July 2005 Archives

The previously mentioned plan to change when DST is in effect was also mentioned in the latest RISKS digest, and the author points out an aspect of the plan that will be especially problematic:

Regardless of whether you actually think daylight saving is a good idea, there are definite risks when you decide to change the rules on how it works. In this case, the proposal is to have the change take effect this fall. I’m curious if Congress realizes that just about every single computer system would have to be updated so that it would keep the correct time.

The Fourth Amendment, that is:

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.

Since it seems like quite a few elected officials and public servants are having trouble remembering it these days, you might want to just go ahead and pick up a bag or some other item to remind them of what they’ve sworn to uphold.

via the boing and the other boing.

We went out to the Apple store last weekend, to buy a computer for TheChild. There’s been an older Intel desktop in the living room for some time that’s been nominally “hers”, but it was a bit slow and more than a bit noisy and generally just not very convenient to use. Plus I’m still not convinced that the hypothesis that Windows use causes long-term cognitive damage is untrue, and I’d rather not take the chance.

The original plan was to buy a Mini, and recycle the monitor that we were using with the previous system. The original plan was scrapped on encountering the iMac G5 and realizing that the part-time teaching I do at JHU makes me eligible for an educational discount, which lowered the price that critical amount necessary for psychological buy-in.

We also dodged a bit of a bullet: two days after our purchase, Apple announced changes to the Mini line — primarily a bump in the standard RAM, a bump which I would have paid for had we gone with the Mini instead of the G5. I suppose that’s what I get for going in to buy Apple hardware without researching the rumor sites first…

Reminder: Today is Sysadmin Day. Leave gifts and tribute in the usual places.

The Housing Bubble blog picks up a WaPo story about the cooling DC area real estate market. Here’s hoping it deflates slowly, rather than suddenly popping.

Mark Morford nails scandal-o’-the-week “Hot Coffee” right between the eyes in ‘There’s Sex In My Violence! What’s this lame soft-core porn doing in my ultraviolent “Grand Theft Auto”? I am outraged!’:

Shouldn’t someone be outraged over the fact that 17-year-old virgin geeks who play endless hours of ultraviolent video games might somehow be tainted to their very cores by two minutes of badly animated sex, despite how you are, as a typical American teen, so regularly co-opted, so viciously pummeled by crass product placement and violence on the news and wicked misinformation about everything from marijuana to abstinence to cafeteria food, well, it pretty much makes the tepid and completely unarousing sex on GTASA look like outtakes from “Shrek III: Now We’re Just Whoring It”? You’re darned right there should!

Read, as the saying goes, the whole thing.

It looks like the move to extend the hours of daylight savings time is going to succeed. Signs you are a big geek #4578: your first thought when you hear this is, “But what about all the embedded devices that are going to switch clocks on the wrong day now?”

Well, technically, it’s not closing so much as it’s changing hands: Brig is selling the weblog portal. (The weblog portal, that is.) Thanks for all the work over the years, Brig.

Last night, I stayed a bit late at work and then walked down into Bethesda to see Off Road To Athens, a documentary about the selection of the mountain bikers that represented the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics. The film was visually excellent, all the more so for being shot on “mostly” one camera. I’m not sure I’d believe that if it wasn’t the director saying it; the race scenes all featured shots from multiple positions along the courses. Somebody must have been running around the course like mad to get those shots.

Better than the raw film-making, however, is the story. Arcane, never-fully-explained rules about how many people the US can send to Athens create a situation where the competition to qualify for the team becomes all-consuming for the small community of potential qualifiers, even to the point where they’re not effectively training to compete in the Olympics because they’re working too hard trying to get selected to go to the Olympics.

The film is currently “on tour”; show dates available at the site. Highly recommended if you get a chance to see it.

With Medley’s recent “they’re coming for Griswold post still ringing in my ears, I happened across The American Taliban, featuring this gem from Joseph Scheidler of the ‘Pro-Life Action League’:

I would like to outlaw contraception…contraception is disgusting — people using each other for pleasure.

I agree that rolling back Griswold is on the wish list of the “crazy fundie” segment that the current administration is completely beholden to. My theory is that they’re really primarily after the Pill — or, at least, it’s the Pill that really gets them offended. This may not apply any longer, but back in the 70s and 80s, one frequently mentioned way for women to obtain prescriptions for the Pill was the “painful menstruation excuse”. The idea was you’d complain to your doctor about your painful periods, and he’d prescribe the Pill because one of the effects was a decrease in menstrual output. (I have no idea if this actually worked — the excuse or the purported relief from painful periods — and being male I never had an opportunity to try the excuse or a need to. I do know this was a popular meme about how one could obtain the Pill.)

If you remember your mythology Bible, you know that menstruation is God’s curse on womankind; retribution for Eve’s role in the eating of the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Women are supposed so suffer because of that, and the Pill lets them evade God’s punishment — something that seems to drive the hardcore fundie element nuts. (I mean, they really hates them some uppity womenfolk.)

