Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Passage of Time

Sunshine on my Shoulder

You reach a point in your life when the saying "there are more days behind me than in front of me" really means that. Time and biology combine to work their inevitable alchemy on your body, leaving you with thinning hair, an expanding waistline, increasing wrinkles, and wattles of flesh about the neck. Even the mind begins to loose it's capabilities; facts are lost, and the limber mental gymnastics you used to perform in pursuit of the furtherance of your carrier grow ever more difficult.

As a Christian my faith is supposed to be strong enough not to let the thought of death bother me. But my faith, like the rest of me, is imperfect at best, and like my flesh grows more feeble as time passes. The root of my faith isn't in me so much as in my lovely wife, the woman who's health disability has caused her far more physical suffering than I've ever experienced. The woman with three back operations, who had to have her left knee replaced twice because the first operation left a colony of MRSA that eventually grew and put her in the hospital with a constant temperature of 103. A woman who suffered from this and far more. In spite of all of that her faith is still strong, far stronger than mine.

The 28th of October is her birthday, the start of a four day celebration that ends on Halloween. I won't say how old she is, out of decades of growing respect and love. I hope she's with me for a lot more birthdays. For on the day she passes on, she'll more than likely take me with her.

The Decadence of Jewel Staite and Friends

Today is the second day of Vulcan Event's "Away Mission: Orlando." (You can go Google about it). Some of the guest stars include Patrick Stewart, David Warner, and Jewel Staite. I wasn't paying any attention to this until Staite tweeted about it, leaving a link to the event. I took a gander at it and that's when I began to wonder just what planet she and her friends really come from.

First were the prices to participate. Yep, you gotta pay to play. The highest price is a Platinum Reserved Weekend with all sorts of goodies;
  • A reserved seat in the first rows of the main theater all weekend.
  • Admission to a private cocktail party with celebrity guests in attendance.
  • Four autographs vouchers for use with any of our celebrity guests. (One of the four autograph vouchers can be used for Sir Patrick Stewart's autograph.)
  • Etc, etc, etc, bling, bling, bling.
Everything that your decadent geek heart could desire. The price of admission for this little fête? A mere $299.

Here's an economic reference point for Staite and Company. Florida's minimum wage is $7.33/hour. That's $292.40/week before taxes on a wage that leaves you officially below the poverty level. I guess the high cost of a Platinum ticket is to keep the riff-raff out. A mere Gold ticket is just 2/3rds the price for $199. For a ticket price that would be the monthly utilities for most on minimum wage, you can't get drunk with the stars (no cocktail party) and only you've only two vouchers for autographs instead of four (but at least you can get a Sir Patrick autograph!). Even general admission is rather steeply priced. And the cost of individual autographs; don't those folks get enough at their day jobs? Nope, they ain't givin' nothin' away at the Away Mission.

And then there's all the dressing up like make-believe characters. Since this is right next to Halloween, I'm sure there's bound to be a few gruesome and bloody costumers roaming about. Well here's a dress-up idea. You can go as Scott Olsen, the Occupy Oakland protester who was shot in the face with a tear-gas canister earlier this week.

With all the problems we have to face right here and right now on this our home planet, the idea of escaping into a bright and sunny future (even the fictional world of Firefly and Serenity were too bright and antiseptic, even including the animalistic Reavers) is irresponsible at best. What problems could we actually solve in this world, and how much more quickly might we march into one of these brighter, shinier futures, if we could devote all this energy pumped into these make-believe worlds into helping the real world around us?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

Rita Mae Brown, Sudden Death (Bantam Books, New York, 1983), p. 68.
Question: When you're running for President, what do you do when you're in last place with your own party?

Answer: If you're Rick Perry, fifth place out of five with just a 6% approval rating, you go for negative campaigning against the President. In Rick's case that means dragging up the birther question that President Obama soundly answered with then-presidential hopeful Donald Trump first brought it up, right before the birth certificate was produced, right after which a U.S. special forces team went in and killed Osama bin Laden. We don't hear much about The Donald anymore, unless you're Rick Perry and you decide to "just have some fun" at The Donald's expense. With that kind of a comment, Rick Perry comes across as a real jerk. Not presidential material at all.

Jeb Bush Weighs In

Not only did Perry strike a nerve with the rank and file such as myself (being a Democrat, mind you), he struck all the wrong sorts of nerves with Republican heavyweights. Jeb Bush, in an email to the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, stated "Republican candidates should categorically reject the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States. It is a complete distraction from the failed economic policies of the President." Well, not to put too fine a point on this Jeb, but all of this economic shitstorm we're still in the middle of started on your big brother's watch...

Whatever my issues with Jeb, I never said the man was stupid. Far from it. Jeb Bush graduated from the University of Texas at Austin Phi Beta Kappa in 1973 with a B.A. in Latin American Studies, taking only 2 1/2 years to complete all his coursework. How did Rick Perry compare? He graduated from Texas A&M University with a 2.5 grade point average in 1972, with a bachelor’s degree in animal science.

