Saturday, December 26, 2009

I joined the purple-bar club and all I got was this drafty hospital gown.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What's behind that door?

"Sarge, what's on the other side of that door?"
"Private, some day you'll have a chance to find that out. And on that day, you'll remember this conversation and say to yourself "Well, Sarge was right, I didn't want to know what's behind that door."."

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I'm slowly recovering. What I'm eating is staying down now, that's making a world of difference. The fever flashes seem to be fading. I think I'm going to stay out from work Monday, though, to make sure I don't spread this junk and to give me a bit more time to feel healthy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Down sick

Being sick sucks. Wednesday afternoon I started feeling a bit off, tender joints and the like. By night it'd gotten serious. Thursday I was running a fever of 100.5 most of the day, peaking over 102 a couple of times. Today the fever broke around noon, but I'm feeling like I was run over by an entire freeway worth of traffic. Eating is a major chore, and I'm spending more time in bed than not. Bleh. Hopefully I'll be feeling better by tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Presumptuous boss

Tallk about gall. My boss (well, actually the overall manager of the department) wants to schedule a dinner to celebrate a project. Fine and good. But this afternoon he wants to know if tomorrow evening's good. And he has the nerve to act shocked when I tell him I won't be able to be there, and to ask why I can't clear my schedule. Well, technically I could rearrange things, yes. But I have a rule: there are only a few people who get to ask me to clear my schedule on 24 hours notice. Family. A handful of close friends. A manager at work is... well, not in either of those categories. So even if I could theoretically clear my schedule, on general principles I'm not going to. On 2 days notice, maybe, if I don't have anything critical already scheduled. But 24 hours notice for a non-emergency? Not happening.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Comic Con sold out

Gah. Comic Con's sold out of 4-day memberships for 2010. And it's still 9 months or so until the con, only 3 months since this year's.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Instrument calibration

"I've recalibrated the bogometer twice, and it's still reading off-scale high."

Monday, November 9, 2009

When did I become Cassandra?

I warned them.
I warned them that we'd modified the FAX-modem code.
I warned them that we probably didn't want to upgrade it unless something was actually broken.
I warned them that, if they upgraded to the new Hylafax code, they'd need to figure out exactly what we'd changed in the old code and make sure we either made the same changes to the new code or didn't need to make them.
I warned them this wouldn't be trivial, and it wasn't something to be handed to someone who wasn't willing or able to get intimate with the internals of our app and Hylafax.

They assigned the work to the outsourced devs in India anyway.
And those devs ignored my warnings.

You can probably guess what's broken. And while you can probably guess how badly, your guess is probably far short of the reality.
And I'm not even going to estimate how long it'll take to fix things. It's Not My Problem. I have a full plate of my own, let the India dev clean up his own mess. And if it screws up the schedule, well, that's Not My Problem either.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Computer assembly

I'm starting to assemble the router box. It's basically a collection of leftovers: a KN8 motherboard that turned out not to be needed, a cheap Opteron dual-core CPU, a SATA hard drive I dropped and while it works I'm not comfortable putting it in someone else's computer, a SATA DVD burner that turned out not to work with another computer's motherboard. With a little luck, I should be able by next weekend to be able to replace the ancient K6-3 machine that's currently shuffling packets between my home and the outside world.

So far the Antec 300 case is working well. Fairly easy to work in, bottom-mounted power supply, 5x 120mm fans (2 front and a side intake, top and rear exhaust) and cheap. I'll see how it works once the machine's powered up and all the fans are running.

Outdated as it is, it'll out-power my current desktop. Hopefully not for long.

Addendum: mount the CPU heatsink before installing the motherboard.

Addendum 2: the case is done. All that's left is to get one more fan for the side intake, and get a cheap LCD monitor. Then I have to bring it up without blowing a circuit breaker, and rearrange the network to move the cable-modem drop out to the living room so I don't have all the computers on one electric circuit.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

To Michael Duvall, and his ilk among those politicians who paint themselves as exemplars of family values:

john astin and carolyn jones
see more Lol Celebs

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I need a new printer. The old Deskjet 895 is starting to go. This time, I'm buying a real laser printer. No more inkjets. And preferably a color one. Brother makes some decent-looking color lasers in the under-$400 range, and all of them seem to do at least PCL6 which should mean no problems under Linux. And some of them are network-capable. It'll be more expensive to get right off, and toner cartridges cost more than inkjet cartridges, but I'll get more pages out of a single set of cartridges so long-term it should be cheaper than the inkjet. And better print quality.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The effect of Windows on computer prices

People scoff at the "Microsoft tax". Let me put it into perspective: the motherboard, CPU and memory are pretty much the heart of a computer. A retail copy of Windows costs more than those three items combined. You can throw in a video card and still have spent less on the hardware than on Windows, if you aren't building a gaming system. That's a pretty big chunk of a system's price going solely to the operating system.

Yes, I know, OEM copies of Windows are cheaper. But then, OEMs can get better prices on the hardware too.

Falling over

Bleh. Went for a nap last evening, planned for a half-hour or so just to refresh myself. Woke up at 2:30am long enough to use the bathroom, then crashed again until the alarm went off. I hate that.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Computer parts

Oy vey. Priced SATA hard drives. Hitachi, 500Gb is $55, 1Tb is $80. I expected good prices, but not that good. At those prices it literally isn't worth it to put less than a terabyte of storage in a new system. Geez.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I noticed yesterday that they've put in a Subway a few blocks down Adams from me. It's not Quiznos, but it's a decent alternative when I want something to munch on and don't feel like cooking.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Plans for the weekend

First, don't go anywhere. The Adams Avenue Street Fair will be running, so parking will be utterly insane.

Second, assemble the new gateway box. It's all sitting there except for the display, it's high time it got put together and gotten ready to go. If I do have to go out, I'm going to stop by Fry's and pick up the cheapest display I can lay my hands on. Otherwise I'll get the display Monday evening.

Third, start pricing parts and assembling a shopping list for the new computers. Priority #1 is getting 3 copies of XP SP3 before Newegg has to stop carrying them.

Tonight is Fire & Ice, followed hopefully by a shard instance or two.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Computer builds

OK, Newegg has AMD Athlon II and Phenom II 3.0GHz dual-core CPUs for about $100 each. That's pretty good. They're Socket AM3 chips. So, the plan is to get the best motherboard I can find in AM3 that'll support the highest-end quad-core chips. Then populate it with the dual-core chips with an eye towards upgrading to quad-core as prices fall. I want 3.0GHz because Everquest 2 is CPU-bound and needs all the clock cycles and memory it can get, so in the short term I'm better off trading cores for clock speed and more memory.

I've decided to go with the Antec 300 case for the systems. It's shorter so it'll fit better, it's got a bottom-mounted power supply, and it's cheaper. With a little appropriate arranging of where to put the boxes, the filters shouldn't be too hard to get at.

I also need a laptop. I've pretty well settled on the HP dv7, but desktop boxes are a higher priority. Now to start arranging the money.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction

Ye almighty gods, they're still obsessing over that. It was what, 5 years ago? Let it go already. I know the Religious Right like to scream about even the slightest hint of secondary sexual characteristics (at least female ones, male ones seem to be just fine by them), but it's high time to tell them to get a life.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Definition of gun control

Gun control: a 1-inch diameter group slightly above center-of-mass.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Tomorrow's Mega Millions lottery draw is for $252 million dollars. A quarter of a billion. That's a lot of money.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


"Three things never trust in:
the maiden sworn as pure,
the vows a king has given,
and the ambush that is sure."


