Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Preparing for life in the twenty-first century. Uh, and a half.

“Top Shelf” Classic movies for Apple TV—Thursday, May 26th, 2016

“Watch classic TV shows and movies recommended just for you. Classix has something for everyone. There’s even cartoons and movies just for kids with family-friendly entertainment.”

Classix is a nice app; the only problems I see are that (a) it doesn’t seem to let you rate movies, despite showing a star rating in the description, and (b) it doesn’t seem to share the watch list automatically between iOS devices. But it has some great old (public domain) movies and it makes it easy to browse and watch them.

This is pretty cool. Brian J. Coleman wrote a “Netflix for classic movies”, by which he means public domain movies. I’ve downloaded his Classix app for Apple TV and it’s pretty good; I’ve already watched House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price. But he’s also blogged about how to write Apple TV applications. One of the things that’s nice about his app compared to too many others—including some from Apple—is that he populates the “top shelf” with recent movie updates. And he has a blog entries showing developers how to work with video, including how to populate the top shelf, with Swift code.

There is no excuse for not populating the top shelf with useful information. Especially apps that frequently update, such as Apple’s own podcast app or the YouTube app.

Coleman’s sample code makes me want to find something to program myself and sideload onto my Apple TV.

Review of the TRS-80 Model 100/200—Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
FullSizeRender for Model 100 from 1916

The TRS-80 Model 100, keyboard and 8-line screen.

I’ve just acquired a TRS-80 Model 100 and I’m taking the giant risk of typing up this review on the Model 100 itself. So far it’s been retaining data when powered off for an hour or so, but how it will hold out when turned off for the 8 or so hours it takes to drive from Michigan to Missouri, and then the 14 or so from Missouri to Texas, I guess I’ll find out.

The manual is unclear on whether the AA batteries, which last for 20 hours of actual use, also assist the NiCAD when the unit is turned off. The NiCAD is probably the original and may or may not be working at all. It doesn’t bode well that unplugging the unit from AC power after installing fresh AA batteries resulted in the unit powering off (though with no data loss). It did not switch seamlessly over to battery power as a modern computer would do.

As a portable computer, this must have been astounding at the time. It has the built-in, simple, word processor that I’m using to type this (it’s more of what we today would call a text editor), an address book, and a scheduler.

The address book and scheduler are literally managed by using the word processor to edit text files; the address book and scheduler apps merely search through the text files, which have completely freeform formatting rules. That is, none.

“Try to keep the record format consistent. For example, you might list the date first, followed by the time, then the location, and finally a comment about the event.”

The Model 100 also has BASIC built in, and BASIC programs can access all of the text files, making this a sort of hard-wired Editorial. That is, you can manipulate your text using BASIC programs that you write or purchase. There is no spell-checker built-in, for example, but I’d be willing to bet that there were spell-checkers available for purchase.

Interestingly, there is very little “save”-ing. Word processor files are automatically saved when exiting the app, and even BASIC files are automatically saved once you give them a name. Trying to save a BASIC program after you’ve named it results in an error: all that is necessary to save is to exit BASIC. Further, file extensions are handled almost automatically: you don’t need to specify extensions when loading or saving word processor, scheduler, or address book files, or even BASIC files. The system appends the correct extension automatically. Only when deleting files do you need to know the extension.

File management is handled through BASIC. There is no rename command, that I can find, but to delete a file you kill it in BASIC.

The Texas Plan: Power to the People—Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
James Madison

James Madison, the first destroyer of the Constitution, introduced twelve destructive amendments, including ten that passed immediately and one that lay submerged for two centuries before surfacing to destroy the constitution, setting records for constitutional destruction unmatched by any successor.

Governor Abbott’s Texas Plan marks him as arguably the most effective libertarian to be elected to high office. His nine proposed amendments in the Texas Plan echo solutions that libertarians have long proposed: let states experiment within their territories, reduce the power of unelected officials to make laws, and provide another bulwark against tyrannical laws.

In general, I’m all for it. In specific, well, if there actually is a convention of the states, it will be necessary to see the text of the amendment proposals that result from it.

