Thursday, August 28, 2003

Good - Bait and Switch of US in A

The war still has a lot of public support. And the situation is far from irretrievable. War-hawks want to portray the situation as something akin to the late stages of Vietnam, with a defeatist press and establishment, a war-weary public, and a few brave souls who've read their Churchill and remember the lessons of Munich wanting to stick it out.

But that's not where we are. What you've got is a lot of people who are unhappy about the administration's dishonesty, an equal number who don't think the current plan is working, and a pretty broad consensus that we need to make some course corrections if we're going to be successful.

So let's make those course corrections and give ourselves a shot at an outcome which is good for us and the Iraqis.

One thing we shouldn't do is give those liars a chance to question people's moral fiber for not signing on to their latest fairy-tale, the never-ending-story about why we did all this in the first place. Let's write those folks out of the conversation entirely.

Indeed. Course corrections are necessary. But why is not even one Presidential candidate suggesting what those corrections might be. I would think it is a better way to show that you support the country and its armed forces but are opposed to the sitting Administration. Instead, we get G.W.B. and a bunch of people who cannot decide whether they always opposed the war, oppose it only after they themselves voted for it, or oppose it on even days that are partly cloudy with a 15% chance or rain and support it on odd days with sunshine, leaving the rest of the calendar open for daydreaming.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

From the department of "always good to know" - Do Amish pay taxes?
Just like the rest of us, the Amish are not exempt from life's two certainties -- death and taxes.

original link via LockerGnome

Sunday, August 24, 2003

A fun video sgement for a digital camera enthusiast from the Daily Show

"Digital Cameras" magically create images of people and places thanks to "technology"

link via jdb cyberspace

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Harvard Summer(s)

NYT does not often shower so much praise in a 10-page (on the web) article as they do on Lawrence Summers, former Treasure Secretary and now the President of Harvard. Pretty interesting article (via instapundit)

Friday, August 22, 2003

Free anonymous email with an unusual price tag

Want Truly Anonymous Mail? Anonymity and privacy are two separate things. While they often go hand in hand, there are times when they can be separated. I have to admit, I really like the idea Bob Cringely is describing in his latest column of an anonymous email system that has been put in place called Mailinator. Whenever you're asked to enter in a "valid" email address for something, where you don't want to give out any info but do need to get a "response" email, you just enter in any thing and it will work. You don't have to sign up with Mailinator. You don't have to worry if someone already has that email address. So, how do you retrieve the email? You just go and check it. There are no passwords. In other words, it's anonymous - no one knows who you are. But it's not private. Anyone can check your email - if they know what email address you used. There's a little bit of privacy through obscurity, but probably not much. So, more common "addresses" might have mail coming in for multiple people, but everyone can go in and find their email. Cringely also suggests that someone will create a search engine for the system that will run through all the email accounts, but I'm not sure why that's worthwhile.

[via Techdirt]

This is very interesting. It might be worthwhile for a spammer or a hacker to run through these accounts since they are likely to have passwords and usernames for various minor registrations. However, most people use the same or similar passwords/usernames for everything and so knowing a password to someone's NYTimes registration might open up their AOL or E-Trade account. The system is probably profitable through advertising served while you check "your" email and has got to be a great commercial for the company that hosts it - Outscheme. I already bookmarked their page.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Sometimes you feel like Cambodia and sometimes like Lichtenshtein.

Take the Country Quiz over at Blue Pyramid and find out for sure. Do not worry about the results, you can always Blame Canada

via Michael Totten

I would so watch this - Hasidic soap opera

The first Hasidic 'telenovella', as soaps are known in Israel, has power struggles, intrigue, love triangles and many of the plot twists of a proper soap opera, but no steamy love scenes and a dialogue peppered with 'praise the Lords'. The first episode is schedule to be aired Thursday on a Jewish TV channel in Israel.

I wonder if IFC or Bravo would going to carry it at some point.

Monday, August 18, 2003

"Because they are paying national insurance, people feel they are entitled to service,"

Well, that would cause a problem, would not it? NYT reports that not ALL is well with nationalized healthcare.

I would dearly like to not have to worry about health insurance. Millions and millions of Americans have none at all, and others, like myself, pay well over $1,000/month for our families to have reasonably comprehensive coverage. NYT has been actually very good in the last few days in covering the healthcare situation. In this article titled, "New Therapies Pose Quandary for Medicare" Gina Kolata points out the problems of expensive new techniques for saving or prolonging lives, and how Medicare is trying to cope with this new reality.