I got a bit of money from Mom back when I was helping her deal with the last of the stuff at Grandpa's farm for the auction. I blew a bit of it on a USB-interface tape deck so I can transfer some of my old tapes over to MP3. A lot of these are old, late 80s and early 90s. I'm worried the tapes themselves will be going bad, so I want the music copied over.

Typically, the "easy beginner's" software that's supposed to make things simple fails to work at all. The "advanced, don't use this unless you're an expert" software, by comparison, is dead simple to use and records without a hitch. I'll have to enter all the album and track information by hand, but then I didn't expect Gracenote to know diddly about Bayfilk tapes anyway.

Next item to get: one of the USB-interface turntables so I can copy some of my old LPs (including a bunch of Kiss albums from their first incarnation, and some C.W. McCall) over.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Funny Republicans and the stock market

It's funny, but back in February and March the Republicans were all over Obama because the stock market was continuing to fall, even though he'd only had a month or two in office and hadn't had a chance to finish getting set up and start actually doing things. But now that the market's back at 9400 and steadily climbing, it's all "Oh, the stock market doesn't matter, it's the real economy that's still bad.".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lost day

OK, this hasn't happened in a while. I seem to have lost a day this week. It's Wednesday, but my internal calendar's saying it was Tuesday.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Knife? Son, he ain't even the sharpest spoon in the drawer."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Oh joy. A bee colony, not a major problem. A colony of Africanized bees right in the columns around the office's front doors... Big problem.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Grumble. Looks like I'm going to have to buy a new inkjet printer. My old one (HP DJ895) is finally deciding to not feed paper right and generally starting to break down. Of course, it's around 10 years old, so this shouldn't be a suprise.

Friday, July 31, 2009

OK, let's see how blogging via SMS works here...

Saturday, July 25, 2009


ComicCon's massive exhibit hall + SOE block party = my legs hate me now.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wicked, the musical

Wicked is playing in San Diego during the month of August. Tickets start at $30, which isn't bad. Afternoon and evening showings. And the story idea appeals to me. I ought to see about going to see it. And maybe wrangling tickets for Dean and Lia.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Brasse's new home

Huzzah. Brasse is now working for SOE. I so need to introduce her to Arrogant Bastard at the block party.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sarah Palin resigns

Sarah Palin's resigned as governor of Alaska. My guess: someone was getting too close to a real scandal. There's been a lot of charges of her abusing her position to cover up things or help her friends. Most of those were dismissed due to evidence not being there or no cooperation from witnesses. It's possible someone was getting close to some real evidence that those charges were really valid and someone connected to Palin scuttled the investigation somehow. With her out of office, there'll be a lot less pressure to dig deep into that. And then she's had some weirdness in her personal life, especially with her daughter and grandkids. There could be another personal scandal brewing that someone was getting wind of. If she's out of office it'll be a lot easier to let that blow over without it making national headlines. In both cases, by the time it's time to start a Presidential campaign for 2012 all the scandals will be old news and it's much easier to deal with old news and a hiatus from political life than it is to deal with a live records of "just one thing after another".

Either that or she's decided that she just can't face the constant digging into her personal and professional life that goes along with a political career these days and is quitting politics entirely. Up until her vice-presidential candidacy she's had mostly to deal with local politics in a state where even state-wide politics more resembles small-town politics than anything else. It's entirely possible she simply had no clue what getting into national politics would entail, and once she'd gotten some experience with it just decided she wanted no part of this.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Michael Jackson scandal

Apparently they've found some powerful sedatives in MJ's home. Not just powerful, really powerful. The kind of powerful that's usually used in operating rooms as an anesthetic and delivered intravenously. Methinks Michael was taking a few things he shouldn't've been and overdosed.


Got the eye exam done today. I've been having some problems focusing, everything's clear but it's like it wants to split in two. We found the reason: the prism adjustment in my lenses was off. My eyes want to focus a bit behind the object I'm looking at, and the prism adjustment to compensate for that was off. The new lenses should correct that. I'm also changing frame styles back to a full-rim titanium set, and having a full nosepiece put in instead of the two separate pads. That should make the glasses more comfortable. This pair gets the full prescription plus photo-grey, anti-glare and everything. Towards the end of the month I'm going back to get a second pair for close-up (reading and computer) work. Those won't need the photo-grey or anti-glare coating so the lenses'll be cheaper

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Grumble. Parks Sabers has discontinued their original line of EL sabers in favor of the new Phase models. Problem is, the Phase line doesn't include the old designs that I liked and wanted. Grumble.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rover astronomy

It seems the Spirit Mars rover has a new job: astronomer. It's currently stuck in loose soil and not able to move, and a recent gust of wind cleaned off it's solar panels so it's got more power than it can use. So rather than wasting it, mission control has set Spirit up to stay active overnight and photograph the Martian sky.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Republicans know all about foreign affairs

The governor of South Carolina went MIA for a week. The first thing I question is, how could anyone possibly think it acceptable for someone in that kind of position to go missing like that for that long. It shouldn't matter why, you simply can't drop off the map like that when you're responsible for an entire state. Drop out of public view certainly, if it's a sensitive matter, but your staff at least should know how to reach you if it's neccesary.

The real kicker, though, is why he went missing. It turns out he was having an affair with a woman in Argentina. I find this amusing, because for all their preaching about morality we seem to be seeing far more Republicans than Democrats caught having affairs. At least in this case the affair was with a woman, not another man. I think the Republicans need to take a long hard look at themselves and why they seem so prone to doing exactly what they condemn in others.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back home from PA

Blargh. I made it back home. Between errands I had to run and getting unpacked and everything back in it's place I don't feel like I've slowed down yet. I had lots of stuff to deal with back there, and lots of "That'd be nice to keep, but I don't have anywhere to put it or use it." going on. And tomorrow it's back to work to find out how many disasters are waiting for me. Feh. What else is new.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Things I won't work with

While I'm killing time, some chemistry fun:

Things that make nitroglycerin look downright tame. You know those old leather coats they show steampunk chemists wearing? There's a reason for those, OK? They weren't just made-up, real chemists wear those when working with reactions that sane people don't work with. This collection of stuff goes downhill from there.

Pennsylvania trip 2

It's not 5 yet and I'm just about ready. Most of the bags are packed, I just have to put the toiletries in the main bag and it's done, then put the stuff in the carry-on bag. Last-minute addition: digital camera. This may be the last time I get a chance to take pictures of where I spent the first 5 years of my life. Mom's got her laptop there, so I should be able to upload photos from the camera and put them on USB drives to bring back. A few places I want photos of:
  • The house and the trailer where we lived. Word is the trailer's pretty much collapsed though.
  • The old Bottorf place.
  • The rail yards in Renovo where Dad worked.
  • Hyner Run bridge. Good fishing there.
Off to finish packing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pennsylvania trip

Just about ready for the trip back to Pennsylvania. Tomorrow's list: do laundry, pack bags, clean car. Then in the evening I get a ride to the airport, and I'll be back on Monday evening. I'll be pretty much cut off, no cel-phone coverage, no Internet and we're not entirely sure whether phone service will be on or not.

