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Goodbye, old friend

It’s time to say goodbye to an old friend: my Powerbook G3/400 Pismo. It’s been a faithful companion, but alas, it’s shelved in favor of newer and faster machines: a dual-800 G4 tower and a Thinkpad T30. Before I consign it to the eBay boneyard, if anyone wants to make me an offer I’m open. It includes Jaguar, the DVD drive module, two batteries, two AC adapters, and an AirPort card.

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It’s getting crowded in here

I can understand the powerful temptation to throw one’s hat into the ring, but the Democratic field for next year’s presidential election is getting mighty crowded. So far, we’ve got Dean (unelectable, but I’d vote for him), Edwards (probably unelectable), Kerry (too soon to tell), Lieberman (who I might have been willing to vote for if he hadn’t proven himself to be a whore in the 2000 campaign), and the ever-popular Al Sharpton.
Now, we also have good old Dick Gephardt, Dennis Kucinich (“I’m stepping forward because someone has to say, `Hold it! Everything needs to be changed at every level of society.’ “— and we know that Big Brother’s gonna do the changing, right?) and Carol Moseley-Braun. Wesley Clark is rumored to be interested, too.
Hasn’t it occured to any of these people that crowding the field like this is bad for the overall chances of the Democratic Party? I mean, c’mon: there’s just about zero chance that Gephardt, Sharpton, Mosely-Braun, Clark, or Kucinich could get elected. All they’re doing is depriving the other candidates in the field of support. Which, given the overall caliber of those running, isn’t necessarily a bad thing… if you’re inclined to support the Republicans, that is. When a front-runner does emerge, it will be after a long process of internecine sniping; all that’s going to do is allow President Bush to stand above the fray.

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Yesterday I got my author copies; today it’s Valentine’s Day, which means it’s also Julie‘s birthday! Mad props to you, birthday girl. For your birthday, I’ve invited Dick Cheney over to paint– I heard he was getting a little stressed out. (Well, not really; no one knows where he is, so I guess he didn’t get the invitation.)

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We are living in a material world

Brandt said:

it’s apparent that the administration is trying to hide something in regard to Iraq. if “material breach” of U.N. Resolution #1441 is what the U.S. is striving for, then why were Blix and El Baradei not informed earlier of the U.S. Intellegence that was presented yesterday?

First off, you appear to have bought into the common misunderstanding of “material breach” (John and I already had a conversation about this.) That phrase has a specific meaning, and it’s not “Iraq gets caught holding banned weapons”. It means that Iraq is not complying with the resolution’s inspection requirements. (The exact language: Iraq is in breach if the UN “decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below”). Blix and ElBaradei have both said that Iraq has not complied with the inspection regime. Voilà: material breach!
The pre- and post-Gulf War UN resolutions don’t just ban Iraq from having WMD, IRBMs, and so on. They ban them from attempting to obtain them. So, even if the Iraqis haven’t succeeded in building their al-Hussein derivative, guess what? Material breach again.
As for why we didn’t share our intel, well, you can’t have it both ways. If we reveal intelligence to the UN, we are essentially betting that they will protect the sources of that intelligence and the methods by which it was gathered. This is a dangerous bet, particularly in the case of people inside Iraq who are spying for us– it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what the Iraqis would probably do to anyone they suspected of leaking information to the US. Of course, as soon as the UN says “you’re in breach: we know you have $badThing at these coordinates”, the Iraqis move it, rendering us unable to strike it in the event of war. (I’m leaving aside the whole pre-inspection argument that the US and Britain were penetrating the inspection apparatus to gather intelligence– if those governments had such great intel, that argument must not have been true.)
Now, on to the argument about casualties: the reason for the buildup is a matter of two things, strategy and tactics. Both dictate assembly of an overwhelming force whenever possible: tactically for a massing of forces, and strategically as a deterrent or means of applying pressure.
Lastly, Brandt’s offhand suggestion that the evidence is manufactured is crazy. Take a look at a map, and you’ll see that Iraq has a significant number of different terrains, including some marshlands that aren’t all that different from south Louisiana (well, except for the Kurds…)

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Caution: falling productivity

Don’t plan on getting much else done once you go here.

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Spam and affiliate marketing

People will do what you incent them to do. This is a basic rule of human behavior that has, sadly, often been misapplied. For some examples, ask anyone who’s involved in sales and marketing about whether their compensation plan rewards desirable behavior.
Affiliate marketing programs, like the one offered by, seem like a great idea: corporations can get others to do their marketing work for them. The only problem is, these programs typically incent affiliates purely by sales numbers, so guess what? Unscrupulous affiliates will do all sorts of things to get their volumes up.
Take Vonage, for instance. They offer a flat $50 commission for each new subscriber. It’s not surprising, then, that I got spam this morning from a Vonage affiliate. Sure, the spam violates the affiliate terms of service, but so what? That violation is meaningless unless Vonage kicks the offender out without paying them. I’ve already called Vonage to complain; we’ll see what happens. My suspicion is that Vonage won’t care, as long as they’re getting the new customers.
Ever wonder why you’re getting so much spam for Symantec products like Norton Internet Security? Symantec says that it’s because people are selling pirated version of their software. I remember them having an affiliate program in the past, but I can’t find any details– perhaps the lazy web can help out here.
Amazon’s another example. If you google for any of a wide range of product names, you’re likely to find sponsored links from Amazon affiliates. Click the link, and you’re redirected to Amazon’s page via the affiliate, so they get credit if you buy anything. I don’t remember ever getting spam from Amazon affiliates, and since the affiliates have to pay for their Google text ads I don’t mind this approach as much.