However, lesson from all the countries with nationalized medicine is that only some of the problems are solved by universal healthcare plans. The two obvious boons are affordable basic care and lower direct costs to employers. The latter is incredibly significant since medical benefits often constitute a significant percentage of total employee cost for the employers. Lowering that number could induce more employees to hire, or to retain existing workers. Having your expenses go down 10 or more percent is definitely a major benefit. Nevertheless as the NYT article demonstrates the satisfaction with such a system is not not always very high. Often it takes a very long time to schedule an appointment, non-emergency procedures could take months and months to be performed, and any doctor that can manage to have a private practice will do so - taking the best doctors out of the system.

As long as costs continue to rise 2 or 3 times faster than inflation no system, private or public, can provide a truly affordable and comprehensive care continuum.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

The Power-Struggle Between Margarine and Butter in Germany

via via Dave Barry

The struggle includes a beautiful Spanish woman, sex, violence, and avoid any mention of cow-tipping. How can you go wrong?
... I also remember how, back the '70s, my father tried to lose weight by eating reduced-fat margarine. It was an awful time for my family. And then there's another image from the past: I was three or four years old, sitting on the lap of my grandfather as he drove his tractor. He had a cow farm, and he was letting me hold the steering-wheel as we drove around. Then out of nowhere he said: "I hate people who eat margarine."

Friday, August 15, 2003

Blogmatrix is out

Looks like Blogmatrix has been affected by the power outage. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of systems affected by the power loss. What a great systems test!

Oh google, where are your updates?

As of 5AM there is not a story on google news relating to the power outage. Considering how major of a disruption it was this seems very strange.

correction (5:05AM): There is a story but it is buried in the Sports section since it is filed by Sports Reporter. I have to presume that as more news outlets update their sites with the late edition this major news story is going to bubble up to the top of the news.

Power to the people

I live in New York City. When power suddenly disappeared I began looking for a dark cloud drifting over. When people started calling from all over the city asking if we had power I was sure the cloud would be bigger and darker than I even imagined. I was really hoping it was not the Indian Point nuclear plant that went offline.

Our power came back at 4:01AM on Friday the 15th. Purely professionally, I have to assume that

  1. Not everyone has power yet
  2. Some service level agreements will not be kept
  3. Many heads will roll as a result of #2 above and because it will be clear that disaster recovery is still not 100%

However this was caused, one can hardly expect a better test for the IT industry's disaster recovery. Power went out while trading was still going on, and work day was not yet done. If people had backup facilities in Brooklyn or NJ - they were affected too. Luckily today is Friday and so lots of people will have a *very* long weekend in front of them, which is better than having a very long week had this happened on a Monday.

Obviously, the same kind of thinking goes for all emergency response teams, uniformed personnel, and emergency procedures testing. The city and the country could not have asked for a better test of their readiness to a major disruption. However this blackout occurred [<conspiracy hthat>at>like we will ever find out the real reason. How do we know this was not an intentional test by our government?</conspiracy that>] it certainly should be used to draw lessons in police and fire fighting deployments, ability to coordinate emergency services in the dark with many amenities like cell phones not working or working unreliably, testing hospital and other generators. Whoever has not filled up their generators with diesel yesterday will not make that mistake again for a long time again. I am waiting to see how various parts of the infrastructure did overall.

an aside: Looting in Ottawa? Are we just not reporting USA-based looting or were there not enough forces deployed in Ottawa to keep order?

Thursday, August 14, 2003

The shame of it all

At some point this blog had all of 3 Technorati references, then it was down to 1. Alas, all good things must come to an end and I am back to where I started -- 0 Technorati links. I guess I would take it as an encouragement to no longer take my faithful readership of 3 for granted.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

RSSJobs - Another excellent outside-the-box product

I really like to find relatively simple ideas that are so powerful words stick in my throad for a moment. With all the XML and Web Services hype, there has been a relative dearth of really nice innovative applications. I have pointed out a couple before, and this is a new one I just found - RSSJobs
RSSJobs allows you to create and save searches for Monster, Dice, HotJobs,and more in one location, then delivers the results to your favorite RSS Reader.

