Thursday, July 30, 2009

Intelligent Political Discourse in America - R.I.P.

I have to wonder, has some members of the Republican Congressional Delegation been taking some really bad drugs lately? Nutty right-wing conspiracy theories seem to me to be at an all time high. Some of the ideas being tossed about on the Internet make the whole business about President Obama's birth certificate look rational by comparison (and no, I believe that one is pretty insane too). Now we have Congressmen picking up the conspiracies and telling their constituents via town hall meetings and appearances on right-wing talk radio, that the Democrat's health care reform proposal will cause the government to talk to the elderly about how they want to die; and that the plan will end in the government putting seniors to death. Then the talk radio loonies throw about comparisons to Hitler and Mao (Godwin's Law anyone?).

Is this the way American political dialog should be conducted? I think not. If these Republicans could come up with a viable plan of their own, they could talk about that. But no, they would rather continue to purvey fear upon our senior citizens, and everyone else too. What is sad is that so many buy it. I never thought I would see this country on such a downward slide so as to reach this low point in political discourse.

Rachel Maddow on MSNBC has examples in the clip below.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Little GUI That Could

A look back at a piece of computing history. Audio player and transcript below.

Back in 1990, the world of personal computing was divided into two camps; IBM Personal Computers and their clones running the ubiquitous MS-DOS, and Apple's Macintosh and its Graphical User Interface, or GUI. Text-based DOS ruled the business world, while the Mac had established a beach head in the graphic design, desktop publishing, and educational markets. But it was becoming clear that the future was a graphical one. Microsoft, the purveyor of MS-DOS had made early attempts with an environment called Windows that ran on top of DOS, but it was not very useful at that stage, and very few programs required it.

There were other attempts to bring DOS into the graphical world. Digital Research had tried to get its GEM Desktop accepted, but it gained very little traction in the marketplace. Part of that was because of an infringement lawsuit against Digital Research filed by Apple. Yet just when Microsoft was about to release its first really usable version of Windows, version 3.0, another program hit the shelves, that was in many ways superior to the Microsoft product. That program was called GeoWorks Ensemble.

GeoWorks was created by a small company named Berkeley Softworks, that had created GUIs for other computing platforms, such as the Commodore 64 home computer. GeoWorks was written in assembly language, making it extremely fast and responsive, even when running on an Intel 80286 chip. Like Windows, it still needed MS-DOS underneath its pretty shell, but it claimed several advances that Windows didn't yet have. These include filenames longer than the eight-plus-three format that DOS required, scalable typefaces, WYSIWYG desktop publishing, and a scalable interface. For neophytes, GeoWorks had a basic, iconic interface option, somewhat akin to the modern iPhone screen. For more advanced users there were two steps up, that resemble modern GUI design.

So why are we not all using GeoWorks 9.0 today? I see at least three reasons. First, although Geoworks was sold with several great applications, such as GeoWrite, GeoDraw, and GeoDex, it initially lacked a spreadsheet application. At at time where Lotus 1-2-3 had set the bar for financial modelling, a spreadsheet was a must. Secondly, the developer's kit for GeoWorks was prohibitively expensive, dissuading software coders from developing for the platform. Finally, it was a pure case of being outmarketed. With the DOS cash cow, Microsoft could easily bury the smaller firm in an avalanche of advertising and public relations noise.

Over the years, GeoWorks was sold twice...first to NewDeal Software, and then to BreadBox. But development remains stuck at least a decade in the past, and the niche markets that have been identified for the product have failed to respond.

How great it would be to see someone buy the rights who really cares about GeoWorks. It could be given modernized graphics, drivers for new hardware, support for OpenType, and perhaps even run on top of the Linux kernel. After all, Google's new operating system, Chrome, will use that kernel as its basis, and Linux is a solid base. Then perhaps we would see some real competition!

Still, that will remain only a dream. I doubt there is any chance of that becoming reality. But for those of us who found GeoWorks a viable, and advanced operating environment, it will always remain the little GUI that could!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Walk Around Downtown Parker, Colorado

Here is a short walking tour around the downtown area of Parker, Colorado; known as Old Town Parker.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Think Apple invented the iPod in the 90s? Think again. A British visionary inventor came up with a startlingly accurate view of the 1979! Kane Kramer invented the idea when flash memory was prohibitively expensive and could only hold 3 minutes of audio. Check out his web site HERE.

What Next? Disco Balls to Return?

The band, Cheap Trick, is releasing a new collection of tunes all these years after they were topping the charts. But they are really pulling a trick with this. The album, entitled The Latest, is being released not only on Compact Disc, but also on vinyl LP, and yes...even on 8-track cartridge!

