How to be a Man of Principle(TM)

Exhibit A: Senator Arlen Specter.
Step 1: First excoriate proposed legislation in no uncertain terms:

Specter said hearings before his Judiciary Committee showed that the military Combatant Status Review Tribunals do not have an adequate way of determining whether suspects are enemy combatants.
He charged that by striking habeas corpus rights for terrorism suspects, the bill “would take our civilized society back some 900 years” to a time before the Magna Carta was adopted. He said this was “unthinkable.”
“What this entire controversy boils down to is whether Congress is going to legislate to deny a constitutional right which is explicit in the document of the Constitution itself and which has been applied to aliens by the Supreme Court of the United States,” Specter said. If the bill passes without habeas corpus protections, it will be struck down
by the high court…

Step 2. Vote for it anyway.
(President Bush as King John? Not implausible…..)


Just when you thought the Democrats were AWOL….

Sully has the video of Hillary’s Break-Through Speech against the Bush Cheney administration’s policy on torture.
UPDATE: Russ Feingold was there too.


At last! TECO!!

OK, all you EMACS devotees. Who among you know what EMACS stands for? “Editor MACroS”, that’s right. But what language were these macros originally written in? Thanks to Good Math, Bad Math, you can now read all about the World’s Greatest Pathological Language: TECO. I first encountered it in 1970, when the Essex University PDP-10 was delivered.
This extract will pique your curiosity, or send you running for cover. I’ve modified it a bit from the original piece, because when I tried to quote it, some of the special characters were interpreted as bits of HTML. Besides, it looked all wrong to me; anyone who actually used TECO will remember that the ESCAPE key was echoed as $:

[…] The print command to print a string is control-A; so the TECO hello world program is: “^AHello world^A$$“. Is that pathological enough?
Commands to remove text include things like “D” to delete the character after the pointer; “FD”, which takes a string argument, finds the next instance of that argument, and deletes it; “K” to delete the rest of the line after the pointer, and “HK” to delete the entire buffer.
To insert text, you can either use “I” with a string argument, or TAB with a string argument. If you use the tab version, then the tab character is part of the text to insert.

I still remember the illicit thrill that ran through the Computing Centre when we learned that someone had created a TECO macro to invert a matrix. In retrospect, I blame the freely-available hallucinogens and too much Hunt the wumpus….

Violent world

Bukovsky and Sullivan on torture

Andrew Sullivan quotes Vladimir Bukovsky on the consequences of the toleration of torture by Russian leaders:

… in its heyday, Joseph Stalin’s notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes. And once the NKVD went into high gear, not even Stalin could stop it at will. He finally succeeded only by turning the fury of the NKVD against itself; he ordered his chief NKVD henchman, Nikolai Yezhov (Beria’s predecessor), to be arrested together with his closest aides.
So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish? Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling?

Andy then observes:

It is one of history’s great tragedies that American conservatism, born in part in resistance to Soviet torture, should end by endorsing it in America, by Americans. And not just endorsing it, but brandishing the use of it as a tool to gain re-election and maintain power.

But this what happens when an amoral, historically ignorant clique takes power and seeks to exploit fear for partisan political ends. With the capitulation of McCain and his Republican colleagues, Edmund Burke’s words ring truer than ever….


20 words

I was updating my profile at the UK social networking site, Friends Reunited, and decided to pay attention to a question that I’d hitherto ignored: “What are your 20 favourite words”. This is what I came up with:
love, peace, new, unexpected, honest, whimsy, intense, tranquil, touch, trust, humanism, experiment, imagination, learn, reflection, evolution, revolution, reason, create, teach


Can I take my PowerBook on an airliner now?

The replacement batteries for my PowerBook finally showed up last Friday, which is a bit quicker than Apple promised. The instructions state that you should drain the old batteries before changing them, by (for example) playing a DVD. In my experience DVDs don’t really stretch the machine: I found a nice Java applet at the National Weather Service which did an excellent job of pegging the CPU at 100%. So I changed the batteries on Sunday, and mailed off the old ones today. (Note that you may have to take them to a Post Office in person; my company’s mailroom policy forbids the mailing of personal packages.)


