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:: Wednesday, November 30 2005 ::

For a giggle, or to scare yourself to no end, you can read the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq", which is posted at most news sites and on the white house webpage. It contains some true gems, some classics of modern literature. For those who can't be bothered to read the full 38 page document, there is an executive summary, which reads suspiciously like a speech Mr. Bush gave today at the Naval Academy.

Not to suggest that our strategy might be shaky, but it makes me nervous that it can be defined in nine words, one of which is repeated three times:

A. The Political Track (Isolate, Engage, Build)
B. The Security Track (Clear, Hold, Build)
C. The Economic Track (Restore, Reform, Build)
But regardless, for those who thought this document might be a Christmas present to families with troops overseas, I give you this little tidbit: "Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. Our troops will return home when that mission is complete."
:: David (16:29 in Michigan, 22:29 in Paris) - Comment


A word for all the useless things your computer accumulates over time, but noone seems to know how they get there: cruft. The article also includes a measure, allowing you to know how far your computer is from death:

Cruft Force 5. Worn out. Description: Some time after bootup, always get a dialog "A service has failed to start - BLT300." What is BLT300? Nobody knows. Although one can manually remove/disable this service, it always reappears two or three reboots later.
I usually replace my computer sometime around this point, but I have seen (and been asked to fix) far worse....
:: David (16:10 in Michigan, 22:10 in Paris) - Comment


Well, I haven't had a single bite on the job front in this country, but it is fast becoming a moot point, as some folks from my old position have suggested some more work I might do. Of course, this will really mean I need to crack down on myself and get the party started, as I haven't been nearly as efficient as I need to be to make this all work. But what the heck?!
:: David (15:35 in Michigan, 21:35 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, November 29 2005 ::

In what is certainly the most traumatising story of the day, we have "Girl dies in peanut butter kiss"

A 15-year-old Canadian girl with a peanut allergy died after kissing her boyfriend who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich hours earlier, reports say.
I suspect we're going to have quite a number of paranoid parents of children with allergies after this story makes the rounds. That said, it's pretty amazing - the story indicates he had the sandwich some nine hours before the incident.
:: David (9:52 in Michigan, 15:52 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[4]


Oh my goodness - the New York Times finally caught up to the rest of the world! An editorial today finally addresses the topic of White Phosphorous:

Iraq, where winning over wary civilians is as critical as defeating armed insurgents, is no place to be using a weapon like this. More broadly, American demands for counterproliferation efforts and international arms control ring a bit hollow when the United States refuses to give up white phosphorus, not to mention cluster bombs and land mines.
It took them a while, but at least they got there.

For a giggle, and the opposing viewpoint, the National Review also has a piece on the use of white phosphorous, complete with the noun (used in all seriousness) "defeat-niks". A taste:

Time again to try to cripple the U.S. military effort in Iraq. It's not enough that it sometimes seems like whenever we bomb a terrorist safe house we're accused of killing 40 civilians and no terrorists. (Why is it always 40?) Nor that we're told we must turn the prisons at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay into genteel facilities fit for Martha Stewart. Now the defeat-niks are screaming about our use of white phosphorus during the bloody battle for Fallujah last year.
My personal favourite part of the article? When the author unwittingly compares the US military to psychopathic machete wielding killers:
Yet it's [the use of White Phosphorous] being treated as a major new revelation because of an Italian documentary, now available on the Internet, titled Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre." It's as if the use of WP necessarily involves a massacre, or as if there haven't been awful massacres in recent years using nothing but machetes and clubs.
I'm sure that isn't what the author meant, but certainly the word placement needs work....
:: David (9:40 in Michigan, 15:40 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, November 28 2005 ::

All the Canadians want for christmas is an election. At least it gives you something to talk about when you're home for the holidays...
:: David (20:12 in Michigan, 2:12 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


The good lord giveth... and the good lord taketh away.

I got a check in the mail today for 1500 dollars from my apartment in France. They told me they have also sent the other document which should free up another 5000 dollars in my french bank. I am very excited about this.