I know what you're going to say. There are lots of studies showing a poor correlation between college grades and future success. And that may be true with selective statistics. But I've seen both men in action. If I had just two choices, Rick or Jeb, I'd choose Jeb in a cold New Your minute. Jeb projects a far more polished, far more intelligent demeanor than Rick ever has. Jeb is demonstrably more intelligent and Gets It, both in college as well as in life. Perry doesn't, and has demonstrated this repeatedly, especially his dismal performance in every recent debate he's participated in.

Besides, as everyone knows, just as any Georgia Tech graduate will always be better than any University of Georgia graduate, so any UT Austin graduate will always be better than Texas A&M graduate.

It's such a pity Jeb is a Republican.

But Wait, There's More!

This birther controversy got its start amongst the Teabaggers. And that's not the only extreme position they've taken with regards to Obama and the Democrats. The extremism in the Republican party has gotten so bad that Pat Robertson said [LINK], and I quote:
Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the front runners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election. Now whether this did it to Cain, I don’t know, but nevertheless, you know, you appeal to the narrow base and they’ll applaud the daylights out of what you’re saying, and then you hit the general election and they say “no way” and then the Democrat, whoever it is, is going to just play these statements to the hilt. They’ve got to stop this! It’s just so counterproductive!

Well. If they want to lose, this is the game for losers.
Oh my! I wonder how long it will be before the extremists label Robertson a RINO (Republican in Name Only), further proving Robertson's point?

The Republican insanity isn't just on the fringe anymore, it's endemic to a good portion of the party, enough that the candidates feel they have to play to party crazies to get elected. God help us all.

Update 27 October

Pat Robertson clip from which the transcription above is taken.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What Are We Really Fighting For?

While my belief in the local Occupy Wall Street action, Occupy Orlando, has been tamped down a fair bit, my belief in the causes of these actions has not. If anything, I've started to examine the current situation, and in the process peel off the layers of apathy and lazy thinking that have accumulated over the decades.

I've been fascinated with history since the start of high school and the discovery of American history around the time of the American Civil War (a.k.a. the War of Northern Aggression). It has expanded over the decades, back through the Revolutionary period and forward through both world wars. And every time I read the letters or speeches of nearly all historical figures, they've had a least one memorable quote about their concerns with regards to concentrated wealth and power.

We have been warned down through the centuries, from Plutarch to our present time, about the dangers to self rule from the concentration of great wealth in a few hands. For with great wealth comes great power, with its subsequent absolute corruption. Within our own American experience, from our founding fathers through General Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, we have been warned repeatedly about the concentration of wealth and power and the danger it represents to our Republic.

And yet, in spite of all their efforts, here we all stand, at the start of the second decade of the 21st century, with the accumulated debt of trillions of dollars, embroiled in multiple wars from Libya to Afghanistan, chewing away like termites at our constitutional freedoms in the name of security, both militarily and in the name of commerce, and with a huge proportion of our wealth concentrated in so very few hands. Standing on the very precipice we were told to stay away from.

Is it any wonder that we have such historically high unemployment, and resultant movements such as Occupy Wall Street?

But simple protests like Occupy Wall Street aren't enough. Sitting around in lough chairs in parks, chanting through bull horns, and leaving messes in public areas for others to eventually clean up won't accomplish anything except to bring down scorn on the protesters and eroding credible belief in the social values they say they're protesting for.

When economic power became concentrated in a few hands, then political power flowed to those possessors and away from the citizens, ultimately resulting in an oligarchy or tyranny.

John Adams describing the European experience

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.

George Washington's Farewell Address 1796

As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

Abraham Lincoln

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.

As quoted by Raymond Lonergan in Mr. Justice Brandeis, Great American (1941), p. 42.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Dwight Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation, January 17, 1961

It's real easy for me to write about technology or photography or comment on other's actions. That's my safe zone. It's real hard for me to set out down an uncomfortable and unfamiliar path, especially when I need to create something new rather than parrot something old. But I have to. I now feel I have no other choice.

Monday, October 24, 2011

At Work With Linux - Ubuntu 11.10, Day 2

As I first mentioned last Friday I've installed Ubuntu 11.10 in a VMware virtual machine. Today I spent a few more minutes checking out how it worked. One of the first things the installation did after I started it back up was to download about 60 updates. Considering it was just released, I find that a bit peculiar. But then I always find it peculiar when a newly released distribution version such as Ubuntu downloads a slew of patches right after it's release. Not to worry, though; Fedora does the same thing, as does OpenSUSE.

What I wanted to note was the use of Unity 2D on the desktop. Even thought it's not using hardware acceleration, it can still support credible transparency as shown by the terminals.

One aspect of the launcher I find somewhat annoying is the inability to launch more than one instance. I can understand this on an Android tablet. But this is a genuine Linux desktop. You should be able to launch additional copies just by clicking on the icon. I discovered rather quickly that you can right click on an icon and get a simplified menu that allows for the launch of additional instances, such as multiple terminals.

Finally, Dash is shown in all its transparent glory on top of several desktop applications, such as Ars Technica's review of Ubuntu 11.10 in Firefox. And therein lies an interesting conundrum. The version of Firefox in this version of Ubuntu is 7.0.1. Will Ubuntu keep up with Firefox, such that when Firefox releases version 8? Will Ubuntu pass version 8 of Firefox on as an update? Every other Linux distribution I know of doesn't. It will be interesting to see what happens.

