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Welcome to Off on a Tangent, the online repository where I share my creative endeavors with the world. Inside you will find fiction, news, commentary, poetry, music, and more that I have produced over the years and am still producing today. I am always open to feedback, so please don't hesitate to contact me or leave a comment and share your thoughts!

No-Nonsense Weather for WebOS Support Ends Aug. 31

Posted August 19, 2011 12:32am ET

No-Nonsense Weather

In light of Hewlett-Packard’s announcement that HP will be terminating its ‘WebOS device operations,’ combined with HP’s failure to release WebOS 2.x for my Pre Plus and a general ongoing pattern of mismanagement of the platform, I am terminating all support for No-Nonsense Weather for HP WebOS effective August 31, 2011.

On the evening of August 31, 2011, I will be removing the application from the WebOS App Catalog. If you want it on your WebOS device through the App Catalog channel, you will need download it before then.

I will leave the source code on the No-Nonsense Weather for HP WebOS page indefinitely. In accordance with the terms of the GNU-GPL 2.0 license, you are welcome to take the code and use it to make your own fork of the application. I only ask that you please give it a new name if you choose to fork it, in order to reduce customer confusion.

For those of you who are fellow WebOS exiles now on the Android platform, stay tuned. I am working on No-Nonsense Weather for Android. More information to follow.…

Subjects: ,
Posted in HP WebOS

Palm is Dead…For Real

Posted August 18, 2011 11:58pm ET

Goodbye, Palm

Just over one year ago, Palm—the mobile computing company known for the Palm Pilot and one of the original smartphones, the Treo—was absorbed by Hewlett-Packard (HP). I was a long-time Palm supporter, having owned a Palm OS-running Handspring Visor Pro, a Palm Treo 650 (my first smartphone), and later a WebOS-based Palm Pre Plus. Despite some of the most spectacular corporate mismanagement in technology history, Palm still managed to make some really excellent, innovative hardware and software over the years.

At the time of the HP buyout, I wrote a piece called Palm is Dead; Long Live Palm. I lamented the end of Palm as an independent company, but was cautiously optimistic about the future of the groundbreaking WebOS mobile operating system. WebOS was, and remains, the most user-friendly mobile operating system out there. Imagine Apple’s iOS without the stupid limitations; imagine Android without the interface kludginess. Not only that, but it was super-easy to develop for; you write applications for it in industry-standard web languages HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (with a handful of API extensions). I even wrote my own weather app.

HP had the money and infrastructure to make WebOS a success. Palm, as an independent company, was teetering on bankruptcy when the mediocre Pre smartphone came out. Palm managed to get the Pixi on the market, and then followed both with the nominally-updated Pre Plus and Pixi Plus. It was clear that Palm had cut some corners, but many of us saw the potential in the platform and embraced it anyway. Unfortunately, they were unable to get the broad adoption they needed—among either developers or users. continued… →

We’re Not Stupid

Posted August 15, 2011 10:48pm ET

What is it about our economic crisis that has caused our leaders to think we’re idiots? This started in the crisis’s earliest days under President George W. Bush (R), Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Fed. Chairman Ben Bernanke, but continued apace or accelerated under President Barack Obama (D), Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and Obama-reappointed Fed. Chairman Bernanke.

Paulson told us he desperately needed $700 billion in bailout funds to buy up distressed mortgages under TARP, and then he and Bush used the money to buy banks and car companies instead (Constitution be damned). Bush presided over the largest federal intervention into the American economy since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (D) ‘New Deal’ and then, shortly thereafter, toured the world lecturing other countries not to interfere in the free market. Bernanke stood by, signing off on these monstrosities and encouraging massive deficit spending, before suddenly changing course and declaring that deficits were bad (I’m wondering which version of Bernanke was the one that Obama intended to reappoint…and how reappointing Bush’s Fed. Chairman constituted ‘change’ anyway).

Now Obama wants us to believe that his massive ‘stimulus’ spending programs, widely regarded as having had little-to-no impact on our economy except to accelerate our federal debt to crisis levels, reversed the recession until ‘bad luck’ intervened. You know, I can accept political spin. This isn’t spin. This is a lie.

