Yesterday I was listening to a public radio story on The California Report. I gritted my teeth as the announcer thrice referred to horned toads as lizards. I like to think that public radio folk are reasonably bright and that they proof-read stories, and so when a friend called, I asked, “Are amphibians lizards?” Well, amphibians aren’t lizards, but then horned toads are actually misnamed short-horned lizards.
This afternoon I read the following from the June 6 issue of “The Week” with glee:
“By lucky chance, astronomers were peering at a galaxy 88 million light-years away when they witnessed the initial blast of a star exploding into a supernova–the first time that rare stellar event has been seen as it happened.”
Though, for all I know, perhaps astronomers have figured out how to observe things without being limited by light-speed, and we’ll be able to watch the supernova explode again 88 million years from now.
Earlier this week Eva posted a summary of the carbon footprint for bottled water:
Curious about the results?
Well, energy use embedded in 1 L drinking water delivered to Berkeley CA are:
Calistoga Water –> 1.0 kWh
Fiji Water –> 1.7 kWh
Aquafina –> 1.4 kWh
EBMUD tap water –> 0.0003 kWh
[BTW, if you leave your MacBook Pro on for 16 hour, that’s about 1kWh…]
Our boundary includes transportation, packaging, end-of-life, pipes, dams, treatment plants, supply…almost everything.
What about raw water? 1 L of drinking water is equivalent to…
Calistoga Water –> 3.9 L raw water
Fiji Water –> 5.1 L raw water
Aquafina –> 5.8 L raw water
EBMUD tap water –> 1.2 L raw water
All the embedded stuff mostly comes from the PET bottle, which we tracked all the way back to petroleum extraction. Don’t drink that crap. THE END.
For the record, “raw water” is in the aquifer. It costs 20% extra to be treated and delivered via tap.
Anyway, the thing with bottled water is convenient hydration. Plus we have it infused with various flavors and fizziness, never mind the sodas . . . anyway, I just went to the company kitchen and passed up the beverage refrigerator for a mug of tea. And I have to wonder at the carbon footprint there. It is probably way way less than a plastic bottle, and while a tea bag can travel quite far, it also weighs much less than a bottle of water, so it is a lot more energy efficient. (How you heat the water could matter a great deal: we have a hot-water dispenser her at work, but at home I burn a lot of natural gas to boil a kettle.)
All I’m saying is, maybe tea can be promoted as a more conscientious and classy hydration alternative to bottled water. It’s tap water, dressed up a bit.
Marc Andreessen had some lawyers do an analysis of the current situation between Microsoft and Yahoo, and then posted an excellent summary on his blog on what could happen, what is most likely to happen, and how things work. It is a good read, and a compelling conclusion:
We are learning that hostile takeovers have arrived in our industry. This is the second major hostile takeover so far — the other was Oracle’s takeover of Peoplesoft — but there will be more.
This is significant because historically hostile takeovers practically never happened in technology. Potential hostile acquirors assumed that hostile takeovers wouldn’t work because the target company’s employees would bail and the target company’s business would collapse.
It turns out that as technology companies become larger and more mature, acquirors are becoming increasingly convinced that neither of these assumptions hold. Perhaps employees of large tech companies aren’t that bonded to current management, and perhaps many of them would actually prefer to work for a larger, more dominant combined company. And maybe as a consequence, the target’s business would do just fine in the wake of a hostile takeover — in fact, maybe it would do better, due to advantages of combined size and scale.
My bet is that hostile takeovers, particularly of larger and more mature companies, are going to become increasingly common in our industry.
One theme is that Yahoo’s corporate structure leaves it more vulnerable to a hostile takeover, and that as hostile takeovers becomes more commonplace in the technology industry, you should see more companies willing to adopt conventions like the dual-class share structure you see at Google.
“So you don’t approve of getting even — of taking revenge for something that was done to you?”
“Revenge does not alter what was done to you. Neither does forgiveness. Revenge and forgiveness are irrelevant.”
“What can you do?”
“Forget,” said Borges. “That is all you can do. When something bad is done to me, I pretend that it happened a long time ago, to someone else.”
