Browse Month: July 2004

07/29/2004

It’s becoming apparent that I’m getting old.

Last week while playing ultimate I suffered a bit of an injury when an opposing player landed with his full weight on the side of my (bare) foot. I heard an audible ‘crack’ and decided to sit out for the point. However, I was back in the game after the point and in fact played the second full game of our double-header. By the end of the night, however, I was limping noticeably since my foot was hurting pretty badly.

The next day I could hardly walk, and I started wondering if there was an actual broken bone somewhere in there. Since my health insurance is limited to catastrophic situations (think $4,000 deductible) it would take a lot to make me plunk down five hundred bucks for an x-ray to see if anything is really wrong. So I decided to limp for a few days.

A week later things were good– my foot still hurt, but I suspect if there was a fracture it would hurt a lot more. Thus, when Wednesday rolled around and it was time for another evening of ultimate, I decided to play. I had originally planned on sitting out most (if not all) of the game, but we were short on men so I needed to do my part. It felt okay playing, but after the game– again– I was reduced to a limp.

Now, today, I’m paying for my earnestness because the foot is definitely in worse shape than it was the same time yesterday. If I was younger, I’m sure it would be fine and I’d be ready for another game. But apparently as one gets older, these things take longer to heal. Dang it.

07/29/2004

I just read an article by Paul Graham where he describes how great software is produced: by great hackers. As part of the essay, he talks about an ideal work environment:

“If companies want hackers to be productive, they should look at what they do at home. At home, hackers can arrange things themselves so they can get the most done. And when they work at home, hackers don’t work in noisy, open spaces; they work rooms with doors. They work in cosy, neighborhoody places with people around and somewhere to walk when they need to mull something over, instead of in glass boxes set in acres of parking lots. They have a sofa they can take a nap on when they feel tired, instead of sitting in a coma at their desk, pretending to work. There’s no crew of people with vacuum cleaners that roars through every evening during the prime hacking hours. There are no meetings or, God forbid, corporate retreats or team-building exercises. And when you look at what they’re doing on that computer, you’ll find it reinforces what I said earlier about tools. They may have to use Java and Windows at work, but at home, where they can choose for themselves, you’re more likely to find them using Perl and Linux.”

I think that’s great stuff– because it’s not only how I feel about my job, but exactly how I do it.

07/28/2004

In today’s news, a landmark court case is being set. A man from Alaska is being charged with second-degree murder in an automobile accident where he slammed head-on into an oncoming car and killed its two occupants. It’s being pressed as murder because he was allegedly watching an in-dash DVD (“Road Trip”, of all movies) at the time of the accident, causing him to drift over the center line and hit the other vehicle.

Although he claims to have been listening to music and not watching the DVD player, in a telephone call from the hospital to his ex-wife that night he admitted that he was “distracted by the movie” he and his front-seat passenger were watching. Furthermore, his DVD player had been custom-installed in order to bypass the safety feature that will prohibit it from playing unless the vehicle is parked.

Regardless of whether he was actually watching the movie and whether it caused the accident, it raises an interesting question and point of law: when does manslaughter (accidental killing) become murder (intentional killing)?

Typically, drunk drivers are charged with manslaughter if they kill someone in an accident, because it’s assumed they didn’t have “malice aforethought” which is one of the prerequisites for a murder charge. However, the prosecutor in this particular case insists that since the defendant bypassed the safety system in an effort to make it possible to watch movies while driving, he was showing a blatant disregard for human life. In other words, because he would be in control of a ton of high-speed steel certainly capable of killing someone, and elected to place the importance of his entertainment above the importance of paying attention to his driving, he should not only be held responsible for the deaths but shouldn’t be able to claim it was an “accident” at all.

If convicted, this would create a powerful precendent for holding people responsible for their actions if they are being knowingly careless while doing things that could endanger others.

07/27/2004

“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”

— Sir Arthur Eddington

07/21/2004

Today’s Iraqi puzzler: Who’s Dumber?

1) The Filipino government, for caving into the demands of the Iraqi extremists who threatened to behead a Filipino guy unless the Phillippines pulled out of Iraq.

2) The extremists themselves, for now kidnapping men from India, Kenya, and Egypt and demanding their respective countries pull out of Iraq as well. Note that none of the three countries have troops in Iraq.

I guess it goes to show that giving into the demands of terrorists is a universally bad policy, no matter how ugly the consequences of not giving in may be…

07/21/2004

It looks like this year’s federal budget is going to follow two fairly unsurprising trends:

1) Defense spending up.
2) Science and technology spending down.

Whee! It’s sure to keep America a global leader…

07/19/2004

The tedium of spam is really starting to annoy me. Although I’ve got great spam filters running, I still download a couple hundred messages every day and have to sort through them to get the wheat from the chaff. Fortunately everything dumps into a single folder, and I can quickly scan subject lines (“Vi@gra”? What’s that?) and delete all the crap. There’s maybe one legitimate message each day– someone who isn’t in my address book, or is using an alternate account.

