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Proposal, The
Anne Fletcher, Director

Another one in a long list of “hey, I have to marry someone – anyone – to get my Green Card” movies.

This one is about as unpredictable as a glacier, and about as fast-moving.

I like both Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock (the stars), but come on.

Scenery was beautiful – allegedly in Sitka, AK. Turns out it was all filmed in New England, so it’s all matte paintings. Super.

Has its moments, but I’ll never rent again.

All movies

When Google Web Elements came out a few months ago, I was on board from Day 1.

There were a few bumps in the road with the Google Maps element (I had to change DocTypes on all my blogs pages so it’d work in IE 7, I believe); however, I like the Google Maps and especially the Google Custom Search widget.

I have the latter embedded on the index page (only, currently) of my blog, and it works brilliantly.

It seems to index my blog entries much more quickly now – my last post was about four hours ago, and it’s already showing up in my site search. And I’m no big deal – it’s the Custom Search that appears to be driving the quick indexing. Interesting.

Update: This post was indexed in less than an hour.

Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright III at the Vic

Last night – Thurs, Oct. 29 – we went to see Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright III at the Vic(tory Theater) in Chicago.

It was an acoustic show, with both artists perform with guitar only solo, and a handful of songs (in two sets) together – once with Wainwright leading, the other playing Thompson songs.

Before I get into the body of the review, a comment on the crowd. Well, the doors opened at 6:30pm (for a 7:30pm show). We got there about 5:45pm and we were only about the 11th and 12th persons in line. I knew the show wasn’t sold out, and I was getting worried that we’d end up with a show where all 40 audience members gather on stage around the artists, like he was playing in someone’s basement.

My fears were unfounded – by the time the show was about the start, the mezzanine was packed – and, while I couldn’t see the balcony, I could tell it was being using (you’d see the stray hands sticking over the edge).

And the crowd – of the 500-700 people there, about maybe a half-dozen/dozen were less than 40 years old. Lots of white hair, long-haired 60s refugees, women in flowered Woodstock prints.

Before most concerts, you see everyone on their cell phone texting friends or updating their Facebook pages.

Here, they were reading the Chicago Tribune or a book/magazine.


Loudon Wainwright III

Wainwright was up first (right on time: these guys are pros).

Remarkably unremarkable appearance. Blue plaid cotton shirt, dockers, tousled and receding gray hair. You could toss him a suburban backyard BBQ and he’d be anyone’s dad. Blend right in.

Wainwright was in part shilling is new album – Recovery – that is a collection of new takes of his old songs.

He also did a lot of topical songs – as he dubbed them, “New songs for the New Depression.” And he promised to keep these songs upbeat, because “I want to cash in on this depression!”. Cash for Clunkers, another song about Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman and so on.

You get the drift.

Wainwright is a great entertainer: snappy banter between songs, comments on the city, making lots of faces and contorting his body for emphasis during this songs. But in the end, it was fun but forgettable. I honestly can’t recall any of the songs’ music.

Richard Thompson

Unlike Wainwright, Thompson is a very imposing presence: Tall, angular, closely shaved gray beard and wearing his omnipresent black beret.

And when he plays – just him on a six-string guitar – it sounds like many instruments.

Thompson opened with When the Spell is Broken, an almost 20-year-old, typically dark Thompson number. But as he drove through it, he managed to maintain a pounding bass line while layering all sorts of twangs and pings on top of it.

Thompson had a number of extended instrumental portions in his songs over the course of the night, and he would inevitably get as much applause – in the middle of a song – for these acts of finger acrobatics as he did when the song ended. Remarkable.

My favorite? 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. From the 1991 (wow, has it been that long?) album Rumor and Sigh (arguably Thompson’s biggest commercial success), the song has long been one of my favorites. Great, zippy finger-strumming song.

But in concert – and I’ve now heard Thompson perform this twice – he really hits the accelerator: Fast and furious. Beautiful.

I went to the show for Thompson, and I was not disappointed. I could have taken hours more of him.

It was pouring when we got out the the theater, but who cares? Was a good night of excellent music and entertainment.

Why Linux is still weak on the desktop

I was just noodling around the web this evening, and I ran across a recent article about why (still!) Linux hasn’t really caught on for the desktop.

I haven’t read an article on this topic for a year or so, I gave it a look: “Five ways the Linux desktop shoots itself in the foot.” While I agree, for the most part, with author Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ five reasons, he undermines his entire argument (i.e. the five things holding Linux adoption back) in two ways.

1) Even before he begins his litany of Linux missteps, he makes the following observation:

So why aren’t more people using [Linux on the desktop]?

Microsoft is the biggest reason. Microsoft is a jealous monopoly that doesn’t want to share the desktop with anyone.

Yes, play the Evil Empire card. But as Apple demonstrates, one can compete against the behemoth for Redmond, WA. Yes, MS wishes Linux would go away (especially in the server arena) – and is doing as little as possible to accommodate the OSS software. And MS views Apple’s OS as a very real threat on the desktop, yet the Apple OS is flourishing in that environment. Next question?

2) Vaughan-Nichols opens his article with this full disclosure:

I don’t just write about the Linux desktop; I use it every day. At my desk, I tend to use MEPIS and Mint, while on the road, it’s Ubuntu on my Dell netbook and openSUSE on my Lenovo ThinkPad. I do this because they work well and they’re as safe as a desktop operating system can get.

