I'm praying for a stock market crash

Finally the markets seem as though they might be corrected. Overblown public debt in the US, a housing bubble still deflating, the effects of high oil prices - these need to be worked out sooner rather than later. The Dow Jones plunged 4.3%, and the Australian Stock market is currently down 3.4% (it was 3.1% five minutes ago).

Keep falling. Keep falling.


A post-American world

I wrote this over at Carol Platt's site:

9/11 was obviously a galvanizing moment for America. Unfortunately most Americans did not realise the impact it would have on the rest of the world.

It's hard to describe, but the vest majority of the world was horrified with those events on that day. I burst into tears in front of my TV set here in Australia when I learned the news.

There was a huge outpouring of sympathy and brotherhood towards America as a result of this terrorist act. Here in Australia people gathered in front of US consuls and waved US flags and dropped flowers in sympathy. A German warship even saluted an American warship, giving the Americans the highest honour they could give.

America always develops negative feelings amongst the international community, but that completely disappeared after 9/11. We felt as one with America, we wanted to help America, we wanted to stand by America in its action against terrorism, we felt righteous anger. There was a link there with America that had never existed beforehand. Where once there was cynicism there was deep respect and admiration.

And then Bush and the GOP blew it by going to Iraq.

It hurt us that our counsel was so readily ignored. We waited to be convinced by American intelligence sources while, at the same time, Americans began to insult and degrade allies like France and Germany who had genuine questions about Iraq. When we said "no" to supporting the invasion, the outpouring of hate towards us by America was astounding. We had become the proxy enemy though we had done nothing.

America invaded and now is mired in a quicksand of violence that will not end.

America does not want to be liked. That's not America's role. However America needs to be trusted and respected if it is have a positive effect upon the world.

With Bush and the GOP and the war in Iraq, no trust or respect is left. We look upon the ruins of its democracy with sadness and anger. We feel betrayed by America's acts. This will not be forgotten. America's place in the world has changed permanently.


iRiver T30 with ogg and Linux

Running Linux and only Linux posed a problem for me when it came to choosing a Digital Media Player. Firstly, the player had to be able to connect properly to my operating system and, secondly, the player had to be able to play Ogg Vorbis files instead of MP3 files.

I have been successfully able to do this with the iRiver T30. Nevertheless, I had to endure some problems before getting to where I am now. Hopefully this article may be of benefit to you.

The first problem is the Firmware, the software inside the T30 that allows you to connect to your computer and also to play your sound files. iRiver, for some reason, decided that they would go down the path of the Apple iPod and provide software for the user to install on his/her computer via a CD-ROM. By means of this installation software, things like firmware updates and organising your playlists was simplified for the average Windows XP user.

What this meant in practice was that the T30's firmware used MTP, a Microsoft friendly proprietary format, rather than the simpler UMS format that many other digital players and USB memory sticks have. This was problematic for my Linux system which, at the time, was Kubuntu 5.10. I did not have a dual installation with Windows XP, which meant that the software provided by iRiver was useless to me.

On the day I got my T30 (Christmas Day 2006), I connected it to my PC via the USB cable. The standard file manager in Kubuntu is Konqueror, and as soon as I plugged in, Konqueror automatically opened. After a bit of time (my PC is a Pentium 3-667 after all), I was able to view the insides of the T30's file structure.

My CD collection was turned into .ogg files about 18 months ago for me to listen on my computer. With a couple of hundred CDs, the prospect of converting them to MP3 files was not an option. I had purchased the T30 on the express understanding that it was able to play .ogg files (which it clearly indicates it does). Besides, .ogg files are better sound quality than MP3. I copied and pasted some music files from my music folder to the T30. It took about 3 minutes for the 7-8 files to be copied. I pulled out the USB connection, plugged in the headphones and hit the play button, and heard sweet, sweet music.

But that's not the end of the story. Even though Konqueror was able to connect and send files to the T30, the process was awfully slow.. and I mean slow. My T30 has 1gb of memory (I prefer to have no moving parts, hence the use of flash memory rather than a hard drive) and it was taking upwards of an hour to upload the music into it. Far too slow, even for a venerable cpu like the one in my PC.

There were three other problems as well. Firstly, as time went by the memory had shrunk from 1gb to 894mb. I knew that the T30 was slightly smaller than 1gb, but I felt that some memory had disappeared somewhere. The second problem was that, no matter how hard I tried, the T30 would not put the songs in alphabetical order. In Konqueror they were lined up that way, but as soon as the T30 took them they would not be in order. The third problem was that, even after the computer had finished uploading to the T30, the T30 would still say "transmitting data" for up to 10 minutes afterwards. If I pulled the USB plug out before it was ready (when it says "USB connect" it is ready), then some of the music files would be cut short, or even not be there.

