Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I don't get e-book pricing

So, Barnes & Noble announced today that Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is now available on the Nook.

I love that book, and so was excited about the opportunity to get it as an e-book. And then I saw the price. $10?!?!?!?!

Really, B&N?

Your own website has the trade paperback for $7.

Manufacturing and distribution costs are significantly lower for e-books, so why the markup? Just because it's new?

I'm reminded of 6 months or so ago when a bunch of old Star Wars books were released. These are books that were last printed 15-20 years ago, and the hit the Nook at $8 - $10 price points.

Even if it's newly released, I have a hard time believing that an e-book should be priced the same as the brand-new cover price of a trade paperback.

Funding a music project - Thousand Foot Krutch

One of my favorite bands, Thousand Foot Krutch, has announced that they are releasing their latest album as an independent band, using "crowdfunding", microloans, or whatever you want to call it. Their contract with Tooth and Nail Records has apparently expired, and they opted not to sign a new one.

They are looking to raise $40,000 for the project, and as an enticement they are offering various packages for certain donation levels. In a sense, they are basically trying to pre-sell the project to the tune of $40,000, in order to make it self-funding.

There have been some complaints about this, however. At least one that I read complained that TFK was just doing this to pocket even more money, that they were a successful band, and they should be able to just pay for it. But my guess is that this band hasn't really worked with a label before. As I understand it, the label assumes all the risk, pays for the entire project, and pays a predetermined amount to the band. Further, the label typically owns all rights and title to the work.

By going independent, TFK will now have complete control over their work, and the freedom to do what they want. However, they have to pay for recording studio time, for mastering, for mixdown, for production and distribution. They have a big enough name that they should not have any problems getting distribution channels.

The more I think about this, the more I like it. It gives them the independence to do what they want. It's not a typical micro-loan or crowdfunding scenario. Every donation of a certain level accrues a benefit to the individual making the donation. You get something tangible for your money. You might be paying a bit more than street value for the project will end up being, but if you're a fan, that's never really been a problem.

So, I say good luck to TFK, and keep throwing up your rawkfist!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

QOTD - Not Getting It edition

I was reading an article in the Denver Post this morning about how the Balanced Budget Amendment fell 23 votes short in the house yesterday.

It's full of the usual diatribes and complaints about how Congress can't afford to limit itself, how we have to be able to spend more than we collect in tax revenues each year.

But here's the quote that jumped out at me:
Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the proposal, arguing that such a requirement would force Congress to make devastating cuts to social programs.
 Um, well, yeah, that's sort-of the point now isn't it. We need to make cuts across the board, as we're spending roughly twice what we collect, and we now have a federal debt of over $15 TRILLION. Calling them "devastating" is just the usual verbal scare-mongering that is sadly used by members of both sides of the aisle. I remember when we would have to say "billion with a 'B'" to distinguish from "million with an 'M'". Sadly, the only time we hear the word 'billion' anymore, it's related to amounts that are usually prefaced with the word 'only'.

It brings to mind the old saw about government spending: A million here, a million there, and pretty soon we're talking about real money. Billions of dollars in spending are now part of the noise floor, and don't even make us raise our eyebrows.

It's like this, Congress. If you don't start making "devastating" cuts to the entire Federal budget, the impending economic collapse will aptly be described as devastating, and we won't even have to use scare quotes.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cooking with me - Chicken Parmigiana

I made chicken parmigiana for dinner last night. This is a recipe I cobbled together myself, taking elements from every parmigiana dish I've ever had.

This time, I used chicken breasts, but I usually use tenders. It really doesn't matter.

First, cut up your chicken and marinate in Italian dressing for at least 30 minutes.

Taking a bath, Italian style
Before we do anything with the chicken, let's get started on our spaghetti sauce. You can use canned sauce, made from scratch, or whatever your little heart desires. Last night, I used Wild Tree's spaghetti sauce seasoning mix. All it requires is a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes, 1 tbsp of the seasoning, and then 20 minutes on the stove.

Let's make spaghetti sauce

Next, take your meat mallet and relieve some of your pent-up aggression. I stretch plastic wrap over the meat as I'm tenderizing it, as I've found it helps reduce gibbet splatter. I try to pound it out to 1/8" thick or so.

You have crossed me for the last time!
Once the meat has been tenderized, it's time to dredge it in your breadcrumb mixture. You can use either Italian-style or plain breadcrumbs. I used plain last night, and then added some Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and grated Parmesan cheese. If you're using Italian-style breadcrumbs, leave out the Italian seasoning.