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My head hurts

So, I’m shopping for an HDTV. This makes working with Oracle seem pleasant by comparison. My only golden specification is size: the unit must be less than 39″ wide so it’ll fit in the new entertainment center. I’ve just about decided on a 34″ widescreen 16:9 unit, because Toledo is fortunate to have over-the-air broadcast HDTV signals for ABC, CBS, and NBC (plus PBS and Fox out of Detroit). That means that I only have, oh, 50 sets to choose from. These follow a typical bell curve: a few units are too underfeatured, a few have everything I want, and the majority fall in the middle somewhere. The only set that has all the features I want is way too expensive. Not to mention the cost of upgrading my satellite hardware and adding an over-the-air HD receiver. Maybe I should wait. On the other hand, the prospect of seeing hockey games, Alias, and Splinter Cell in HD is awfully tempting. Mmmm… gadgets….

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Gunfighting, Marine style

From my pal Todd, a former Army Special Forces officer.
Marine Corps Rules for Gun Fighting

  1. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your
    friends who have guns.

  2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is

  3. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.
  4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough
    nor using cover correctly.

  5. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and
    diagonal movement are preferred.)

  6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a
    friend with a long gun.

  7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or
    tactics. They will only remember who lived.

  8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and

  9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more
    dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the gun.

  10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.
  11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
  12. Have a plan.
  13. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work.
  14. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.
  15. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
  16. Don’t drop your guard.
  17. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees.
  18. Watch their hands. Hands kill. In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your
    hands where I can see them.

  19. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.
  20. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.
  21. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
  22. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
  23. Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.
  24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not
    start with a “4.”

Navy Rules for Gun Fighting

  1. Go to sea.
  2. Send the Marines.
  3. Drink coffee
  4. Watch the action on CNN


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Now it can be told

I am finally done with the first chapter of the sad tale of my interactions with Oracle Collaboration Server. I come from a long family tradition of forthrightness, which has only been enhanced by working closely with Microsoft for a couple of years. Microsoft hired us to evaluate OCS and give them an unbiased account of how it compares with Exchange.
Dear reader, I would love to spend the next day or two– for that’s how long it would take– ranting about what a crappy, poorly-implemented, brittle, slow product OCS is. However, there are more pleasant things to talk about (like, oh, almost anything except Election 2004), and I can’t bear to revisit the horror at this point. (Of course, there is the minor concern that Oracle is apparently planning to drop the Earth into a giant barrel of toxic waste, but hey! who’s counting?)

Continue reading

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Let the free market rule

I fly on Delta a lot. Accordingly, they have given me “elite” status, which means I usually get to sit up in the first-class cabin. This is good, especially since Delta has by far the least-comfortable coach cabin configuration: 3 x 3 seating in coach, with a 31″ distance between rows of seats (compared to 34″ on American or United). 3″ doesn’t sound like much, but for a long drink of water like me, that extra kneeroom makes all the difference. Recently, though, DL decided to revamp their frequent flyer program. In short, they are deeply cutting benefits for their most frequent flyers, and they’re changing the qualification requirements to boot. The requirements change doesn’t affect me, because I normally don’t fly on the most-discounted fares, but darn if I’m going to pay business fares and then sit in the back!
So, I faxed American and Northwest, telling them that whoever gives me the best status level gets all my business in 2003. We’ll see what happens.

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According to the CDC, if you have eczema, you shouldn’t be vaccinated for smallpox or come into contact with people who have been vaccinated. They estimate that about 27 million Americans have eczema– roughly 10% of the population. I’m no epidemiologist, but it would seem that if you can’t vaccinate 10% of your population that you are likely to have difficulty controlling the spread of a contagious disease.

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Is the “old” NASA returning?

So, NASA is again deferring the shuttle replacement. This 1999 article says that 2008 was the target to start using the shuttle replacement. Now, under the new plan, NASA has apparently realized that they have no hope of getting Shuttle II anytime soon. Instead, they want to spend a (relatively modest, for NASA) $2.4 billion to build a spaceplane for use with the ISS (final design in 2004, initial flights in 2008), followed by Shuttle II in 2015 or so. That would require life extension efforts for the current shuttle fleet, especially because the plan also calls for adding a 5th yearly flight to the existing schedule.
The interesting thing about this plan is not that it calls for new hardware; NASA does that all the time. The big deal IMHO is that NASA actually went to the President and got him to ask Congress to revise NASA’s current fiscal-year budget to divert money to these new programs. That’s an act of sanity that never would have happened on Dan Goldin‘s watch. Perhaps things are looking up. Stay tuned for further details.

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I Drive the Truck I

I Drive the Truck
I just talked to ABF. Our two trailers will be here around noon on Friday. Let the games begin!

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Is this thing on?

The upgrade succeeded. I still can’t tell if TrackBack is working quite properly or not; I can ping other people’s sites, but I don’t know if anyone can ping me. TrackBack is a little less automatic than I’d like, but it’s a neat feature that I suspect will have all kinds of unintended consequences.

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Danger: word game ahead

TextTwist is a simple yet addictive Boggle-like game. Thanks to Tony Dowler for posting the link in his blog; now I can get no work done.

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