News for January 2004


Radiation tri-blade symbol 31January2004 - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced its NOMINEES for the 76th Oscars, to be held 29February (Sunday). Before then, I'll try to see all the films nominated for BEST PICTURE. (So when they choose the wrong one, I can gripe with authority.)

Saw Mystic River last night, staring Sean Penn (nominated for BEST ACTOR). Well-made film. Worth seeing for that aspect alone. Directed by Clint Eastwood (nominated for BEST DIRECTOR). More disturbing than I expected. Not a "feel-good" flick by any means. The theater was packed.

Haunting story set in Boston. I liked the way it takes you deep into the neighborhood. It grabs you from the git-go and moves along at a strong clip. No time to get bored. You continually learn little secrets about the characters. Wasn't until the very end that I had trouble with plausibility. They tried to pull a surprise ending out of their, um, hat. Good acting by everyone, especially Penn. Strong cast.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Mystic River.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 30January2004 - Ice Czar (from Boulder, Colorado) updated the links to Project Honeynet papers in his Internet Security Linkfarm. Learn the tools, tactics & motives of the blackhat community. Makes for fascinating reading. What is a honeynet, you ask? See here. The blog entry for today's info is posted here.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 29January2004 - The new espresso machine I mentioned on 26jan arrived today (UPS). Of course, we had to set it up and crank out a few cappuccinos to ensure everything is working properly. I am so dang wired .. probably won't be able to sleep until Sunday.

This machine (Swiss made) is built noticeably better than the Saeco Classico (Italian built) we used previously. It's readily apparent from the sound it makes when you turn on this machine that it's built more solidly than the Saeco. Everything fits together more snuggly. I'm not saying the Saeco is junk, but when I bought it, it cost US$229. Now it's going for $300. I honestly don't feel the Saeco is worth 3 bills.

Anyway, with all this energy, I've been pondering what new feature(s) I might add to the site. One idea is to break up the Guide to Ripping & Encoding CD Audio into constituent parts, such a one guide specifically for addressing non-MP3 encoders. Currently, that section is part of the encoding guide and badly needs updating.

I bit off more than I could chew with that guide, and it would be better served if I broke it up into bite-sized pieces. For example, the page dealing with lossless audio codecs could be a guide by itself.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 28January2004 - A new German study (at the University of Luebeck) found that sleep is essential for creativity & problem solving. Duh. I could have told them that. I thought this was common knowledge.

I've been interested in the subject of creativity for some years now. While working in an industry where adhering to prescribed procedures is necessary (& boring), and where creativity is viewed as dangerous, I decided to explore new horizons, beginning with Julia Cameron's book: The Artist's Way, considered by many the bible of creativity.

Here in Laguna, an artist's community, you can overhear people on the street talking the creative lingo. If you visit the RADIFIED splash page, you'll find this quote posted there:

Against the ruin of the world, there is but one defense:
the creative act.
Be creative, save the world.

I like that quote because it references the notion of entropy (the second law of thermodynamics), which contains the idea that the universe is in a state of continual decay (from order to disorder). There's even a philosophical argument for the existence of God (the teleological argument) that employs the concept of entropy as its premise. It goes something like this (the Radified version):

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Creativity, Sleep & Entropy.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 26January2004 - Updated the Windows XP Installation guide to incorporate comments & suggestions made by various readers from around the planet.

Ordered a new espresso machine today: the Solis 70. Currently have the Saeco Classico, but after several years of heavy use (abuse), it's plum worn out. Been having to drive into town for our daily fix at the local coffee house. I've actually begun to sound like one of those coffee-snobs: the kind they make fun of on television, telling the girl exactly how I want her to make my cappuccino. But no one can make a cappuccino as good as you can make yourself.

