:: Tuesday, February 28 2006 ::
I worked myself up today to post something on my blog. I had been thinking it had been a while, and I think walking home I had some pseudo-brilliant epiphany I was prepared to post. Something about world events, poverty, race relations, or the like. But after reading a fellow Ann Arborite's tale of finding her former boss' picture on one of those oh-so-sketchy online dating sites, I have been unmanned. I cannot equal the brilliance, so I shall not try.
:: David (21:21 in Michigan, 3:21 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, February 26 2006 ::
|Spent a relatively lazy weekend fiddling with my new Mac, trying to get everything working correctly, and reading random fiction (Meg Cabot and Paula Marshall). I also spent much of the morning on Sunday measuring our two bedrooms, trying to figure out if we could exchange the bedroom and the office to get a more effective use of our space. It was literally a 'back of the envelope calculation', as the spare piece of paper I found was, well, the back of an envelope. The actual work will come later, but for now it looks as though everything will fit quite snugly. At least on paper - I'm sure once we start moving furniture we'll discover all those little details that get forgotten when doing the planning.|
:: David (15:55 in Michigan, 21:55 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Saturday, February 25 2006 ::
The week ended with a rather dire event at work - I mis-typed a command, and effectively erased a couple of organizations' websites. Very sad. Thankfully there was tape backup to prevent things from going too awfully awry, but nevertheless, a rather inauspicious end to the week. Hopefully by next week all will be back as it was, and I shall be much more careful!
:: David (0:33 in Michigan, 6:33 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Tuesday, February 21 2006 ::
By the way, for those that have been following the kitten story, we have decided that she shall be known as Mina, destroyer of worlds, conqueror of galaxies. OK, the last bit I made up. The name is from Dracula, as in Mina Harker, and coincidentally also from our tour guide in Egypt (he's the one on the right).
:: David (21:03 in Michigan, 3:03 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
For those of you who follow the American news, the past few days have contained story after story about how a UAE company is taking over the British company which runs six of the largest ports in the US. Grandstanders on both sides of the political fence have been intimating (or outright saying) that we can't trust, well, anyone from the middle east to ensure our ports are secure from whatever it is people fear will be shipped in (nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, terrorists, giant lizards that will lay waste to the city, etc). To say I'm disturbed by the rhetoric is something of an understatement. In a story on the BBC, the US President is shown drawing attention to the bizarre behaviour of some congresspeople:
Which, let's face it, we really need to start saying. It's too bad there wasn't a similar stand taken for China when a Chinese company wanted to take over an American oil company, but apparently there are levels and levels.
President Bush called on opponents to explain why they opposed a Middle Eastern firm taking over when they did not oppose a British company being in control.
"I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, 'We'll treat you fairly'," he said.
:: David (19:52 in Michigan, 1:52 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, February 20 2006 ::
No matter how little you know about computers, you can probably work out that seeing this repeating message is a bad sign. Looks like the data backup wasn't quite as successful as I might have hoped. Oh well - at least I know it's gone!
:: David (21:35 in Michigan, 3:35 in Paris) - Comment
Baby's first vet visit today after work. I don't think she was very impressed. Tests, shots, prodding, and the wonderful smell of disinfectant. It was funny, because when we arrived she couldn't wait to get out of the cat carrier, but when it was time to go she was quite happy to get back in. "Yes! Put me in the carrier! Anything, so long as we leave!"
Happily, the vet indicated all seemed well, so we should be good for a year, barring unforeseen events.
