Thursday, March 31, 2011

Too True

I have to agree with this column in the Holland Sentinel. It's all true. I've spoken with too many fellow workers that voted for right-wingers. They voted for people that were serving the interest of the very rich as if they, themselves, were the very rich. I guess they were living in some kind of Fantasy Land. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Good jobs are becoming as scarce as unicorns. Funny thing is, I don't think the voting patterns have changed much. If anything, 2010 showed that the trend is firmly ingrained.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

An Idea for the Tea Party

An obvious way to cut government spending would be to end the drug war. That would save many billions of dollars. That no one of any note in the Tea Party seems to be suggesting such a thing indicates that the Tea Party is not serious about cutting spending. They are just rehashing the same old Republican notions--drop billions on warfare, including war against U.S. citizens, and play the Scrooge on the social programs. Same old same old G.O.P. Ho-hum.

Drugs were legal prior to the 1930s, yet somehow the U.S. managed to survive and even prosper. The Prohibitionists apparently believe that something changed in the U.S. around the 1930s, requiring the citizens to be policed, even in their own homes, regarding which substances they choose to use.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Monday, March 28, 2011

Alan Carr & Graham Norton

Alan Carr and Graham Norton occupy the same niche, that of an openly gay talk show host that interviews celebrities to discuss frivolous matters, often touching upon sexual or humorous topics. The celebrities seek to further their own career, while the host seeks to extract entertaining nuggets from the discussion. I know that these two shows are not educational, but they are liberating, lighthearted fare. I enjoy both shows immensely, but of the two, Alan Carr's seems better, because he is almost never mean, whereas Graham Norton has a condescending attitude toward "the little people," that is, his non-celebrity audience. Also, Alan Carr introduces novelty performances into his show. After the interview, a guest is likely to get up and dance with him or act out a skit. I have a smile on my face the whole time I watch Alan Carr--he's that good.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments


I watched McCain get up in the Senate and rail against the integration of gay troops in the U.S. military and was disgusted by his performance. That's what it was, a performance, consisting of transparent lies that the bitter, conniving, power-hungry politician thinks will ingratiate himself with religious conservatives. I think between G. W. Bush and McCain, the right man won. Even in comparison with Bush, McCain is by far the weaker specimen. In the future, any media story featuring McCain will not interest me unless it concerns his defeat. McCain even makes Palin look more interesting.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Selective Enforcement of the Law

Often, the law only applies to the poor. The rich do as they please. This is true everywhere in the world. Justice is seldom blind.

Here's another example of how the poor receive severe punishment for committing minor crimes involving relatively trivial sums of money, whereas the rich receive little or no punishment for major crimes involving billions of dollars.

Of course, it is easier by far to prosecute a poor person without sufficient funds to hire a comprehensive team of defense lawyers. This bumps up the ol' quota and makes a law enforcement agent look good on paper. Let the big fish get away. Fry the small fry.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Hugo Chavez's Poor Choice of Allies

Wikipedia's page on Chavez, the president of Venezuela, is glowing and worshipful, but I don't know how much truth is on that page and how much fantasy. Wikipedia's praise of Chavez places a heavy reliance upon statistics. There are three types of lies in this world: lies, damned lies, and statistics. I have read Chavez's direct quotes lavishing unwarranted praise upon his allies, Khadaffy of Libya and the PM of Iran, excusing their many crimes. As far as I'm concerned, Chavez is not worth the time of day as long as he cozies up to such tyrants. Just because they are the enemy of his supposed enemy, the United States, is not a good enough excuse. The ignoramus Chavez described the airstrikes as an imperialist military intervention. He obviously does not know the definition of "imperialism," which means a stronger country rules, taxes and extracts resources from a weaker one, which is not on anyone's agenda. Perhaps Chavez should spend more time reading a dictionary and less time looking into matters that are beyond his intellectual capability to comprehend. Imperialism is a discarded relic of the earlier part of the previous century. Chavez certainly enjoys living in the past, but there is something to be said for seeing the present with 20/20 vision. I am unsurprised that the Wikipedia article is biased, after my own experience with a self-appointed Wikipedia censor by the nym of Fae, who deletes from the encyclopedia on the basis of his own narrow opinions.

A recent atrocity in Libya is just the tip of an iceberg, I know. I can only hope that I could have been brave as that woman, who spoke out against the torturing, raping, murdering regime of Khadaffy. In my opinion she has established her heroism by confronting the regime, even at the certain cost of her life. There is a high probability that the regime's thugs killed, tortured or raped her again after the confrontation with foreign journalists. If Hugo Chavez had even a hundredth part of her courage, he might be worth following.