I hope this all goes OK. There's a bunch of paperwork about the farm to deal with, and the memorial. Some of the family have been real twits, it may take some work to avoid telling them off.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Well, the deal is done. Most of Chrysler's operations have been sold to Fiat, and a good third or so of their dealers are no longer dealers. Most of their debt load is gone, and their pension obligations are too which reduces their labor costs. But that's not going to help Chrysler too much.

The portion sold to Fiat is going to take at least a year to pick up steam. Fiat isn't a well-known brand in the US, and the kind of sub-compact they make is smaller than the popular size here too. It's going to take them a year to get the factories re-tooled, ramp up production and start actually getting cars into showrooms, with no guarantee people'll buy them over more well-known brands. The portion that remains Chrysler is in even worse shape. It's line-up is still heavily skewed towards large trucks and vans and SUVs, exactly what's not selling well anymore. It's going to take them at least a year, maybe two, to get new designs more in line with consumer demand into production. And both of them will be competing with GM's new models, with Ford's existing line-up, and with Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Acura, Nissan et. al..

Normally I'd consider a bail-out of a company in this bad a shape as an all-around bad deal. But to be honest the point of the bail-out isn't to save Chrysler the company. It's to keep the majority of it's employees on the payroll, to keep the factories open and buying parts from suppliers, to generally stave off the complete dissolution of a major US auto manufacturer until the stock market isn't wavering and economy isn't ripe for any small push to send it tanking further.

I'd note that this is something the Republicans seem to be forgetting. The choice here isn't between good and bad choices. 8 years of Republican policies has left us with choosing between bad and horrible. It's like a tourniquet: it's a horrible idea, one of the worst things you can do as first aid, topped only by letting the patient bleed out. So when you can't stop the bleeding any other way you put the tourniquet on anyway, knowing you're likely costing the patient their leg but at least he'll be alive long enough to worry about that.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I'll be spending about a week back in Pennsylvania, with 12-hour plan flights each way. I was looking at getting a laptop to keep occupied on the plane and keep up with e-mail and such while I was there. The problem is the ones I really want are just a hair out of my price range and it turns out I won't even have cel-phone coverage where I'll be. Lack of coverage means no Internet connectivity of any sort at all, laptop or no. And while I can find laptops within my price range that'll do, I'd rather not spend money on "it'll do" unless I absolutely have to. So, I think I'm going to find a couple of books to read on the plane and save the money for later.

Two US automakers down

Well, it's official: GM has filed for Chapter 11 (reorganization) bankruptcy. They join Chrysler who filed back in April. Chrysler plans to sell most of it's assets to Fiat, and it's union will end up owning a majority stake in what's left. GM will be selling off at least half it's brands (including Hummer), and the majority of it's stock will end up being held by the US government (the majority, as security for loans), existing bond-holders and the union. In both cases, pre-bankruptcy shareholders will likely end up with nothing. They may still own shares, but they'll have been diluted so much by the new equity being issued that they'll be essentially worthless. GM plans on closing a large number of it's manufacturing plants and idling several more. That'll hurt employment figures. The only positive part is that, unlike Chrysler, GM will still be building cars when it's all over. They'll be half their former size, but they'll still exist. Chrysler looks to be a shell after everything goes to Fiat.

That leaves Ford as the only US automaker still in full operation. And even they're paring things down quite a bit, eliminating lines that aren't selling well and cutting dealerships with overlapping territories.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Foreclosures moving on up

The mortgage meltdown has been painted by some as a meltdown of the subprime mortgage market. That's starting to change, as the number of foreclosures on prime mortgages to people with good credit records is starting to climb. 6% either in default or in foreclosure, in California it's 7.5% in default and 3.5% in foreclosure. Those numbers are disturbingly high, considering. And for the first time prime fixed-rate mortgages are a larger percentage of new foreclosures than sub-prime or adjustable-rate mortgages.

The bottom ain't here yet, folks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


You can choose your friends. You can even choose your enemies, to some extent. But family... you can't even return the remains to get your deposit back. Some of them back in PA are being supreme asshats. They've known since January that Mom's having everything that's left at the farm auctioned off, and that they'll have to get their stuff moved. The auctioneer's tired of not being able to tell what he can put in the auction and what belongs to someone. But have they done anything? No, not a thing. It took Mom finally having to write a letter saying "You have 1 week to get your stuff off the property. Anything left after that will be taken and sold." to get them to finally clear things out. 4 months, and they're complaining about having gotten no warning.

Not that that's new. Case in point was some relatives down in Mill Hall ages ago. The whole bunch of them worked at the same paper mill. Mill isn't doing well, and finally tells everyone "We can't stay in business. We figure we can keep running for 9 more months, so come March of next year we'll be closing the doors.". Come January they told everyone "We've managed to stretch it a bit, we can keep you on until June but that's the final date.". And come June, those relatives to the last one were complaining about how the lay-offs were so sudden and they'd never expected anything like this to happen, and there's no jobs to be had now 'cause everybody else from the mill already took them. And they aren't unusual for back there, everybody has that kind of attitude.

You can see why I don't care to ever move back there.

Monday, May 18, 2009

David vs. Goliath

When and why David can win. None of this is news to me. I've always held that you never, ever fight your opponent's fight on his turf by his rules if you have any alternative available. Never attack his strengths if you can attack his weaknesses. Redneck said it: "Take a stick to a fistfight. Take a knife to a stick fight. Take a gun to a knife fight. Stay out of a gunfight.". Old Shin'a'in proverb: "If you find yourself in a fair fight, you've obviously screwed up your planning. Learn from this, and avoid making that mistake again.". All of them are making the same point. And it's a good one to keep in mind. Your opponent isn't going to just hand you any advantage, why should you hand him one?

Friday, May 15, 2009


Attendance at Padres games is down. I can't understand why. The economy's in such sterling shape and people have so much excess money to burn. The Padres have such a great record, they've managed to win 4 of their last 23 games. And the beer at the games is such an incredible steal at $5 a bottle for Coors and it's ilk. If people don't start coming to their senses, how are the Padres going to pay off their Shiny! New! Stadium?


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stupid mob

We got stuck last night in an instance in EQ2. The mob there should be a push-over if you handle him right. But last night he was just not behaving. Normally he gives an emote and then casts his spell, and you have to interrupt/stun him when you see the emote to keep his spell from going off. This time he was casting, then giving the emote. With no cue, it's impossible to keep him from frying the group and healing himself. And he was memwiping all over the place, no way the tank could keep him under control. I think the devs did something with him, personally.