And based on that interest I tried to look for and install Chrome for Linux via Software Center. Unfortunately that didn't happen because I've done something to break Software Center, which I was only able to determine by starting software-center in a shell. Consider the following output:

jisuser@orlalabvm136:~$ software-center
2011-10-24 14:58:45,624 - softwarecenter.fixme - WARNING - logs to the root logger: '('/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/', 108, '__init_network_state')'
2011-10-24 14:58:45,623 - root - WARNING - failed to init network state watcher 'org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.NoServer: Failed to connect to socket /var/run/dbus/system_bus_socket: Connection refused'
2011-10-24 14:58:45,750 - softwarecenter.ui.gtk3.em - INFO - EM's: 17 15 21
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "/usr/bin/software-center", line 151, in
app = SoftwareCenterAppGtk3(datadir, xapian_base_path, options, args)
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/ui/gtk3/", line 243, in __init__
self.backend = get_install_backend()
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/backend/", line 70, in get_install_backend
install_backend = AptdaemonBackend()
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/backend/installbackend_impl/", line 195, in __init__
bus = get_dbus_bus()
File "/usr/share/software-center/softwarecenter/backend/installbackend_impl/", line 62, in get_dbus_bus
bus = dbus.SystemBus()
File "/usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/dbus/", line 202, in __new__
File "/usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/dbus/", line 108, in __new__
bus = BusConnection.__new__(subclass, bus_type, mainloop=mainloop)
File "/usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/dbus/", line 125, in __new__
bus = cls._new_for_bus(address_or_type, mainloop=mainloop)
dbus.exceptions.DBusException: org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.NoServer: Failed to connect to socket /var/run/dbus/system_bus_socket: Connection refused

I'll probably either repair or re-install Software Center via apt-get (thank goodness for apt-get). As I said I have no idea what broke or why. It may have been me, or it may have been the update that came rattling down the series of tubes. I've seen worse happen to Ubuntu after an update. This is what makes Ubuntu users, new and grizzled, really annoyed. I have yet to cast this version aside, but the internal instabilities are taking the shine off the good feelings I developed with regards to the Unity shell.

Update 6 December

A post based on questions from Rick Reumann's comment below:

Occupy Orlando, Day 9 - A Possible Retraction and A Ramp Down

100% for the 1%
James The Instigator (on the right)

I stopped off by the Senator Beth Johnson Park to check on the state of Occupy Orlando. After the weekend arrests and subsequent cleanup of the area, the park and surround empty lot are a lot quieter than it was during the first five days after the initial march downtown to city hall. While I was there I had a chance to talk to several folks, and their stories helped me piece together some of the events that led to the arrests. And in the process helped me to make a decision with regards to the group as a whole.

I'd already gotten an earlier email from a third member that laid out some interesting points about the arrests. According to his story he'd asked an officer later in the day in a different part of Orlando about the arrests and the officer's thoughts on the protesters. His summation of the officer's response;
  1. A handful of Occupy Orlando wanted attention by getting arrested.
  2. The majority of Occupy Orlando are all good, great folks, very respectful, etc. They have complied with laws the whole time until Friday night. "And they're still good people."
  3. Several police "begged" them to not do what they did. No-one wanted a confrontation. We'd rather be doing something else. Occupy Orlando was supposed to be out of the park by 11pm, that's the ordinance. The police gave them until 2am Saturday morning. The police had been cutting them slack all along the way.
  4. I'm blue-collar... I'm on your side! I want something better, I want what they are fighting for! It's just not going to happen because of a protest. They (Occupy Orlando) are not going to change things.
Based on comments from several others, the member of Occupy Orlando that seemed to stir up the other 18 that got arrested was an Occupy Orlando leadership-type by the name of James. I'd met James before, and James seemed to have a certain paranoia about having his photo taken because he "didn't want to be identified."

I have news for James and anyone else in Occupy Orlando. That First Amendment you keep quoting has three parts. Not only does it give you the right to peaceably assemble, but it also gives you religious freedom the right to freedom of the press.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment to the US Constitution

If you're going to publicly protest I'm going to be right there documenting every minute of it, especially if your intentions are questionable. And there's not a damn thing you can legally do to stop me. To paraphrase one of your chants, "That's the way democracy works."

Does this mean I'm in love again with OPD? No. I'm as distrustful of them as ever. What has changed is my implicit trust of Occupy Orlando. That's been pretty much destroyed. There are individuals within the group with their own personal agendas that have nothing to do with what Occupy Orlando, or the greater Occupy Wall Street are attempting. I thought this local Orlando effort would last longer than it has, but it appears I've been proven wrong. Oh, it'll drag on for a while, and they may take additional actions, but I'm not going to cover the local group quite the same way I've done up until now. The group leadership has descended into anarchy, led in part by people like James from the inside. Occupy Orlando had a genuine chance to be different in a positive fashion, but James and his ilk have pretty much destroyed that chance.

If there's one good thing I can take from this it's the fact that the flame of civic involvement has been rekindled inside of me. It's been dead for a long time. And I did get to meet some genuinely caring people who were also attracted to the movement. I hope they keep in touch.

