Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/12/truckin/

A half dozen more resumes submitted through Yahoo! Careers. This “jobs portal” is significantly less sucktastic than Monster and Dice. That doesn’t mean it is very good, but I find it at least slightly useful.

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Politics, Religion

What’s Going Wrong?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/12/whats-going-wrong/

Two paragraphs from the book I just finished: _What Went Wrong: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East_, by Bernard Lewis, that struck me as especially portentious:

If the peoples of the Middle East continue on their present path, the suicide bomber may become a metaphor for the whole region, and there will be no escape from a downward spiral of hate and spite, rage and self-pity, poverty and oppression, culminating sooner or later in yet another alien domination. […] If they can abandon their grievances and victimhood, settle their differences, and join their talents, energies, and resources in a common creative endeavor, then they can once again make the Middle East, in modern times as it was in antiquity and the Middle Ages, a major center of civilization. For the time being, the choice is their own.


For growing numbers, [of Muslims] the issue is not religion or nationality, nor this or that frontier or territory, but freedom–the right to live their own lives, in a free and open society under a representative and responsible government. For them the prime enemy is not the outsider, be he defined as foreigner, infidel, or as imperialist, but their own rulers, regimes that maintain themselves by tyranny at home and terrorism abroad and have failed by every measure of governmental achievment except survival. The numbers and the influence of these freedom seekers are difficult to assess, since the public expression of such views is forbidden and subject to the direst penalties. They receive little help from those who would be their natural allies in the free world, notably those who present themselves as friends and advocates, but who prefer to deal with corrupt tyrants, provided that they are amenable, rather than risk the hazards of regime change.

For those who oppose war in Iraq, which would bring about a “regime change” that would remove a horrible autocrat, what is proposed as the alternative? War is a terrible way to achieve progress, nor is progress our stated objective; Our President publicly seeks “security” from “terrorism” and privately seeks an oil supply. I suppose the ultimate frustration is that while few really trust Bush’s motivations and desired outcome, neither can anyone abide by the status quo in good conscience, it is really just a question of betting on the least tyrannical evil. Is it America’s unelected buffoon of a President, cynically sending our kids to risk their own lives by killing Iraqis, to shore up the riches of those who put him in office, or is it the scheming dictator who needs time to plot against us, who has his own history of invading foreign countries to improve oil profits, while ensuring stability by using non-conventional weapons to repress his subjects?

If you’re not with us, your only helping someone even less palatable. I’d credit George Bush with knowing how to pick his enemies, but it was really his dad who created the enemy by calling Saddam on his invasion of Kuwait, without actually eliminating him.

Well, I may be able to make some more chocolate chip cookies this evening. As the old lady in “The Matrix” explained the benefits of cookie consumption, it ought to help me “feel right as rain.”

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Good Reads, Politics

Standard of Living

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/14/standard-of-living/

Mr Gordon argues that GDP comparisons tend to overstate America’s living standards and understate Europe’s. For example, America’s climate is more extreme than western Europe’s, so more has to be spent on air conditioning and heating to attain a given indoor temperature. This extra spending boosts GDP, but does not enhance welfare. More of America’s GDP is also spent on home and business security, largely because of a higher crime rate. In most of Europe, such spending is less necessary. The huge cost of keeping 2m people in American prisons (a far bigger proportion of the population than in Europe) also bolsters America’s GDP relative to Europe’s, but not its welfare.

Another factor is the greater dispersion of America’s population in vast, sprawling metropolitan areas with few transport options other than the car. This is partly the result not of private choice but of public policy, such as subsidies to suburban motorways and a starving of public transport, or local zoning laws that limit the minimum size of residential developments. It leads to higher spending on roads and energy, and hence higher GDP. In Europe the convenience of more compact cities and frequent train and bus transport does not count towards GDP figures.

From The Economist, “Chasing the Leader”

SUVs are good for the economy.