Stories like this make Americans wonder what might happen to them if they were unlucky enough to be stuck in Libya for some reason among the savages of Khadaffy's barbaric regime, which has already been implicated in acts of terrorism against Americans and other Westerners. I am old enough to remember Khadaffy's support of terrorism against the United States. For past crimes against Americans, we owe him tons of bombs dropped upon his empty head to shut his lying mouth once and for all. How fortunate we are that the Libyan rebels are willing to mop up on the ground--all we have to do is drop some bombs, an easier task by far than long-term occupation. Perhaps the operation will cost a couple hundred million, but in the end a cancer will be excised, and the patient may recover from the disease known as Khadaffy.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dear Trog

Dear Trog, God of Frenzy,

If I have achieved level 14 in Maces & Flails, do you really think I want you to bestow a battleaxe? It's a bit late for me to be starting over with a new weapon type, don't you think? Please use a bit more care in selecting your gifts. I know you're opposed to magic and not considered very smart by the other gods, but still. You don't want the other gods to think you're retarded, either.


Demonspawn Beserker
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Black Spells

From time to time, I have black spells, moments when I feel like Death the Tempter is clutching my shoulder with cold bony fingertips, whispering of how nice it is not to be, and singing about the silence, dignity, gravitas, solemnity, finality, completion, perfection and invulnerability of the grave, which no one may assail--for the dead cannot suffer--and indeed, death is all that, and more, although I suspect one doesn't know it, not being or thinking anymore. Death only seems fair before, but after, there is no seeming at all, no reflection, and no second chance. Obliteration of the individual consciousness occurs. I am neutral on the question of whether our mortality is good or bad. I think I will persist and see what will come, out of curiosity. I think it is wise to hope, especially in such wondrous times, when there is so much peace and prosperity, more than our ancestors ever dreamed, and more understanding, compassion and goodness in people than what can be read in the history books. Ancient times were harder by far. It is a mistake to give in to black spells or to do anything other than endure them and let them pass like tides of the ocean, wiping away castles of sand that can be rebuilt again.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Advice to Fellow Geeks 1: Opposites Attract

If you're a geek like me, admit it. Won't do you any good to deny it, and besides, being a geek has advantages which should be obvious, at least to other geeks. Today's class is on romance and dating. First of all, don't date other geeks. Branch out. Date a social, or "soc", someone that does not know the first thing about computers or mechanics or whatever it is your geekomania centers upon, but someone that does know people--and lots of them. You need to network, and a "soc" will help you get by in this socialized world of ours. What you bring to the table are all the strengths that only geeks have--tech savvy, analytical abilities, academic prowess, book knowledge, and other skills according to your geeky DNA. Our heavily technical, systematic and rule-bound world absolutely requires geeks, as every geek already knows.

That's right, opposites attract; it takes two to form a complete human organism. By ourselves, whether we are "socs" or "geeks", we are incomplete. Joined with our opposite, completion results, and the organism can survive and thrive in modern society.

A caveat--humility is required for such a team of opposites to function with any effectiveness. Know your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Compromise, especially in areas where you are weak, only insisting upon your will in areas where you are strong. So many fools refuse to compromise and tear apart their relationships out of sheer stubbornness and pride. It is not "being a man" to be alone and proud. I think it is marvelous to say "yes" all the time, whenever possible, and reserve "no's" for quite extraordinary circumstances. One should be desirous of pleasing one's partner, however possible and to the extent of one's abilities.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wasted Time?

Like many Americans, judging from what I read on the Web, I'm overeducated but underemployed. It seems like there is no advantage to knowledge or brains unless one has attained specific experience in precise technical fields. The obstacles to entering a new profession or even remaining in a profession appear steep.

A case in point is registered nursing, a growth field that interested me because of its humanitarian and scientific aspect. I fulfilled all the prerequisites with flying colors, scoring in the highest percentiles in classes and on the nurses' exam. A five-minute interview apparently nixed my application, although I am permitted to reapply in six months' time--how nice, but time is running out for me, as I'm not getting any younger.

The thought of having spent a year on training, only to be told "No" after a strangely abbreviated interview, is dispiriting to say the least. One wonders whether the five-minute chat could have been given prior to the year's worth of classes in order to save time and expense, both for me and the State that financed my tuition. But then, a "Yes" would not necessarily be good either, as it would have set the stage for an additional two years' training at 50+ hours per week and a $10K tuition cost out-of-pocket, quite a significant barrier. I am not sure whether I should mourn rejection or embrace it as a sign that nursing was just not meant to be my path in life. At the beginning of my journey, I thought that my capabilities might be put to use to help those in real need or lessen someone's pain. There was an incipient Crusader impulse to help others, to do good, but that impulse has been nipped in the bud, as my services are apparently not needed in the medical field.

