Went home for a little bit. Tried to go to an `all-school' reunion, which was really dull as I was probably the youngest person there (most people there graduated in the 50's, 60's and 70's, I think). Oh well, got some decent food.
We have this research box at work. I was told that it was for `fraud detection', which I thought meant that it was some sort of honeypot box for detecting crackers (or at least script kiddies). I completely forgot that there is such a thing as financial fraud, which is what the box is for. Makes sense, as the box is in the business school.
Anyway, the main guy that actually uses this box for doing research is apparently back from summer vacation or something. He tried accessing it, but couldn't because there is a rule somewhere on one of our routers blocking that IP (I get `!X's when doing traceroutes from the box). Of course, nobody wants to take the blame/responsibility for it, and I couldn't get the block removed (well, the main networking people said it wasn't their problem, and the guys here say that they didn't do anything either). Changed the IP address, and now we have to see if the DNS entry can be changed..
I hope I will be able to do some more fiddling with radar data, though I don't know if I will be able to do anything this week (Marching Band starts on Thursday), and I don't even know what their schedule is for producing unencrypted data. I might just have to wait until the end of next month.
Well, it turns out that the central networking people foobared -- they actually were blocking the above-mentioned system. I guess it got broken into a month ago. I'll have to see if I can pull down a [rd]ecent Linux ISO of some kind to do a reinstall. Maybe Mandrake..
I had to try and figure out how to back up the system in a reasonable manner. tar is supposed to support running over some sort of remote shell, but none of the commands I tried would work. In theory, you should be able to do something like `tar cvIf user@host:/path/to/archive.tar.bz2 /path/to/archive', which would be really cool, IMHO.
Wow claudio. That's kind of a scary picture. I'm not exactly sure what kind I am. I try to avoid non-free software (Netscape is my big exception right now), I like point-and-click, though I understand (and use) the power of the command line (well, don't forget the fact that all graphical file managers for Linux are currently crap). I'm running bash2, and I'm a .tar.gz or .tar.bz2 person.
As for my xterms, I run with reverse-video white on black, and with ls aliased to ls --color=tty -F. I've also hacked up my own /etc/DIR_COLORS file. I remember some point a year or so ago when someone jokingly made `ls.themes.org'. I thought that was a great idea ;-)
In the area of documentation, I like it when programs are completely intuitive, or if they at least have some decent usage information when started with --help. However, I hate it when I want to look at the more advanced parts of programs, but I can't because of inadequate docs in /usr/doc or the man pages. I also hate info pages, unless I'm viewing them through gnome-help-browser.
Anyway, I'm having all sorts of trouble with this fraud detection box. Well, that's making it sound really bad. It was actually a pretty easy install. Unfortunately, the IP address it is using has been administratively blocked on one of the routers to the outside world. Getting that fixed has been pretty difficult. I do have it running on two different IPs right now, so at least it can be accessed. However, the DNS entry doesn't point to the publically accessible address. Oh well.
Hmm. `publicly' and `publically' are both correct spellings, according to M-W..
krftkndl: I, too, have heard the call of `just write another one,' and rejected it. However, I think there really are enough people pissed off about the current state of text editors that they would love to do that. But I just can't help thinking that someone has already made the editor I really, really want..
In the meantime, I'm counting down the minutes until I leave today. I'm not coming into work again until school starts (~10 days). I'm going to be really busy for the next week and a half...
Then again, it is sweeps week..
Okay, this is on an annoying site, but look at what political cartoonists are doing these days. A stunning theme, if you ask me.
What's Bush rated at again?
It's organizations like this that really screw things up. And there are plenty where that came from. I have little doubt that if public companies were more honest about their earnings, the economy wouldn't be in the shape it is..
yakk: you evil bastard. Er, uhm. Sorry. It's just that people like you have been smashing my bandwidth to pieces...
Every so often, I come back to thinking about Microsoft's finances. Their accounting techniques have been widely used, most prominently at Enron (or so I hear). Couple that with the new licensing schemes they're coming out with, and I think they've found a recipe for their own demise.