:: David (20:03 in Michigan, 2:03 in Paris) - Comment
The Financial Times has an article on blogging, in which they point out that, in the end, it doesn't really matter at all:
And that, in the end, is the dismal fate of blogging: it renders the word even more evanescent than journalism; yoked, as bloggers are, to the unending cycle of news and the need to post four or five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence. No Modern Library edition of the great polemicists of the blogosphere to yellow on the shelf; nothing but a virtual tomb for a billion posts - a choric song of the word-weary bloggers, forlorn mariners forever posting on the slumberless seas of news.despite having been subjected, since joining my new company, to a wave of web 2.0 propaganda, I am still of the opinion that the FT is right. Blogging can be more, and occasionally is (witness, for example, when I filed a Freedom of Information Act claim to find out more about a chemical spill in my town), but the fact is if you don't know me, you don't know whether I'm reliable or not - and you probably aren't going to read someone for (is it three years I've been blogging?) just to get the one 'hard news' story they do. I think maybe once professional aggregators get more into the picture, we'll have something, though whether it will be the 'revolution' everyone wants to claim is coming is another question.
And, if there ever comes a time I'm blogging five times a day for fifty weeks out of the year, could y'all just fly down and beat me upside the head? Because I surely have better things to do with my time than that!
:: David (8:25 in Michigan, 14:25 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Sunday, February 19 2006 ::
Follow up on my earlier post - the house across the street (745 Fountain Street, for those who want to map it - Ann Arbor, MI) sold in October 2005 for two hundred eighteen thousand dollars. The people who fixed it up took less than six months to fix it up (though they did do a rather thorough job). Their new asking price, according to the realtor's website? Three hundred sixty thousand dollars. A tidy one hundred forty thousand dollar markup. If I were a betting man, I'd wager they didn't spend that much fixing it up....
:: David (20:53 in Michigan, 2:53 in Paris) - Comment
I think the real estate and construction people in Ann Arbor haven't quite gotten the whole 'markets go down as well as up' memo. There have been several incidents that pointed to some serious speculation in the market. For example, down the street a serious mcmansion was built over the winter, and as soon as it was finished a 'for sale' sign went up in the front yard. I expect it will sell, but I sincerely doubt for as much, or as quickly, as the people here seem to expect.
Another example involves lofts. There are several lofts being built in Ann Arbor (a loft is basically a high rise condo), including loft 322, liberty lofts, Kingsley Lane Lofts (although this one may have worked it out, as I have also seen it called "Kingsley Lane Apartments"), Ashley Mews, and I've probably missed some (help me if you can!). Now I'm not sure what the usual capitalization path these sorts of projects take is, but it would seem to me that at least one of them would have noticed that there were 10,000 other projects, exactly the same, and that perhaps this would lead to a glut in the market.
The thing which prompted my rant for today was that, earlier this morning, I opened the curtains and noted that the house across the street is for sale. This wouldn't have surprised me were it not for the fact that it was just purchased shortly after we moved in. Whoever bought it proceeded to gut the place and rebuild it seemingly from the shell up, and now apparently expects to turn a profit on their work. Maybe they will, but somehow I find it really difficult to believe.
:: David (13:02 in Michigan, 19:02 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, February 18 2006 ::
Home! Home at last! It was a long couple of days, but I made it. Lots of coffee, lots of cookies, lots of talking, strategizing, etc. It was really good to meet all these folks, as I'll be working with many of them remotely as the year progresses. The organization is quite distributed, but seems to by and large make it work.
Our conference took place at a Marriot, owned and operated by my (other) alma mater, Eastern Michigan University. It was kind of funny, as the main draw for the hotel is a golf course, but given that it is February, we were nearly the only people in the place. Gave it a bizarre, kind of 'Shining' feel at moments....
:: David (21:20 in Michigan, 3:20 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Friday, February 17 2006 ::
Misty has taken over the TV in my hotel, and is making me watch a bizarre cop show with (sexy) geeky mathematicians. I think I'm too worn out from my conference today to fend off her televisory advances.
:: David (22:28 in Michigan, 4:28 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Taking a break from our big conference extravaganza. We had some fairly interesting morning sessions, and then lunch, and next up a lot of presentations. Finish around seven or so, and then I'll probably crash, as I had to get up early to get here.
:: David (14:18 in Michigan, 20:18 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Wednesday, February 15 2006 ::
Took the day off today, playing cards and such with Misty (who, bizarrely, is in town for the work conference that I have to go to also this weekend) and Mara. Nice to have a mid-week day off - makes me feel good about the rest of the week!
