About Me, Featured, Technical, Technology

Password Management

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/10/password-manager-solution/

To a discussion as to preferred password manager solutions, I added the following:

I developed a simple algorithm I use to generate passwords using my brain. I have changed this algorithm a little a few times. At the most basic level, something like this would be you like to use the password “frog” . . . but then add the first two letters of the web site name: Yahoo -> frogya, Google -> froggo.

The benefits of this “password manager” are that as long as your brain functions appropriately, you will always have platform-independent access to your passwords. If any given password is compromised it is non-obvious to an attacker what your other passwords are.

The main drawback to this password manager is that different password policies are mutually exclusive: one site requires a special character, another site prohibits special characters.

I use a different algorithm for more complex passwords for important stuff like ssh keys and unix logins.

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Celsius: Where Metric Fails

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/06/celsius-where-metric-fails/

I love Metric, but I think for human purposes, Fahrenheit is more useful, and actually closer to the convenience of metric:

0: water freezes
100: water boils

0: colder than Denmark
100: warmer than human blood

If I want to boil and freeze water: hell yeah, Celsius. But if I want to know how hot or cold it is outside, explain it to me in terms I can understand!

(Originally a comment on the Big Fat Blog)

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About Me, Featured, News and Reaction, Sundry, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

Why I Am Deleting my Facebook Account

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/05/so-long-facebook/

You remember how everyone was on Friendster? And then, Friendster was too slow, and everyone lost interest?

Then we were all on Orkut? But it turned out the guy just stole the code from somewhere else and it got boring pretty quickly, too.

Then there was Tribe.net, but I never signed up for that.

Then there was MySpace, and suddenly you could pretty much do anything with your profile, hook in doo-dads and gewgaws and blinky backgrounds? Well, I dipped my toes in that trainwreck but yeah . . . old news.

And then Facebook came along, which only stole the idea from someone else, and not the actual code. It was fast and scaleable like Orkut, and it had applications and stuff so you could have the flexibility of MySpace but within a controlled environment. Boy that thing took off!! But, Facebook was still missing a critical ingredient: you can not trust them.

So, I figured I would get ahead of the curve on this one. They keep revising their rules and re-jiggering things to make it harder and harder for people to keep their information private. Eventually enough people are going to be spooked at that. I tried to re-re-re-re-review my privacy options and look at taking out most of my profile information but they made it enough of a pain in the ass. Eventually I used Google to find the option where you can just delete your account, which, in true Facebook style, takes two weeks. Anyway, in another week and a half, I will have vanished.

If I change my mind someday I can sign up all over again. Despite the hooplah, though, I think there is a very good chance that lots of folks will move on in the near future. Either some kind of open-standard, or maybe a comparable platform run by a company that regards trustworthiness as a central ethic. (Speaking of which, you can stalk me on Google.)

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Featured, Sundry

Flying Jumbo

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/05/flying-jumbo/

I have long legs and long arms and I love to look out the window when I fly. Whenever possible, I check the seat map for an upcoming flight to jockey for the best place to sit. Instead of printing my boarding pass the night before I will wait until I am at the airport and hit a self-service kiosk and check again for a good seat. I use seatguru.com to help assess the quality of various bulkhead and exit row seats.

Sometimes I fly Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t assign seats, so I will try to print my boarding pass as early as possible (24 hours before your first flight segment) so that I can board early and homefully score an exit row. When I can not board early or if the exit rows are taken, I may go for the bulkhead row. No tray tables but plenty of leg room, and you get off the plane quickly: best “middle seat” there is!

Unfortunately, a lot of people think it is “clever” to store stuff in the forward overhead bins, where I have to stash my bag when I am sitting in the front row. So, I drop my coat or my hat on my new seat and head back several rows to stow my bag. The danger here is that when we get off the plane I have to wait until the aisle is clear to swim upstream to fetch my bag. So, sometime before landing I sneak back, fetch my bag, and stash it safely beneath my knees. As we get near landing time, I drape my jacket over my knees and tuck my hands in to this “blanket” allowing the flight attendants to check the cabin without noticing my “un-stowed” bag. Once the plane lands I am one of the first on my way!

Recently I secured a bulkhead window seat in the same row as a gentleman sitting in the aisle seat, and some of the middle seat. I figured he’s a good guy to share a row with because people prefer not to sit wedged in next to a fat guy. Better yet, there was a card in the middle seat saying the seat was “reserved” . . . a reserved seat on Southwest?

The man explained that Southwest has an excellent policy for people of his stature. When he travels, he purchases two seats: one for Tim and another for Timothy. When he gets to the airport they exchange one of the tickets for a “reserved” placard and then let him pre-board. He boards the plane first, takes his bulkhead seat, lifts the armrest, places the “reserved seat” sign in the middle seat, then stretches his legs and watches everyone board. The best part is that unless the plane sells out, Southwest then refunds him the cost of the second seat! “Its as close to ‘first class’ as you can get, and even if I pay double its still cheaper than first class on another airline.”