By the time we called it, I was getting seriously into J's attitude: "Right. His health or my armor, one of them's hitting 0% before this is over."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maine allows same-sex marriages

Maine passes a law allowing same-sex marriages. This is why the Religious Right is in such a panic, such a rush to get bans enacted: if they don't shut the door now, they'll never be able to. I find it amusing that they're so willing to trample the freedom of religion of anybody who doesn't agree with them on the issue, but are so touchy about anybody else trampling on theirs. Guys, clue: it is not an infringement on your religion for other people not to act according to your beliefs. It's only an infringement when they impede your acting according to your beliefs. Your churches are still free to not perform marriage ceremonies for gays. But the government isn't your church.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Court reforms

I'd like three reforms in the court system:

1. An acknowledgement of the inequality of the two sides financially. The plaintiff always has control over when they file suit, what allegations they make, and who they pull in. The defendant has no control over who sues them, when they're sued, or what they're sued for. The awarding of costs and fees should reflect this. If the defendant in a case prevails, all fees and and costs incurred should be awarded to them unless the plaintiff can show exceptional circumstances that weigh against such an award. If the plaintiff prevails, court fees should normally be awarded but costs should not be awarded unless plaintiff can show that defendant had no reasonable basis for holding out. IOW if you sue someone you bear your own costs unless you can show defendant was solidly in the wrong and knew it, and if you're sued and win you normally won't be out-of-pocket anything.

2. A "put up or shut up" deadline. Once discovery's over, the judge asks one question of both sides: "Are you prepared to go to trial?". The only acceptable answers are "Yes." and "No.". No equivocation, either you are or you aren't. If you answer "Yes.", then that's it. You will be appearing in court. After this point settlement isn't allowed, the only options are a ruling on the merits by the judge or a jury, or a dismissal of the case with prejudice. But be careful, because if you answer "No." then the judge will end the matter right then and there. He can dismiss the case with prejudice or, if one party's ready and the other isn't, he can rule in favor of the party that answered "Yes.".

3. Once a lawsuit's filed, the first thing the plaintiff has to do is go before the judge and present evidence supporting their case. They don't have to have enough to win, but they do have to have enough to convince a judge that they've got at least the beginnings of a case. If you can't even do that much, the judge can dismiss your case on the spot. Defendant only has to answer your allegations once you've convinced a judge you have actual evidence to back them up.

All three are intended to make it harder for parties to use the courts as a bludgeon to coerce other parties into giving in upon pain of the massive expense of actually defending yourself in court.


"So, what's new?"
"New item, roast chav-on-a-stick."
"... eeew. Who'd be crazy enough to want that?"
"Dunno, but the bunch stuck in the town green do wonders getting the message across."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Hmm. It appears the FreeRealms web site's... kind of bogged down. I think someone forgot to feed the hamsters last night and they're all off scrounging food instead of turning the wheels.

Flu pandemic

The WHO's saying a flu pandemic is "imminent". Here's a quick perspective on this. The flu pandemic of 1918 was probably the deadliest outbreak on record. The highest estimated mortality rate for it is 5%. That doesn't mean 5% of the population died, it means 5% of the people who caught the flu died. In the US only 28% of the population caught the flu. That means that, if you were around during the epidemic, you had a 98.5% chance of living through it and a 72% chance of never even coming down with it. And those were the odds in the days before rapid communication made tracking outbreaks easy, and before we had a lot of modern treatments for the primary killers (pneumonia and the like).

The SEC and naked short-selling

The SEC's currently accepting comments on various rules intended to curb naked short-selling. I know a number of people who have a knee-jerk reaction, going "Why should the SEC tell someone they can't make a particular type of deal?". Well, it has to do with the nature of the deal. In a legitimate short sale, the seller has arranged to be able to cover the position and deliver the stocks. They may have an options contract to buy those shares before the delivery date, or they may be borrowing actual shares from someone. In the latter case if the stock price goes down far enough the seller can buy cheap shares on the market, deliver those to the buyer and never touch the borrowed shares. If the stock price doesn't go down the seller delivers the borrowed shares to the buyer and pays off the lender according to his agreement with them. In all cases actual shares exist to cover the position.

Naked short-selling doesn't work that way. When shorting naked, the seller sells shares that don't exist, that he doesn't have. If the stock price goes down far enough, he buys cheap and delivers to the buyer. If the stock price doesn't go down, he shrugs and walks away from the deal. He never delivers the shares to the buyer, and the buyer's broker unwinds the transaction leaving the buyer with his money back and no shares. If you think this is harmless, think about this: you've sold a put option to someone and made a purchase of shares to cover that option because the price is good and you'll make a profit. The guy you bought the shares from was naked-shorting the stock, and since the market price isn't below what he sold for he walks away from the deal. You don't lose your purchase price, but you also don't have the shares you need to have to cover your option contract. Now you're faced with two bad choices: buy at the now-higher market price and see your profit on the options contract turn into a loss, or default on that contract yourself. Your wallet or your reputation, one or the other takes a major hit. Still think the naked short sale was harmless? I don't. Just because you got your money back doesn't mean you avoided all the costs of a failed purchase.

IMO naked short-selling should be banned entirely. If you want to short, you should be required to make arrangements to guarantee delivery at the time you initiate the sale. You can purchase the shares, you can purchase an options contract, you can borrow from a willing lender, but one way or another you have to have something in hand to guarantee delivery before you can sell. Along with that I'd put in a rule saying that if you default on any sale your broker is then required for 1 year to refuse to initiate any sale for you unless you own actual shares to cover it. No borrowing, no options contracts, if you fail to deliver you're on shares-on-the-barrelhead until you prove you're reliable again. Now the whole problem's eliminated.

I'm sure certain traders who like to gamble won't like that, but I fail to see why they should be allowed to gamble in ways that leave other people unwittingly holding the bag.


Cripes, the MegaMillions lottery jackpot's over $200 million for the next draw. Yeah, I've got a few tickets. Sure it's a long-shot, but when the pay-off (taking the annuity option and allowing for worst-case taxes) tops $2 million a year for close to the rest of my life it's worth a couple-three dollars.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Oh boy, this should be fun. FreeRealms was supposed to launch this afternoon. The web site (that you need to use to log in and launch the game client, it's not a stand-alone installation) says it's still down for maintenance. I know a couple of friends who were into the really nasty withdrawal symptoms after only 12 hours without the game. At 36 and counting I'm expecting things to be seriously ugly. :)

Arlin Specter, Democrat

I see Arlin Specter's changed parties and become a Democrat. And I see the Republicans are again screaming in outrage. They blithely ignore something Arlin noticed: his district was voting more and more Democrat, and less and less Republican. If he'd continued as a Republican, he'd've lost the next primary to a radical conservative opponent who would've gone on to lose that district's Senate seat to a Democrat who'd be much more liberal than Arlin is. Combine that with his statement that he finds more and more that the Republican party has no place for his views (the ones his constituents elected him for, BTW), and it's no wonder he's changing parties.

If the Republicans don't soon start grokking the concept of "Pyrrhic victory", they're going to render themselves a non-player in the political arena. Their shift towards the radical right cost them control of the House in 2006, it cost them control of the Oval Office and very nearly the Senate in 2008, and it's going to cost them the last shreds of control (the filibuster) they have in the Senate in 2010 if they don't change course soon.

Their basic problem is that the majority of conservatives are not religious conservatives, nor "corporate interests above all else" neocons. They aren't opposed, for instance, to unemployment and welfare and the whole "safety net for people in trouble" thing. They look at it as a benefit for themselves too if they happen to get caught in somebody else's mess, say being laid off because the people who run the company they work at were greedy, unprincipled and/or stupid bastards who bankrupted their companies, an assurance that while things will be tight they won't have to worry about putting basic food on the table while they scramble to find a new job. They don't want the government to over-do it to the point where people are better off on the dole than working, but they don't want the government to completely remove the net. And they're getting increasingly fed up with ranting that sounds more and more like that annoying street preacher who won't leave you alone.