:: David (18:44 in Michigan, 0:44 in Paris) - Comment
I suppose I should pass this along, just in case I haven't already made you watch one or more of the animations. The site is called you're the man now, dog, a quote from a Sean Connery film. The basic premise is to create an image and loop in some sound. Simple. So, for example, saw some wookies or corn on the kabob, both star wars gags. But then it gets interesting. Some pages become popular (safety not guaranteed, for example), and then people start to remix (like this and this). It is obscure, bizarre, and tremendously entertaining.
:: David (0:19 in Michigan, 6:19 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, February 13 2006 ::
For any of you who are interested, our kitten is home, and seems to be surprisingly happy and alert for a cat who was spayed just this morning. She purrs every time we come near her, and seems to enjoy being pet. We will keep you posted on the name issue...right now we have determined that she is *not* Sekhmet the Destroyer.
:: David (20:08 in Michigan, 2:08 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Working late on a Sunday - my favourite way to start the week! I'm actually getting fairly close to finishing my contract work, now - I can see the end, and it isn't so far away, so that's quite exciting. This week will also be the first week without backup on my new job - the person I am replacing is leaving about midweek, and after that there will be noone to point me in the right direction. It should be (a) exciting or (b) a complete fiasco. We'll see what happens.
Speaking of fiascos, apparently an inquiry into the hurricane Katrina response has been leaked. According to the BBC, the report, titled A Failure of Initiative says that "At every level - individual, corporate, philanthropic and governmental - we failed to meet the challenge that was Katrina." Sounds about right to me.
:: David (0:32 in Michigan, 6:32 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, February 12 2006 ::
Is this a joke? Did Dick Cheney really accidentally shoot someone he was hunting with? I simply can't believe it.
:: David (16:50 in Michigan, 22:50 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
We found a kitten, which just happens to be the poster child for the Huron Valley Humane Society (well, until tomorrow, I imagine, when we get to pick her up). She's called Gina by them, but we are currently racking our brains for something more 'us'. Any suggestions?
:: David (16:18 in Michigan, 22:18 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
In the spirit of Pen Island, a pen company that perhaps chose the wrong website address, comes www.buoi.com.vn, a vietnamese website which has been shut down because the word for grapefruit, which it is trying to promote, looks like the slang term for an anatomical reference. The BBC reports on the difficulty, which centers on accent marks.
:: David (9:26 in Michigan, 15:26 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, February 11 2006 ::
Safely back, and fresh from a long nap. I feel all nicely recharged and ready to face the world.
I also managed to run into Jason online, and we chatted for a while. He has managed to post all about his adventures at the African Cup final, which you can read here. We also dug up some photos of the match on the BBC website. He said the first photo was similar to where he was located.
:: David (19:29 in Michigan, 1:29 in Paris) - Comment
Waiting in the airport. Two hours in Atlanta, then a two hour flight. My colleague wanted to get a bump (the flight is full), but we missed it. Me, I'm just looking forward to getting home. After getting up at four, I need a nap.
:: David (9:27 in Michigan, 15:27 in Paris) - Comment
An article on the BBC talks about Yakushima, one of my favourite Japanese islands, and its new hydrogen powered car.
:: David (5:58 in Michigan, 11:58 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, February 10 2006 ::
Congratulations to Egypt for winning the Africa's cup - Jason was there, I think, and should post an update on the craziness!
:: David (21:33 in Michigan, 3:33 in Paris) - Comment
By the way - random event - the US started selling 30 year bonds again, after a fairly long hiatus. The auction warranted a big article in the Financial Times, because it was expected to confirm the 'yield curve inversion' - which is the short way to say that interest rates are higher for short term investments than for long term - which is unusual. It is considered important because it is considered one of the best ways to predict recession. Of course, people have been saying dire things about the dollar and the US economy for so long now that I am beginning to ignore them. We'll wait for the summer, and see if the housing bust finally drives it all home...
