A Legitimate Reason to Fear the Friendly Skies

You know, just when it couldn’t possibly get less safe to fly (and boy, do the "countermeasures" to our existing problems make me cranky), this douchebag puts hundreds of people at risk of contracting a form of tuberculosis that he knows is notably treatment-resistant by flying more than most people do all year when he was sick.

“We headed off to Greece thinking everything’s fine,” said the man, who declined to be identified because of the stigma attached to his diagnosis.

They better motherfucking name him. Shame is still a valuable form of feedback for this kind of moronic anti-social stunt.

Computer, Report for Re-programming

From time to time, I like to take off and nuke my Windows installs from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

I’m actually doing that with my significantly-less-than-super old computer right now, and as a public service and memory aid I’m writing up the steps I took immediately following re-install to get this mug running sweeter than Yoo-Hoo.

  1. Browser: Windows comes with Internet Explorer. The most useful thing you can do with IE is point it at the Firefox (v2.0.0.3 as of this writing) download page and download and install Firefox. Then you can make Firefox your default browser and drag the Internet Explorer icon to the Recycle Bin.
  2. Text editor: download Editplus (v2.3.1) and the US English Spell Checker. Free trial for 30 days; more than worth the price if you work with text files much. FTP features are extremely useful. Jeff and I have used this since Y2K or so, and, uh, we’re Internet professionals, sort of.
  3. Email client: download Mozilla’s Thunderbird (v2.0.0.0). I’m a longtime user of the product. It’s free, and far better than Outlook.
  4. Browser and Email settings backup: download MozBackup (v1.4.6). You can use this to back up your Firefox and Thunderbird data. If you’re migrating from one machine to another, put this on the old one, back up your settings, put this on the new one, import those settings, and you’re Kool and the Gang. Very, very useful piece of freeware.
  5. Antivirus: stay way the hell away from McAfee and Norton and download Grisoft’s AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (v7.5.467). It automatically updates. It scans whatever you want it to scan. I’ve never had a virus problem on a machine that had AVG watching its back.
  6. SSH client: download PuTTY (v0.60) and drop it somewhere on your disk. No installation routine–it’s a standalone .exe file. I like to put it in C:\Program Files and then make a shortcut to it from the desktop, to pump up PuTTY’s ego and make it feel like one of the larger apps on my machine. This is an outstandingly configurable and stable SSH client should you need such a thing–and given that Windows ridiculously still doesn’t have a native solution, you might need such a thing.
  7. Audio: download Winamp Lite (v5.35). It’s free, and the Lite version (which you kind of have to search for on the Winamp download page–they want you to download a bundle with some other crap) does everything I want it to do as far as playing MP3s goes. For ripping, the current free software standard seems to be CDex (v1.51), though Audiograbber has its proponents. Whichever one you choose, be sure to get MP3gain (v1.2.5) to correct differing volume levels across your albums.
  8. Download management: download Free Download Manager (v2.1) if you want this functionality. It should increase the speed of most of your Firefox downloads while rendering some downloading schemes that rely on redirecting your browser useless; in this case, hit Cancel in the Free Download Manager dialog box to fall through to the default Firefox download process.
  9. FTP client: download SmartFTP (v2.5.1005.33). Free license for personal use. I’ll use this when I want to move a bunch of files around to or from a server.
  10. Instant messaging: download Pidgin (v2.0.0). It used to be called Gaim, but it’s still a multi-protocol free instant messaging client that allows you to not run AIM, Y! IM, and MSN Messenger all at once and still get to those accounts. Not all cute one-off features across the official clients work with Pidgin (winks and nudges and hugz and whatever else the big brains at Short Attention Span User Interface Institute have come up with in the time that I’ve written this sentence), but I don’t generally notice them enough to miss them.
  11. Graphic design: download and install the latest GTK+ 2 environment (version 2.10.6 as of this writing; you probably don’t need GTK+ 2 if you installed Pidgin above) and then download The GIMP (v2.2.14). The GIMP is kind of like open-source Photoshop, and if it’s not close enough for you, you can grab GIMPShop to really fool yourself into thinking you’re using the real thing.

    What am I missing?

    (Don’t say ‘Ubuntu’, Jeff… you’ll trip the jackass filter.)

Grand Canyon Skywalk

We went to Havasupai Canyon to hike around the waterfalls late last month. It was great. I’m still working on the writeup for it.

Uncle Jack just sent me an email containing a negative review of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, though, much in the spirit of some reviews available on the internet, and that reminded me of a story that a guy our party met in Havasupai village told. He said that he had just come from the Skywalk and echoed the general complaints I’ve heard about it being an oversold ripoff.