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Good Reads, Technology

Opera’s Sense of Humor

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/14/operas-sense-of-humor/

Microsoft are at it again, feeding Opera bogus stylesheets so their MSN.com site will come out broken. I shall link you here, to a good technical explanation of what is going on and, perhaps more interesting, Opera’s novel response.

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Checking Account Balance

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/15/checking-account-balance/


And even though they charged me $8 to view my missing bank statements, I still haven’t received them. So, get a job, and bitch at the bank, are both on my todo list.

The threat that I could simply pull the rest of my money out of the account would not be an idle one. Heh. Though I’m otherwise quite pleased with Washington Mutual.

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Virtual Work

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/15/virtual-work/

Actually, I do have a job, it is just that the guy ran out of money and can’t pay me yet, but as soon as things go into production, he’d be happy to hire me on full-time, no-questions-asked.

I don’t expect anything, but I have nothing to lose, and the work provides a nice distraction from unemployment.

All the same, it was kind of neat to hear the pitch, and visit a data center thyis afternoon. I felt so happy about the weirdly comfortable situation, that I treated myself to a night out at Los Charros, in downtown Mountain View, followed by a cup of coffee and some live jazz at the cafe.

My stomach shrank along with my waste during my travels. I feel like less of the gigantic, all-consumming American I used to be.

Oh, and Amazon.com is now giving T-Mobile Sidekicks away. Can’t argue with the price.

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Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/17/kamikaze/

Our position consisted of a network of trenches and bunkers dug out of the muddy earth. It reminded me of all the old World War I footage I’d seen. Now I was right smack in the middle of no-man’s-land. One of the guys called my name, snapping me out of the trancelike state I’d lapsed into. “Come here, Abu, the others want to meet you,” he said. After three cold days on the front, the last thing the other shift had expected was an American volunteer, and they were all staring at me with a kind of amused expression. Following the warm greetings and the usual questions about where I was from and why I’d come there, I asked a question of my own.

“So,” I said as casually as I could in Russian, “what is the purpose of this position–just out of curiosity, do you know?”

Everyone, and I mean everyone, looked at me at the same time, paused for a moment, then in unison yelled enthusiatically, “Kamikaze!” When they saw the surprise on my face they all started to laugh.

“Just look over there, Abu,” one of them said. “Those Russians are going to come over that hill and down through that valley any time now. We only hope to slow them down long enough to give the other groups enough time to get here and avenge our deaths!”

“My Jihad”
Aukai Collins

One of the fun things about travelling, I found, is the different expectations and assumptions that people seem to have in different parts of the world. Collins is a Scottish-American Muslim convert, retelling his experience fighting to defend Chechen Muslims against the Russians. In the passage above, he has returned to Chechnya to fight a second time, and has been diverted to Grozny and has at this point joined a group of 23 men who hold the line at northwest Grozny from the 5,000 Russians waiting to advance. Even for a combat veteran who has lost a leg in battle, there are still intimidating experiences to be had.

I haven’t finished the book, but the fact that he managed to write it seems to imply that he survived this ordeal.

I’m also a fan of little details like an American Muslim with an Arabic nickname, thinking of European trench warfare, phrasing a question in Russian to his Chechen comrades, and receiving an enthusiatic answer in Japanese. Even in central Asia, it is still a pretty small world.

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Indian Numerals and Latin Numbers

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/18/indian-numerals-and-latin-numbers/

In case you didn’t know, our system of “Arabic Numerals” actually comes from India. We call them Arabic numerals because we got them from the Arabs, who got them from the Indians.

In modern Arabia, they frequently employ the Latin alphabet, which they call “Western Numbers”, for counting purposes. I suppose that this is akin to us learning “Roman Numerals” except that instead of learning a thoroughly worthless counting system, they just learn how to write the numbers that are understood by everyone else in the world.

In Japan they use four different alphabets. Three of these are phonetic, and one of these is based on Latin, which is damned handy for me. They also have an ideographic alphabet that is based on Chinese characters, though the meanings and the way the characters are written have mostly changed from Chinese.