An honorable, talented politician can admit when his policies have failed, and will seek to improve them—even to the point of making a 180-degree turnaround if the situation warrants it. This results in some short-term political harm, which is why it’s a good idea to implement sound policy in the first place, but most people respect somebody who can change his mind (provided it doesn’t have the appearance of ‘flip flopping’ for purposes of political expediency). The worst thing you can do when your policies have failed—particularly when they have failed as spectacularly as Obama’s economic policies have—is dig-in, lie about them, declare that they work, and continue them. It’s politically suicidal because, despite a fair amount of evidence to the contrary, the voters aren’t stupid.

If President Obama actually intends to try and win reelection, this is the wrong strategy. As he digs-in on failed Keynesian economic policies that are deepening and lengthening our economic malaise, he is reducing his chances exponentially by the week. If he holds out against reality until election day, his chances of reelection will have approached zero (barring an unlikely fringe nomination from the Republicans like Sarah Palin or Rep. Michele Bachmann [R-MN 6th]). Claiming responsibility for a recovery we all know never happened, based entirely on inflation that the Fed. has artificially written off the books, is not the way to win an election…unless your constituents are morons.

Meet Intrepid: The New Notebook

Posted August 13, 2011 3:15am ET


Back in March I built Excelsior, my first home-built PC. It has been serving me wonderfully and I have no serious complaints. It did run a little hot since I’m always pegging the processor at 100% with my Boinc projects, so I added an aftermarket cooler and an extra couple of fans after the initial build (which has reduced processor temps by over 10°C), but otherwise it’s been performing pretty much flawlessly.

Meanwhile, I continued using Katia 2 (my five-year old MacBook Pro) and Selina (my Google Cr-48 coffee-table machine) for my mobile purposes, but each of these machines had serious shortcomings. The MacBook Pro always seemed to run too hot—especially when booted into Windows—and had an increasingly anemic battery life with its age. The Cr-48 had an excellent battery life, but was little more than a web browser and didn’t allow me to do web development, remote access to my home or work machines, and so on.

In other words, it was time for a mobile upgrade. Since I moved back to a desktop as my ‘primary’ machine, I didn’t need a speed-demon as my notebook, but I did need something than ran cool, had a decent battery life, and ran a real operating system. In the end I settled for a refurbished Asus UL80J with Windows 7 Home Premium, which I was able to get from for only $559.97 (including the additional 1-year warranty, since Asus refurbs only come with a 90-day warranty).

Somewhat surprisingly, the MacBook Pro (15″, Core 2 Duo 2.16ghz) was still worth about $500 despite being a half-decade old. We sold it to a friend of ours at a discounted $400, but even then my real out-of-pocket cost for the new machine was only about $160. Not bad, if you ask me, and I still have the Cr-48 to play around with (or sell, or give away, or whatever…I haven’t decided on its disposition yet). continued… →

Posted in Life, Photos, Products

Too Little…Maybe Too Late

Posted August 6, 2011 11:16pm ET

Last week, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to increase our statutory debt ceiling and make approximately $2.2 trillion in budget cuts spread over the next ten years. The agreement has been generally characterized as a triumph for the ‘radical right wing’ of the Republican Party, namely the ‘Tea Party’ wing, because it did not include the tax increases requested by President Barack Obama (D) and many Democrats, and because it included more cuts than many on the ‘left’ (or even ‘center’) wanted to see.

The absurdity of this is that the ‘radical right wing’ plan was actually far less than we needed to do. Like the budget plans flying around Congress back in April, our two political parties were fighting to the death between plans that all fell far short of actually solving our problems. The math is pretty simple: the approved plan makes $2.2 trillion in cuts to our national budget over ten years when we run over-$1 trillion in deficit spending annually. In other words, we are still careening toward the cliff…we’ve just let off the accelerator a little bit. I don’t call that success. I’m not even sure we can really call it progress, although this faux-radical plan was nominally better than any proposed alternative. We’re still careening toward the cliff. We are still in the midst of a very serious debt crisis.

The international rating agencies—Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s (S&P)—estimated that we would need to make about $4 trillion in cuts to ensure that we could keep our AAA bond rating, the highest possible, which we have enjoyed since 1941. The ‘radical’ Republican debt ceiling compromise was for $2.2 trillion in cuts—a bit more than half of what the agencies wanted to see. Obama and the Democrats wanted to do even less! Both Moody’s and S&P warned us over and over for months and months that we were at risk of a downgrade, and told us exactly what we needed to do to avoid it. Our government chose to ignore that guidance. As such, S&P has downgraded our rating to AA+ with a negative outlook (indicating another downgrade is possible within 12-18 months). Moody’s has chosen to let us keep our AAA rating for now, but has also lowered our outlook to negative (indicating a likely downgrade within 12-24 months).

