moment in time. And that makes you uncomfortable. She’s almost like a pet lion. Sure the lion seems friendly, but is it, really?

So maybe it is the acting and the character development.

But that discounts the plot a lot. One of the frustrating aspects of the movies was the fact only one person got through. But with a time machine I could keep trying again and again. One angle the series has explored is the notions of a temporal war. Essentially both future factions send commando’s into the past to perform missions to ensure final victory. In come cases John stumbles on these plots must deal with them.

Again after 4 episodes, I must strongly recommend this show.

Archive, damn you! Archive!

After reading about how the folks in Redmond can not get Outlook .ost files to work if they are greater than 2GB, and recognizing the challenges of not using cached mode, I decided, foolish boy that I am, to archive my email.

So, of course, when I did the archive, I, foolishly assumed that the damnable software would do a "cut-and-paste" not a "copy-and-paste".


It was "copy-and-paste". So after enduring the pain that is the archive process, I must now endure the pain that is the "select-1000’s-of-files" and delete them process. Including the always fun "re-sync-your-local-folder-with-the-exchange-server-spasm".

I am going to go to sleep now.

Maybe if I am lucky I will be able to use my email client tomorrow.

Movie Review: Knight Rider 2008

Alone at home watching on my TiVo, the made-for-tv move Knight Rider.

Image:Knight 3000 KITT.PNG

I didn’t think it was possible to be both worse and better than the original at the same time.

And yet the writers of this show achieved the impossible.

The part they nailed was the peculiar relationship between the driver and car. Ironically they nailed that in ads and not during the actual show.

The parts that are unquestionably better are the special effects.

The parts that are worse is the acting and the story line. The cheese effect was so high that I am darned certain that years were shaved off of my life.

Of course, when I say worse, I mean it in a relative sense. Any show from the 80’s will be worse than a show produced now. However, given the standards we have for today, this was relatively worse.

And what was really bizarre was that unlike the original show that was clearly targeted towards youngish boys, this show chose to have some pretty adult material. For example, in the opening segment we have Sydney Tamiia Poitier,

playing the role of  FBI agent Carrie Rivai, who is showering off the salt after a day of surfing, and we get a real close-up of her barely covered chest. And just when it could not get any weirder, she’s chatting with her female one-night stand whose mostly naked. And just when you thought you’d seen it all, to prove this is a straight person’s show, we see Michael Traceur in bed with woman, when another scantily clad female joins him a few seconds later.

And fine even if I could get over the sex, there was your usual assortment of  over-the-top violence.

I’m not a prude, but this level of sex and violence, was odd.

And, come-on, Michael Traceur is Michael Knight’s son?

I don’t think this will be back…

Bernadette remarked that the web site does in fact allow me to export my data.

Since I can now do that, I think I will actually give the place a whirl.

My first impressions are remarkably positive.

I like the use of tags to organize information, rather than the use of fixed columns.

I like the fact that web site can search through or the Library of Congress to fill in information about books.

For example, I typed in “the echo maker” in the “add books” section of the web site.


And then the web site very quickly gave me the option to select from a set of books that matched “the echo maker”.


I picked the one by Richard Powers, and, just like that, my library know had all of the information about that book.


All it took was 15 key presses and one mouse click!

Update: Feb 17, 2008 because I mistyped the web site.

Who owns my data?


After I wrote about my Access adventures, Michael Rubin recommended a very interesting web site as an alternative to rolling my own application.

While I was looking at the site, I could not but help to notice the word Beta.

Here’s my anxiety: it will take a lot of time and effort to enter all of the data into this web site. And this web site is a small venture by a small team in Portland.

What happens if this small web site goes out of business? Do I have to re-enter all of my data all over again?

I really want the ability to have a hard-copy of the data that is independent of the web site. Such that if the web site goes down, I can move my data to some other provider.

And as much as it pains me, I feel compelled to agree with the folks at Data Portability. I own the data, not the company that keeps a record of them. I don’t have a problem with them profiting from my data, but damn it why won’t they give me  a copy?