He surrendered his camera before entering the Skywalk, as is the policy of the Skywalk’s operators, and then headed out in the cattle call of people making their way around the glass bridge. We were wondering why he had to give up his camera, but I figured it was probably so the gift shop could have an artificial monopoly on panoramic shots of the canyon, or that Skywalk management thought people setting up shots would break the flow of visitors up too much. A few people in front of him, though, someone brought their binoculars on the Skywalk, and they ended up dropping them.

This caused the floor to crack.

I think I’ll pass on this attraction!

The Wide World of News

Here’s your JesusH newsbreak:

  • Rev Jerry Falwell is dead at 73. I liked TMZ‘s take, but I don’t think it went far enough.

    The coldest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about someone who recently kicked the bucket is “good riddance to bad rubbish”, and I’d say that applies here. If it makes anyone offended by the tone of this entry feel better, too bad it wasn’t Pat Robertson.

  • Prince Harry’s not going to Iraq after all, due to “specific threats”.

    From ABC News.au:

    A commander of Iraq's biggest Shiite Muslim militia, Abu Mujtaba, told The Guardian newspaper in April that it had "a special unit that would track (Harry) down, with informants inside the bases".

    Seriously–the guy can’t go out with his squad and feel relatively safe? The situation over there is such that there’s a credible threat–beyond being deployed in a war zone at all, you understand–that is insurmountable by existing materiel, strategies, and tactics?

    Weak.

    Awesome quote about possible British troop reaction to the decision, from the FOX writeup of the story (the quote has since disappeared):

    "The reaction I was getting a few weeks ago was 'if it's too dangerous for Prince Harry to be here, it's too dangerous for me to be here.'"

  • the late, great Brion James as a psycho exterminator in the previously-threatened VHS-DVD conversion of Crimewave:

    I didn’t get a chance to watch the whole movie while it was being converted last night, but what I saw was very cartoonish, rife with both bad acting and Bruce Campbell (though not always in the same scenes), and pretty funny in parts.

    Bonus: sweet preview for The Quest–not the crappy Van-Damme directorial debut of the 90’s, but the fresh-outta-E.T. Henry Thomas vehicle of a decade before.

Comment Spamfighting

You might have noticed a few spammers have been sneaking past the comment spam filter over the last few weeks. I went into the code earlier this week and added an exclusion so that anyone who tries to post ubbcode gets rejacked. (So don’t do that.) I also fixed the code that Pease Jay put in there to report when a comment gets spiked by the spam countermeasures.

In the 80 hours since the new code was released, we’ve had 2000 rejections–a lifetime of hoodia, Viagra, penis enlargement, and tranny porn. Fantastico!

The site should also set a cookie if you set the ‘are you a spammer’ switch to No now, making it easier for you all to provide your comments. Consider that an invitation.

Why am I not afraid of Terrorists?

I’m not afraid of terrorists because, as I’ve blathered on about previously, by and large they’re dumbasses. Here’s the latest data point, in regards to the thwarted Fort Dix attack: the crew hoping to blow away some soldiers was caught because they took a terrorist training videotape to Circuit City to be made into a DVD.

Coincidentally, I’m going to try to transfer a VHS tape’s contents to DVD for the first time tonight (provided something more important doesn’t come up). For this effort, I procured a component DVD recorder from woot for eighty bucks a few weeks ago, on account of I like to buy stuff I don’t need. I got no love for outdated tech, so I don’t own a VCR, but I’m planning on using Michelle’s; if I had to buy one, there are a ton on ebay for about $20 shipped or I could spend twice that at the local Wal*Mart.

I’m converting a commercial tape, so I even got myself a deluxe Macrovision-defeating component to put between the VCR and the DVD burner–again, because I like to buy stuff I don’t really need. I bet whoever made the Jihadist training tape in question can’t even spell Macrovision, so this didn’t need to be a part of the thwarted terrorist game plan.

What we have here, then, is some theoretically murderous assholes getting busted because they couldn’t keep their plot secret for want of a hundred lousy bucks of hardware and a few DVD-R blanks. You worry about dipshits like this doing some sort of systemic damage to the American way of life if you want, but I’m gonna tiptoe home through the tulips and make a DVD of Crimewave in blissful ignorance. Let me know if you want a copy.

Update, Thu 11:20am: Crimewave hasn’t been located yet, but behold–Harvey Fierstein in one of his greatest roles. Took about an hour to set up, made the DVD successfully on the first try with a zero coaster count.

Suck on that, al-Qaeda.