Friday, March 31, 2006

[geek] Advice for consumers of custom software

Dearest and most beloved of our customers, for are not all of our customers dear and beloved? when we* tell you that we will humbly deliver to you, for your gracious and considered review, a stable and mostly-'feature-complete' Beta on Monday, the proper response does not include "So, I can put this into production Tuesday, right?" Nor does an appropriate and measured reaction include "That's great! Where's [previously undiscussed feature 'x']?" Such questions can only lead to conflict, sadness, woe, recriminations, and angst such as the stuff of which great sagas are composed. Wailing, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, and lamentations - all of these can be yours for such ill-considered speech. Exactly who will be doing the bulk of said wailing, gnashing, rending and lamenting may be open to some question. Rest assured, however, that you will do your share. That is all. [*] "We" meaning the development team and/or the management - preferably 'and', but that's a whole 'nuther blog post.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

[geek] Doing my part to subvert the digital monoculture...

Not that our house has ever truly been a monoculture - at any given time we have a doddering Compaq Win2K desktop, a new-ish Dell WinXP desktop, at least 1 XP laptop, 1 Mac OSX Powerbook & 1 i-Mac (purple, thanks for asking...) running... uh... Mac OS 9.x, I think. Don't ask me - all I know is that it's a Mac and it's purple. And that's without counting the PDAs & Java-enabled cellphones... But last night, a penguin joined our household: I brought home a 2nd laptop from work, an ancient and twitchy Fujitsu that's running Red Hat Fedora Core 5. Why? As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been keeping an eye on Novell's Mono project, and my (Windows-centric) office wants to evaluate it as a development environment... We're doing more work with academics, and, well, it'd be a decent business move on our part to incorporate more Open Source software into our arsenal. Despite Microsoft's efforts to woo the University of Washington with sweetheart pricing deals, there's still a lot of support for and interest in Open Source software at UW. Seeing as how much of our current development is done in C#/.NET, being able to use that codebase on Mono could make it easier to port our software to Linux, which in turn could make us a more attractive candidate for inclusion on grants that required custom software development. So far I like it - it may be the machine that it's running on, but I don't see a whole lot of difference in performance between Fedora & WinXP. On the plus side, I haven't seen anything about it that would prevent me from making this my working (or home) environment, either... My big question now is this: as a Windows programmer who's never bothered with the ins and outs of hardware or OS support, what's the best way to acquaint myself with the arcana of Linux? At any rate, I'm looking for recommendations. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

4 Comments:

Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

As root start deleting things. Doesn't matter what - the more arcane the better. Then restart the laptop.

Fixing what you broke will keep you busy and teach you things you never dreamed of.

Kidding of course. You're too advanced for a Dummies book so .. dunno. From my POV it's just another unix OS.

3/30/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger protected static said...

"From my POV it's just another unix OS."

See, that's the problem... I have zero experience with *nix environments, not counting my very limited use of a shell account to get and send email 13+ years ago. My non-Windows experiences are limited to VAX/VMS & MPE - both through terminal emulation on a PC - and futzing around on Macs. Old Macs. Like Mac Classic & Motorola StarMac kinds of old.

But yeah - I nixed the idea of a Dummies book, too. Time to go to browse O'Reilly, methinks.

3/30/2006 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Stephen Spencer said...

This (Running Linux) is a good book.

3/30/2006 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

Saw that and considered it... The Fedora Core 5 books are all at least a month away from being published - not too surprising considering that Core 5 was only released a couple of weeks ago.

Thx for the recommendation - I'll check it out.

3/30/2006 11:29:00 PM  

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Monday, March 27, 2006

[geek] 30-second science blogging - Tank, I need an exit...

Wow... I'll let this speak for itself:
The line between living organisms and machines has just become a whole lot blurrier. European researchers have developed "neuro-chips" in which living brain cells and silicon circuits are coupled together. The achievement could one day enable the creation of sophisticated neural prostheses to treat neurological disorders, or the development of organic computers that crunch numbers using living neurons. To create the neuro-chip, researchers squeezed more than 16,000 electronic transistors and hundreds of capacitors onto a silicon chip just 1 millimeter square in size.
How cool is that?

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[politics] Do you ever feel as if...