Obviously things needed to change. The problems I was having were a direct result of MTP. But I was able to change all these problems by the installation of new firmware.

iRiver obviously made a mistake in not giving the T30 a UMS format. However, there are a number of firmware upgrades provided by iRiver that can be made which change the format from MTP to UMS.

Here is a step by step guide to this process, good if you are using Kubuntu (I now use 6.10):

1) If there are files on your T30 that you want to keep, upload them back onto your PC.
2) To check your firmware, go to Settings --> Advanced --> System Info. If you purchased the T30 new, the firmware should be v. 1.0.
3) Go to Settings --> Advanced --> Format. Click on "Yes". Your T30 will now be re-formatted and all of the files on it will have been erased.
4) Download the firmware onto your computer and place it in an appropriate folder. The best place I have found so far is a Japanese website dedicated to iRiver firmware, which you can find by clicking here. There's a lot of files to choose from so be careful you pick the right one. If you pick the wrong firmware for the wrong player, don't worry since it won't affect it. I chose the firmware file called T30_PURE_ENG_UM_NO.ZIP. (note: "PURE" means a player without a radio. "ENG" means English. "UM" means UMS. I have no idea what "NO" is for.)
5) Unzip the file. This can be done by right-clicking the file in Konqueror and using the "Extract here" feature (using Ark).
6) A number of files appear. The important one should end with "HEX". In my case, the file is named T30_PURE.HEX.
7) Connect the T30 to the computer via the USB cable.
8) Copy the .HEX file and paste it into the T30 file system. The file I used was 1.3mb in size.
9) After the file has been successfully pasted, make sure that the T30 is displaying "USB Connect" rather than "transmitting data". If it says "USB Connect", then disconnect the USB cable.
10) The T30 will then start up and immediately recognise the firmware upgrade and will reformat the T30.
11) Once it is ready again (it will tell you), go into Settings --> Advanced --> System Info again. This should now indicate the new firmware upgrade. In my case, the firmware was upgraded to 1.71P.

You should now begin to use the T30 normally again.

After this firmware upgrade, the problems I had encountered had disappeared. The uploading of music files still takes time, but ten minutes is okay by me. The T30's memory remains the same (just under 1gb) and once the files have been uploaded and the T30 is ready, the files are all in alphabetical order. UMS obviously works well.

Now, just a few words about the T30 generally, if you're thinking of buying one.

Unlike more advanced players, the T30 is fairly sparse. You don't have a "popular song" feature for starters. The T30 also has the option of speeding up or slowing down the playing speed, but this feature doesn't work for .ogg files. I don't know what the player is like to record voice with yet but you have the option of using a built-in microphone or plugging in a proper one.

The T30 is unique in digital music players because it is the first one to use a single AAA (LR03) battery. To be honest this is not all that great since a AA battery would result in longer playing times. Nevertheless, I find the battery life acceptable. I use two rechargeable AAAs, with one recharging while the other is being used. You need to tell the T30 you are using a rechargeable battery by going into Settings --> Display --> Battery Select. A small battery symbol on the front display will tell you how flat the battery is. When it goes too far, the player just stops. When you replace the battery and press play, the player will begin immediately where you left off.

You can also choose to use the Settings --> Display --> Tag info. As you are probably aware, .ogg and .MP3 files can contain information about the track you are listening to. You can choose to either have the player display this tag info, or you can choose the player to display the filename (I choose the latter). The T30 has trouble reading the "slash" ( / ) symbol. This means that my file marked "Joy Division / Atmosphere.ogg" comes up as "Joy Division %2f Atmosphere" on the display. Slightly annoying.

Another annoying thing is the "scan speed" (Settings --> Advanced --> Scan Speed). The fastest speed you can go is "6x". My music files tend to be entire albums rather than songs, so if I have to find my way back into the middle of an album, I have to wait for a minute while I fast forward to that point.

I find the earpieces to be okay. I haven't had a portable music player since my tape-driven walkman died about 12 years ago, so I am unaware of how good/bad these earpieces are. My 2 year old daughter ripped off the foam coverings but that hasn't seemed to bother me or the earpieces (yet).

The controls take some getting used to, but after a while it comes naturally.

The worst feature of the T30 is the battery cover. It is too easy to come off. Sometimes I have walked from one place in the house to another and discovered that, at some point, the battery cover had come off. I'm careful whenever I move around with it now, but I am seriously considering getting a rubber band to keep the cover on.

The entire T30 easily fits into the palm of your hand. I much prefer flash memory than the larger players with tiny hard drives simply because I know that moving parts are more likely to fail, while the T30 has no moving parts at all. I chose the 1gb because it was the largest at the time, but I have since seen a 2gb for sale. Maybe in 5 years a 40gb flash memory Digital music player will come out that can fit my entire CD collection on.