Abbott’s proposed amendments all stand alone, so I would assume (and hope) that they would be voted on in each state separately. That is, the more obvious ones (such as prohibiting Congress from making marijuana illegal even if it is grown in a state and never sold outside of it) would be voted on separately and could pass without passing the less obvious ones (such as requiring a seven-justice super-majority for overturning democratically enacted laws).

At least eight of the proposed amendments are clearly good ideas; the only one I have any issue with is the seven-justice supermajority. I have no particular opposition to it, but don’t know that it’s really as necessary as the others.

The most ridiculous argument against the Texas Plan is that because Abbott wants to add amendments to the Constitution, he opposes the Constitution. If that’s the case, the other 27 amendments we’ve passed have already done the job.

In fact, the amendments banning slavery, the amendment repealing prohibition, the amendment clarifying the presidential succession, and the entire Bill of Rights have unquestionably made the Constitution better.

At least one of Abbott’s amendments is a pure restatement of an existing amendment from the Bill of Rights that often gets ignored by the Washington establishment. Ignoring the ninth and tenth amendments is opposing the Constitution; if they supported the Constitution, they’d amend those amendments away using the designated process. Instead, they’re treating the Constitution as something to be opposed instead of made better.

Dr. Frank N. Furter: the left’s answer to transgender bathrooms—Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Rarely has there been a less self-aware meme than this one. It shows two real child molesters who molested young girls, and then a photo of Dr. Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the caption “Not a child molester”. And it’s used as an argument in favor of letting all three into bathrooms, pretending that the first two will self-segregate themselves from taking advantage of the new policies, and that the third is the hated target of those who oppose men in women’s restrooms.

It’s an almost perfect encapsulation of the left’s argument style. First, Tim Curry’s character in Rocky Horror almost certainly was a child molester. We just didn’t see it on screen because there were no children in the movie. But according to the song, Eddie went straight from Teddy Bears to threatening his father with a switchblade to having sex with Furter; it isn’t unlikely that Eddie was underage when Furter started having sex with him. And Furter, who was hell-bent on sex with everyone, everything, and at all times, regardless of consent, would almost certainly have tried to have sex with children had there been any in the movie.

But even assuming that Furter’s initial dealings with Eddie were all above board, and that Furter would have respected the boundaries of any children he met in an isolated location, Furter raped Brad and Janet, he murdered Eddie, and then he served Eddie for dinner.

Dr. Frank N. Furter shouldn’t just be kept out of women’s bathrooms. He should be kept off of earth.1 He’s not a good spokesperson for transgenders unless the left defines transgenders as murderous, cannibalistic rapists.2

Perhaps they do. This may just be another example of the soft bigotry of low expectations that infests the policies of the left. Whether it is promoting policies that assume minorities are mentally inferior and can’t compete with whites, that women are emotionally inferior and will swoon at the mere mention of opposing views, or that blacks are morally inferior and should be excused from punishment for crimes of aggression, praising a transgender cannibal rapist fits right in to the left’s view of the lesser peoples they are trying to “save”. Just as they think of minorities as inferior and naturally violent, they may well think all transgenders are Frank Furter.

Denver: Capitol Hill Books and Kilgore Books—Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
Capitol Hill Books

I discovered Lin Carter’s Callisto series in the discount racks on the sidewalk at Capitol Hill Books.

I know Denver as the Mile High City mainly because of Mile High Comics, which supplied my comic book fix in the eighties when I moved back from a college town with real comic book stores to a small town with just a drug store and a grocery store. Their subscription club kept me in comics and magazines while I figured out what to do with my life, and, later, recovered from an automobile accident.

Of course, most people who think “books” and “Denver” think Tattered Cover. That’s where everyone goes when they’re in Denver. Writers and agents and bloggers rave about it. I’m not going to review it because it is definitively not a “bookstore less traveled”. It’s a fine store, especially if you’re looking for new books. But if you’re a book hound, you should know that there are more bookstores in Denver than TC.