:: David (21:22 in Michigan, 3:22 in Paris) - Comment
We have a 6:30AM flight out of Savannah, so I'll be turning in soon. Looking forward to being home, but until then it's sleepy time for me.
:: David (21:07 in Michigan, 3:07 in Paris) - Comment
Still doing sessions at the conference. It looks like after the sessions are over, we'll have a little time to go into Savannah and see the sights. The architecture as we were driving in was lovely. I don't know much about the city, although Sarah mentioned Midnight in the Garden of good and evil, so I guess the park used for the cover of the book (with the angel statue) is around somewhere.
:: David (16:04 in Michigan, 22:04 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Thursday, February 9 2006 ::
Savannah, GA. I'm typing this from my hotel, which we arrived at moments ago. It's been quite a day, as we started for the airport around four in the afternoon. We made it to Atlanta around eight, and Savannah airport around ten thirty. Despite having no directions we used the car rental agency's map to good effect, and made it to the hotel without incident. Now I have about eight hours until the fun begins again. So I bid you all goodnight.
:: David (23:33 in Michigan, 5:33 in Paris) - Comment
By the way, in case you missed it, the president put forward a budget proposal recently. The Washington Post has a general overview. Among other things, the budget cuts $11.9 billion from student loans (I believe by capping the amount students can borrow as a subsidized loan, at a time when college is becoming the main indicator of future earnings), trims Medicare spending by $35.9 billion (at a time when health card costs are spiraling), and increases military spending, all while making his crazy tax cuts permanent (note the Post article doesn't cover that, although the NY Times does). We're going to be so in debt by the time this man leaves office that we'll never see the end of it. You better saving now, so when the massive tax increases go through you'll already have a nest egg.
:: David (8:51 in Michigan, 14:51 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, February 8 2006 ::
I'm off to Georgia for a class on Friday, so I'll be leaving direct from work tomorrow. If you're wondering what I'll be learning about, you can visit the web page of the conference. I myself have very little idea what I'll be learning, since I haven't learned it yet! Anyway, this means the blogging will be light, unless I decide to play with the internet while I'm down there. We'll see what happens.
:: David (22:18 in Michigan, 4:18 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Tuesday, February 7 2006 ::
I almost feel bad adding a non-cat post, but I feel I should put something up. Actually there isn't much to say, in that it's a work week, and I'm now working. I'm still loving the fact that I can walk to work, although yesterday tested my resolve somewhat (and today will as well, it looks like, as the thermometer is reading 22F/-6C right now). I'm using the morning walk to listen to RFI (french news radio) and the afternoon walk is devoted to music.
:: David (7:59 in Michigan, 13:59 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, February 5 2006 ::
We went looking at cats again today, or at least tried to. There was supposed to be an event at our local PetCo, but the snow apparently forced a cancellation. Since we were already in the store, we picked up all the things we will need when we do get a cat, including the craziest litter box ever, which I'm sure the cat will hate, but we think is very clever. We also admired the seven million different foods we could buy for our cat, each with its own claim to being the healthiest, best tasting food our cat will ever eat. Crazy!
:: David (21:09 in Michigan, 3:09 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Saturday, February 4 2006 ::
Sasha and I went looking at kittens today, choosing one for our apartment. We saw lots of them, and thought about bringing one home, but in the end just looked. It will be nice to have a kitten, though I think until I extricate myself from work I will not enjoy it fully.
We had a couple of options to choose from in our quest to visit kittens - tomorrow the PetCo here in town is doing a meet-and-greet for kitten adopters. However, when we visited the website of the place that will be putting the event on, the adoption form scared us off (when did you last move? Why? If you move again, will you drown your kitten before moving?) So we went to another place, which fortunately was expecting someone, as they were appointment only. So we dropped in and wandered among the kittens for a while. Fun.
:: David (17:09 in Michigan, 23:09 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Friday, February 3 2006 ::
I worked all day today! It was hard! I'm sleepy!
The weekend looks to be chock full of pension-y goodness, as well, but that at least I know, so I don't spend the time producing little (or nothing at all). Hopefully I'll be able to wrap this all up before too long, as I'm not sure I can sustain two such disparate projects.
