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:: Monday, March 31 2008 ::

I was listening to NPR on my drive home, and they were discussing the anniversary of the speech of Lyndon B. Johnson in which he announced the US would stop bombing Vietnam, and then departed from the script to say "I shall not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your President", thus throwing the race wide open mere months before the election. And then I was looking at what else was coming up: April 4th: Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated. Then the riots. Then Bobby Kennedy is assassinated. Then the other riots. It was just a completely insane year. And that's just in the US - don't get me started on the French riots of '68.
:: David (18:21 in Michigan, 0:21 in Paris) - Comment

Slashdot pointed me to an excellent piece in the New Yorker concerning the death of the newspaper. There's nothing particularly new in the article, but it is a well written piece with a fairly complete take on where things stand, and probably where things are going. And it has mullets: "The Huffington Post's editorial processes are based on what Peretti has named the 'mullet strategy.' ('Business up front, party in the back' is how his trend-spotting site BuzzFeed glosses it.) 'User-generated content is all the rage, but most of it totally sucks,' Peretti says. The mullet strategy invites users to 'argue and vent on the secondary pages, but professional editors keep the front page looking sharp.'" The question, of course, lies in what bloggers will link to once the newspapers are gone. Obviously news magazines are an option....
:: David (7:17 in Michigan, 13:17 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, March 28 2008 ::

I don't know if you have been following the mess taking place in South America these past few weeks, but the short form is that Ecuador and Colombia have been having a bit of a border dustup, with FARC being the cause. Basically Colombia says Ecuador is harboring the rebels/freedom fighters/terrorists, and Ecuador says 'BS' and 'stay on your side of the fence, dammit!'. The Financial Times has a short piece on recent events, as does Le Monde. Naturally, Hugo Chavez is involved to, as AFP notes: "Chavez, who backed Ecuador in its week-long row with Colombia over the cross-border raid, sympathises with the FARC, which he claims have legitimate 'belligerent status,' instead of the terrorist label the United States, Europe and Colombia give it." The AFP story is actually about some more recent claims Colombia has made that FARC was trying to build a nuclear bomb, though the claims have been widely derided.
:: David (22:47 in Michigan, 4:47 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

Japan had yet another round in their epic struggle of 'WWII war crime deniers' versus, let's call them, the 'not crazy people'. In this case it was a lawsuit against Kenzaburo Oe, a Nobel prize-winning author. He claimed in a book that "the Japanese military ordered hundreds of civilians to commit suicide as US troops advanced during World War II." This is accepted as truth in the West, but as the people in his book were real people, with a reputation to protect, they sued to stop publication of the book. The judge "did not rule on whether the military ordered the mass suicides, but he concluded: 'The former Imperial Japanese Army was deeply involved in the mass suicides'" and thus dismissed the case.
:: David (9:52 in Michigan, 15:52 in Paris) - Comment

:: Thursday, March 27 2008 ::

So we are apparently in for another blizzard this fine evening, with up to half a foot (15cm) of snow expected. It's quite lovely out right now, as the snow is sticking to all the branches and such.
:: David (21:42 in Michigan, 3:42 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Wednesday, March 26 2008 ::

I feel I should mention in passing that the topic of discussion almost everywhere I go these days is the mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, and the fact that he has been charged with 8 felonies in a scandal involving sex with an aide, steamy text messages, perjury, and a multi-million dollar settlement / coverup. He's like a walking, talking symbol of the train wreck that Detroit has become.
:: David (16:59 in Michigan, 22:59 in Paris) - Comment

If I may let my car geek loose for a second, can I just say how geeked I would be if Alfa Romeo came back to the US, as the FT (via autoblog) is reporting? I know - I know - we already have a car, and if we got a second it would probably be a Smart. But still....
:: David (7:43 in Michigan, 13:43 in Paris) - Comment

Yesterday was Mina's annual visit to the vet, and she celebrated the day by being ill. So after taking her to the vet and getting her vaccinated for rabies, we got to spend the rest of the evening debating how often frequent vomiting was, and thus whether a trip to the ER was called for. In the end, we decided to trust nature to take care of itself, and that seems to have worked just fine.
:: David (7:17 in Michigan, 13:17 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[4]