Dynamic DNS

Time for me to poke at dynamic DNS services. I run an SSH server for remote access to my home box. Usually my IP address stays fixed, but every now and then it changes when I reboot the gateway box. Just often enough to be annoying, not often enough to force me to fix it. I need to research dynamic DNS services and find one that'll provide me a cheap single name, and see if there's any that'll provide me with multiple names in a domain I own. That way I can tie the dynamic-DNS update software into my network scripts and get instant updates when things change.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Well, SOE's FreeRealms goes live Tuesday. Having been in the beta, I can say it's definitely not geared for the hard-core gamer. If you live for 24-man raids that require absolutely perfect gearing, exact raid composition and wipe upon wipe upon wipe to perfect your strats, this is not the game for you. But for everybody else, it'll be a fun game to drop in on, spend an hour or two and head off to other things. If you're a kid, you'll love it. One big draw is the jobs system. No more picking a class for a character. Any character can have any number of jobs, each with their own set of equipment and skills, and can level each up independently. Combat is all instanced, so there'll be no competition for mobs. And there's no more waiting for everyone to assemble, you can teleport to any of your friends just by clicking on their marker on the map. A basic account is free, a membership runs only $5/month and gives access to higher-end content.

It does have a few problems, though. One is the lack of a true world-wide chat channel. You can speak locally, and you can send messages to your friends, but there's no generic chat channels as in other games where everyone in the world can speak and be heard. That'll make it a bit harder to get like-minded people together if they aren't already friends. Of course it also limits the amount of asshattery in chat, so the lack isn't all bad. The other major thing you'll notice is that a significant portion of the content, particularly at the higher levels, is either members-only or purchaseable only with Station Cash. Certain jobs are also members-only. The membership is cheap so that's not IMO a major problem, but more stuff requires Station Cash than you might expect from the advertising. And like all SOE games the game and the Station Wallet are tied together through the Station account. If you have kids and want to give them accounts, DO NOT do the obvious and give them their own independent account. Set up your own account first, even if you don't intend to play. Then create their accounts as "child" accounts linked to your parent account, and use the parental controls to lock them down. That way you can use your credit card to pay their membership without giving them an unlimited ability to tap that credit card for Station Cash.

The game hasn't really caught my interest so far. It's fun, though, and a good change of pace. It's perfect for casual futzing around with a few of your friends, and it'll probably be much more interesting for the younger crowd than an old fogey like me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

RIP Geocities

Remember GeoCities? The free web hosting service from the 90s that featured organizing it's cites into virtual cities?

Yeah, I know, the cobwebs are thick back in that corner, but it's really still around. Well, until summer at least. Yahoo is shutting it down. It lasted for 15 years, and if you were one of the ones who created pages there you might want to retrieve anything still useful from it before it all gets trucked to the curb along with the servers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

GM financial woes

According to MarketWatch, GM's going to fail to make a $1 billion debt payment due in June. If that pans out, expect things to get very ugly. That may very well be the final nail in their coffin as an intact business.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Republican outrage at the "bailout"

I think I see why the Republicans are outraged at Obama's bailout plans. They aren't outraged that the government's bailing out corporations. They're perfectly happy to have the government simply buy up and write off bad loans, for instance, leaving the banks and borrowers who dug the hole financially undamaged by it and the taxpayers holding the bag. And they'd be perfectly fine with the government letting those corporations go bankrupt, leaving their executives to walk away with their bonuses and payouts and leaving the taxpayers to pick up the tab for unemployment and welfare for all the employees put out of work by it.

No, what outrages the Republicans is that Obama has the temerity, the audacity to put conditions on the bailout. To say "We'll loan you the money to keep you in business, but you're expected to pay it back with market-rate interest just like any other loan.". To say "We'll help you out, but we won't let you use the money to give rewards and bonuses to the executives whose fuck-uppery got you into this mess.".

They're outraged because Obama is expecting business to man up, admit that they screwed up by the numbers and accept the consequences instead of playing Uncle Sugar and shovelling money at them no strings attached like they want.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

EQ2 shard mission quests

Note to self: when looking at shard mission quests, remember how clickies work. If you've got a kill quest and after the rollover the new quest is a clicky, DO NOT collect any of the clickies from the instance. Not even if you're bringing in a character who's got the new quest. Clear the instance completely, then bring in all the characters with the new quest before collecting any of the clickies. Do this promptly after finishing the instance, so the clickies don't despawn.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's as a schedule date

Observation: if I ever become the Evil Overlord, I'll schedule my take-over of all governments on Earth for April 1st. That way, when the reports of the White House being stormed and occupied hit the news, everybody'll dismiss it as Yet Another Prank Story. By the time the flood of real pranks subsides and people realized that those stories were serious, it'll be too late.

April Fool's

Note to all the people posting prank stories on Slashdot: subtlety is the key. One or two pranks is amusing. After the first dozen, it gets boring. And the last thing you want your pranks to be is boring.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New chair

I had to get a new chair. The old one the gas lift went out, leaving the chair sitting at the bottom with no way to raise it. It was holding up good, but the seat was a bit hard and you can't get just replacement lifts so I decided to replace the whole thing. Now I just need to pack the old one up for disposal (probably take it to work and put it on the furniture junk-pile there for the recyclers to pick up).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A really bad week

This man has to qualify as having the mother of all bad weeks. A resident of Nagasaki, he was in Hiroshima on business on August 6th when the US dropped an atomic bomb on the city. He survived it, albeit with injuries, and returned home the next day to recover. Just in time to catch the second atomic bomb. That has to qualify as using up your entire lifetime's quota of bad luck in one go.

And if you think that's bad luck, apparently there were 8 other people unlucky enough to have been in both places at exactly the wrong times.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Machine migrations

I'm looking forward to when I can build a new machine, but dreading the migration. Right now on my current machine I've got the current files, plus an archive of the previous machine, which contains an archive of the machine before that. Less a few things I bulk-deleted, of course. None of which is particularly organized. The next migration I definitely need to get things organized and cleaned up. Also, I want 2 machines: one Linux for regular work, one Windows for gaming. I'm tired of having to reboot to switch.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Motorcycle crash

This is why I've little respect for drivers today. From today's local paper:

Multiple-car crash kills motorcyclist on Route 163

2:00 a.m. March 13, 2009

A pickup swerved out of control on southbound state Route 163 and struck a motorcyclist, who was hurled into northbound lanes and suffered fatal injuries yesterday afternoon, authorities said.

The motorcyclist, whose name was not released, died at a hospital.

Traffic slowed to a crawl for two hours past the scene that involved four vehicles. The motorist who was thought to be responsible for the crash by cutting off a green Ford Ranger pickup did not stop, the California Highway Patrol said.

CHP officials said a witness saw a pickup change lanes abruptly in front of the Ranger south of Kearny Villa Road about 4:45 p.m. The Ranger driver veered onto the right shoulder, then steered left across the lanes and broadsided a white Ford sport utility vehicle.

The white Ford flipped onto its roof, causing minor injury to one occupant. The Ranger then struck the motorcycle, which burst into flames. Its rider flew over the center divider and was hit by a northbound compact car, the CHP said.

