Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Orthogonal politics

My Mom just set up a Facebook profile! So I was looking through my profile, since I knew I had some pictures of the kids up there, and saw that my "Political Views" were listed as Liberal. Hunh. Not really accurate. But then, I have no idea how to classify my political views, since I am simultaneously:

  • Strongly pro-first amendment - I support the ACLU, EFF, EPIC and other free-speech groups
  • Strongly pro-second amendment - I support gun ownership, the rights to concealed carry and open carry firearms, and the duty of citizens to serve as the Militia of the United States; I oppose the Assault Weapons Ban and legislation prohibiting ownership of firearms

In fact, going through the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, following the changes from the 14th and 19th Amendments, I find the entire basis for my political views.

  • Article I, Section 8, Clause 11: The Congress shall have Power ... To declare War
  • Article I, Section 9, Clause 3: No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed
  • Article I, Section 10, Clause 1: No State shall ... make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts
  • Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Just read it, if you haven't done so in a while. It seems strange that many more people know the preamble to the Constitution, but couldn't tell you that only Congress has the power to declare war.

Since neither the Democratic or Republican parties appear to represent and support these same principles, I cannot correctly be called a Democrat or a Republican. The modern labels of conservative and liberal are next to useless in describing my views on executive privilege, protection against centralized state power, fiat currency and the rights of individuals to protect themselves and their country.

So I am orthogonal to these labels. And that's fine.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


This is my screenrc.

# xabbott /.screenrc
# this is messy as i just took random things from others. -.-
# from

activity "%c activity -> %n%f %t"
autodetach on
altscreen on
bell "%c bell -> %n%f %t^G"
defflow auto
defscrollback 10000
defutf8 on
msgwait 2 # 1 second messages
startup_message off # disable the startup splash message
shell -bash
vbell_msg "[[[ ding ]]]"
vbell off
nethack on

term screen-256color
termcapinfo xterm*|Eterm|mlterm|rxvt 'hs:ts=\E]0;:fs=\007:ds=\E]0;screen\007'

hardstatus alwayslastline
hardstatus string '%{gk}[ %{G}%H %{g}][%= %{wk}%?%-Lw%?%{=b kR}(%{W}%n*%f %t%?(%u)%?%{=b kR})%{= kw}%?%+Lw%?%?%= %{g}][%{Y}%l%{g}]%{=b C}[ %Y-%m-%d %c ]%{W}'

# remove some key bindings
bind k
bind W
bind ^k
bind .
bind ^\
bind \\
bind ^h
bind h
# make them safer
bind 'K' kill
bind 'W' windowlist

# F8 to turn the status bar off
bindkey -k k8 hardstatus alwayslastline
# F9 to turn the status bar on
bindkey -k k9 hardstatus alwaysignore
# F1 and F2 to move one screen forward or backward
bindkey -k k1 prev
bindkey -k k2 next

# eof

Monday, January 12, 2009

Practice Safe Computing!

Got a message on Facebook from my brother-in-law, who is diligently installing Office 2007 in a virtual machine on his MacBook for his online class this semester at NoVA:

ANYWAYS, i was wondering if you suggested any good (and free) antivirus/spyware/firewall software since i will now be plagued by windows. thanks for the help! hopefully this will give you something to do at work, instead of playing with sharpies.

I love Sharpies. :)

Don't bother downloading/installing firewall software, just make sure that Windows Firewall is turned on, and check the exceptions list to make sure there's nothing stupid in there. That's all that I do on my XP/Vista installs.

I use the free version of AVG Anti-Virus (the old 7.5 version, not the current 8.0 version). It's not quite as slick as McAfee or other commercial AV packages, but it works for me, and it's fairly light on resource utilization. It only uses about 10MB of memory, compared to over 100MB for McAfee AV, which definitely helps in virtual machines. You can download it from:

Avast! antivirus Home Edition works well too, some folks prefer it to AVG. Also available for free from:

If you're a careful and conscientious PC user, and install a firewall or address-translating router (like a Linksys WRT54G) between your PC and the Internet, and browse with Firefox + AdBlock Plus + NoScript, and don't visit malicious sites, and don't download software you don't need or aren't familiar with, and keep your system patches + antivirus up to date, there's no real need to run anti-spyware/malware software. If you feel the need to burn memory and CPU cycles and disk time to defend yourself against malware, I'd recommend Windows Defender:

It works, and isn't a complete and utter pig.

If you do find spyware or malware on your PC, AdAware still works for detection and removal. I know there's newer tools out there, but I haven't had issues with AdAware, so that's what I use.

Good luck!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Favorite Firefox add-ons

Since I've been setting up Firefox and associated apps on my new work laptop, I thought I'd list my current set of favorite add-ons for Firefox 3.