The Solis has a larger (9- vs 5-ounce) & more powerful boiler (1088 vs 930 watts), and a more powerful pump (50 vs 41 watts). Supposedly, it also has better reliability, which is nice, cuz we abuse our machine on a daily basis. This way, I'll be able to compare the two models, which are two of the finest semi-automatic units designed for home use. Might even write up a little review if I find the time.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> New Espresso Machine.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 24January2004 - I love Google, or I wouldn't have incorporated their search function into my home page (for your searching convenience). What makes their search engine stand out from others is the relevance of their search results. Usually.

But I hate when I have to wade through pages of commercial sites when searching for *information*. In fact, several articles I read suggest that Google favors commercial sites .. that, if your site is selling something, Google automatically ranks it higher.

So, a few weeks ago, I wrote to the boys at Google and suggested they incorporate a [button] that would allow users to filter out commercial sites when searching for info only, and don't want to buy anything (which is most of the time). Their response arrived today:

Rad, Thanks for the suggestion. All of us here love your site and really appreciate thoughtful feedback from our users. We'll keep yours in mind as we work to improve Google.

The Google Team

Well, from that less-than-enthusiatic response, I don't give my suggestion much chance of ever seeing the light of day. But, what-the-hey, I gave it a shot. And I am aware that some (not many) commercial sites are, in fact, very good sources of information.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 23January2004 - Updated the Freeware page. I try to give the most attention to the most popular features, and this one has become surprisingly popular. Fixed dead links. Added some clarifying comments and programs recommended by others. General sprucing. Should be good for another few months.

Seems that the movie I mentioned on 20jan2004 (Touching the Void) is not being screened in the area .. which suks. Can't find it anywhere.

Lots of mail today regarding yesterday's comment about the donor dot. To be honest, I am afraid they are going to start yanking my organs before I die. People have been mistaken for dead before, and they are under pressure to harvest organs quickly as possible. When I try to hurry, I make the most miztakes.

I know this is an irrational fear, and I certainly understand the value of donated organs, and if I ever needed one, I would pray that people see the light on this issue. But I just have a phobia about it.

Yesterday's (donor-dot) comment was made flippantly, cuz I am uncomfortable with the whole subject. Actually, the form says, "To refuse to donate, fill out part "F" and carry this card with your license. This card is a legally binding document" .. which makes it sound like they will start yanking organs if they find you at the scene of an accident and can't locate the card.

I posted similar thoughts on this subject in the comments section from this day (scroll to bottom). I don't create a blog entry for every day (like yesterday), or if I am in a hurry. But I probably should start.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 22January2004 - Picture-perfect day here in sunny SoCal. 72-degrees F (22C). Not a cloud in the sky. Almost broke a sweat. Not bad for the middle of January.

Received my first official correspondence today with Arnold's name on it, when my driver's license (valid 'til 2009) arrived in the mail. In the upper right-hand corner of the accompanying paperwork, it read:

State of California

After all the publicity, it still struck me as odd to see his name there. It hit me that Arnold is actually the governor. That whole recall election fiasco wasn't just entertainment. Might take some getting used to.

They also include a pink "donor-dot" that you can stick on your driver's license, along with a little credit-card-sized form to fill out and keep in your wallet. You can donate all or part of you body/organs, for either transplant or medical research. Never noticed that before. I don't plan on dying anytime soon, so I didn't use the dot.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 21January2004 - I don't know about where you live, but here in SoCal, people drive strangely. By that, I mean they will drive at a regular speed, until you try to pass them, at which point they'll speed up. Have you witnessed this behavior? You can actually watch the speedometer climb: 45, 55, 65. Soon as you take your foot off the gas and let them keep the lead, they will slow back down: 65, 55, 45.

I've been studying this phenomena for many years. I even applied for a government grant to document it (but they told me to get lost and stick to my web site). Anyway, after many years of exhaustive research, I have discovered what I believe to be the cause of this bizarre driving behavior. I call it: THE SPERM EFFECT.

