Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Mark of the Beast

It's simply no longer possible for a Christian to deny that RFID could be the mark of the beast. Now, I'm not for or against the end times, but this is something I heard: that the Christian Science Monitor exists -- and is a great paper -- because somebody believed that watching world events carefully and analyzing them honestly was the best way to detect the rise of the Antichrist. And for some reason, this justifies their spending money backing Gore up on saying that CFC regulation worked, and the ozone layer is recovering.

I asked about this at the Mary Baker Eddy library (there's a tour) and my tour guide denied it. But, still.

Anyway, the idea is, by looking at world events with one eye on the Revelation to John, you can predict the Second Coming. Is Tom DeLay the dragon, and George Bush the beast? It's dantean musings like that that one imagines the Monitor was put together to debunk.

We have been able to send fire from heaven to earth since the invention of the ICBM, although maybe we're waiting for Star Wars to deploy. This was one of the things suggesting that Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6) might be the beast, as he was shot and lived. Still, a bullet's more like a sling stone than a sword. But, that was one technical hurdle down.

We all got calculable numbers with the social security administration, but you'd have to do some contortions to get to 666. I think men have some new numbers coming. We can definitely see the drying up of the Euphrates and various new diseases coming down the pike with climate change.

In any case, RFID. The mark of the beast -- on your right wrist* or forehead, required for commerce, and presenting the possibility of infection -- is being proposed as a possible solution for tracking immigrants. This is wrong. I want to be clear about that. And I would expect that registered sex offenders get them first. But, it does show that one more technical hurdle (now that we have PayPass) to the Millenium has been lifted. So, we can start letting that anticipation build.

Just don't get a commerce implant.

* -- hand, in the linked Holman translation

We can amend the 1934 Communications Act?

Remember schoolhouse rock? With the bill becoming the law? And then 72 years later, still having amendments attached? This is the kind of thing that makes you think, "Ugh, the law in mind-numbingly complex. Best to leave it to lobbyists for large corporations. After all, if they killed us all, who'd buy their products?"

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Here's a fun trick

And a web page design tip! You'll need a Windows Machine with Microsoft Internet Explorer. Save a web page to an html file. Open it in a text editor and search for the title tag "<title>". Select it and everything up to it's close tag "</title>" and replace them with the self closing tag "<title/>".

Now, send it to your Windows Machine and open it in MSIE. What do you see?

Where's the Red Crystal?

At least 4,332 people were killed, according to government figures, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent said at least 200,000 people were left homeless.
The death toll goes up by a few hundred every time I go to Yahoo! There's a bad thing happening in Asia. The epicenter appears to be on land, so this doesn't fit neatly into my climate change earthquake link theory.

The IFRC and the ICRC, handling humanitarian a nd warfare respectively, are both subordinated by the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. And, as you know, the symbol's changed. The inconsistency of "the Red Cross and the Red Crescent" still gnaws at me. I really think it should either be "The Red Crystal" or "The Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Lion, Red Magen David and other red symbols TBD." But, maybe that's just me being culturally insensitive.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Saving the frog

If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it'll jump right out. If you put a frog in an unheated pot, it'll sit there. If you turn the heat up, the frog will continue to sit there. And it will keep on sitting there until the water begins to boil and ... you save the frog. It's important to save the frog.

So this is Gore's metaphor for his lifetime in public life as related in An Inconvenient Truth. We're the frog, the aggressive obfuscation of the reality of climate change is the heating, and rescuing the frog is why, in the framing of this movie, he ran for Congress. I didn't hear anything about Climate Change until Carter became President, but Gore apparently picked it up from Roger Revelle, who first clued an oblivious nation in in 1957.

We've known about Anthropogenic Climate Change for 50 years. Fifty.

Mr. Gore's movie is great -- if you know someone who' s "willing to listen to both sides," or some such crap, send them to the movie. The former Vice President repeatedly and firmly makes the point that there is no question we are in a time of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. There are some funny parts. Mr. Gore shows a chart about how variations in global average temperature track variations in CO2 concentration amazingly well, as if there were no other influences. And we've only recently been putting more effective global warming gases in the atmosphere in serious quantities, so that's imaginable. But, then he shows the CO2 curve shooting up, as it has recently.

And talks about how foolish it is to go from climate change skepticism directly to despair without every standing in the place where you do something. Well, I think that was a viable stand in the 80s, or even in the 90s. But, the water's been heating up around this frog for 50 years. It's pretty much cooked.