I like the elegance and fairness of the solution: there’s no slippery slope of aspiring “fatties” trying to claim extra room from the airline’s profit margin, and the airline isn’t extorting extra revenue to accommodate oversize folk; A “reasonable accomodation” is achieved! For me, the bonus is having a mostly-empty middle seat to compensate for the missing tray table.

It reminded me of travelling with my sweetheart. If we sit together I can borrow extra room from her and she can snuggle against me. “Yeah, my wife is all of 125 lbs.” “Ha! My girlfriend is 4’11.” “Funny how that works out.” “Yup. I figure the kids will come out average.”

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Featured, Free Style

Mex Express

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/02/mex-express/

I took the Mex Express to La Guardia. Truth in naming, it was Mex and Express. The minivan was comfortable. I noted the crack across the bottom windshield, and the whistle on the highway confirming the computer’s report that the lift gate was ajar.

The driver said he had lived in Fresno for a few years, picking grapes. He has done all sorts of work over the years: fields, restaurants, construction. He likes anything that pays American money, and has been driving for the car service for five years. His family has lived in Brooklyn on Avenue C for many years, paying less then $900 for a large two bedroom apartment. He likes his neighborhood but now too many white people are moving in.

He has two sons, American born. They understand Spanish, but they speak in English. He says they’re good kids, and their teachers love them, but he worries that in Junior Highschool they may be exposed to bad influences. He says he warns them every day to be careful to make good friends and to avoid drugs. There is a third child on the way.

Some years back he drank too much but that has changed. He loves to work. You see people, they speak good English, standing on the streets, asking for a dollar, fifty cents, five cents? “That is no way to make money.” He showed his sons that on a hot day you get some bottled water and sell it at red lights. It is always better to work.

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Featured, Free Style

The End of Dollar Bills

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/05/01/where-dollars-go-to-die/

If we stopped printing one dollar bills, it would stimulate consumer spending as we came to think of anything under $5 as “change”.

One group that might really benefit are strippers: you really can’t stuff a Sacajawewa into a g-string: $5 would become the new standard for tipping. But if that is too steep for the clientele the house could offer change in old one and two dollar bills, which are offered to the dancers, who sell them back to the house. Imagine small bills forever consigned to circulate around the groins of a low-end strip club.

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Featured, Language, Technology

Use of “as per” Exploding in Silicon Valley?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/03/09/use-of-as-per-exploding-in-silicon-valley/

So, I occasionally get anxious when I perceive some trend in word usage, especially when it seems like hyper-correction. I swear that in the past few years everyone replaced “social” with “societal” and in the past few months I swear that everyone (that I correspond with) has started saying “as per” instead of . . . say, “per” . . . for example:

“I did the job per your instructions.”


“I did the job, as you instructed.”

Has lately become:

“I did the job, as per your instructions.”

I just saw a work e-mail where someone used “as per” in two consecutive sentences and I said “there has to be a way to track this.”

And there is a way. A very crude way: Google Trends.

I wasn’t able to find anything at first: “as per” is dwarfed by “as” and “per” but I confined my search to the past 12 months, then the United States . . . then . . . California:

1. San Jose, CA, USA
2. Sacramento, CA, USA
3. San Francisco, CA, USA
4. Pleasanton, CA, USA
5. San Diego, CA, USA
6. Irvine, CA, USA
7. Los Angeles, CA, USA
8. Milpitas, CA, USA

It is probably just a statistical blip for an incomplete corpus but at least for the moment I feel a little better to see some data demonstrating a measured spike in usage of “as per” in the Silicon Valley . . . I might not be as crazy as I suspect.

Is “as per” bad usage? It certainly annoys me. Some technical writers are grappling with the issue, and it sounds as if English craftspeople prefer to avoid using this weirdly redundant mish-mash of Germanic-Latin.

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Featured, Sundry

Week of 7 February, 2010

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/02/15/week-of-7-february-2010/

Sunday, February 7

The Moscow Underground – An Outward Glance — A collection of photographs provide a “behind the scenes” look at the Moscow subway system. I call it “train porn.”

I attended Tom’s Superbowl party. I ate and drank a lot, and socialized a fair amount. I also ran into an old Tellme colleague who, as it turns out, is from the same home town as Mei. It was also cool when that one guy in the tight shiny gold pants caught the ball and weaved his way through the guys in blue and made it to the far end of the field. Also, it was nice that New Orleans found a reason to party, while residents of Indianapolis can stay indoors, their huddled masses yearning to be warm.

Monday, February 8

Human Biological Clock

I ran up to Manhattan to fetch my new work laptop from the local sales office. I hung out a little while to configure Windows on the corporate network, noted that the display is of a lower specification than my regular laptop, and brought it home to keep around as a backup unit, in case my beloved regular laptop should fail.