All dredged up and no place to go

Now it's time to start cooking! Add a little oil to your pan, and heat it up to medium. I use grapeseed oil from Wild Tree, but pretty much any cooking oil will work. Once the oil has heated up, add your chicken. Since we've pounded it so thin, it only takes 3 - 5 minutes per side, at most.

Taking an oil bath this time
Looking happy happy

Don't forget to cook your pasta. I try to start it a little after I've started cooking the chicken, because I usually have to do 3 or 4 batches on the chicken. I like everything to finish up about the same time, so it's all nice and warm.

My, what a nice bed that will make
Once everything's all finished, it's time to plate it up. First, make a bed of your spaghetti, and put some of the sauce on top of it. Place a piece or two of the chicken on top of that, and then garnish with shredded mozzarella cheese. You can also garnish with a bit of parsley if you'd like, but I didn't do that this time.

Now that looks good enough to eat
Serve with a side salad, and you're good to go.

Bon App├ętit!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Learn something new every day - Clear SSL state

I have known for years, as have most Windows OS users, that sometimes Internet Explorer caches data and refuses to let it go. This is especially frustrating when you're trying to test changes to a web site, and you keep getting the old version. Sometimes CTRL-F5 will force a reload, but sometimes you have to go into settings and manually clear your cache and cookies.

Well, I ran across something new this morning. We have an application that makes an SSL connection to a server. That connection was failing. We could ping the target server, run a trace route to it, all of that, so it wasn't a general network failure. However, whenever the application tried to connect, we were getting an error that said "SendSSLMessageBlocking error 12057".

A quick call to the vendor indicated that it was an SSL certificate issue of some sort. They had us uncheck “Check for server certificate revocation*” in the Advanced settings, yet that didn't fix the problem.

Well, Google to the rescue, as usual!!

I ran across this post on Google Groups about an issue with GMail Notifier throwing the same error.

Did you know that Internet Explorer/Windows also has an SSL certificate cache? And that it can get corrupted?

After a quick click of the "Clear SSL state" button on the Content tab and a restart of the service that was failing, everything is back up and running now.

It's a good day if you learn something new.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I don't like the answer, so it must be a conspiracy

I really don't get this mindset. First, the back-story.

On the bus this morning, I noticed a guy I see semi-regularly was using a crutch. I asked him what happened, little knowing the rant I was in for. It seems that 6 weeks or so ago, he was trying to push a car up an incline, it rolled back on him, and the fender clipped his leg, fracturing his fibula. Being a "manly man", he didn't do anything about it other than tape it up or something. He apparently doesn't like going to the doctor unless he's dying, because all they do is try to cheat him out of his money.

Well, fast forward a few weeks. His leg is swollen from the ankle to up above the knee, and he has pain in his groin area. "Hmmmm, that's not good", he said. And he still didn't go to the doctor. A few more weeks go by, and the swelling is worse. He finally goes in to the doctor, who sends him straight-away to the emergency room. They perform an imaging test on his leg (he said MRI, but I think it was more likely an ultrasound), and diagnose him with multiple DVTs. Naturally, due to the risk of the blot clots detaching and causing a pulmonary embolism, they immediately admit him to the hospital and put him on a blood thinner regimen.

He is, naturally, still on warfarin, and will be for at least 3 months.

Now to his complaints. First, he's complaining that he had to be admitted to the hospital. As he put it, "I still have the blood clots, the blood thinner doesn't dissolve the clots. So why did they have to admit me, but now it's okay for me to be out and about?" Second, he's complaining about the cost. He apparently has a catastrophic health plan, so his out of pocket expenses were pretty high. Third, he's complaining about a "conspiracy". You see, he apparently doesn't understand fluid dynamics, and doesn't understand how a blood thinner reduces the risk of one of the clots detaching. He's apparently asked multiple doctors and nurses, and is not satisfied with their answers. Again, he goes back to the whole "if I still have the clots, why did you have to admit me in the first place?" and "why are they giving me rat poison?"

Here's where the conspiracy part comes in. In a round of industry consolidation, all of the area hospitals and doctors' groups have been bought up by the same entity. For a 5 county area at least, if you go to a hospital or see a doctor, they will be a member of this network. Since he disagrees with the original doctor, and all of the subsequent doctors have given him the exact same information, it must be a conspiracy where they are covering for each other and protecting each others backsides. Oh, and they admitted him just so they could bill his insurance plan, instead of it being the best therapeutic option for him at that time. He's talking about seeing a doctor in a neighboring state for a third opinion, since that doctor won't be part of the same medical group.

