We don’t watch a lot of TV, but we get USA Network on our Basic Cable package, and the family likes to watch Monk.

I have a 5 and a 9 year old. Monk is rated TV-PG. Fine, we can watch it as a family..

I know NCIS comes on right before Monk, and it’s rated TV-14. I don’t watch the show, so I don’t know no much about it other than it stars Mark Harmon and it’s pretty violent. As we gather to watch the show in the living room, I have the TV on the public access channel one channel up.

But USA doesn’t have any commercial breaks between shows. They cut right from NCIS to Monk. They even have a little countdown ticker (“Monk starts in 28 seconds… 27… 26…”) at the bottom of the screen while NCIS is still on. They are expecting families to do what we are doing.

Within 30 seconds of Monk starting, I switch to USA, so we could watch the show come on. Mark Harmon and other people were on the roof of some building. My five year old was watching the Monk countdown in the corner of the screen.

Then, on NCIS, a woman got shot by sniper right in the forehead, blood spattering. She fell to the ground – dead – in a pool of blood spreading from their head. I couldn’t get to the remote fast enough.

I’m no prude. I like zombie and horror movies. But come on, USA. That was just wrong.

How am I supposed to tune in to a PG show like Monk, when it’s scheduled immediately after a violent TV-14 show, with absolutely no buffer in between?

So I don’t think I’ll be watching Monk on Friday nights anymore. I’ll have to watch them on Hulu.

Disappointing. :-(

Went downtown and rode the R-Line with the wife. It still had that new bus smell.

"On The R-Line"

Ate a late lunch at Hard Times Cafe in Glenwood South. The “Cincinnati” Chile, with onions and jalapeƱos, was delicious. It went great with the Highland Gaelic Ale, which I hadn’t tried before.

I chilled out on a comfy sofa while Jen shopped at Ornamentea.

We had fun walking around. The time went too fast.

Too many places are closed on Sundays, though. Bummer.

I’m looking forward to spending an afternoon downtown with the kids soon, checking out Glenwood South and Fayetteville Street and City Market by way of the R-Line. We’ll have to make sure to do it on a Saturday, though.

Congrats to Raleigh for getting the R-Line up and running!

The R-Line is R-Some!

This is the “give a penny, take a penny” tray sitting on the counter of the chinese place where I ate lunch yesterday:


I saw it and thought to myself, “That’s a lot of pennies.”

But it’s the guy the who ordered after me that did something interesting. He placed his order, got his drink and sat down at a table to wait for his order. Then, he took the trouble to go through his pockets collect all the pennies he had, walk back up to the counter and dumped them in the penny tray.

With that many pennies in the tray, I had to guess other people are doing the same thing.

Pennies are junk now, like metallic pocket lint.

What do you do with your pennies?

Tara, my seven year old daughter, made a Halloween card for her grandmother. On the back of the card, she drew a pretty butterfly. The butterfly was happy. Tara added glitter to the card to make the butterfly nice and sparkly. Then, she remembered that Halloween cards are “supposed to be scary.” So she changed the card a bit…. (scroll down)












A coworker of mine falls squarely into the social- and fiscal-conservative camp of the Republican Party. He is not ashamed to say that he voted for Bush in both elections. He believes in a small, limited government and that religion is the basis for morality.

He’s a good guy, though. He not obnoxious at all.

Yesterday, he stopped by my office and talked politics for a few minutes. He knows I’m an ardent libertarian (who doesn’t?) and can easily talk politics without it getting personal.

Looks like even this arch-Republican has had enough of the Bush administration over the lastest debacle. To claim that the President’s and the Vice-President’s offices are not part of the Executive Branch is “completely outrageous,” he says.

Well, yeah. It is. But I was a bit suprised to hear him say it.

Last week, there were reports that Bush’s approval rating had fallen to 26%. That’s the lowest of his term. Lower than Carter’s, and second only the Nixon’s shortly before he resigned. And that was before the “President and Vice-President are above the law” bit. That was before my die-hard Republican co-worker finally became outraged at the latest egregious abuses of power.