I made dinner: scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes and frozen veggies, dropped Mei off at work for her last night shift of the week, did the laundry, and folded it while watching the prison-based British Romantic Comedy, Greenfingers. Not a bad day.

1.5h Greenfingers

Tuesday, February 9

In the afternoon I was notified that my Wednesday flight was cancelled, presumably due to weather. I was able to get on a non-cancelled flight four hours later, in an exit row.

Pushups: 40

Wednesday, February 10

Mei was wary of driving me to the airport in the snow, and wiped out from an early day at the hospital, so I hopped the train out to JFK, where most flights had been cancelled, so it was kind of a ghost town, and I had the place to myself. It reminded me of catching a night flight out of Queen Alia Airport in Jordan. It was nice to see the plane was waiting for us, even if it was covered in snow. We waited on the plane for 2.5 hours as the de-iced, and the captain apologized that it took a long time because the plane had been sitting out, in the blizzard, overnight. There were further complications plowing the taxiway and finding appropriate ground equipment that could tow us out in the snow. Finally, we were ready to take off, except one of the sensors was frozen, so we headed back for further de-icing. We took to the air three hours late, and landed in Las Vegas 1.5 hours late, and really we were all impressed and grateful that the plane left the ground at all in the weather, and got us to the other side of the country safely. After we touched down in the desert, an uncharacteristic applause rippled among the passengers, although not quite the confidently routine applause delivered by passengers on Royal Jordanian.

Pushups: 40

Thursday, February 11

Rob picked me up at McCarran International around 0100 and drove West into the California desert. We hadn’t seen each other in a good long while, and we caught up on each other’s lives, and work considerations. Given my delay, he had had plenty of time to nap. I had caught some sleep in my comfortable exit row seat myself, but I caught some more sleep in his passenger seat and although the whole point of my flying to Vegas was to share the driving, he powered through the whole way, noting that Red Bull brought his attention back along the way.

We arrived in Mountain View with an hour to spare, and camped out at Dana Street Roasting Company, my-favorite-cafe-ever, then walked down to the team lunch scheduled at Amici’s as a going away party for my manager. (Thus my reason for flying to California.) There was a huge turnout and it was great to see every one. Since I had served large parties in a pizza restaurant before I took a little initiative to order several large parties on the behalf of our table.

Afterwards I rode back to see the new office our team had moved to. It wasn’t as bad as I had pictured. At least the cubicles aren’t gray and the light rail stops right next to the building, so if I return to the Bay Area and find housing near the light rail, I could be content. I spent the afternoon catching up with coworkers, then rode the light rail back to Mountain View to have dinner with college friends.

I shacked up with another friend, Todd, in Sunnyvale. Todd recently moved to Utah, but he was able to host me at his friend’s house in Sunnyvale, as he happens to be visiting his own corporate headquarters this week as well. He said that he likes Utah, in part because on Sunday he gets the place to himself. He’ll ride the light rail into Salt Lake City and exchange knowing glances with the other non-Mormons, taking advantage of the Sabbath to shop without crowds.

Friday, February 12

Todd dropped me at the office where I spent the bulk of the day in “face time” with coworkers. We wandered to a nearby building where we were invited to an afternoon party, which featured cupcakes and karaoke. At the end of the day many of us headed up to a separate party where we spent many hours eating, drinking and I even smoked a cigar. The best part was just the opportunity to hang out with several of my coworkers, and meet some family members, since many of the people on my team really dig each other, more so than some other places that I have worked.

I saw a lot of my favorite friends this weekend. This trip was well worth it.

During the evening party, I received a notification that my 9am flight had been cancelled. I borrowed the host’s terminal and landed a window seat on soon-to-be-completely-full 6:15am flight.

Saturday, February 13

Around 3am, the party was breaking up, and I was dropped off at the airport. I caught some sleep among the others dozing in the arrival and check-in area. At 3:45am the automated kiosks began processing check-ins and at 4:00am the TSA began to allow us through the metal detectors. The flight ran a little late as they dealt with the overbooking situation. I wedged myself into the over-the-wing window seat, and managed to sleep a fair amount, making sure to stay awake when the flight attendants passed so I could have some water to moisten my parched throat.

Mei picked me up at the airport, drove me home, and let me nap after my shower. She had wanted to cook for me but come evening, she took me to Katz’s famous delicatessen on the lower East Side. I hadn’t especially wanted to even get out of bed but Katz’s sure hit the spot. I had a few bites of Mei’s kugel, which was a perfect fried food, then I ate my own matzo ball soup, half a corned beef sandwich, cream soda, and on impulse, asked the waiter for steak fries that came in a huge delicious pile on a little plate. “You ate like three potatoes.”

We slept well that night.

