Saturday, April 30, 2005

DIY hell

We're coming up to two years in the first home we've ever owned (we were renters for the first 15 years or so of our marriage). Our first project was to strip, sand and stain the upstairs floor. It was semi-successful. It looks OK, anyway. Sort of rustic.

The next stage was to redo the floor in the upstairs bathroom, hopefully with something a little more permanent. The previous owners had covered over the floor with some cheap, stick-on vinyl and it looked terrible. Worse, when we peeled it back we could see that the shower has been leaking for years and the floorboards were rotten. This went beyond our skills and we had to call in a workman to replace the floor and put in the tiles. Theresa chose grey slate, since we couldn't afford to replace fixtures just yet.

The "before" photo:


The Oh-My-God-What-Have-We-Done stage:


And a couple of shots of the finished product:



Not so bad. What next?
Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Journalism question

Let's turn around Lawrence Lessig's question:

(1) that a reporter writes an article that with some length, but in passing, describes company X as unprofitable.
(2) that the company feels the report is factually incorrect because it defines "profit" in an unusual way (say, ignoring litigation costs).
(3) that company X complains to the reporter and the publication and demands a correction.
(4) that the editors consider and decide the reporter was right and don't issue a correction.
(5) then the reporter asks to write an "in depth report" about company X.
(6) and the publication authorizes it.

This is very common. And if company X is Airbus or Boeing and the reporter covers airplane makers or if company X is Citigroup or Morgan Stanley and the reporter covers banks -- well, tough on company X.

Is that wrong? Are we in danger of getting "grudge journalism" or a "make up"? It depends on your stand on step (4). The editors represent neither the reporter nor the company -- they represent the reader. They shouldn't be taking anyone's word for it, even if that person is Lawrence Lessig. They'd be falling down on the job if they corrected something just because company X said so. If the reporter uses the story as a way to "get back" at company X, then he or she is also failing. The problem isn't as clear cut as Lawrence seems to thinks it is. We need more information.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Liberal Democrats

Like Ross Burton, I found that the Conservative Party's Web site attacking the Liberal Democrats made me feel more attracted to ... the Liberal Democrats. Neat trick.

Tiger Leaps Out in Front - Personal Technology: "Overall, Tiger is the best and most advanced personal computer operating system on the market, despite a few drawbacks. It leaves Windows XP in the dust."

Another item in my to-do list for when I win the lottery: buy a top-of-the-line PowerBook.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Michael Howard Bloomberg Columnists: "Howard's family was part of the wave of Eastern European Jews who moved to Britain in the 1930s. The fact he could rise so far is a mark of how socially mobile postwar Britain had become."

One of the advantages of having two passports is that I can vote in both the U.S. and the U.K. elections (and EU, so I guess that counts at three). We're in the middle of a campaign now, with election day on May 5, so I'm pondering my choices.

I have been mostly a one-issue voter. I spend close to three hours a day on London's public transportation system. It's dismal in comparison with elsewhere in Europe, although it's probably on par or better than most cities in the U.S. Labour has shown little real interest in fixing the Tube in London, which needs billions in infrastructure work just to catch up, but neither have the also-ran and no-hoper opposition parties -- the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. That leaves me having to consider other issues instead.

Being an outsider, my other concerns sometimes differ from the locals. What I find most interesting about the quote above is that Michael Howard has tried to lift his party's place in the polls by appealing to xenophobia about the refugees, or "asylum seekers" as they referred to here. The most common way to keep from sounding racists is to stick the word "illegal" or "bogus" in front of asylum seekers and say they're only out to stop people who are faking it. (OK, though giving up your home, family and most of your possessions and then hanging on the bottom of a Eurostar for three hours to come here marks those fraudsters as pretty desperate, I would think.)

I can understand xenophobia, but from the son of an immigrant who fled oppression in his home country? Come on. That alone eliminates any possibility that the Conservatives will get my vote next week.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

BBC NEWS | Technology | Online music lovers 'frustrated'

BBC NEWS | Technology | Online music lovers 'frustrated'

Well, maybe people will start noticing flaws in digital rights management faster than I expected. Here's a story for a fairly mainstream audience on how people are beginning to see the light: they are being required to buy less for more.

Using Bloglines (or How to keep up with dozens of blogs everyday)

betterdays � Blog Archive � Using Bloglines (or How to keep up with dozens of blogs everyday)

A nice, super-easy explanation of how to subscribe to and follow blogs of interest. The pictures are from a Mac, but the steps are the same everywhere.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Deconstructing stupidity / Comment & analysis / Columnists - James Boyle: Deconstructing stupidity: "Since only about 4 per cent of copyrighted works more than 20 years old are commercially available, this locks up 96 per cent of 20th century culture to benefit 4 per cent. The harm to the public is huge, the benefit to authors, tiny. In any other field, the officials responsible would be fired. Not here."