Another dream has died an agonizing death, but good riddance to it. I am not sure what hidden factors might have been at play during that interview, but a part of me finds it curious that I scored at the highest level in all the classes that I took and yet was rejected. There is a temptation to analyze and speculate about the causes for rejection, but I'm reluctant to do so in the absence of any evidence. I've learned from experience that one can seldom know for certain the motivations of others. There may be a hidden hand at play or there may not, but even if I were smart enough to deduce the facts, the outcome would remain unchanged.

The past year, it seems, I've been spinning my wheels on an education treadmill, accomplishing nothing at the end of my journey beyond assisting the college in its siphoning of funds from the State treasury and my own bank account.

I did enjoy my classes, and I think there were students and even professors that were pleased to see me and grateful for my presence on occasion. Perhaps that is enough. Life is about the journey, not necessarily the destination. The ultimate destination is death, anyway, for all journeyers. At least if I die tomorrow, I will not have any regrets, but feel like I performed to the best of my capabilities and conducted myself in an ethical manner. That is more than some can say. Some people become crazy rich in a short amount of time without working hard. No doubt they vote Republican, if they vote at all.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Avoid Harrassing Calls

Pamela Paul of the New York Times wrote a perceptive article on the decline of the use of the telephone.

One problem with the telephone, which Pamela only touches upon, is that the wrong people call--rude pests, for the most part, neither friends nor acquaintances, but cold-calling telemarketers, organizations looking for handouts, or collection agencies with inaccurate data in their database. Collection agencies, in particular, are both persistent and pernicious. They use computerized dialers, rather than human beings, and will call using a variety of telephone numbers, every day, multiple times a day, never ceasing, and in some cases not even leaving a message, but disconnecting as soon as the phone is answered. They call in order to harass, to apply pressure. In essence, they are using the telephone as a weapon against the telephone user.

There exists, as might be expected, a technological solution to technological aggression. Call Clerk is a robotic butler that intercepts and routes calls depending upon their Caller ID. It requires a PC equipped with a modem to be left on twenty-four hours a day, which may seem wasteful of electricity but, in truth, nowadays it is nice to have a PC on all the time in order to check email and browse the Internet. I would suggest using a laptop for the purpose if energy consumption is an issue, although Intel has created admirable energy misers for the desktop in the form of the Atom line of processors. I am no longer a fan of AMD's solutions, because AMD uses ATI for video in its line of gpus, and ATI offers woefully inadequate support for Linux.

Call Clerk routes identified pests to an announcement that tells them they have been cast into the outer darkness. Then it disconnects their call after only two rings, limiting the annoyance factor. In conjunction with Call Clerk, all telephone ringers should be disabled, with the PC speakers remaining the only audible signal of phone calls. Friends and unknown callers receive a friendly message and are permitted to leave a message. They are announced via the PC speakers.

Call Clerk transforms the telephone from what it is today, a potential liability and a threat, a weapon of harassment against the user, and returns it to what Alexander Graham Bell envisioned it to be, a convenient form of communication.

Configuring the answering message in Call Clerk is difficult at best, particularly if any type of changes are desired. There is no option to change or reduce the volume of the answering message in Call Clerk. The answering machine options are counter-intuitive, capable of defeating even the most determined and technically savvy user from making any modifications whatsoever to the outgoing message.

Perhaps in the future, a program will become available that can use .mp3 files as an answering machine message and play them without distortion. Until that time, Call Clerk remains an interim solution, satisfactory in some, if not all respects. It does not have a Linux version, but requires Windows, which adds an extra $75 - $100 to the actual cost of the product, along with the many other hidden costs associated with Windows systems. However, it does work with Windows XP and does the job I purchased it for, which is to weed out harassing calls.

In an ideal world, telephone pests that call on a daily basis for months without end would be identified, arrested by the police in their locality, and prosecuted for harassment. But the agencies that pester people by telephone on a daily basis have managed to dodge government action for the most part, including the so-called "Do-Not-Call" Registry, which is an unfunny joke that lulls the naive into a false sense of security.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Firefox 4.0 Works Great with Windows XP

I am pleased overall with Firefox 4.0. It may be faster and safer, as touted, but these are qualities that I can't discern with my limited usage and safe browsing habits. I also installed Avast's WebRep add-on for Firefox, which allows community participation to flag malware sites. That seems to me a sensible effort to limit the prevalence of bad actors on the web, and I'm pleased to make my own contributions.