A full link to all Occupy Orlando entries in this series:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Our Worst Fears Realized

As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature; it is what neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is a common misfortunate that awaits our State constitution, as well as all others.

Alexander Hamilton, Speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, 1788

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world [FULL ARTICLE LINK]

AS PROTESTS against financial power sweep the world this week, science may have confirmed the protesters' worst fears. An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.

The study's assumptions have attracted some criticism, but complex systems analysts contacted by New Scientist say it is a unique effort to untangle control in the global economy. Pushing the analysis further, they say, could help to identify ways of making global capitalism more stable.

The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York's Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere (see photo). But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world's transnational corporations (TNCs).

"Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it's conspiracy theories or free-market," says James Glattfelder. "Our analysis is reality-based."...

When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. "In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network," says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group...

A full link to all Occupy Orlando entries in this series:

Occupy Orlando, Day 8 - An Aftermath

Facebook Link:

Occupy Orlando Day 8
Sunday 23 October 2011 - Day 8

There's a lot you miss when you don't hang around, especially after dark. Sometime around 2am, on Saturday, 22 October, day 7 of the Occupy Orlando movement, Orlando police swept into the area in force and arrested 19 protesters. By the time all was said and done the 19 were taken to the 33rd street station and charged with misdemeanor trespass on property after they'd been with warned. Many of the protesters arrested are being held on a $500 bond, which is steep if you've got little to start with.

Trespass Notice
Trespass Warning Authorization taped to the oak on the vacant lot

Transcribed from the Trespass Warning Authorization
Case Number: 2011-467351
Rebecca Camacho, General Manager World Trade Towers LLC
Business Name: Vacant building/lot
Located at: 68 S Ivanhoe BV
Property description: Gray building w/boarded up windows and property
Witnessing Officer: OFC Alan Kelley #12607
Authority (print): Lt. Timothy E. Crews
Expiration date: 10/22/12 (one year from today)
The gloves are off. The honeymoon is over. The police, in league with the powers-that-be in Orlando, the City Ugly, twisted the law to their own use and forced their will onto peaceful protesters to protect a vacant lot and building across the street from the Chamber of Commerce, next to a park named after a former Democratic state senator (more on that later). Whatever positive attitude I had towards the Orlando police has been effectively destroyed by this particular action. They, along with the Teabaggers and the Republican party in general are now the enemy.

WDBO - Empty and Useless
The highly valuable "gray building with boarded up windows"

No More Tents
The highly valuable vacant lot the day after the police action

Open Your Mind
The vacant lot on Friday 21 October, Occupy Day 6

If Not Use Who? If Not Now When?
If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
Questions for every generation

These Truths Are Self-Evident
We hold these truths to be self evident

As I think of what these brave folk, both young and old, are trying to show us, I think about certain elements of the establishment that should be out supporting them, specifically the Christian churches in the area and the Democratic party. They are quite noticeable by their absence.

Central Christian Church is just down the block from Occupy Orlando on West Ivanhoe, right on lovely Lake Concorde. It wouldn't take any time or trouble to walk down from their beautifully trimmed and well-kept church property to provide something as simple as food, water, and comfort to the protesters. They wouldn't even have to discomfit themselves by standing with them. What about other Protestant groups? I'm a Methodist. I've yet to see any official Methodists (i.e. with the UMC emblem held high for all to see) as part of this group. As a visiting member of First Methodist (two consecutive Sundays now), I think it's nigh past time to join and to bring this up before the congregation and get some righteous fire burning in support of these folks.

As for the Democrats... There's absolutely no excuse not to be there officially. Not slinking in to hide around the edges. But right in there, front and center, every minute of every day. It's not enough for Official Democrats to show up for a quick in-and-out and a few sound bites. I can understand the Republicans and their Teabagger brain-damaged radical wing. Their's is a good honest hatred for social issues. But the Democrats have become political jellyfish, disintegrating at the slightest political resistance from the Republicans. The cowardly Democratic party has lost its moral and ethical compass, its own sense of true righteous indignation. Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, unified and facing down the corrupt philosophy of a corrupt Republican party, they cower like sheep, hiding away from the Republican wolves in the vain hope that somehow they will survive in what has now become a wild and lawless political wilderness, ruled with corrupt impunity by the Republican party. And when political seasons come and go, and the Democrats loose, then sit around licking their wounds and bleating their looses. The City Ugly needs to rename Senator Beth Johnson Park to something more appropriate, such as Senator Marco Rubio I-Lied-About-My-Parents-Being-Cuban-Exiles Park.

We live in such sorry times in this state. We have an official crook for a governor, a rubber-stamp Republican state house that is getting ready to strip another $1.6 billion out of our state budget to balance it (and you can guess where it'll all come from), and then we stand around and wonder why 99% are so bloody angry.

Update 24 October

When I talk about the police being the enemy, I am not speaking of violence. The police are backed by the force of law and the force of arms which any sane and rational person would be a damned fool to test. My comments are with regards to trust, and right now I don't trust the police any more than I trust the slouching shambling Republican zombie mob they appear to serve.