...you're living in a "Mommy, mommy" joke? Mommy, mommy, why am I running in circles?
Victims described how they were beaten with canes,whips, hosepipes and metal rods, and how other victims were forced to watch as their family members were tortured in front of them. In a report dated February 11[, 2003], Amnesty [International] said other methods of physical torture de-scribed by victims include the use of falaqa (beating on the soles of the feet), extinguishing of cigarettes on various parts of the body, extraction of fingernails and toenails and piercing of the hands with an electric drill. -- The Sunday Business Post (Ireland), 23 March 2003, "Gruesome details emerge of Iraqi torture methods"
Shut up kid...
A little lower are a series of horizontal welts, wrapping around his body and breaking the skin as they turn around his chest, as if he had been beaten with something flexible, perhaps a cable. There are other injuries: a broken nose and smaller wounds that look like cigarette burns. An arm appears to have been broken and one of the higher vertebrae is pushed inwards. There is a cluster of small, neat circular wounds on both sides of his left knee. At some stage an-Ni'ami seems to have been efficiently knee-capped. It was not done with a gun - the exit wounds are identical in size to the entry wounds, which would not happen with a bullet. Instead it appears to have been done with something like a drill. -- The Observer/Guardian (UK), 3 July 2005, "Revealed: grim world of new Iraqi torture camps"
...or I'll nail your other foot to the floor.
THERE was no sign of danger as Mohammed Sammarai arrived at his brother Mustafa’s home for lunch last week, no hint that this would be their last meal together. It was not until after they had been joined by their old friend Ali Ahmad that they heard a commotion outside and realised something was wrong. Even then, the three men — all government employees, all Sunnis — had no inkling of the terrifying events that were about to overwhelm them. [...] “I walked home barefoot in a terrible state,” [Ahmad] said. “I could not call any official to report this. How could I when they were involved?” Two days later he found his friends’ bodies in the city’s Teb al-Adli mortuary. Mustafa’s right eye had been gouged out and his right leg broken. Other parts of his body appeared to have been penetrated by an electric drill, an increasingly common tool of torture in Iraq. Mohammed’s body bore similar injuries. Both men had been shot in the head. -- The Sunday Times Online (UK), 5 March 2006, "‘Driller killers’ spread a new horror in Iraq"
Yeah. I didn't think it was funny either.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

[random] In illusion comfort lies

Ah... just got back from seeing the arrogant-but-talented Andrew Eldritch and his current incarnation of The Sisters of Mercy... Oh, and Doktor Avalanche, of course. Wouldn't be The Sisters without the good Doktor. It wasn't the best show I've ever seen them do, but overall I'd give it a solid B+. The opening act was a weird fit - the former lead singer for The Catherine Wheel did a solid solo set of material from his new album, and closed with "Black Metallic". He was good, but not what the crowd was there for, and not what had been advertised (I wonder what happened to The Warlocks - I'd heard some of their samples online, they'd have probably been pretty good. Of course, maybe that was the problem... Andrew does not like to share the spotlight.). The sound sucked intermittently, there was way too much fog (setting off the fire alarms towards the end of the show), but it wasn't a bad set, with lots of 'old' and 'new' ('Vision Thing' counting for most values of 'new') - there were a couple of truly new songs, so maybe he is finally coming out with a new album! Ouch. Okay, I think I strained my sarcasm gland on that one... I do have to ask what the fuck was up with the crowd? Man, that was one of the uglier crowds I've been in for a while - there was a lot of pushing & shoving, and Seattle isn't usually like that, even when you're right in the thick of it. That's the closest I've come to brawling in a club in, like, more than a decade... On the cool side, since it was an all-ages show, there were a bunch of parents with their kids there - most of the kids looked to be around 8 or 9 years old. We were really close up to the stage, and towards the end, a mom came through with her little girl who promptly got (somewhat cramped) red carpet treatment - she got right up to the front, wound up on some random guy's shoulders - she got to see it all, all through the last couple of numbers and the encores. She even scored some guitar picks - both guitarists saw her, and one reached over and expressly passed the picks to her. That was probably the best part of the night ;-) Youth - so wasted on the young...

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

[politics] "Every war plan looks good on paper..."