:: Monday, March 24 2008 ::

How funny. I had never really thought about it before, but as it turns out the United States has outsourced its entire educational system, top to bottom, to a single private corporation. It started with the ACT, SAT, and GRE, the tests used to determine whether or not students were qualified to be students (grade history collected over several years of coursework not being as indicative as a four hour timed exam, apparently). Now I find out that ETS, the company which creates these standardized tests, is also responsible for the Praxis exam, which is used to determine whether teachers are capable of teaching (once again, a standardized test apparently conveying more information than six months to a year of observed classroom teaching, and several years of grade history). I decided some time ago that I would not take any further tests provided by ETS. Now it appears that in addition to making it virtually impossible to enter grad school, this decision also means I can never teach in the United States at the primary or secondary level.
:: David (13:45 in Michigan, 19:45 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

Chicago was a good time. We drove back yesterday (Easter) after the early morning service at Chicago's Episcopal cathedral. We didn't do much in Chicago except go out for a couple of really nice meals, and see the new baby beluga whale at Shedd Aquarium. But having some time off is never a bad thing.
:: David (10:36 in Michigan, 16:36 in Paris) - Comment

Interesting: seems the former Mrs. Sarkozy has remarried, making one wonder about the state of the relationship between the now-president of France and his now-ex-wife during the elections.
:: David (10:33 in Michigan, 16:33 in Paris) - Comment

:: Saturday, March 22 2008 ::

As today was good Friday, I had the day off. So Sasha and I decided to head to Chicago for the weekend. Little did we realize that mother nature also had weekend plans. About an hour or so into our drive the skies opened up and poured forth their snowy wrath on those below. At first people apparently didn't want to believe it, because they just kept driving as if the roads were clear. Then in a span of perhaps ten minutes we saw several accidents in a row. And then everyone drove nice and slow. So it wasn't the most fun drive, but we did make it to Chicago. And dinner this eve almost made up for the drve over. So we'll call it even for the moment. Tomorrow: shopping and art!
:: David (0:17 in Michigan, 6:17 in Paris) - Comment

:: Thursday, March 20 2008 ::

Reuters is reporting that small currency exchange kiosks in Europe are refusing to exchange dollars, because they don't want to get caught out on a currency that has been falling so quickly.
:: David (10:47 in Michigan, 16:47 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, March 19 2008 ::

As you may or may not have heard, as of February 17, 2009 TV stations in the United States will cease broadcasting analog signals. In fact, the US government just finished auctioning off the spectrum that will be freed up by the move to digital TV, and in return will claim 19.6 billion dollars (42 British pounds) from the as-yet-unannounced winner(s). Because televisions with analog tuners will cease to function as of this date, and because requiring the whole of the population of the US to buy a new TV, while a great economic stimulus plan, seemed a bit much for people to swallow, the US government has a coupon program to allow people to get subsidized (but not free) digital tuner boxes for their televisions. Being the complete technonerd (and cheapskate) that I am, I decided I should claim some of these coupons, you know, just in case. Actually, I do anticipate that someone I know or will know will come to me on February 18th, 2009 and say 'any idea why my TV stopped working?' at which point it would be nice to have a converter box floating around. But regardless of reasons, or lack thereof, I went to the coupon website and ordered myself a few. For reasons that escape me, I had expected some paper coupons that say 'forty dollars off a converter box, signed, the US treasury' or whatever. Instead I get a flash credit card looking thing that I know cost too much to produce. I am at something of a loss to determine exactly why it was necessary to make these so high tech, except that, of course, each one is worth forty US dollars (3 pence). Naturally, there is an approved list of boxes you can use your coupon to purchase, because having the government keep a list always makes things more efficient. Regardless, now I have the coupons, and I may even keep them as a funny reminder of the day the US finally went digital.
:: David (23:34 in Michigan, 5:34 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

By the way - I feel I should make some mention of yesterday's speech on race by Barack Obama (which you can watch or read). I'm personally of the opinion that yesterday's speech may have won him the primary. We'll see if the buzz keeps up.
:: David (14:08 in Michigan, 20:08 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[6]

Shortly after I read the article on Jezebel (below), I found this article in the New York Times, which I think offers a nice counterpoint to the 'this is all malarky' point of view. The article asserts that part of the reason for the problems with the market is that literally nobody understands completely what's been done.

