Huckabee Versus Budweiser: Where's the media when you need them?

How many journalists are covering the Republican presidential candidates right now? Probably thousands. But how many have read what front-runner Mike Huckabee hath written? Apparently very few. For example I can't find anyone looking into his attack on Budweiser.

No, I'm not talking about dredging the distant past for lost sermons but a text he published last year: Character Makes a Difference: Where I'm From, Where I've Been, and What I Believe (Paperback, June, 2007).

The problem that Huckabee has with Budweiser is the way the company's advertisements play to the selfish nature of man, for according to Huckabee, "We are not basically good; rather, we are basically self-centered, look to ourselves first, and preserve ourselves first at all costs."

Amazing Audio Assistant: Free content in convenient format, no fees required

A lot of the Christmas shopping buzz this year has been about digital this and i-that. Unfortunately, a lot of these digital gizmos cost at least $100. Consider iphone and PSP and Wii and digital cameras, pdas, smart phones, and various mp3 players. Not much in this category for the under $50 crowd. But wait, what is that cool silhouette in the corner?

This is a very cool palm-size, hand-held gizmo that I found for under$30. It delivers a non-stop music stream or current news, for weeks on just 2 AA batteries, with no subscription fees. It has a built-in clock and an alarm and operates in multiple languages. It comes with cool ear buds plus a speaker that is actually built into the device, no external pieces or cables required. And the whole thing is totally wireless.

Our XO Arrives: ahead of [revised] schedule!

We got our order in on 11/24/07 and our unit arrived yesterday, 12/22/07. A bit of surprise because I got email from OLPC on 12/21/07 saying it would not arrive by 12/24/07. But hey, I'm not complaining. For more on shipping check out this blog.

The timing is a bit unfortunate because we are away for a few days and not there to enjoy it, but we have house sitters who promise to take good care of it until we return. Meanwhile, we can enjoy that warm glow of righteous giving all over the holidays, knowing that OLPC will be delivering our 'given' machine to children in either Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia or Rwanda. Yeah!

In the meantime, I am finding all sorts of XO resources popping up. There is One Laptop Per Child News. There is olpc dot com. And there is the OLPC Wiki. Puget Sound has perhaps the first XO User Group. I'm not rating these sites, yet, just listing them for you to check out.

OLPC Getting Closer

Can you do this with your laptop?The excitement is mounting for people who placed an order for the XO under the "Buy-one-get-one" program, previously blogged here. Shipments are now rolling and the wonderful folks at One Laptop Per Child are working round the clock (is it too twee or non-PC to say they are working "like elves"?) to get as many machines as possible shipped to North American customers by the 25th of this month.

If the Fedex truck does not roll up with your XO by then, it will likely arrive shortly thereafter. And if you haven't ordered one yet, and Santa doesn't bring you one, the Give One Get One program is now open through December 31.

I plan to post my review as soon as mine arrives [or the eggnog haze clears, whichever comes later :-)]. In the meantime there is an extensive look at the XO on the blog of veteran LISP programmer Bill Clementson.

Be of Good Cheer: Maria Bamford is here

Okay, so there's nothing particularly Christmassy about Maria Bamford, apart from the [maybe] green background in this pic. But I always feel the need for a good laugh over the holidays and this lady makes me laugh, a lot.

I just got her first audio CD, The Burning Bridges Tour, and it's a gas. Who can resist such gems as "Goddess of Little Lake Pequaym" and "The Pterodactyl Song"? The answer, apparently, is quite a few of my friends, who don't seem to find Maria as hilarious as I do. No mind, I can put on my headphones and guffaw insanely at this true original without scaring the dog too much.

I mean, who else could come up with "My father is really just a series of sound effects." And then proceed to do the sound effects, in a way that is frightening real, at least to this old geezer. However, I am prepared to accept that others might not 'get' this gorgeously amusing comic, so I have two links here that will get you to a bunch of video clips from which you can judge for yourself before you splurge on an album. They are Comedy Central and Maria's official site. Enjoy!

Rough on Romney or Religion? Tim Russert needs a broader perspective

Did you see Meet the Press? Am I the only one who thinks it is unfair to prod Mitt (Republican presidential hopeful) Romney about his religious beliefs? At least there should be some reciprocity. Today we had Tim Russert asking Romney "was it wrong for your faith to exclude [blacks from the priesthood]"? C'mon Tim, are you going to ask Roman Catholic candidates if it is wrong for their faith to continue their ban on women in the priesthood?