With the latest versions of an Internet browser, ZoneAlarm Firewall, and Avast anti-virus, I wonder what is the big deal about Windows 7? Maybe it is a big deal for game players who like the latest graphical effects or consumers of Very High Definition video who have the latest and greatest motherboards, processors and video cards. For my money, Windows XP does everything that I need. Why upgrade, when upgrading requires tossing perfectly good hardware into the garbage bin?

A long-distance friend mailed me his laptop not long ago with the instructions to reinstall an operating system, because it was locked down tight. The OS was Windows Vista, and the former user (it had been purchased second-hand) had used some sort of option to lock the system down to where none of the system options could be changed. Only a narrow range of preexisting applications could be used. No new software could be installed. As you might guess, this was not an acceptable situation.

I have never seen an OS locked down so tight. The OS worked hand-in-hand with the BIOS, which had password protection preventing any alterations. I had to call the manufacturer, DELL, in order to get a generic password to bypass the BIOS protection. Then I was able to reformat and install--you guessed it--Windows XP, which I considered an upgrade over Windows Vista. I don't password-protect anything on the OS and don't bother with User Accounts, myself. I rely instead upon controlling physical access to the computer and not letting any curious and ignorant hands to use the computer unsupervised. Not every one takes that precaution, as I soon learned.

The story should have ended on a better note, but my friend apparently neglected to activate Avast anti-virus and the ZoneAlarm Firewall, steps which are essential security components of a modern Windows XP system. Registering and activating a free copy of Avast requires following a simple set of specific instructions involving email. Instead, he purchased the paid version of Avast, which failed to install properly for some reason that was never elaborated upon. I am not sure what the confusion was, whether it had to do with email registration or a copy of Avast already being installed.

He compounded the problem by letting another friend play with the unprotected and vulnerable Windows XP laptop, and that ignorant individual promptly engaged in unsafe browsing habits, getting the machine infected by a virus and corrupting the OS.

The moral of my story is that a Windows XP system without an Anti-Virus and a decent Firewall should be considered unsafe for ignorant hands to use. Tell them whatever story you like, that your machine is infected, for instance, because it certainly will be if they go off using it without any security applications. I have yet to see one machine get infected with Avast on patrol, however, and that is a tribute to Avast, which has given excellent service over the years.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Monday, March 21, 2011

Interviewing After College

One of my first interviews after graduating was in the big city. It seemed promising, because I was qualified according to the advertisement. I secured two other interviews in the same city and signed up for a job fair, which almost justified driving a couple hundred miles and checking into a hotel.

I interviewed for a job with a state agency. Despite my having a degree in IT, they made me take a test, which was unusual, regarding my knowledge of computer skills, as though my degree had no meaning. I thought I did pretty well on their little test. It took about an hour to complete, and then I proceeded with the interview.

The interviewer had a smirk on his face and took a decidedly negative tone. He had a co-worker as his partner during the interview, a woman who said little but laughed at his stale jokes which were directed at me--I was the butt of his jokes for some reason. He looked at my resume for the first time and criticized me for having graduated summa cum laude. He didn't like the fact I did well at university, because he said he didn't. His eyebrows were pointed down toward his nose, and it seemed to me like he had made up his mind to dislike anyone interviewing for the position. Or maybe the problem was that I was male, and he had not known I was male prior to the interview, and he wanted a female that he could have fun with, maybe a fresh young thing straight out of college. At any rate I lost all interest in the job after spending twenty minutes with what would have been my future boss.

It is rare to find a good job advertised anywhere. I'm not sure it is at all possible to secure a good job through classified ads. Most jobs that are available are available because people already at the company don't want them and would not touch them with a ten-foot pole. I suspect the reason the state agency was hiring was that his previous co-worker had left, not wishing to spend another day with creep-o.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

More Reflections on Renault

David Sweetman's biography of Mary Renault was charming, humorous and enlightening. He was a kind and sensitive biographer for a woman that he did not always agree with. She was about as quirky and nerdy as I am, which helped me relate, but had gobs more talent. I'm one of the countless invisible people whose biography won't get written or, if I were to trouble myself with publishing one, it would either remain unread or be rejected due to its irrelevance. At one time that displeased, but I'm not sure it matters to me now. There has been a reduction of ambition and sober reevaluation of possibilities. In life, one finds doors that are opened, and many that are closed.

Mary Renault wanted to be an actor, I think (not an actress), but lacked talent for public speaking. She was no Catherine Tate, but was a serious, sober intellectual scholar. Her life prior to the publication of her bestsellers was impoverished and difficult. She had her partner, Julie, a wonderful and loyal companion, but couldn't count on anyone else.

