Icon Grill

worth checking out if someone else is paying

Walking in the door any night at the Icon Grill, you’ll see large parties of people. These are business groups on expense accounts. You will also see a fair number of tourists due to its proximity to the Westin and other hotels. That these groups are the staple customers should point out one thing to you, which is that this place looks better than it is. The atmosphere is funky yet kind of fancy. However, the booth we were seated in had a huge hole in the vinyl seat that was covered with packing tape. This would be OK in a Denny’s, but not somewhere with $20-$30 entrees. The food itself is Northwest-fusion with some staples. The pizza Margherita was worse than tasteless, but the squash soup was good. Their Stuffed Tuscan Chicken was tough and hard to chew, but the sauce it was in was good. My drink was watered down which I find to be the height of evil.

Basically, this place is just a bad bang for your buck. You are paying for the atmosphere, but not the quality of the food. If atmosphere is all that is important to you, there are better places to go. If food is what is important, then there are better places to go. I think you get my general drift here.

If they dropped their prices by a third, this would be a fun go-to. Not the first choice, but an occasional one. As it is, there is much better food to be had near by for the same price or less. Check the place out if you are on an expense account or stop by for a beer or wine (which they can’t water down), but don’t spend your own money here.

The logic of this stuns me

or maybe just the cruelty

So the new nonpartisan CBO budget projections are out, and the long and the short of it is that if GWB’s tax cuts are made permanent, there is no end in sight to the budget deficits. The government won’t be able to take in as much money as it spends for the foreseeable future. This means that paying off the national debt will become a larger and larger part of our lives and our children’s lives. There is a simple and obvious solution to this which is to rescind the tax cuts. We’ve got a war to pay for and cities to rebuild. Now is not the time to ask Americans to contribute less to the cause. Of course, what the Republicans are proposing instead is something much worse. Rather than ask the wealthy to pay more (since the tax cut favored the highest tax brackets the most), they are instead asking the poor to survive on less. In 2004, the budget deficit was 413 BILLION DOLLARS. For last year it is projected to be 318 Billion. In order to “close the gap” the Republican congress and White House are pushing to reduce programs to help the poor and sick by several million dollars and to then call that even. What kind of crack is K street dishing out these days?

I can’t wait for the new “Health Savings Plan” announcement. This is either incredibly stupid or just obviously cruel. A huge percentage of Americans have no health insurance or benefits. This is due to the costs of insurance being so high for those on limited means. The Republicans response is to allow Americans to put aside money tax-free that they can use on health care. So, in effect, this will be another tax cut. I can’t wait for the details because to me this just looks like another way for the richest to skip out on paying their fair share while simultaneously screwing the poor and making corporate America better off for it.

More Bush administration obfuscation

A NASA scientist reveals that the administration is attempting to silence his findings

Dr. James Hansen who is a leading climatologist has announced that the Bush administration is attempting to censor him because he is calling for a reduction in emissions to slow Global Warning. New York Times Article This isn’t the first such accusation, the scientific community has been trying to call public attention to this for years. The Bush administration and industry have been trying to silence critics of their policies while simultaneously raising up poorly researched studies from the low-rate “scientists” and claiming that the scientific community can’t agree.

If the government is in the right, why do they continually try to silence anyone who would question them? Don’t they think we can make up our own minds given the real facts?

The double-speak is back

Spying on American citizens is now the “Terrorism Prevention Program”

So the Bush administration has been on a barn-storming PR campaign to create credibility for the President’s order to spy on US Citizens without congressional or judicial oversight. We return to 1984-esque arguments and double-speak here. The actions were justified because we are at war. The War On Terror is an unending war against a dispersed enemy. A war that can never be won, and even if it was won, we couldn’t be sure that it was. Using a “War On Terror” for extra-legal actions is basically declaring the presidency above the law for all time and administration knows it. If the president gets away with this, the President can do anything he wants under the guise of “protecting our freedoms.” They already claim that people who disagree with their policies are “giving aid and comfort to our enemies.” The next logical step is to jail dissidents. That is what Big Brother, The Cold-War-era Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein would do. Maybe Bush will declare himself “Leader for Life” because no one else could protect the American People. After polling showed that the American people weren’t so incensed if the spying on Americans was done to find terrorists the spying policy was renamed the “Terrorism Prevention Program” and that talking point was hammered home over and over on TV. The problem is that we already know that the NSA net was cast far wider than the Bush Administration would have us believe. They refuse to give out the details for fear of alerting our enemies to our tactics, but that has become boilerplate for the administration preventing the American people from knowing anything about what is really going on.