There's this Bill Parish guy that has said that MS is actually losing money these days. I'm not sure I believe him, though -- his grammar and spelling is too poor to be very credible ;-) He also has some ideas that stretch the imagination, such as a Microsoft pyramid scheme that caused a global downturn in the economy. However, if it's true that MS is losing money, that could be one of the reasons why they're changing licensing methods.
From the reading I've done, it sounds like MS pays people with stock too much. Apparently, the SEC doesn't require a company to deduct payment in stock from their profit numbers. If you take that out, Parish says that the company is in the red.
Microsoft has a lot of money in the bank, but it might be to cover their ass when employees start cashing in. The company has been criticized by people like Ralph Nader for not paying dividends to their stockholders (of course, I guess Nader is mostly just annoyed because MS isn't paying very much in taxes).
Personally, I figure Microsoft will probably stick it out for quite a while. They might go down in five or ten years, probably after Bill Gates has made a graceful exit from the company.
In the wake of Enron, I bet the accountants at MS are busily working to find a way to hide financial issues that doesn't look like they're hiding something..
Or maybe I'm just paranoid..
Heard on the radio the other day (NPR's "Marketplace", if I remember right): "The Dow Jones was down 300 points today, as the realization sunk in that war is unpredictable and ugly."
Things like that make me happy I don't own any stock at the moment.
The Daily Show has been getting some news coverage lately. This is probably partially due to the fact that Jon Stewart just signed a new contract. Also, Comedy Central is now under the full control of Viacom, while it had previously been owned 50/50 by Viacom and AOL Time Warner. This was mentioned by Jon Stewart himself a few days ago during the opening segment. Personally, I think I'd be happier with Time Warner owning Comedy Central than Viacom. Viacom owns a crapload of stuff (just visit their site to see), and I don't really want to see Comedy Central turning into another MTV-esque outlet (though I suppose they are already partway there).
On the positive side, the show is being seen by many people as a better news source than CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel. An article I found via the Miami Herald shows war criticism can be taken seriously. Another piece from The Nation explains how the show goes for more than just cheap laughs.
So, Netflix has patented their business model (as seen on Slashdot). The idea of paying a subscription fee to get movies delivered home is theirs for the moment. I guess they came up with a fairly unique approach, but it just seems weird to patent things like that.
Hmm. I suppose that many public libraries have worked on a similar model in the past. I'm sure many places have had lists where patrons are informed when the book they want has come in. Heck, brick and mortar video rental places do stuff like that. The aspect of home delivery, though...
On one hand, Netflix could use the patent to fend off big competitors like Wal-Mart. On the other hand, small companies that do the same thing might get forced out of the market.
I guess I wish there was a way for patents to stand up for the little guys while holding back the big ones. It just doesn't work that way these days.
Looks like today is laundry day, and possibly haircut day. Might be clean-the-apartment day too.
I've really got to put more effort into doing chores in the evenings after work..
Speaking of work, it looks like I'm going to be getting to know Windows XP Media Center very well over the next week or so. The project I've been on is kind of up in the air, so we're moving on to something else for the time being.
I don't know much about Media Center yet, but I guess I'll soon be an expert ;-) At the moment, it looks like the software allows different companies to plug their software into some sort of a Media Center framework. So, for each system you come across, you'll have a different TV viewer, music player, etc. I think that's a dumb way of doing things—why not have a consistent interface? On the other hand, Microsoft would be accused of abusing their monopoly position if they did that.
Well, I've only seen the software in action for a sum total of 10 minutes so far, so maybe I'm just confused about how things work.
Another thing I learned/remembered from work: I'll have to be very careful the next time I upgrade my motherboard. For ages, PC users have been using a 33MHz PCI bus operating at 5 volts. The faster versions of the bus often require cards to operate at 3.3 volts, and I think the PCI-X bus does away with 5 volt slots altogether. I need to inventory the cards I have to see what works and what doesn't, and buy a motherboard that has the right selection of slots (many new motherboards have a mixture of the slot types).
With my luck, some of my most important cards wil only work at 5 volts... Well, it'll be a while before I upgrade my system anyway.