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Week of January 31, 2010

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/02/02/week-of-january-31-2010/

Sunday, January 31

I slept in, but Mei was catching up on sleep from her night shift, so I wandered down to the Tea Lounge. After she got up I met her at Cheryl’s for brunch, then we picked up groceries, and she ran off to the gym as I cleaned my desk area, and began writing holiday thank you cards, as she returned and cooked up food for the week.

1.0h Frontline

Monday, February 1

I was pretty productive at work, most notably cleaning up the mess I made on Friday moving my project from stand-alone Django to hosting via WSGI. The big win was in adding this to my WSGI handler:

# So, usually in django you can have print statements in your code to
# aid in debugging, but this cause trouble for WSGI, so we'll direct
# print statements to stdout instead to stderr, hopefully landing them
# out of the way and in the error log.  -dannhowa
sys.stdout = sys.stderr

Mei made her macaroni and cheese from scratch.

Later, while watching Frontline’s “Young and Restless in China” I was struck by and admired Jingjing’s concise and honest account of a tragedy in her personal life:

I’ve been through a difficult time. My fiancé and I are both very, very busy. Actually, I focused more on my work than my relationship, and it faded. He gave up. I could feel it. His heart wasn’t here any more. There were new temptations, probably a better woman than me. I felt like I was the one who always blamed or criticized him, but the other woman flattered and admired him.

He said it first: “let’s just end it.”

I tried really hard to get him back, but I just couldn’t.

Fortunately, Mei and I are both aware of the danger of putting work ahead of personal relationships.

Pushups: 34
0.75h Frontline
0.25h Saturday Night Live

Tuesday, February 2

I was glad to hear that the groundhog bit the mayor last year.

This blog got hacked for the second time. This time I am running the most current version of the software. An edit was made through the “admin” account to link an entry to some web site in Russian. I reverted the edit and deleted the “admin” user. I should probably update my plugins.

Pushups: 41
0.5h Daily Show
1.5h How Much Do You Love Me?

Wednesday, February 3

This morning I was thinking that winter might help make people liberal: they understand that suffering is universal and temporary, we are proud of our survival skills. Sometimes people need a hand, though, and you ought to help them out because we’ll all be doing better come spring time.

Where the weather is always warm, suffering is more often regarded as a consequence of personal failure, and personal failure is often inherited from shiftless parents. Helping out the hopeless just gets in the way of one making the most of long pleasant days: a noble distraction for some, but nothing one should be burdened with in the form of taxes.

It is certainly more complicated than that, but there is a gradient where you see the great social democracies at the Arctic Circle, and as you move closer to the Equator that capacity for efficient government seems to evaporate. (Also, necessity being the mother of invention, collective action being a prerequisite for mere survival in Sweden.)

Pushups: 31 + 21 + 25
Situps: 100
1.5h Barack Obama versus The GOP
0.5h Daily Show

Thursday, February 4

Advice to a coworker wondering if he should sue Toyota or request rental car reimbursement:

They might could loan you a car, being a car dealer and all, but really the fix takes about a half hour, except the government’s thinking it might be an issue with the computer, possibly caused by electromagnetic interference, so good luck figuring that one out. You might consider disabling excess electronic junk in the passenger compartment: put your mobile device in airplane mode, etc. (Personally, I would just man up and accept that my mortality is bound by fates beyond my understanding, though personally I avoid driving anyway.)

But what I really want is to hear the Governator slur it just right:


If recalls bother you then you might be better off with a used car, which has had several years for any consumer defects to have been detected, analysed, and amended. My father, who spent many years repairing electronic systems, always preferred cars from the junk yard with minimal electronics because he KNOWS they’re failure prone in unexpected ways, and he figured that after the nuclear war his car would still be driveable. (What with the EMPs . . . )

After dropping Mei off at work in the evening I finished off an open bottle of dessert wine, and watched a bunch of TV, including several episodes of “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” which featured a two-part episode where the Mooninites stole Carl’s hypno-rims and hypnotized him into sodomizing himself with a broom. Now, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” is pretty “out there” but mid way through the second part I just had to turn that crap off.

Friday, February 5

This morning I received an unexpected phone call from a stranger in Dublin who explained that the directory link count on a Unix filesystem indicates the number of directory entries contained in that directory. Two of those are . and ... This might also explain why you can only use symbolic links for directories, since the link count field has a different purpose.

Technical Debt — A term coined by Ward Cunningham to describe the obligation that a software organization incurs when it chooses a design or construction approach that’s expedient in the short term but that increases complexity and is more costly in the long term. The technical debt vocabulary provides a way to communicate with non-technical staff in an area that has traditionally suffered from a lack of transparency. Shifting the dialog from a technical vocabulary to a financial vocabulary provides a clearer, more understandable framework for these discussions.