In English, we have only one alphabet, but we have two different ways of writing, and each letter has two cases. While we teach ourselves that our language is phonetic, many words are not pronounced as they are written, because not only did the language once undergo a “vowel shift” which changed everyone’s pronciation, but we’ve also adapted many words from other languages, many of which use the same alphabet with even more varied phonetic rules.

On top of that, Americans once started an effort to clean up the language to make it more consistent, which means another set of different ways to spell the same words.

The French have a “Language Academy” to regulate the French Language. Mostly, they come up with complicated, inconvenient ways to express concepts in French instead of English. I wonder if it might not do a service to the world to establish an English “Language Academy” which is charged with proposing simplified rules which makes our language more consistent, and therefor more useful.

i lik to lern new inglesh, espeshuli wen it is izear to spell.

Of course, we all pronounce words differently anyway, so phonetic English systems look pretty craptastic, because not only do they change existing English spellings, but they depend on a standardized dialect.

Hooray for Hollywood. Since North American English is fairly standard, and highly desired among those adopting English as an International Language, I suppose a “Phonetic English” spelling system could be adopted, for writing purposes, assuming it was sufficiently standardized such that unique words could be translated back and forth electronically. In this way it could actually evolve from an awkward, makeshift pidgin language, into a useable creole.

Except it’s nearly 3AM, and I need a paying job.

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Why Python Sucks

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/19/why-python-sucks/

Say, I want to know the semantics of a built-in function. In Perl, I type in perldoc -f <function-name>.

In Python, I have to go searching on the web, and the best thing I can come up with is a third-party HOWTO, which amounts to a tutorial on how the function works, rather than a quick, fifteen-second reference on calling semantics.




21st Century

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/20/21st-century/

Among the things that’s been frustrating me lately, is that, not only am I broke, but I don’t know exactly how broke. When I got back, two bank statements were missing. Quicken can’t handle the simple concept of reconciling things out of order. Actually, Quicken is very Microsofty, even more than Windows, in that if you don’t do it the way they have set for you, you’ll be forever haunted by it. I still have a huge batch of statements from “1902” that I tried to “import” from my last finance manager, that show up every time I load Quicken, because there’s no way to get rid of them, short of clicking on each in turn and clicking several times to confirm that I want it gone.


Anyway, I went to WaMu.com to look up my old statements online. Nope, they only show the last and the current statement. Why? Because if you want to see anything older, they already have a racket where you pay $4 for them to mail one to you. I ordered the two missing statements online.

A few days ago my latest statement arrived, which Quicken can’t reconcile, because I’m missing two of the earlier statements. This statement has charges for the two statements I ordered, even though I never received those. Today I called Washington Mutual to ask what’s up? They said they sent those to my California address, and I should harass the Post Office.

Ah, yes, the Post Office. When I moved back to Mountain View I got all 21st Century and went to their web site to set mail to forward to Mountain View. It costs $1 to do it on the web, though I figured this is better and faster that going down to the Post Office to wait in line, except after you fill it out, it then tells you that it will take a week to process. Say what? It is as if the “web enabled” feature takes the information you fill out, gives it to someone with a typewriter, who fills out the form, and mails it in to the Post Office, which hands it to someone who takes that data and feeds it into a computer.

So, mom says that she received a letter telling her that mail was forwarding. I’m not sure why she received this in Chicago, because they’ve only ever mailed such notices to my new address. A few days later, I received another in Mountain View, and I figured everything was right. Well, except, only about half of the mail that has been addressed to Mountain View actually shows up here. The other half seems to disappear into the void.

I’d been trying to work this out with the Post Office. I wrote them on their web site, they said I had to call the Post Office in Chicago. I asked them what telephone number should I dial, and they said that I could find out on the web site. I called Chicago, and the woman seemed very shocked at my problem, put me on hold, and then told me that I had to call before 9AM to speak with a letter carrier. The only correct answer to any problem is that someone else knows the correct answer to the problem.