Over the weekend, I posted this story to Slashdot. While it seems like just another whiny “I want my open source!” rant, I guess a lot of people missed the point I was trying to get at. And that's understandable, as I only wrote one paragraph worth of stuff when I probably should have opted for two.
As any audio-, video-, or other technophile knows, the FCC has mandated that broadcasters in the United States transition toward digital transmission of television. However, the standard being used in the United States for actually transmitting the signal (how the binary digits are encoded in the air) is not well-suited for city environments. People out in the boondocks 70 miles from a tower will probably get better signal than city dwellers ten times closer. Companies are working hard to tweak their hardware to handle these situations better, but in the meantime, I started wondering about how digital cable will work in the future.
Right now, if you have an analog TV set, you merely plug it in and tell it that it's connected to a cable TV system. Ta-da! It works.
However, digital cable is a completely different story today. You need a digital cable box, and many of those boxes are sub-par devices. When I last used a cable box in Minneapolis, it was impossible to hide or remove unwanted channels&mdasheven channels we didn't receive! The guide would sometimes freeze up while it loaded data, and various other annoyances would bother me from time to time, but I'd deal with it because the guide was better than nothing, and it let me see another two or three channels that I actually liked.
Yeah, most of the channels on digital cable suck, so there's the growing idea that the entire cable TV system will transition to being digital. In some ways that's good, but, as my Slashdot post indicated, this will be another battlegrounds where the media conglomerates are pushing for more and more control.
I'd be perfectly happy if I could only get non-premium channels with a digital cable tuner that I put in my computer. I don't need HBO and certain other channels, and even if I felt the need, they've always been accessed via extra descramblers anyway. However, the prospect of having no direct access to the video stream bothers me. It's hard to describe why, but it's like having someone say, “You can't read this book, you can only have an approved person read this to you.” What is this, the Reformation? Is some distant descendant of Martin Luther going to plaster technical documentation on the Internet now?
I dunno, it just creeps me out. I know that at least one father of a friend built his own NTSC TV set, and it was treasured as a family heirloom. Big companies just seem to be pushing so hard against that idea of individual experimentation that I cringe. The future seems like it's going to turn into another dark age.
Well, maybe it won't happen. While the American people tend to be deaf, dumb, and sheep-like, they do eventually take notice of things when beat over the head with them. We'll see if the public keels over and gives up their VCRs in the coming years.
Well, my family went to the funeral service for my step-grandfather yesterday. They had a lot of people show up both from my grandmother's family and from his first wife's family. I suppose that goes to show that if you want a lot of people at your funeral, you should get divorced ;-)
So, there were lots of people I didn't know. I vaguely knew my grandfather's kids and grandkids, and there were some old friends of my grandmother who showed up that I had met at one point or another. Mostly I just stood around, then smiled and nodded when people told me I looked like my uncle (except for the lack of curly hair).
I was happy to see my aunt, who usually visits for Christmas but had decided to stay in New Mexico this year. My mom had been up in Fargo since Friday, but my dad, brother, and I just stayed Tuesday night.
Anyway, we headed home around 5 in separate cars. My brother and I were split, so we could trade off in the driver's seat with our parents. We met for supper about an hour later, and then stayed in close formation on the highway until my brother and my mom pulled off to a rest stop.
My dad and I mostly listened to NPR last night as we drove. For one of the shows, a guy who researches the loopholes in the tax system came on. There was discussion of how the people who get taxed the most are in the middle class to middle-upper class range of people earning $50-500,000 a year. Below that, people have lower taxes (which seems pretty fair to me), and above that, a lot of tricks emerge for hiding money away from tax laws. I guess my memory is getting a little fuzzy, but I think he said that there were 2400 people last year who earned an average of $170 million, and paid no taxes. Lots of other people can defer taxes for decades. They may pay the actual dollar amount that they owe, but it ends up being much less significant because of inflation.