A Little Scary

If I can work up 7 minutes of material between now and then, I'll do some open mike comedy Monday. That should be painful. Luckily no one I know will be there.

Keep this in mind if Congress is consulted on invading Iran

They probably won't be -- the Iraq War resolution may be interepreted as giving the president power to invade whomever he chooses --- but if they are, it's nice to know you can shut them down with a phone call.

Not that I'm recommending that behavior.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Why President shouldn't be your first real job

Mr. Bush said he regretted challenging insurgents in Iraq to "bring it on" in 2003, and said the same about his statement that he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." Those two statements quickly came to reinforce his image around the world as a cowboy commander in chief. "Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people," Mr. Bush said. "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner."

Funny he didn't have to express himself sophisticatedly as an oil CEO, a baseball salesperson or Texas Governor.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Erg. So, for years I've been involved in deployments of business process software and enterprise software on customer sites. Architecture, design, coding, requirements gathering, project planning, all sorts of tasks you couldn't possibly take seriously unless you were in the biz, I've done.

And here's a little system architecture conceptual framework: there are three stakeholders for a system, the specifiers, the customers and the users.
  • It's important to please the specifiers. The customers listen to them, and they pull your offering out of the vague phase cloud called the marketplace. Without connecting through the specifier that customers in your target market trust, you're not going to move a lot of CDs, much less professional services hours.
  • It's important to please the customers. They pay for stuff, and their complaints and needs matter. Customers have particular drivers that you want to identify and satisfy. They're more important than the specifiers, and your relationship with them is typically deeper and lasts longer. Even if you lock a customer into a contract, you want to avoid angering that customer, as your only backup is your personal relationship with that customer's boss, which has its own pitfalls.
  • It's important to depress and degrade the user to the point where they don't feel worthy enough to make a stink. OK, I didn't learn that at MIT. But, it seems to be implicit in many requirements gathering processes and project plans. When it comes down to brass tacks, users don't do a heck of a lot for you, and don't make decisions that impact you. And they get in the way of providing value to customers and specifiers. Would you add 100 hours to the project plan to keep 1000 users each from spending an hour hunting for the any key? Do you really want to pay native American English speakers to write your documentation?
So, in typically self-defeating fashion, I keep an eye out for the user, and provide advocacy where I can. Mostly I try to shame people into treating them less shabbily, or pull all nighters trying to improve usability, or trying to improve the flow and reduce the user's interaction with the system.

But, mostly I try to avoid using enterprise software. I'm like an aeronautical engineer who refuses to fly. And, I'm generally successful.

But, Oracle's Siebel caught me tonight in the full force of its glory. The human pain was all ours on the DiRT tonight, as we were in training for the new software Acquis apparently talked the American Red Cross -- and ARCGNY is the first chapter to use it -- into 'configuring'. The toughbooks and little portable printers were cool, but remember the internet bubble? Remember how introducing a browser based thin client could make you look like you 'got it' and pump up your stock valuation? Software architecture never recovered.

The first sign you're USTWaP is the two splash screens. One splash screen for a while, and then nothing. That's right. There was a visual artifact to let us know a background service was loading. Thanks.

Then the browser launches, and the browser app has its own splash screen. Shouldn't 'browser app' and 'splash screen' be exclusive concepts? It's not thin in the sense that its fast and has a small memory imprint, it's thin in the sense that it's browser based. And this is not just any browser, this is Microsoft Internet Explorer. Are you looking for speed, stability and isolation from the operating system? That's why the good Lord gave us Opera.

So, you see where this is going. Why would you need a server application on a thin client? Well, it detaches. Something's got to host the thousands of enterprise java beans that are undoubtedly in there.

It might help you if you knew what this was for. At disasters, we register people, we evaluate their living spaces for damage, we arrange housing, and we cut them debit cards. Generally those four things, although we can arrange on-site counseling, medical attention and a bunch of other useful stuff. The software centralizes the processes and standardizes the data. It increases reliability, reduces rekeying, and should improve the quality of the data and the services the client gets -- it also enables us to provide a little more of those services up front, and maybe remove the requirement for a follow-up trip to the chapter altogether. Further, it reduces the back end processing cost to the Red Cross, which is a big deal. I'm not complaining about the software because it's a bad idea.