I spent a good part of the last few days calling people on Wall Street and in the government to ask one question, "Can you try to explain this to me?" When they finished, I often had a highly sophisticated follow-up question: "Can you try again?"
Addressing the bailout question directly, the article notes "there is no doubt that giving a handout to Wall Street lenders or foolish home buyers — as opposed to, say, laid-off factory workers — is deeply distasteful. At this point, though, the alternative may be worse."
:: David (7:51 in Michigan, 13:51 in Paris) - Comment

:: Tuesday, March 18 2008 ::

The market really appreciated the rate cut today. Jezebel was less impressed.

[expletive] the Street. Please, Ben Bernanke, just [expletive] them. Raise interest rates to [expletive] 10% for the month if you must, just to master cleanse all those [expletive] of their liquidity addictions. And seriously, that $30 billion in cash you promised JP Morgan? [expletive] that. Just text Jamie Dimon tomorrow afternoon and say you can't make it, maybe he can find some sovereign growth sugar daddies in one of the Emirates or maybe China? I mean, China's got all the jobs now anyway, they might as well control a few more multinational companies in time for the Olympics, right? And really, how hard can it be to scrounge up $30 billion if Goldman managed to cough up $21 billion on Christmas bonuses?
It's always interesting to see what happens when people realize that the whole thing is a game.
:: David (23:20 in Michigan, 5:20 in Paris) - Comment

The author of some of the greatest books produced in the genre of science fiction has passed away: Arthur C Clarke was an author of hard science fiction that posited inventions decades before their time, and whose book 2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick made into a film I still quote today (though my favourite remains The Fountains of Paradise.
:: David (18:55 in Michigan, 0:55 in Paris) - Comment

More advice from our hunt for the perfect house. On the subject of bathrooms, columns for the tub are probably too much. If you already have columns for your bath, please don't tell us in the comments. It will only make us cry.
:: David (0:06 in Michigan, 6:06 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[4]

:: Monday, March 17 2008 ::

Proof China has a tin ear: don't have your premier call the Dalai Lama a big fat liar. It leads to bad press. Ignore him, and he'll go away. To Ann Arbor, where people will pay up to seventy five dollars each to see him speak.
:: David (23:45 in Michigan, 5:45 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

Monday should be another interesting day for the US stock market. Today Bear Stearns, the nations (formerly) fifth largest investment bank, went belly up. The stock was valued at 80 dollars per share when the month began. Now it has a value of two. Ouch.
:: David (0:05 in Michigan, 6:05 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, March 16 2008 ::

There's an interesting article in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine titled When Girls Will Be Boys about transgendered college students that's worth a read. Some of the more interesting point for me concerned the question of pronouns. According to the article, "some professors make sure to ask students to fill out slips indicating their preferred names and pronouns", and there has also been a growth of new word choice: "students will often use gender-neutral pronouns like 'ze' and 'hir'".
:: David (23:51 in Michigan, 5:51 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[4]

:: Saturday, March 15 2008 ::

Well, in the end, I spent four hours, got no carpet, but had an interesting experience. And then we all went out for Thai. Good enough!
:: David (23:22 in Michigan, 5:22 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

Wow. This is fast. Lost two of my four already.
:: David (14:32 in Michigan, 20:32 in Paris) - Comment

Sasha had some kind of conference to go to today, so I had to find some way to entertain myself. I decided to head to a carpet auction in West Bloomfield, a wealthy suburb Northwest of Detroit, with the idea that I could cheaply replace a couple of carpets in our house. I'm currently waiting for the auction to start, and I'm a whole lot less sure of whether or not any deals are to be had - we'll see. The fact that the sellers and staff appear to outnumber the buyers makes me wonder if this whole 'going out of business' schtick isn't more profitable than one might thnk.
:: David (14:08 in Michigan, 20:08 in Paris) - Comment

