Friday, December 16, 2011

R.I.P. Christopher Hitchens, crafter of essays

Not one to be lied to. Among the best writers of his age, Christopher Hitchens held you with his prose, in part because he was wrong a quarter of the time and in part because the words were always in the right place. The battle cry is still.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My choice for best essay of 2011

There are shades of disagreement with Andy Crouch's brilliant tribute to Steve Jobs, the Secular Prophet  in the Wall Street Journal, but it is, in my humble opinion, the best essay I have read in 2011.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Getting Ubuntu to work on Amtrak's wireless connection

Today was my first experience with using WiFi on Amtrak. Riding business class on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I expected some difficulty hooking up to Amtrak's serviceable wireless connection. That's because my laptop is a very-dependable Dell Inspiron 1150 with about 2 GB of memory running single-boot Ubuntu 10.04, the very agreeable Lucid Lynx version. For the record, I'm an occasional Ubuntu enthusiast who tries to keep on top of the latest developments in the Linux world. And I do pay attention. I'm a very faithful user of Ubuntu's wonderful update manager so my Dell is current with the latest OS and software patches. By the way, Ubuntu's Update Manager is far superior to Windows' automated utility.

It would be a safe bet to say that I probably was the only laptop user running Linux on the train to Boston. Apple notebooks were everywhere. My son's Windows 7 machine identified the "AmtrakConnectAcela" signal immediately. Logging on was a breeze. Not so with Ubuntu. My machine's adapter could see and then not see the wireless Amtrak signal but I couldn't make an immediate connection. I tried rebooting the machine several times before I stumbled upon a solution. The solution required a simple disabling and re-enabling (unchecking and re-checking) of the wireless network by right-clicking on the wireless icon on the top panel of the desktop. (My icon appears in the upper right hand side). That did the trick. Thereafter I found the network's performance was slow but acceptable and dropped only once which forced me to log on again.

My guess is that this glitch has something to do with the firewall web page that serves as a gateway to the connection. It popped up easily enough in Windows and ultimately did in Firefox on my Ubuntu machine. But the wireless connection appeared to need some kind of acknowledgment that Ubuntu could not provide on the initial bootup of my machine. At its WiFi FAQ, Amtrak says "You will be able to use AmtrakConnect through any laptop or other portable device that is Wi-Fi enabled." That proved to be true but not as seamlessly as I would like. Whether this is done for security reasons I don't know but it would be nice if Amtrak took Linux users into account.

We love Acela too!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Not so smooth: Peanut butter prices rise

It's going to cost more to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
A peanut shortage in the south means prices for some brands like Jiff and Peter Pan will rise by nearly 40%, making it harder for grocery stores to keep prices low.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Yes there are atheists in foxholes!

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A concert event organized by atheist, agnostic and other non-theist soldiers has been cleared by the Army to take place next spring at Fort Bragg, concert organizers and a spokesman for the post said Monday.

Organizers planned to hold the Rock Beyond Belief event this year, but they canceled after saying Bragg leadership was not providing the same support it gave to an evangelical Christian concert last fall.

Supporters hailed the Army's decision.

"You know those goosebumps you get when your favorite song hits that sweet spot? I got those," said Sgt. Justin Griffith, main organizer of the event and the military director of American Atheists, in an email. "I was overcome with joy and a sense of vindication."

The plan is to hold the event on March 31 at the main parade field at Fort Bragg, where the Christian-themed Rock the Fort concert was held. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins is scheduled to appear, along with musicians, speakers and other entertainment.

"This just might be the turning point in our struggle for acceptance," Griffith said. "I mean it. I get letters daily from service members asking for advice on how to `do something like what's going on at Fort Bragg'."

Final approval for the event came last week, Bragg spokesman Ben Abel said. The festival will get the same treatment from Bragg that other groups receive, he said.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Almost better than the master himself

One of the most powerful and impressive interpretations of ‪Keith Emerson's Tarkus. A stunning accomplishment!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Frezza on the money

The always must-read Bill Frezza:
How come advocating the most extreme separation of church and state earns approving nods from the media while advocating even a minimal separation of economy and state draws accusations of extremism? Does it make you wonder who pays that piper? If it costs a billion dollars to run for president, where does all that money go? How come you rarely see stories about who profits from this slush Niagara as you are carpet bombed by campaign ads? Who stands to lose if the cost of running for office plunges?