I'm complaining about the software because its architecture is crazy! We have trained staff doing four things to a small group of people. Using ERP software. Why do we need a database management server, and application server and a web server on our very cool Toughbooks? Because we're in the field and aren't continuously connected. Does it sound like someone's solving problems backwards? To add insult to injury, we have to connect and synchronize manually and separately.

Of course, in order to connect our thin light clients to our beefy local server applications, we need hyperactive scripting and local objects to capture and report everything that goes on in the browser. This makes Internet Explorer chill out and reflect for minutes at a time. Our teacher encouraged us to use back buttons when possible -- not to gratuitously show off the session management, but because he'd been using the things in the field for weeks and couldn't work out how else to navigate. We got lost a lot, and nothing could save us.

The good news is, we're all certified. We had set aside two hours to walk through a case study, do some abstract trainings, do another case study (a third if we had time) then take a certification test, starting at 6:00. At 8:30, we just decided we'd finish that first case, break for dinner and take the test -- I only got dinner because the store failed to lock its doors and I slipped in at 9:03. We finally struggled out of there at 11:00, after having trimmed the certification portion pretty savagely.

The teacher is an actual responder (he was the staff guy in my last DiRT posting) and insists they work great in the field, so I'll withhold judgment. But, I did feel like I was being punished for every time I let expedience or thrift be my guide. Or, more likely, politics -- it certainly didn't look like it had been made easily or cheaply. So, sorry. And I'll continue to do what I can. But, you users. You've got to stand up for yourselves.

Annotated Rank

Remember "Fuck the South", the balm for a wounded nation that overturned some of the more obvious implied Republican lies of the 2004 presidential election cycle? A friend has sent me over the Annotated Rant website, so I thought I'd pull it out for a moment and review. It's full of great stuff. Find this quote:
And can you guess who else the feds are training their eagle eyes on? Quakers. Seriously. There’s no joke here – I just want to point out that if they’re watching the Quakers, they sure as fuck are watching you.
So funny.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

If you only had four hours, how much TV would you watch?

An improvement was seen within 20 minutes of taking the drug and wore off after four hours, when the patients restored to their permanent vegetative state.


Patient N had been "constantly screaming", but stopped after being given the drug when he started watching TV and responding to his family.

I guess it beats constant screaming.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Have you taken the pledge?

Josh Marshall points to a posting at ThinkProgress, which in turn offers an ExxonMobil ad
(Quicktime Required) ending "Carbon Dioxide; they call it pollution, we call it life."

Go see Gore's movie.

I'm quitting my day job

So, I've been writing stories for the Spoof for three years now. And, to the extent that I've gotten positive comments, I've really leaned on friends and family to get them. So, I was pleased to get this from some reader previously unknown to me in my email.
Very nice. Liked the bit about Frist "shoring up" that last little problem. Favorite quote:

"[you are] still secure in [your] house. There's just a Vice President in it."

You're burning with hope, you're building up steam; what was once juvenilish is grown up and stylish you're close to your dream: 'til somebody out there loves you, stands up and hollers for more! You've got a home at the magic store.

we’re moving to a more benign planet

I'll see you there.

I've read exactly one of these books


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

eBay to be first up against the wall when net neutrality ends

Wow. eBay's making its SkypeOut service (where you call landlines from your computer) free in the US and Canada just as the phone companies are poised to start deciding the priorities of internet traffic.


More Guy Goma

Just a point. This guy thinks he's been called back into a second interview in front of the camerae. Maybe he thinks he's been discovered. But, he's from Congo (formerly Zaire) and when the talking head asks him about music downloading, he makes the point that the internet is good for development, and lets poor people get what they want. It's about 57 seconds in.

That's really a great answer, and could have brought the conversation in a more substantive direction. Too bad she was a terrible listener.

New Story Posted at the Spoof

This one's a little more pop -- if you've been looking for more ribaldry in my writing, this is as good as it gets.

Do you ever feel like this?

