«  April 2006  |   Main   |  June 2006  »

»  May 30, 2006


Joan of Arc 575 Years Out:

The image is of the Joan of Arc memorial to the soldiers of World War I in Coe Circle at NE 39th & Glisan here in Portland. Today is the 575th anniversary of the day Joan was burned at the stake.


»  May 28, 2006


Beinart's Bad Analogy: Peter Beinart (whose analysis of issues and knowledge of politics have never been particularly astute) is mentioned in a posting by Kevin Drum, with regard to Beinart's new book, The Good Fight. Apparently, Beinart acknowledges that he was wrong about supporting the Iraq war because of the lack of WMD, the relative success of a containment strategy, the lack of international support, etc. Basically, he thinks that the war would have been a good idea, but...

Beinart's been clutching like a rat terrier to the idea that Democrats need to rattle more sabers in international policy to "prove" to Americans that we're serious about national security, likening the anti-Communist stance the US descended into during the Truman years (co-incident with the rise of Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and others) with the anti-Islamofascist "good fight" he sees as a campaign slogan for the future.

One of the commenters at Washington Monthly had what I thought was an incredibly perceptive observation:

The salient similarity between Truman/Cold War and Democrats/Islamic Terrorists is that the Republicans have exploited a circumstance, exaggerated beyond all rationality, used it to brand the Democrats as traitors, and convinced Democrats that they must be more rabidly and insanely bellicose in order to win elections. The result of that was the Viet Nam War, an utterly useless and immoral exercise in Cold War precepts.


»  May 27, 2006


Enemy of the State: The 1998 Gene Hackman/Will Smith thriller Enemy of the State was on this evening. The plot -- if you haven't seen the movie -- is about a corrupt NSA assistant director who's involved in a domestic political assassination (played by John Voight), and an ex-NSA special operative (Hackman) and DC lawyer (Smith) who get dragged into the unravelling cover-up of the killing.

In one of those odd coincidences, at one point Hackman's character looks up biographical information on Voigh't character. The IMDB trivia page for the movie notes that the exact date given was the first remote operation of a computer over a phone line, but I suspect that entry is a few years old. The date is: 9-11-40.


»  May 23, 2006


Another Meaning For MIAW: Nathan Pryor, the other Director developer (the hard-working one) at my office, pointed out that if you do a Google search for MIAW, most of the first entries are about Movies in a Window, but the top link is to the Canadian site for Mental Illness Awareness Week, which seems eerily appropriate.


»  May 16, 2006


The Director Codie: Raman Pfaff of ExploreLearning mentions that the site for which he produces interactive math and science simulations is up for a 2006 Codie Award, the winners of which are to be announced tonight in San Francisco.

He's not going to be there, but he encourages attendees to yell "Director rocks!" if they hear ProQuest Information & Learning/ExploreLearning.com mentioned.


»  May 15, 2006


Battlefield (for Director users): The 3D animators at the company I'm working for now turned me on to EA's Battlefield 2 video game (look for my online handle: hideyholesissyboy). I'm not very good at it, but I enjoy the general mayhem in-between the 15-second waits to revive.

Anyway, if you're interested, I've got a post about how a BF2 fan video was mistaken for a terrorist recruitment video. Really mistaken.



Battlefield: The 3D animators at the company I'm working for now turned me on to EA's Battlefield 2 video game (look for my online handle: hideyholesissyboy). I'm not very good at it, but I enjoy the general mayhem in-between the 15-second waits to revive.

So I had to laugh when I saw this story, which -- to me -- says a lot about the general stupidity of the people who are supposed to be keeping this country safe.

It seems that a company known as Science Applications International Corp., which has a $7 million contract to monitor online militant propaganda, screened some items for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, including a video made from the point of view of a Battlefield 2 MEC (Middle Eastern Coalition) soldier in battle with US troops, according to Reuters. Despite the article's statement that "'Battlefield 2' ordinarily shows U.S. troops engaging forces from China or a united Middle East coalition," the truth is that a player can choose to play whichever side they want, and online games are typically made up of a roughly equal number of players on either side of a conflict.

According to the story, the video "flashed between images of street-level gunfights, explosions and helicopter assaults." A narrator intones the words: "I was just a boy when the infidels came to my village in Blackhawk helicopters." Pretty scary, eh?

