Monday, September 22, 2008

Senator Shelby Says Paulson has been Staggering

I was heartened to hear my Senator, Richard Shelby (R - AL) this morning on National Public Radio urging caution on the financial bailout as proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. I appreciate Mr. Shelby saying: "We don't know the endgame in this, and I'll tell you, what bothers me about this is that I believe that the chairman of the Fed and the Treasury secretary, Paulson, with all due respect to them, they've been staggering from crisis to crisis, and they haven't even said today that this will end the crisis."

I hope he continues to work with Senator Chris Dodd (D- CT) to ensure:
1) Accountability and transparency through oversight provisions
2) That taxpayers are first in line for any monies recovered (including prevention of any large payouts to senior executives at the impacted financial institutions)
3) That the mortgage crisis itself is addressed, i.e. that homeowners and lenders submit to a judge and get a restructuring of terms rather than all the failures.

(Dodd was interviewed on NPR this morning.)

By the way, it was nice to hear Alabama on the national news in a positive light, rather than about the Don Siegelman/Richard Scrushy mess or a judge that won't keep church and government separate.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Best Songs and EPs per David Rawson, Vintage 1995

Two half dozens and one year ago, my friend, in an effort to improve my musical taste, mailed to me, a list containing 40 of the best albums, 100 of the best songs, and 5 of the best EPs, from nineteen-hundred-and-ninety-five. Years ago I posted the list of albums, today I finally finished scanning, OCR'ing and posting the songs and EPs, here, on my website.

Go on, get yourself some culture.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Troopergate Lives

Another Sarah Palin flip flop: NPR aired a story this morning noting that Todd Palin is refusing to testify in the “Troopergate” investigation in Alaska , despite a legal subpoena to do so. Governor Sarah Palin has already instructed her aides to disobey their subpoenas. This is not the transparency in government that she pledged in her campaign for Governor and that she has been speaking strongly about in her VP appearances (from her speech on Sept. 11): “the ethical standards that had led to closed doors and closed door dealings and self-interest: it's gone." I guess not.

NPR also kept attributing the “McCain Campaign” as saying that the investigation has now become political and that it is no longer legitimate. Firstly, I’m not sure why the McCain campaign has any standing to participate – this is a state matter that pre-dates Palin’s involvement with the Presidential campaign. She should deal with it as Governor of Alaska, just like ex-Governor Don Siegelman has had to deal with apparently politically motivated accusations here in Alabama .

But if this is the measure of how long Sarah Palin and the McCain Campaign will stick to their pledge of transparency and cooperation in government, that is, only until it inconveniences themselves, then we don’t need them. We don’t need eight more years of disobeyed subpoenas and constitutional overstepping.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reviews Catch-Up

I caught up, somewhat hastily, with some languishing reviews of audio books that I heard over the summer:

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring **** Richard Preston

A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures *** Ben Bradlee

How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions-and You Can Too ** Annie Duke

Upgraded My Memory

Well, the memory in my computers, anyway. I noticed my newer deskside computer seemed a bit sluggish running big progams like Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 under Windows XP Pro when I thought to check on how much RAM it had. When my son and I built it in 2002 we installed one stick of 512 MB DDR (PC2100). That just wasn't enough for the load I was putting on it, Task Manager showed I was trying to use about 600 MB. Oops, the OS was having to swap memory in and out.

So I checked the specs on my Giga-Byte GA-7VRXP motherboard and ordered two Kingston KVR333 (PC2700) 512 MB DDR DIMMs from Slightly faster memory and twice as much of it, whoo-hoo! Also kudos to Giga-Byte's support website: when the motherboard didn't recognize half the memory on the first try, they answered my e-mail question within a couple hours, providing some helpful hints -- turned out I just hadn't fully seated one of the DIMMs).

But that's not all; I took the 512 MB PC2100 DIMM that came out of the home built machine and put it into my slightly older Micron computer (it also has a Giga-Byte motherboard, a GA-7DX Rev 2.2). It previously had 384 MB and also runs XP Pro, so it could sure use a boost. It only has two memory slots, previously a 256 MB PC1600 and a 128 MB 200MHz PC1600. So I moved the 256 over and put in the 512 and voila, 768 MB -- I assume this all ends up running at the PC1600 speed, but still, I doubled the amount of memory in both my home computers, and the memory speed in one of them, for about $46, including shipping. (The home built machine still has an empty memory slot, I probably should have gotten another 512 MB stick. Hmmm. Also, if somebody needs that 128 MB DIMM, I'd part with it for a couple dollars, plus shipping) Now if I can resurrect the screen on the HP laptop that my son just handed down to me, we'll really be in business!

Much Better than Postal Chess

Way back in middle school, I once tried to play a game of chess with one of my mom’s students. She taught at a different school and provided extra help to kids that were struggling with one subject. This kid, whose name I’ve long since forgotten and it isn’t germane in any case, not that this whole story isn’t just one long sidebar – but I really digress, so: my mother began carrying moves back and forth to this unevenly smart boy, y’know, King’s Knight to Rook 3 and such (I never learned the proper notation). We drew the board, too, for clarity. It was agonizingly slow and petered out after maybe a dozen moves. Maybe it helped my mom establish a rapport with the boy, I don’t know, but it soured me on using couriers for activities that more typically garnered instant gratification. Flash forward thirty years and I was still hesitating to try DVD rental by mail. My local shop had great hours and a decent selection and a subscription service where I could rent as often as I wanted as long as I didn’t rent the newest releases (had to wait for them to “go on 'blue'” -- movies were retagged 3-6 months after their DVD release. But as my appetite for more esoteric films increased and the clerks’ ability to alphabetize older releases seemed to diminish, I became less satisfied and the ubiquity of the Blockbuster and Netflix ads caught up with me.

Blockbuster’s combination of a nearby store coupled with the vast selection available by mail made a compelling argument, but in the end the cheaper price, presumed better efficiency from a category leader and a UPromise rebate tipped the scale: I signed up for two-at-a-time Netflix and have been quite pleased. Turn-around time is about 3 days: I drop a disk in the drive-by mailbox at the post office on my way to work on Monday and have a fresh one waiting in my mailbox at home on Wednesday. And the variety is great. My daughter and I watched “La Belle et la Bete” from 1946 (Beauty and the Beast) – definitely not Walt Disney, and yet a lot of that fantasy magic and some great special effects, like live arm candle wall sconces. I’m also going through the “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” TV series – it wasn’t quite good enough not to miss it on regular TV, but with the convenience of 4 episodes on a disk, watched on my schedule, it’s pretty high quality television – it has the appropriate political views for a show set in Los Angeles and full of youthful entertainment types.

I’ve also discovered watching with the English (hearing impaired) subtitles turned on. Not only does it help my now-less-than-perfect hearing to catch the dialog, especially when there isn’t perfectly calm ambience in my viewing area, but they sometimes add interesting non-spoken bits, like I just re-viewed “August Rush” and whenever a song is being played the subtitles give you the title and author, in case you can’t quite finger which Mozart piece is lighting up your ears. It’s a lift.

I’ve only cycled through about a dozen DVD’s via the mail, but it’s also only been about 6 weeks. I haven’t seen too much else out of the main stream, although I did just ship off “A Scanner Darkly”, a rather bizarre and imperfectly updated adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel. It was a trip. I plan to have quite a few more before I get bored with postal films.