Replacement Prognostication, Week 9

A week off for most of the NFC North leaves me without much to talk about here.  I could mention the pre-season expectations for the Dallas Cowboys going in the shitter.  But since I don’t know any Cowboys fans that read this blog, what fun is that?

What are you going to be for Halloween?  I think next year, I’m going to try to think about it a little further in advance, and try to make a good, authentic costume.  This year wasn’t bad, but…

No more delays, here are your predictions for Week 9.

SEASON RECORD: 22-15

  • Packers – lose
  • Bears – win
  • Vikings – win
  • Lions – lose
  • Chiefs – lose
  • Dolphins – lose
  • Seahawks – lose

Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, unless you’re like me and you did already.

Six Days to Go, Please Remain Calm

When we get down to the wire in important elections, I think it’s easy for people to lose their heads a bit.  After all, what do we love in America more than anything?  No, it’s not Dunkin Donuts.  We love confrontation.  We love the stories of us versus them.  We watch sports contests of one type or another 13 months of the year, and we produce endless droves of “reality TV” that pits one group of people in a contest against the other.  Why do we do it?  So we can know who the winner is.  We want to decide who is better.

And like the 4th quarter of a playoff game, this last week is more tense the any time earlier in the race.  We’ve chosen sides, we’ve decided who to root for, and we desperately want to see our team win.  At the same time, we’ve been building up a callus of hatred for The Other Guy.  This is what we need to be wary of, and we really should just let it go.

Hopefully we’ve all had time to reasonably think through the issues, and we’ve made an informed choice.  That’s the sensible thing to do.  It’s a little bit insane to actually and truthfully be gripped by tangible fear at the prospect of our candidate coming in second.  We have a good system in place here.  We have checks and balances built into our system of government (for the most part) that keeps an undue amount of power out of any one person’s hands.

To think that Your Candidate will solve all the problems he’s proposed to solve is naive, but so is the notion that The Other Guy is going to single-handedly flush our democracy down the toilet.  The world continues to evolve and the status quo continues to change, but it is much bigger than one man in one office in one American city.  Moreover, the rhetoric of a political campaign is generally a lot sharper than actual policy.

Make no mistake, this is an important election; there is a lot at stake, and the President of the United States continues to be a key international figure.  But regardless of the outcome next week, it’s not worth jumping overboard if things don’t go the way you’d like.

A Potpourri of Catching Up

Just being out of commission for a day can set you back a little bit.  I had 36 new articles come through my New Scientist feed this morning…

In the category of “It’s Always Something,” we have: Flatscreen TVs turn up the heat on climate, showing once again that we can ALWAYS find a way to destroy the planet.  Is the Earth this fragile, or are we this big?

At this point, the celebrity (or quasi-celebrity) who I idolize the most is definitely John Hodgman.  He exudes an ideal combination of hilarious and intelligent.  If I could be this funny, I wouldn’t really need to worry about anything else.  His second book is a great gift idea for Jason, by the way…

Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed (and I barely have), the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team has committed to showing up for at least 82 more games, and their season begins tonight.  I have entered basketball seasons with no hope for the Bucks in the past, but this is the first time since I took an interest in the NBA in the late 80s that I start a season with neither hope or interest.  Well, maybe that’s not 100% true– I must be at least vaguely interested, or you wouldn’t be reading these words.  However, I’m not as interested in following the fortunes of the team as I am the story of their inevitable collapse.  I pity the Tom Enlunds and Michael Hunts of the world, who make a living writing about this team.  It can’t be a very good living…

Oh, and you may have noticed a significant uptick in the size of the ‘archives’ available on the site– my sick day was good for researching and solving the problem I’d had with importing data from the old tikiwiki blog.  So if you care to relive the days when my words were much prettier, stop by 2003 or so.

That is all, carry on.

Slower Than Expected

Howdy.  I stayed home sick today, so pardon me for being brief.

Michelle and I went the Halloween shindig @ the Price house in Hartford on Saturday– it was a good time, and there is photographic evidence in the DaytoDay gallery.  We also made a “homemade” pizza on Sunday, and there are a couple pics of that, too.  It turned out really well.

But anyway, I wanted to get those photos posted about 4 hours ago, but it took me this long to:

  1. learn that some extensions for PHP hadn’t been enabled on the new server,
  2. figure out that some of the plugins here rely on the extensions in question,
  3. find out what to do to enable those extensions,
  4. figure out that the reason I couldn’t get them all enabled was because I needed to install extra packages from the Slackware install disc,
  5. backup the base ( / ) directory on the server,
  6. install the needed packages, and
  7. finally upload the pictures that I wanted.

I think I’ll take a nap for a while now.

A Non-Technical Reference for How Torrents Work

Someone mentioned to me recently that they don’t know how to use bit torrents.  When there is a common and pervasive computer technology out there that we can’t really get a grip on, asking to have it explained can make you feel like an idiot.  For the wikipedia version of what bit torrent(s) is/are, please follow this handy link.  For a shorter, less detailed explanation, continue reading.