You see, we all began as little sperms. Now I know some girls refuse to admit they were ever a sperm. But it's true. Ask your sex education teacher. And, when you were a sperm, the only thing you cared about was being in the lead position. Because the sperm who came in second place got no prize. No cigar for that boy. All of us were *first* to mommy's egg. If we weren't, we wouldn't be here right now.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> The Sperm Effect on Driving.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 20January2004 - This Friday (the 23rd), the movie Touching the Void is scheduled for release. True story, based on the book (hard to find right now) of the same title, by Joe Simpson. Two guys climb a 21,000-foot peak (6,400-meters) in the Peruvian Andes, when things go bad. Very bad. Trailers posted here (but they suk).

BBC review here. Seems that *everybody* likes this film. In fact, I have never seen a film reviewed at Rotten Tomatoes without a single negative comment.

I am *so* excited to see this movie that I can hardly stand myself. I don't know why I get so excited by the idea of mountaineering. I mean, I have never done it. The closest thing was hiking to the top of Half Dome. But that involved no harness. Maybe it's because I'm so terrified by the idea of hanging off the the side of a mountain, a thousand feet up. Yet, every night, before bed, I read a little of Freedom of the Hills (reviews posted here): the mountaineer's bible.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Touching the Void.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 19January2004 - Updated the guide to Hard Drive Partitioning Strategies. Nothing major. Just the usual pruning and polishing. It has been seeing increased traffic lately, from a number of sources, and I try keep the popular guides spruced up.

Here in the States, today is celebrated as Martin Luther King day. What I admire so much about the man, is not what he was able to accomplish, but, rather, what he was able to accomplish in spite of the opposition he faced. I mean, it's one thing to climb Mount Everest. But it's another thing to climb Everest with a Volkswagen tied to your ankle. And like most people who try to haul a Volkswagen to the top of Everest, it killed him.

I also like to read his speeches and quotes. If you visit my Linkage page, you'll see that I keep a link there of his prophetic speech titled: I've been to the Mountain Top (03april1968). An eloquent man. This is how his last speech ended:

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 17January2004 - In keeping with the ongoing theme of 'debate' from these last few days .. I was invited to a dinner party last night. A guy there mentioned seeing the movie The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise.

I told him how I thought it was interesting how the film alluded to a parallel with the native American Indian, how both groups of noble people got screwed (wiped out) by their respective governments .. not intending to start a political/philosophical argument, mind you. (I have already discussed some of my thoughts on this topic in the post dated 29december.)

This guy's wife immediately chimed in, saying to him, "See! see! I'm not the only one who thinks that." It was obvious they had already discussed the issue, and disagreed. He claimed to be a Political Science major, as if that somehow qualifies one to make such judgments. We did not discuss the issue long, not wanting to ruin the party for others, but I was genuinely curious about how he arrived at his conclusion.

His two, main premises were:

1. This was nothing new. Nations have been conquering other nations for thousands of years.
2. The Indians were fighting amongst themselves for hundreds of years before we arrived.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Did the Native American Indian get screwed?

Radiation tri-blade symbol 16January2004 - Speaking of controversy, I noticed there are heated debates on-going in reference to the posts made concerning California grocery store chains being on strike, and also the Vector/Cutco 'Work-for-Students' marketing scam.

The blogging software I use (Movable Type) allows me to see the IP address of the people posting in those threads. I noticed that many of the pro-Vector posts in the Vector/Cutco thread originate from the SAME IP ADDRESS, indicating they were made from the same computer (traced to a Verizon-DSL connection located somewhere in Los Angeles), and probably by the same individual, logging in under different names/aliases. Seems deceptive and deceitful, which has been the main gripe about Vector from the beginning.

I couldn't understand how all these people were finding these posts, but if you search for the terms: vector+cutco, or california+grocery+store+strike, you'll see.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 15January2004 - Yesterday's post, which referenced the French publication Le Monde diplomatique, generated a number of comments, not all of them nice as this one:

Wonderful. I've found yet another European publication that comments on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from a skewed mirror upon a celestial perch. No thanks, Rad. I prefer articles with a solid foundation in actual historic events rather than holier-than-thou rhetoric and biased ideals. I was hoping LMD would be a source of refreshment but it is yet another site that panders to the Arab/Muslim view of Israel. Thanks for the interesting source of this morning’s error-riddled reads.