As the primary purpose of power in a democracy becomes the redistribution of wealth is it so unnatural that the primary purpose of wealth in a democracy becomes the purchasing of power? If purchasers get their money’s worth what becomes of equality before the law? If purchasers don’t get their money’s worth how long before their money decamps for more hospitable climes?
Very good questions and many more. Read the whole column and weep.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Freedom Foundation Annual Meeting and Installation of Officers

Freedom Foundation Annual Meeting and Installation

 The officers and board members of the Bay State Chapter of Freedoms Foundation for the 2011-12 season are  (seated, l-r) Lino Rullo, Francine D’Andrea, President Joseph Ferrino Jr., Marisa DiPietro and Past President Ed Coletta, and (standing, l-r) Richard Ferrino, Sal Bramante, Buddy Mangini, Ron Vecchia, Barbara Survillas, Philip Salois, and Riccardo Rullo.

More photographs at

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Saturday night delight: Soft Machine Live in Italy 1974

One of the great fusion bands of all-time, in my humble opinion, Soft Machine introduced us to the marvel that is Allan Holdsworth.

YouTube - Soft Machine live on RAI 1974

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Information sharing interferes with 'wisdom of crowds': study

Information sharing interferes with 'wisdom of crowds': study
( -- A statistical phenomenon, called the Wisdom of Crowds, happens when a group of individuals make guesses and the average of the guesses reveal accurate average answers. However, researchers have discovered that when the individuals are made aware of other participant’s guesses, there is a clear disruption to the accuracy of the guesses.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Fukuyama on Hayek

A balanced review a tour-de-force
Unlike Beck, Hayek was a very serious thinker, and it would be too bad if the current association between the two led us to dismiss his thought. Hayek always had problems getting the respect he deserved; even when he was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 1974, the awards committee paired him with the left-leaning economist Gunnar Myrdal. With the passage of time, however, many of the ideas expressed in “The Constitution of Liberty” have become broadly accepted by economists — e.g., that labor unions create a privileged labor sector at the expense of the nonunionized; that rent control reduces the supply of housing; or that agricultural subsidies lower the general welfare and create a bonanza for politicians. His view that ambitious ­government-sponsored programs often produce unintended consequences served as an intellectual underpinning of the Reagan-Thatcher revolution of the 1980s and ’90s. Now that the aspirations of that revolution are being revived by Tea Partiers and other conservatives, it is useful to review some of the intellectual foundations on which it rested.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Current reading

I am currently reading Aristotle by Jonathan Barnes, which is a very good primer on the "prince of philosophy."

From the summary at bookfinder:
The influence of Aristotle, the prince of philosophers, on the intellectual history of the West is second to none. In this book Jonathan Barnes examines Aristotle's scientific researches, his discoveries in logic and his metaphysical theories, his work in psychology and in ethics and politics, and his ideas about art and poetry, placing his teachings in their historical context.

Friday, April 29, 2011

MIT on MainStreets

MIT planning students have done their homework. They were all ears on how best to scope out the future for MainStreets. Next week they'll be presenting at three stakeholder meetings in East Boston.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

R.I.P. Richard Cornuelle, "prince of classical liberalism"

Peter Boettke  on the passing of a great thinker Richard Cournuelle.
In Healing America (1983) Cornuelle argued that what was required was a radical reconsideration of the scope of government responsibility.  Public policy had come to a dead end.  We had come to believe that we cannot make society habitable without making government bigger, and yet we cannot pay the cost of the bigger government without creating more problems that add to the cost of government.  A vicious cycle ensued following the Great Depression --- "Government is growing as it fails, and, to a chilling degree, it is growing because it is failing."

By the late 1960s and 1970s, the failure of government programs was recognized even by those who were entrusted with their management.  By the 1980s, the extent of the failures of the bureaucratic attempt to address the social ills of poverty had intensified.  We don't have much of a choice, Cornuelle tells us, when our policy options are humanity or solvency.  To solve the crisis we didn't need to starve the state of resources (this is not ultimately a tax and spend issue), we needed to starve the state of responsibility (it is a question of scope and fundamentally about political theory).  In other words, if we can theoretically and empirically demonstrate that the voluntary sector can outperform the state sector in the delivery of basic social services, then we can avoid the crisis of the fiscal state (and the inhumanity of bureaucratic 'solutions') and unleash the power of people and the communities they live within, and actively participate in, to tackle the social ills of poverty, unemployment, health and education.  The American Dream is of a society that is at once free, prosperous and caring.  The "good society" Cornuelle argued did not result from grand designs, but from "millions upon millions of caring acts, repeated day after day, until direct mutual action becomes second nature."
Here is his essay "New Work for Invisible Hands."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

