Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Herman Goering, Nazi Reichsmarshall and Luftwaffe-Chief, made the following statement when he was on trial at Nuremberg. He was speaking to Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist, who had access to all the prisoners held at Nuremberg:

Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.

Republicans Romney, Giuliani and McCain at a presidential nominee debate in November 2007. Note how many aren't wearing lapel pins. I was reminded of this chilling quote by the recent claims from conservatives that Barack Obama is somehow unpatriotic because he doesn't wear an American flag lapel pin, and was once seen without his hand over his heart during the singing of the national anthem.1

I'd like to ask these conservatives a couple of questions:

Since when was it patriotic to lie2 your country into an illegal (and seemingly endless) war that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, woman and children, and thousands of American troops?3

Since when was it patriotic to refuse to supply your troops4 with what they need to best protect themselves5 in that illegal and ill-thought-out war?

Since when was it patriotic to force those troops (and reservists, and members of the National Guard) into returning to the battle front again and again6 without giving them sufficient time in between tours of duty to recover from their injuries or spend time with their families?7

Since when was it patriotic to deny the right of a soldier (or a reservist, or a member of the National Guard) to leave the army when his or her agreed tenure is complete?8

Since when was it patriotic to virtually ignore those veterans who return injured in mind, body or spirit, to deny them the help they need9, and to create an environment where more and more of them are ending up on the streets, homeless and alone?10

George Bush: Mission Accomplished. Since when was it patriotic to be all gung-ho for war now, while at the same time knowing that you avoided the Viet Nam draft by jumping to the head of the queue for the Texas National Guard (George W Bush, on account of being a congressman's son, despite having scored a pitiful 25% on the "pilot aptitude" test)11, or by getting a total of five deferments in a row (Dick Cheney, including one for being a new father nine months and two days after the Selective Service lifted its ban against drafting married men who had no children)?12

Since when was it patriotic to systematically remove the constitutional rights of one's citizens?13 Perhaps the Center for Constitutional Rights14 might have something to say about that, or the Movement to Impeach George W Bush...15

Since when was warrantless wiretapping patriotic?16

Since when was it patriotic to violate the agreements of the Geneva Conventions?17

Since when was it patriotic to destroy the Bill Of Rights18 by removing from prisoners the right of habeas corpus?19

Since when was torturing people considered patriotic?20 (Especially when you lie about doing it for years and years first).21

But wait! All these clear demonstrations of the Bush administration's total lack of patriotism can be forgiven and forgotten - nay - be overridden and ignored - in two easy steps:

1) Wear an American flag lapel pin
2) Put your hand on your heart when singing the national anthem (as well as while swearing the Oath of Allegiance)

Steve Bell cartoon: The George W Bush memorial library. In a classic example of It's OK If You're A Republican, you can simultaneously wage illegal wars, fail to take care of your troops, listen in to your citizens' phone calls, torture prisoners and keep them locked up for years on end without charge or trial, break the Geneva Convention and quietly remove the constitutional rights of your people - and still remain patriotic - as long as you wear the pin and do the hand on your heart thing.

And then you can attack Barack Obama for his lack of patriotism, because of his lack of pin-wearing and hand-on-hearting.22

How truly, hypocritically, pathetic.

In response, Barack Obama said he didn't believe Republicans had a lock on patriotism:23
A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans' benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?

That is a debate I am very happy to have. We'll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism.

In a speech in Ohio back in October, Obama said:24
Somebody noticed I wasn't wearing a flag lapel pin and I told folks, well you know what? I haven't probably worn that pin in a very long time. I wore it right after 9/11. But after a while, you start noticing people wearing a lapel pin, but not acting very patriotic. Not voting to provide veterans with resources that they need. Not voting to make sure that disability payments were coming out on time.

My attitude is that I'm less concerned about what you're wearing on your lapel than what's in your heart. And you show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those who served. You show your patriotism by being true to our values and our ideals and that's what we have to lead with is our values and our ideals.

And just for fun, and to see what kind of a man Obama really is, check out this November 2006 article - The Legend of Barack Obama. It makes fascinating reading.

And a couple more articles just for fun: What you missed while watching the Red Sox win and American flag pins are for idiots.