“Does that work?”
“More or less.” He showed his yellow teeth. “Less rather than more.”
Talking about the futility of revenge, he reached and his hands trembled with a new subject, but a related one, the Second World War.
“When I was in Germany just after the war,” he said, “I never heard a word spoken against Hitler. In Berlin, the Germans said to me” — now he spoke in German — “‘Well, what do you think of our ruins?’ The Germans like to be pitied — isn’t that horrible? They showed me their ruins. They wanted me to pity them. But why should I indulge them? I said” — he uttered the sentence in German — “‘I have seen London.'”
Jorge Luis Borges speaking with Paul Theroux
_The Old Patagonian Express_
Revenge has its appeal, but I don’t think it helps. We use the expression “forgive and forget” but the concern is that certain things should not be forgotten. I figure it is better to forget than to have difficulty stuck in your heart. I think I’d say “forgive, if you can, draw a lesson from the memory, and then move on.”
Try to remember the circumstances and what happened, and that you felt a certain pain and whatnot, perhaps with great intensity. The pain itself, the “pain memory” I would leave behind, if you can. We are fools to forget, but we are foolish too to react in the present to pain from the past.
It is fun to see how people change over time, and how they stay the same. A decade ago I wrote a “Computer Literacy Narrative” for an English class:
The Internet continues to play a very big part in my life. My web site grows slowly every week. I keep my diary on-line for others to read. I write CGI applications. Iâ€™m a hard-core Unix geek, administering two of my own systems, writing my HTML and perl scripts in vi, wowwing friends with afterstep. I work for the networking group at NCSA, for the CSIL as a labsitter, and worked last summer at an ISP in Chicago called EnterAct, where I may very well return this summer.
I now use only Unix, and my old Amiga systems from time to time out of nostalgia and respect for history. I own two Unix boxen, four Amiga systems, and the old Commodore 64. While most of these are antiques, I still lend some systems out to others from time to time to facilitate their computing needs.
My fanatical Unix snobbery does mean that I know very little about Windows 95 or Mac. Because I have good computer karma, I still tend to negotiate such systems better than the average Joe, but Iâ€™m by no means a wiz. Instead I enjoy spending my time tinkering with completely open systems like FreeBSD. I am proud and inspired by the idea that there are now several very competent Operating Systems available even for normal users that are built and maintained entirely by volunteer effort. It is my goal to continue to learn and ultimately contribute to this effort as I can.
From the New York Times:
â€œIf you just want equipment youâ€™re not ready,â€ Mr. Egami said in an interview. But, he added, James Freeman, the owner of the cafe, is different: â€œHeâ€™s invested time. Heâ€™s invested interest. He is ready.â€
It looks a bit overly-involved to me, but whatever floats your boat.
â€œSiphon coffee is very delicate,â€ [James Freeman] said. â€œItâ€™s sweeter and juicier, and the flavors change as the temperature changes. Sometimes it has a texture so light itâ€™s almost moussey.â€
I have long preferred brewed coffee to espresso. That is a combination of my proletarian roots and my experience as a barista: I have a strong sense of what I want from a dry cappuccino or dry cafe-au-lait, but this sense is not easily found in a cafe, and I lack the technology to do it myself, so let us keep it simple, right?
(In Japan, siphon coffee masters carve their own paddles to fit the shape of their palms.)
A priceless article floated in over IRC (thanks, Dave!) about a French group that clandestinely repaired a national monument. Apparently it is part of a larger secret group:
But the UX, the name of Untergunther’s parent organisation, is a finely tuned organisation. It has around 150 members and is divided into separate groups, which specialise in different activities ranging from getting into buildings after dark to setting up cultural events. Untergunther is the restoration cell of the network.
The idea of a secret network with a “restoration cell” just makes me grin. In a way, very French . . .
I remember reading a description of Paris as a “Museum City” and then an explanation that that is not necessarily praise: if the culture of Paris is stuck in the past and not dynamic, that implies that the city is not vibrant. It is good to see that there is some vibrancy to the “Museum” culture.