Overall, I am enjoying my T30. It is not perfect, but I can handle its imperfections. It is easy to use and, once the firmware has been upgraded, it is easy to connect with a Linux system. It is one of the only players around that can play .ogg files. It is light and easy to carry. One hopes that iRiver can learn from their mistakes and develop more Linux and .ogg friendly players.

© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Absurd Juxtapostions

  • While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Communist.
  • One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that the only thing we can do is let out a massive fart.
  • The dinosaurs disappeared because they could not adapt to their changing environment. We shall disappear if we cannot adapt to an environment that now contains spaceships, computers and country and western music.
  • Tyranny cannot defeat the power of hydroelectricity.
  • Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to horrible aliens.
  • There is no evil in the atom, only in men’s pants.
  • Religions all have different names, but they all contain the same truths. ... I think the people of our religion should be tolerant and understand people believe different things before they kill them.
  • To believe in something, and not live it, is the greatest good of all.
  • He who angers you conquers poverty.
  • The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average cat.
  • Majority rule only works if you're also considering individual rights. Because you can't have five wolves and one beautiful rainbow voting on what to have for supper.
  • Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for former Colombian drug lords.
  • The government solution to a problem is usually as red as the problem.
  • That government is best which governs themselves, because its people discipline the least.
  • It destroys one's finger to be amiable every day to the same human being.
  • Don't marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think who can't live without oxygen.
  • The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to urinate.
  • What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average newborn.
From the Department of Attempted Humour

© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Only in Britain?

I've just discovered the Grobag Egg, now selling in the U.K.. It's like a night light except it glows a different colour according to the temperature. If it glows blue, it means its under 16 degrees C and thus too cold. If it glows yellow it means it is between 16-20 degrees C and is the right temperature. If it glows orange it means the room is between 21-24 degrees C and is too warm. If it glows red it means that it is over 24 degrees C and is considered "hot".

So what's the point of this device?

It's actually to put in the room where your baby is asleep in. The idea being that precious baby is more likely to die of SIDS in temperatures below 16 or higher than 20. As a result, concerned British parents everywhere are buying these egg thingys because if they don't then they'll be bad parents.

The problem is that here in Australia, night-time temperatures in summer quite often remain above 20 degrees C. Theoretically, this means that Australia's parents should keep air conditioning on all night to keep baby alive. They don't, of course. And I don't think that poor baby will be more likely to die if temperatures get above 20. SIDS is a problem in Australia too, but I don't think that Australia's summertime temperature causes greater than average cot deaths.


Buy or sell at the BHT

Michael Spencer (iMonk) at the BHT has asked the members of the BHT to respond to five points he has put forward. The questions he asks are:

Buy = I agree/ this is good
Sell = I disagree/ not good

1. The Calvinistic resurgence in Southern Baptist life has filled SBC seminaries with young Calvinists in a denomination that has less than 10% Calvinistic churches. The result will be overwhelmingly negative for the denomination.

2. Daniel Radcliffe’s 10 minutes of on-stage nudity and simulated sex will not result in any real lasting controversies to affect his Harry Potter film role.

3. “Lost” will be canceled before the end of this season.

4. If you surveyed the average Sunday morning class of young adults (married or single/18-25) in the average Protestant church, you would find almost no one (less than 10%) who could explain the Gospel in a distinctly Biblical form.

5. There will never again be a Christian focused, major studio theatrical movie that will do anywhere close to the business of “The Passion of the Christ.”

Here are my opinions (below the fold)

1. Sell. My position is that Calvinism being injected into the SBC will improve it markedly, especially in reference to the 4th question. Michael's experiences of Calvinists have been overwhelmingly negative and I think that he fears an invasion of intolerant "TR's". I don't think this will happen. The Calvinists I see from the SBC and that I interact with occasionally are centred around the Founders Ministries' Blog and I have the utmost respect for most of them.

2. Buy. I agree with imonk that Daniel Radcliffe's nudity won't result in much at all. I fear that he will be a washed up actor addicted to prescription drugs by the time he is 24 while other actors from the film will become mainstream Hollywood actors. By the time he's 35 he will appear in a successful arthouse film by a quirky director and his career will flourish again.

3. Buy. I only watched half an episode of Lost. I think everyone has been drawn into the strange storyline in the same way as the X-Files and Twin Peaks... but have realised (like watchers of X-files and Twin Peaks) that the creators have even less an idea of what is going on than they do.

4. Buy. 10% is probably a realistic figure but it is shocking. There needs to be a generation of new pastors and preachers who go into these churches and begin to fearlessly preach the Word and preach the Gospel. That is why the Calvinistic "resurgence" will be so important to the life of American evangelicalism. Imagine all those churches full of starving believers finally getting a steady diet of expository preaching and exposure to the doctrines of grace.