However, because there always needs to be some bad news with the good, I also got my bill from the French government for my taxes last year. So 800 dollars goes away. The worst part of that, though, is the 'audiovisual charge' - I had to pay 140 dollars because there was a TV in my apartment. That said, however, I did like watching French television, so I can't complain too much. But still, it seems like a lot of money when you have to pay it all at once!
:: David (17:10 in Michigan, 23:10 in Paris) - Comment


:: Sunday, November 27 2005 ::

Well, yesterday I managed to go to two different holiday dinners on opposite ends of the state, and also managed to pick up Sasha from the airport. It was a little hectic (and certainly the fastest I've ever made it across the state, as I drove non-stop in order to be sure to beat Sasha's plane). Nevertheless, great good fun - I met a couple new people, saw lots of old friends and family, and had a great time. Now it's fast approaching time to get back to work!
:: David (17:16 in Michigan, 23:16 in Paris) - Comment


:: Saturday, November 26 2005 ::

Today, or rather yesterday at this point, was the day after Thanksgiving, and thus in the United States the first official day of the Christmas shopping season (I've never heard it called 'the holiday shopping season', despite the fact that most things have been changed to be religion neutral). According to sources I've read, it was on this day that shops used to first earn their profit for the year, i.e. the day they went 'into the black', and thus the day is called in many circles 'Black Friday' (for those that don't know, the American holiday of Thanksgiving falls by definition on a Thursday, so the day is always a Friday).

The day is also traditionally a day of shopping, and of huge sales events. I don't know the history, but the New York Times suggests the modern reason for the day after Thanksgiving being an event is because it will influence where people shop later in the holiday season:

Retailers are putting a greater emphasis on the day after Thanksgiving because they find it strongly influences decisions about where to shop for the rest of the holiday season. Deep discounts, in particular, they say, create the impression that a retailer is offering better values than competitors. "If we don't have the right door busters we don't have a good Christmas," said Ron Gregory, district manager for Sears in Chicago.
In the area where I grew up, and almost nowhere else I know of in the US, one of the tools retailers used to attract crowds was give-aways: in addition to the huge 'early-bird' specials for people who visited the store early in the morning on the day after thanksgiving, the stores would give special prizes to the first few people entering the stores.

It was these freebies which led me to the tradition I still follow, and which took up the entirety of yesterday. At some point while I was still in high school, myself and a friend of mine, Tammy, discovered that it was quite fun going from store to store, getting free stuff. At that time I didn't have a great deal of cash, so the purchases were few, but the joy of the hunt, and the madness of seeing everyone trying to get the best deal possible, made it all worthwhile.

So, yesterday evening, in rather unpleasant weather, I headed over to Tammy's (getting horribly lost along the way) so we could depart early in the morning to get the specials. As it turned out, we stayed up late playing video games and thus missed most of the specials (and in addition, some retailers have moved their hours back to absurdity, making it less likely we want to be awake to see the opening of their doors). But we made it soon enough to get a taste, and carried on seeking out the specials which run only for the weekend. We shopped the entire day, spanning two cities (Battle Creek and Kalamazoo), and massive amounts of cash were spent. Interesting events abounded. Early in the day we learned that there had been a trampling incident at a Wal-Mart nearby, which we passed along as we chatted with other shoppers and workers about the madness of the day. Later, in a push to get a present for her husband, Tammy managed to get a store which had closed to let her in and buy the game she wanted. In fact, this was part of a piece of shopper-brinksmanship which left me breathless, as it in fact involved two visits to two stores, and a bizarre swap in order to overcome inventory shortages. But it was par for the course on Black Friday.
:: David (1:03 in Michigan, 7:03 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


:: Thursday, November 24 2005 ::

Safely at home, prepping for the holiday meal. Crazy weather driving back yesterday meant it took about twice as long as usual to drive back. That said, though, now that all the snow is on the ground it's quite lovely. It's been three years since I've seen a blanket of snow like this, so for the moment I'll live with the fact that it's colder than blazes and there's snow everywhere.
:: David (9:38 in Michigan, 15:38 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, November 21 2005 ::

It's funny the things that make you think of people. I was playing with some new software for organizing music, and it flipped to La Bamba. When it hit the 'Yo no soy marinaro' line, I was reminded who taught me the line (which for a little while became a random phrase I would spout at inopportune moments for no particular moment). He passed away earlier this year. As I happen to have a glass here, with some lovely sherry in it, I propose a toast, to old friends, now departed...
:: David (18:43 in Michigan, 0:43 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


Sasha and I had an interesting lunch-time conversation, which I thought I would share. It sprung, originally, from an article on MSNBC which stated

On the ground, the shrewder analysts say, it's not entirely clear that U.S. policy has "failed." The TV news, not to mention Al-Jazeera, doesn't regularly summarize the stunning changes in Iraq, many of them morally and politically worthy. Saddam Hussein is gone and awaiting trial. Schools, hospitals and other institutions are operating in most parts of the country. Voters have adopted a constitution. And even many Sunnis are gathering in political parties that are maneuvering in advance of the Dec. 15 national elections. After the elections, the plan is that Coalition forces will use the growing number of capable Iraqi units to "clear, hold and build" a peaceful Iraq.
But if you really want to know what the media isn't saying, consider what the above quote says: "Schools, hospitals and other institutions are operating in most parts of the country." But, of course, those were working before the invasion - in many cases better than they are now.