“Woonerf” – Anarchy the Key to Safe Streets? — Europeans are experimenting with an idea that tearing out sidewalks and sharing road space between vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians can improve both safety and speed of travel in towns with fewer than 15,000 residents. The safety is achieved by slowing vehicles to a maximum of 20 MPH-a speed at which drivers can react effectively and the human body is most likely to survive an impact. Vehicles gain speed because they can move efficiently through intersections without waiting at traffic lights.

Saturday, February 6

Today I went in search of adventure. I started walking, following the directions allowed by traffic lights, and made my way down Flatbush, right on Church, past Ocean Parkway then down past Cortelyou to Ditmas where I happened upon the hobby shop I have wanted to visit, Trainworld. That was a groovy place and I was tempted to maybe buy a ready-to-run holiday trainset or a Bachman set with a Norris locomotive but aside from not-needing-to-spend-the-money there’s also that where-would-I-put-it-anyway. At one moment I thought how my calculus for spending money on things that don’t have an obvious place to live would be changed if the request were made by my children, and I reckoned I will one day say yes to them a little more easily, but that when I was a kid I learned that since parents say no, it is important to consider the cost and value of different wishes, and that something is gained when a child learns to choose their battles.

After flirting with my boyhood fantasies and leaving the shop empty-handed, I walked toward the adjoining elevated train station, but postponed my train trip to watch several fire trucks and a small crowd of people respond to a fire in a small building. Smoke poured out the doorway and the firefighters knocked out windows and brought in a hose, while two guys climbed the fire truck ladder onto the roof, I guess for tactical reasons. Everyone admires the heroism and strength of firefighters, and for a boyish instant I wanted to become a firefighter too. While this particular fire didn’t look like much, everyone in the crowd was glad at the chance to see these men entering a burning building to make things right.

After the smoke had mostly cleared I hopped on the train and rode the F out to Coney Island, which was rewarding because that station is built in the style of the grand train terminals you still see in Europe, with possibly a dozen tracks alongside each other under a soaring ceiling, trains coming and going constantly. I hopped an N train back North, which didn’t offer the scenic view I had had on the F, because it ran in a ditch. But I did get to see the operator reach out the window at one stop to press the “local” button, which I imagined was rigged up to set the switches for the train to run on the local track. Seeing this little detail of the MTA operations was a thrill. Though, I was a little disappointed that we ran local, because the subway map says the N runs express up to Pacific Avenue. Along the way there were darkened trains parked in at the express tracks in the stations, and I wondered if they might be trying to keep some of the extra trains warm, or maybe they were doing yard maintenance and were using the express tracks for storage.

2.0h New York: Episode 2
1.0h Dirty Jobs

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Week of 24 January, 2010

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/02/01/week-of-24-january-2010/

Sunday, January 24

1.5h Up the Yangtze

Monday, January 25

Just at the end of my work day my manager called a team meeting to tell us he was quitting. Quitting to write full-time. The guy we had added to the team most recently would take over as manager. I think that we were all extremely pleased and proud of our boss for taking this brave new step in his life, and any worries of change were quickly smoothed over because our new manager has had a good deal more management experience, and is generally just a likable guy. We’ll see.

2.0h Daily Show
Pushups: 40

In the evening I participated in an annual survey of New York’s homeless population called Project HOPE. We gathered at a training site, which was a public school two blocks from the apartment, at 10:30pm. At midnight after we had been fully trained, we struck out to various survey sites, walking our assigned blocks in teams of 4-6, escorted by pairs of beat cops. The rule is anyone you encounter you ask them to participate in a brief survey:

“Hello my name is Danny and I’m a volunteer with the New York Department of Homeless Services. We’re conducting a survey tonight and we would like to ask you a few brief questions. Your answers are strictly confidential, would you like to participate?”

“Do you have a place to sleep tonight that you would consider your home?”

“What sort of place is it?”

“Has someone else asked you these questions this evening?”

Tuesday, January 26

We had been worried because earlier Monday the weather forecast was for rain and high winds, but when we got together it was 50F and occasionally drizzly, though the lows were upper 30s. Walking the streets in the cold drizzle we encountered few people at all. I think our team encountered maybe 6 people total, and none of them were homeless. The last guy was in transitional housing, and seemed proud to be paying rent and also glad to see us walking the streets, caring enough to help study the homeless population.

We also noted that, walking through some sketchy neighborhoods in a large group with cops in tow, that a fair number of would-be respondents crossed the street to avoid us.

I was home I think around 3:30. Mei got up three hours later and I slept in, starting work at 11am. One nice thing about telecommuting to the West Coast is that if I get a late start on my day, that puts me on a less-early schedule compared to my coworkers.

I think it is more that we are pack animals looking for leaders. A charismatic leader who is supremely self confident and has an answer for everything can be appealing in a politician, a boss, or a lover, whatever your gender. Our culture perceives the role of charismatic leader asshole as a male role, but “nice girls” suffer the same frustrations as the “nice boys” because men find bitches to be hot, despite themselves.