I wouldn’t have thought he’d come around, but better late than never.

It seems evens the last vestiges of support for the Bush are finally crumbling. It will be interesting to see the next Bush approval poll .

I really like last.fm. It’s a free streaming radio site where you rate song you hear, in a thumbs up, thumbs down sort of way. As you rate more and more songs, the content getting streamed to you gets tailored to your tastes.

And, dude, I’m hearing some really good music. So good it distracts me from work. I click over to the last.fm client. I click on the artist and song links. I look them up on wikipedia. I search for their lyrics on line. I do image searches to see band pics and album cover art. Seriously, I haven’t enjoyed listening to music this much in years.

I’ve even – shocker – bought music based on what I’ve heard on last.fm.

But only a couple. Most music is beyond my grasp, for two reasons:

Most labels are RIAA members, and I’ve sworn off buying anything from an RIAA member. Everytime I’m thinking about buying a disc, I look up the label and see if they are on RIAA Member List (1). If they’re on that list, they don’t get my money.

It’s bittersweet. It’s good music, but I just can’t bring myself to support the RIAA anymore. I wish there were an effective way to communicate lost sales to these bands and labels, to encourage them to disassociate themselves from the RIAA.

Another reason I don’t buy some music is because it simply isn’t available in the U.S.

It’s no surprise to me that I don’t like mainstream music in the U.S. I rarely listen to commericial radio anymore (thanks ClearChannel!). But I have learned that I like a lot of European bands – bands that I’d never even heard of before because their discs are not distributed or promoted in the U.S.

Last.fm introduced me to them. I look them up on Amazon and many of them are only available as imports, usually costing $25 or for a single disc of music – sometimes over $50 for one disc! While I have no moral objects to buying these discs, since they are not part of the RIAA as far as I know, I still can’t bring myself to shell out that much money for a single disc. I’m not made of money.

Why aren’t these bands available in America, as a matter of course, at ‘standard’ prices? I dunno. Pressing CDs is pretty cheap nowadays.

This is all very disappointing. The Amerian music industry is broken. I want to spend money on music now, with just two principles – the artist must not be associated with and RIAA label, and the music must be reasonably priced.

Software Wars gets updated – barely – by the end of the year, technically fulfilling my promise of “two or three updates per year.”

I’ll let the changes mostly speak for themselves, but I wanted to bring up just a couple things…

Of the many (dozens!) comments I got over the summer when the site got slashdotted, the most common was a request for some of representation of the database conflict, which I have added.

A close second was a request for a showing of the console front (XBox, PS2/3, GameCube/Wii). I struggled with this but eventually decided that, while Microsoft has a major stake in that conflict, it is most likely a different theater of conflict (to extend the “war” metaphor) and the FOSS movement isn’t heavily involved in that theater. I think a “Console Wars” map could cover that, but I have no interest in making one.

Beyond consoles and databases, the comments and requests had a really wide spread. I included a few (like the Office conflict getting its own battle lines) and didn’t include others.

It’s not because I didn’t want to – I just don’t have enough space. I wanted to keep the image within 1024x768 in dimensions and the file size to less than 100k. Within those parameters, there’s only so much I can squeeze in before the text is too small and there’s just too many arrows.

Anyway, I enjoyed the Holidays and hope you did, too. Have a happy new year and here’s hoping FOSS does well in 2007. toast

There have been a number of articles recently speculating about a Republican October Surprise that will turn the election in the favor of the GOP. Most of the speculation deals with an invasion or bombing of Iran.

Check out the articles yourself: Google News “October Surprise”. A few of the more notable ones are:

Gary Hart at the Huffington Post
Thomas Gale Moore on AntiWar.com
Rolling Stone

The Rolling Stone article has a quote by comedian/commentor Bill Mayer:

Who needs an October Surprise when you’ve got Diebold?

Which alludes to a more ominous quote by Joseph Stalin, who was not joking:

It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything. (link)

Polling information however, is showing a surging tide of support for Democrats (or, probably more accurately, against Republicans). Even conservative commentators are talking about loosing Congress to the Democrats:

Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard, How Bad Will It Be?

