Browse Month: April 2004

04/30/2004

This is an absolutely awesome spam message:

“This email was sent by the Citibank server to verify your E-mail address. You must complete this process by clicking on the link below and entering in the small window your Citibank ATM/Debit Card number and PIN that you use on ATM.”

It would take someone with the brains of rotting cabbage to actually go to the web site and fill out their credit card number. Then you know they’ll call Citibank (the real Citibank) a week later and complain about those mysterious four-thousand-dollar charges against their card.

The sad thing is, scams like this must work. Otherwise they wouldn’t exist.

04/30/2004

Seen in a newsgroup:

“Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it.”

Great, I need to stop writing such clever code!

04/29/2004

An oft-overlooked benefit of digital cameras is the ability to have kids grab them and take pictures… and not get upset that they’re “wasting film” or costing money in development.

Take, for example, this masterpiece photograph of what I can only assume is Zack’s little Lego creation.

04/29/2004

We were biking along a little trail through town, and passing through an area that had a lot of trees looming over the trail.

Kyra was right in front of me, and she said, “I’m pretending I’m a girl going through a bunch of trees.”

Wow, what an imagination!

04/29/2004

She’s an eBay fiend!

You know how all those people write books (and send spam) about how you can quit your day job and make a fortune buying and selling crap on eBay? Well, Laralee is the most diligent researcher I know when it comes to getting a good bargain. She’ll spend hours looking at different items, comparing prices and shipping and feedback and whatnot. She builds spreadsheets– no kidding!– showing the different items and their total cost of ownership, yada yada.

And in the end, she’ll have a new pair of knee and elbow pads she can wear while roller-blading.

04/27/2004

I think I set a new record last week, when I wrote five different proposals for work.

They say when it rains it pours, and I guess the clouds suddenly opened up… I’ve been presented with a whole bucketload of opportunities and I figured I might as well jump at them and see what happens. My usual success rate with proposals is pretty meager; for every three I write I might land one of the jobs.

So far I’m one for five… one of the proposals has already been accepted. Woo hoo!

04/22/2004

If you know anyone who died just after saying “Hey, y’all, watch this!”, you might be a redneck.

04/14/2004

From The Register:

“A Chinese man has paid the equivalent of $1.1 million for a mobile phone number. The unnamed buyer shelled out a whopping nine million yuan for 135 8585 8585, which is apparently pronounced as “let me be rich, be rich, be rich, be rich” in Chinese.”

Ha! I’m thinking this guy WAS rich until he bought the stupid phone number…

04/13/2004

Let’s recap a few recent news splashes regarding airline passenger privacy:

September 2003
JetBlue Airlines : “Uh, we gave the Gov a million passenger records.”
American and Northwest : “Ha! We didn’t!”
U.S. Government (specifically, the TSA) : “We don’t have any data.”

January 2004
Northwest Airlines : “Okay, actually we DID give TSA passenger data.”
American Airlines : “Not us.”
U.S. Government : “Nope, no data here!”

April 2004
American Airlines : “Okay, okay, so we did hand over data.”
U.S. Government : “What data?”

Is it me, or is this some kind of comedy of errors? Three major U.S. airlines– after first publicly denying it– have now admitted they gave the TSA huge databases of personal information about their customers, presumably to be used for testing the oh-so-fun CAPPS II database. And the TSA maintains that they never asked for or received any such data. But even the TSA subcontractors– Fair Isaac, Infoglide, Ascent, and Lockheed Martin– say that yep, they received data and used it to test their algorithms.

(Let’s not even get into the algorithms they must be using to figure out if Joe Blow is a terrorist… but it’s true that having a huge sample of data would be immensely helpful to the software development process.)

Now the Department of Homeland Security, everyone’s favorite big brother, is getting into the act by investigating the TSA and preparing a report (ooh, I can’t wait!) about whether the TSA violated privacy laws. Of course it’s a legal requirement that providing personal information like that in the airlines’ databases must be announced publicly. Because such notification was never given, the TSA may be subject to– uh oh– a $5,000 fine.

It would be a funny situation if it didn’t indicate that not only is the government doing things it shouldn’t (or at least not following the rules), but the airlines are complicit in their involvement and have repeatedly lied about it. I don’t fly any of those three, but I do fly United and Frontier and I suspect it’s only a matter of time before they admit to some fishiness as well.

Anyway, maybe I should just throw my hands up and accept the fact that the Gov is going to keep tabs on me, throw me around a few databases, and ask me to take my shoes off now and again. Sigh.

04/12/2004

“Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

— Jim Horning

04/10/2004

“Never hate your enemies, it clouds your judgement.”

04/08/2004

Whose DVD is this, anyway?

“Wal-Mart and Kmart, two of the nation’s biggest retailers, are planning to sell a new DVD player that includes a technology that can automatically skip sexual content, graphically violent scenes and language deemed offensive.”