If we want to truly show the world the power of democracy and freedom, we should be doing whatever we can to protect the people while making civil liberties and general welfare the highest priorities. The government should be welcoming light being shown into its practices, not obstructing truth everywhere it can. The US looks more like the oppressive regimes of the Middle East these days than the freedom-loving, liberty-preserving beacon of hope that we claim to be.

finding a new webhost, an impossible dream?

It is nearly impossible to pick a web hosting company these days

So, I’ve been an interland customer for about 6 years now. unitcircle.com was originally hosted on various sites run by friends of mine. Each of these servers had somewhat dubious connections to the internet, but they were free when it was really expensive to host a website. Finally, after unitcircle.com went down for over a week when my friend’s DSL connection was down while he was on vacation, I moved the site over to interland who I found through an ad in the back of wired or something. At that time there were only a handful of hosting companies on the net. Now there are a zillion of them and they are all offering similar plans and similar claims. If you look at 10 host-review sites you will find 10 different recommendations. I’m now paying an insane amount on interland for a ridiculously small amount of disk space (but unlimited bandwidth). The host review sites are obviously not to be trusted. I’m pretty sure that hosting companies set these up just to make themselves #1. I know I would if I was in their shoes. The cool thing is that the hosting plans are cheap enough that I can probably just try out one or two to see how they are before I sign up for a year or so. The other cool thing is that most of these sites seem to make that simple (any site that requires a 6 month sign up isn’t to be trusted). I’ll leave unitcircle on interland for now and move one of my other domains to a new site and see how that works… As I go, I’ll post here what I think.

A bigger question to me is around if I should switch from a windows host to a linux (or even a mac) one. The only server-side scripting of any kind I’ve learned to do is ASP in visual basic, but I’ve done a LOT of C# development so asp.net doesn’t scare me. The problem is that, at home, I’ve gotten rid of all my PCs and am just using macs now. I do know Java, but I haven’t done any JSP stuff and I’m not sure if I want to bother. I haven’t done any PHP, so I’d have to learn that from scratch. Currently I use asp only in on the unitcircle catalog pages, but I’ll need something like that for the on-line store.

The Cost of the war

new estimates are out

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002739307_warcosts14.html (related article)

The original Bush administration estimate for the costs of the Iraq war were between $10 Billion and $100 Billion (this came from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz). Bush Administration Economic Advisor Lawrence Lindsay suggested that it was more like $100 Billion to $200 Billion and he was immediately fired. As of this moment, congress has appropriated $357 Billion dollars and we are nowhere near done over there.

These two papers
The Economic Costs of the Iraq War, by L. Bilmes and J.E. Stiglitz
The Economic Costs of the War in Iraq, by S. Wallsten and K. Kosec

represent new estimates from liberals and conservatives (the first paper is from a Columbia University prof and the second from an analyst at the Brookings institute (a conservative think-tank) estimate the Real Cost of the War between $657 Billion and $2 Trillion dollars. Their estimates take into account the expected future costs of supporting the effort in Iraq plus all the lost wages and productivity by those killed plus the additional costs in fuel to Americans and all the other little details that insurance people like to compute, but the Bush administration claimed was too hard to calculate before the war.

The administration claims that you can’t pay too high a price to protect our freedom, but that is just the same kind of mindless bullshit that they sprout anytime dares question their judgment or decisions. If you look at the real numbers, we are less safe now then we ever have been. The number of terrorist attacks world-wide are up 3 times over last year which was up twice the year before. Both are all-time highs. The US invasion of Iraq is minting new US-hating terrorists everyday that we remain there. We are providing a rallying cry for radical leaders in the middle-east. With GWB’s saber-rattling towards Iran in the last few days it makes the problem even worse.

Meanwhile we are spending our Nation’s capital in both economic and moral senses on a needless folly that all the experienced voices in government disagreed with, but were shouted down or replaced with yes-men. Anytime someone at the Pentagon or within the administration questioned the military judgment of a group of chicken-hawks playing toy soldier with other people’s children, they were removed or asked to step down. That left no real voices of wisdom or real discussion within the White House. Now, we will be paying for that stupidity the rest of our and our children’s days.

GWB has left America bankrupt and with no moral authority or respect in the world. It is time that congress perform its oversight duties and impeach this cretin before he does any more damage to our once great nation.

iLife ’06

impressive, but I don’t know if it is for me

Many other blogs will be talking about the introduction of the first mactel devices. Maybe because I just got a new Mac I’m not interested, or maybe because none of my software will run natively on them. The announcement that really got me interested yesterday was the new iLife announcement.