Referenced links:

1. Various items (2) - Questions on Patriotism! Is he exposed?

2. Ten Appalling Lies We Were Told About Iraq

3. Casualties in Iraq

4. U.S. Troops in Iraq Have Limited Body Armor

5. Armor4Troops

6. Troop morale in Iraq hits 'rock bottom'

7. Tour of duty extensions 'devastating' for loved ones

8. 'Stop Loss' Continues

9. Witness slams 'nightmares' of Army medical system

10. Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans

11. At Height of Vietnam, Bush Picks Guard

12. Cheney's Five Draft Deferments During the Vietnam Era Emerge as a Campaign Issue

13. Bush Administration vs the US Constitution Scorecard

14. Center for Constitutional Rights

15. Movement to Impeach George W Bush

16. ACLU v. NSA: The Challenge to Illegal Spying

17. U.S. Violates Geneva Conventions

18. The death of habeas corpus

19. Habeas corpus in the United States

20. American Soldiers Will Pay the Price for Bush's Torture Policy

21. Sins of Commission

22. Obama shows that dismissing slimy right-wing attacks is not difficult

23. Obama fights back on questions about his patriotism

24. Obama's Lapels

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bye bye Most Popular Posts widget!

Screenshot of restyled 2.0 widget in my blog. Those of you who've visited my blog before will know that, until yesterday, AffiliateBrand's Most Popular Posts widget featured prominently near the top of my sidebar. I redesigned the CSS to match my blog when I first added it, and then when they redesigned it with lots of blue graphics I figured out how to entirely rebuild the thing so that it still matched my blog. You can see the tutorials I wrote on how to do it here, here and here.

I really liked the thing - even when it wasn't working properly and was pissing me off. I hung in there, fixed things when the dudes at AffiliateBrand changed stuff and broke (my version of) the widget - and basically I did everything I could to keep it, because I thought it was really clever, interesting and useful.

I don't know how many of you used to refer to it and were encouraged to click on another blog post just 'cos it was listed under "Most Popular", but I know I used to keep quite a close eye on it - just to see at a glance which of my posts you guys were reading...

But it had gotten to the point where my blog was taking 5 minutes to load each time I tried to access it - like, really 5 minutes (not just "30 seconds that feels like 5 minutes online"). Sometimes I'd just give up and go and do something else while my blog was loading. And occasionally I'd look down at the status bar of my browser and it would always read "Waiting for AffiliateBrand"". Bummer.

I imagined how a potential visitor would act if they arrived on my blog via a search engine referral (which many of you do). Give up and go elsewhere, I'm sure - after about 20 seconds (if that!). In fact I'm surprised I'm still getting as many hits as I do - you guys must be pretty patient!

So I've given up. I'm guessing that this particular widget has become too popular for its own good, and that the server just can't handle it any more. Which is a pity, because I really liked it. I also liked the regular visitor stats they sent through, even though I couldn't read the formatting of their emails in Eudora...

Ah well - maybe AffiliateBrand will get a bigger, faster server and it will all be fine again - or maybe I'll find another Most Popular Posts widget somewhere else. We shall see...

Bye bye widget!

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Someone is wrong...

Someone is WRONG on the internet - cartoon
Tee hee! Too funny (and also too true...)

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Friday, February 22, 2008

I have a crush on Barack Obama

Obama in Texas
Okay, I admit it... I have a crush on Barack Obama.

Is that so wrong?

The second part of Barack Obama's speech in Houston, Texas after winning the Wisconsin Democratic Primary.

Comparison of the bills that Obama and Clinton have authored and introduced into Congress

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Scottish Song

I'm not going to say much about this video - except that, if you were ever a Gatherer, and if you ever experienced the awesomeness of one of Murray's iconic "Last Trance" sets, this track will either send you screaming from the room - or it will fill you full of joy and huge smiles.

Thanks, Muz!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Obama on "just words" and what hope really means

Watch this Barack Obama ad and tell me it doesn't move you in some way. You know I won't believe you.

And take a look at his Wisconsin speech:

Wow. Just - wow. If you watch no other Obama speech, watch this one. It's amazing.

The man is making history - can you feel it? YES WE CAN!

Raising Obama - Vanity Fair article

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Saturday, February 16, 2008


Webstock logo. How can I summarise Webstock08 in a few words?



You want more? OK then...

Webstock08 fully lived up to all my expectations. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and well worth the wait.