"...until you meet the enemy." So saith our President, in his second press conference this year, by way of defending Rumsfeld and his prosecution of the war in Iraq. Well, neither Bush nor Rumsfeld appear to remember what this quote (as originally given) really means: when von Moltke said "No plan survives contact with the enemy", he meant that operational rigidity will be the death of your campaign. You see, von Moltke realized that the very nature of warfare guarantees that you cannot count on things going as planned. There is no "Hoyle's Rules for Warfare" that states how the enemy must respond to your attack. This is not chess with its formalized moves nor is it go, with its stylized strategy. This is infantry warfare, unchanged in its basic principles since the late 19th century: kill the enemy before he kills you. Hold the ground you take. Kill the enemy if he tries to retake your captured territory. In Patton's words, don't die for your country; make some dumb bastard die for his country. The 'quaint' rules of the Geneva Accords were arrived at because of these simple and brutal truths of modern land warfare. Those are the only rules one can expect on the battlefield - everything else must revolve around operational discipline and flexibility. The enemy will not fight according to your plan. He never has; he never will. Yet Rumsfeld has been so enamored of his "Transformation" process that he refused to listen to the advice of his generals in planning the ground war. He has refused to modify his tactics in the face of unexpected enemy tactics. He has refused to modify his plan in the face of evidence that it is not working. He is holding to his plan, even though the enemy isn't behaving the way the plan says they should. Rumsfeld has forgotten or deliberately ignored the truths of von Moltke's words, and our military is paying for it. With their lives. And our country is going to keep paying for it long after Bush and Rumsfeld are out of office. And Iraq is going to pay for it with usury-level compound interest. (Note: Blogger's photo upload chokes on this image, so I've hot-linked to the original site where it was found - the image is from Ft. Stewart, GA, and the April 2003 memorial service that the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) held. I'll edit the photo later and see if changing the size or compression helps.)

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Monday, March 20, 2006

[geek] w00t!

It was a w00t kind of day for me - pure, unadulterated, happy, geeky w00t dances all 'round. Why? I hear you ask with bated breath... (Okay, I don't hear you asking this at all, but dammit, it's my blog and I'll post what I friggin' want to. So there.) I won't prolong your agony of anticipation any longer: 2 software releases. ([Whaa!?] Yeah, whatever. As if you couldn't guess that a post titled 'w00t!' wouldn't be geeky...) First, Red Hat just released the latest version of their flavor of desktop Linux, Fedora Core 5. Who cares, right? Well, it's one of the first major Linux distros to include Mono pre-loaded. I know - more 'who cares?'. Screw all y'all - finish up your 2 drink minimum and get the hell out. But for those of you who're sticking around, Mono's importance is this: Mono is a multi-platform port of Microsoft's .NET environment. .NET is the core of Microsoft's current generation of development tools - in theory, because Mono has been coded to the standard Microsoft submitted to ECMA, pure .NET code should be relatively easy to port from OS to OS. Windows, OS X, Solaris, Unix, Linux: Mono installs on all of them and provides a consistent Application Programming Interface (API) against which to write programs. Unlike Java, where individual Java Virtual Machines for different operating systems might or might not have support for various features, Mono defines a core set of APIs that will always be present once Mono is installed. Trust me - this could be a Very Cool Thing. Yeah, yeah, SUSE was first to include Mono in their desktop distro, but a.) Novell owns both SUSE and Mono (and you'd expect them to eat their own dogfood) and b.) IIRC, more people use Fedora than SUSE, so I'm a lot more excited about Red Hat. Their decision to include Mono is an acknowlegement that Mono is a mature and stable product. That was w00t dance #1. w00t dance #2 actually came from the Beast of Redmond (yeah, I can hear the Open Source geeks leaving now - don't forget to tip the waitstaff on the way out, 'kay?). During today's sessions at the Game Developer's Conference 06 (GDC06), Microsoft began to roll out parts of their new XNA platform. XNA is a game development toolkit that should go a long way towards unifying and streamlining Xbox 360 and PC game development. It will also extend the .NET API to more readily perform common game-related tasks, as well as allow for a specialized version of the .NET environment to run on the Xbox 360. All this is cool in a (for me) geeky but abstract way - what really got me going, though, was the release of the XNA Build toolset. Games require lots of media, right? Images, video, sound, textures - lots and lots of media. Managing this media gets more and more cumbersome the further into a game's dev cycle you get - and many times, problems with the media content aren't discovered until late into the cycle. To this end, many game companies have rolled their own 'asset pipeline' tools - think version control mixed with content management, and you'll have a broad idea about what's involved. This weekend, I bought (and read) Ben Carter's The Game Asset Pipeline - on the one hand, I learned that there's a lot I don't know about developing games... But more importantly, I learned that there are, like, actually tools and methodologies out there for dealing with game assets. Going into the book, I had a hunch that many of the problems faced by our dev team with our media-rich software were not unheard of - and I was right. Asset management is one of the weak points in our development process right now, and Carter's book laid out both the scope of the problem as well as ways to address it. And then Microsoft stepped in today with XNA Build - an asset manager built on the .NET platform, designed to be integrated into Visual Studio. Guess what's installing on my laptop right now? w00t!