OK, look at that second sentence. We got’s MEPIS/Mint/Ubuntu/openSUSE. WTF? I know what these are, but here’s my conclusion as to why Linux has not caught on for desktop users:

Linux on the desktop is too confusing for all but those very technically inclined.

Vaughan-Nichols says “In 2009, any reasonably smart person can use any major Linux distribution without much trouble.”

There are two problems with this statement:

1) I don’t believe it to be true, in part because …

2) How many smart people know which Linux disto to use (or what a “distro” even is?): openSuse? Ubuntu? Fedora Core? Now let’s get down to the fight between Gnome and KDE etc. Why does/should the author have three different Linux desktops on three different pieces of hardware? Why not, for example, Windows XP on home/work/laptop? To virtually everyone, the latter question makes more sense than the former.

On Windows, it’s a choice between Vista and Windows 7.

On Macs, it’s OS X. End of choices.

Smart people are not necessarily smart about OS choices. Less is actually better. (Ubuntu is kinda working this way.)

Don’t agree? Well, I’ve been working on web sites since 1996 or so, and here are what people – many of them smart – believe/don’t know about using a computer:

  • “What’s a browser?”
  • “My search engine is Firefox…” (I got this one again this week.)
  • They are on the internet when they use Google or Yahoo. To get to Yahoo, for example, some users will go to Google, type in “” and pick the top link (and vice-versa).
  • You’re not using the internet if you’re emailing. [What they think it is I dunno, but I’ve heard this one dozens of times.]
  • Q: What version of Windows are you using – XP, 2000, Vista? A: Dell.
  • Where is that file located on your computer [totally blank look/sound – and when you try to explain the Finder/Windows Explorer…pack it in…]
  • No, I never have more than one thing running at a time. Otherwise, it’ll break the computer.
  • I know people who have been on Windows since Win3.11 and have just recently reported success at creating a new folder. Whoo-hoo!

Computers, to me, are like anything else – you’re into them or not. I’m not at all into cars, and I never give it a second thought when my car ferries me to/from work.

When my car breaks, I’m helpless. Others will troubleshoot and easily fix. But that’s them.

When my computer breaks, I can – for the most part – fix same. But that’s me.

Apple’s OS X did – brilliantly – what Linux coders had been trying to do for about, what, 8 years? – put a pretty, idiot-proof (as much as possible) OS on top of a Unix flavor running on Intel chips.

OS X kicks ass.

Linux desktops don’t work because of the forking, lack of driver availability and – for the most part – Linux != one OS. Biggest disconnect for “any reasonably smart person.” (The other major issue is software support. Most people have enough trouble using MS Word or Excel; say “download and install Open Office!” and they’ll flee…)

Full disclosure: Most of my work is done on Windows XP boxes. I develop for the web, and the world today views the web via MS OSs. So use a front-end OS. On the other hand, I do all back-end development vi ssh to Linux boxes. And, at home, a Mac is part of my roster (Win/Linux/Mac) of boxes. Linux at home are servers only (UPDATE: On one Linux box [Fedora Core/KDE] I do have a GUI installed that I never use, but it’s there).

Hate Crimes

The House voted Thursday to make it a federal crime to assault people because of their sexual orientation, significantly expanding the hate crimes law enacted in the days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968.

With expected passage by the Senate, federal prosecutors will for the first time be able to intervene in cases of violence perpetrated against gays.

House extends hate crime law to cover gays

I hate “Hate Crimes,” but I don’t really get the additional punishment for same. If someone assaults/kills another individual, well, there’s usually some (unreasonable) reason for same. Prosecute the infraction. (Update 10/15/2009: The first four words of my graph may be ambiguous. What I was trying to say is that I hate any crime that is caused by hate/prejudice/intolerance etc.)

Maybe this new push is just extending current law to fall under federal statues (“federal crime to assault people because of their sexual orientation”), but, why?

Is killing someone because they are gay worse than killing someone because they stole your girlfriend?

Punish the crime – not the prejudice that may have led one to commit the crime.

If you commit an armed robbery because your family is starving, you’ll still get the same sentence – if convicted – than if you committed an armed robbery so you could buy an Xbox 360. It’s an armed robbery. Ditto if you committed the crime to feed/get Xbox 360 for your gay lover…

Committing a crime against someone because he/she is gay/minority/whatever is reprehensible.

Committing a crime against someone for whatever reason is reprehensible.

Why does the former require a stiffer penalty than the latter?

Is, for example, a gay life > a straight life (hate crimes give – potentially – greater punishments to killers of gays than non-gays)? To me, either loss is tragic.

Full disclosure: I’m a straight Caucasian male (with no real religious affinity), so I’m pretty safe hate-crime wise.

Yet I have no problems with those who are not what I am.

And I hate the intolerance in this country for those who are different from the mainstream. I dislike the thoughts/beliefs they hold, but – to me – these are not grounds for arrest or additional punishment if found guilty of a crime.

Hate Crime laws help perpetuate the segregation of minorities (religious/sexual-orientation/racial), rather than help trying to meld the pot. They are somehow “different” (hey, different punishment for same crime!).

Punish the crime – not the “why.”