Her elevated status in later life had everything to do with the indisputable merit of her books. To a large extent, she relied upon her celebrity to attract and maintain friends and acquaintances, and as she got older became pickier about who she chose to spend time with. People would be cut off for one reason or another. On her deathbed, the list of those admitted for an audience with Renault reduced to a handful of intimates. Even those people she still liked were refused an audience, if she didn't like them quite enough. I think Julie admitted this to the biographer as a kind of confession in the hope of salving the wounded feelings of old friends that were still alive.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Understanding the American Psychology

I think people around the world, outside of the U.S., fail to realize just how important WW2 was in American history. It was our single most important event. As a matter of fact, I don't think any other subject commands as much attention in regards to world history. Americans are fascinated, I would almost say obsessed, over every aspect of WW2, for obvious reasons. Just look at our books, movies and television. I don't think it is possible for an educated American male to reach maturity without knowing the essential facts about WW2. It is indeed a fascinating subject. I have long suspected that the popularity of "The Lord of the Rings" has a great deal to do with WW2.

Perhaps this is the reason America has a habit of intervening against dictators. Yes, we probably are a bit mad. Is intervention always a good idea? No. Is it always rational? No. Are there negative consequences? Yes, to varying extents, depending upon the length and scope of the intervention. Viet Nam was a blunder. Iraq and Afghanistan, headaches with uncertain results, although Iraq may prove to be okay. Libya's result is unknown. But there is something satisfying about knowing that a tyrant's been placed six feet under the ground.

You have to appreciate your Uncle Sam. Maybe he gets a little crazy once in a while, but if you're on the ground facing a murderous tyrant, there ain't no one else gonna help you in this world 'cept your Crazy Old Uncle Sam. So, don't write your crazy Uncle off and keep on loving him.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Libyan Rebel Poetry

Gotta love this...

"Gaddafi is like a chicken and the coalition is plucking his feathers so he can't fly. The revolutionaries will slit his neck," said Fathi Bin Saud, a 52-year-old rebel carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, surveying the wreckage.

Maybe that's an old saying in the Arab world, but it's the first time I've heard the analogy. Brought a smile to my face.

However, chickens don't fly, as far as I know, though I'm no expert on the species, being a city boy. I would suspect Fathi Bin Saud is no chicken farmer, either. From what I understand, having spoken with farmers, chickens are plucked for ease of packaging and sale. Chickens lost the ability to fly during the long period of their domestication by humans. They can achieve temporary lift-off, but cannot maintain themselves in the air.

I do hope that someone in the rebel movement has a notion concerning democracy. I don't know whether those people have a Thomas Jefferson or George Washington among them or not. Iraq & Afghanistan certainly did not.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Opposition to the Intervention

I have been unswayed by opposition to the intervention expressed by Russia, China, Hugo Chavez, sundry intellectuals, and Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League. I believe that they prejudge Western nations and form an opinion based upon deep prejudices originating out of their own peculiar moral deficiencies. Cynics complain because they don't like any demonstration of Western power, whether for good or bad. It makes them feel insecure.

I'm for intervention, even if there are certain self-serving motives intermingled into the justification*, if it can be limited in scope and not remain a long-term drain on resources. The problem with Iraq and Afghanistan is that we got into this business of nation-building, a massive, corrupt welfare program. The cost was astronomical. I celebrated when Hussein was overthrown, but did not appreciate the long-term commitment to Iraq that resulted. Afghanistan seems to just get worse. We are stuck in a situation where we bribe corrupt and evil leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Therefore, I am pleased that Obama is not planning to send ground troops to Libya. I think he performed in just the right manner, with finesse. Of course, Republicans are too stupid to realize that, discounting the importance of diplomacy.

Settling a score with an old dictator sounds to me positively peachy. Who cares about motives? Yes, Libya has oil. Yes, that's a big factor along with the proximity to Europe and the Middle East. Get over it. The rebels are not complaining. I like the idea of bombing Khadaffy's forces to Hell. In fact, I regret that I am not involved in the military. I'd drop a bomb on Khadaffy myself.

[*] I am not sure what planet certain individuals live upon, but is there a case in all of history where anyone or any government acts out of purely altruistic motives? First, it would be necessary to examine the person who answers in the affirmative without equivocation. I doubt many could withstand a thorough examination of their own motives. I never question a good deed. The motives are not as important as the outcome! It is perfectly alright for someone to do a good deed out of purely selfish motives.

To hear Russia and China talk about restraint and ethics is just a bad joke.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Khadaffy's Lies

Anyone with an intelligence greater than a pigeon can detect the logical inconsistencies in Khadaffy's rhetoric, which would exclude Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Khadaffy duck says the Libyan rebels are Al Qaeda. Then he says the Western Powers are Crusaders. According to him, the Crusaders have allied with Al Qaeda to take him down. That makes about as much sense as the rebel army being high on hallucinogenic pills sent to them by Bin Laden.