This is the unspoken - and the analysis we all should be doing. A simple question - 'is Iraq better off or not?' But the analysis goes deep: is it better to live a normal life, where certain things are forbidden, and an absolute ruler might, for no reason or any, kill some people, or is it better to throw that ruler off, and for your newfound freedoms accept the not-so-occasional car bomb? And how long a time frame should we consider? In the short term (five years?) Iraq is a complete failure. But assuming the country pulls itself together (let us hope), there will need to be a calculus of whether five years of complete chaos is (was) better than 40 more years (or whatever) of dictatorship.

Another question not exactly being yelled from rooftops is the definition of these newfound 'freedoms'. For example, equality for women - this is not exactly something the Iraqis are clamoring for - neither men nor women. Is imposing a foreign system, including such concepts as 'equality' and 'separation of church and state', really liberation? Or is it simply trading one kind of tyranny, the traditionally recognized kind, for another - what one might call the tyranny of political correctness (as defined by the Americans).
:: David (17:59 in Michigan, 23:59 in Paris) - Comment


Well, the cat has left, but not before we could confuse her utterly by changing the layout of our apartment twice before she left. We finally found a bookcase for the living room, which we assembled and put in yesterday, in a process the cat found most curious. Then today we decided to rearrange the seating area in an attempt to get more use of the space in our living room. Much with the shuffling of lamps, chairs, and tables, and again the cat was confused. We are convinced she found us the most hyperactive people in the universe, based on her short visit. But now she's gone, and the week is upon us, so we shall return to our sedentary ways.
:: David (3:20 in Michigan, 9:20 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]


:: Saturday, November 19 2005 ::

We have a cat for the weekend. Kevin called me Friday afternoon and asked if we wanted a cat. He was headed out of town for the weekend, and rather than leaving Grr (the cat) by herself, he thought she might dig hanging out at our place (and that Sasha would love to have a cat around). So he dropped her off while Sasha was out, and when she came home, there was a cat.
:: David (19:44 in Michigan, 1:44 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


According to the Boston Globe, the French ads for Beaujolais Nouveau have changed to English, trying to attract more drinkers:

The slogan ''It's Beaujolais Nouveau time" replaced the time-honored cry of ''Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!" (''Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived!") when revelers rang in the wine at midnight yesterday with a worldwide bacchanalian feast.

The new slogan is part of a $1.17 million campaign by winegrowers to attract a hipper young clientele for their product, amid slumping wine sales in France.

"Instead of drinking Coke, we are telling young people it's better to drink a glass of Beaujolais," said Michel Rougier, head of the group promoting the region's wines.

Which I think is fair. Nevertheless, people are saying this year's crop is the best in almost thirty years, so I guess we'll have to buy a bottle or ten. Too bad it's so darned expensive here - ten dollars a bottle makes it tougher to stock up. On the other hand, a wine store across town (Bello Vino) is selling wine at 20 percent off if you buy twelve, so maybe we'll just buy a dozen....
:: David (19:32 in Michigan, 1:32 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


Shelby posted recently on the 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau season, which also links to an interesting article on the phenomenon. We did a big Beaujolais Nouveau thing in 2003, and I wrote a bunch up. But, as with all things, the novelty wore off, and as we like deep reds with loads of tannin, we more or less passed after that. That said, if you haven't tried them before, you should run out (they're in stores now) and get yourself a bottle or three.
:: David (19:18 in Michigan, 1:18 in Paris) - Comment


Some pseudo-amusement this morning: a San Francisco newspaper reports that Indian call center workers "regularly face particular abuse from Americans, whose tantrums are sometimes racist and often inspired by anger over outsourcing." Apparently all this fun has spawned a TV show in India, called (appropriately) "The Call Centre", where the scripts often spring directly from true stories.
:: David (12:32 in Michigan, 18:32 in Paris) - Comment


:: Friday, November 18 2005 ::

There's a great story up at popular science about one man's eleven year quest to make colored bubbles. Worth visiting just for the photo. (via BoingBoing)
:: David (10:35 in Michigan, 16:35 in Paris) - Comment


I've been following for some time a story which involves CDs manufactured by Sony, which broke in early November. The basics are that the CDs (of which there were fifty or so) would automatically install a program on your computer when you played the special CDs, which was designed to prevent you from copying the CD. This program would then conceal itself from your computer so it couldn't be removed, and, as researchers found, had a good chance of frying your computer if you did succeed in finding and removing it. People complained, saying it was a security hole, and sure enough, viruses then surfaced which used the cloaking device (if you will) for more diabolic purposes. Several missteps, and several lawsuits later, Sony stopped the whole project and offered to replace CDs with copies which don't have the software. Amazon.com also got into the act, offering a refund to anyone who bought the CDs.