3 Comments:

Blogger Kristina said...

Geek.

:)

3/21/2006 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger protected static said...

Yeah, but you like, stuck around to read the post and like, leave a comment.

So, uh - what does that say about you? Hmmmm...?

3/21/2006 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Hrmph.

3/22/2006 10:09:00 PM  

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

[random] I belong to the ... generation

While driving to the destination of today's Fresh Air Outing, Compulsory, The Boy asked me to put on some music. "What do you want?" "I don't know; something you like." Hm... Opportunity knocks. Emboldened by my earlier successes, I figured this might be a great time to see where the limits of The Boy's musical perimiters were. Time for reconaissance by fire, dropping artillery about a general area until a you discover something interesting. I figured that as long as we were probing, we might as well go long - Einstürzende Neubauten, it was! "Whaddaya think?" "Too strange." Whoops... Jeez - and I even started off with Feurio! instead of Prolog. Oh well. Next up? Richard Hell and the Voidoids! "Whaddaya think? Too strange?" "No, I like it - turn it up." Hah! Fire for effect! Next outing I'm thinking maybe some Joy Division... or maybe The Clash... or perhaps...

5 Comments:

Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

or perhaps...

Meatloaf - 'Bat out of Hell'.

Lou Reed - 'New York'. Warning - lyrics may be questionable.

3/19/2006 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

Warning - lyrics may be questionable.

Yeah - what with The Boy being not quite six, lyrics are of, um, high importance...

'And the colored girls go doop-de-doop-doop-de-doop-doop...'

3/19/2006 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous karen m said...

Based on what The Boy went for in the past, I'm guessing both Joy Division and The Clash will be winners.

At our house, X has proved to be both an unexpected hit with my 4-year-old, and a challenge for me. Should I really let her listen to "We're Desperate"? The Cocteau Twins aren't "bouncy" enough for her, so that was a huge flop. Good bedtime music though.

3/20/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger protected static said...

I thought we had a shot at Neubauten - he really liked Hedningarna, which I can only characterize as Viking folk songs on acid - with guitars and the occasional power tool...

As for We're Desperate, how attuned is Big Girl to the lyrics? 'Coz The Boy, he doesn't miss a thing... I skipped Love Comes in Spurts for that very reason - it's catchy enough that I could easily picture him loudly belting that one out on the playground...

3/20/2006 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous karen m said...

Oh yes. She listens to the lyrics well enough to sing along. "White Girl" - pretty funny. "We're Desperate" - arguably funny, but could start a war with Evil Dad. I can see how "Love Comes in Spurts" could be a problem too.

3/20/2006 11:41:00 AM  

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

[politics] But hey! At least there aren't any more rape rooms!

No more mass graves, no more torture. Remember those promises we made in - what was it? April? May of 2003? Probaby around the time that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was unfurled? So what the fuck is this?
[...] an elite Special Operations forces unit took one of Saddam Hussein's former torture centers near Baghdad Airport and made it their own. They called it the Black Room. "In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball," the reporters relate. "Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations.
But wait - this is but the merest of prologues.
"The Black Room was part of a temporary detention site at Camp Nama, the secret headquarters of a shadowy military unit known as Task Force 6-26. Located at Baghdad International Airport, the camp was the first stop for many insurgents on their way to the Abu Ghraib prison a few miles away. "Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, 'NO BLOOD, NO FOUL.' The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: 'If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it.' According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. 'The reality is, there were no rules there,' another Pentagon official said.
"...no rules there". So - anyone tried to track down that "Democracy! Whisky! Sexy!" guy to find out what he thinks now? Not so much 'democracy' or 'whisky' under the mullahs, eh? And as for 'sexy' - well, unless your idea of sexy crosses way past the line of 'safe, sane & consensual' and heads on into 'rape, torture and mutilation gives me a woody', this probaby isn't it.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

[geek][random] White elephants galore!