Khadaffy is such a windbag. Every time I read about Libya, some journalist has decided to quote Khadaffy duck, who does nothing but lie, lie, and lie all the time, about everything to twist reality to serve his own ends. If he would shut up for a moment and listen to what the outside world says, he might understand why his life expectancy has declined from twenty years to twenty weeks. I just hope that the rebels, upon achieving final victory, which they certainly will with allied air support, prosecute each and every member of his family and his henchmen and exterminate the evil that is in that blighted region.

There was a time when Khadaffy could have made a graceful exit to another country. I don't know which country, to be honest, as he has burned bridges with most. Perhaps a tiny island-nation in the Pacific would be willing to take him in, in exchange for massive amounts of money. On the other hand, such island-nations may value ethics over money and refuse to harbor a villain. It is doubtful that Khadaffy could abide by the laws of any country, being a sociopath. He would cause trouble anywhere he went.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aisha Khadaffy

At first, I thought it was a man in drag. Then I read the caption. This is Aisha, daughter of Khadaffy, who has the misfortune of having inherited his looks.

Somebody hit a few trees running through the Ugly Forest. I'm glad I wasn't eating my supper when I saw that picture. I have gained a new appreciation for the burqa.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

I am Glad for France

My opinions of France and of Sarkozy have improved. That the French are leading the way in supporting regime change in Libya is a deed that will reflect well upon their people and should silence conservative Americans who fault France for not supporting the war in Iraq. It must be remembered that the French, and no one else, supported the American rebels in the Revolutionary War. Without French support, America would not exist as it is today; our history would be much different. Perhaps a United States might eventually have evolved, but not in the 1790's, not without French support. The French were not repaid for their assistance until the World Wars, and the monarch who supported the intervention was rendered bankrupt by it. Even so, he did right, even if it led to his own execution in the French Revolution. A single deed of goodness can sometimes counterbalance a lifetime of wickedness.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Friday, March 18, 2011


There was a time when hateful words could sway my emotions. Those days are past. I have heard and experienced hate ten thousand times. It is like bitter cold; of little interest, an inconvenience merely. The source of hate is recognized as an unstable mind. By spouting hate, a speaker discredits himself in total. Nothing more that is said by the speaker need be contemplated. Hate speech is like a beacon, notifying all observers that the speaker is to be avoided because he is consumed by the virus of violence. He has succumbed to the animal nature. Hate was in the world before and will be in the world after I am gone. It is a known illness, a disease, widespread in the human race.

I prefer minds that are free of that particular illness, such as Mary Renault, who I like to read about.

Without any doubt, the Republican Party in the United States is the party of hate, pure and simple. Any statements that issue from a Republican politician are more often than not motivated by base hatreds and ignorance. They are not absolute evil, but only because of their incompetence. To be absolute evil does require a certain amount of willpower, lacking in Republicans. They are merely mildly evil, imps in the service of Hell, not very effective, but annoying to the good and the just. A worse party would be the Nationalists of South Africa in the 1950's. Republicans have a long way to fall before becoming as evil as they were.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Mary Renault, Heroine

My personal heroine is Mary Renault, an acclaimed historical novelist, now deceased. Her biography by David Sweetman has been an inspiration to me. I don't know of any living writers or celebrities that I admire to quite the same extent. Part of the attraction of Renault is that she came from humble origins, but managed through hard work and talent to achieve success as a writer. All of her success was due to merit, something that is extremely rare. She was also a lesbian, although she didn't like to use the word. She had her share of hard knocks, including a near-fatal car crash, but managed to survive and even prosper.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Internet Explorer 9

I have no plans to ever try Internet Explorer 9. The last Internet Explorer kludge I tried was IE sick--er, six. I'm content with Firefox. No reason to change. Over the years, I have learned that Microsoft acts in coordination with hardware vendors and corporate partners to design products that benefit Microsoft & its allies to the detriment of the end user. Each new Microsoft release is designed with a lone imperative, present and future profit-making for Microsoft, guiding all else.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Windows 7 versus Windows XP

Still using Windows XP? You retrograde, you. Here are the reasons you must upgrade to Windows 7.