Jeffrey getting the bag and schwag. It's such a joy being part of Webstock. The attention to detail is just astounding, from the branding to the pre-conference workshops to the inspiring collection of national and international speakers right through to the great food, free fair-trade coffee (thanks, People's Coffee!) and icecream.

Stunning design from DNA - the website, the fabulous it's-so-cool-I-want-to-use-it-every-day conference satchel, the great-looking T-shirt, the lovely recycled-but-luxurious programme and the nifty nametag that doubled as a quick reference guide to what's happening where and when.

Webstockers galore! I love the fact that everyone's smiling and happy at Webstock, I love the fact that every speaker has something new and fascinating and useful to share, I love the fact that I can reconnect with (and get hugs from) 50 people I know but haven't seen for ages (and can take a sneaky peek at their nametag if I can't remember their names) and that I have the chance to meet 50 (or 500) new people I didn't know before.

I love the fact that everyone seems to swap tables on a regular basis throughout the conference, just for the opportunity to say hi to someone else. I love the fact that you can rock up to some rockstar CSS guru after his talk and thank him for his website which helped you enormously when you were teaching yourself pure CSS (thanks, Dan!). I love the fact that the Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra played at our post-conference drinks (hi guys!), and that Kathy Sierra (Kathy - you rock!) closed the conference with another wonderfully passionate presentation.

I'm thrilled by the fact that Russell not only knew who I was, but took the time to offer me some advice on encouraging Gatherers to contribute to The Gathering Archives website - and invited me to write a guest post for Public Address about the site. Crikey!

I'm inspired to share best practice for creating online forms with my fellow Shifties (thanks Luke W for a great workshop!) and I'm also inspired to tinker with the design hierarchy of The Gathering Archives homepage (thanks again, Luke!), make easy-to-use connections with APIs such as Flickr (thanks Tom - your presentation was brilliant!) and continue to agitate for more involvement earlier on in the process of creating a great website (thanks again Tom!).

Simon Willison workshop. I'm also planning to teach myself JQuery (thanks for your workshop clearly showing us its power and simplicity, Simon - and for your very endearing enthusiasm for all things JavaScript).

I need this T-shirt (thanks, Kathy - and thanks a million for being willing to return to Webstock to share your thoughts and ideas with us - I hope it wasn't too scary for you - we really are just cute fluffy bunnies), and I spent a whole lot of time laughing my socks off (you were VERY funny, Damian).

I got completely worn out before the end of Day 1 and then miraculously found (or Webstock gave me) a whole heap more energy and enthusiasm on Day 2, and by the time the very awesome Town Hall staff finally threw us out of there some time around midnight last night, I really didn't want it to end.

Webstock logo. Thank you SO much to Mike, Tasha, Miraz, and the rest of Team Webstock for your incredible hard work, to the speakers for sharing your knowledge so generously and inspiring us to go forth and Code for Freedom, to the sponsors for providing the means to make it happen, to the tireless and wonderfully polite Town Hall staff for making it all run so smoothly, to the team of sign-language interpreters who made the conference accessible to all - and to my fellow Webstockers who were a joy to hang out with. You all rule!

Roll on Webstock 2010!

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Phew! Charlie's OK!

I have a bunch of favourite websites I visit on a regular basis - Daily Kos for American lefty politics, Guardian Unlimited for world news, Public Address for erudite Kiwi discussions - and for fun I occasionally pop over to the very wonderful Dooce, who cracks me up on a regular basis.

Shreve and Charlie when he was a baby. It was Dooce who introduced me to my "awwwwwwww" factor favorite website - The Daily Coyote. It's the story of Shreve Stockton, her cat Eli, and the wild coyote Charlie, who was orphaned at the age of 10 days after both his parents were shot for killing sheep. Shreve adopted Charlie, and has been taking photos of him every day since then.

Charlie was born in April '07, and in September '07 Shreve began writing The Daily Coyote, chronicling Charlie's life from the day he came to live with her. For that reason, the blog has a 5-month time-lag - in other words, a post she publishes today actually happened 5 months ago. It's a feature which can have interesting (and unintended) consequences for her readers, especially those new to the blog, who haven't quite figured out the time-difference...

A couple of days ago, Shreve posted that Charlie was very ill with parvo. This is often a fatal disease in canines, and it's incredibly fortunate that Shreve realised immediately that something was wrong, and got help. If she'd waited a couple of days, it would have been too late and he would have died.