The two left lanes in each direction were closed until nearly 7 p.m. The entire southbound freeway was blocked for several minutes while CHP officers took measurements related to their investigation. –P.R.

Notice that the cause of the crash drives off scot-free. His driving record won't be affected. He won't lose his license, or even have his insurance rates increased. He'll remain a threat to everybody else on the highway. Meanwhile his victims will have to pay the price. Worse, the driver of the Ranger will probably be ruled to be at fault simply because the police have to pin the responsibility on someone. It'll probably be "failed to maintain a safe following distance" behind the pickup that cut him off. As if you can read the other guy's mind and know he's going to cut off your following distance before he does it. Faugh.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hard drive prices

Hitachi 1-terabyte SATA hard drive. $90. GAH! I can build a multi-terabyte RAID array at a price point not too much higher than my traditional price point ($200) for a main desktop hard drive.

Karnor's Castle

This thing was the hardest dungone in the EQ2 RoK expansion. When it was released, it would eat level-80 raid-geared players alive and spit their remains back out. The first time we went in, we died literally in seconds. We haven't gone back since.

Until last night. We went in with 5 people, including a level 72 paladin. We burned our way through to the very back to get the drolvarg L&L book with no problems. Even on bad pulls with 3 mobs, we didn't have any deaths. And we got a nice set of legs for the paladin off the boss near the book. Then we went downstairs and almost got to Xalgoz. The last mob was a nasty pull, it's a 3-group that flies around high up, hard to spot and hard to keep track of when it comes in. Our healer got caught right in the middle and AOEd to death, and that was that. We're going to have to go back in and clear that place.

It did demonstrate why we need new computers, though. Major chunkage and 3-4FPS frame rates the whole way make it hard to pull cleanly. Our computers are just old and need upgraded to the current generation. My plan is to buy motherboards with the most current AMD socket on them, then buy CPUs with fewer cores but higher clock speeds (EQ2 doesn't take great advantage of multiple cores, it needs clock cycles) with the plan being to upgrade to CPUs with more cores as clock speeds on them climb.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Computer parts prices

Gods, I'm out of the loop on computer component prices. Just checked on memory with Crucial. DDR3, 4Gb kits, down in the $100 range. I'd expected at least twice that. Motherboards and CPUs likewise a lot cheaper than I expected.

I seriously need to build new computers. Primary desktops are single-core Athlon XP 3200 class, at least 3 generations behind the curve. AGP video. Need new machines.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Proposition 8 and the CA Supreme Court

Arguments to overturn Proposition 8 finished up today. Now, myself, I don't think the justices are going to go for the "revision to the state constitution" argument. An amendment is a revision, and it's allowed. There's no language in the state constitution itself barring amendments from changing existing terms. If that's all that's being argued, Propsition 8 stands.

I'd argue on two different grounds.

First, that while Proposition 8 defines marriage to be between a man and a woman, it doesn't remove the language elsewhere in the constitution that requires the state to treat all citizens equally. As long as that other language stands, Proposition 8 can't simply handwave that requirement away. If two men show up wanting to be married by the state, the state has to treat them the same as it would a man and a woman until a constitutional amendment removing that requirement is passed. And Proposition 8 doesn't remove that requirement.

Second, Proposition 8 is an infringement on freedom of religion and is barred by the US Constitution. No state is allowed to have provisions in it's state constitution that violate the US Constitution, after all. Religions do define marriage, that's what the Religious Right is in an uproar about here. But not all religions define marriage as being only between a man and a woman. By writing that definition into the constitution, Proposition 8 interferes with the right of those religions to marry couples according to their beliefs. You can only do that if you can show an overriding societal need for that interference and that there is no less intrusive way of meeting that need. Proposition 8 doesn't demonstrate that there's any overriding need to bar same-sex marriages, so it fails the test.

Development frustrations

One of the most frustrating things: finishing up implementation of a feature, sending it up for build, and then being told that the feature isn't wanted anymore. Ah well, at least they're not making us revert it all back out again, it'll just go unused.

You'd think the business analysts could get things like this straight, figure out what's actually going to be wanted before development starts.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The economy

Don't look to the Crash of '29 and the Great Depression for a model for the current economic situation. Look instead to the Panic of 1873, the events that led up to it and the Long Depression that followed it.

Oh, and OPEC wanting oil at $70/barrel? Not happening, guys. Not unless they cut production by 100%, and maybe not even then. And they aren't going to shut themselves down to force the price of oil up. OPEC needs to accept that, given the current economy, their desires are just unrealistic.

Stock market

Looks like the Dow's headed to a close below 7000 for the first time in over a decade. The S&P 500 is flirting with the 700 mark. If the Dow closes under 7000, I expect a bad reaction the rest of the week. I'm also expecting the markets to continue to decline. Now's a good time to be solidly in money markets and other safe investments. Should make for some good profits once things bottom out and start to recover, though.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stock market

Bets on the Dow hitting 7000?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Norse pantheon

All you need to know about the Norse pantheon: "In short, the plan is a paratroop attack into an erupting volcano that's swarming with heavily armed giants. Half the Aesir tell Eric how jealous they are that he gets to lead the gloriously insane commando raid. And they mean it."

On pain

"Pain exists for a reason. It's how your body, and your mind, tell you that something's not right. Ignore it at your peril. If there doesn't seem to be a reason for it, perhaps you're not looking hard enough. Or perhaps not in the right place. You won't find a physical cause for a non-physical problem, nor will you find the physical cause if you keep insisting it's all in the head."

My father went through idiots who wouldn't follow that advice after his accident. His right arm was numb, painful and showing all the signs of nerve damage. All the tests they ran confirmed nerve damage. But since none of the X-rays showed any physical cause for the damage, the doctors kept insisting there couldn't be any nerve damage. Until finally Mom brow-beat the insurance into getting an opinion from the surgeon who all the other doctors named as the guy they wanted if they had to have work done on their necks. He looked at everything and said "OK, all the tests show there's damage, if we can't see the cause from the X-rays we'll just have to open it up and poke around and see what the X-rays aren't showing.". And when he opened my father's neck up, there was a nice loud clatter as a vertebrae fell out in about 3 pieces, to which the surgeon commented "Well, that's the problem right there.". No sign on the X-rays, but the insurance couldn't argue with the bits of vertebrae on the desk. And Mom made a point of rubbing the noses of all those other doctors in the photos of the shattered vertebrae that they refused to look for.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Peanut Corp. of America - RIP

It's official: PCA, the company mentioned before, is no more. They're filing for Chapter 7 liquidation and going out of business. Good riddance. The only thing I can hope is that the owner, who apparently knew of the problems and considered dealing with them to be a nuisance that was hurting his profits, gets nailed for negligent homicide.

More Peanut Corp. problems

This time they found rodent debris in the food. ""The order was issued after dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers were discovered yesterday in a crawl space above a production area during an in-depth Department of State Health Services inspection," the agency said in a statement.". Not a good thing to be finding after all the high dudgeon over China's problems.

No raises this year

No raises at work this year. With the economy, there's a very small pool of money for raises. Management set down a rule: raises are to go first to those in the lowest pay grades and with families. The reasoning was that those were the people being hurt most by the current recession, and they'd be able to spread that pool of money among the most people. So the high-paid people like me got pretty much nothing. Which I'm OK with, I'm in a better position to absorb not getting a raise than the guy making $30K.