That set off a whole round of complaining and ranting amongst several of the other riders. I finally had to put in my earphones and crank up the music.

That whole mindset just drives me insane. He waits for over a month to have a fracture and concomitant swelling looked at by a doctor. He's allowed a highly dangerous medical condition to develop, and now he's complaining about the treatment regimen. In less than 5 minutes using my smart phone, I was able to confirm that the treatment protocol he's on is the standard one. But for him, there's some sort of conspiracy in place to separate him from his money.

Are some of the medical costs too high? Absolutely. Do doctors oversubscribe tests? Quite often. The thing is, as I understand it, these items are actually related. Doctors are naturally scared to death of malpractice lawsuits. So, they carry insurance, which is quite expensive, which increases their overhead costs. Then, they test things to the nth degree just to make sure they haven't missed something, instead of going with the most likely diagnosis.

Siri-ously broken

Thanks to Tim O'Reilly's twitter feed, I found out about this article explaining how the protocol used by Siri has been cracked.

First, the only surprise is that cracking Siri took as long as it did. Second, it does seem that while Apple tried to implement some security in the protocol, their implementation was still susceptible to a "man in the middle" style attack. Third, it's quite the interesting read in how developers/hackers/crackers go about the process of reverse-engineering a protocol in order to bust it wide open.

So, if you're technically inclined, there's enough information there to write your own app to utilize the Siri protocol.

The next interesting item will be seeing how Apple responds to this in order to lock it all back down again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rickie, you have some 'splainin' to do!

Rick Perry has released his plan to uproot and overhaul Washington. Perhaps he will make National Arborist a cabinet position.

One of the things that I've noticed about his speech (and this is common with most political speeches) is that it is long on sound bites, but short on specifics. My particular frustration is that the associated portion of his site does not go into much more detail.  It just rehashes the sound bites, outside the limited context of the speech. [EDITED: It appears that explanatory text has now been added. I must have hit the page before it was all available.]

One of the particular items I want to see more about is his proposal to eliminate lifetime appointments to the judiciary. It's one thing to say "[u]nder my plan, future appointees to the federal bench will not receive a lifetime appointment". It's quite another to lay out the particulars of how that would work.

I am concerned on how a limited term length might impact the thinking of a judge. If they know they have a lifetime appointment, then they can slowly refine their approach to the law over time. However, if they only have 18 years (as is outlined in one of Perry's suggestions), then I wonder if they wouldn't approach "big" cases differently, looking to make their mark on national jurisprudence, as it were.

One thing that Perry does not address is term limits. Once an individual has been appointed to a federal judgeship, is that it? Can they only serve one appointment? Further, while his plank putatively addresses the federal judiciary as a whole, all of the explanatory text merely refers to Supreme Court justices. What is his plan for the various circuit courts and appellate judges?

I'm not necessarily convinced that our justiciary is so broken that it needs to be completely revamped. He seems distinctly concerned with the Supreme Court, yet what percentage of cases in the federal docket are actually heard by the court? I'm sure it's less than 1%.

So, make a better case, please, other than "[d]oing this would move the court closer to the people by ensuring that every President would have the opportunity to replace two justices per term". I'm not so sure I want every President we elect nominating Justices to the bench.

Are you a guru?

I laughed out loud, literally

"If you strike my drum down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." -- Obi Wan Zuccotti"

Friday, November 4, 2011

Occupy Antarctica


The day the LISTSERV died

AOL announces they are discontinuing their LISTSERV mailing list service. (h/t to Joe from a mailing list I'm on)

I have participated in, administered, and been banned from numerous mailing lists over the years. I think they will always have a soft spot in my heart. Usenet and Google Groups tended to have a very low signal to noise ratio, unless the group was moderated. Moderation, of course, introduced its own set of problems, because not everyone saw eye-to-eye with what was considered acceptable. To be fair, some of those same problems existed on mailing lists, but they just didn't seem to be as big.

Yes, you have social media and other solutions, but I think this sums up my feelings best:
"You are coming to the mailing list to discuss a specific topic. When you are on a social media site, it is a bit of a free-for-all. You put something on your wall, but you don't know how many people will see it," Thomas said. "There is more of a community with a mailing list."
 As long as email exists, I think mailing lists will continue to persist as well.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some email to check, and then my twitter timeline, and then my Facebook page, and oh yeah, somebody posted something to G+ as well. . .