While I am saddened by the S&P downgrade, I’m not surprised by it. Indeed, the most surprising thing about this debacle is that that Moody’s chose not to downgrade us and that S&P only downgraded us by one level. Last week’s debt compromise was terribly insufficient. An honest review of our national finances would indicate that we are not a safe investment. It is clear that only one relatively-small faction of our Congress has even a passing interest in solving our debt crisis, and even they are not as clear-headed about it as they ought to be. A default on our debt obligations—either in the traditional way of missing payments, or the alternative of debasing the dollar the wipe out the real value of the debt—is more likely now than it has ever been.

It is obvious that our government has so-far done far too little to stave off an unprecedented fiscal disaster. The important questions now is this: Is it too late to fix it? I’m starting to think that maybe it is.

Conan Fan Correction: The Flaming C’s Beard

Posted July 29, 2011 8:23pm ET

Another attempt at a ‘Fan Correction’ for Conan O’Brien’s late-night show in TBS, Conan. This time it’s an error with Conan’s comic book alter-ego, the ‘Flaming C.’ Seeing as how the Flaming C is just like Conan in every way imaginable, it seems incongruous that the Flaming C would still have a beard when Conan has been shaved by Will Ferrell.

Posted in Humor, Videos

Gridlock Is Good

Posted July 25, 2011 7:39pm ET

Whenever I hear somebody decry the political ‘gridlock’ in Washington, I am reminded of just how poor a job our public schools do of teaching basic American history. Gridlock is exactly what the founders intended from our government. They crafted a beautiful system that is meant to be ever-embroiled in political struggle, never swinging too far or too hard in any direction, never able to implement any broad, far-reaching, anti-liberty policies for any length of time. Its hands were intentionally tied, its officials forced to navigate the treacherous waters between the federal government and the states; between the co-equal executive, legislative, and judicial branches; and between the two houses within the legislative branch itself.

Yes, our system of government was designed to spend most of its time fighting with itself and accomplishing little. The red tape and roadblocks aren’t a flaw in our government’s design, but are among its most redeeming and timeless features. The founders knew that a small, limited government with broadly distributed power, always busy fighting with itself, would be much less likely to spend its time fighting with us and encroaching on our individual liberties.

This attitude is pervasive throughout the writings of the founders. Thomas Jefferson said, “The course of history shows that as the government grows, liberty decreases,” and that “It is not by the consolidation or concentration, of powers, but by their distribution that good government is effected.” In this same vein, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay—authors of The Federalist, a seminal work of early American political thought explaining the yet-unratified Constitution—went to great lengths to describe the various forms of administrative gridlock they and the other founders had intentionally foisted on the young American republic. continued… →

Chrysler: Good News, Bad News

Posted July 22, 2011 11:39pm ET

Was It Worth It?

First, the good news: The U.S. Federal Government no longer owns any portion of Chrysler LLC. This one small part of the Bush/Obama Bailout Bonanza is now over. As of right now, Chrysler is 53.5% owned by Italian automaker Fiat, 45.7% by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, and 1.7% by the government of Canada (a lingering holdover from the bailouts). You and I are no-longer reluctant shareholders in this once-venerable American icon.

But, as has been the case all throughout the Bush/Obama Bailout Bonanza, the bad news far outweighs the good.

This once-venerable American icon is now majority-owned by a foreign automaker, so now it is no better or different from Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Hyundai, or Kia—all of which produce many of their models for U.S. sale at U.S. factories, but neither received or needed an ‘investment’ of your tax dollars to stay afloat (mostly because they were making a decent, desirable product at a reasonable price). But surely, despite all this unconstitutional redirection of TARP money, unconstitutional short-circuiting of the federal bankruptcy laws, unconstitutional government ownership of an auto manufacturer, and unconstitutional investment of U.S. tax dollars in bolstering an Italian car company…well, we at least got our money back, right? Well, no. The U.S. Treasury did get about 90% of its money back from Chrysler, which is admittedly a lot more than I expected, but that still means that we lost $1.3 billion on the deal.

