Posts from 2009

Facebook Without Facebook

JWZ‘s Christmas present to the whole interwebs is a post detailing how to get all your Facebook updates without logging in to Facebook. Yep, all those notes, links, and status updates can flow into your feed reader of choice, where you can read up without the lunacy of The Facebook Experience. Perfect.

[What’s that, you say? You like logging in to Facebook, spending time there? I see. You and I are not wired up similarly. You also like going to the mall this time of year, yes?]

Great News: Pretty Much Everything’s Cool

It’s odd to think back on the time—not so long ago—when there were distinct stylistic trends, such as “this season’s colour” or “abstract expressionism” or “psychedelic music.” It seems we don’t think like that any more. There are just too many styles around, and they keep mutating too fast to assume that kind of dominance… . We’re living in a stylistic tropics. There’s a whole generation of people able to access almost anything from almost anywhere, and they don’t have the same localised stylistic sense that my generation grew up with. It’s all alive, all “now,” in an ever-expanding present, be it Hildegard of Bingen or a Bollywood soundtrack. The idea that something is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective consciousness.
— Brian Eno on The Death of Uncool. I love this idea; I hope he’s right.

[spotted at The Morning News; emphasis mine]

Justice (or something like it)

I will never forget the date that my longtime colleague Rex Farrance was murdered: It happened on my birthday in 2007. The better part of a year passed before we had suspects in custody. Of the three, one turned state’s evidence, and the other two, including the alleged shooter, stood trial earlier this year. I attended a portion of that trial, which ended in conviction for the shooter and a hung jury for the accomplice. Said accomplice was retried and convicted earlier this month. Today came sentencing. Both men will spend the rest of their lives behind bars. No possibility for parole. The accomplice who testified against his cohorts will also spend a decade or two in a cage. A fourth accomplice was never identified or apprehended. Rex is still dead. Families are forever scarred. Nobody wins. Nobody wins.

[Thank you, Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewitt, for … read full post…

Dear Literature Geeks

Are there any of you out there? Folks who crave a challenging, somewhat traumatic, and ultimately immeasurably-rewarding reading experience? Let me recommend something on the highest possible terms: Infinite Summer is your chance to spend the summer reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest with online guidance and support sponsored by The Morning News and An Event Apart.

After Wallace’s death last fall, I pulled my copy of the Jest off the shelf. Its bookmarks (yes, plural; you need two to read this book) were still right where I’d left them; I’d quit a few years back, less than a fifth of the way through. But the tail-end of 2008 turned out to be the right time for me to tackle the thing again, and when I finished it early this year, all I really knew was that I’d never had a literary experience so meaningful. (This from someone who’s … read full post…

Mad Props: Special Election Edition

Cheat Sheet
1A - NO
1B - YES
1C - NO
1D - NO
1E - NO
1F - NO
Oohwee! Look, folks! It’s a Special Election! Meaning, in this case, the people of California have a special, bonus chance to inflict grievous harm upon their beloved state via the initiative process. Is this your first time with Mad Props? Then just know that as a native Californian and lifelong student of politics, I’ve come to view statewide ballot measures as something of a menace. In several elections, I’ve voted NO on every single proposition; any given measure has a very steep uphill climb to convince me it’s worth a YES. [previous editions of Mad Props: Feb ’08 · Oct ’08]

This time around, we’ve got six propositions presented to us by the Democrats in the state legislature, six Republicans called the Sacramento Six, and good old … read full post…

A Note On Presidential Pets

We all remember George W.’s dog, Barney, and most of us remember the senior Bushes’ scribal pooch, Millie. The Clintons of course had Chelsea’s cat, Socks, and Buddy, the chocolate Lab that Bill got himself after everything went all wrong and he needed a friend. But can you name any of Reagan’s six dogs? (Only a Republican could name a Golden Retriever “Victory.” That poor, poor creature.) Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy had a cat called Misty Malarky Ying Yang, which is a bit of a hoot, but as always, deeper history is far more entertaining. So:

Herbert Hoover had a Setter he called Eaglehurst Gillette. Calvin Coolidge had two raccoons, Rebecca and Horace, and two lion cubs, Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau. (Coolidge’s menagerie also included a wallaby, a bear, and a pygmy hippo.) Teddy Roosevelt, who apparently liked full names for his critters, had a garter snake named Emily … read full post…

Things I Have Read Recently That You Should Read Too

  • ITEM: What does one trillion dollars look like?
  • ITEM: I cannot visit New York right now, but reading a first-hand account of a subway adventure helps dull that pain. (Once again, yay for blogs.)
  • ITEM: Obama’s gift to Prime Minister Brown ruined by DVD region encoding.
  • ITEM: “Brain decline” begins at age 27, sez a University of Virginia study.
  • ITEM: Ray Ratto reminds us the present owner of the Oakland Athletics is a scoundrel.
  • ITEM: If you are a “content person” or a “Web 2.0 person” you have already read it; now everybody who loves newspapers needs to read it, too: Clay Shirky’s “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable”
  • ITEM: The wise man was wise indeed: Frankincense relieves anxiety and depression.
  • ITEM: Children with older fathers have lower IQs (and some health risks too). (And then again, IQ tests are shite.)

Fix Screwy Fonts in Firefox 3.1 on Ubuntu

Firefox 3.1 beta 3 is expected to arrive this week. If you’re running the current version of Ubuntu Linux, this new Firefox edition (codenamed ‘Shiretoko‘) is already easily installable via an unofficial package repository.

However, due to an oddity in Ubuntu’s default font settings, the fonts in Firefox 3.1 look spindly and kinda bizarre (though in no way unreadable) on Ubuntu Intrepid (8.10) machines. (The same apparently happens in the nascent Jaunty (9.04) version of Ubuntu; it’s being treated as a bug.) This issue has been noticed over at Ubuntu Forums but no simple solution was forthcoming. Until now.

Here is a simple fix for the spindly, messed-up fonts you see in Firefox 3.1 if you install it under Ubuntu Intrepid (8.10). In a Terminal window, issue these commands:

sudo mkdir /etc/fonts/conf.disabled
sudo mv /etc/fonts/conf.d/10-* /etc/fonts/conf.disabled
sudo mv /etc/fonts/conf.d/53-* /etc/fonts/conf.disabled
You’ll need to restart X (press Control-Alt-Backspace after … read full post…

Instant Bliss In Every Atom”

I learned many-many things from “The Unfinished,” a piece by D.T. Max about the late David Foster Wallace in this week’s New Yorker, but I want to focus on one. I learned that Wallace in fact knew something about true happiness. He was writing about it. It was the subject of his incomplete novel. Quoting:
A typed note that Wallace left in his papers laid out the novel’s idea: “Bliss—a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious—lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.”
(Wanna … read full post…