So the other day, I was driving down by the UW Surplus building and saw that they had an auction coming up this weekend. Being the pack rat that I am (and I loves me some good, cheap tools), I had to take a look and see what they were offering... There're some interesting-looking lots of hand tools - and computers by the shrink-wrapped pallet (PC and Mac... and even some Sun stations tossed in) - but the best item by far (just in sheer "WTF?" terms) has to be this: a USAF 16-man Altitude Chamber, complete w/ vacuum pump. I don't know how often UW expires their auction-related links, so should the above come up with the screamin' 404, video of the device in action can be found here, under "Ballute Vacuum Inflation Testing" - QuickTime MOV or Windows Media WMV. Now that's a white elephant! ;-)

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

[geek] Of clipper ships, schooners, steamers and yachts...

Brian Dunbar, over at Space4Commerce, passed along an excerpt from a piece that discussed the motivations for space travel, as well as comparing and contrasting the pros and cons of manned vs. robotic space exploration. The piece he linked to touched upon a number of topics I've been meaning to expound upon but haven't quite managed, so when the comment I was typing on Space4Commerce started to become post-length... well... I decided to actually get my act together and, well, post something. Throughout history, the biggest motivators for mass migrations has been what can crudely be described as economic. There's some magic tipping point where the perceived risk and the actual cost of leaving everything behind and starting over is lower than the 'cost' of staying behind. Rarely is it for ideological or moral reasons - that may be the rhetoric used to encourage people, but behind it all tends to be an economic (if not ouright profit) motive. Someone, somewhere, is expecting to make a profit on the venture - and that profit is what has largely been missing from our current system of space exploration. Financial exposure must be somewhat limited and the promise of profit must be at least somewhat realistic in order to make investing in such a venture tempting - and in the case of the people who would actually make such a voyage and be the pioneers, the cost of participating must be relatively low and the risks of participting must be seen as being lower than the risks of staying put. In the case of European and Asian migrations to the US, shipping was streamlined to the point where steerage was within reach of many of the poorest of Europe's citizens - around the same time, the American West was more or less pacified, and so the costs of mass expansion Westward were lowered for the people who were already firmly established in the Eastern urban areas. That lower cost, those lower barriers - they contribute to the decreased sense of risk on the part of those making the voyage and make it far more likely that someone who wants to go will do so. So where does the space elevator come into this? Well, to torture my metaphors a while longer, I see the effort to build the elevator as the 21st century version of building schooners or clipper ships - while current manned spacecraft efforts are, to keep with the Gilded Age theme, more akin to building wooden racing yachts, like the one for which the America's Cup was named. Sure, you can circumnavigate the globe or move people with a 40m yacht, but the cost is prohibitive... Now the schooner - that can move stuff. And people. In bulk. And in comfort even, if you so desire. The elevator may not even need to be a clipper ship to have a major impact upon creating that tipping point - the elevator could be the proverbial 'slow boat to China'. Those boats may have been slow - but they were responsible for moving tons upon tons of commerce as well as immigrants. One-hundred-fifty years or so ago, these boats were an engine of commerce, of society, of innovation. Their existence reduced barriers - barriers to trade, to innovation, to emigration. A space elevator has, in my opinion, the potential to serve the same role today: a reducer of barriers, a force multiplier, an opportunity engine. This is not to say that current space technology should be abandoned, nor is it to take sides in the robots vs. man debate. Rather, I would simply like to point out that a lot of what counts against manned space flight is, frankly, the cost - and that the mindshift from producing yachts to producing clipper ships or schooners (or even steamships) could go a long way towards lowering that expense. And lowering expense could be a major step towards reducing the perception of risk associated with getting people into space on a much larger scale than we've seen to date. And that could lead to a whole new Age of Exploration, and possibly even some healthy and productive international competition... And both of those strike me as having the potential to be Really Good Things.

4 Comments:

Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

Rarely is it for ideological or moral reasons - that may be the rhetoric used to encourage people, but behind it all tends to be an economic (if not ouright profit) motive.

Borderer instinct is rare but should not be discounted. The anglo-celts that filtered across the Appalachians in the 18th century headed right out of time into the frontier. That they went wasn't directly down to economics - they were dirt poor by anyone's standards - but for other less tangible reasons.

The true pioneers weren't especially numerous compared to the regions they left behind but they did stamp their - our - culture with their folkways and habits of thought.

Hunger for the frontier isn't easily defined but it is a powerful force.

3/18/2006 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger protected static said...

Hunger for the frontier isn't easily defined but it is a powerful force.

Ain't that the truth... I was thinking more in terms of the early English colonies in North America - while many were founded under various banners of freedom of association, the charters upon which they were founded were truly "articles of incorporation" - and when the colonies began to turn a profit, the state that issued those charters reclaimed them as Crown Colonies.