A full link to all Occupy Orlando entries in this series:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

At Work with Linux: Ubuntu 11.10

I finally downloaded and installed Ubuntu 11.10 on a VMware virtual machine. The virtual machine is installed on Windows 2008R2.

Installing a virtual machine with VMware is dead simple. Simply follow VMware's GUI directions for creating a new virtual machine, pointing the CD-ROM virtual drive towards the downloaded ISO. When the virtual machine boots it will boot into Ubuntu, at which point you follow the on-screen installation instructions for Ubuntu just like you would if you were installing Ubuntu on bare metal.

The installation of this latest version was very simple, perhaps too simple. I wanted to stop and tailor specific packages to install but didn't see where I could do that. As a consequence I wound up uninstalling unwanted applications after first boot (more about that later). What I did find, surprisingly, was the ability to easily set up networking directly on the installation desktop during installation. Simply clicking on the network icon dropped down a menu, which allowed me to configure the network. I was able to quickly set up a static IP address, primary and secondary DNS, and other bits necessary for proper network configuration for the lab. This is the easiest its ever been for any OS, including Windows.

First Boot

I was presented with the Unity desktop. It took no more than 20 or so minutes of trying various features out before I became quite comfortable with Unity. While it will take more time for me to dig in to its various capabilities and discover any flaws, at first blush the Unity desktop is easy to use, powerful, fluid, and above all polished. If I had to make a judgement, I would have to say that Unity is a better desktop than either Gnome or KDE.

The launcher on the left edge is quite powerful and almost intuitive to use. It combines the best of all the DEs I've dealt with to date. If I had to categorise it I would say that it's a better Dock than OS X's doc. A sweet feature is the launcher's autohide; if an application fills the screen it will move out of the way. Yes, I know all about the same features on all other desktops, but in all other desktops you have to find the feature and turn it on.

Animation and translucency are very smooth. My first taste of translucency is, somewhat ironically, in that hoary old tool the Gnome terminal. As a quick test I configured the terminal background as just barely transparent, then opened a second terminal and laid one over the other. I could see everything behind the terminals as if they were very smokey glass, and when I moved the terminals around there was absolutely no delay or tearing of the desktop. All of this in a VM. I would be interested to see how it would work on bare metal, such as my Dell D630 notebook.

My one biggest complaint is with the software management tool. As I mentioned earlier I couldn't tailor what software was installed, so I waited to remove it after first boot. The software management tool is an absolute failure in this regard. I wanted to remove all the LibreOffice suite (we have no need for it), and attempted to just remove one of the office tools (the spreadsheet). After selecting the app and all its dependencies to uninstall, the software management tool just sat there, and sat there, until I killed it. In the end I opened up a terminal and used apt-get to quickly remove all the bits I didn't want on that VM. Thank goodness for apt-get.


This version of Ubuntu with the Unity desktop is quite good. When 11.10 was first released all I read were the complaints of the haters about how Unity wasn't Gnome, and how That Was Bad. Well, here's a news item to the haters and the complainers: Unity is a better DE/UI than Gnome ever was, especially on portable devices. If you can't make the transition from Gnome or KDE to Unity, then the problem is with you, not with Unity. I'm going to finish cleaning up the current VM install, then create a few clones for the rest of the lab crew to play with. But this version of Ubuntu is a strong keeper.

Our group has been getting heavily into Android development, both handset (2.3.4) and tablet (3.2.1). With the release of Android 4, and now the release of Ubuntu 11.10 with Unity, we have two strong Linux-based environments that are surprisingly close for the kinds of devices our sponsors are interested in. We've also been looking at Windows 8 with its Metro-like UI for use on portable devices, something which we will also be working with when it's officially released.

Ubuntu has turned the corner with regards to Unity. I now consider it a quite powerful and quite useful computing environment, capable of standing sholder-to-sholder with every other DE/UI out there, including OS X and iOS. The developers of this version of Ubuntu, along with Unity, are to be commended for the quality product they've produced.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Orlando, Day 6

Facebook Link:

Sidewalk Art

When I got the the park this afternoon the activity was of a higher pitch that it was yesterday. The tents Occupy Orlando had started to build on the vacant lot yesterday were pretty complete. But there appeared to be a problem with the tents in the park.


From what I could gather a number of Teabaggers had held a long private meeting with the mayor at city hall in an attempt to bring pressure to bear on the administration to remove Occupy Orlando. While I was there a police sergeant (I'm assuming I'm looking at sergeant insignia) met with some of the Occupy Orlando members. During the discussion (of which I was not participating, only looking on) it appeared that the Occupy Orlando members could be charged with trespassing if they were still there and the structures (tents) were still up.

Dispensing Sage Advice

Fortunately there appeared to be level heads on both sides. Between the low-key actions of the police and calm voices in the Occupy group, a simple but painful course of action was taken to avoid a confrontation.

The Tents are Down

It involved the simple act of cutting down the lines holding up the tents in the park and moving over to the vacant lot where the newer tents were located. All of the park-side tents were taken down. Including the large communal tent that took them three days to complete. It was enough to make you sick.


And while all this was happening two businessmen dressed in some of their finest walked obliviously through it all from a local hotel to where their car was parked.