0.5h John Oliver’s New York Standup
0.5h Daily Show

Wednesday, January 27

I biked to the Post Office to mail my XO-1 laptop back to the OLPC folks for deployment to Haiti, and picking up a package Mom sent for my birthday. Back at home, I spent too much time scoffing at Apple’s fancy new iPad. Later, I watched the State of the Union Address.

1.5h State of The Union
0.25h Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Thursday, January 28

I spent a little more time futzing with the “live squirrelcam” at ustream.tv.

Pushups: 43 + 36 + 35
Situps: 100

1.0h Daily Show

Friday, January 29

I went off to a co-working event in . . . Williamsburg? It was harshly cold outside but it was nice to work, for a change, at a long table with other people who work from notebook computers . . . there was an entrepreneur who built a social networking website for the music business; some freelance web developers; a lady in finance who was allowed to work remote for her employer in Washington, DC; a guy who is CIO for some part of the state Senate, who is working to champion open access to government information. Around lunch time we walked a few block over to pick up sandwiches, and around 4:30pm some guys brought back some beer and we went around the room making introductions. It was great to “get out” . . .

. . . we did not go out in the evening because it was just way too cold.

0.5h John Oliver’s New York Standup
0.5h Daily Show

Saturday, January 30

We went to the dentist together, then we grabbed lunch nearby . . . “nothing special” . . . then we caught “Fantastic Mr Fox” at a nearby theater, which was pretty good. On the way back we checked out a pet adoption event, and learned of a web site for foster families for pets, which we might go for.

Back at home we played with the squirrels some more, live on Internet TV. We had three come by and the highlight was after the first two climbed up to the can to grab a nut, the third absconded with the can lid, because surely if it smells like nuts it bears further investigation out on the fire escape. Alas, such thinking outside the can didn’t produce any results, but we got a good laugh out of it. Later, I looked down to the pavement and decided that it just wasn’t worth the slight risk to my personal safety to climb down the fire escape to retrieve the lid to the nut can.

I dropped Mei off at the hospital for a night shift, and returned home to engage in laziness.

1.5h Fantastic Mr Fox
1.0h Project Runway
1.0h Dollhouse
2.0h Star Trek
0.75h Aqua Teen Hunger Force

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The Death of Books

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/02/01/death-of-books/

I just posted a comment on a friend’s Facebook status:

I think the Death of Paper Books has been predicted with the advent of newspapers, radio, television, microfiche, books-on-tape, CD-ROMs, the Internet, portable computers, e-books readers, and smart phones, but it still hasn’t happened yet.

I like books, I like holding them in my hands, and I like stacking them on shelves along the walls of my apartment. I suspect that this love of books will be transmitted to my children, much as it was inherited from my parents. I doubt we’ll have an “unabridged dictionary” or a set of encyclopedias like when I grew up, but hell yeah, as long as I and my descendants have the money to spend, paper books aren’t going to die out.

I think eBooks will serve a particular role, especially in lightening the load in school backpacks. For my normal routine of reading one book at a time, though, and then palming it off to a friend or family member, I am fine with having the pulp copy to thumb through, though access rights if I later want to search the book digitally would be nice.

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Featured, News and Reaction, Technology


Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/01/28/ipad/

Background: I am not an Apple fan, but I keep an eye out. Yesterday they said they would make a world-changing announcement, and they gave us: the iPad. Here’s a comment I just made about the iPad:

Lack of an OS? The thing is an extra-large iPhone that can’t place phone calls. It is a Kindle killer but for $500 it can not even keep up with cheapo PC netbooks.

A Dell Mini 10 has a better screen, lower price, keyboard, can run all non-Apple software, video chat, and USB ports so you can offload your digital camera without buying an extra dongle, and you can buy it last year.

I am hoping to see more touch screens on netbooks, going forward.

Another thing I have noticed is that if I trash PCs, Windows, or Linux, people will either agree with me, or not take it personally. “Yeah, things aint perfect.” But if I trash Apple stuff, Apple people quickly become offended. I suspect that a part of the loyalty of Apple users is that they have paid a premium to buy in to the club. Any perception that is positive reaffirms the extra investment they have made into buying only the very best, but any negative perception undermines their self-confidence regarding their investment, and provokes a hostile reaction.

Windows users? Hell they’re just glad if they haven’t had a virus in the past six months.

Linux users? They downloaded a CD and managed to get something non-Windows running, with a little advice from web forums. Some of it is really sweet, some of it is pretty enh.

Mac users get offended that Firefox doesn’t match the style of the rest of their purely Mac applications.

For me, the best part about the iPad is that it was already advertised back in 2006. It is just too bad that the 2010 model lacks Vaginal Firewall Protection.

