Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vampire Weekend (2008)****
Highly entertaining, smart sounding lyrics, precise production, hook-y melodies and bass lines. At times they sound like a mashup of The Police, The Strokes and Graceland-era Paul Simon but they make it all fit together in unpretentious-sized pop songs.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tech.view | Hacking the vote |
"Bruce Schneier, a blogger on security technology, argues that the failure of electronic voting stems from the way technology invariably increases the number of steps in any process—with each step bringing yet more scope for errors.

Optical scanners, for instance, have twice as many steps as manual counting, making them at least twice as unreliable. First, the voter reads the ballot paper and fills in the ovals, the optical reader senses the blackened ovals, the scanner passes the vote to a tabulator, the tabulator collects all votes from that machine and then transmits the score to a central totaliser. Each step can have an error of a percentage point or two, giving the system as a whole something like a 5% error. That means one in 20 people using a DRE machine will have his or her vote counted incorrectly."

The article also mentions the New Hampshire primary where 80% of the vote relied on optical scanners and coincidentally had the exact reverse percentage for Obama and Clinton of the votes counted by hand, a HUGE red flag. Stupidly, Newsweek chided Kucinich, who got 2% of the vote, for suing for a recount under the mistaken assumption that Kucinich thought he would benefit from the recount. I guess it never occurred to Newsweek that someone would sue for a principal rather than personal gain. Remember the groundswell of support for Obama following Iowa? And he had a clear lead in the polls in NH. Then the stunning comeback by Clinton. Or was it? I don't think the Clinton campaign was guilty of fraud in this case. But someone wants her to win the nomination very badly. And I think those very same people are kind of leery of Obama. And I think there was some very serious voting fraud perpetrated in NH. And nobody cares, and nobody is going to do anything about it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

49ers hire Mike Martz as offensive coordinator / Can ex-Rams coach work Magic:
"While admitting he wants to be a head coach again, Martz said of his new role in San Francisco, 'I just love what I'm doing. To come into a situation like this, to put this thing together, is a thrill for me. I really do enjoy, particularly the quarterbacks, helping them achieve something they didn't think they could do.'"

Very, very exciting news for those of us in NorCal. We will finally have an interesting NFL team to watch each Sunday. The only downside will be the incessant and relentless sports pundits who will drone on and on about Martz's "huge ego" and nit pick every play call each and every Sunday. Head coach Mike Nolan and Mike Martz coached together under Norv Turner in Washington. Interesting that Nolan was able to hire his former head coach as OC and now Martz. Nolan is an interesting case. A very confident man, very secure in himself, very smart. He knows if Martz does indeed turn the offense around, he has a great chance of winning the division next year and securing his position as head coach. The main problem with the 49ers offense is the quarterback position and there is no doubt that Martz can make something happen there. I would wager that Shaun Hill will be the starter next year unless some free agent is signed. I just don't see Alex Smith working to learn a 200+ item playbook and submitting himself to Martz's often harsh criticisms. Welcome to San Franciso, Mike!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

collision detection: Why audiophiles are dying out:
"In fact, I've come to believe that crappy technology -- lousy studios, horrible playback devices -- is a boon to pop music. Because when you strip out the superhigh and superlow frequencies that send audiophiles -- planted with geometric triangulation betwixt their $325,000 Acapella speakers (pictured above!) -- into such supposedly quivering raptures, you're forced to reckon with a music simpler question, which is: Is the song any good? A really terrific pop song can survive almost any acoustic mangling and still be delightful. A mediocre one can't. A mediocre song needs a doubleplusgood sound-system to bring out its half-baked appeal; a truly excellent tune is catchy even when played on a kazoo."

Friday, January 04, 2008

Serious Eats: Michael Pollan's Twelve Commandments for Serious Eaters: Can You Live By Them?:
"7. 'Pay more, eat less.' Easy for him—or anybody else with enough discretionary spending power—to say. Not so easy for the working poor or even middle class folks who have very little extra money for anything.
8. "Eat a wide variety of species." But can't I eat heritage pork products more often than others?
9. "Eat food from animals that eat grass." As long as these animals can occasionally be finished on corn. Sorry, Michael: Beef from cows that eat grass and then corn taste better. "

A fairly snarky post at Serious Eats about Micheal Pollan's latest book. I haven't read the book so I can't comment on how forceful Pollan posits these "commandments" or even if he calls them that. But I think the point of #7 is to rearrange our priorities and change our perception regarding the true cost of our food. We have had artificially cheap food for decades and have gotten to expect it to stay that way forever. You can pay more simply by buying conventional produce rather than processed foods. You don't HAVE to buy organic, hand grown heritage stuff to make a difference. #9's comment that corn fed beef tastes better is ludicrous. Of course it is a matter of personal taste, but grass fed beef is WAY more flavorful than even prime corn fed beef for my money. The #8 comment as well as many others in the article, have to be considered as jokes taking Pollans' words way too literally and seriously. He's not after absolutes here. But much like Jesus' Golden Rule ("do unto others...") that "sums up The Law and The Prophets", Pollan HAS offered a succinct summary of his work: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."