3/18/2006 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

Ain't that the truth... I was thinking more in terms of the early English colonies in North America -

Serendipity - I read this reply, then the next thing in my RSS feeder was

Corporate origins of the United States

When looking at the legal and political history that led up to the formation of the United States of America, judges and historians typically look to English royal and Parliamentary edicts as explanations and precedents for the American government. This is too limited a view. Usually neglected are the unheralded, deep, and indeed often dominant influences on the United States government from medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque-era era corporations.
http://unenumerated.blogspot.com/2006/03/corporate-origins-of-united-states.html

3/30/2006 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

That looks interesting - I'll have to check it out...

3/30/2006 08:07:00 PM  

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

[geek][politics] Hey, LiftPort! Here's how to finance the space elevator!

A month or so ago, Brian Dunbar observed in my comments that y'all should patent aerobraking and then collect royalties. I'm telling you, the time is ripe for such a move! Why? Because IBM was just granted a patent (7,003,497) for (ready? sitting down?) confirming an electronic transaction with an email. Breathtaking in its stupidity simplicity, isn't it? Think of the advantages - you'd have complete financial freedom, and you wouldn't ever be beholden to VC-weasel-suit-types (I've heard the horror stories). Just remember - package it as a business process, and USPTO should go for it like... like... Congressmen for a lobbyist's junket! Oh yeah - I'll want a modest slice if you pull it off... A finder's fee of sorts. Coz' I'm nice that way. It can even be a one-time fee instead of a percentage. Coz' I'm nice that way. [via SIVACRACY]

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Monday, March 13, 2006

[random] No, not jealous at all.

My friend Kristina has posted some photos of the Nasca drawings taken during her recent trip to Peru. We hate her. We're glad she's back safe and sound. And no... I'm not the slightest bit jealous.

2 Comments:

Blogger Kristina said...

Hee. Um... thanks? for the welcome back. Just wait until I get the rest of the photos up (tonight, probably). :P

Boy it's given me a travel itch to scratch. Kids' passports are in the mail, so nothing stands in our way...

Except, oh, maybe money and time. DAMN!

3/20/2006 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger protected static said...

If we were to draw a Venn diagram of "Enough Time" and "Enough Money", how much overlap would there be?

Me, I'm betting on a thin edge of overlap at best...

3/20/2006 11:00:00 AM  

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[geek][politics] When in (political) doubt...

...borrow a move from the culture war playbook. Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton & Dick Durbin want the CDC to study the latest public health menace - video games:
Long time foes of the video game industry persuade Senate committee to approve a sweeping study of the "impact of electronic media use" to be organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
Because, as we all know, the CDC has nothing better to worry about - and as one of the (alas, all too rare) lucid posters on gamedev.net observed, it'll be about as well spent as the $100 million spent on evaluating the power of prayer over medical outcomes. And if anyone was wondering why I don't trust the DLC and their ilk, just take a look at the cosponsors of the bill.

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

[geek][politics] ...and great was the fall of it

iStockPhoto - Copyright: Sandy Jones Normally, I can't stand CIO Magazine - okay, that's not entirely fair; I find it interesting to see industry trends and who's pushing what agenda, but I have very little tolerance for buzzwords and weasel-speak... And IMAO, the ratio of ads to weasel-speak runs fairly high. Not as high as some of the free trade rags, but still... Let's just say that I read it with a box of Diamond Kosher salt close at hand. So when I was reading the current dead-tree issue (not online yet), I was surprised by how strongly "What Can Tear Us Apart" by Juan Enriquez resonated with me. Enriquez points out a number of factors that have the potential to, as he phrases it, create an "Untied States of America", a confederation (if we're lucky) instead of a federation. Yes, Enriquez has a vested interest in avoiding the scenario he portrays - his company, after all, is a venture firm specializing in biotech - but I think his thesis bears closer examination. Enriquez points out that throughout the world, increased disparities between regional economies has led to increased demands for regional autonomy. He points out that much of the US economy is increasingly driven by fewer zip codes - and those zip codes are largely in metro urban areas in the 'blue' states. This is somewhat simplistic, but really - even in the 'red' states, the economic centers tend to be urban. These economic engines also tend to be on the purple side of things, in contrast to the deep-red exurbs and rural areas around them. Of course, life isn't as simple as the blue-red dichotomy that makes for good media stories and good political theatre... But that political theatre is driving policy decisions that will have an impact upon our economy. The strain of politics that has come to dominate the 'red' states is increasingly incompatible with the economic realities of the 'blue' states - feeding into such internet phenomena as the "Fuck the South" essay or the "United States of Jesusland" JPGs that circulated far and wide in the wake of the 2004 elections. Even within 'blue' states, there are active 'red' constituencies that seek to differentiate and distance themselves from 'those people' in the cities - hell, read the letters to the editor in Seattle's two daily papers, and you'd think that we had Berkely vs. Alabama within a 40 mile radius. And in many respects, we do: it's all right-wing-bigot-this vs. stupid-commie-liberal-that. Enriquez's article ties directly into the two pieces I wrote yesterday (part 1, part 2) - this insistence upon the subjugation of science (and here I'm using 'science' as broadly as possible - education, technology, research) to ideological ends will only exacerbate these existing tensions. The "Fuck the South" essays will multiply - and "Fuck the North" essays will arise in response. And last time that happened, it wasn't pretty... The seeds of the Civil War were sown at various points in our nation's history - some a century earlier, some but a few decades. It takes a while for such seeds to bear fruit, but when they do, stand back; the harvest is be a bloody one. coda: Yes, the title's from Matthew 7:24-27, houses built upon rock and sand and all that... I'm not one for Bible verses, being the unbeliever that I am, but I do appreciate good metaphors and turns of phrase.