It is exciting, inspiring, and hopeful, to hear a conservative like Colin Powell speaking like this:
Letâ€™s welcome every foreign student we can get our hands on. Letâ€™s make sure that foreigners come to the Mayo Clinic here, and not the Mayo facility in Dubai or somewhere else. Letâ€™s make sure people come to Disney World and not throw them up against the wall in Orlando simply because they have a Muslim name. Letâ€™s also remember that this country was created by immigrants and thrives as a result of immigration, and we need a sound immigration policy.
Letâ€™s show the world a face of openness and what a democratic system can do. Thatâ€™s why I want to see GuantÃ¡namo closed. Itâ€™s so harmful to what we stand for. We literally bang ourselves in the head by having that place. What are we doing this to ourselves for? Because weâ€™re worried about the 380 guys there? Bring them here! Give them lawyers and habeas corpus. We can deal with them. We are paying a price when the rest of the world sees an America that seems to be afraid and is not the America they remember.
Amen! Let’s stop hiding behind an Iron Curtain of Fear.
Are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves.
(Thanks, Craig Newmark.)
Min Jung Kim shares her thoughts on marrying a white dude:
“In fact, it’s a running joke amongst my friends that to be a true bay area hipster god you have to move to San Francisco, work in tech, and if you’re a white guy – have an Asian girlfriend. Bi-racial couples are pervasive in San Francisco. But then again, so are all kinds of couples . . .”
I never figured I could be seen as a true bay area hipster god, but once my foreign bride left I was able to move to San Francisco and complete the puzzle. Now I must confound expectations and date non-Asian women . . . a true hipster god defies easy understanding and sets his own trends by defining the next big cliché.
For the generation before mine, “miscegenation” was a crime, and one movie that the Japanese wife and I enjoyed was “Sayonara” . . . we have come a long way now for this to be trendy! I recently heard an account on the radio from a bi-racial man whose parents had difficulty being legally married, and now that he is openly gay, he carries the burden of his own generation to open our minds and liberalize our laws.
More power to him.
Getting a handle on the new job, reading up at infrastructures.org:
In the financial industry, generally accepted accounting practices call for double-entry bookkeeping, a chart of accounts, budgets and forecasting, and repeatable, well-understood procedures such as purchase orders and invoices. An accountant or financial analyst moving from one company to another will quickly understand the books and financial structure of their new environment, regardless of the line of business or size of the company.
There are no generally accepted administration procedures for the IT industry. Because of the ad-hoc nature of activity in a traditional IT shop, no two sets of IT procedures are ever alike. There is no industry-standard way to install machines, deploy applications, or update operating systems. Solutions are generally created on the spot, without input from any external community. The wheel is invented and re-invented, over and over, with the company footing the bill. A systems administrator moving from one company to another encounters a new set of methodologies and procedures each time.
[. . .]
This means that the people who are drawn to systems administration tend to be individualists. They are proud of their ability to absorb technology like a sponge, and to tackle horrible outages single-handedly. They tend to be highly independent, deeply technical people. They often have little patience for those who are unable to also teach themselves the terminology and concepts of systems management. This further contributes to failed communications within IT organizations.
Caveat SysAdmin. It’s just the price we pay for working in a nascent field.
So, sometimes I talk to other single folk who would rather not be single and there’s whining about what a drag it is dating all these random people and how scuzzy / weird / annoying / random is online dating and how much of a pain meeting people blah blah blah. I figure if I want to be not-single then I have to learn to enjoy the art of being single. You need to have hobbies, right? So, writer-type that I am I love ever-rewriting personals ads. (more…)
Bush escalates the war while Democrats hem and haw. I don’t get it: with a majority in both houses, is a “nonbinding resolution” really the best they can do? It sounds like something a timid married couple dreamt up to invigorate their humdrum sex life.
Sy Safransky’s Notebook
I chuckled on the BART this morning.
Inhabitat has an informative and lightheartedly disturbing visit with the “Sustainable Agriculture Production and Research Center” at Disney World’s EPCOT center. The overall gist of the place is good old fashioned 1950s optimism that technology will make the future awesome, touched up a layer of 21st century “green washing”.