Well, just to add a touch of farce, it seems that the software was itself partially stolen. It appears part of the code in the security program was lifted from a program written by none other than 'DVD Jon' Johansen, the well known (in some circles) Norwegian teen who broke the copyright protection on DVDs, and was subsequently sued like crazy by the Motion Picture Association of America. As The Register notes, "The irony of a company using code from someone who circumvented DRM to develop an even nastier form of DRM - without even saying 'Thanks!' - will surely feature in geek trivia quizzes for years to come."
:: David (10:16 in Michigan, 16:16 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, November 17 2005 ::

I heard an interview this morning on french radio, explaining the causes of the French riots, focusing on one rather bizarre cause. I finished listening, laughed (for a long time), and figured the whole thing had been bizarre, but short lived. Apparently the New York Times felt otherwise, because they have now picked up the thread, publishing an article on how polygamy has caused the French riots. How do we make these people stop?!?
:: David (18:19 in Michigan, 0:19 in Paris) - Comment


I haven't decided what I think of the one laptop per child initiative, which premiered their 100 dollar laptop yesterday at the UN net summit in Tunisia. On some level, it seems a very lofty goal - bridge the digital divide in one fell swoop, by giving millions of laptops away. But do I think it will work? I don't know. I'm concerned by the idea that we might simply be sending millions of boxes that will end up in landfills in a few months or years, and that the whole thing will serve no purpose. But that remains to be tested.
:: David (8:26 in Michigan, 14:26 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[5]


:: Wednesday, November 16 2005 ::

It was warm. Only yesterday, it was warm. Now the thermometer has just ducked below 30 (which is to say, below zero for my friends in centigrade land), and Sasha reported snow flurries. Sigh. On the up side, if this keeps up we'll have lots of snow everywhere. But I think it's just going to be cold, without snow, for a while.

This posting almost made the weather sound a lot more interesting than it is, because 't' is right next to 'w' on the keyboard, and 'lots of snot everywhere' would have made you all want to visit Michigan as soon as possible, n'est-ce pas?
:: David (16:51 in Michigan, 22:51 in Paris) - Comment


A little more from the BBC on the topic of white phosphorous. They quote the spokesman of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors the Chemical Weapons Convention as having this to say about the use of white phosphorous:

No it's not forbidden by the CWC if it is used within the context of a military application which does not require or does not intend to use the toxic properties of white phosphorus. White phosphorus is normally used to produce smoke, to camouflage movement.

If that is the purpose for which the white phosphorus is used, then that is considered under the Convention legitimate use.

If on the other hand the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because the way the Convention is structured or the way it is in fact applied, any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons.

Which would seem to indicate that if the chemicals are being used as weapons, there is a problem....
:: David (14:21 in Michigan, 20:21 in Paris) - Comment


Funny how some stories never make it to the US newspapers, despite being picked up quite heavily by the international press. Today's little tidbit: it is being said, without stretching too far, that the US used banned chemical weapons against civilians in the assault on Falluja. From a story on the BBC:

White phosphorus is highly flammable and ignites on contact with oxygen. If the substance hits someone's body, it will burn until deprived of oxygen.

The US State Department originally denied it had been used in last year's assault on Falluja, a stronghold for Sunni insurgents west of Baghdad.

But on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable said the substance had been used as an "incendiary weapon against enemy combatants".

Col Venable also said white phosphorus was not a banned chemical weapon.

Col. Venable was in fact stretching the truth only slightly - as the BBC notes, "Use of incendiary weapons prohibited for attacking civilians (Protocol III of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons) - Protocol III not signed by US". And, of course, the US says it was only used against "enemy combatants", not against civilians.

The story was originally broken by RAI - the Italian national television channel. Naturally it was initially denied, and now the house of cards is coming down on all sides - both the US and now the UK have admitted using the substance in Falluja - "but they were all bad" as the governor of California might note. So now there are two questions - first, how are we expected to maintain the moral high ground? Second, why isn't the American media picking up on this - this is a big story - we've used the fact that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons as one of the big 'he's a bad man' points for years. Now they say we've done the same, and we aren't also 'bad'? Why isn't the media doing their job?
:: David (12:12 in Michigan, 18:12 in Paris) - Comment - Read Comments[3]


I don't understand the conservatives in the UK at all. The BBC is reporting that "The Conservatives say the government's decision to allow 24-hour drinking will lead to an increase in drink-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour."