I do not know how well it works, but this is exactly the kind of application that would be really hard to do nicely beforehand. The word nicely is important because obviously it was possible to do before. xxxJobs would then either create its own client or, more likely, its own webpage to display the information. Not a bad deal. However, even the creation of a dynamic website is a drawback -- it takes time and money to create and maintain. The users do not really care -- all they want is job listings from multiple sources. RSS lets you ignore the presentation, and that's a tremendous saving. Developing these services now becomes more akin, conceptually, to Unix shell programming than to Win32. Easily created small snippets that can integrate easily together vs. larger more monolithic applications that deal with the problem end-to-end.

For years now we have been told that XML is king and Web Services is its chariot. Unfortunately it was not clear what kind of clothes the king had (sorry for the cliche) or where it was going. These types of small, applications that easily plug into existing services and delivery mechanisms are the goal. Meshing 5 or 10 of them together could create incredibly powerful applications that would be all but impossible to create as stand-alone apps.

Did you know?

ISSN for Weblogs You can apply for and use an International Standard Serial Number for your Weblog. Your blog will then officially exist in the worldwide standardized encyclopedia of periodicals. [via Lockergnome's Bits and Bytes]

That's pretty neat. I am not sure what is would really get you, but somehow it makes the whole enterprise feel more official.

Monday, August 11, 2003 sinking to a new low, or raising their marketing to a new high.

Visiting amazon to check out a book for a friend I got to see a new message from staff,

You Know You Want It.

The Shield of Achilles beckons from your Wish List.

Of course I do. I would not have it on my wish list otherwise. But obviously I cannot just buy it -- I would have done so if it were possible. Argh. Reminding me of my limited resources in acquiring books is not the way to get on my good side. And yet, it has got to work as an impulsive buy for a large number of people. Were I a bit weaker it would have worked on me too [I do sleep on a bed of nails]. My guess is the next step is to pop the same message for friend's wish lists:

You Know They Want It.

The Shield of Achilles beckons. Be a real friend and get them what they want from their Wish List. is consistently one of the most innnovative retailors out there. They are good at pushing the envelope and at figuring out new ways of selling you stuff you want, need, or convincing you that the former is indeed equal to the latter. Sometimes I just wish they were not so good at it.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

How To Make A Telemarketer Cry (or, Suing Bozos for Fun & Profit) via Volokh

Much fun and merriment.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Not following Noah.

I always find something interesting and useful in articles Timothy Noah writes for Slate. They are always well-researched and well-written, unlike so much of what passes for journalism in my hometown newspapers (NYT, Post, etc.). Today's article on Arnold, California Governorship, Waldheim, and Nazism just confused me. Noah writes,

Rather, Schwarzenegger was likely playing politics—to be more specific, Austrian politics and family politics. For years it was rumored that if Schwarzenegger didn't run for governor of California, he would run for president of Austria. Because Austrians have long resented what they see as Waldheim's pointless scapegoating, any firm denunciation would have ruled the latter possibility out.

This makes sense. This is politics we are talking about. Arnold is not running for governor as a crusader for correcting moral wrongs and bringing justice to the Golden State, but instead as someone with an acute business sense and enough money to resist "being bought by special interests". And of course his name recognition and his wife's family legacy. Granted, he has now decided not to seek an Austrian presidency so there is little hurt politically to denounce Waldheim. However, family reasons remain, and I do not see how Noah jumps to this conclusion:

If Schwarzenegger doesn't renounce Waldheim in a highly public way, he can forget about ever becoming governor of California.

Huh? What did I miss? Who in CA remembers Waldheim? Given our current relationship with the United Nations it might be bigger liability for Arnold that Waldheim was U.N. Secretary General than a former Nazi. As the article notes, Arnold has carefully cultivated an impeccable anti-Holocaust image when he

...proclaimed his disgust for Nazism, raised money for education about the Holocaust, traveled to Israel (where he met with then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin), and given generously to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which in 1997 bestowed on him its National Leadership Award. "He wants no truck with … Waldheim," the Wiesenthal Center's Rabbi Marvin Hier told the Jerusalem Post. "He probably did not have any clue as to the seriousness of the allegations against Waldheim at that time [i.e., 1986]. To suggest that Arnold's an anti-Semite is preposterous. He's done more to further the cause of Holocaust awareness than almost any other Hollywood star."

I do not see how Kurt Waldheim might ever really tarnish Arnold's chances in this race, and he can always denounce Joerg Haider for the racism nazi that he is.