And I don't recall Russert, a commentator I normally admire, asking Candidate Lieberman if he was ashamed that his faith did not ordain women rabbis until 1972? For sadly there seems be a lingering institutionalized hypocrisy about religion and politics in America. The advert for America chould read

"We are the land of religious freedom!"
(Some restrictions may apply and your mileage may vary, especially if running for public office. Note that freedom of religion may be interpreted as freedom to chose between a select group of religions. Religion is not optional, non-believers need not apply. Women may be denied equal standing.)

PayPal Broken? It certainly isn't working for me right now.

PayPal LogoIs anyone else having a problem with missing or invalid transaction numbers in PayPal? Here's the situation:

I sent someone money via PayPal but the recipient cannot collect it because "the transaction ID is invalid or missing." The recipient cannot query PayPal about the problem because "the transaction ID is invalid or missing."

I contacted PayPal via the Help center email. No reply.

I called PayPal's 888 number. "Your wait time is expected to be longer than 20 minutes."

I tried the Dispute Resolution section of the PayPal web site but of course, I should have guessed, that won't work because: "This transaction cannot be disputed at this time. This is usually because the transaction has not yet been completed." You can't dispute a payment if the payment has not happened. The payment has not happened because the system somehow went wrong (it's not like I assigned the transaction number).

So, $150 left my account on December 8 and is still not in the payee's account. I have a Premier PayPal account and I have to say this is the first time this has happened, but it is very troubling. How could the transaction ID not be correct? That suggests a serious glitch. And why is the wait time impossibly long? Have there been a lot of glitches?

Maybe I should have just put a check in the mail. But wait, it's"The Holidays" so I doubt that would work any better.

SLAM Bam, Thank You Tony: Reading Nick Hornby's Latest Masterpiece

SLAM by Nick HornbyVery good article today in the Washington Post, about Nick Hornby and his new novel. The novel is SLAM and it is something of a sleeper because you probably won't see it in the regular novel section of your local bookstore. Why?


As in Young Adult, a category of book that book stores tend to shove in the back. That's right, SLAM is published as a Young Adult book. And while I can heartily recommend SLAM to any teenager looking for a good book to read, I can also recommend it, just as heartily, to adults; it definitely challenges the whole idea of categorizing novels. (Shouldn't Catcher in the Rye be YA?)

SLAM is a brilliant novel, regardless of how you categorize it, but I only knew about it because the YA section is on the way to bathroom in my local Barnes & Noble. Now I am recommending it to friends. It is a word of mouth winner, a hidden gem. (Especially if you have a lot of literary friends who don't got to the bathroom at B&N, you get a chance to say "Oh, you haven't read Hornby's latest?")

But seriously,

Love Man: Otis Redding, 1941-1967

Otis Redding 1941-1967Otis Redding died forty years ago today, on December 10, 1967, when his plane crashed during a storm en route to a concert in Madison. He was just 26 years old.

Not only did Otis bring joy to millions around the world with his music, he blazed a trail for independent black artists. He owned his own plane (so he would never miss a gig). He retained the rights to much of his material so that it would continue to provide for his family. Otis was devoted to his fans. We remain devoted to him. Thanks Otis, for all the songs you gave us, including:

  • Respect

  • These Arms Of Mine

  • Pain In My Heart

  • (Sittin' On The) Dock Of The Bay

  • I've Got Dreams To Remember

  • Love Man

  • Chained and Bound

  • That's How Strong My Love Is

  • Mr. Pitiful

  • I've Been Loving You Too Long

  • I Can't Turn You Loose

  • My Lover's Prayer

  • Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)

  • Shake

  • The Happy Song (Dum-Dum)

  • Stay in School

  • I'm Depending on You

  • Your One and Only Man

Thanks as well for the songs you made your own, with performances like "Try a Little Tenderness." Your music has become part of the sound track of our lives. It's hard to think of an artist whose recordings crop up in more movies than yours. Just one of the many ways you will always be with us.

Sad State of the Internet: Criminals on the attack

There is no longer any doubt that as Wired recently pointed out, the Internet has become a huge playground for criminal hackers out to make a buck, something that security professionals have been predicting for years. Consider the number of malware detections reported by F-Secure, not a company given to exageration. Number of malware detections

The total number of detections in the years prior to 2007: 250,000.

Total number at the end of 2007: 500,000.

In other words, it took just one year to double a number reached over a 20 year period.

F-Secure is quick to point out that most of the new malware detected were variants on past code: "Genuine innovation appears to be on the decline and is currently being replaced with volume and mass-produced kit malware."

However, there is not really much consolation or comfort in this. The research indicates that "while new techniques weren't developed—the existing techniques were refined and adapted for much greater effectiveness. There are some very dangerous faces in the big crowd."