This is an excellent summary of one of the few issues that I really get worked up about. Unfortunately, it's an issue that few others care about or think through. Trust me on this, you will run into the stupidity of current copyright and patent laws soon. You'll try to move all of that music you spent hundreds of dollars purchasing on iTunes to a new computer and discover you can't because a record company believes it has the "right" to protect an obsolete business model. You'll discover that a feature you've used in, say, Tivo will suddenly stop working because a broadcaster or film studio has activated a compliant politician. Intellectual property laws are a good idea (I make my living based on them), but they need to be limited.

Another good link (albeit a very old one) is Cory Doctorow's talk to Microsoft on why digital rights management is a bad idea.

Ethiopian Time

I can't believe I've lived 40+ years without ever hearing a word about Ethiopian time. Amazing.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Acer 17" LCD AL1714MS

My early birthday present this year is a Acer 17" LCD AL1714MS Monitor. I'm very happy with it. It's extremely bright and clear and big enough to serve as a second TV for playing DVDs. It's amazing how cheap a big LCD is these days. I saw my old CRT monitor on sale in a charity shop nearby for £12 (about $20). I think it cost $400 new several years ago.

There was only one minor annoyances with the Acer. It didn't come with any technical documentation whatsoever. I had to go to the Amazon page (linked above) to find out what the horizontal and vertical frequencies were so that I can use it with Linux.

Three steps to get it to work with Ubuntu:
1. sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg
(just accept all the defaults)

2. Add the "HorizSync" line to this section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf:

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Acer AL1714"
Option "DPMS"
HorizSync 30-82

3. sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig
(choose the LCD option.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

lenn�: Goodbye Microsoft, Hello Skype

lenn�: Goodbye Microsoft, Hello Skype: "I just couldn't go on being an evangelist for a gospel that I don't believe I can sing. I am returning to focus on what I enjoy most, building amazing things that make people happy, change lives, and make money. "

Interesting development: The guy in charge of singing Microsoft's praises is now joining Skype, a small startup. I believe Skype could be the next Google, as long as the company doesn't screw up too badly. It's focused on doing one thing, and doing it well. Compare that with Microsoft: It's focused on doing everything, well enough.


We came home yesterday to find the sidewalk in front of our house re-paved and marked off with orange cones. There's just two little spots re-paved, about half a meter wide each, so I'm guessing it was some utility repair. Looks OK. However, our phone service has stopped. Related? You tell me. British Telecom says it's our problem -- there's nothing wrong on their end.

So now comes the hard part: Who dug up our sidewalk and why, and will they fix our phone line? An Odyssey through the city's bureaucracy begins. By the end of it, will we even want a fixed-line phone anymore?

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial Observer: Psst...Justice Scalia...You Know, You're an Activist Judge, Too

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial Observer: Psst...Justice Scalia...You Know, You're an Activist Judge, Too: "They do not want to get rid of judicial activists, a standard that would bring down even Justice Scalia. They want to rid the courts of judges who disagree with them."

Friday, April 15, 2005


sproutliner is a free outliner on the Web that works surprisingly well. I wouldn't use it for really private stuff (anyone can see it if they know the name you used for the project), but it's perfect for a simple to-do list. It's then accessable from anywhere with an Internet connection and browser.

This is yet another piece in my project to free myself from any particular computer. I can now get my email and contacts list, photos, blogs I read and Web bookmarks from any computer that's connected to the Internet, running any decent Web browser.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Schneier on Security: Hacking the Papal Election

Schneier on Security: Hacking the Papal Election: "when an election process is left to develop over the course of a couple thousand years, you end up with something surprisingly good."

Microsoft innovation

Microsoft has a new free blogging service available, called MSN Spaces. I wonder where they got the idea for the logo?

The page is in Spanish, but basically Microsoft's new logo seems surprisingly similar to one used by the version of Linux I use. If nothing else, it's just a little embarrassing.

Update: The logo apparently is used in lots of places, so not necessarily a Microsoft/Ubuntu thing.

Microsoft Monitor: The Tiger Roars at Longhorn

Microsoft Monitor: The Tiger Roars at Longhorn

I normally don't give two hoots about the "operating systems war" (that's so last century). However, I'm just going to make one point before I forget: The battle has shifted to people's second PC. More people I know -- normal one, not geeks like me -- are starting to see the benefit of buying a cheap wireless router and getting another computer. They can leave the kids to play games and screw up one PC with spyware, while they use another one for word processing, web browsing and e-mail. That second PC is also the place to keep your music, photos (and someday) videos. For that job, the Mac is far superior to anything else. Nothing is even close, and that includes my beloved Linux. Linux, in distributions like Ubuntu, is getting very good, but I don't think many developers of that operating system realize that their real competition is the Mac.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

More neat-ness using aerial photography

This is a shot of our old house in Massachusetts. The thumbtack is off. We lived in the building directly south of the tack. The black blob in between all of the buildings is a pond right behind our house (our bedroom overlooked it). Directly above that is the apartment complex's fenced-in pool.