I wrote another complaint on a different part of the Post Office web site, explaining how crappy this service was. They said that my problem had been referred to the local office, and someone would get back to me about this. That was five days ago.

Today I called the Mountain View Post Office, to find out what’s up. “Oh, you have to cancel the old forwarding,” meaning, the forward order I’d put in to shunt my mail to Chicago before I left on my trip. She said I could fill out the form at the Post Office.

So, I went down to the Post Office and stood in line to cancel the forwarding so that my mail could forward to Mountain View, and not come up missing every other day. When I got up to the lady, she had to go to the next counter over to find the form, which was a “request to forward mail” that had space to cancel an old forwarding request, and set up a new one. This seemed extremely straightforward, and hopefully my mail will start to turn up.

Maybe … I suspect the problems still aren’t over. Meanwhile, I need my bank statements, and I also need my phone bill from T-Mobile so I can send in for my rebates on my Danger Sidekick before the rebates expire. I called T-Mobile, who were very slick about it, informing me that the bill had been sent out, for such and such amount, to Chicago, which they had somehow magically determined to be my address even though they had sent my Sidekick to Mountain View. Okay, could you send me a fresh copy of the bill to Mountain View? No problem! After all, they make money only after I receive their bill, not by charging me to see my account history, like Washington Mutual’s “no-fee” checking account.

One piece of mail I did sucessfully receive was from Progressive explaining to me that they’d pulled my driving record, and discovered that the at-fault comprehensive claim I made in September, 2001, was due to an unsafe turn, therefor my premium for the year was up by $281, due immediately. I called Progressive, to make sure that they had the exact right explanation of the incident, to make sure that I wasn’t being charged for my own confusion from trying to guess which box on the web was correct when I signed up for the policy. Nope, everything is correct. Okay, I don’t have $281 right now, can I switch to periodic billing for this one-year coverage? No … but since you’ve already paid the bulk of the premium, they won’t actually threaten to cancel anything until I run out of pre-paid premium … so, I could get away with ignoring their warning letters for a while. They might get pissy and charge me a $5 late fee, which would be consistent with the slightly-higher cost of going in installments anyway. Gee whiz, okay.

What I mean to express in all this rambling, of course, is to never ever ever do your business through the USPS web site because not only is it slower that going down to the Post Office and standing in line for twenty minutes in the 18th Century way, but they also wont fill the form out properly to get your mail forwarded along to the correct address. After this, the only mail you receive will be mail you never really had to receive in the first place, and all the really important mail that you paid $4 apiece for will disappear into the void.

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New Space Moose Strip

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/20/new-space-moose-strip/

 I think he's an omnisexual predatorial nightmare beast
 which is why he rules

As you see, the above URL is definately not work-safe.

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Good Reads, Technology

Microsoft and Commoditization of Software

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/21/microsoft-and-commoditization-of-software/

Microsoft sells OFFICE (the suite) while people may only need a small part of Word or a bit of Access. Microsoft sells WINDOWS (the platform) but a small org might just need a website, or a fileserver. It no longer fits Microsoft’s business model to have many individual offerings and to innovate with new application software. Unfortunately, this is exactly where free software excels and is making inroads. One-size-fits-all, one-app-is-all-you-need, one-api-and-damn-the-torpedoes has turned out to be an imperfect strategy for the long haul.

David Stutz
_Advice to Microsoft regarding commodity software_

Amen to that, brother!

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Good Reads, Politics

War Articulated

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/21/war-articulated/

I was never too satisfied with my own attempt to articulate my position on the looming conflict but I am extremely satisfied with Azeem’s “War now is better than war later”.

The gist of the argument is that, yes, Bush is evil too, and his henchmen are making a mess of the process, but since we’ve put up the forces and the rhetoric to fight a war, it is best to get the thing over with and move forward in the world. I would add to this the obvious, that Saddam Hussein is unlikely to go away on his own, and the sooner we disarm him, however clumsily, and with whatever unknowable repurcussions, we’re still better off than with a wacko tin-pot dictator in the Middle East giving the shaft to his own people, and quite possibly giving nasty things to the enemies of his enemy to mess with us.