5. Buy. "The Passion" was over-rated by Christians anyway. The fact that modern-day evangelicals have a movie that they can call "theirs" is disturbing considering the creator's status as an unbeliever. Mind you, Charles Finney is still a major influence on evangelical thinking, and he wasn't a believer either.


Bush - Worst President Ever

I've known this for years. But don't take my word for it, take the words of Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today:

Our great country has had 43 presidents. Many very good. A few pretty bad. On Presidents Day next Monday, it's appropriate to commemorate them all.

I remember every president since Herbert Hoover, when I was a grade school kid. He was one of the worst. I've personally met every president since Dwight Eisenhower. He was one of the best.

A year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying "this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst."

"She's wrong," I wrote. Then I rated these five presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon. "It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list," I added.

I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top.

Read the rest of Al's article here.


One more reason to love Terry Gilliam

(Question)...you never directly approach the issue of sex, you've never really directed a sex scene. Although the theme comes up from time to time…

(Answer) It's been overdone in the movies, I think. I don't know what to do in a sex scene that would be original. I'm basically getting tired of it. Sex scenes seem to be an easy way out so often. They were interesting in the Sixties, when we started seeing them on film, but now I feel they are overused.

I suppose there's another side of me that just feels it's actually a private matter, and not one necessarily that you have to expose publicly. There's lots of kinds of scenes I avoid because they've been overdone - sex scenes are one of those.

Actually, the real reason is that I'm really bad at sex!

(From here)

The longer it takes - the worse it will be

The 5 Fundamental Problems of the US Economy.

In any other period of history such indicators would be frightening. The article does not, however, discuss Peak Oil or Global Warming... which means that the problems are far worse.


Wade Burlson, the Pill and Abortion

Wade Burlson is a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention who is part of a movement to reform and renew the church. His latest posting was about the control of the SBC over its members but has ended up becoming a heated discussion about abortion. This is the offending illustration that Wade uses in his post:

SBC Interviewer: "Do you use contraception?"
SBC Interviewee (female): "Yes."
SBC Interviewer: "What kind of contraceptive method do you practice?"
SBC Interviewee: "The pill."
SBC Interviewer: "Are you aware that the pill changes the lining of the wall of the uterus so that if ovulation happens to occur the fertilized egg cannot implant itself in the uterus?
SBC Interviewee: "No, I was unaware of that fact."
SBC Interviewer: "Do you believe life begins at conception?"
SBC Interviewee: "Yes."
SBC Interviewer: "So, if you carry life in your body via a fertilized egg, but refuse to allow that life to be implanted in your uterus by means of a pill, are you taking that life into your own hands, playing God, and committing an abortion of choice?"

The illustration goes on. The point of Wade's use of this illustration is to show just how personal the SBC could become in its control over people. Yet the use of such a touchy subject as abortion has got some readers heated up and claiming that Wade supports abortion by supporting the pill.

Let me just summarise the particular problem:
1) A woman who uses the Pill as a contraceptive will prevent conception in 99% of cases. This is because the Pill prevents ovulation.
2) In 1% of cases, the woman will ovulate and there is a chance that conception will occur.
3) The Pill causes changes in the woman's uterus that prevents the fertilised egg from being implanted, which results in the loss of the fertilised egg.
4) A Fertilised egg is considered a human being created by God.
5) Therefore, if a woman used the Pill, then she may be causing the death of a human being.
6) Therefore, Christians should not use the Pill for contraception.

It's an interesting argument. Let me point out that I am reasonably conservative at this point. I believe that a fertilised egg is a human being and this new information that I have learned today has disturbed me and forced me to delve into the issue more deeply. My wife and I used the Pill early on in our marriage for a couple of years, and it has shocked me that we may have caused the death of an unborn child.

Fortunately, I have found the answer. The answer lies in the natural prevalence of miscarriages.

Medical science has determined that a full 25% of conceptions result in miscarriage - most of them occurred within the first few weeks and went totally unnoticed by the woman.

We need to remember that, while sad, such a high death rate has been recognised by God. It is he who has chosen such a high number of miscarriages.

So if a woman takes the Pill, she actually prevents conception - which results in less miscarriages. Yes, a fetus may die because it does not implant in the wall of the uterus - but overall, there are less deaths.

To reiterate - using the Pill results in far less miscarriages than normal.

To illustrate - imagine a woman who is super fertile and will conceive whenever the chance occurs. If she takes the pill, then, statistically, one child will die for every 100 times she, um, well... you know. But if she does not take the pill, then, statistically, 25 children will die. (She will also have 75 kids, which shows how limited this illustration is)