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[random][geek] You have been eaten by a gru.

Step into the Wayback Machine, Sherman... We just had to explain to The Boy what text-based computer games were like. There was much pondering. "But what do Grus look like?" "We don't know - the game never told you." "Maybe they come out of their caves." "Yeah - when they ate you. And then who could you tell?" Breakfast resumed, The Boy was clearly dissatisfied. I anticipate at least a couple of days' worth of questions about Grus are in the pipeline.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

[geek][politics] The Cathedral and the Laboratory, part 2

So here's the part where I apologize to those of you who recognize the source of the title - Eric S. Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar". I'm stretching the metaphor Raymond employed in his famous essay, but I think there are still plenty of parallels to be found. The Cathedral is more than a development methodology - it's a mindset. The Cathedral buttresses itself with dogma and top-down leadership. It sees itself as central to society - without its influence, anarchy and apostasy will rule the realm. To defy the revealed wisdom of the Cathedral is to invite banishment, or worse. The Cathedral sends out edicts, rules, injunctions that Must Be Obeyed. The Cathedral fears challenges and conflict, and values conformity. To challenge the Cathedral is to risk being burned at the stake. The Bazaar represents a far-less formalized command structure. There are rules to be observed and roles that are proscribed, but there is little centralization. Goods and services are valued and devalued based upon their quality as well as the persuasiveness of their purveyors. You can have quality products in the Bazaar and still fail if you aren't capable of selling them. Conversely, if you're charismatic or a smooth talker you can do quite well for yourself, regardless of the quality of your goods or services. But in the Bazaar, you are subjected to the scrutiny of the entire community. Your competitor can see your wares - he may not be able to see behind your counter to see if you are adulterating your product or inflating your claims, but he can directly compare your product to his and quantify the result. Try doing that in the Cathedral. The Bush Administration's approach to science is that of the Cathedral: their priests and prophets must control the message, and the message must conform to Cathedral Law. To disagree with the Cathedral is heresy; to be accepted into the priesthood, you must accept the Cathedral's dogma. No one can challenge the Cathedral's position publicly - there may be Byzantine struggles occuring, but they take place far from the public eye, deep within chambers closed to all but the highest level of initiates. No scripture will be accepted into the Cathedral's canon if it does not dovetail with the approved dogma; the veracity of a statement is secondary to its conformity to the norm. As with the Cathedral, so the Bazaar: where Raymond uses the Bazaar as a metaphor for the Free/Open Source Software movement, I also see it as describing a mindset. The scientific community taken as a whole, the Laboratory, is far more like the Bazaar. Ideas ebb and flow in response to all the actors. Coalitions form and disperse, products rise and fall in value, and everyone shares a common currency: knowledge. Information. Now I have no illusions about the scientific process. I've seen the feuds and petty atrocities that run throughout academia. And, like our so-called Free Market system, there are many 'Invisible Hands' at work trying to steer things towards their own advantage, denying competitors access to market share, denigrating the quality of competing wares. But by-and-large, there is Bazaar-like atmosphere in which this takes place. If you think your wares are superior to a competitor's, you are free to make your case to the entire Bazaar. Again, try that in the Cathedral and see how far it gets you. The Bush Administration is trying to bring the Bazaar under the control of the Cathedral. They only want Cathedral-sanctioned goods and services to be exchanged, regardless of their relative merit compared to alternative goods and services. But they're ignoring the structural weakness of the Cathedral: it becomes infinitely harder to identify problems if you have surrounded yourself with true believers. If your dogma dictates a course of action that will ultimately lead to catastrophe, who will have the courage (or ability) to stand up and say so? Andrew Sullivan is right to criticize the Bush Administration for their policies regarding emergency contraception, HPV & HIV. It would have been better had he listened to what we were saying five years ago; in lieu of that, an apology would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath. What infuriates me about Sullivan and his ilk is their blind unwillingness to see how pervasive the rot is. His inability to see how systemic this rigid and unyielding preference for the Cathedral over the Bazaar, nay, at the expense of the Bazaar (or Laboratory, or Academy) is sadly typical of newly apostate members of the Cathedral. They are beginning to see the hypocrisy in embraces, but are unwilling to criticise it too much for fear of what that will say about themselves. In the end, the merchants in the Bazaar have far less power than the clergy in the Cathedral. They always have, and likely always will. Free trade in the Bazaar depends altogether too much upon the whims of the Cathedral, and today the Cathedral is insisting that the Bazaar submit itself without question to the Cathedral's rule. Who stands for the Bazaar? Currently, I hear many scattered and tiny voices, but from those who could (and should) be allies I hear half truths, lies, apologies, and silence. Why? Because preserving their own access to the Cathedral, either as syncophants and devotees now or priests and bishops in the future, is far more important to them.