I've used Firefox and some of these add-ons for years, and they help to make Firefox that much more useful and safe for day-to-day browsing. There are literally thousands of add-ons to choose from, so these represent the best and most useful of the ones available in my experience.

Adblock Plus blocks ads, period. Modern replacement for Adblock + Filterset.G Updater.

Download Statusbar makes it easier to track and manage multiple downloads, nicer interface than the download manager included with Firefox 3. Alternately, if you need to queue up and manage dozens or hundreds of downloads, use DownThemAll! 1.0.3 instead.

Video DownloadHelper 3.3: downloads videos from sites like YouTube for local use.

Feed Sidebar 3.1.4: the least annoying feed reader I've ever used. I love the idea of RSS/Atom feeds as a way to view and stay up to date with content, but Feed Sidebar is the first reader I've used in 3 or 4 years that I didn't delete after 2 weeks of use.

NoScript protect your Firefox session from malicious code. Practice safe browsing! Firefox with AdBlock Plus and NoScript installed makes your browsing about as safe as you can get on the web these days.

QuickProxy 2008.08.04: gives you a statusbar button to turn proxy support on and off. Couple this with PuTTY or another SSH client configured for SOCKS5 connection forwarding to your desired SSH server, and you've got an instant VPN for your Firefox session.

I've used other add-ons over the years, including Better Gmail (improved Gmail interface tweaks), ChatZilla (IRC/chat client), FasterFox (speed tweaks), FireBug (monitor and debug CSS/HTML/Javascript code and page load time) FireFTP (full-featured FTP client), FlashBlock (blocks Adobe Flash applets), ForecastFox (weather forecasts), Foxmarks (bookmark synchronization), User Agent Switcher (change your browser's identity); and any list of Firefox add-ons needs to include the amazing GreaseMonkey.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election 2008

"Politicians and diapers should be changed often, and for the same reason." - Mark Twain

Voted this morning at 7:06am at our polling station, and there were around 10 people ahead of me in line. I was impressed at the number of staffers on site, it looked like about twice the number that were there in 2006 and 2007. This isn't a huge district: there's 6 voting districts and 19 polling precincts in the county, serving around 70 thousand residents and perhaps 40 thousand registered voters.

Frederick County VA Polling Places Number of Precincts & Registered Voters by Counties & Cities within Congressional Districts - September 1, 2004

Heard from my mother-in-law this morning, she got to the polling station in Lake Ridge (eastern Prince William County VA) around 6:15am and didn't get through the line and out until 7:30am. My guess is that the suburban counties in Northern Virginia are going to get crushed by voter turnout today, so it'll be interesting to see what the Virginia SBE reports starting at 7:30pm this evening.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Georgia and Russia: Thursday 2008-08-21 updates

It's been quite a week, what with the cease-fire, a supposed Russian withdrawal, sacking of Georgian military bases, warships steaming to and fro, bridges blowing up, SS-21 launchers hitting the highway, threats against Poland, Abkhazian diplomatic maneuvering, pissing matches with NATO, Russian grandstanding and so forth. And despite the energy cards that Russia still holds in its hands, other NATO members are making the sorts of statements that allies tend to make.

Unsurprisingly, the Russian military is still very Russian. Yah, lots of infantry and armor in close-quarters combat, and vulnerable but effective aircraft in the sky. No, no UAVs or modern stand-off capability. But the Russian soldiers on the ground are a largely professional volunteer force, unlike the demoralized conscripts from the Chechen wars.

If Putin wants a new cold war, he has one. The real question is what else Russia is going to do, since Europe and the US are on the receiving end this time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Georgia and Russia: Thursday 2008-08-14 updates

Washington Post: Russian Troops Hold Key Georgian City

The Russians aren't going back, and they aren't letting go.

Following the events of the past week, "One can forget about any talk about Georgia's territorial integrity," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Associated Press reported from Moscow. "It is impossible to persuade South Ossetia and Abkhazia to agree with the logic that they can be forced back into the Georgian state."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met Thursday with leaders of the separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and pledged to support them in discussions about the future of the two disputed regions.

"We will support any decision made by the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Medvedev said, following a meeting in which the separatist leaders signed the French cease-fire plan in Moscow.

BBC: US forces to deliver Georgia aid

And the US is going in.

President George W Bush has said the US will use military aircraft and naval forces to deliver aid to Georgia following its conflict with Russia. Photo Essay: Russian Army in South Ossetia

from the new home of

No dramatic photo compositions here, just grim pictures of burnt-out tanks, spent RPGs, charred human remains and columns of Russian armored machinery on patrol in South Ossetia and Georgia.

Also check out their previous report on The CNN Effect: Georgia schools Russia in Information Warfare and The War Nerd's piece on South Ossetia, The War of My Dreams.