OTOH, I'm watching the company's financials. When the economy and the company's profitability picks up again, follow-through will be expected.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Republican inanity

A wonderful quote from Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio) had this to say: "When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression. He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That's just history."

Well, Roosevelt and the Great Depression are history, that's true. However, that's about all of his statement that has any connection to reality. The Great Depression began in 1929. Roosevelt didn't become president until 1933, 4 years later. Keynes didn't write his book on economics until 1936, 3 years after that.

Now, admittedly, after being presented with the historical record, Austria did backtrack: "I did not mean to imply in any way that President Roosevelt was responsible for putting us into the Depression, but rather was trying to make the point that Roosevelt’s attempt to use significant spending to get us out of the Depression did not have the desired effect."

Again, not exactly correct. The GDP had declined from $103.6 billion in 1929 to $56.4 billion in 1933, and started rising in 1934 to $66.0 billion and continued to rise through the start of WWII with only one drop in 1938 (the year FDR cut funds from a large part of the New Deal to help balance the budget). You can find detailed numbers at the BEA's web site.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Jury duty

I gots jury duty on Feb. 25th. Well, theoretically. What it probably means is I'll get to sit around all day at the courthouse being bored, only to be told I won't be needed after all. Or get called to a courtroom only to either not be called to the box, or be called only to be dismissed by one side or the other before I've actually got properly sat down. That's the annoying thing about the whole matter: all the disruption with little likelihood of actually serving on a jury for my trouble. That's one of the reasons I'd like to change a few things about the legal system, starting with a policy of "If you've gotten to the point that this court has hauled a bunch of people into this courthouse, made them sit through jury orientation and herded them into a courtroom, then gentlemen you will be making your client's case before a jury and that jury will get to render a decision. If you don't think that's a good idea now, you should have thought of that earlier.".

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dow Jones Industrial Average

If you look at the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq indexes, you can see how bad this latest crash was. We're down to the same level as the bottom of the last crash in late 2001 to early 2002. The last time before that that we were at these levels was back in late 1997. That was the point the indexes rose through current levels and stayed above them consistently.

IOW the current crash has wiped out a decade's worth of gains in the market.

That's a scary thought.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Second Life annoyance

I just got a password-reset e-mail from my not-very-active Second Life account. I hadn't requested a password reset. Naturally I immediately logged in directly to their site and changed my password, just in case it was a cracking attempt. Others in SL might want to be on the lookout.

Daschle nomination withdrawn

Tom Daschle is withdrawing from his nomination as Health and Human Services secretary in the Obama adminisration. This is good. There's too many issues with taxes among nominees lately. Potential nominees need to be more careful about their taxes, and clear up things before their nomination is announced. The Obama administration needs to be more careful about vetting potential nominees, and prod them to clean up their records ASAP. And both need to be clearer about whether the problem is a real, clear error or just a disagreement about an item that could arguably go either way.

Now, personally I don't consider tax "errors" to be a killer simply by existing. The plain fact is, most of those "errors" haven't been found to be errors. They're cases where either the IRS or an auditor disagrees with the original preparer as to how to classify a particular item. This isn't anything odd on a moderately complex tax form. Besides the IRS regulations there's a huge body of administrative and case law government what can be considered how, and even IRS agents aren't familiar with it all (one reason good tax accountants are in such demand is that they know that body of law better than the IRS agents and, when the IRS wants to disallow a deduction, they can point to a ruling that says it is too allowable). For instance, take a home office. Expenses related to it are deductible, however if it's also used for personal use some things are deductible and some aren't. For instance, if it's mixed-use you can't deduct a portion of the utility bills. You can, though, deduct business calls on a mixed-use phone. And not all mixed-use disqualifies it. The IRS will try to argue it, but occasional and incidental personal use has been ruled to not disqualify the office. The personal use has to be regular and consitute a not-insignificant portion of the use to disqualify the office. You can have endless arguments with the IRS over this if you aren't careful. Get into investments or foreign earnings and it gets really fun. Eg. you were paid $50,000 for work done in a foreign country, the money was deposited into a bank in that country and used only in that country, and taxes were paid on it in that country per their rules. How much of that money must be reported as US income, how much of it is taxable as US income and how much of a credit against US taxes paid are you entitled to? What if the foreign country says you owed $20,000 in taxes to them on that money but the IRS says only $10,000? Note that in that last case, if you paid $20,000 to the foreign country for taxes and claim $20,000 in foreign taxes paid, you have an error on your return even though you're in compliance with what the rules say simply because the IRS disputes your (and the foreign country's tax people's) interpretation of the foreign tax laws.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Peanut salmonella outbreak, new discovery

There's a new development in the salmonella-contaminated peanut-product case. Apparently the FDA caught a (badly) contaminated shipment from Peanut Corp. coming back into the country after having been rejected abroad. They refused to allow the shipment back in and ordered it destroyed. They didn't order any inspection of the plant that was the source of the shipment, and didn't do any testing of their own despite having heartburn over the company's in-house testing methods. And apparently the company had a history of problems being found during inspections.

Methinks that, given the new administration and their lack of abject worship of the glory of corporate ultra-capitalism, there's going to be a few changes in FDA policies and procedures going forward. Increased inspections and decreased taking companies at their word, at the very least.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

E-mail at work

They installed Office 2007 at work today. I'm primarily interested in Outlook, since that's what I have to use for e-mail. My impression: meh.

What it gives me: Nothing. It does exactly what it did before. It doesn't add any new features that I use. It doesn't improve anything I was already doing. It leaves me exactly where I was before the "upgrade".

Annoyances: Appearance. It doesn't look anything like any other program on my desktop. It doesn't follow the desktop theme, it doesn't use the standard Windows appearance. It's a jarring out-of-place window that looks completely alien on my desktop. I'm a programmer, I'd rather these programs blended in and didn't distract me from what I'm doing with a radically different appearance. It also changes the flagging scheme for messages to something more complicated. Before it was just a set of colored flags, and I just chose a color. Now there's two parallel tracks: the color code and the date it's flagged for. I don't need the extra track, I just need to flag messages so I can distinguish a couple of categories.

All in all I'd've preferred not to upgrade. I get nothing but annoyances from this. Not major ones, but IMO you need to get something positive and there isn't anything here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Treasury appointment

For those pontificating about Geithner's tax problems, bear this in mind: if you hand the exact same set of original income/expense documents to 5 different IRS agents, you'll get 5 different numbers for the amount of taxes owed. If you take each one and hand it to one of the others to audit, you'll likely end up with 10 different numbers. And that's for returns a lot less complex than his likely is. Income from the IMF means dealing with international income and tax rules, and those are even more complex than the ones for purely domestic income. It's not hard to end up with a dispute about the amount of taxes owed, and it's not always the IRS that has the right numbers.