Someday, some dedicated student of psychology and the human condition will figure out why it is that the more into Christianity and Jesus-loving people get, the more they emphasize the Old Testament, pre-Jesus aspects of their religion. It’s never “feed the poor” or “heal the sick” with the hardcore; it’s always “smash the idolaters” and “punish the evil women”. The deepest irony of all is that if the god they profess to worship exists, in the end the most intense punishment of all will be handed out to themselves.

Billmon says the Dems need to Think Like Michael:

The Dems don’t want to be like Fredo — weak, insecure and eager to earn the good will of people who are inevitably going to be enemies of “the family.” (That’s where too many of them are at now.) They shouldn’t be like Sonny — impulsive, emotional and a few quarts short of a full crankcase. Shrub is like that and it’s usually what gets him into trouble. (“Bring ‘em on!”) The Dems need to try to be more like Michael — cool, analytical and totally pragmatic. “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”

I would love to see some of that — Dean, despite the “Sonny” role the media wants to force him into, is providing occasional flashes of it — but there needs to be more. Lots more.

Yes, as a few people have noticed, I was interviewed for a WaPo article on Hipster PDAs. And to answer the inevitable follow-up question, yes, I really am that big of a dork.

My current plan is to parlay my newly recognized Hipster PDA expertise into massive fame and fortune. I’m considering something along the lines of a “Hipster PDA for Dummies” sort of book, featuring chapters like, “No, the ‘hipster’ part is ironic, dork boy”, “The hPDA manifesto: three-by-five for life, dawg”, and “Colored cards: kicky accessory or unneeded tarting up?”. Publishing agents should feel free to contact me for a more detailed proposal.

nomasmute (no-mas-mute): When some out-of-the-ordinary event — road construction, vehicle accident, car trouble, alien invasion — causes your morning drive into work to go so slowly that you consider quitting your job and moving to someplace without traffic, preferably without paved roads. Usage: “Hey, Bob, we missed you at the morning staff meeting.” “Yeah, I got in about an hour behind schedule — had a real nomasmute this morning!”

Coolest thing EV-AH: moon.google.com. Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is, and it’s put a big grin on at least one face this morning.

Bob Harris tries to read between the lines of Bush’s recent “revision” of the policy about when White House personnel get turfed:

What I find intriguing is Bush’s insistence that “I don’t know all the facts. I want to know all the facts.” Maybe I’m making too much of this, but this is way more than the “no comment” position feigning respect for the investigation. This is a positive statement of ignorance. And this also has an immediate political cost: he looks like he’s a) covering up, b) spectacularly careless and incompetent, or c) all of the above. The only other times I’ve seen presidents personally assert their own ignorance this way: Nixon during Watergate and Reagan during Iran-Contra. Probably why my spidey sense went all tingly.

He also has some interesting background on Patrick Fitzgerald, the special investigator heading the case:

The full damage caused by the leak isn’t yet knowable (at least without the clearance). But Valerie Wilson’s CIA front, Brewster-Jennings, was reportedly tasked with tracking the smuggling of explosive materials in the Middle East, so that crap like the 1993 WTC attack, the embassy bombings in Africa, and 9-11 wouldn’t be even worse next time. (That’s the operation apparently shit-canned by this White House for their own political gain. So you can see why the CIA lifers pushed the case for criminal investigation, and why people are throwing the word “treason” around so much.) The 1993 WTC attack was prosecuted by… Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was then assigned to prosecute, yes, the Al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. Fitzgerald was building a case against Osama Bin Laden five years before 9-11. This job, one concludes, involved a certain appreciation for intelligence people studying the illicit movement of explosives by terrorists. If there’s a single prosecutor in America who fully understands what the Plame case is about — a reckless compromise of national security for political interest — it’s this guy. If there’s a prosecutor in this country who groks the background and context of the specific operations destroyed by this crime, it’s this guy. And if there’s a single prosecutor capable of pursuing a conspiracy case no matter where it reaches, it sure seems like it’s this guy.

Hopefully that helps some of you understand why the rest of us are watching this thing develop with the intensity that we are.

Suresh say “SPF useless against spam. Port 25 blocks good.” You listen.

(Suresh is the anti-spam guy for a sizable chunk of the email accounts on the internet. Possibly even yours. When he has a strong opinion about something relating to email, it’s worth listening to.)

Yesterday’s “Republicans say the stuuuuuupidest things” moment was brought to you by Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo (all you Rocky Mountain State readers tuck that name into the back of your head for the next time you’re in a voting booth…), who had this to say about possible responses to a large-scale terrorist attack in the US:

“Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites,” Tancredo answered. “You’re talking about bombing Mecca,” Campbell [the DJ interviewing Tancredo for Orlando’s WFLA-AM] said. “Yeah,” Tancredo responded.

This garnered the expected responses from Left Blogsvania and Tancredo dispatched a spokesweasel to put some “ah, that was all hypothetical” counterspin on his initial comments. All of that pretty much went according to the standard playbook — some “red meat” for the base, and then a wink-wink-nudge-nudge “oh I wasn’t serious” backpedal towards civility.