I also appreciate the reminder that just as American War is motivated by oil, French and Russian Peace is also tainted by crude. More than anything, though, it seems that Chirac is jealous not only of America’s power, but that a spoiled brat from Texas is willing to wield this power. It cheapens a French leader’s sense of self-importance, especially when small, emerging democracies on the same continent have the temerity to speak up and suggest that “maybe the moron has a point.”

It isn’t so simple as choosing between the lesser of two evils. It boils down to the fact that, rightly or wrongly, the issue has been brought to a head, and it must be resolved. The choice for the free world is to lose credibility by backing down, and allow a dictator to continue screwing his people, while contemptuously defying the will of the United Nations, or to let the United States go to war yet again, and deal with the consequences of the ensuing bungles of American foreign policy.

The best course to me seems for the nations of the world to let President Bush do what with his limited imagination he is capable of doing – let him have his war, let the bombs fall, and the people die, because however terrible war is, it is not definitively worse than the current “peace” – the smarter leaders of more progressively sober-minded, peace-loving countries should get together and hammer out the plan for what happens next in Iraq. Bush can be trusted with war, but Americans running a Muslim country is one of the things that seems to scare everyone; Those who want what’s best should accept what is likely to happen and best prepare for an aftermath.

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Incredible Products that Change the World

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/23/incredible-products-that-change-the-world/

Microsoft maintains that its growth prospects are strong. The company will be coming out with “incredible products that change the world,” Microsoft Chief Financial Officer John Connors said at an analysts conference last month in New York.

Still, Connors acknowledged the question that has been hounding Microsoft lately — whether “those products translate into the kind of profitability we’ve had from some of the very incredible products we’ve done historically.”

Maturing Microsoft looks to new markets to keep growing

The reason I’m not a successful businessman is that I would be hard-pressed to promise my investors that I would be coming out with “incredible products that change the world” with a straight face. I’d then start laughing my ass off when I had to explain that even though I was about to release “incredible products that change the world” that they may not make us much money as the other incredible products I have released before.

The fact that I haven’t encountered a Microsoft product that I’d call “incredible” or that I expected “would change the world” probably doesn’t help. Historically, Microsoft hasn’t relied on releasing incredible products that would change the world, they take an existing product that looks set to make a lot of money, perhaps because it will change the world, and appropriate one of their own to make money off of.

You’d think the CFO would at least be honest. If I were an investor, I’d get excited by news that “We’ve found some excellent software products in the Open Source world that we can re-implement and bundle with Windows.” Even that, though, sounds like another Microsoft strategy employed to manipulate the market: vaporware.

Microsoft has a history of observing a new software product emerge from somewhere else that they can’t compete with, so they squelch it by announcing that they’re already developing an alternative that will destroy their competitor. They don’t actually have to ship anything, they just have to scare away the competing investors and potential customers who would be reluctant to purchase the new software before they knew what the more-likely-to-win-marketshare alternative would be. The promise of “incredible products that change the world” sounds like some sort of blanket statement to cover whatever the next innovation in the high-tech industry will be. “I can’t tell you what the next big thing will be, but you can rest assurred that we will 0WN it.”

Which they have to say with a straight face, because they’ve run out of new products to force down our throats.

It seems like Google has a solid track-record of creating new services that rule. I wonder if the reason they haven’t gone public yet is because they’d prefer not to be bought out by Microsoft. I’m curious to see what they will do with blogging.

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Coffee Kills

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2003/02/23/coffee-kills/

Meanwhile, this article from Reuters reports that:

Pregnant women who drink eight or more cups of coffee a day may triple their risk for having a stillborn child, scientists in Denmark announced Friday.

Holy crap! That’s a lot of coffee!! I tend to down a large coffee every day or so myself, and that seems like an awful lot, but eight cups!? That must take powerful, pregnant-woman cravings that are beyond my understanding.

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