  • Microsoft needs your money. They have to pay for all those buildings and employees over in India, where they shipped a ton of middle-class jobs, leaving American programmers unemployed. By helping Microsoft, you help India a little bit. Don't you want to support our friends, the Indians?
  • Windows 7 requires a whole new suite of hardware. It won't settle for your old XP rig. Don't worry about it. You clearly don't need $1000, since you're considering upgrading. You'd probably waste $1000 anyway on something else. So upgrade already. Brag about how Windows 7 boots twenty seconds faster and looks spiffy on your HD monitor and how you can play all the latest whiz-bang video games. This impresses the ladies a great deal. Sure. Take it from me.
  • You need the exercise. Americans are overweight according to everybody. Hauling all that old computer equipment to the dump should burn off a couple hundred calories.
  • Landfills need your business. If you don't throw good, working equipment away before its time, then they lose money. Don't you care about the landfill operators? They have families to feed, too.
  • What else would you do with your time, anyway? Nothing interesting. Might as well upgrade, then, just for the sake of upgrading. You get bragging rights then.

I confess, I am one of the throwbacks that remained with ancient old Windows XP. Pity me. Think of all the things I have to do without.

Well, I can't think of anything at the moment.

I use the very latest version of Firefox to browse the Internet. I use the 2007 version of Microsoft Word to compose documents. I use Notepad++ to edit html files. For gaming, there's dungeon crawl, of course. I do without absolutely nothing. And as for the $1000 I would otherwise spend on a Win 7 system? That's in the bank, saved for a rainy day.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Heart is with the Libyan Rebels

My heart is with the Libyan rebels. Perhaps it is because of American history. We revolted against a tyrant, as well, although our nemesis, King George, was not nearly as bad as Khadaffy. Old Georgie wasn't even in the same league. In fact, the British were rather nice compared to Khadaffy & Sons, who remind one more of Hitler and the Nazis. I am repelled by reports of torture. I think it is a crime against humanity to commit such acts.

The U.S. is already bogged down in two foreign wars that drain our funds without giving anything back. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan do not seem grateful for our intervention. The Arab world tends to blame the U.S. for every ill under the Sun. They blame us when we do intervene, and blame us even when we don't, as in the Libyan conflict. I don't know that it is fair to expect the U.S. to shoulder yet another burden, that of liberating Libya. The Arab nations are closer to Libya than we are. They are the same religion and have at least a similar culture. If Libya is anyone's responsibility, it's theirs.

However, if the U.S. chose to involve itself, despite our ailing economy, I must admit, I'd be pleased if we could pull it off with minimal involvement and minimal loss of life. If removing Khadaffy only required six months' time, then I'd be all for it. I'm uncertain. I don't really know that much about the situation.

I'm for intervening in Libya, even with ground troops, if it resulted in a speedy resolution and the installation of a Western-style republic. That does seem unlikely, given Libya's history and culture. So I defer to our leader, Obama. Perhaps he knows best. I still have faith in Obama and will indeed vote for him in 2012, if he offers us the chance. His is a most difficult job at this particular juncture in history. We are lucky to have him.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Saturday, March 12, 2011

XP Codec Pack 2.51 & AVI Chunk Viewer, Crapware

When I used Windows Explorer this evening, a strange unwanted screen popped up whenever I highlighted any type of .avi file. It was called "AVI Chunk Viewer." I have no idea what it is and don't want to know. It annoys the end user, with no options to remove or disable itself.

It comes from a package called "XP Codec Pack 2.51" and, rumor has it, certain other codec packs.

Solution? Uninstall "XP Codec Pack." I was experimenting with it in an attempt to diagnose a sound problem, but it turned out to be a hardware issue--the sound card was bad.

For several days, my PC speakers had been emitting a strange, intermittent squeak whenever I played any type of media file with audio content. Obviously, that was not a situation that could be allowed to persist. I was loathe to suspect the Creative Labs Soundblaster (LE version) sound card, because it had been working fine for years without issue. I downloaded various media players, codec packages, and ran the gamut of installations attempting to resolve the problem. Then I suspected my NVIDIA video card, recently installed, might be causing interference--a wild hypothesis, perhaps, but not without foundation, judging by message threads found on various hardware forums. However, when I switched the sound output from SoundBlaster to the onboard audio, all was well. No more squeaking. Problem solved. I removed the sound card and am tempted to toss it in the trash, but a lingering doubt does remain over whether it might have been a software-related issue after all. I'm a pack-rat by nature, despising waste. But in the case of the sound card, it is a $10 piece of hardware. Into the trash it must go. I only resolved that just now, at the end of this post. It goes against the grain to throw something away. *sigh*
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Friday, March 11, 2011

Victory in Zot Defense

My Naga Wizard worshiping Nemelex Xobeh finally won after a long game. By the twenty-fifth level, undead servants, spells, stabbing, traps and decks of cards provided so much power that victory was inevitable.

In Zot Defense, Necromancy provides a clear and overwhelming advantage. Because my Naga began as a Wizard, which grants the maximum number of magic points, I relied upon the Summon Imp spell, awaiting a shadow imp that would put corpses to work as zombies and skeletons. Undead servants are essential to guard the Orb. After acquiring a Book of Necromancy, I was able to do it myself. (I tried playing a Necromancer before, but had a difficult time in the beginning due to lack of magic points.)

