Alberto Gonzales for Torturer General? No thanks.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the Bush administration, and that I’m terribly disappointed in the results of the 2004 presidential election. But I’m growing even more alarmed about the early actions of this “same as the old boss” president in his new term. He wants to replace all of his cabinet positions with hand-picked yes-men and yes-women to eliminate any dissenting opinions from his closest advisers. Evidently Bush can’t handle reasonable dissent, as evidenced by the reduced role Colin Powell was forced to play in the latter part of his term as Secretary of State.

One of those Bush picks is for Alberto Gonzales, whom George Bush would like to see replace John Ashcroft in the Attorney General position. This is an extremely dangerous move, in my opinion, and could further threaten the stability of already shaky international relationships. Largely because of Gonzales’ past work, Bush saw fit to disregard the Geneva Conventions and allow torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Powell publicly opposed this move, and felt that all prisoners should be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. Gonzales, on the other hand, has described the Geneva Conventions as “obsolete” and “quaint” in official memos.

Why would we want to place this person in the position of Attorney General? Do we care that little about human rights? Or do those rights only apply to Americans in Bush’s eyes?

In filling his cabinet only with ardent supporters, and with Republican control of Congress wrapped up, Bush is preparing to steamroll anyone who gets in his way, and that is not an acceptable or responsible way to run a Presidency of the United States.

If these issues concern you as well, please call your state Senators today and urge them NOT to vote for confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. Today, 60 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, let’s make a stand for human rights, not against them.

For more about Gonzales’ record, see the following links.

Wikipedia

Boston Globe Online

American Idol, Guitar Player Style

In a rare meeting of Texas and Wisconsin, two of my favorite guitarists will be playing at the Boulder Theater in a few days. Willy Porter will be opening the show for Eric Johnson in the same small venue where E-Town is taped every week. I’ve seen both of these artists at this venue before, and both shows were excellent.

Willy Porter is a phenomenal guitar player and songwriter, and it stuns me that he hasn’t gotten the national recognition that he deserves. I think part of the problem has been that his studio work is much more toned down than his live playing. When he plays live, he covers all the parts that are covered by other musicians on the studio tracks. With intimate knowledge of the fretboard and alternate tunings, Willy is able to adjust his guitar during the show to play any of the tracks off his albums, and usually throws in a unique cover or two.

Eric Johnson, while not a household name, is at least well-known in the guitar player community, and has been since he appeared on the cover of Guitar Player magazine in 1986. (The cover caption said, “Who is Eric Johnson, and why is he on our cover?”) A veteran of the music business and its contract pitfalls, Johnson has somehow managed to stay at the forefront of guitar virtuosos for the last twenty years, despite sparse album releases. In recent years, his album output has increased, in part due to a relaxing of his legendary perfectionism.

I’m very excited about the show, and will report back about it when it’s over.

Oh, the Important Advice for the Day: Always open Yoplait yogurt containers away from your body.

Oh Clementines

I love my Treo 650. This entire blog entry, including the picture and the hyperlinks, is being generated on the Treo.

First, I took a picture of a coworker’s clementines sitting in formation on the floor (don’t ask) using the built-in camera. Then I resized the picture using JPGview. Then I uploaded it to my FTP site using VFSFTP. Then I moved it to the appropriate folder on my web server using a DOS batch file, which I activated by logging into my desktop computer using PalmVNC. Finally, I went to my private WAP submissions page and typed this entry.

Is there an easier way? I’m sure there is, using some pre-constructed software. But the point of this Creativity Journal is to explore creative things, and being able to say I used my own creativity to put together this site and devise my own method of doing this means something to me.

Update: In the interest of full disclosure, I did edit this post after uploading. I had specified the HREF link for the picture incorrectly, so I respecified it within the text of the post. That made the picture show up. Also, I added line breaks. Evidently, the Treo 650 sends a different CR/LF combination than the Treo 300 did, so no paragraphs showed up. No problem; I just need to do a little more work on the code.