Of course it might be a more effective recruiting tool if the message wasn't in English, but the real kicker came when a number of readers of the Game Politics blog noticed that the voice-over sounded suspiciously like a part of the audio track from Team America: World Police, an animated puppet movie by the guys who do South Park in which a character bemoans the fate of his goats (the bit about the goats is in the video). The video footage itself wasn't a modification or "mod" of the game, either, it was just video from a straight recording of the Battlefield 2: Special Forces expansion pack.

Game Politics has an interview with the video's creator, a Moroccan born and raised in Holland (and apparently a big Parker/Stone fan) at the link above.

I feel safer already.



Lyin' About Liasson: NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin blames the messengers and errant transcribers for calling correspondent Mara Liasson on her constant plugging of the Republican line on FOX.

In his latest column, Dvorkin blames a "misplaced comma" in the transcript for the wrath of readers at Media Matters and Think Progress, who could plainly see Liasson's comments in video format.

Who are you going to believe, the transcript or your lying eyes?

The idea that an edited transcript changed Mara Liasson's statements is laughable. The video of her comments is available online and is quite clear.

She says (beginning at 0:16): "And I think that every time you hear another one of these um kind of bipartisan scandal stories where it's Democrats not just Republicans taking money from Abramoff um it underlines a feeling that people tell pollsters over and over again which is that everybody does it that there's not really much difference."

There's no pause in her speech between the word "Democrats" and the word "not". There's no comma separating the Democrats from "Republicans taking money from Abramoff". And even if there were, the sentence wouldn't make any sense. What "bipartisan scandal" story would she be referring to, then?

Someone in radio, such as yourself, should know that in non-scripted speech there's really no such thing as punctuation. Any punctuation can only be inferred from pauses and emphasis.

Of course, this is hardly the first time Ms. Liasson has made these types of false allegations. It's why FOX likes to have her on.

A follow-up note:
Mr. Dvorkin, I'm at a loss. When you say that Think Progress and Media Matters relied on an uncorrected FOX transcript, had you contacted them to confirm that fact? Because this is the quote on the page you link to at Think Progress:

"where it’s Democrats, not just Republicans taking money from Abramoff"

and this what's up at Media Matters:

"where it's Democrats, not just Republicans, taking money from Abramoff"

Note that the two transcriptions are different. If they came from the same uncorrected source, you might expect that they would be identical.

Of course, since both sites had the video posted (as did the video weblog Crooks & Liars), the text in the transcript hardly matters, because people could see Ms. Liasson's comments without the filter of a transcriber's error.

You did verify the source of the transcripts before you accused both sites of using FOX's transcripts, didn't you? I mean, that would be something a journalist would do. Right?


»  May 13, 2006


Rahm Called: Well, not Rahm Emanuel himself, just someone raising money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They were wondering if I'd be willing to pony up $500 to support Congressional candidates in the mid-terms this year. Now, due to circumstances, I've been able to give more money than before this in this year's races, but I haven't quite hit that level of giving yet.

On top of that, as I told the caller, I've decided to target my contributions this cycle to specific candidates. At the national level, I'm being very selective, because I truly think that it's important that the American people hear from their elected representatives that the Iraq war was a stupid, misguided adventure from the beginning, and that the candidate was either on the record knowing that before the war or has since changed their mind and come to that conclusion. No matter what they think the strategy should be for the future, if they're unable to come to grips with the reality that the war was a mistake and don't tell their constituents that, we're simply doomed to repeat the process again.

I knew that the guy calling was just a volunteer or call center guy, but I still overrode him when he tried to get back on script. He figured out pretty fast that I wasn't a likely donor, so he said thanks and got off.

Just out of curiosity, I checked the DCCC home page. Would you be surprised that the word Iraq appears nowhere on there?

DCCC Home Page, 13 May 2006

Looking at their page, you wouldn't know that there were American troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. It's all about Republican corruption and high gas prices. The national security debate has been ceded entirely to the Republicans; the DCCC isn't even saying they're doing a crappy job there.