Protesting to the Helicopter

Later in the afternoon the local news showed up. Cameramen for channels 2, 6, and 35 were on the ground with video gear, while 9 was up above it all hovering in their helicopter. About 30 or so of the group protested the whole time they were there. I left soon after.

I should note that if the police wanted to they could have arrived in a far greater presence and the situation could have been a lot worse than it turned out. Maybe I have it all wrong, but I don't think the police want to really hassle these people. Both sides are desperately trying to avoid a harsh confrontation. The enemy is not the police; they're just doing their job. If there's an enemy, it's people who've gamed the system so that the majority of us in the middle class have been left holding the now-empty bag.

Current Events

It should be remembered, at least here, that Muammar Guaddafi was captured and killed near his home town of Sirte in Libya. It will be interesting to see how events shape after his death.

Of greater concern are two stories I read and heard about today that directly effect the youth of this country.
  1. Student loan debt hit $1 trillion dollars. That's more than our credit card debt. My girls did not take out loans while in college; when they were born we bought Florida College Prepaid for both, and had them fully paid up by the time they finished middle school. Between that, some scholarships, and the bank of Mom and Dad both girls went to state schools and made excellent grades. But many other of their cohorts did not have that kind of backing.

    I remember reading years ago an article by Susan Orman on Yahoo's "Money Matters" that parents should have their children subsidize their education with loans so that the parents could save all that money for retirement. Here was someone without children recommending we put our children into debt slavery. And she was but one voice recommending this.

    My wife remembered her struggles to pay off her relatively small student loans after graduating in 1973. She'd lost her father when she was 19 and had to use a combination of student loans and working through college. I managed to just worked my way through college. Based on those experiences, before the girls were born we both made a promise that we would finance their undergraduate education, so that they would be free to do what they needed to do unencumbered while they were in school and after they graduated.

  2. Nationwide the poverty level of 18-24 year-olds is now at 22%. This was from a story I heard on NPR while driving home. I also heard the story about college food banks for students still in college, and how they've been increasing, especially during our Great Recession (nee Depression).
We've robbed the future. Our children and their cohorts no longer believe they will have the same opportunities as we had, that instead their future will be worse than their parents. Our willful hedonistic consumerist ways, of spending the future on the moment in front of us, has led us all to this point in time. We can solve this, and morally and ethically we must solve this. Otherwise we'll be damned not at the greatest generation, but the worst in American history.

And you wonder why we have these protests springing up all over the country. You shouldn't. Caught between grinding debt and high unemployment, what chance do they have of paying off these loans and building something for their future?

A full link to all Occupy Orlando entries in this series:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Orlando, Day 5

Facebook Link:

Human Need Not Corporate Greed

I drove by again after work to check on everyone in the park. In spite of the bad weather last night, everything looked calm, cool and collected. The same small tight-knit group was still there. There were more tents in the park, but other than that the park was still clean.

Building New Tents

While I was there I noticed the crew were creating larger tents just across the street from the Chamber of Commerce in an open field, next to the former location of WDBO's studios. From what I could gather the city park rules stated that no structures could be setup in the park. Were the tents considered structures? Only if they were staked into the ground. While I was there the Occupy Orlando media group moved the media tent from the park to the vacant field.

The use of capricious and trivial rules to make it difficult for the "non-conformists" in this little city reminded me of what Orlando did to the activist anti-poverty group Food Not Bombs. They passed an series of ordinances for the express purpose of keeping Food Not Bombs from feeding the homeless in Lake Eola. In the end, after the city arrested 27 activists for feeding the homeless, Buddy Dyer allowed Food Not Bombs to feed the homeless in front of city hall. While it's not the ideal place because there are no restrooms or running water near city hall, Food Not Bombs at lest can keep the issue of homelessness in the public eye.

I sincerely hope that moving to the vacant lot, which is private property, will allow Occupy Orlando a better chance for long-term occupation. I don't know what deal Occupy Orlando struck with the property's owner, but I can't believe they would simply move over without some kind of agreement. Occupy Orlando has been very careful to stay within the law. I've come to respect the group on many levels, not the least of which is there strong desire to stay within civilized boundaries. In spite of what the haters of this world say, they're not anarchists.

100% for the 1%

And I hope this guy keeps showing up. I like his messages.

A full link to all Occupy Orlando entries in this series:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Orlando, Day 4

Facebook Link:

In The Communal Tent

Today was supposed to be the start of another big rainmaker, so the Occupy Orlando crew spent the day setting up large tents and moving everything underneath. Everyone was, as usual, in good spirits. The grounds of Senator Beth Johnson Park are clean and well-kept. The largest tent appears to be a communal tent for about a dozen or so folks, with a table on one side holding food and water.

In The Media Tent

There's a smaller media tent that's been up and running since the beginning. It's from that location where a small dedicated group keeps Occupy Orlando's web presence up-to-date. If the weather does get rough I hope they've got weather-proof containers to stow their gear in. I should note that everything is Apple.

Dedicated, But Tired

I came across two familiar faces again this afternoon. And so I sat down and we talked a bit, and got to know each other a little better. At least they don't think I work for the CIA anymore. I hope.

