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Archive for April, 2004

Good vs. Bad

In the wake of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, Tim Blair notes the odd lack of outrage over far worse revelations.

The difference between us (the good guys) and them (the bad guys) is that we punish our soldiers when they do things they’re not supposed to do, instead of adding the latest clever torture ideas to the basic training manual. I have absolutely no doubt that the men responsible for this will be tried and, if the evidence holds up, sentenced appropriately. That’s the way it works.

That said, many of the reports so far seem fairly tame as “torture” goes. Not what I was fearing when I read the headlines, and certainly not up to the imaginative standards of the Iraqi secret police. The actual charges of beatings are horrible and must be taken seriously, but I have a hard time getting outraged over posed naked prisoners and psychological scare tactics. Many of the same people most ostentatiously concerned about this incident are the same ones who were also terribly upset when Saddam was “humiliated” by being given a dental exam and shown on TV with a frowny face. Forgive me if I think their standards are kinda suspect.

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I’d forgotten all about this cool geographic reference site until I saw the new name search feature mentioned on the always interesting Pop Culture Junk Mail.

I know that there are places named Bryan (and even spelled right). But oddly enough there are alsotwo towns named Costin.

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Check it out. Remarkably lifelike. And she’s cute, too. The Audrey (UK) voice seems to be the most refined of the English language choices.

Wow, this has really come a long way. Years ago I had a software-based speech synthesizer on my C64 called SAM (for Software Automatic Mouth). It was understandable, but it took time to get comfortable with the accent. Listen to a sample and you’ll see what I mean. You’d never mistake it for anything human, but for an 8-bit system it wasn’t half bad. The Votrax hardware speech synthesizer was another popular choice of the time. (Darn it, I can’t find any Votrax audio samples.)

Travelling back in time we find analog voice synthesis, basically a special-purpose sound synthesizer desiged to simulate the sounds made by the human vocal apparatus. The Voder from the 1939 World’s Fair required a skilled operator using a special keyboard. The results were surprisingly understandable, but given the operational overhead it doesn’t seem like a very practical technology.

It would have been fascinating to see how far the technology could have gone. Just imagine. We could have had gleaming seven-foot metal robots, no doubt controlled by a colossal central electronic brain, serving cold drinks, and reading the latest news of 1940 in the melodious tones of the Voder. But here it is, 2004, and my car isn’t even nuclear powered yet. How depressing.

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Why can’t soda machines look like these anymore? Even the less elaborate machines from the 70’s had a certain solid, faux-woodgrain charm. My own Coke machine dates from that era. Modern machines, despite the full-height NASCAR and sports graphics, are completely characterless by comparison.

And, speaking as someone who puts way too much money into soda machines, the most recent batch of Coke machines are very frustrating. The older machines, up until a few years ago, had a little light right next to each soda’s button that always told you if that particular drink was sold out. So simple.

The newer machines over at work also have a little sold-out light. But it doesn’t tell you anything unless you put your money in and press the button first. And sometimes the machine just sits there for 10 seconds clunking before the light comes on. Stupid machine.

I strongly suspect that this new sold-out behavior is deliberate. It forces you to being a transaction before telling you if the product is available. It’s harder to back out than to buy something else.

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Hold fast.

Here’s A fine post on the CPA memo published by the Villiage Voice. The VV’s take on this is not entirely unbiased, to say the least.

There are things that must be done in Iraq and done soon. Unlike some commentators I’m not willing to believe that the situation in Iraq is being run by idiots. In fact, it’s the people who’ve cast doubt on the competence of this millitary operation who have been wrong every single time. What’s happening in Iraq right now is not a huge surprise, and I’m certain it was planned for as well as any contingency could be.

Leaving is simply not an option, and the Spanish will discover before too long that their rapid retreat hasn’t bought them any safety. We need to stay and finish the job.

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Early Cars and Old Ads

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Make Blank Books, Sketch Books or Repair Paperback Books with a Simple Japanese Bookbinding Technique — a Tutorial

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Gummi vs Gummi

A trip to the store for cat food ended in deadly conflict tonight. I bought two bags of gummi bears: one Haribo, one Black Forest. It was my depraved plan to pit one against the other, solely to satisfy my hideous appetites.

But wait! Something is very wrong. It’s been a while since I’ve had Black Forest Gummy Bears, but these don’t taste like they should. They’re cloyingly sweet, and much softer than I remembered. Generic gummi bears taste like melted-popsicles and usually leave an unpleasant perfumey aftertaste that just won’t go away. These Black Forest bears are slightly better than that, but overall I’m very disappointed. Is it my imagination, or is this a recent change?

Haribo to the rescue. A distinctive chewy texture, delicate fruity flavors, and no icky aftertaste. Yay! And Haribo’s US distibutor is located nearby in Baltimore, so the local stores are always well stocked. The search is over. You were with me all the while.

While I’monthe subject, here’s an old but fairly complete comparative review of many gummi and psdeuo-gummi products. Black Forest brand isn’t listed in the navigation for some reason, but they get a couple (unfavorable) mentions in the other sections.

newtimes.com | Gummipalooza

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Poke Poke Poke

Don’t bug this guy, or you’ll be sorrrrry.

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The Heal Your Church Web Site is a really good idea. Many church sites, for all their good intention and noble message, are stuck in the early 90’s Geocities mode of design. That’s not effective communication, nor is it likely to leave a positive impression on visitors.

I’m assisting my own Pastor with rebuilding his church web site right now after he was abandoned by his previous hosting provider. The new site is simple and requires some expansion, but it adheres to standards and should be fairly easy for a non-technical person to maintain.

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