A lot of discussion also centered around companies that use offshore tax shelters. I think people and businesses that do that are a big reason why it's hard to balance the Federal budget. The guy on the radio mentioned that Ingersoll-Rand, a company that makes jackhammers and other construction/destruction equipment has a mailbox in Bermuda that serves as their headquarters. They pay $26,000 a year in fees for that, but they don't pay any taxes on their income here. Just because it's a name I've seen a lot around campus, I was thinking of mentioning this in a letter to the editor in the Daily—I figure that contractors to the University shouldn't be supporting companies that are based offshore. I think the U already restricts contractors from using materials from certain companies that use child labor, etc., but my memory might be failing me. Companies shouldn't be punished for using equipment they already own, but I wouldn't want the money that the U spends on construction to end up on some unnamed Pacific island…
Now, today, there are a bunch of stories popping up on Google News discussing a new International Monetary Fund report telling us what we already know but often ignore—the U.S. is deeply in debt and running a large deficit. My growing opinion of many Republicans (and some Democrats, I'm sure) is that they are really anarchists in disguise. They pass laws designed to reduce the income to the Federal government and then spend more money on extravagant defense initiatives. As the guy on NPR was saying—and as the IMF is implying—eventually, the U.S. won't be able to borrow money anymore. Nobody knows when that will be or what the consequences will be, but it won't be fun. I think that a lot of things we take for granted will break down.
If you think Y2K was a scary proposition, just wait.
Heh. For everyone who gets annoyed by the religious overtones of the president, maybe you'd like some scarily happy atheist-themed music. Listen here, about 1:25 in.
On a completely different subject: I don't know how in the world I wandered into this thought process, but I'm kind of curious about euphemisms for defecation at the moment. Actually, I'm specifically interested in polite euphemisms… I've hunted a bit with Google, but a lot of them are very sickening. As a kid, I was told to call it “big business,” which is pretty funny now that I think of it. I've never heard anyone else call it that (and no, when financial analysts talk on TV, I never get confused ;-)
Update: Oh my…
Today's history lesson: Immigrants beware.
Today, Mexican immigrant workers are dying at a rate of one per day. They have an 80% greater chance of dying than native-born Americans, even when doing the same job. Often this is due to negligence in safety and training on the part of employers, though the article says that the strong Mexican work ethic carries part of the blame.
This is another example of history repeating. We're all aware of the fact that black slaves were sometimes worked to death, but other populations have seen similar working conditions. My old high school history teacher once related the story of dock workers in a busy port. When rolling cargo off ships and down ramps, sometimes large and heavy objects had to be moved. When this happened, black slaves would be put at the high end, pulling on the cargo, and Irishmen would be put on the low end, pushing it so it didn't move too quickly. At the time, there was a nearly endless supply of Irish immigrants, so dockmasters had little trouble finding replacements for those, uh, taken out of the workforce. On the other hand, slaves were actually considered to take a real investment of time and money, and therefore were more valuable.
Slavery was not really practiced in the West, per se, although many are aware of Chinese immigrants who were placed in deadly situations while building railroads and other great works during the 19th century (as we all know because of Kung Fu and other movies). Today, businesses merely have another workforce to exploit. They seem to be extremely happy to use Mexicans, who, according to a recent article I read that talked about cheap labor being used at the ski resorts of Colorado, are fairly docile and submissive when it comes to work environments. They tend to not complain about dangerous situations if they feel it will get them in any amount of trouble. That's a pretty nasty combination.
(Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read that article. It may have been something in the New Yorker, since I read a few of them when I went to Kentucky.)
Some workplace inspectors have said that even illegal immigrants have the same rights to workplace safety as Americans do, although this seems to only be loosely enforced and open to interpretation. Michael Moore made a story about that for The Awful Truth about illegal immigrant workers attempting to unionize at a hotel in Minneapolis. I guess I don't know how the story ultimately ended up, but I believe the hotel owner was fined or something for breaking up a meeting the workers were having.
Anyway, I'm sure it's something that will get worse before it gets better.
Heh. I scoffed at yesterday's news that Microsoft was getting a fine of $615 million or so, especially since that's only about one 80th of what they have in the bank. Still, I guess the European Union is putting other restrictions on the company that might turn out to be more costly.
Hmm. I was just about to scoff at people for blaming OPEC for gas price increases, but I didn't know that Venezuela had joined that cartel. I was under the impression that OPEC was only a Middle East thing, and only produced a relatively small fraction of the U.S.'s oil imports these days, but I guess the group may have changed. Still, I don't care. As far as I'm concerned, after 100 years of figuring out how to make it cheaper to produce fuel, every year should see a record-high price due to inflation.