The use of Apples brought to mind the original "Think Different" ad, back when I could philosophically support Apple, back before Apple turned into the very thing they railed against in their 1984 ad.

Here's to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The trouble-makers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo
You can quote them,
Disagree with them,
Glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the "crazy ones",
We see genius
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the World
Are the ones who do.

A full link to all Occupy Orlando entries in this series:

Never Touch What You Can't Afford

Well, Canon finally went and did it. They unified their 1D series with the 1D X, an interesting evolution of both prior 1D bodies that is meant to satisfy all users. It remains to be seen if they've truly succeeded.

Out of all the specifications that are now littering the internets, the one that immediately caught my eye was the price: $6,800, body only. They've now reached the lofty price range of the Leica M9 and Nikon D3x, to name but two.

A price that triggers one of my simple rules of life: Never touch what you can't afford.

Because the body is just the beginning. You'll wind up spending as much, if not more, on lenses to justify what you invested in the body. You're not just buying a $6,800 body, but a full system that can run from $15,000 to $20,000. For me, at those levels, you're talking Real Money, like a down payment on a home, or a completely new car.

Oh. One other little specification that caught my eye. Maximum ISO on this beast is 204,500, "ideal for law enforcement, government or forensic field applications." My tax dollars at work.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Orlando, Day 3

Facebook Link:


I had to drive my wife down to Florida Hospital at Princeton and I-4 so that a specialist could look at my wife's foot (it's been in a boot now for five days). On the way back we stopped off for a few minutes at the Occupy Orlando site to see how things were going. Just like the day before the park was lightly occupied with some two dozen occupiers. I found a tent set up for media production, and another was going up as well in preparation for the heavy rain that's supposed to pass over the peninsula the middle of the week.

Tea Party A$$holes

While I was there a group of Teabaggers came by smokin' their big stogies and in general trying to "understand" what the Occupy Orlando group "wanted", which meant they stood around pontificating about the evils of Socialist Government and how unbridled capitalism was so much better. I give a lot of credit to one of the group who tried to include them and in the  process enlighten them. Too bad Teabagger minds are already poisoned and corrupted by their own corrupt ideology.

Honk for Solidarity

About a dozen of the Occupiers lined Magnolia at one of the exits off of I-4. Many of the cars actually honked as they passed. Whether in solidarity or not is a different issue.

Pensive Moments

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lord Mobile

Lord Mobile

Lord Mobile

The wife and I spotted this witness of faith after leaving the Methodist service, parked near the First Presbyterian Church on Rosalind. We were driving north towards where the Occupy Orlando group were going to set up for the day. It reminded us both of our daughter's art Volvo up in Tallahassee.

Taken with the E-P2 and G.Zuiko 50mm @f/2 with adapters.

Occupy Orlando, Day 2

Facebook Link:

The wife and I attended the 11am service at First United Methodist in downtown Orlando. It's been some time since we felt spiritually moved to attend a service; we've been searching for quite some time. We were reminded of First Methodist on Saturday when we drove downtown for the Occupy Orlando march. We made the decision when we saw it Saturday to attend today.

After the service we drove north on Magnolia to the Senator Beth Johnson Park. We decided to check on Occupy Orlando, and see if they were indeed setting up camp. When I got there around 12:30 I found several dozen young people quietly beginning to set up. There were some signs about, and some were preparing more, but overall a quiet and peaceful vignette.

Occupy Orlando

Group Dynamics


Occupy Orlando

I found it interesting that it was all young people who were in the park. Once again it goes to show that if you want real change you have to turn to the young. They have yet to become tainted by the same material world influences that blind and morally corrupt their elders.

After Action Review: My Coverage of Occupy Orlando vs Big News


Occupy Orlando Facebook link:

I went looking on some of the Big News sites (see the list below) to check on the coverage of yesterday's march. With only one exception, they were flaccid at best. The one exception was, interestingly enough, the Orlando Sentinel. They put up a video (!) that was better than the regular TV stations. If I had to rank the TV stations (and they were all pretty rank), the second tier channels TV13 and Fox35 seem to be in a race to the bottom. If you want up-to-date news, that's what social media like Occupy Orlando's Facebook link are all about.

I no longer have any fear that my work, as an amateur, isn't good enough compared with the commercial outlets. My work is as good, if not considerably better than what I can find. I'm not the only one producing higher quality work than the local channels. I see incredibly better work (certainly better than mine) on Flickr and Vimeo and Smugmug, to name but three. I don't watch any local channels anymore because of the poor quality writing and producing. Local Orlando television, especially news reporting, is pretty much the pits these days.

Orlando Sentinel: Occupy Orlando demonstrators continue protest overnight at park, plan to resume today

WESH (Channel 2): Occupy Orlando Protesters March Downtown

WFTV (Channel 9): Hundreds flock to downtown Orlando to march in Occupy Orlando rally

TV13: 'Occupy' Florida protesters march in Central Florida

Fox35: Occupy events sweep the state

Saturday, October 15, 2011

We Are The 99

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment to the US Constitution
And I went down to the demonstration to get my fair share of abuse, singin' "We're gonna vent our frustration..."
The Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want"


My wife and I drove downtown in the little red Prius today to participate, in some small way, in the Occupy Orlando march down Orange Avenue to city hall. And while we were at it, to recapture a bit of our own youth and the protests and marches out of the 60's and 70's. The two of us made quite the pair, she in her wheelchair with a boot on her right foot and me pushing her along, gear hanging off of me consisting of an E-1, an E-3, and a small backpack with extra batteries and flash cards. My wife was carrying the E-P2. The plan was to use the E-1 and E-3 for stills and the E-P2 for video.