I think the conservatives might be confused by the language - it's not one person drinking 24 hours in a row - it's just that pubs will be able to be open all night. Not that I think one person drinking 24 hours straight would be able to cause that much trouble....

There's a theory in sociology, labelling theory, which suggests that society's reaction to behavior has an effect on future behavior - once you create a term for a type of behavior, and put that label on a person, they are more likely to behave that way (and also are expected to behave that way, increasing the likelihood that their behavior will be seen to be as expected). I wonder if all this focus placed on 'yob' behavior, especially as it relates to alchohol, isn't in and of itself partly responsible for the ''problem'.
:: David (9:35 in Michigan, 15:35 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, November 15 2005 ::

Cool! My friend Tammy won 500 bucks from one of those radio call in shows! If you go to the WRKR homepage you can see her (in her swanky tie-dyed shirt) being all wealthy and stuff. Congrats!
:: David (20:11 in Michigan, 2:11 in Paris) - Comment


There is almost an unwritten rule that some things will be forgotten until it is too late. Many of them involve weather. I managed to fall afoul of two of them in a single day today.

The first one is that you will not remember your shoes are not waterproof until it is raining. If there is anything worse than a cold, squishy sock, I don't know what it is.

There's actually a corollary of this rule, involving the fact that you will not remember a wet place in your house until you step in it wearing only socks - I fell afoul of this one a few days ago. But the leaky shoe rule is worse, because you can't easily change your footwear until you get home, whereas with the 'wet area in your house' rule, relief is much quicker.

The second 'forgotten until you need it' involving weather that got me today is windshield wipers. Thankfully, they aren't as far gone as they could be, but I've had a few times where I absolutely had to stop, en-route, because I couldn't see a thing. And of course, that means you also get to change your wiper blades in the rain - something not that fun to do even in the sunshine, made much worse by cold water everywhere.
:: David (13:42 in Michigan, 19:42 in Paris) - Comment


RFI today reported that a (French) government spokesperson had met with foreign reporters to 'explain' the situation in the ghettos. From the excerpts they played, it sounded more like he met with them to complain, saying their reporting 'caricatured' the situation in France, and didn't convey the full story. One foreign reporter retorted that they 'knew the history, were adults, and knew perfectly well how to report the story'. If her reaction was typical, the French government is not doing anything for its cause with these meetings....
:: David (13:13 in Michigan, 19:13 in Paris) - Comment


We've had a busy few movie watching days lately. On Sunday, we went to the dollar theatre to watch Serenity, the Joss Whedon 'cowboys and spaceships' movie. It was really quite good, with a fast moving plot and some excellent acting.

To counterbalance the good movie we saw Sunday night, on Monday we saw Swashbuckler, a pirate movie from 1976 we watched primarily because James Earl Jones was in it. It was... well... it was a rousing pirate movie. With some seriously questionable acting. But it was a lot of fun, so all good.
:: David (9:16 in Michigan, 15:16 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


:: Monday, November 14 2005 ::

Life is cruel. I found a job ad today, looking for people to work on World of Warcraft. The added kicker? The job is in Paris. Argh!
:: David (11:37 in Michigan, 17:37 in Paris) - Comment


This morning a headline on Yahoo News caught my attention: "US detainee had same name as Jordan bomber". I joked to Sasha 'I'm afraid to read this, because his first name will be Mohammed and his family name will be something equally common.' Reading in to the article:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces briefly detained a man a year ago with the same name as one of the suicide bombers who attacked three hotels in Jordan last week, but it was not clear if it was the same person, the military said on Monday.

Safar Mohammed Ali is one of three men identified by Jordanian authorities as the suicide bombers from al Qaeda in Iraq who killed nearly 60 people at three luxury Amman hotels on Wednesday.

Brilliant. 'Well, we stopped a John Smith a couple of months ago - it could be the same John Smith'. Military intelligence remains an oxymoron. At least Reuters had the good sense to note that the "name is not uncommon". But why they posted the story at all, let alone how it made it as the top story (and is being picked up around the media - it's the top story on Fox News as well) is a painful question.