Unfortunately, this reader did not recommend a more enlightened publication. And I hasten to add that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with exposing yourself to positions and arguments with which you disagree. Personally, I find it helpful. There's an old adage that says: "God bless our enemies, for they tell us our faults."

First, let me say that I do not recommend LMD, specifically. As I stated, I was merely mentioning the two mailing lists I subscribe to, and that I feel those of us who reside here in the States, where the little guy has no control over the media, nor its content or expressed opinions, should expose and avail ourselves to non-US perspectives .. WHATEVER that source might be, in order to understand how the rest of the world feels about various topics.

Secondly, I freely admit that I am *not* well-informed on the subject of world politics, especially the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I mean, people much smarter than I (including several US presidents) have already tried to unravel that political rat's nest (and failed miserably).

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Two Sides to Every Story.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 14January2004 - <rant> I loathe mailing lists. They're easy to get on & difficult (or impossible) to get off. Well-meaning friends include me on their massive Joke-of-the-Day mailings and other such nonsense. Next thing you know, one of the recipients adds me to their own mailing list. And so on & so forth.

Now, people who I have never met are sending me daily emails containing their political tirades. Netiquette dictates that names on a mailing list (other than close family & friends) go into the blind copy (bcc) box .. to protect the privacy of those on the list. </rant>

I use several different email addys, and have to change them periodically due to spam and similar nuisances. I only subscribe to two mailing lists (both free):

• Merriam-Webster Word-of-the-Day to help build my fledgling vocabulary (daily)
Le Monde diplomatique, a French-based political news letter (monthly)

I think it's important for us here in the States to be exposed to political insights from abroad. Not that we would agree with everything we read there, but to get another perspective. It's like looking at yourself in a mirror. Sometimes you can see yourself more clearly if you take a step away from yourself. It's not like we can dictate what the media here feeds us.

Speaking of Le Monde, they recently published an interesting document titled Gaps in the Net. It mentions how, last month, the *first* world summit on Information Society was held in Geneva, at the request of the United Nations. The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Another Perspective.

Shoutcast listeners on 13jan2004Radiation tri-blade symbol 13January2004 - I noticed that Shoutcast topped the 100-K listener mark today. This statistic can be found in the site's upper right-hand corner. I'm sure they topped the 100-K mark before, but I never noticed until today.

When I posted the article on Internet Music back in 2001 (January), there were less than 1-K listeners. So you can see there has been exponential growth (similar to the increase in how fast rain forests are being destroyed, or the increase in the federal deficit).

I traded a few emails with the folks who run some of these "streams", such as DJ Ari at Digitally Imported radio. He says peak listening time is around 12:30 Pacific time, which would be 3:30 Eastern, and speculates this time corresponds to the lunch break at Silicon Valley. Most of these guys assert that the growth of Internet music mirrors the growth of broadband technology, which continues to grow at a rapid pace.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Shoutcast Breaks the 100-K Listener Mark.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 12January2004 - Went to Disneyland yesterday: Happiest Place on Earth. I go every year to celebrate my birthday. It's right up the road, about 30 minutes drive. If you stop in City Hall when you get there, and show them your ID, they'll give you a special name tag to wear, so that all day long, everywhere you go, people greet you by name with a rousing "Happy birthday!" People you don't even know .. from all over the country. Happy people.

While waiting in line for one ride, I met an adorable 6-year old girl, who was also there to celebrate her birthday. (It could be argued who was acting more maturely.) I usually try to go mid-week, when it's not as crowded, but yesterday wasn't too bad. And the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Last year it was bone-chillingly cold. (Here in SoCal, that means the temperature dropped below 60-degrees.)