I follow Electoral-Vote.com and CQPolitics.com, both of which track polling information for individual races for the House and Senate – not just generic Republican vs Democrat polling, but individual candidates in specific races.

By all accounts, the outlook does not look good for Republicans.

But Bush, Cheney and Rove are all upbeat. confidently predicting that the Republican Party will hold the House and the Senate.


I’m confident we’re going to keep the Senate; I’m confident we’re going to keep the House.


I really think we’re going to do reasonably well. And I think we’ll hold the Senate, and I also think we got a good shot at holding the House. … I think the key will be who goes to the polls on Election Day.

Do they know something we don’t know? Maybe. Time did a piece on the GOP’s Secret Weapon, which explains that GOP leaders think they are going to win because they have a far superior “get out the vote” machine for election day, which is pretty much what Cheney was alluding to above.

The prediction is that even though the general voting public largely disapproves of the Republican Party, the GOP will be able to mobilize a much higher percentage of party loyalists on election day to seal the deal in their favor.

There is another issue here: Money. The Time articles points out that the GOP plans to spend $60 million on turnout efforts and advertising campaign late in the election season, vs $14 million for the Democrats.

That all adds up to plausible deniability. Rove doesn’t need an October Surprise. The GOP will keep control of the House and the Senate, a result that flies in the face of all polling data to date, and Rove can shrug it off and credit the result to turnout and late-season campaigning, both of which happen on or too close to election day to show up in any polling data. Thank you, Diebold.

Then, on November 8, they start getting Jeb ready for 2008.

I was in the car with my six year old daughter, Tara, in the back seat. She was doing one of those word search puzzles.

She says to me, “Daddy, I found the word ‘tax’ in my word search. T-A-X.”

“Good,” I reply. I don’t think that was one of the words on the find list, but she found it anyway. “Do you know what a tax is?” I ask.

She thinks for a quick beat, then says, “It’s money you have to pay to keep your stuff.”

They catch on quick, don’t they?

I keep stumbling over the same thing in different contexts: namespacing and how to address particular objects. It’s very context sensitive, and I’m not quite grokking it yet, especially on the ‘pythonic’ way to do it. The documentation is not very clear on a first reading of how to deal with it.

Here’s an example of simple module I just started:

import xml.parsers.expatfrom xml.dom.minidom import parse, parseStringimport string

class RFRData:   DATA = None

   @classmethod   def get(cls):
                    if not DATA:

   @classmethod   def init(cls, conf=None):

   @classmethod   def load_data(cls, conf=None):
                      if conf:
                        if conf.find('

It took me about 15 minutes to find:

  • What module the ExpatError class lived in
  • How to import the module correctly

If I don’t trap the error, and the xml is invalid, I get this message:

ExpatError: mismatched tag: line 21, column 6

Fine, but how to trap it? My expectation, based on that message, would be that I could have this line:

except ExpatError, err:

But no, python reports:

NameError: global name 'ExpatError' is not defined

That won’t work because I only imported a couple methods from the xml.dom.minidom package. So I try…

import xml.dom.minidom[...]except xml.dom.minidom.ExpatError, err:

And no, that doesn’t work, either:

AttributeError: 'module' object has no attribute 'ExpatError'

Which, of course, is correct, because it’s just a dom module, not a parser module. I just tried those two reflexively, based on my expectations.

So, where does ExpatError live? In the xml.parsers.expat module, where one would expect it to live. And I have to import it to trap errors from xml.dom.minidom.parse().

My beef is that:

  • The documentation for xml.dom and xml.dom.minidom don’t mention the need to use xml.parsers.expat directly, nor is it shown in the examples.
  • Python error handling returns an exception object from legitimate code that I can’t reference unless I import an additional package, and it is not clear at all which package I should be importing. It took me a few minutes of looking at the docs to find it this time, but in a difference situation, this type of problem could have stumped me for a while.