I have found my music

Over the years, I’ve tried to find the best record store wherever I happen to be living. The place to go to browse, discover long-lost musical friends, or find the obscure CD reissue of an equally obscure LP. Yes, I know that I have access to vast online resources, but there’s still a place for physical browsing. When I lived in the Boston area, the best spots were on Newbury Street and places like Mystery Train on Mass Ave in Cambridge.
Today I found what must be the best place in the Pacific Northwest: Silver Platters. I was driving up I-5 to the Northgate Mall, and as I slowed to leave the freeway I noticed a small strip mall close to the highway. I went to check it out, and found Silver Platters.
They have a good stock of all kinds of music and DVDs, but the heart of the store is the section labelled, innocuously, “Popular”.
I started with the A’s. By the time I reached the Zs I had an armful of CDs, and I realized that I’d been there more than two hours! I reluctantly decided to put most of the CDs back; after all, I know that I’ll be back there again. And again. And again….
Life is good.
Just for the record, the CDs I bought were the legendary “Oar” by Skip Spence, “The Best of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band” (so nice to hear “Davy’s On The Road Again” for the first time in about ten years), and “Smiling Phases”, a double-CD “best-of” compilation by Traffic.


Getting in gear….

The food cupboards and refrigerator are now fully stocked. Until now, they looked like what you might find in an Embassy Suites hotel during an extended business trip. I also have a fairly full selection of drinks, but I haven’t yet got somewhere to put them; none of the cupboards will accomodate a (vertical) bottle of Laphroiag, and the shelves seem to be immovable. Back to IKEA, I guess; until then, they’re cluttering up the kitchen.
This morning I removed the last of my stuff from the temporary apartment in Belltown. I spent a few minutes enjoying the glorious view from the balcony, then lugged all my bags down to the garage and departed. I still have to sort out the return of the keys, but for all practical purposes I’m out of there. It feels good.
The mountain of cardboard is substantially reduced, and there’s a good chance that it will be (temporarily) eliminated by this evening. [UPDATE: Success! See pictures.] Only temporarily, of course, because I still need to order a guest bed and some patio furniture. I’d like to think that all of the cardboard I’m disposing of will be recycled, pulped, turned back into more cardboard, and shipped out to China to help to package the interminable stream of stuff that flows east across the Pacific. For some reason, I fear I’m deluding myself.
Now for a happy ending. When I was preparing to ship my stuff from Brookline to Seattle, I spent a lot of time washing clothes. One morning, hurrying for no good reason, I mixed up my loads, and managed to dump some bleach (chlorine, not peroxide) into a machine-full of T-shirts. Most of them started out black, and wound up mottled black and rust-coloured. Among the shirts I ruined were all of my favourites from ThinkGeek, as well as a couple from J!nx. When I got here, I ordered some replacements, and they just arrived:

  • “There’s no place like” (I love wearing this one. Once I was standing in line in San Jose airport, and a passer-by pointed at it and asked if that was my IP address. You could tell that he was so pleased that he’d got the terminology right. I hadn’t the heart to tell him, “Yes, this is my address. And yours. And hers. And his. And….”)
  • “I’m blogging this”
  • And the geek’s love poem:
    ROSES ARE #FF0000

Equilibrium has been restored….


Time for a random 10

Sitting back, sipping my first gin and tonic in the new apartment, I realize that it’s been a long time since I posted a Random 10. I roll the dice, and the new iTunes 7 is kind; it serves up a couple of the best of Brit-pop, together with several newer gems and a couple of classics:

  • “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis (from (What’s The Story) Morning Glory)
  • “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” by Culture Club (from Billboard Top Hits – 1983)
  • “Everybody’s Selling Something” by Men Without Hats (from …In The 21st Century) personal favourite
  • “Everything Will Be Alright Tomorrow” by Faithless (from No Roots)
  • “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” by Ian Drury and the Blockheads (from Fantastic 70’s) personal favourite
  • “Long Way Home” by Enter The Haggis (from Soapbox Heroes)
  • “Mother And Child Reunion” by Paul Simon (from Negotiations And Love Songs)
  • “Peach” by Blur (from Modern Life Is Rubbish)
  • “The Bad Photographer (Radio Mix)” by Saint Etienne (from The Bad Photographer)
  • “The Nostalgia Factory” by Porcupine Tree (from On The Sunday Of Life)

5 from Sunday

Here are five pictures that I took yesterday, in part to test my new shirt-pocket camera. You can see how arduous my “commute” is going to be….
Uwajimaya building