A wireless Year in Review

Live from my bedroom: the aforementioned connectivity problems have been solved, thanks to a wi-fi router and a new laptop. The laptop is an eMachines M5312. eMachines used to have a reputation for making cheap, crappy computers. Now, as laptops have become increasingly commodified, they’ve stayed cheap and overcome their crappiness. This one has a 54g integrated wireless LAN, widescreen monitor, DVD/CD-RW, and plenty of memory and speed. Normally selling for $1250, Best Buy has a $250 rebate offer that takes the price down to a hard to beat $1000 (good through Jan. 3). Give this model a look if you’re in the market for a notebook computer.

I’m counting on wi-fi to improve my productivity this semester. Since I work far better in coffee shops than I do at home or in a dorm room, this should increase my blogging action and decrease the number of papers begun at 1 am the morning before they’re due.

I suppose it’s sadly fitting that I’m posting New Year’s Eve about my improved relationship with my computers rather than with a woman, but such has been 2003. Fortunately, other parts of my life saw more success this year. Highlights:
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Home for the holidays

The dearth of recent posts is due to my being on the road for the past week, but now I’m back home in Spring, TX for the next couple weeks (albeit with a malfunctioning router that limits my Net access). Anyone in town who wants to do something, be in touch (that includes people I may not have seen in years who just happen to have found this website. You know who you are).

In the meantime I’ve done some housecleaning on the sidebar, rearranging the links to other blogs in a more useful way, a la Stone. Notable changes include a corrected link to Will Wilkinson’s Fly Bottle and a long overdue link to Joanne McNeil’s weblog (currently on holiday hiatus).

More to come soon…


Nucleus Shrugged

From Greg Bear’s introduction to “Blood Music” in The Collected Stories of Greg Bear:

“Cells are self-making and self-regulating in ways we never imagined only a few decades ago. In other words, our cells are intelligent, in their way, and sometimes even break loose from their slavery and assert their individuality.

“We call such things tumors.

“I wonder — do tumor cells read the genetic equivalent of Ayn Rand?”

I’ve read the passage several times this morning and I’m still not sure if this is a compliment to Rand for the liberating force of her novels or a shot at the social skills of some Objectivists. Maybe it’s both.



As of today, I am no longer an intern and once again an unemployed college student. I celebrated with a great send off with the guys from my department at Capitol City Brewery, where 2 strong drinks and a shot of Old Grand Dad bourbon hit me hard enough that “I almost falled down.” (You can see that my coworkers have considerably worn down my asceticism these past 2 weeks.)

I’ll probably write more of my D. C. experience later, but as of now I still have a week to go here. On the 23rd I’ll head down to NC, spend the 26-27th driving to Houston via Nashville, and then by the Jan 10 I’ll return to Fido coffee shop, frisbee on the Lawn, and late night queso at Vanderbilt.


Feelin’ Groovy

I just got back from Simon and Garfunkel’s Old Friends concert at the MCI Center, easily the best concert I’ve ever attended. I went with Court, who is not only into free markets and coffee, but also knows all of S&G’s songs and so made the perfect person to enjoy it with.

For the past few years I’ve been much more into Paul Simon’s later work, with its South African and South American influences. Seeing the duo in action tonight, though, has renewed my appreciation for their early work, and also made me realize that I’ve dramatically underappreciated Art Garfunkel’s vocals. His “Bridge Over Troubled Water” elicited the longest stream of applause I’ve ever witnessed, and justly so.

The biggest surprise came about midway through the concert when Paul and Art began talking about the influence the Everly Brothers had on them. I knew in advance that there was going to be a set of the Everly Brothers’ music; I didn’t know that the Brothers themselves would be there to perform it. After a few songs on their own, S&G joined them for “Bye Bye Love.” Seeing these four legends on stage together was a once in a lifetime treat.