We Are The 99 - Occupy Orlando from William Beebe on Vimeo.

We parked downtown on Pine street, just west of Magnolia at 11 am. The downtown was pretty empty and we thought no-one was going to show up. We headed east on Pine, then north on Magnolia since we thought that might be faster than trying to head straight up Orange. As we got to Robinson we spotted a father and his young child headed towards Orange on Robinson, and so we followed him. A short distance later we caught up with them both and we struck up a nice conversation. Turns out that the father was there to participate in the march with his baby daughter for his baby daughter's future. Her name is Molly.

Molly and Dad Marching
Molly and Dad - I Love My Mommy!Molly and Dad - I Have A Dream
Young Molly and her Dad, come to march (same sign, different messages)

Leaders, Followers, and Those In the Way

The leader of the march was a young dynamic man with a powerful voice to match. We'd walked up Orange, crossed Colonial, and was headed towards Lake Ivanhoe where the march was supposed to start. We first saw them just south of that at Mark's Street. Once they crossed to the south of Marks on Orange the march took on a real organization and energy, with plenty of slogans and chants. Their biggest chant was "We Are the 99!"

Student Labor Action Project @ UCF

Protesting at City Hall


Mini Press Gallery

Once the marchers reached city hall they congregated on the steps and commenced to chant together, expressing their various ideas, frustrations, and possible hopes for solutions to the problems. Their messages might have been all over the map, but their driving motivation was pretty consistent; frustration with the current economic situation and how it's directly effecting them for the worse.

From my limited observation, there were around 1,000 or so participants, probably less.

If you want to see all the photos I uploaded, you can look here:

The Police

The Orlando Police are to be commended for behaving in an exemplary manner today. For all the time we were there (two hours) there wasn't a single incident between the marchers and the police we were aware of. The marchers were well organized, and had monitors along the route advising the marchers to stay on the sidewalk. It appeared that the marchers and the police were organized to good effect. This is in stark contrast to New Your, Washington D.C., Denver, San Diego and The Colosseum in Rome.

Controlling Traffic

Bike Patrol


We've been far to passive for far to long in this country. The children of the 60's and 70's have grown obese and morally and ethically decadent. We've raided the future, our children's and grandchildren's future, to pay for the pleasures of the present, and now the bill has come due. I feel this with my own two girls as they struggle to find the kind of job they went to college for. While I can't speak for the nation as a whole, Florida, after 11 years of continuous Republican "leadership" starting with Jeb Bush up to the worst governor in recent history, Rick Scott, has left this state an economic shambles. Unfortunately, it's going to have to get worse than this before enough people are motivated to make it better. Voting convicted crooks like Rick Scott out of office is but the first step.

My wife and I have decided on a course of action for local participation and help. More about that as it unfolds for us.


The majority of the stills were taken with the E-1 and 12-60mm zoom. The E-3 was mounted with the EC-14 and the 50-200mm zoom. The video at the top was taken with the E-P2 and M.Zuiko 14-42mm kit lens.

While I was quite pleased with the E-1 and E-3, the final result of the E-P2 left a lot to be desired. When I played it raw on my notebook, it looked fairly good. But when I uploaded it to both Flickr and Vimeo the image quality took a hit, especially on Flickr. I need a crash course in video shooting and post-processing, primarily to reduce the size (the video at the top was nearly 400GiB SOOC) as well as cleaning up blown highlights and rolling shutter effects. I should probably invest in a video rig (SteadyCam and Zucato come to mind).

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Underclass

One woman with possessions

Two women with possessions

I spotted these two women outside a local Burger King this morning. I spotted the first woman in the top photo as she was looking for something in the Burlington Coat Factory shopping cart. I didn't recognize what it was she had a first, but it quickly dawned on me that she had her possessions in that cart, probably all of them. Then the second woman stepped outside and started to look in a different part of the cart. She handed a small amount of cash to the first woman, who tucked it into a small purse.

I spoke briefly to the woman on the left. She asked me a simple question that I had no answer for. She asked where the closest church was. Here I was, a Christian (Methodist), and I couldn't tell her where the closest Christian church was to where I work. She didn't ask for any money or attempt to panhandle in any way.

I'm headed downtown to Orlando tomorrow. There's an 11:30am march for Occupy Orlando. I'm going down with my cameras to document the event. It should be interesting. I'm in full support of all the Occupy events everywhere. It's people like the two women above, and the circumstances they are in, that the Occupy events are all about.


Taken with the same setup used in the last post, an Olympus E-P2 with an adapted G.Zuiko 50mm film  lens. This time it was closed down to f/4 and used as a regular photojournalism tool. If you're curious about the blurriness, that's what you get shooting through a dirty Prius windshield.