Oh well, we should all start driving hybrids and moving to ethanol and biodiesel anyway.
It's time for Presidential Daily Brief Fill-in-the-Blank!
Here are my guesses based on the length of nearby text strings in the document (plus the fact that the second one was an “an” rather than an “a”).
told followers he wan
a British intelligence
exploit the o
te some of the more s
a Spanish intelligence
But, I really have no idea.
I listened to a few of the most recent episodes of This American Life today. The first two were really good, though I didn't really feel comfortable with the third one. I guess the first two were somewhat interrelated, since they deal with the current political climate. Actually, the only part of the third episode I liked had a political bent to it.
Episode 260 was largely focused on dissecting the court case that the Bush administration has been using to assert that they have the ability to hold Americans in this country who are accused of being enemy combatants. Back in World War II, the Nazis landed two groups of people in Florida and New York who were supposed to sabotage the aluminum industry in the months after the U.S. entered the war. One of the people was an American of German descent who found himself in Nazi-held territory when Germany declared war on the United States. The story goes that he just wanted to get home, so when he was given a chance to be part of an operation that would bring him to America, he took it. Anyway, he was tried in a secret military court. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court, requesting that the case be tried in regular criminal court, but the justices were pressured into quickly giving an opinion without any supporting arguments.
There's also a look inside the Zogby polling operation later in the episode, which kind of tells you what you already knew, but often forget.
Episode 261 is TAL's response to the whole gay marriage debate, though they handle it by spending more time examining the more traditional version. Adam Felber has a good little satirical story, which pretty much sums up the whole thing for me, and shows how the whole debate has been blown out of proportion for the most part.
The final episode I listened to today was pretty weird. The main story was not something I could identify with, though it's necessary to listen to it at least a bit to fully understand the title of the last story, which was much more interesting to me. Always good to know that the pharmaceutical companies seem to be charging about 40 times what they need to be on certain drugs…
Oh. If you are dehydrated and then go drink two 20 oz. bottles of Mountain Dew, you will go into shock. After taking a shower last night, I tried to lay down and go to sleep around 9:00. Despite the fact that it was about 70° in my apartment, I was shivering even under a comforter (granted, the comforter has become a bit skimpy). I had to pull out a heavy blanket I generally only use in the winter, put my pillows under the sheets for warmth, raise my feet and lower my head in order to stop shaking. That was not so good. At least I knew what to do. The action of the caffeine finally slowed down about three hours later, but it still took until about 1:00 before I was able to get to sleep.
Hmm. I'm reading through the list of songs that Clear Channel banned after September 11th. It's pretty weird. Things like "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles and "Falling for the First Time" by the Barenaked Ladies were on it.
I was surprised to find out today that Accenture is incorporated in Bermuda as a tax dodge. This is according to Lou Dobbs's column in the June 14 U.S. News & World Report. There's also a Forbes column mentioning this. Of course, this fact popped up recently because Accenture was probably going to end up having the contract to handle the visitor monitoring going on now at U.S. border crossings. Looks like that contract may be blocked now, though.
I might have to mention this to my old boss at CSOM. They used Accenture for a while during the development of their new website, but I don't know if they still have a contract with the company.
The company has some fluff about “corporate citizenship” on its website, though they don't mention anything about taxes :-p
I also recently heard about a site called Onshore Alternatives that lists many companies that have contracted with people working offshore. I don't know how many of them are actually incorporated outside the country, but I suppose there's some overlap. I guess the name implies that there are alternatives, but most of the companies listed have some offshore workers.
Well, anyway, that's the PSA for the day.
Some days just make you debate communism.
I decided to delete KMWB (23, or 8 on Minneapolis cable) from the channel lineup on my TV, mostly because Sinclair is being stupid. I hardly watch it anyway, except that it provides a little escape when that Jennie Garth show is on ('cuz, well, it's Jennie Garth). But, considering that the show is on only about 0.2% of the week, it's not really worth it to me. Yeah, I can't stand all their stupid dating shows either.