Hey, sounds great! I can’t stand gratuitous sex scenes, and I get tired of the constant f-bombs that some movies seem to think makes for “great dialogue”. I like the concept of setting my “filter level” (there are 14 levels with this particular DVD player) and watching the movie.

But wait… the Directors Guild of America chimes in with:

“By not seeking the consent of the director, whose name on the movie reflects the fact that the film comprises his or her work, or of the studio as copyright holder, they can and do change the very meaning and intent of films.”

Okay, so I’ve bought a DVD at the store. I’ve paid the studio and the distributor and the director and the actors and the gaffers and the electric best boys and whoever else for their time. Now I want to sit in the comfort of my own home and watch said DVD, and I’m not supposed to skip stuff I don’t like because it “change[s] the very meaning” of the movie?

This is absurd. Next they’ll take off the fast-forward button, because I might use it to skip the scene where Emilio Estevez’s buttocks show up in “Young Guns” or something. They’ve already made it impossible to skip the previews and/or ads that come on at the beginning of the disc (thank you, Disney, for *making* me watch the “Freaky Friday” preview yet again).

This technology doesn’t do anything to the DVD, which has been legally purchased by me in the first place; it simply has a database of particular scenes to skip and does so when the movie is playing. There’s no copyright infringement, no illegal distribution, and nothing else I can see that should be the concern of anyone outside of my viewing audience.

Sigh… one more sign that despite interesting advances in technology, the Evil Corporations will do what they can to hold onto “their” property with an iron fist. They want to control what I watch.

It reminds me of a quote:

“The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

04/08/2004

From an article I perused today:

“A 2002 report issued by reinsurance behemoth Munich Re Group notes that
insurance payouts for natural disasters are rising as climate change
kicks in and more people in disaster-prone areas buy policies. If the
trend continues, by 2050 payments will exceed the combined current GNP
of every nation on the planet.”

I suppose this means one of three things:

1) Insurance companies will simply stop insuring idiots who live on a flood plain, in a hurricane area, or above a fault line.

2) Insurance companies will simply raise their rates to compensate, thus leaving us with kids whose car insurance costs our entire annual salary to cover.

3) The planet will go bankrupt once we have that last natural disaster.

Hmm.

04/07/2004

Laralee and I watched “Matrix Revolutions” last night (I know, it came out in theaters six months ago but we didn’t bother). It was a fairly entertaining movie; like the newest installments of the “Star Wars” series, it relied more on special effects than a plot, but was still fun.

Anyway, my biggest comment about the movie is that the leader of the human defenses, Commander Locke, has got to be one of the biggest military morons of all time. Faced with an attack of unprecedented magnitude– one that will likely destroy all of humanity– he elected to send out all of the warships he had in order to keep the enemy at bay.

Interestingly, all of the Bad Guy machines are vulnerable to a weapon called an EMP, which generates a powerful electromagnetic pulse which fries electronic components and turns the machines into scrap metal. (Why it doesn’t have an effect on the humans’ electronics technology is left to the magic of Hollywood.)

Now, each warship has an EMP weapon aboard… making them very handy against the bad guys. But Commander Locke, in his infinite inanity, neglected to keep even a single EMP back at home base. Thus, when the ships all blow up in a confusing calamity, he’s left without anything but some big machine guns to stop the invading army.

Come on, commander! Why not keep an EMP or two laying around, so if the ships bite the bullet you won’t go down with them? (Of course, our heroes show up in a barely-running ship and manage to beat off the bad guys with their EMP… what a shocker.)

Laralee and I laughed pretty hard at that one.

04/06/2004

“Thou shalt receiveth what thou payeth for.”

Ahh, the old adage that you get what you pay for… in this case, I paid about a buck for a hundred blank CD-R’s. The first one I burned had all sorts of bad sectors and whatnot, making the data on it pretty useless.

So now I wonder– what do I do with a hundred (well, ninety-nine) CD’s that I’m afraid to use for important data because they might corrupt it? I’m thinking perhaps I can make some music CD’s, which are much more error-resistant…

04/06/2004

Back in my youth, I played role-playing games like Star Frontiers and Dungeons and Dragons. Whenever you had a character in those games, the character had “attributes” that specified his or her skills in various areas. The higher the number, the more skilled the character was. A score of 18 was pretty much godlike. A particularly handy person might have things like:

Intelligence : 15
Dexterity : 14
Charisma : 16
Constitution : 14

Lately I’ve been dealing with some people who would have attributes like this:

Intelligence : 14
Initiative : 2
Adaptability : 3

Really smart, but completely lacking in initiative and adaptability. They were unable to take a situation that wasn’t quite what they expected and do anything at all with it, which meant I had to pick up the slack. Whee.

So I was thinking how nice it would be if, when you had to work with someone, you exchanged your attribute scores. That would help manage expectations (to use corporate jargon) and let other people know what they might expect. If you have no initiative, fine, but that would’ve been nice to know before you completely dropped the ball on that project…