I'm not saying this might not become an interesting story - if, somehow, the remotest of remote chances were to come to pass, and they US military had stopped the bomber and then let him go. That said, however, the US military has apparently detained tens of thousands of Iraqi men, so it would be pretty damned surprising if they haven't stopped a few soon-to-be bombers (especially if they treated them with the courtesy we've come to expect from the US military in Iraq).
:: David (10:27 in Michigan, 16:27 in Paris) - Comment


:: Saturday, November 12 2005 ::

Our friends at the Chateau de Beaupre accidentally added insult to injury to us today, by sending us tickets to the 2005 autumn salon des vins des vignerons independants, which we will not be able to attend because it's in Paris, and we aren't. Sad.
:: David (20:24 in Michigan, 2:24 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


I had an interesting conversation with my dad the last time I was home, concerning the new medicare 'prescription drug benefit'. He showed me a table, which listed the different plans available in Michigan. It ran to several pages, and had perhaps eight columns of data on the plans. He pointed me to two columns, one which purported to list what each plan covered, and one which listed the cost. One provider had three plans. The coverage column contained the same text for all three plans, but the cost was something like 10, 20, or 30 dollars per month. He then asked me how the heck he was supposed to choose one of the plans based on information like that.

Now, it just so happens that up until recently I worked as someone who read tables like this, in order to distill the salient information. But in the face of this table, I was at a loss. The New York Times has an article today which suggests that I am not alone.

"I have a Ph.D., and it's too complicated to suit me," said William Q. Beard, 73, a retired chemist in Wichita, Kan., who takes eight prescription drugs, including several heart medicines. "I wonder how the vast majority of beneficiaries will handle this. I fervently wish that members of Congress had to deal with the same health care program we do."
If the booklet my parents received was any indication of the crap the US government is sending out and calling 'informative', the prescription drug benefit will be dead on arrival.
:: David (13:35 in Michigan, 19:35 in Paris) - Comment


:: Friday, November 11 2005 ::

I see that my friend Jason in Egypt has decided to keep his blog up to date, rather than sending out really long emails on an irregular basis. Hooray! Well worth a look, even if you don't know him.
:: David (11:16 in Michigan, 17:16 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, November 9 2005 ::

By the way, for those of you wondering how the elections yesterday went, everything and everyone I voted for lost. Oh well - that seems to be the theme this decade.
:: David (23:18 in Michigan, 5:18 in Paris) - Comment


Just in case you thought it was only the French who are worried about the 'Americanization' of wine, Der Speigel's English language branch has weighed in on the subject. Of course, the Germans are well known for their sweet whites, and while Robert Parker hasn't had exactly the same effect on whites, nevertheless they're feeling the pinch.
:: David (20:47 in Michigan, 2:47 in Paris) - Comment


OK. Just for Nikki, I've fixed the time issue. Now the time in Michigan drives the day, rather than the time in the UK (where my server is located). She may rejoice, if she so chooses. The rest of you, carry on. Oh - and if the whole thing crashes, and the server goes down for a week, let me know.
:: David (17:16 in Michigan, 23:16 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]


:: Tuesday, November 8 2005 ::

I imagined that those of you who hadn't seen my hallowe'en costume would like to, so here's a photo of the two of them - me as a pirate and sasha as a bad fairy godmother. The party we attended, at a friend of mine from college's, was themed such that we all had to come dressed as bad folk (although a dispensation was noted that any heros had to be in chains. Oddly, noone took that offer up.

:: David (18:44 in Michigan, 00:44 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


The 31st of October, I saw a job posting, looking for a statistician at the University of Michigan. I went to their site, and found that in addition to a sequence of long, laborious forms one was expected to fill out, there appeared to be no way to submit them, save by snail mail or by driving over to their building.

This struck me as backward, so I phoned them to ask if there was, in fact, no way to apply electronically. Their phone system picked up, and a recorded message informed me that, although I would soon be read the main menu, in fact the phone system was down, and they could not receive calls. Could I please call back when they had fixed it.

I thought this odd, but snafus are not unheard of, especially if you are operating a large internal phone system, as the University of Michigan must do. So I sent an email, asking for verification that, in fact, there was no way to apply for jobs electronically.

That was the 31st of October.

Today, at 3:30 PM, I get an email from 'employment services' informing me that it is not possible to apply electronically, and that I must submit a paper application.

I must say - it is most clear to me why they don't want you emailing them anything - it could take months for them to find it!
:: David (15:44 in Michigan, 21:44 in Paris) - Comment


Well, it wasn't nearly as exciting as if I lived in California, but there was an election today, and I voted. The issues involved whether or not the city could raise taxes to cut down trees (the Dead Tree Tax, as it was called on the signs in people's yards), and who would represent Ann Arbor's 5th ward on the city council. Given that there was only one person on the ballot, there was not a lot of excitement, although Ann Arbor is Overrated gave me the option of writing in my vote.
:: David (14:36 in Michigan, 20:36 in Paris) - Comment


I've been looking at the new Nokia 770, which is something like a palm, only bigger. I've been thinking it would be nice to have a bigger screen for surfing the web, and this one is 800 wide - enough for the majority of websites. It will support WiFi and Bluetooth, so you will be able to use gadgets (like a real keyboard) with it, and I assume make free phone calls using VoIP. Very exciting.