I'm minded of advice my tax instructor gave: "Never go into an audit or IRS hearing aiming to justify why you can take that deduction. Be ready to do that, but start off by making the IRS justify why they think you can't take it. And if they can't come up with a reason, dig your heels in and make them explain clearly why they're trying to disallow something without any justification."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

FOIA policy changes

Obama issued several policy orders related to the Freedom of Information Act. The biggest one was an instruction to agencies to consider FOIA requests starting with a presumption that information should be disclosed unless a good reason could be found not to disclose it. This is in stark contrast to the policy under Bush and Ashcroft, which was that information should not be disclosed unless the agency absolutely could not find any reason at all to restrict access to it. Another order also instructed agencies to not wait for citizens to specifically request access to information but to consider ways to actively make it available to the public.

This is the way government should work.

I'd also note that it's a practical advantage. If a President builds up a track record of being open, and a record of having a good reason for it on those occasions when he's secretive, people are going to cut him some slack and assume that, when he's got to keep something secret and can't discuss it, he's got a good reason for it this time too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Zookeepers and Presidents

This post from Silverblue pretty much sums up my opinion. And IMO it's a pretty sad commentary on a President when people will be happy with a successor who simply refrains from actively screwing things up.


"No, saying "within 3 years" isn't wildly optimistic. It's possible you're planning on having it fail quickly, in which case the most annoying thing it can do is hang on for a couple of years tormenting you."

"Aches, pains, stiffness. Ah, the joys of aging. Consider the alternative, and enjoy the fact that you've lived long enough to not be as young as you used to be."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Circuit City bankruptcy

Circuit City joins CompUSA in going out of business. Their attempt to find a buyer failed, so they're liquidating and going out of business completely. I'm perfectly happy with this, my experience with both chains (and others) is that they sell so-so products at excessive prices and make you suffer through high-pressure sales pitches from clueless salescritters for the privilege.

Hint to the brick-and-mortar stores: you can't compete with Newegg and Amazon on price. And you can't compete with them on quality, they're selling the same items you are. There's only two things you've got left: convenience and customer service. Convenience only works for small-ticket items, you can't make a large business out of that. And customer service requires hiring salesmen who have a clue about what they're selling and are willing to sell the customer what they need, not what brings in the biggest commission. You've a big advantage over on-line in that I can walk in to your store and see the actual item, look it over, check things and make absolutely sure it's what I want. I can explain to a salesman what I want and get advice. But you seem bound and determined to make it as hard as possible for me to deal with you. Change your ways, or you'll be joining CompUSA and Circuit City before a bankruptcy judge.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gun calibers

"Son, if you don't need integer inches for the caliber, it's not a BFG." -- Jeran

Monday, January 12, 2009

Violence and competence

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. The competent realize it's going to be needed and resort to it sooner, before they've made a complete mess of the situation." -- Jeran

Further Confusion plans

Going to have to plan for FC next year. First thing: keep an eagle eye out for the hotel reservations opening and jump on a room immediately. And by immediately I don't mean "sometime the day it opens", I mean "the moment it opens, even if it means staying up past midnight the night before". The block for FC this year was filled literally within a couple of days of opening, if I want a room in the con hotel (and I do) I'm going to have to make sure I'm at the head of the line.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chargers... done

The Chargers aren't going to the Superbowl this year. After pulling off a miracle to get into the playoffs, and winning their first playoff game, they lose to the Steelers 35-24. Everyone (including them) thought they were on a roll. Problem is, rolls come to an end. You need to start playing consistent, guys.

And along with their hopes for a Superbowl ring, this also ends the owner's hopes for getting someone else to pay for a new stadium for them. With the economy tanking and municipal budgets taking the hit, the team isn't going to find anyone willing to sink public money into them.

Really absent-minded tenants

I've had regular problems with people who don't take their clothes out of the dryer here, but this one sets a new record. Back on Tuesday or so I had to do laundry. Someone had a load in the dryer when I went down, but the washer was open. When my load was done washing, the dryer had shut off but the clothes were still in it. I gave them an hour, then pulled them out of the dryer and put them on the table so I could dry my clothes before it got too late. The next morning the clothes were still on the table. Today when I went down to put a load of sheets in, the same clothes were still on the table, shoved back into the corner. Monday if they're still there I'm going to call the landlord and let them know.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Senate appointment

There's some flap over the appointment of Burris to replace Obama in the US Senate. The Democrats aren't going to seat a senator appointed by Governor Blagojevich. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the appointment is legal even without the Illinois Sect'y of State's approval. But that doesn't matter. You see, there's these little clauses in the United States Constitution regarding the Senate. Article I, Section 5 begins paragraph 1 with:

"Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members,"

and and then in paragraph 2 says:

"Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.".

So, it's not the Illinois Supreme Court, or even the US Supreme Court, that gets to decide whether a Senatorial appointee meets the qualifications. The Constitution gives that authority to the Senate itself. And if their rules require the approval of the state's Secretary of State before allowing an appointee to take his seat, only the Senate has the authority to make and change those rules. And articles of impeachment have been voted in against Blagojevich. The trial hasn't happened yet, but the articles have been entered. That means it's very much a question of whether Burris meets the qualification of having been appointed by the executive authority of the state of Illinois. So, in the hands of the Senate again to decide.

One wonders now whether all those neo-cons who were ranting about "activist judges" will be demanding that the courts follow the Constitution here, or will they be demanding that the courts read in the requirement that the Senate defer to someone else as to the qualifications of an appointee.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

LJ being moved to Russia

LJ is being moved to Russia, according to it's owner SUP. Well, at least all the development work. This doesn't suprise me, it's a natural consequence of LJ being bought by SUP which is based in Russia. The Russian portion of LJ is a money-maker. The US portion brings in very little in the way of solid revenue, the majority is based on advertising which isn't doing very well. So from a business standpoint it makes sense for the Russian owner to move things to Russia and concentrate on it's core business, letting the unprofitable American portion languish with minimal investment other than getting any code changes that result from normal development for the Russian market.

The fact is, I expected this. That's why I stopped using LJ for posts and made sure I had a backup of all posts and comments, why I switched to BlogSpot for my journals, and why I started using RSS to aggregate my own feeds of posts without needing to depend on a service. A lot of LJ users are going to learn a hard lesson: when you outsource to someone else, you place yourself at the mercy of their business interests. And for LJ, those business interests no longer include maintaining an expensive service for the benefit of a user base that doesn't want to pay enough to justify keeping them.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Browser changes

For years I've depended on Mozilla/Firefox's built-in facilities and DNS-based blocking of the most offensive advertising sites and malicious hosts. I've decided to start altering that. I'm putting in AdBlock Plus and NoScript as standard add-ons to FireFox. I'll deal with enabling scripts on a site-by-site basis as needed. I'm also going to aggressively expand the list I use for DNS-based blocking. At a minimum it's going to be based on domains included in the AdBlock Plus subscription I'll be using, and I'm going to try and find a reliable outside blacklist of malicious sites to include. I'm going to hack up a script to automate maintaining the blackhole zone file on the DNS server.

I'll also have to update Dean and Lia to the latest FireFox, and install AdBlock Plus and NoScript on their machines and show them how to enable scripts as needed and when and why not to enable them.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Good-bye 2008, let's see what 2009 holds

Another year gone, and a new one starting. Here's hoping this year's better than the last few have been. It's like, ever since the 21st century started, Murphy has been trying to demonstrate to the world just how much of a pain in the ass he can be.

Work is being fun. First problem today: "Why are you generating an E099 error? That's not a valid code" "... because your CR says to generate an E099 error, maybe?"