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Excerpts, Featured, Letters to The Man, Technical, Technology, Testimonials

When Will Google Voice Support Apps Users?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/01/26/when-will-google-voice-support-apps-users/

Background: Google Apps is a service where Google will host the e-mail and calendar for your domain. So, instead of going to gmail.com I go to mail.toldme.com and log in as dannyman for dannyman@toldme.com. The annoying thing that has been going on for several years now is that only a minority of the growing array of Google software that features personalized content will support my Apps login, so I have two completely separate Google accounts:
Apps Account: dannyman@toldme.com
Gmail Account: picasasucks69@gmail.com

The first contains an archive of e-mail going back 15 years, my combined e-mail, telephone, and address book of all my friends, and Calendar appointments for the past five years. It integrates seamlessly with my Android Phone.

The second is for all the stupid Google applications that do not work with my Google account and require me to have a Gmail account that I never use otherwise: Picasa, Blogger, Google Maps, Google Voice . . . that last one is especially annoying, because now the brokenness leaks onto my Android phone!

The following is adapted from http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Google+Apps/thread?fid=475790531056779f00047e151dc314f4:

As a big Google fan, I have an Android phone and a Google Apps account, and a Google Voice account. Google Voice is really neat, but since it only supports Gmail logins it is really poor that my Gmail / Android contacts aren’t available in Google Voice. That’s right: since I’m a really big Google fan, the Google Voice application will NOT sync with my Google Phone.

I understand that it is possible to install software that pulls the data out of your Apps Gmail account or Android phone, and then re-copies that back in to the Google Voice non-Apps account. But this requires extra effort on my part to maintain a kludge to have duplicate copies of data stored in two different places.

What I want instead is the obvious and sane solution, where I log in to Google Voice the same way I log in to everything else: with my Google Apps account. My Android phone logs in to my Google Apps account and has instant access to my contacts list, and my hosted Gmail logs in to my hosted Apps account, and has instant access to the very same contacts list shared seamlessly with my Android phone. So, when I log in to Google Voice, I want to log in with my Apps account, and then Google Voice has instant access to all of my phone numbers and e-mail addresses associated with my Google Apps login.

Basically, I am asking for sanity, and short of sanity, at least an acknowledgement that sanity is a desired outcome.

This “second class citizen” treatment is really frustrating at times: the biggest fans get the worst support. Any idea when Google Voice is going to stop locking us out? And when that time comes will I be able to keep my phone number, or will it be like when I was forcibly migrated from Google Calendar over to a blank Google Apps Calendar, losing all my appointments and shared calendars, with no option to migrate my data?

I have tried to get an answer from Google Voice to no avail. I would like to think the Google employees behind Apps are working behind the scenes to make Google Voice available seamlessly to paying and loyal customers. Or maybe this simply is not a priority and us common folk Google Evangelists just shouldn’t get too worked up about Google products, and consider switching to competing technologies. Thanks!

These days my Android phone is in a weird way, because I’m starting to use Google Voice for SMS, except Google Voice has no access to my address book, so everywhere I am accustomed to seeing names and pictures for my contacts I see a ten-digit number, because Google Voice has no access to the contacts in my Google account.


1 Comment

Featured, Letters to The Man

Are Girl Scout Cookies a Scam?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/01/25/are-girl-scout-cookies-a-scam/

I will always remember that us Boy Scouts gathered at the local council to go to Scout Camp and it was a really ugly building in a bad neighborhood. One day we drove past the Girl Scout council headquarters in a large, shiny, landscaped office in the suburbs. The contrast in my mind is that our troop got the money to fund camping expeditions, and my sister’s troop got the funding equivalent of an ugly building in a bad neighborhood.

I just filed the following question with the Girl Scouts of Northern California:


Why does over 50% of the proceeds from girl scout cookie sales go to “Council Services”?


I would like to think that if I pay $4 for a box of cookies that the girl’s troop is seeing at least 50% of that, as might be expected from other fund raising opportunities. It honestly sounds like a scam to me, and that is part of the reason I stopped buying Girl Scout cookies.

Thanks for explaining.


They did not write back. I guess you have to pay a bit more for “Council Services” before every last crackpot can expect a response.

I ate a lot of Girl Scout cookies when I was growing up, and I think they’re tasty, but they are not a good value for the money. Next time I’ll ask if maybe they can take a direct cash donation to the troop.

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Excerpts, Featured, Good Reads, Sundry

Week of 10 January, 2010

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2010/01/17/week-of-10-january-2010/

Sunday, January 10

2010-01-10 . . . it is too bad they didn’t have binary numbers one thousand years ago.

Last night I began reading Studs Terkel’s “Division Street America” . . . it is starting to remind me of Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” where you drift from person to person, hearing a monologue . . . things shift around as in a dream. Some are more engaging than others.