You have to drill down through the "Featured Fights" link to get to "Iraq and the Cover-up Congress". Even there, Iraq is only mentioned as "an ill-planned war" and a result of "poor pre-war planning". "Alleged manipulation of intelligence" does get a mention, but only as something a Democratic congress "would promptly get to the bottom of".

This kind of milquetoast scandal-mongering is precisely why Democrats get a bad rap on security issues. There's no explanation of why these things are bad, just threats to investigate. People need to be told what's wrong and why it's wrong, not given a promise that "we'll look into it". Nobody chooses to undergo exploratory surgery if they can avoid it, you'd rather have a sure diagnosis. Christ, they even manage to make the plural of HMMWV (aka Humvee) look prissy: "Hum-Vees". At least GM cancelled the Hummer H1.

Leave comments at Daily Kos


»  May 12, 2006


Interacting in More Ways Than One:

Over on DIRECT-L, Colin Holgate (Funny Garbage) points out a Getty Images project called Interact 10 Ways that features two fantastic Shockwave pieces by South African developer Andries Odendaal of Sumona.

Each piece includes a unique method of visual navigation between unrelated photographs that will be copied -- I'm sure -- ad infinitum.



Da Unicode: In honor of the theatrical release of The Da Vinci Code (and in response to a question about Unicode values for special characters on a list that shall not be named), I'd just like to throw out a pointer to "The Unicode Character Code Charts By Script", which has numeric codes and graphic depictions of symbols and characters for Latin characters, the Cyrillic alphabet, a variety of Chinese character sets, Gujarati, Cuneiform, Arabic, Cherokee, and many more!


»  May 11, 2006


Conyers's Amicus Brief: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) filed an amicus brief last night in two cases chalenging the NSA's warrantless spying on Americans. 71 other Democrats also signed onto the brief, including three from the Oregon House delegation: Earl Blumenauer (#8), Peter DeFazio (#15), and David Wu (#72).



Item 500: Letter to Sen. Ron Wyden:

Dear Sen. Wyden,

It's long past time for Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to stop giving President Bush the benefit of the doubt. Over and over, every claim they've made about issues ranging from WMDs in Iraq to warrantless wiretapping has been proven false with time. Every member of the administration has repeatedly told things to the Congress and the American people that were simply not true.

In the past, some of those claims have been explained away as errors and not lies, but so many of them have been exposed now as truth shaved so bare that it bleeds or outright falsehoods -- as in the case of the NSA phone data collection program -- that the preponderance of evidence is on the side of them all being lies.

It's time for you and your colleagues to speak out. Intelligence is one of the most important issues in a world where continued tensions over fake nuclear threats in Iran could draw us into real nuclear conflict with Russia and China. If Democrats want to be seen as serious about national security, they'd better treat intelligence as a serious issue instead of another arena for national political strategy.



Color Me Flash!:

Over on DIRECT-L the other day, a question (thread: "FLASH: how to pass color string from lingo ") arose about how to pass a color value to a Flash sprite from Lingo. A couple of responses discussed how to pass the value in as a string or as a number, both of which need to be converted to colors within Flash.

In many cases, whatever you do in Flash, you'll need to work with ActionScript's Color object to do things like change the color transform of a movie clip. I'll tell you now how to do that directly from Lingo.

The basic ActionScript procedure for changing the color of a movie clip is this:

  1. Create a Color object associated with a movie clip.
  2. Create a variable containing a duplicate of the transform of the Color object.
  3. Modify the transform variable's properties.
  4. Set the transform of the movie clip's Color object.

Assume you've got a Flash sprite in channel 1 with a movie clip named test at the root level. To create and associate an ActionScript Color object (co) with the movie clip:

  co = sprite (1).newObject ("Color", sprite (1).test)

To make a copy (tr) of the Color object's transform:

  tr = co.getTransform ()

The transform of the ActionScript Color object is an object containing eight properties:

red multiplier (0 - 100); mulltiplied by the current red value
red offset; added to the multiplied red value (final value has a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 255)
green multiplier (0 - 100); mulltiplied by the current green value
green offset; added to the multiplied green value (final value has a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 255)
blue multiplier (0 - 100); mulltiplied by the current blue value
blue offset; added to the multiplied blue value (final value has a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 255)
alpha multiplier (0 - 100); mulltiplied by the current alpha value
alpha offset; added to the multiplied alpha value (final value has a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 255)

These properties can be set directly once access to the transform object has been established. For an unmodified movie clip, the color transform will be: {ra: 100, rb: 0, ga: 100, gb: 0, ba: 100, bb: 0, aa: 100, ab: 0}, which is basic black.