I'm working on a doc (seriously in progress) on options for internet service in the US. I'm exploring the options for when we get a new place, and trying to decide how much work it's worth. Would you buy into an internet co-op from one of your neighbours? Because it seems to me that buying a leased line and sharing it among the neighbourhood might be the best way to get quality - but it requires lots of specialized knowledge....
:: David (10:22 in Michigan, 16:22 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, March 14 2008 ::

Hooray! The BBC reminded me that today is Pi day! March 14th, or 3/14 (as the Americans write it), and according to the article, Albert Einstein's birthday.

In fact checking that tidbit (it appears he really was born on March 14th, 1879), I discovered that he had been offered, in 1952, the presidency of Israel (a largely symbolic role). I wonder if that would have changed things....
:: David (10:19 in Michigan, 16:19 in Paris) - Comment

I know you were all concerned, so let me put your minds at ease: "India's Supreme Court has thrown out a legal case accusing Hollywood actor Richard Gere of obscene behaviour" after he kissed a bollywood star in public.
:: David (7:16 in Michigan, 13:16 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

:: Thursday, March 13 2008 ::

It's interesting comparing the same event across two distinct periods of time. People would argue that things happen quicker in this age of instant global communications, but I think the signal to noise ratio is so much lower today (because there's so much information being pumped at us) that on some level, not much has changed. To wit, I give you wheat rust. I heard on the BBC today that scientists are concerned about a new strain of wheat rust which is able to overcome normally resistant wheat crops. Now, I don't think this became a problem overnight - I expect it progressed almost the same way Phylloxera did over a century ago. Someone noticed something, communicated with others, research was done, etc. and one day 'boom!' it's an epidemic, an international emergency, etc.
:: David (10:25 in Michigan, 16:25 in Paris) - Comment

If you've always wanted to live in Paris, but don't have the cash, apparently there's a booming trade in 'sex for rent'. The BBC caught up to an article in Liberation (in French) from last month. According to the author of the article, "We called a lot of men, I made something like 50 phone calls. Most of the ads that were 'against services', where no amount was specified for the rent, were men that were looking for sex in exchange for housing."
:: David (7:48 in Michigan, 13:48 in Paris) - Comment

Terry Pratchett indicates that he would not mind if someone cured Alzheimer's, in his usual poetic way: "Personally, I'd eat the arse out of a dead mole if it offered a fighting chance." He's putting his money where his mouth is (no, not there) by donating one million dollars to research.
:: David (7:32 in Michigan, 13:32 in Paris) - Comment

:: Wednesday, March 12 2008 ::

There was an interesting article in the New York Times a few days ago about an investment many businesses had gotten into that was supposed to be as good as cash (in terms of liquidity), but had a little clause many of them hadn't noticed: because the investments were sold in an auction (they're called Auction Rate Securities), if nobody turned up to buy them, you might not get your money back. Now Tech Crunch has a follow up to this, with an article suggesting one fifth of Silicon Valley Startups can't get to their money, because their money is in these securities. Oops. According to the article "Comerica has been mentioned in many of the calls I’ve had [with] venture capitalists, who say that the bank advised their clients to invest in ARSs as safe alternatives to money market funds, with a higher rate of return. 'We just had no idea this was even a risk at all,' said another VC." The economy run on growth, and startups provide a lot of growth. Kill the startup, kill the growth, kill the economy? We'll see.
:: David (17:09 in Michigan, 23:09 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Tuesday, March 11 2008 ::

Trying to dodge the taxman this season? Take a tip from two Japanese sisters: stash the cash in your house. "Tax officials say the sisters hid almost 6bn yen ($58m) in cardboard boxes and paper bags at their home in the city of Osaka."
:: David (11:11 in Michigan, 17:11 in Paris) - Comment

:: Sunday, March 9 2008 ::