Not only did we lose over $1,300,000,000.00 we desperately needed for other, more important things, but we still left Chrysler in roughly the same untenable position we found it—saddled with destructive UAW contracts, bereft of quality products, and unlikely to ever recover its former glory. Fiat apparently intends to make Chrysler an American proxy for its Italian products; in other words, Chrysler is effectively dead as a truly American automaker. If this is what Presidents George W. Bush (R) and Barack Obama (D) call a successful government intervention into the free market economy, I would hate to see what an unsuccessful intervention looks like.

And what of ‘old’ Chrysler, the company once known as Chrysler LLC but now known as Old Carco LLC? You may recall that the company now known as Chrysler was fabricated out of thin-air by a short-circuited, government-orchestrated, unconstitutional bankruptcy process. It then purchased (with your tax dollars) the ‘good’ assets from the old company and left the ‘bad’ assets behind. Old Carco LLC is still in the bankruptcy process, and the vast majority of its creditors stand to receive far less than the 90% return that the U.S. Treasury got out of its ‘investment.’ I have little sympathy for those who willingly ‘invested’ in a mess like Chrysler; they deserved to lose much of their investment. I do, however, object to the government placing itself in the position of ‘investor #1′ in order to provide the political cover of a 90% return while screwing everybody else Old Carco LLC and Chrysler LLC owes money to.

Of course, in the age of the Bailout Bonanza, some investors are more equal than others.

The One-Liner Bible

Posted July 21, 2011 11:55pm ET


Many years ago, not long after I embarked on reading the entire Bible, I had the idea of compacting the entire Scripture down to one sentence per-book. I put the idea aside at the time, but it continued percolating in the back of my mind, and I thought it was about time I finally sat down and made it happen.

I intend no blasphemy here. Some of the one-liners are necessarily glib, and compressing the over-700,000 word tome of the Old and New Testaments into less than 1,000 words will obviously leave some very important things out. This is most-definitely not intended to be a serious theological work; I am no theologian or Bible scholar anyway. This is, at best, the very barest summary of the Scripture, but I hope you find it interesting and that it leads you to deeper interest in the most important book ever compiled.

The Old Testament is presented in its traditional Christian order, which differs a bit from the modern Jewish ordering. It also includes the seven books of the ‘deuterocanon’ that were recognized as inspired and canonical by the Christian Church very early in her history, but have since been rejected by the Jewish and Protestant communities. The New Testament is also presented in its (largely undisputed) traditional Christian order. In the handful of instances where I quote the Scripture directly, I have used the Douay-Rheims Bible (Bishop Challoner Revision, 1749-52). Enjoy, and God bless you! continued… →

Posted in Religious

Truth in Advertising

Posted July 17, 2011 8:13am ET

I wrote just over a year ago about how dishonorable our society has become in many ways. One particular area I pointed out was in business how things are advertised very simply (e.g., ‘unlimited Internet!’) while the reality is often much more complex and contradictory (e.g., ’2gb per month’—which is not ‘unlimited’).

Another area of frustration with me is how companies now feel that they can change the terms of agreements at-will (and justify it by pointing to a sentence in a 12,000-word service agreement that says they can). One of the cornerstones of honorable behavior is saying what you mean and meaning what you say, not offering your customers an ‘agreement’ that they have never read or agreed to that gives the company the power to change terms on a whim.

And now we see another example. made an error and offered Apple iPad tablet computers for $69, when the particular model in question typically retails for something more like $699. Many people placed orders for the drastically under-priced iPads, received order confirmations with the absurdly low price from, and were informed that their order was being processed.

After discovering the error, cancelled all of the low-price orders. I consider this unacceptable. Anybody who placed an order on the site when the price was set at $69 is now entitled to a $69 iPad. entered into an implicit purchase agreement with those customers, and is morally (if not legally) bound to fulfill its obligations under that agreement. The customers are not responsible for’s employees’ error; they were offered a product at a particular price, and they accepted the offer. cannot renege on the offer they made any more than a customer can renege on the offer they accepted.

The proper moral of the story is not that customers should be wary of prices that are ‘too good to be true,’ but that companies should check and double-check the accuracy of their offers before putting them on their web sites. That is their job, not their customers’, and they are bound to fulfill the obligations they enter into.

Subjects: ,
Posted in Briefly, Retailers