Grass ocean. Now those of us who've been following Charlie's life for a while understand that there's a time delay, and that Charlie actually got parvo in September of last year - but that didn't help allay everyone's fears. What if Shreve had been inspired last September to begin writing The Daily Coyote as a result of Charlie getting parvo and dying? How would we know? Oh nooooooooooooo!

Some of the blog's more observant readers had figured out that Charlie must still be alive because there's a photo of him, nearly full-grown, romping around in the snow (which was presumably taken some time after September in the winter of 07/08) - but the link to the photo's pretty small, and not that noticeable, so most people didn't figure that one out...

It was fascinating to read the comments on the blog during that time. It was this crazy mixture of "OMG! I hope he gets well soon!" from those who didn't understand the time lag, "OMG! What if he died in September and we never knew!", from those who had got the time lag but hadn't seen the snow picture, and "OMG! Don't you people pay attention! Timelag-snow-picture-he's-ok-stop-freaking-out!", from those who'd figured it all out already.

Charlie and Eli. In the end, Shreve just gave up trying to reassure the freaker-outers and posted this short and to-the-point missive...

Phew! Well that's OK then....

Funny how easy it is to get caught up in the life of someone (human or animal) living on the other side of the world, whom you will never meet, and who will never even know you exist. In a funny way, I find it rather reassuring.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

On learning to walk before trying to run

I learnt a very important lesson on Saturday at Tatum Park. I learned that drumming with a Samba Group such as Batucada is very different from drumming with Many Hands. I learned that I'm not quite ready to do performances yet. I learned that I need to practise, practise, practise - and then practise again.

In Many Hands, much of what we played was at least somewhat improvised. We played together so often, and listened to each other's rhythms so carefully, that improvisation came naturally, and it pretty much always sounded good.

Brazilian Samba is very different. There are set patterns, and variations on those set patterns. There are signals to learn, and bridges and changes to understand. A good Samba group will sound as one, with each group of instruments playing so exactly, that together each beat should sound as though it comes from a single instrument. There's no room for improvisation (which I had already figured out!), but there is also no room for "figuring it out as you go along". That's just not good enough in Samba.

So I have stepped back from performances for a while, and I'm working hard to improve.

I've transcribed and learned 5 different rhythms since Saturday. I can now sing you (or play you) the basic pattern from each of those rhythms - on demand, and immediately. My stick technique has already shown massive improvement - practising for at least an hour a day really makes a difference. My drum teacher is pleased with my progress, and he wants to see as many transcribed patterns as possible so that we can try them out together.

Now I need to learn the variations for each rhythm, and then I need to learn all the signals, bridges and changes. That's going to be quite a challenge, because it's more difficult to transcribe these, but I can certainly try. Recording and videoing them in rehearsals certainly helps, and I've persuaded Nancy to let me video her on Sunday, when I'm going to ask her to play me all the Batucada caixa rhythms and variations.

I realise that I learn by ear - by listening to someone else playing a rhythm, and mimicking it in the way I did with the conga in Many Hands. But I remember by seeing - and especially by writing and reading. I need the transcriptions in order to really fix a pattern in my head - otherwise I find it hard to start it independently - as opposed to playing it alongside someone else who already knows it (when I can just play along and fudge it). I use a range of mnemonics to learn and retain the patterns, which is why having the transcriptions is important.

I'm super-motivated - having demonstrated to myself just how much I still need to learn - and I'm determined to get as good as I can be on the caixa. I want to make Tim and Batucada proud of me - and next time I ask to perform with the group, I want to make sure that I will do their awesomeness justice.

Today I took part in the Sevens Parade (Look! We're in the paper! And we were on telly!) - I pushed Jane's wheelchair while she played her surdo - and it was another hugely valuable lesson. I got to march with the band, be a part of the team, and listen in to (and watch at close quarters) the crew going through their paces. No pressure, all the fun! I think all newbies should volunteer to parade with Jane - it certainly allows you to compare your ability with that of the rest of the group, and shows you the areas in which you still need to improve.

I wanna play with the band (Mike says I remind him of Veruca Salt's "I want it NOWWWWWWWW!"), but I don't wanna play until I'm ready. And to get there, I will work as hard as I can, practising and learning - and - having truly learned my lesson - I won't try to run again before I can walk. Promise!

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