Now, I’ve got all the high-end versions of their apps (or equivalents). However, sometimes, it is just easier to toss a project into iDVD, rather than DVD Studio Pro. There certainly isn’t anything more useful than iPhoto. Even iMovie has its uses.

It really seems like the iLife suite is coming into its own now. The integration is getting really amazing, now that the iApps are finally taking advantage of CoreVideo and CoreImage plug-ins, I can see a lot more possibilities for the future.

The problem: podcasting. With the addition of iWeb and adding the podcasting mode to GarageBand as well as the photo-casting stuff they’ve added, the goal of this rev is obvious: make it easy for everyone to do blogging/podcasting/vidcasting/etc… Now, I think that is a pretty good goal with one exception: it is all based around .Mac. Now the iLife suite has always been trying to push people towards subscribing to .Mac before, but now they are ramming it down people throats. Why isn’t there a 1-step publish in iWeb to another website? Do iWeb pages require server-side components running on the .Mac servers?

I think that the podcasting features are very cool and very well done, but I don’t need them or want them. iWeb would be cool for an occasional web page, but I don’t need or want a .Mac account. The rest of the features are also very cool, but I don’t know if they are worth upgrading the software. Then I remember that the price is $79 which is the equivalent of going to a couple movies with my wife and I realize that the few features that are really interesting to me might be worth it…

Yow

Blixa Bargeld home improvement commercials

Blixa Bargeld is one of my favorite musicians of all time, anyone who could play in both the extremely influential industrial EN and also the Bad Seeds while carrying the name of Blixa deserves your respect. He even makes German home improvement commercials look cool: http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2005/12/einstrzende_dea.html

The Unit Circle Rekkids web redesign

the geeky details (design geek and tech geek!)

I just flipped the switch on the third full design of the Unit Circle Rekkids website.

The first was the sort of get-it-up-and-make-it-look-decent version. The second was the make-it-look-good-and-make-the-navigation-better site. There was some stuff I was really proud of in the second design: each “section” had a different-but-related color-scheme so that you could tell where you were in the site; I had a javascript-based navigation bar on the left that would do the dynamic layout and UI to show you what else was related to what you were looking at; finally, I worked really hard to make sure that the pages rendered well on all browsers and nearly all versions (I even ensured Netscape3 and IE3 compatibility).

This new design was all about simplifying things and making the design look tres moderne. If the second design was an architectural unfolding: Entryway, front hallway, living room, etc…; the new design is about making it easy to get the info and find what you want. The front page basically doubles as a site-map. I’ve dropped a lot of nooks and crannies designed for people who might want to explore or look for weird stuff; that was hard to keep up-to-date and wasn’t really taken advantage of much anyway. While I believed in the notion of keeping data and design separate before, this re-design nailed that into my head like never before. The new site has about 35-40 pages. There are three main designs, the main page, the artist pages and the release pages. I wasn’t adding any new content (although I was revising some of the old content). Once I had the designs set, mostly I was copying and pasting from the old pages into the new. So, it should have taken a day or two, right? Actually, it took most of a week working a few hours a day. This is due to how much the old site had the content and layout mixed, but even in that design, I’d already started using CSS. This new design is using some tables for simple layout stuff, but all the rest is 100% CSS, also I’m now using Dreamweaver templates. I’d tried using them before, but in DW8 they seem to be much simpler, or maybe I finally figured out how to use them. I know better than to rely on a proprietary technology, but they really did help and should make any future redesigns much, much simpler.

The hardest part was abandoning the super-cool nested html and javascript sidebar navigation thingy that I did. The original goal was to make adding content simpler, but it ended up being a nightmare because of the distributed nature of the code and embedded html. I’m now setting up the sidebar in a template and showing where you are using CSS. Much simpler. I do run the risk of having to redo each page by hand if I can’t use the dreamweaver templates later, but I’m not adding content to the site the way I used to before, so I’m not too worried.

I did think about switching to a database-driven website design, like I did for Unit Circle Mailorder. There were some limitations that I’m now encountering with that approach that makes me very cautious about using it again. I’m very conscious that people are linking into my site. I encourage it mightily. The problem is that I can’t go changing my URLs around willy-nilly. I have that problem with the mailorder pages now. They are all ASP pages with parameters. I’ve got to support those urls forever. So if I switch to a linux host, I’m going to have to fake those URLs. My site isn’t big enough to warrant its own servers, so I can’t do any tricks around faking directory paths being intercepted at the web server or whatever. Doing a SQL-driven site would make doing a redesign dead-simple though, so it is in the back of my head…