Get yours HERE.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Food Oddities & Miracle Cheetos

Here are some odd and miraculous food items I found in my kitchen. I did make one narration mistake...Rodney King's beating was not associated with the O.J. Simpson trial, but I am too lazy to redo the soundtrack.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Nine Gadgets contributor Winda Benedetti did a feature HERE about

We, too, possess the heart of an early adopter but the wallet and wary sensibility of a cautious consumer.

Winda Benedetti, contributor

iPhone 3G S

Flip UltraHD

GeForce 3D Vision Kit

Squeezebox Boom

Kindle 2

Roomba 562 Pet

Dream Cat Venus

Transport bed

Touch Watch Phone

Death by Chocolate

A man who worked in a chocolate factory that makes raw chocolate to be used by other candy companies, died when he fell into a vat of melting chocolate. This story out of Camden, New Jersey. Twenty-nine-year-old Vincent Smith had only worked at the factory for a few weeks. Story HERE.

The City of Brotherly Hate

Let me check my calendar...okay it says 2009. So why do some folks in Philadelphia think it is 1959? I might have expected a story like this fifty years ago, but not now. A day camp for kids paid The Valley Swim Club $1900 to allow their campers to swim there. The club is private, but advertises open membership. When the kids arrived, pandemonium broke out. What was the issue? The kids from the camp were mostly African-American.

One of the campers quoted a woman at the club:

"I heard this lady, she was like, 'Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?' She's like, 'I'm scared they might do something to my child,'" said camper Dymire Baylor.

Reports are that when the black children got in the pool, all the Caucasian kids immediately left. Horace Gibson, a parent of one of the day camp kids said:

"The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately."

The day after this happened, the camp was told their money would be refunded and they could not come back. The Valley Swim Club's president, John Duesler, said that the concern is that the kids would "change the complexion...and the atmosphere of the club".

Yes blatant racism is alive and well in America, and it is not only in the South. And what a sad thing for these children to have experienced. For the full story as reported by Philly's NBC 10, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Google OS

Will Google have the muscle to do what OS/2 and BeOS failed to accomplish? The search giant has announced it will soon be releasing a new operating system based on the company's Chrome browser.

Personally, I would love to see more widespread choice. Although Google is touting the new OS as a Windows alternative for netbooks, can its wider deployment be far behind? Now if Apple can be persuaded to release OSX into the wild, we could see some real competitive choices. Windows, OSX, Google OS, Linux, wow! Let the OS wars begin!

Monday, July 06, 2009

King of the Wild Frontier

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that when I was a small kid, I loved cowboy hats and my Davy Crockett faux-coonskin cap. In the old photos my sis has scanned was this one of me wearing that very cap. Needless to say, I was a big fan of Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.

In my 1950s childhood mind, I probably had quite a few adventures emulating the bravery of Davy as portrayed by Fess Parker in living black & white on our television screen. Of course I was not alone. Davy was a pop phenomenon in those days. After all, he "kilt him a bar when he was only three".

One of my toys from those days is still in my possession. It was a plastic squeak toy of a child dressed out as Davy. This may be the only toy I still have from my childhood, and frankly I am surprised it is still around. The second picture is it, and you can also see the chewed up end of Davy's rifle. I recall that it was a really pleasant feeling to chew that thing, not thinking about the damage it was doing to the toy. Maybe I was like a dog with a squeak toy, chewing and squeaking it as much as I could.

So there we have it. A story of a boy, a toy, and a frontier hero who died at the Alamo.

Heard of Jackson Hole? Here's Jackson Tree

It isn't uncommon to read stories about the Virgin Mary appearing in water stains under a freeway or on a grilled cheese sandwich. Or perhaps a cheese puff that someone thinks looks like Jesus. Now with the recent death of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson has begun making appearances.

A family in Stockton, California says that Jacko has appeared on a stump where their birch tree had a branch removed. As Skeptic magazine publisher and author Michael Shermer has pointed out, we are pattern seeking animals. This is why we see shapes in clouds and constellations in our night sky. Despite that, I am sure there are people who worship MJ to the point that they will hang on to this as a sign of some sort. I just wonder...when they pruned the tree, did they remove Jackson's nose?

Yep...I'm bad.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

It's Independence Day!

Happy 233rd birthday, USA!!

1939 Pontiac

I found out that my sister has scanned some old family photos that I never knew even existed, some of which I am very glad to discover. Here is one of them.

This photo was taken in 1955, and is my mother and I with our old 1939 Pontiac. I am sure of the year, as Mom is obviously pregnant with my oldest sister. This car is one of my very earliest memories. I vividly recall sitting in the back seat. I loved peering out of the second backseat window, the one in the very back that is smaller than the others. Another thing interesting about this car is that the back doors are hinged in the rear and open in the opposite direction from the front doors.

In this picture, I am wearing one of my two favorite types of head gear during those times...a cowboy hat. The other was my Davy Crockett faux-coonskin cap.