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Disneyland Birthday Tradition.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 11January2004 - Had a discussion today with some friends about world religions. (It's Sunday.) What are the three taboo subjects one should never discuss? Religion, politics and money? Anyway, we noted how there exists many different world religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism & Christianity. And how, within each of these, there exists many different denominations and sects.

Regrettably, I never took a class in World Religions. But I have friends who have. And I like to pick their brains about what they learned in these classes, just to be better informed. The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> World Religions

Radiation tri-blade symbol 10January2004 - Finally saw Lord of the Rings last night: The Return of the King .. on the giant IMAX screen at the Spectrum. They made a big deal at the beginning, about how this film was being displayed using *regular* 35mm projection equipment, and was therefore *not* representative of a "true IMAX experience".

Real IMAX films are shot on 70mm film and cost $2 more to see than regular films. I guess this is why they only charged me the regular admission price ($9.50).

I've been looking forward to seeing ROTK since it first came out. But every time I asked someone if they wanted to go, they had already seen it. So I went by myself. hours. Dang. It was almost 1AM when we finally got out.

ROTK got rave reviews. It is the first movie in a while that I felt like I got MORE than my money's worth. By now, most of you have either seen it already, or have no desire to. So I will simply say that my favorite line was by the Ork: Certain chance of death; small chance for success. What are we waiting for?

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> LOTR - The Return of the King.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 09January2004 - January has traditionally been one of the site's busiest months. I'm not sure if this is because people have more free time now, or if they are merely trying to figure out how to use the new toys they got for Christmas. Either way, the mail box has been filling with kudos and other kind words.

Speaking of Christmas gifts, I found a yoga membership under the tree with my name on it. Between you and me, I hate feeling like a "new guy" .. (which is probably why I learned so much about computers).

It's not like I've never taken a yoga class before. It's just that I'm such a "noobie". Nevertheless, I look forward to enrolling and someday becoming a yogi. Soon as I attain enlightenment, I will share with you the meaning of life.

On a more mundane note, today is a digital maintenance day: download drivers and program updates. Defrag and create a Ghost image. Feels like a trip to the car wash.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 06January2004 - Saw Cold Mountain last night. It was good. Very good, even. But didn't knock my socks off. Maybe because my expectations were too high going in, after reading all the glowing reviews.

Some parts seemed slow, especially in the beginning. The last third was the best. Cinematography in the last third of the movie was absolutely gorgeous. Especially after the snowfall, when the scenes contained a mix of white snow and dark buildings. It almost seemed as if they brought in a new cinematographer to film the end. I like it when movies end strong, and don't peter out.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Cold Mountain.

On another topic, this is old news (22dec), but you should know that a Norwegian court has acquitted 'DVD Jon' - a second time, and that Norwegian authorities have decided *not* to take the case to their Supreme court. DVD Jon (Johansen) was accused of 'breaking into' DVDs that he legally purchased and owned, and then sharing his findings on the Internet.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 01January2004 - Happy 2004! I noticed some news commentators calling it "twenty-oh-four" .. instead of "two-thousand-four". I kinda like that. Doesn't make me feel as old.

RADIFIED set a new record last month, with over 1.4 million hits. (See here.) It wasn't long ago when the site didn't get that many hits all year.

The *real* news here in SoCal today is the Rose Bowl game: pitting the USC Trojans (ranked #1 in the nation) against Michigan (2PM PST). Everybody is talking about it. In the cafes downtown, it's all the buzz. We were running the beach yesterday at Crystal Cove (a New Years eve-day tradition) and you could hear guys discussing it as they ran by.

If you've read the Film School Chronicles, you know I spent some time at "SC" the last few years, and have grown fond of the university (home of the world's best Film school). Tickets to the game are impossible to get. I can usually find someone with a spare tik. But not for this game. People aren't even returning my calls.

And if you've read the entry from the 28th of December, you know I just got back from a Christmas trip to Michigan. Had to bite my tongue there. Lots of blue fans .. wearing the colors & everything. They are ranked #4. Can hardly wait for the game to begin. What I wouldn't do for a ticket.