For great safety

or great revenue?

The city of Denver is using it's red-light cameras to issue tickets to drivers whose wheels cross the white "stop" line. (h/t to Drudge)

I would be interested to know what the authorizing legislation for those cameras said. If it just addressed red-light violations, I fail to see how they can issue citations for stopping over the line.

I think this is just more evidence that the cameras aren't intended for safety, but more for revenue generation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Results that are to be expected

Driving south is more dangerous than going north, with 94 accidents compared to 49
That's because we're all fleeing Cinci as fast as we can.

3 phrases that don't go together.

"Star Wars"
"French Ballet"

Yes, it's that bad.1

1No, I don't offer refunds. Sorry.

Did Polish Airlines hired Sully?

This is just amazing.

I heard a comment on the local news that a passenger reportedly said the landing was so smooth they couldn't tell they went in without landing gear.

I'm sure the it took the pilot a few minutes to release the suction on his seat in order to deplane.

Too cool for school - View Web Source for Android

We have been having an issue with one of our websites, and have been doing extensive testing across multiple devices and browsers. Often times, it's helpful to look at the source code for the page, to help determine what might be causing the issue or to view comments that we inject into the pages to help us with troubleshooting.

By default, the Android browser does not have a 'view source' option. However, thanks to a discussion over on Stack Exchange, I ran across this nifty (and FREE!!!) Android app called View Web Source.

Once it is installed, usage is exceptionally easy. Load the page you want to inspect in the browser, select the Menu -> More -> Share Page. View Web Source registers itself as a "Share" helper, so it will appear in the list of "Share via" applications. Select it, and then a text window is displayed with the page source.

Now, if your rendered page is large, it's not very easy to scroll through and look at everything, but it is certainly better than nothing.

The one feature I wish it would implement is searching, use the default search button on the device. Otherwise, it's quite the handy utility.

I must be insane

When I was younger, I enjoyed running.1 I played soccer, rugby, swam, and ran cross country in high school. I had fairly decent cardio endurance. When I got to college, I was in the Corps of Cadets. We had thrice-weekly PT sessions, and running was always a component of that.

At my best, I could run a 5k in under 17 minutes (averaged about 5:30/mile).

This morning, I ran/walked 2k in 18 minutes.

So why do I have a hankering to get back into running? And to actually do a 5K (a fun run, not necessarily for competition)?

I do remember a sort of catharsis from running. There was this feeling of just being able to decouple, to put the body into motion and to allow the mind to just spin and churn and process. I can't say I ever had huge epiphanies, but I have resolved things, brought things into focus, or otherwise just uncluttered my mental space for a bit.

It may be time to get a new pair of togs.

1Yes, yes, I was running to evade the local dinosaur population. Har-de-har-har.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ruling by Fiat, or Preparing to Fail, Again

President Obama is signing yet another executive order to implement by fiat what he cannot get Congress to implement via valid legislation.

This particular executive order concerns prescription drug shortages and the potentials for price gouging.
“The shortage of prescription drugs drives up costs, leaves consumers vulnerable to price gouging and threatens our health and safety,” an administration official says.
The order apparently directs the FDA to "take action" to help prevent drug shortages. Oh, and it expresses support for bipartisan legislation intended to do the same thing. One of those pieces of legislation is Senate Bill 296. What does this Herculean feat of legislative legerdemain accomplish? It "require[s] a prescription drug manufacturer to notify the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) of a discontinuance, interruption, or other adjustment of the manufacture of the drug that would likely result in a shortage of such drug."

Are you kidding me? You've added a regulatory burden which can be used to bludgeon Big Pharma, and that's IT?!? What is HHS or the FDA going to do? Tell a drug company that they can't discontinue a drug line any longer? This is yet another case of picking winners and losers, and trying the failed Communist experiment of centralized management of industry.

You know what would work better? Remove some of the tariffs and import barriers and allow drugs to be imported from Canada.

Oh, wait, I forgot. Big Pharma went on a successful rent-seeking expedition and got the competition excluded from the marketplace.

So now we see the results of rent seeking and crony capitalism. Drugs are artificially scarce, they're too expensive, and now the government is going to stick its nose into a situation that will only be made worse by their intrusion.

Can we please get something approximating a free market back?

Yeah, that looks about right

I guess Safari got lost in the veldt