Two that I enjoyed on a leisurely walk through downtown were Capitol Hill Books and Kilgore Books & Comics. These two bookstores are only about fourteen blocks away from each other—about a ten minute walk. And they’re only a thirty-minute walk from Tattered Cover. Both of them had great science fiction books when I was there. Out of those two bookstores, I found six of the books on my list including four of the Ballantine Best Of Science Fiction series.

I picked up The Anubis Gates, a great Tim Powers book, in Kilgore. And I picked up Advise & Consent, a weird senatorial procedural by Allen Drury that started me on an Allen Drury kick, at, appropriately enough, Capitol Hill.

Model 100 from 1916—Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Good old Microsoft and their apocalyptic view that we would never reach the year 2000!

I just acquired this old Model 100 and it works pretty well. I love the address book and scheduler. They are literally just text files, edited using the word processor function, and searched using a simple search tool.

There is a lot to be said for text.

Crony vs. Crony—Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
George Washington goes to war

Perhaps my standards are too high. (SharpWriter, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0)

I’m writing this before the Indiana primary returns come in Tuesday evening, but given that Indiana’s is an open primary, and Donald Trump does well in open primaries, I’m guessing he’s going to win it. So by Wednesday morning when this post goes live the Republican primaries may well be decided in Trump’s favor.

One of the strangest conspiracy theories I’ve been hearing ever since Trump entered the race is that he’s a stalking horse for Hillary Clinton, to keep the Republicans from taking the White House in a year where it seemed impossible for them to lose.

It’s an understandable theory. Trump has supported leftist policies far more than conservative policies, and he’s supported crony government for most of his career, if not all of it. Further, Trump comes across less as a conservative and more as a caricature of what the left thinks conservatives are. It’s as if he’s a Democrat playing the role of conservative.

More recently, however, in keeping with Douglas Adams’s dictum that once you think you understand something it will be replaced with something even more bizarre, there is the competing theory that Trump is really a conspiracy of the Republican establishment. They were looking at an almost guaranteed win in 2016, which would have meant responsibility. Worse, the guaranteed winner might even have been a conservative anti-establishment figure!

They needed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and who has bigger jaws than Donald Trump?

But while the establishment has certainly warmed to Trump lately when the alternative has been the strongly conservative and anti-establishment Ted Cruz, I doubt that either of these conspiracy theories is true. I think it’s more likely that Trump wants to be President, and he looked at the Democratic Party’s system of super delegates, saw it would be practically impossible to beat Hillary Clinton there even with a majority of votes, and so decided to run in the Republican primaries instead.

The reason he looks like the establishment is that its who he hangs out with in DC. Like most of DC, he has no other perspective.

In a Persian Kitchen—Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

The subtitle is “Favorite Recipes from the Near East”. I have four recipes from In a Persian Kitchen in my make often list:

  • Hot yogurt soup, from page 38
  • Eggplant sauce with chicken, from page 90
  • Yogurt & curry sauce chicken, from page 101
  • Spinach orange sauce chicken, from page 104

And I haven’t even tried all the recipes that I want to try. This is the cookbook that convinced me not to remove the skin from eggplant.

There’s an amazing-looking squash stew with nutmeg and beef, a peach stew with paprika and chicken that looks like the food of the gods, and many, many more. There are a lot of lemons, limes, and other fruit, and a lot of wonderful spices.

Maideh Mazda was initially raised Persian in Baku, Azerbaijan, back when it was part of the Soviet Union, and returned to Persia when she was still a child. She talks a little about her experiences, but not much; most of the book is filled with wonderful recipes. There are appetizers, soups, stuffed vegetables and fruits, pilafs, sauces for pilafs, egg casseroles, specifically meat dishes, desserts, and salads.

The sauces are basically stews, and have so far been uniformly amazing. Most of the recipes contain beef, lamb, or chicken; the “meat and fowl” section focuses on kababs and meatball-like recipes.

You can pretty much open the book at random and find something enticing and amazing. I just tried it and found a stuffed apple; the apples are stuffed with yellow split peas, ground beef, cinnamon, and so forth. This is one of my favorite cookbooks and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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