While looking at this, I was sidetracked by another device, called the Gamepark GP2X-F100, which is basically a Game Boy running linux, with a USB cable for plugging it into your computer. It will do movies, books, and all that, all while running on AA batteries. Very cool. But no wifi, no bluetooth. In exchange, it's half the price of the Nokia.
:: David (12:10 in Michigan, 18:10 in Paris) - Comment


Well, I managed to call our former landlords, and I think they may send our money, finally. He wanted me to fax him some documents, I suggested email, he gave me an address, and it bounced. So I did some variations. We'll see what happens. I will be glad beyond glad when we have finished our dealings with these people. Glad glad glad. Glad.

I don't know if it was skype, or what, but he wouldn't speak to me in French. I think that might have been part of the problem - I think he spelled his own name wrong. That said, it's been a while since I spoke French, and it could have been that my French was simply... ugly. Certainly my spelling when I typed the email was horrible....
:: David (11:19 in Michigan, 17:19 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, November 7 2005 ::

Time once again for the 'what's dave reading' portion of our show. This week: regency novels. Specifically the works of Fiona Hill (a.k.a. Ellen Pall, when writing mysteries). There's actually a funny article, originally published in the New York Times, on the author's website about how she one day found herself writing regency novels, when she had originally intended to write the Great American Novel.

In addition to finding the article above on the author's website, we were also able to find some additional writers of a similar ilk, which she listed as doing similar work. This led us to the works of Clare Darcy, and we have been plowing through her as well. And of course, we still haven't read everything by Georgette Heyer, so we continue to work our way through.
:: David (17:22 in Michigan, 23:22 in Paris) - Comment


I hate adding things to the insides of my computer. It makes me crazy nervous when I'm jamming little green cards into plastic sockets which are, themselves, attached to other green cards. Today was a good example. I saw that memory was on sale at Best Buy, so I decided that doubling the RAM in my laptop wouldn't be a terrible idea, and bought a cute little 512 MB RAM chip. Opened the laptop up, slid it in as far as it would go, and thought 'hmm. It doesn't look like it's in as far as the other one...?' Turned on the computer, and sure enough, no new memory showed up. Turned it off, tried again, this time swapping the two chips to see if maybe the RAM chip I had bought didn't work. Nope. It worked fine, but no new memory was showing. The third time I opened the computer, I put the chip in at an angle, and then wiggled it (forcefully) into place. No pressure - if you push too hard you break the computer beyond repair, but no pressure. Fired it up the third time and there it was - lots of tasty new RAM. I had thought, in my more desperate moments, of going to be a tech guy at one of the retail chains, where you can pay to have some guy stick the card in and make it work. It seemed like a waste of money for the people paying to have it done, but a quick buck for those being paid. I take it all back - you couldn't pay me enough to put hardware in other people's computers - I get nervous enough on my own!
:: David (14:07 in Michigan, 20:07 in Paris) - Comment


A lovely evening had by all, playing cards, eating pizza, and in general being less that productive. At least one new card game was introduced, and in general all was right with the world. After everyone left, Sasha and I indulged in a bit of reading, and I, being an eBay addict, checked multiple times to see how much my computer had been bid up to ($210, at last count).

I had planned to write a big posting on the proposed federal budget, which includes drilling for oil in Alaska and cutting programs for the poor, but in the end didn't have time to gather all the appropriate facts. I have, however, managed to find the mailing address of my senators and my representative, and will be sending a letter on the subject relatively soon.
:: David (00:26 in Michigan, 06:26 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Sunday, November 6 2005 ::

More card playing today, assuming everyone shows up. I've been doing a little work on the website this morning, adding some websites on the left (I've put in an 'Ann Arbor' section, and I'll be adding a 'Paris' section as well, I think). I've also been putting some ads on some of the pages that attract lots of traffic - it's really interesting which pages people visit. Most of them are web pages I made when I didn't really know about meta data, so the search engines must just like them, or something. Anyway, I figured people can live with some ads on the high-traffic ones, especially if they help me pay for my website. My goal is to get just enough revenue to cover the hosting and domain name costs. I'm not sure if I'll be able to or not, but it certainly shouldn't be too difficult, given I'm apparently sending out several hundred ads per day.

In other news, apparently 1300 cars were burned last night in Paris. I'm amazed, on one level, that things are so crazy. On another level, I'm not at all surprised - the situation in the ghettos of Paris is pretty crazy. I'm just surprised the violence hasn't spread to Paris proper - the 18th and 19th certainly have some questionable areas....
:: David (13:10 in Michigan, 19:10 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


:: Saturday, November 5 2005 ::

More violence in Paris, the BBC reports the rioting has entered its tenth night. Authorities continue to try to calm the situation:

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met eight key ministers and the head of the Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur.