Next stop on the “Living With the Land” tour took us up close and personal with stacked gardens. While we love the idea of maximizing space and efficiency by vertically stacking plants, we canâ€™t figure out why on earth a greenhouse preaching sustainability uses STYROFOAM pots for all their plants! A precocious 6-year-old boy on my tour apparently noticed the same thing and asked our intern-guide why there was so much styrofoam, since the foam plastic is not biodegradable and not really a “sustainable” choice for an exhibit on sustainability. Our guide, apparently not understanding the implications of the question, explained glibly that EPCOT uses styrofoam because it is cheap, lightweight and easy to toss out in order to get fresh new pots daily. Huh?
The primary byproduct of the sustainable “Research Center” seems to be genetically-modified vegetables grown in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head. Well, that and the styrofoam containers.
I had a friend from Indiana who said she knew someone from Florida, who thought that, compared to Governor Jeb, President George was oh-so-eloquent. I suppose it is fortunate that the state will mostly disappear when the ice caps melt.
Until the last twenty out of a million years of human history, our “neurological disorders” were merely our personalities.
“Methamphetamine for Dummies”
from The Sun, July, 2007
Which only brings to mind that line from Pulp Fiction:
Vincent: Want some bacon?
Jules: No man, I don’t eat pork.
[ . . . ]
Vincent: Why not?
Jules: Pigs are filthy animals. I don’t eat filthy animals. . . . I ain’t eat nothin’ that ain’t got sense enough to disregard its own feces.
Vincent: How about a dog? A dog eats its own feces. . . . do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?
Jules: I wouldn’t go so far as to call a dog filthy but they’re definitely dirty. But, a dog’s got personality. Personality goes a long way.
Vincent: Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal. Is that true?
Jules: Well we’d have to be talkin’ about one charmin’ motherfuckin’ pig. I mean he’d have to be ten times more charmin’ than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I’m sayin’?
Perhaps Jules is avoiding “mad swine” disease. Were the pigs to receive proper medication that addressed their poop-eating neurological disorders, he might find their personalities tasty delicious.
[Update: weaselly underscores omitted from cuss words per Andrew Ho’s patriotic fervor, and because it might look neat.]
Girlfriend came over, with six peaches she picked from her peach tree this very morning. I washed the earwig out of one. We walked down to the beach, and back up again, stopping for pastries and a slice of pizza. We watched “Winged Migration” which is really good if you don’t pay attention to the self-important French people, and tolerate the silly parts when the bird flies up an out of the atmosphere to circle the Earth like Sputnik, except yeah, “no special effects were used while filming the birds.”
Saw the girlfriend off . . . neighborhood goes boom . . . boom . . . occasional bursts in the distance. A groovy Independence Day.
Then I see a URL to a comic strip with kids eating Bald Eagle tacos. Okay, crass. But the commentary rant is worth sharing:
I know I’m starting to sound like a curmudgeony old bastard but… it really did used to be better, even just a few years ago. I swear to God right now you could watch Dick Cheney beat a homeless vet to death with a cinder block and everybody would just kind of let out a weak sigh and go “only two more years” but then go into full-blown warrior mode when the Youtube button on their iPhone got scratched. Stand in line to buy portable telephone, wondering what you’ll say to the first person to ask you to touch it while the thing you Pledged Allegiance to everyday when you were growing up gets gang-banged by a handful of frat boys that pay less taxes than you and don’t have to go to jail when they may have committed treason.
And, quiet as I have kept, I gotta admit, I think the iPhone spectacle . . . geeks waiting in line to pay $600 for a cell phone with a $1400 service commitment . . . but what is worse is to hear President Bush prattling on about how we must defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq or else they’ll follow us home–the best that can be said for why we need to be over there is because we chose to go there and
f_ck up that sh_thole of a country, and it is hella true if Dick Cheney beat the crap out of a homeless man we would just shake our heads with a tear in our eye. If you commit treason you should go to jail, even, hell, especially if you’re just some hack taking a bullet for the White House! GAH!
Okay, back to munching on my toast and pondering my regular life. If there’s a protest in the streets sign me up . . .
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