I like that by page 27, I find a kindred soul in Elizabeth Chapin, who was 75 years old in 1967:

“The automobile, what could you do without it? In another few generations, people will have no legs, we won’t need them. I take the dog for a walk every day. Walk a few blocks to the bakery shop. I have known people who live around the corner from the bakery, who take their car to get there. People are amazed when I tell them I don’t pass a day that I don’t walk three, four miles. It just wouldn’t occur to me. There’s so much to see, to observe, while you’re walking. What happens to us when we don’t see these things? When I take the dog for a walk, I see things. People’s eyes are closed, with a thin film over them, or what is it?”

I should be walking more, myself.

Another theme so far is the people are bothered by the increasing isolation . . . 40 years ago. In the old days it was playing cards and long conversations. I’ve been thinking the world might be a better place if television was a metered service: you pay $1 for each hour you watch, with a fair portion of that going to whomever created the programming. People would watch less TV and the quality would go up if people were more selective about it. Anyway, maybe I’ll actually set up a jar in my own living room. Since I pay the cable/Internet bill I can reimburse myself. Or give it to charity or something.

0.5h Saturday Night Live
1.0h Nova: What Darwin Didn’t Know

Monday, January 11

In the afternoon I snuck off to the Tea Lounge before returning home for the Pager Review Meeting which is at 3pm in California. I go on-call Tuesday morning at 11am . . . well, 2pm local time. Right before the pager review meeting my workstation crashed and required a fsck . . .

1.0h Nova: What Darwin Didn’t Know

Tuesday, January 12

I started feeling seriously blue on Monday, and this morning was no better. The contributing factors are known and temporary, so no reason to freak out, but damn. This morning I treated myself to brunch . . . and spent some time just standing in the frigid sunlight, synthesizing vitamin D and hopefully ameliorating seasonal blues, thinking that office workers should work while the sun is down.

At brunch it was more the people watching than the delicious chorizo frittata that did me good. At first I kinda sympathized with the girl who kept sighing at her computer, which she had to hard-reset . . . Windows Vista or 7 running on a ThinkPad T61 . . . but she kept sighing and I was thinking “attitude problem” . . . the guys next to me sounded like the older guy providing some career mentoring advice for the younger guy. All while I was reading about the Whole Foods CEO in The New Yorker.

“. . . a tendency, common among smart people, to presume that everyone in the world either does or should think as he does–to take for granted that people can (or want to) strike his patented balance of enlightenment and self-interest. It sometimes sounds as if he believed that, if every company had him at the helm, there would be no need for unions or health-care reform, and therefor every company should have someone like him, and that therefor there should be no unions or health-care reform. In other words, because he runs a business a certain way, others will, can, and should, and so safeguards that have evolved over generations to protect against human venality–against, say, greedy, bullying bosses–are no longer necessary. The logic is as sound as the presumption is preposterous.”

On my way out I saw the girl on my left was editing an article in a WordPress blog, and I felt better about her. People who have found the joy of good software have a preposterous notion that software doesn’t have to suck, and so they are logically entitled to sigh when their computer’s operating system starts acting dumb.

Wednesday, January 13

Rough day on-call. I never even left the house.

1.0h Daily Show

Thursday, January 14

Another rough day on-call, but I went out for groceries. I walked to the store farther away, since it was a beautiful day: sunny with a high of 38F. On the shopping list was an onion, which allowed Mei to make beef stew. Yum!

0.5h Community
1.0h Project Runway

Friday, January 15

I was paged throughout the night as a consequence of maintenance activity that ran long. I sent an e-mail to management sharing my reservations about how the project in question was being handled. During the day I took it easy, and we managed to roll out an emergency measure to keep this other thing that had been paging a lot quiet.

Usually, on-call isn’t so bad. My last few times on-call had plenty nights of uninterrupted sleep. Luck of the draw.

1.0h Daily Show
1.0h Dollhouse

Saturday, January 16

The weather was nice so I sat on the park bench in front of the house and read. Of course, the wind kept blowing so I made a few trips inside for more clothing.

I have been bothered by my level of credit card debt and have hatched a scheme whereby I’m thinking to pay it all off out of savings and lay the cards aside. I’ll reduce my monthly “allowance” that I draw from savings for the year in order to re-pay the money borrowed, and basically live within my means on a tighter budget, whipping out the debit card when I need to pay with plastic, and then only if I can afford it. Hooray for austerity! (I haven’t put this idea into motion yet.)

And no, its not that I am anywhere near broke, but I have had my share of hard times, and I am pretty excited that in July I may have a 20% down payment on real estate I can afford, right around the bottom of the real estate market, which has been brought to us by reckless overspending. When I was a kid, my mother yearned for years to own our own home, and it was always just out of reach. As a kid, I seldom had much money I could spend, and had to learn to say “no” to nice things. Well, finally being able to afford a place will feel good. And there is also a value in being able to say “no” to nice things you don’t really need.

0.5h Colbert Report
0.5h King of the Hill
1.0h Aqua Teen Hunger Force

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