Hard News by Russell Brown

Quick update

I am now a member of something called Environment California, having been persuaded to sign up on a Sebastopol sidewalk by a pretty young Japanese-American. I explained that committing to a regular monthly payment would not be appropriate, given that I live in New Zealand, but made a once-only donation of $15, explaining that my Kiwi dollars didn't buy a whole lot of her American dollars.

We had, she said, to find a way of curbing greenhouse gas emissions in California. Well, I said, you could start with these, pointing to the line of SUVs waiting at the lights a few metres away. Yes, she said.

Honestly, the SUV thing here does my head in. I stood waiting to cross the road yesterday while a stream of single-occupant vehicles the size of small houses trundled past. Behind me there was an entire car sales yard of similarly-sized vehicles. Want independence from Middle East oil? Drive cars, not personal trucks. That'll help.

Gnat points out that IBM's RSS-for-the-whole-Internet thing is actually available for public use (registration required). As the IBM guys advised, be careful what you ask for. There's a lot out there.

This story from the Herald, about copyright interests reaching new heights of privacy abuse seems to be missing a few key facts. What is this software they're using to track personal searches? Does it really work like the story says? And who the hell do these people think they are?

I see National's Bob Clarkson is proving that elevation to Parliament hasn't elevated his mind any: declaring that Muslim women oughtn't wear burqas or even scarves because " how do we know there's not a crook with a gun hiding under a burqa? Who's under that gown?" He generously grants that he's got nothing against "homosexuals and lesbians as long as they're doing it in their own house, but if you try to ram it down my throat, look out." I think there are words for throaty sexual practices, but they're not for polite company. And a man who behaves the way Clarkson does around women has a bit of a nerve saying that, don't you think? National's gay MP (well, the out one) Chris Finlayson says he agrees with everything Clarkson says. I think if Finlayson cringed any further he'd implode.

Gleefully pedantic PA reader Alistair Windsor, of the Maths department of the University of Texas took issue with yesterday's post: " Your description of passing through Immigration in the US is obviously a thinly veiled tissue of lies. The threat level orange notices are not photocopied A4 they are photocopied Letter sized paper. This is a ludicrous 8.5"x11" size paper that is a standard in the US and nowhere else in the world."

Mathematicians, eh? Gotta love 'em.

More on coffee: Tony Peguero points out that I am not the only one to be put in mind of pure, unadulterated evil by the experience of a pod coffee machine. Very funny link indeed. And Melissa offered a Starbucks survival tip: "After a year or two living in Boston I realized that if you ask for a small latte with two shots of espresso and no 'foam' (the word froth doesn't seem to work in America) you get something that resembles a flat white, and doesn't taste like thin milk that they passed coffee fumes though. Hope this helps."

Things to like about Sebastopol: an awesome wholefoods store that stocks (alongside a lot of yummy food) cherry fruit extract, a demonstrably effective gout remedy that you can't get in New Zealand. Not cheap, but I'm not quibbling. Things to be amused by: a veterinary centre that offers homeopathy, acupuncture and herbal treatment. Things to be exasperated by: can no one in this town sell me a pair of cheap sunglasses?

Just waiting for a pick-up to go the O'Reilly campus for pre-Foo fun and looking at the final guest list. OMG. Larry Page, Bill Joy, Jeff Bezos, Mitch Kapor, former CTOs of Nasa and the US Defense Department, more serious-assed hackers (software, hardware, genetics) than you can shake a stick at … oh, and me. Some guy from New Zealand. Represent.