Changing the movie clip to red requires two lines: one to modify the copy of the color transform and one to apply the transform to the movie clip's Color object.

  tr.rb = 255
  co.setTransform (tr)

The result on the red value of the color transform is that its original value of 0 is multiplied by 100, then 255 is added to it, making the result 255.Once the transform has been reapplied to the Color object, the movie clip changes color. Changing the same clip to blue requires you to suppress the red as well as setting the blue (and of course setting the transform):

  tr.rb = 0
  tr.bb = 255
  co.setTransform (tr)

And finally, you cna also change the alpha:

  tr.aa = 0
  tr.ab = 127
  co.setTransform (tr)

An alternative method that skips the whole transform issue is the setRGB method of the Color object. You perform just step 1 above (create a Color object associated with a movie clip), then pass the method a numeric value that represents red * 256 * 256 + green * 256 + blue. Then you're done. Here's an example that sets the movie clip to red:

  co.setRGB (16711680)

As John Doe notes in the final post (as of 11 May) on the thread, the Color class has been deprecated in Flash 8 (something I hadn't noticed), and replaced by the ColorTransform object in the flash.geom package. I haven't had to figure out how to access that from Lingo yet, though, and since you can only use it in ActionScript if the package has been explicitly included when the SWF was exported, it may pose some problems down the road.


»  May 8, 2006


Oregon's Fighting 3rd:

Did you miss Congressman Earl Blumenauer's (D-OR) turn in Stephen Colbert's "Better Know a District" segment last week? Click on the picture to watch the matchup.


»  May 5, 2006


Did Goss Get It In Retribution for McCarthy Firing?: Funny how quickly this followed on the firing of Mary McCarthy. Two weeks ago to the day, CIA Chief Porter Goss cans McCarthy for supposedly disclosing classified into just 10 days before she was due to retire. Now, Goss has to hurridly resign. Did someone inside have the goods on Goss?


»  May 2, 2006


Das Star-Spangled Banner: Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander introduced a resolution today joining in the hyperventilation over the Spanish-language version of "The Star Spangled Banner". In the press release announcing his bold action, he references a Washington Post article from 28 April that says "musicologists cannot name another foreign-language version."

Well, I'm not a musicologist, but it took me about 5 minutes to find a Google reference that wasn't about someone bewailing the fact that the national anthem had been translated into Spanish. I found it in the Library of Congress, and although there's no date listed on the document, it looks like it's been around a while. From the printing style, the outfit on the soldier, and the dusky fellow in shorts, I'd hazard a guess that this might have been circulated among German-speaking recruits in the Union army during the Civil War (if I've copied any of the text incorrectly, please let me know, the scan's a little fuzzy on some of the serifs and my German's not what it should be after three years back in college).

Das Star-Spangled Banner

O! sagt, könnt ihr seh'n in des Morgenroth's Strahl,
Was so stolz wir im scheidenden Ubendroth grüßten?
Die Sterne, die Streifen, die Wehnend von Wall,
Im tödlichen Kampf uns den Unblick verfüßten?
Hoch flattere die Fahne in herrlicher Bracht,
Beim Leuchten der Bomben durch dunkle Racht.
O! sagt, ob das Banner, mit Sternen befä't,
Ueber'm Lande der Freien und Braven noch weht?


»  May 1, 2006


Director Resources Now!: With the subsumption of macromedia.com into the Adobe 'verse and the end of updates to the 12-year-old Director Web (not to mention the fact that the announcement on Director Online still has Gary reporting from MAX 2005!) it can feel a lot like the edges of the Director fabric are getting a little frayed. Fortunately, there are people like the University of South Wales' Dean Utian, who know how to stitch things back together. Dean has spent some time recently updating the links on his page of Director resources, making sure that there aren't any dead links and updating links that have changed.

Bookmark for a rainy day. It may be spring in the Northern Hemisphere, but you know it's coming...