Treo 650 and Weight Watchers Software

A few years ago, I started on a weight loss program, inspired by an overheating incident while picking up trash for my company’s Adopt-A-Highway program. At that time, my PDA of choice was the Handspring Visor Deluxe, and I was able to track my calorie intake using a great program called DietLog. In about three months, I dropped nearly forty pounds before I hit a plateau. I still had ten or fifteen pounds to go to be in a truly healthy weight range, but I didn’t beat myself up over it, since I felt and looked much better.

My next PDA was a Handspring Treo 300, and I loaded DietLog’s evolution, BalanceLog, onto it. It worked fine, but didn’t do much to get me off my plateau. I still had to lose some weight to be close to the standards set by the National Institute of Health.

Recently, I upgraded to the new Treo 650 by Pa1mOne, a smartphone with a high-resolution screen, SD card slot, and built-in thumb keyboard. The device only (“only”?) has 32 Mb of memory, and I was aware of that going in, but I figured that wouldn’t be an issue for me since I was upgrading from a 16 Mb device. Of the 32 Mb on the Treo 650, about 23 Mb is actually usable by programs, so I figured I would still be ahead of the game when upgrading from 16 Mb.

I knew that the memory concerns about the new Treo were due to the fact that it has non-volatile flash memory (a good thing) and that it addresses that memory in a less efficient manner than its predecessor (a bad thing.) For example, the same contact information stored in my Treo 300 takes up nearly twice as much memory on my Treo 650 because of the way the memory must be addressed. Again, no big deal. I don’t have that many contacts or databases on my PDA, so I should have plenty of room.

Enter Weight Watchers. As a New Year’s Resolution, my girlfriend and I joined, hoping to get rid of the extra pounds. Being the geek that I am, I really did not relish the idea of carrying around a booklet to count my points, and thought it would be cool if Weight Watchers had a PDA application available. I checked the website, and after expressing some frustration that the their site refuses connections from Firefox, I reluctantly opened it in Internet Explorer. Sure enough, they have something called Weight Watchers On-the-Go that has all of the point values and tracking tools that I need. I signed up immediately.

The website said I needed to make sure I had enough memory on my device before installing. I had about 7 Mb free, which they said would be sufficient, though close to the minimum system requirement. I tried installing, and the installation went well except for one thing: the 27,000 record food database wouldn’t load. I tried clearing more space on the handheld, moving several applications to the SD card. When I had 12.7 Mb free, I tried again. Again, everything would load except for the food database.

At this point, I began to suspect that the Treo 650’s memory mishandling was causing a problem with all these database records. I sent an e-mail to the Weight Watchers tech support people, and three days later I got a response. In a nutshell, they said that I would not be able to install the WW On-the-Go program on the Treo 650 because they were experiencing “major incompatibilities” with the device, and were working with Pa1mOne to fix the problem. I wrote back and asked if those “major incompatibilities” had anything to do with inefficient memory storage for database records, but I haven’t gotten a response.

Here’s my guess: According to the Treonauts bloguide, database records take up 30% more space on the Treo 650 than on previous devices. In this case, I think that estimate is low. Considering that each record is stored in 512 byte chunks, even a database with small records like foods and their point values will take up half a kilobyte for each record. If Weight Watchers puts their entire database on the handheld, as they claim, the foods database alone would take up about 13.5 Mb on the Treo 650 (assuming 512 bytes per record and 27,000 records.)

That’s a huge waste of space, and doesn’t support Pa1mOne’s assessment that the only people who will be limited by the memory problem are power users. Sure, I consider myself to be a power user, but even if I weren’t, the foods database alone in the Weight Watchers program would gobble nearly 60% of the available memory on the handheld, not counting the code itself or any other programs the user might want to run. To me, a Weight Watchers member who just wants to use his or her PDA to track points does not constitute a power user.

This could have something to do with code bloat on the part of Weight Watchers (which would be a bit ironic), but I think the bigger problem lies in the lack of foresight by Pa1mOne. I read in one of the comments on the Treonauts site that the choice of processor for the Treo 650 and Tungsten T5 limits the non-volatile memory choices to either 32 Mb or 256 Mb. If that’s the case, it explains a lot. But if so, Pa1mOne should have elected to go with the 256 Mb option, rather than limiting users with a low memory overhead.