For Easter Sunday, Patti Smith

Patti Smith - EASTER

Easter Sunday, we were walking.
Easter Sunday, we were talking.
Isabel, my little one, take my hand. Time has come.
Isabella, all is glowing.
Isabella, all is knowing.
And my heart, Isabella.
And my head, Isabella.
Frederick and Vitalie, savior dwells inside of thee.
Oh, the path leads to the sun. Brother, sister, time has come.
Isabella, all is glowing.
Isabella, all is knowing.
Isabella, we are dying.
Isabella, we are rising.
I am the spring, the holy ground,
the endless seed of mystery,
the thorn, the veil, the face of grace,
the brazen image, the thief of sleep,
the ambassador of dreams, the prince of peace.
I am the sword, the wound, the stain.
Scorned transfigured child of Cain.
I rend, I end, I return.
Again I am the salt, the bitter laugh.
I am the gas in a womb of light, the evening star,
the ball of sight that leads that sheds the tears of Christ
dying and drying as I rise tonight.
Isabella, we are rising.
Isabella, we are rising . . .

Monday, April 11, 2011

Linux turns 20

One of the great stories of human civilization and the impulse to collaborate. The "alternative" operating system that is far more pervasive than you think turns 20. Bravo.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

From 2002 Noel Gallagher performs "Wonderwall"

Noel Gallagher, rare footage.

The amazing Steve Vai

Steve Vai, "For The Love Of God" with an orchestra. Very nice.

Randy Barnett, libertarian lawyer, now arguing against Obamacare, profiled

The man who is making the case against Obamacare.
Barnett, 59, argues that the law’s requirement that almost all Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 is a government intrusion.

Such a mandate is unconstitutional, Barnett says, because the Constitution’s Commerce Clause — the underpinning of much federal regulation — does not give Congress the power to compel Americans to buy a product. In this case, the product is health insurance.

To put his view another way, Congress cannot regulate inactivity as commerce.

“Giving the Congress the power to do these mandates is essentially giving the Congress the power to take over your life,’’ he declared in an interview.
The Notes, a BlogTalkRadio program, hosted by Stephanie Davis and D.R. Tucker featured an interview with Barnett last month.

Listen to internet radio with The Notes on Blog Talk Radio
Listen to internet radio with The Notes on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Too old to rock and roll

Love him or hate him, Phil Collins is a musical talent and far better than the young musicians you find dominating the scene today.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Yeah, like let's blame libertarians

Reason Magazine:

A similar thing happened to me over the weekend. I twisted my ankle playing pick-up basketball. As I clenched my jaw in pain, I could only look up to the sky, shake my fist angrily, and curse the name Robert Nozick.
Read the whole entry. It's not like government didn't have anything to do with the 2008 meltdown.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thought for a day from a Chinese fortune cookie

"It takes more than good memory to have good memories."

Current listening

Ashokan Farewell : Here played by Mark O'Connor.

Background on the composition from Wikipedia.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why do I like this band?

Lacuna Coil!

Bobby Orr on what really matters

Joe Fitzgerald of the Boston Herald on Bobby Orr's great perspective on life. The losses matter very little in the grand scheme.

Friday, January 07, 2011

A programmer never sleeps

An excellent observation about about software programming.
Programming is hard work. It’s an intense mental activity. Good programmers think about their work 24/7. They write their most important code in the shower and in their dreams. Because the most important work is done away from a keyboard, software projects cannot be accelerated by spending more time in the office or adding more people to a project.

Read the whole article.

New Sounds: Robert Fripp’s Soundscapes, Live 2010 - WNYC

The king of ambient music! Robert Fripp’s Soundscapes, Live 2010 - WNYC:

When John Cage was accessible!

AMAZING!: The avant-garde on prime time back in day!

Hat tip: Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A set of accidental photographs of First Night 2011 Boston

From the First Night Parade on Boylston Street in Boston, a broken camera captures reality.

The triumph of the inept photographer!