Although I love the ability to have a “catch-all” mail account– which lets any address at my domain deliver to me– I think that’s a big part of the problem. These spammers pick random names (and even sequences of numbers) and just fire away. Since everything gets routed to my “jeff” account, I get all the spam. Whee.

So last night I turned off the catch-all, and left only the handful of legitimate addresses I actually use. I didn’t expect a dramatic difference, but imagine my surprise when the spam load dropped by about 70%. Woo hoo! Now I’ll only have to sort through 40-50 messages…

07/15/2004

I’m presently reading Eric Drexler’s famous book “Engines of Creation”, which discusses nanotechnology and how its development will undoubtably change our world and our society in dramatic and largely unpredictable ways.

As a fan of nanotechnology, it’s always interesting to learn more about it and ponder how it might affect the world around me. What’s particularly noteworthy about this book is that it was written in 1986– almost two decades ago– and is still considered by many to be not only the seminal work on the subject, but a good overview of the science. Considering how much the world of technology has changed in the last twenty years, that’s a fair accomplishment.

Amazing what they can do these days. And what they might be able to do tomorrow.

07/14/2004

Last night La and I watched “The Last Samurai”. It was a good flick, although when it all boils down, it’s just “Dances with Wolves” all over again. We even had Kicking Bird, played by a constantly weepy Taka, and of course the gradual realization by the main character that the “savages” aren’t really so savage after all…

07/12/2004

As rumors of the “Return of the King : Extended Edition” DVD begin circulating, there’s much speculation about whether it’ll be shown in theaters before being released to video (which would be both cool and frustrating), and of course about which scenes will be added.

But on Slashdot, the source of all knowledge, there was a great alternate plot:

Gandalf: That ring is bad news, Frodo, it must be destroyed.

Frodo: How so?

Gandalf: It must be placed in the fires of Mount Doom.

Frodo: Oh well, I guess that means a lot of walking, camping and then running away from monsters, lots of death and almost losing all my friends?

Galdalf: Nah, I know some big eagles that can fly us straight to the mountain and we can drop it in the lava. We’ll be home by tea.

Frodo: Nice one!

07/03/2004

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.”

— Ernest Benn

07/02/2004

The Chinese government never ceases to amaze me. In today’s news, they’ve announced a plan to filter text messages sent between their citizens via cell phones. This is a monumental task, as Chinese people send and receive more text messages (some 200 billion per year) than the rest of the world combined. Not deterred by the sheer magnitude of such a project, the government thinks it has a right to intercept and block communication between its citizens.

Not surprisingly, this goes hand-in-hand with their stringent filtering of the internet– something I would think is a lost cause. Apparently text messages containing certain key words, or even special numbers in proximity to one another, will be blocked by the filtering software.

Although I feel the Chinese government is monstrous for pulling stunts like this, I’m also constantly appalled by the way the U.S. government– and American corporations– continue to treat China like they’re our best friends. They retain their Most Favored Nation status, and as long as the flow of crappy plastic toys continues to flow across the ocean I’m sure they’ll remain our most beloved trade partners. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that the next Olympics will be held in Beijing: certainly a demonstration to the world that it doesn’t matter how repressive you are to your own people, as long as you manufacture cheap consumer goods.

07/02/2004

After an epic three-hour struggle with a database problem on Monday, I finally figured out the problem was a deeply hidden configuration option in Microsoft SQL Server. I changed one line of program code and everything worked. As I was wading through documentation, newsgroups, third-party source code, and any other reference that seemed halfway likely to produce an answer, my friend Craig quipped, “SQL Server’s motto should be ‘We make every day feel like Monday.'”

There is, of course, a lot of truth to that. As it’s Friday afternoon now and I’m not feeling particularly motivated to do anything productive, I hopped on the web and downloaded a couple of graphics to make a real gem of a poster.

It’s now hanging in my office.

07/02/2004

Today’s stupid web design note:

I’m so tired of using online payment for things– whether I’m ordering stuff or paying a bill– and having to fill out my credit card information without using spaces or dashes or whatever. Just a big old 16-digit number.

The reason? Because I have all my credit card numbers online (secure, yada yada) and I just cut and paste them as necessary, depending on what I’m buying and which company is paying for it. So I paste the number into the field, hit ‘submit’, and get barked at because the number isn’t formatted properly. Sigh.

Note to all web developers who think this is some kind of insurmountable problem: with about three lines of Javascript code, you can strip out anything that’s not a number and get what you need. For heaven’s sakes, guys, let consumers type dashes or spaces!

Pardon me, I have to go now and re-submit my information to T-Mobile so I can pay my phone bill…

07/01/2004

There are at least two things I really hope not to burn out on:

1) Computers.
2) Orange juice.

Without the first, I wouldn’t have a job.

Without the second, I wouldn’t have much to drink.