After the meeting, Mr Boubakeur urged a change in tone from the government.

"What I want from the authorities, from Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, the prime minister and senior officials are words of peace," he said.

Mr de Villepin has been holding a series of meetings with public figures and ordinary people from the affected areas as he seeks an end to the crisis.

Mr Sarkozy's description of rioters last week as "scum" (racaille) is said by many to have aggravated the situation - which was further inflamed by reports that a police tear gas grenade had gone off near a mosque.

My friend Tex has a little riff on the way the media has been translating the word racaille, which I found quite interesting.
:: David (18:43 in Michigan, 00:43 in Paris) - Comment


I headed over to a friend's house yesterday, to get my yearly fix of Magic: the Gathering. We played this game an awful lot in college, and since we still have the cards (they're really too expensive to throw away!) we get together from time to time to play. The game ran until about 4 in the morning, which is the latest I've stayed up in a very long time. Overall a good start to the weekend!
:: David (14:43 in Michigan, 20:43 in Paris) - Comment


According to at least one source, Firefox is more popular than ever! If you haven't already, isn't it time you tried it?
:: David (14:27 in Michigan, 20:27 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, November 2 2005 ::

And now for something... completely different: hunting space invaders in Paris. I like it. I like it a lot!
:: David (17:23 in Michigan, 23:23 in Paris) - Comment


I have been following with interest the news that Paris (or rather, the Paris suburbs) is rioting.

The basic story is familiar - some kids were killed, perhaps while being chased by police. The kids were (not white), and the cops were. Add a little poverty and inequality, and boom!

The story has an interesting resonance here in the state of Michigan, as a recent ruling has cleared a ballot initiative which would amend the state constitution, making it illegal to hire based on race or gender.

This 'anti-affirmative-action' amendment, as it is being called, cuts right to the heart of the philisophical difference between France and the United States when it comes to questions of race. In the US, it has been decided (or perhaps I should say 'in the past it was thought') that the disadvantages faced by minorities (racism, sexism, etc) must be addressed in an active way - preferential treatment in hiring, for example. In France, on the contrary, it is illegal to even ask - everyone is a citizen of the republic, and thus the same. This treatment goes so far as to make asking the question illegal, which is why the number of Muslims in France is unknown. It is, to some extent, the old 'melting pot vs. salad bowl' debate.

I would argue, and you are free to disagree, that the French experiment is a failure. Further, I would offer that it should guide us in thinking about the question of minorities here in Michigan. 'Equal' treatment doesn't happen.
:: David (17:17 in Michigan, 23:17 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


It's been a while since I last took my computer out on the town. I am meeting a friend for coffee this evening, and thought I would bring the computer down a bit early. A change of scenery is always good. Especially given how infrequently mine changes these days.

Actually, today has been quite busy, as I met a friend for lunch, as well. He brought with him a listing of positions at his company, some of which were quite interesting. Sasha, at least, felt it likely they would call, which opened the question I have been asking myself since I got home - 'should I cut my hair for the interview?' We'll see what happens....
:: David (17:04 in Michigan, 23:04 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


So I started doing some advertsing from my site today. Not on the blog, which would seem a bit bizarre anyway, but on some of my other pages. I had noticed that my digital camera page got an awful lot of hits, and I figured if a few of those people clicked through an ad, I could probably pay for the website. Which would be nice. It doesn't cost me much to have the website (less than $20 per year) but having it for free would be better than not!
:: David (21:42 in Michigan, 03:42 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, November 1 2005 ::

Arts and Letters Daily pointed me to a very interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Titled In bin Laden's Words, it describes the author's relationship to a book soon to be published, titled Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden. The book will contain an English translation of bin Laden's major statements, as well as explanation of the references (classical, Koranic, etc.) He gives an example in the article, as well as describing the difficulty of tracking them down. If you are not aware of the complexity of bin Laden's speeches, you should take a look at this article.
:: David (18:54 in Michigan, 00:54 in Paris) - Comment


You may have read recently that scientists have reported that mice have ultrasonic mating songs. Well, it took a little work, but I tracked down the actual songs (which are on the Washington University in St. Louis website). These have been adjusted so they are audible to humans. You can hear a 52 second clip, a 32 second clip, or a two second clip.

For those of a more scholarly bent, you can also read the paper, which was published in the PLoS journal under the title Ultrasonic Songs of Male Mice.
:: David (18:26 in Michigan, 00:26 in Paris) - Comment


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