:: David (23:27 in Michigan, 5:27 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, February 2 2006 ::
OK - time to stop blogging and get ready for work. Tee hee!
:: David (8:30 in Michigan, 14:30 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
More on cotton - according to Worldview, citing the UN,
in 2002 the average cost for a U.S. farmer to produce a pound of cotton was 86 cents. However, their cotton was exported at 37 cents-43 percent the cost of production. The 57 percent difference was paid by U.S. taxpayers and the impact was felt by cotton farmers unable to compete with artificially deflated prices. Oxfam estimates that cotton was produced at a net loss to the United States that year, with the amount of subsidies-$3.9 billion-exceeding the value of cotton produced by around 20 percent. Despite the fact that the United States is a high-cost producer on the global stage, low-cost producers such as Brazil and West Africa are unable to compete with the high level of subsidies that push prices to record lows.
Interestingly, most data I've seen on the program congress cut suggests that the so-called 'step 2' subsidy only subsidized about three cents per pound. So call it a 7% cut in overall subsidies. Not very much. On the other hand, it seems the recipients of the subsidy were a highly concentrated group of around 14 companies, and the overall cost per year was more than 100 million US dollars. So it's a small step in the right direction.
:: David (8:29 in Michigan, 14:29 in Paris) - Comment
The BBC is reporting that the US has eliminated subsidies on cotton, widely protested as hurting developing nations and recently ruled illegal by the WTO.
While the article is too vague for me to make very much informed comment on the issue (I find it difficult to believe all subsidies were scrapped, for example), it does point out that this is a result of developing countries learning to use the WTO. Previously, it has been said that the arrangement has only benefitted developed countries, so it's good to see some results for the developing nations.
:: David (7:19 in Michigan, 13:19 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, February 1 2006 ::
Tomorrow I start my new job, so it's time for me to turn in. Wish me luck!
:: David (23:51 in Michigan, 5:51 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
The CBC is reporting that what was looking like an unfortunate misunderstanding may in fact have been trigger happy American soldiers. It seems on Tuesday, everyone agrees US troops opened fire on "a vehicle carrying the Canadian chargé d'affaires to Iraq and three other diplomats in Baghdad". The story splits from there - the US military reported that "as the Canadian vehicle approached the convoy on the road, American troops used hand and arm signals ordering it to stop. The statement said the vehicle did not slow down so U.S. troops fired what they called warning shots, fearing a suicide bombing attack." Apparently, 'warning shots' included firing into the engine block and, reportedly, at least one hit to the passenger compartment.
According to the Canadians, however, it wasn't very much like that at all, and, of course, didn't include the 'hand and arm signals'. "The diplomat, who was not named, said no one in the Canadian vehicles remembered seeing anyone signalling to them. The first sign they had of a problem was when they heard a booming sound."
:: David (23:43 in Michigan, 5:43 in Paris) - Comment
It's worse than I thought - it's pretty much all of Europe that has re-run the cartoons of the prophet.
Oh well - six more weeks of religious tolerance winter now that cartoonist Phil has seen his shadow.
France Soir, Germany's Die Welt, La Stampa in Italy and El Periodico in Spain all carried some of the drawings.
In Berlin, the prominent daily Die Welt ran a front-page caricature of the prophet wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb.
:: David (11:43 in Michigan, 17:43 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Oh lord! A story in the BBC alerted me to the fact that a French newspaper has chosen to reproduce the images which caused so many problems in Denmark. According to the BBC,
Given that boycotts in the Middle East have hit some Danish firms quite hard, you'd think the French wouldn't have been keen to wade in. But you'd have been wrong.
Under the headline "Yes, we have the right to caricature God", France Soir ran a front page cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods floating on a cloud.
It shows the Christian deity saying: "Don't complain, Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here."
The full set of Danish drawings, some of which depict the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, were printed on the inside pages.
:: David (10:19 in Michigan, 16:19 in Paris) - Comment