The principle at work is this: if you download a file from one place, you can only download it as fast as that place can upload it.  If it’s a file that a lot of people want, that place is going to need a whole ton of bandwidth.  However, if a bunch of people already have a copy of the file, you could really spread out that ‘upstream’ burden by taking a little bit from this guy, and little from this other guy, etc.  For really popular torrents, you have the potential to maximize your download speed without putting a heavy strain on any one uploader.

So when you download a .torrent file, what the hell is it? Again, without too much detail, this is a file that tells your computer who to connect to to get the content that you want.  For example, I downloaded a torrent of a Slackware linux distribution last week.  The torrent file was tiny, so it only took a second to download.  By opening it with a bit torrent client, I was able to connect to others that already have the file I needed, and I downloaded it in no time.

What do you need to use torrents? Like I said, you need a client in order to open a torrent file and download what you want.  This is really simple to think about if you equate it to POP3 (not web-based) email– if someone sends you a message, that message only exists in a file on a server unless you have a client program (like Outlook) that knows how to retrieve it.  So, you need a BitTorrent client in order to open those torrents.  On Windows and Mac, I think the easiest one to get and use is from BitTorrent dot com.  My Ubuntu system uses a client called Transmission by default.  Either way, it’s going to do the same thing: download by tracking to a torrent.

How long is this going to take? The speed that you get when downloading a torrent is going to vary based on how many people are uploading (or “seeding”) the file in question.  So depending on that, and the size of your file, it could take minutes or hours or days.

Where does the file go once it’s downloaded? This is going to depend on the settings in your bittorrent client.  Personally, I like things to be dropped right on my face, so I have my set up to put all torrent downloads on the Desktop.  But it’s something you might need to adjust with your individual software…

And this is illegal, right? It’s absolutely not.  Sharing files via torrent is actually (subjectively speaking) the most efficient way to disceminate data over the web– why download something a million times from one location and clog up one corner of the Internet when you could spread the traffic around?  Granted, there is a lot of illegal content being shared via torrent (copies of movies, TV, music, and pirated software), but there’s also a lot being shared that’s 100% on the up-and-up.

Hope this was a little bit helpful.  It’s definitely NOT an exhaustive or comprehensive discussion of how torrents work, but this should be enough to get you started.  Enjoy!

Replacement Prognostication, Week 8

Proof positive that the sun even shines on a dog’s ass some days– I went 7-0 in my predictions last week.  That probably means I’ll be experiencing an outrageous collapse this time around, because karma works that way.  Here in the Milwaukee market, there is joy, because even though the Packers have the week off, channel 58 is carrying Brett and the Jets.  Or, you can opt to listen to AM 620, which is replaying the Instant Replay Game from 1989.

There was a hilarious and ridiculous poll in the Journal-Sentinel this past Monday asking, “Are you ANGRY that Brett Favre called the Lions to tell them how to beat the Packers in Week 2?” or something along those lines.  I couldn’t BELIEVE the number of positive responses they got to that.  I mean, seriously?  You’re gonna get upset about that?  We still kicked the holy living hell outta them.  When I heard this story I laughed with pity at two people/entities:

  1. Brett Favre, because he’s apparently such a childish prima donna that he feels compelled to “stick it” to those who he thinks have done him wrong, and
  2. the Detroit Lions, who have such a laughable excuse for a football team that they can get “inside information” and they still lack the talent or skill to best their opponent.

Anyway, I wish Brett no ill, but I do lose a little bit of respect for him every time something like this comes up.  I’m not sure if it’s Brett himself, or just the media that paints him as acting a lot smarter and more important than he really is, but in the end, you have to take everything he says and does with a grain of salt.  Enough commentary, then, and on to your picks for Week 8.

SEASON RECORD: 20-13

  • Packers – bi
  • Bears – experimenting
  • Vikings – just kidding themselves
  • Lions – lose
  • Chiefs – lose (to Brett & the JETS!)
  • Seahawks – lose
  • Dolphins – lose

Don’t forget to enjoy the World Series– a great matchup of two teams that it’s hard to hate (unless you like the Red Sox, the Mets, or the Yankees).

And finally, birthday salutations to Kevin, who is turning 33 today.

Oh, #*@&!%.

Maybe the scary AI researchers all took a vacation over the summer, or I just missed the best headlines.  But check this mother out: Computer circuit built from brain cells.  You have to wait for the scariest excerpt of all:

Brain implants can allow the paralysed to control robot arms or learn to talk again, but suffer a drop-off in performance when scar tissue coats their electrodes. “An intermediate layer of in vitro neurons interfacing between man and machine could be advantageous,” he says.

Yes, who can say what sort of advantages a neural interface with your computer could provide?  I can only think of about a MILLION.