I acquired a new monitor over the weekend - the old one is destined for a friend who needs one. It's amazing how easy it is to find one's self thinking '24 inches is a perfectly normal size for a computer screen'. Other than that, a whole lotta nothing. I'm looking forward to Easter - I'll have both Friday and Monday off, I believe, so that will be nice. I can't decide if I want to go somewhere, or just chill at home. I think I might be done with winter, though, and ready to get out.
:: David (22:58 in Michigan, 4:58 in Paris) - Comment

:: Friday, March 7 2008 ::

I heard on NPR this morning that four contestants on France's version of Temptation Island (a reality show about, as near as I can tell, people having sex (not to be confused with all the other reality shows about the same subject - this one happens on an island(not to be confused with all the other reality shows about people having sex that happen on an... you get the idea))) are to be paid overtime for their, uh, labour. The times has all the details, which boils down to:

With France applying a 35-hour working week, Mr Brocheton, Miss Adamiak and Mr Laizé were awarded €8,176 each in overtime when the court said that they had effectively worked 24 hours a day during the entire 12-day period.

In addition, they each received €817 for not being given a holiday, €500 for unfair dismissal, €1,500 for the wrongful termination of their contracts and €16,000 in damages for being employed illegally.

I especially like the part about not being given a holiday....
:: David (11:26 in Michigan, 17:26 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

I posted a question to slashdot, asking about a situation at work. If you are coming here from there, welcome! Traffic to this blog increased ten-fold after the question went up. As regards whether or not my question got answered, I would offer a definite 'maybe'. As a friend noted last night 'no wonder developers have a bad image as communicators, if this is how they communicate with each other!' The high point, for me, was being called a PHB, or Pointy-Haired Boss.
:: David (10:09 in Michigan, 16:09 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Tuesday, March 4 2008 ::

A name that may or may not mean anything to you, but to millions of youths (myself included) he was the coolest thing since sliced bread - Gary Gygax has passed away. Rest in Peace, and thanks.
:: David (21:55 in Michigan, 3:55 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

:: Monday, March 3 2008 ::

Today I talked to a nice young man from my bank, who said he'd be happy to give me a quarter million dollars, and that I should call back if I felt a third of a million was more my speed. He also told me that my credit was so good there was no need for pesky things like income verification. I thought that's how they all got in this situation in the first place?
:: David (23:56 in Michigan, 5:56 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

Please please please, if you are going to list your house, think about how other people might view your taste in interior decorating. To see what I mean, follow the link and click 'photo tour'.
:: David (23:07 in Michigan, 5:07 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[7]

I have no idea where to put this, but if NPR is talking about it I might as well pass it along: Stuff White People Like. It's a blog. By a white guy (as noted in his interview with The Assimilated Negro). About things. It's kind of funny, because all he really does, for the most part, is put that label on the top, and then say 'these are things a group of people like'. It could as easily be titled 'things yuppies like', and would be exactly the same content, but would probably be treated differently. Kudos to Holly for pointing this out to me!
:: David (17:02 in Michigan, 23:02 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

:: Sunday, March 2 2008 ::

Can somebody please explain to me how seemingly the entirety of the U.S.'s mainstream businesspeople became so lacking in common sense as to think the Wall Street Journal was a paper worth reading?
:: David (0:27 in Michigan, 6:27 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

:: Saturday, March 1 2008 ::

I got a haircut today, did some shopping, blah blah blah. It's been a pretty uneventful couple of days, although thinking about buying a house has been taking up a lot of the mental energy. I've also been fiddling with the computers, both in terms of using the software and in terms of moving bits of equipment around in the back room. I've determined that the only thing worse than using vista a lot is using vista and windows mobile at the same time - I was trying to get the BBC World Service on my phone, and rather than deal with their web pages all squished up, I pulled things up on the laptop first. It's such a shame, because they really do seem to have their hearts in the right place. It's really just sheer incompetence now. Witness the recently released emails showing that noone really knew what was going on with the 'Vista Ready' stickers. Or the fact that Vista will now arbitrarily reboot to install updates (Sasha saw one go midway through a powerpoint presentation, and I had it happen today while installing a large software update (interesting that vista updates get priority over other folks' updates, n'est-ce pas?)).
:: David (23:21 in Michigan, 5:21 in Paris) - Comment

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