Other highlights included a jazzed up version of “Homeward Bound” (it works and I want a recording of it!), a haunting rendition of “Kathy’s Song,” and my favorite “The Only Living Boy in New York.” The concert closed on a second encore with a touching “Leaves that are Green” and then the entire audience dancing to “Feelin’ Groovy,” which by that time is exactly how we all felt.


Eye of the Needle

This official said Bush’s closest aides are promoting big initiatives on the theory that they contribute to Bush’s image as a decisive leader even if people disagree with some of the specifics. “Iraq was big. AIDS is big,” the official said. “Big works. Big grabs attention.” — from a recent Washington Post article on Bush’s rumored ambitions for a new Moon mission

As if remaking the Middle East, expanding Medicare, and making sure no child is left behind is not enough to keep the Bush administration busy, it’s now looking for even more ways to perpetuate the myth that only the government can take on ambitious projects. This, to put it mildly, is disappointing, especially coming from such a conservative president.

For a breath of fresh air, take a look at this article by science fiction writer David Brin. In it he describes an innovative way to harness philanthropy to accomplish great things. His proposal for an “Eye of the Needle” foundation is one of those creatively simple ideas that makes reading SF so enjoyable and one that libertarians could truly get behind (if you want to get right to the EON idea, skip to page 2 of the article).

Brin is also the author of The Transparent Society, a thought provoking book on technology and privacy, and the novel Sundiver, which I’m currently reading and enjoying.



Today my first non-pseudonymous article of the semester in The Slant comes out. See “Computer science student invents Friendster spin-off” for the satirical history of Sexter,* the latest social networking website. (My apologies to VCS and Tolman, and to non-Vandy people who miss some of the jokes.)

Also in this issue, Robert Saunders continues the tech/sex theme with “Camera phones revolutionize phone sex,” Ceaf Lewis reports on Howard Dean’s outdated foreign policy, Andrew Banecker covers the unsuccessful Middle West peace talks, and Mrs. Claus answers readers’ questions. See the full issue right here.

*Sexter.com does exist. Not surprisingly, it’s a porn site.


Continuing education

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the 21st Amendment, the one that put an end to Prohibition. Even an ascetic like me was willing to celebrate this with a few (ok, more than a few) drinks last night. However, I think this excerpt from an actual conversation at the bar demonstrates that I learned all the wrong things in my first three years of college:

Court: “Here, try this, it’s a Long Island iced tea.”

Me: “Oh, no thanks, I don’t like tea.”

After being informed that there is no actual tea in a Long Island iced tea I decided I liked it. Other new experiences last night included tej, an Ethiopian honey wine, and tequila shots with my buddy Wyatt to honor my impending departure from the internship program. I think I’ll be repeating the tej before the tequila.

Celebrating the end of Prohibition was fun, but there’s reason to beware of neoprohibitionists sneaking in stifling regulations. New from Cato, see “Backdoor to Prohibition: The New War on Social Drinking” by Radley Balko.


Fishing for a holiday bonus

Justin Logan gushes over D. C. City Councilmember Carol Schwartz and provides his own testimony against the Smoke Free Workplaces Act of 2003. He forcefully demonstrates the potential human cost on small business owners and restaurant/bar workers, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss.

For more info, see Ban the Ban.


Free Liberal

I have an op-ed supporting the D. C. voucher proposal in the December-January issue of The Free Liberal, a new libertarian magazine available on several college campuses in the D. C. area. In the same issue Court has a piece on the steel tariffs and Tommy has one on decentralizing the forest service. I’ll post links when they’re up on the Web.


The Future of instant messaging

Via Slashdot: Queue magazine has an interesting article detailing several prototypes for the future of instant messaging technology. I won’t go into detail, but basically the goals are to make it easier for people to choose a good time to contact each other (more than just “away” or “idle”) and to make IM conversations include more of the cues of face to face communication. The only innovation I’m truly wary of here is character-by-character transmission, which would make it more important than ever to think before you type.