Nemelex Xobeh is the god to play in Zot Defense. He is sated by sacrificing the unresurrectible corpses and items which litter ZD. Leaving magic weapons scattered around the dungeon is poor practice, because hostiles may pick them up and use them as fuel for reproduction (acids) or as weapons (intelligent monsters). His decks of cards are quite powerful to begin with and increase in power as one learns Evocations.

Nagas are by far the easiest race to play in ZD (though not Crawl) due to their immunity to poison, ability to see invisible, robustness and moderate aptitude for spellcasting. The ability to spit poison is useful in the beginning. Many of the traditional disadvantages of Naga are rendered moot in Zot Defense. For instance, their slow movement speed is no great problem, because there is nowhere to go in ZD and seldom any need to escape monsters. In Zot Defense, monsters are not bloody-minded--they seek to desecrate the Orb, not kill the player. The Naga's inability to wear most forms of armor is less of a problem for the same reason. Armor interferes with spellcasting, anyway.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Just Not Good Enough, Eh?

As I was doing my taxes, I came across old documentation from school that reminded me of my aborted mission to become a registered nurse. I am reminded of the substantial costs in money, time, energy and effort that amounted to nothing. It was a gamble, nothing more--a losing wager.

According to the local nursing school, I'm not good enough to be allowed into their program. After all, I only scored a 100 out of 100 on the entrance exam--not a 110, as an extraterrestrial by the name of Zwee!-Blapt!-Flitzuh! scored, adding quantum points from an alternative reality.

Also, my five "critical grades" in prerequisite courses were A, A, A, C, and B, which were far from perfect. The A's were all science courses. The "C" was in English Composition (101), a course I took in the 1980's. (Ignored was my Bachelor in Arts with a major in English and a 3.9 GPA.)

I scored 18 out of a possible 25 points on the interview itself, which lasted about five minutes. Mainly the interviewers wished to know whether I had prior nursing experience, which is interesting, because if I had, it is likely I would not have been enrolling in nursing school. But apparently many nursing students are already in the medical profession and seeking to move up the career ladder.

In retrospect, I think taking prerequisites for nursing school was a waste of time, although I did enjoy several of my classes, because I like learning. Though I have lost, I think that society too has lost, because it was the State that financed much of my education and whose employees determined, at the end, for whatever secret motives, that I wasn't good enough to be admitted into nursing school. Since my education was a mutual investment, we are losers together. That gives me a small measure of satisfaction, much better than if I had paid for all the tuition myself.

I understand that there is a shortage of nurses these days. Too bad.

Dungeon Crawl Novelties

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is a great game, even if it were frozen in time, but development continues. Dungeon Crawl of 2010 is not the Dungeon Crawl of 2011. A player who bores of it in one year can resume playing with the latest version and discover new and interesting features, courtesy of the gifted, generous and devious dev team.

Such was the case for me, when I discovered a brand new path in the beta version .8 of DCSS, Zot Defense. Instead of attempting to capture the Orb of Zot, the player already has it and must defend it against hordes of invading reactionaries monsters, a scenario reminiscent of Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper*. I have not won yet, but am working on it. Beware the blitz!

At this stage of development, ZD appears hostile to my favorite race, vegetarian Spriggans. Therefore, my favorite race/class/religion for ZD at this time is a Naga Wizard (the extra MP, I find, are really needed) worshiping Nemelex Xobeh, a divine vacuum useful for tidying up a dungeon littered with detritus. His cards come in handy as cost-free alternatives to spellcasting. I have experimented with Naga Necromancers worshiping Kikubaaqudgha with some success as well. Large abominations make decent, permanent Orb guardians, although powerful monsters can gobble them up like popcorn. Care must be taken that undead servants don't trigger traps. Another combo I've found to be very successful is Deep Dwarf Artificer worshiping Nemelex Xobeh. (In my opinion, NX is the best choice for ZD, for aesthetic reasons alone.)

ZD has reinvigorated my interest in the game. I've even wrapped my regen.bat around it, because I play nothing but ZD nowadays. Until I win, that is. Then I may investigate the new branches in Sprint. Version .8 has five branches!

* Does anyone remember that fine game, beloved by critics, the third sequel of which was terminated by Electronic Arts? Dungeon Keeper 2 works with Windows 2000 and XP with some tinkering. It is a rewarding game for those willing to put up with several annoyance factors, such as copy protection and technical problems. A copy can be obtained for $5 or so via Ebay or Amazon, and upgrades and a copy protection removal program downloaded from various sites.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments
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