You're waiting in a lobby, somebody grabs you and puts you on national television, and starts expecting expert answers to abstruse questions. This is like the center of everybody's anxiety. "They" say that (um, other) successful people deep down suspect that they're fakes who will be suddenly found out. Like happened with this guy.
It's convenient when these iconic things happen. It illustrates that the wall between the real and the nightmare world is weakening.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Raining at Noah Rates

907 AM EDT MON MAY 15 2006

What we need is a break in the rain

In Manhattan, we've been getting alarming weather warnings for a week. Three inches! Five inches! Oh, never mind. They've all been called off, which is sort of an emotional roller coaster. Then yesterday, I get this email from the Red Cross:

The Service Area has asked me to survey DSHR members for their Availability for Possible Deployment because of the impending flood situation in New England. You are receiving this e-mail because my records indicate that you have successfully passed your background check and have current First Aid and CPR training.

It is important to know who is available for possible deployment, so that we can assist with the service delivery plan for the affected areas as soon as possible.

A “normal” deployment is 3 weeks, but it is determined by each disaster.

Currently, we are putting together leadership teams to be on alert. No one is being deployed yet. There is no further information available at this time.

This took me completely by surprise. Apparently that water has been going somewhere. Flooding in New England may get as bad as it's been since 1936, according to Reuters. A lot of extreme weather, don't you think?

The blog title is from the (end of the) linked article. It would sound like the setup for a science fiction morality play on industrial hubris and ecological response, if we weren't living in one.


Ted Kennedy almost joined Ron Brown and Paul Wellstone as a plane crash victim. He has been criticizing the president rather a lot recently. Stephen Colbert! Take the train! They never crash.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Republican Party at a Crossroads

When I first registered to vote in 1986, I registered Republican. Largely because I trusted them to look through my voter registrations and deny me goods, services and opportunities less than I trutsted any of the other parties available to me. Which group was, I believe, coextensive with the Democrats.

And, I'm thinking the Grand Old Party needs saving. They've seriously lost their way. This is how Wikipedia describes their origin.

The new party was created in 1854 in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that would have allowed the expansion of slavery into Kansas. Activists denounced it as proof of the power of the Slave Power--the powerful class of slaveholders who were conspiring to control the federal government and to spread slavery nationwide. The name "Republican" gained such favor in 1854 simply because as a title it connected voters with the original political organization of Thomas Jefferson in the 1790s. Thus the leaders drew upon the tradition of the National Republican Party of John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, as well as Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party. The party founders adopted the name "Republican" to indicate it was the carrier of "republican" beliefs about civic virtue, and opposition to aristocracy and corruption.

I'm for civic virtue! I'm opposed to aristocracy and corruption! Not to mention slavery! Now, this somehow evolved into selling off our environment, stealing from the poor and engaging in bizarre acts of destruction meant to justify an insane defense contractor relationship.

But, I wonder if it's time the Republicans got some new leadership...

I've got a website!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Looking for a way to help the Red Cross _and visit Staten Island?

Volunteers are still greatly needed for the Staten Island Storm Response Rehearsal to play the roles of Shelter Residents. It is critical to the success of our Spring Training that each shelter team get the opportunity to rehearse the opening, operating, and closing of a shelter with all of the blessings and complications a robust shelter population brings. Though Introduction to Disaster Services is recommended, no response training is necessary to fill this need. Family and friends are welcome to participate.

The exercise will take place Sunday, May 21, 2006 at PS 44, 80 Maple Parkway, Staten Island, New York from 8:00am-3:00pm. Breakfast, Lunch, and a debrief of the exercise are included in these times. Volunteers needing transportation to the site may meet at 150 Amsterdam Avenue no later than 7:00am, the bus will leave promptly at 7:15.

Please RSVP to if you are able to assist.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Lowest Presidential Approval Rating ever

I know you're watching the presidential approval ratings slide, and maybe starting to feel like crazy upside down world is coming to an end, and we'll be able to start addressing issues that matter to the country, although we have some surprise new ones, like an unmotivated, directionless foreign occupation and a legislature apparently full of criminals.

But, since Mr. Bush is unequivocally the worst president ever -- and I don't mean that in any partisan sense, but by any metric you care to use -- we can't think we're out of the woods until he has the lowest approval ratings ever. And it turns out he's got about ten points left to go.

23 % is the lowest, for President Truman. Thank to this blog for the tip. CNN/Fox/Pew/NBC have the President at 32/33/35/36. His NBC 'very favorable' rating is at 19 %, the lowest its been since we was elected. Interestingly, 47 % of the country, according to CNN, rates him competent. Whatever they think he's trying to do, apparently they
  • think he's succeeding
  • don't like it
I still think that thing is to discredit the idea of a federal government, but I don't want to project.