But the one point I didn’t see anybody make — and it’s entirely possible that I just missed it; I was flat on my back getting over a cold for a lot of yesterday — is that Mecca is in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is one of our allies in the Middle East. Ostensibly, at least, they’re on our side. Ignoring all the other issues Tancredo’s statements raise — the morality of retaliatory attacks against civilian populations, the wisdom of attacking one of the primary suppliers of your country’s primary energy source, how destroying the most holy point of a religion is going to make followers of that religion less inclined to attack you, et cetera, et cetera — ignoring all that, we’re still left with the fact that Tancredo is advocating bombing — and in the context of the comments, it’s pretty clear he meant nuking — an ally, in response to an enemy attack. In WWII terms, this is like saying, “Hey, you Japanese better lay off the kamikaze attacks, or we’re gonna level Melbourne!”

Ladies and gentlemen, your majority party. Enjoy.

Like many, I’m watching the evolving Plamegate/Rove-leaked fracas inhorrified fascination. Yesterday’s press gaggle had a wonderful bit of smart-assery from the press corps:

Q Did the President get his news yesterday about Justice Rehnquist’s health from media reports? MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Andy Card and I did, and Andy Card and I informed the President in the Oval Office yesterday, shortly after the news reports came out. I think that that was the case previously, when the Chief Justice went into the hospital, we didn’t have any advance notification either. Q So why is it acceptable for him to base his information about the Chief Justice’s health on news reports, but not about an investigation within the West Wing? What’s the distinction there?

(via Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle at First Draft.)

If anybody is looking for an entry- to mid-level (SAGE level 1 to level 2) admin gig in the DC metro area, drop me a line.

I’ve got one of the comp’d Flickr accounts to give away — if you’re interested, drop me a line and justify why I should give it to you…

After close to a year, I’ve finally gotten around to turning comments back on (and spent an hour cleaning up the leftover spam from last time); we’ll see how long it lasts this go round. I know I need to tweak the template somewhat, but that’ll have to wait until tomorrow, it’s bedtime-oh-thirty.

Hope any London readers are okay (hope the vastly larger group of non-readers is as okay as possible too). Keep your heads up.

So, in addition to the daily jolt of Tour watching, TheWife and I also started watching season two of The Wire over the holiday weekend. Probably not all that wise, given that we’re not going to have the time to stick with it until the Tour wraps up, and the plot is dense enough to be difficult to remember, but there you are.

Anywhay, there’s a great bit in the second episode. One of the subplots this season involves a conflict between a local union of dockworkers and a mid-level police commander. After a confrontation in which the union leader tells the police captain off (I think he’s a captain), the captain sends around some patrolmen to write petty tickets on the cars of the union members. The union leader comes out with his men and confronts the cop writing the tickets, asking him what the problem is. The cop says, “Look, my boss told me to come out here twice a day and paper these cars. Nothing personal, this is just my job.” The union leader asks him who he works for, and when he hears that it’s the same person he had a screaming match with earlier, says bitterly,”You work for a gapingasshole!”. The cop, climbing into his patrol car, pauses, smiles ruefully, and says, “Actually… several.” and the scene ends.

For some reason, that scene sprang to mind when I read this WaPo headline this morning: Bush Advises Blair Not to Expect Special Treatment at G-8 Summit. Not sure why; it just did.

So, unless you’re under a rock, you’re aware that this year’s Tour has kicked off. (As I type this, I’m watching the Tivo’d team time trial — say that three times fast.) Things might get a bit lighter around here as discretionary cycles get sucked into TV time (or, given how light they’ve been recently, you might not be able to tell the difference…)

So far, the best written thing about the Tour (that I’ve seen, anyway) has been these opening ‘grafs from the WaPo’s Sunday coverage of the second stage:

Dave Zabriskie was 17 years old when his mother drove him to a junior race in Colorado named after cycling icon Lance Armstrong. Zabriskie won that day, but never expected to have a chance to compete against Armstrong, much less best him on a given day. Lance Armstrong has won the Tour de France six times, but never expected to have a chance to break the back of one of his most durable rivals on the first day of the race. The two American riders made the exceptional seem routine in the dramatic Tour-opening time trial Saturday, owning it from A to Z.

The coolest tech thing I’ve seen so far: Bobby Julich of CSC is riding with an elliptical chainring — some discussion of that here.

Stone-cold funniest thing to date? The Bob Roll Kinetic trainer commercial. I expect to be stopping the Tivo fast-forward to laugh at this one quite often, and that’s the highest praise I can think of giving a commercial.

More for the locals than anything else — on July 21st, there’s going to be a screening of Off Road to Athens at Bethesda Row Cinema. The movie is about the process of selecting the three American mountain bikers (two men, one woman) that were sent to Athens. I’ve got my tickets (and may end up having an extra); let me know if you’re attending and we can hook up for coffee or something afterwards.

For the non-locals, there are other screenings coming up, mostly on the left coast…

Chip Salzenberg, former Perl pumpking and well-known Perl hacker, is having some legal issues with his now-former employer. Just a reminder that if the company you work for is doing something bad, they’re probably not going to be too happy if you start talking about exposing them.