Raise the double standard

The John McCain Suspension of Habeas Corpus / Ignore the Geneva Conventions Bill was getting me down this morning, but suddenly things have turned around. From AP news: In a scandal guaranteed to anger parents, a prominent House Republican has resigned after the revelation that he exchanged raunchy electronic messages with a teenage boy, a former congressional page. Rep. Mark Foley, R-Florida, who is single, apologized Friday for letting down his family and constituents.

On the farm

After the weekend, we go to stay with Käthe and Herbert for a few days. They live in an old farmhouse in the Altes Land, south of the Elbe. It’s a fruit farm, growing apples, pears, plums, and probably a few other kinds of fruit in small quantities. Like many small European farms it’s 100% organic, with three modern windmills providing some of its electrical power needs.

Herbert speaks some English, but is self-taught, and a little hard of hearing. Käthe’s English is better. Still, I can’t help thinking that if I’d known that one day I’d be spending time in a farmhouse in Germany, I’d have paid more attention in German lessons. Not that it would have helped that much—when they’re talking to each other, Herbert and Käthe speak Plat Deutsch, modern Low German. It sounds like a mix of German and Middle English.

So I find myself surrounded by German and dialects of German, and for a while it makes my brain hurt. By late afternoon my language processing regions have spent hours trying to decode the strange noises around me and are tired out.

Extreme weather emergencies

The gas company sent us a required notice explaining the law regarding disconnection of service. It says that Texas law does not allow disconnection of service during an Extreme Weather Emergency Day, and goes on to explain: An extreme weather emergency means a day when the previous day’s highest temperature did not exceed 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature is predicted to remain at or below that level for the next 24 hours according to the nearest weather station for the county where the customer takes service.

Strange but true

Boston and Dallas were designed by M.C. Escher. More such stuff at googlesightseeing.com. Also fun is to compare and contrast Newsweek international edition with Newsweek USA. Don’t forget the ongoing linkfeed.

Squirrel discoveries

Things squirrels eat: Corn. Nuts. More corn. Sunflower seeds. Peanuts in their shells. Pecans. Tomatoes. Even more corn. Strawberries. Things squirrels will not eat: Organic peanut butter. Corn Tortillas†. Guacamole. Marshmallows. Celery. Carrots. †However, they will carry them away to use as nesting material. We’ve had our first sighting of new young squirrels. They have been stumbling around in the trees and bushes and practicing jumping, still learning how to be a squirrel.


A week ago, there was a protest march for Zombie Rights at the Austin city hall. Some pirates turned up to protest, with signs saying things like “Walkin’ dead ought to walk the plank”. Pictures on Flickr.

GPL v3: The Missing Piece

There has been a lot of GPLv3 discussion on tech sites. Perhaps predictably, a lot of it has missed the point or miscategorized the changes.

If you read the history of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Public License, you discover that it all came about because Richard Stallman found himself having to use broken software that he wasn’t allowed to fix. The entire purpose of the GPL is to ensure that everyone who uses a piece of GPL-licensed software can change that software, use the changed version, and distribute it to other people.

The GPLv3 changes are not some radical new direction, there’s no bait-and-switch going on. The problem is simply that a number of organizations have found ways to use GPL-licensed software, but still break the spirit of the license by preventing users from being able to change the software, use the changed version, and distribute it.

Who needs terrorists?

New York Times via RISKS digest: A drive by the Federal Aviation Administration to cut the number of air traffic controllers nationally by 10 percent below negotiated levels, and even more sharply at places like the busy radar center here, is producing tension, anger and occasional shows of defiance among controllers. Most of the changes have had little effect on the public. But one in particular may have safety implications, controllers and some outside experts said.

News to spread

Today’s news: An authoritative US intelligence report pooling the views of 16 government agencies concludes America’s campaign in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism. […] The report, Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States, points out the “centrality” of the US invasion of Iraq in fomenting terrorist cells and attacks. One section of the 30-page report, Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement, describes how the American presence in Iraq has helped spread radical Islam by providing a focal point for anti-Americanism.

Public displays of affection

For our second day in Hamburg, rothko had arranged a German scrapbooking meetup. We got the bus into Harburg, then got onto the S-bahn to head into the city at around noon.

Just after we boarded the train, a young couple got on. I’d guess that they were in their 20s. He had short dark hair and looked as if he’d been awake for a couple of days; a slight sheen of sweat, disheveled clothes and a good dose of stubble. She was thin and tall, with red-streaked dark hair and various piercings. She was also clearly extremely drunk.

He sat down facing the same direction as us, one row ahead in the carriage. She swayed uneasily after him, dropped her bag on the seat in front of him along with a bottle of unspecified liquor, and then sat astride him, facing us. As the train started moving they began making out. After a few minutes she struggled with her belt and jeans for a while, and before long it was clear to everyone in the carriage that they were having sex.