I am not exactly sure of the locale of this picture, and I will need to ask my parents, but I suspect this was at the married student housing at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where my dad was completing his Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Below is an ad for this car when it was first offered to the public by General Motors. Wouldn't it be nice to have one of these now?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A July Thundershower

We have been in a very unusual weather pattern for Colorado, where we have had beautiful mornings and early afternoons, followed by severe weather in the late afternoon. This has gone on for about three weeks, and has even included tornadoes, as indicated in an earlier post here. We also had about $13,000 in damage to the house, including the roof, all from hail. We are working to get that repaired, but it is a long process.

This afternoon's storm was a nice thunderstorm, not so severe, but gave us a good downpour and a lot of rolling thunder. I grabbed the trusty Olympus LS-10, and picked up a few seconds of sound. Below is some of it, and you can hear the rainfall, the thunder, and a neighbor's windchime. Enjoy!

Edited to add: This is the first audio file I have placed on this blog using a different host. I had been using for hosting audio files and creating an embedded player. This one is using the Internet Archive at They can host text, audio, video, and many other types of multimedia files. Their embedded player you see above has a volume control which is lacking on PodBean's. The Internet Archive also creates not only an embeddable player, but it allows you to choose a license for your files. The original file I uploaded was MP3 format, but they also create other versions automatically. My file resulted in not only the MP3, but also Ogg Vorbis, ZIP, M3U, and metadata files. It is totally free, and I highly recommend it. There is nothing wrong with PodBean, but I am liking the Internet Archive a lot!

The Wright Stuff

Tuesday, I posted about the Air New Zealand in flight safety video featuring crew members in nothing but a smile and body paint. (Well, the captain did also have a hat). Well, now we have another "naked on the airplane" story in the news.

Fifty-year-old Keith Wright, a man from the Bronx who is apparently bipolar, decided to strip naked on a US Airways flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles. He refused to keep a blanket on that was put on him by a flight attendant. Ultimately, two Los Angeles law enforcement personnel on the flight wrestled him down and the flight was diverted to Albuquerque, where Wright will likely be given a psychiatric evaluation.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Win 7 Beta Going Down For The Count

It's July 1, and those of you running the Windows 7 Beta may have noticed your machine shutting down every two hours. This is not a is Microsoft's way to get you to move over to the Release Candidate Code. Better do it quickly! It gets more severe starting August 1.

The RC will begin its shutdown routines on March 1, 2010. The commercial release of the OS will be October 22, 2009, so you should be in good shape. That is plenty of time to get the final product. One note isn't an easy upgrade from beta to RC. A clean install is recommended (unless you had the foresight to run the beta in a virtual machine, that is).

104 KRBE Hit List

Like every other type of business, radio stations have tried to find ways to market themselves to their communities. Often, these efforts involve bumper stickers, contests, and billboards. Another method used over the years by Top-40 stations has been by publishing a playlist. I have seen these in forms of brochures, but here is one I had totally forgotten about.

Houston's 104.1 FM, KRBE used to publish their playlist on record sleves for 45 rpm singles. Here is one from May 2, 1978. There were some great songs on the top 40 that week, and it is hard to believe that it has been 31 years since these were current. At least it is to me. But then again, I am old!

Just take a look at some of these. Songs like Dust in the Wind, Baker Street, and Runnin' on Empty are there. But most noticeable is the fact that songs from the megahit movie, Saturday Night Fever dominated this chart of the disco fever era. I count at least four from that soundtrack. And take a look at #4. Thank You for Being a Friend by Andrew Gold went on to become the theme song for the television sitcom, The Golden Girls. The show's theme was a cover version by Cynthia Fee. There is also a song in the Top 40 from the movie Grease. You're The One That I Want by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John came in at #9 that week.

On the back among other things, is a list of the disc jockeys who spun those hits on KRBE. As always, you can click on the images to get larger versions.

Karl Malden - #8

The bad week to be a celebrity continues with the death of Oscar-winning actor, Karl Malden. Known for his role in A Streetcar Named Desire, and for a two-decade run as spokeman for American Express, Malden also starred in the TV Series, The Streets of San Francisco. He was 97.

Baloney Detection Kit

The late astronomer Carl Sagan wrote an excellent book about science entitled The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. One chapter of that book was laying out what Sagan called a Baloney Detection Kit. The idea is that there are reliable ways to test claims that will allow us to detect spurious and fallacious arguments, and use science to get at the truth of a theory or hypothesis.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation recently produced a video featuring Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, where Shermer takes Sagan's idea of a Baloney Detection Kit and lays out the concept for wider distribution. This video is almost 15 minutes long, but well worth the watching, given all of the claims and counter claims flying about these days.

The video is below, You can also download an MP3 audio file of this HERE (6.7 MB); or download a video Quicktime file HERE (122.4 MB).