And, here, for completeness, is our house in London.

Neat Google Maps trick

My old house in New York, from a satellite picture.

Ubuntu - Worldwide

My main computer runs a free operating system called Ubuntu. Its moto is "Linux for Human Beings" and I think it is an amazing example of what volunteers can do, especially together with a young multi-millionaire with the urge to "give back" to the community. Check out the Ubuntu worldwide map. Writing something that is used, daily, from Shanghai to Seattle must be a powerful motivator.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

How to Start a Blog

If you're interested in starting your own blog, this is a good guide. My goal, unfortunately, is to hide my blog, except for family and such. I don't think my employer would be understanding in the unlikely event it was ever widely read.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Annotated New York Times

The Annotated New York Times is an amazing example of what journalism could be like -- a conversation. The professionals, by reporting the basic facts, become the conversation starters, and everyone gets to participate. A key benefit of this is that it keeps the professionals honest.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Jeff Duntemann's ContraPositive Diary

Jeff Duntemann's ContraPositive Diary: I believe Jeff is confusing an infallible statement on church doctrine (which comes at most every hundred years or so) and an encyclical, such as Humanae Vitae. You don't need to follow every one of them to be a Catholic. You just need to believe the creed, which is recited at every mass. That's hard enough. If the former were true, every Catholic who supported the death penalty would be excommunicated.

One of the true heroes of the twentieth century ||

One of the true heroes of the twentieth century ||

A good obituary, written by someone who knows nothing whatsoever about Catholism.

I do not know if Karol Wojtyła was a good Pope; I don't even understand what the criteria are for making that judgment. I know that the Catholic Church has come a long way towards the modern age during his time; that he has sought peace with the Orthodox and the Jews, and that under his leadership the church has atoned for both its treatment of Galileo and its shameful behavior in fascist states. I also know that the church under his leadership has remained socially conservative, closed off to much of western modernity. I do not know from a theological perspective how to judge that; for Catholic Theology is, to me, as incomprehensible as the rites of voodoo, and it is not fair for me to judge Pope John Paul II's performace as prelate by my religious beliefs.

Yet I know that Karol Wojtyła was a great man, one of the towering figures of his age. Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Wałęsa, and Vaclav Havel - three of the people most qualified to judge - have all said, with much reason, that without this man, and what he did in Poland in the 1970s, the tremendous changes of 1989 would not have been possible. He did not stand alone, but he stood in front, and his footsteps brought the first cracks in the facade of the Iron Curtain, and opened the door for freedom and peace in Europe.

May he rest in peace.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A surprise

Comic Pope
Originally uploaded by francesbean.
I don't mean his death, of course, but his whole papacy. I was a teenager when John Paul was elected and I remember how refreshing he was -- smart and strong, both in bearing and in beliefs. This wasn't just another elderly Italian. I remember going to see him in Boston. (I don't remember the year, but it must have been around 1980.) For an outdoor mass, he ordered the front of the altar reserved for young people. It worked for a while, but the Knights of Columbus types organizing the event were obviously not happy with the arrangement. They opened the gates hours before the pope arrived and we were squeezed out and pushed back, but there were still a significant number of us in hearing range when he gave his youth-oriented homily.

Yes, he was either too conservative or not conservative enough for many people. But he was consistent and he managed to guide the church through challenges ranging from fundamentalism to communism. I wouldn't want the burden of being the guy who has to follow him.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Waiting for softball to end

Dude, Liam, Ailish and Aidan ask whether this softball game will ever end.


Originally uploaded by Eamonn_Sullivan.
Liam catches a nap.

Post-game tailgating

Post-game tailgating
Originally uploaded by Eamonn_Sullivan.
Relaxing after the softball game: (From left to right), Ailish, a friend's daughter named Maggie and Cara.

Cara on the pitcher's mound

Cara and shana's team had their first game today. Their league is tiny, so the two of them ended up on separate teams. They claim not to know who won.

Here the coach is giving some last-minute tips in pre-game practice.

Shana in the batting cage

Shana in the batting cage
Originally uploaded by Eamonn_Sullivan.
Shana got her first taste of the batting machine, and some tips on her swing from her coach.

April moth or butterfly?

April moth or butterfly?
Originally uploaded by Eamonn_Sullivan.
This was in our greenhouse today. I think it's a moth; Theresa thinks it's a butterfly. Either way, it's gorgeous.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Depressing (or inspiring) employment-related thoughts for the day

gapingvoid: "if you're in an ever-increasingly crowded market where the (A) the barriers to entry decrease with every passing day and (B) your competition get younger, hungrier, sexier and cheaper than you by the hour, then I'd be concerned."

Seth's Blog: The ever-worsening curse of the cog: "it's essentially impossible to become successful or well off doing a job that is described and measured by someone else."

Liam's World

This is getting to be a trend in the family.