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[geek][politics] The Cathedral and the Laboratory, part 1

This morning, Atrios links to the newly-shrill (yet curiously unapologetic - but more about that another time) Andrew Sullivan's blurb about Michael Specter's article in the latest issue of The New Yorker, "The White House vs. the laboratory". The article itself is not online, but Sullivan quotes from it thusly:
Religious conservatives are unapologetic; not only do they believe that mass use of an HPV [(Human Papilloma Virus, a sexually-transmitted disease that appears to cause or otherwise precipitate cervical cancer)] vaccine or the availability of emergency contraception will encourage adolescents to engage in unacceptable sexual behavior; some have even stated that they would feel similarly about an H.I.V. vaccine, if one became available. "We would have to look at that closely," Reginald Finger, an evangelical Christian and a former medical adviser to the conservative political organization Focus on the Family, said. "With any vaccine for H.I.V., disinhibition" - a medical term for the absence of fear - "would certainly be a factor, and it is something we will have to pay attention to with a great deal of care." Finger sits on the Centers for Disease Control's Immunization Committee, which makes those recommendations.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Bush Administration's efforts to politicize Federally-funded science. That our homegrown Taliban should prefer death over the remote possibility of someone fucking without their stamp of approval shouldn't exactly be a shock, either. What was a shock to me, though, was the degree to which the Specter was willing to apologize for and minimize the effect of the Bush Administration's assault on scientific integrity. I haven't read the article itself, obviously, but the tone Specter strikes in the Q&A about the article is strikingly different from that conveyed by Sullivan's excerpt:
What are the costs of an anti-science Administration like this one, in both the short term and the long term? Is it possible that we’re witnessing the beginning of a major shift away from Enlightenment thinking, or is that too alarmist a reading of the effect of one Administration’s policies? That’s a little alarmist, I hope. We are in an age when almost anything is technically possible in science. We can break humans down to the smallest component parts. We can mix parts and grow new ones (or soon will). We can manipulate nature and, soon enough, we will even be able to choose the genetic components of our children. None of this is easy to take, and a reaction is understandable. The job of the Administration, and of educators, is to convince people that these powerful new tools can help immensely and not just cause harm. In the short term, that is not happening and we are probably losing some good young people who might otherwise enter science. But a few years from now—maybe 2008, to take a random date—the situation could improve markedly.
It is not alarmist. The positions staked out by this Administration on almost every level fly directly in the face of the ideals of the Enlightenment. Specter also apologizes for the Administration making sure that people placed on scientific advisory boards adhere to philosophies that will appeal to the American Taliban by waving his hands and suggesting that 'every Administration has done it'. But you see - they haven't done it to this degree. The Bush Administration has done this to an unprecedented degree - they have placed their flunkies throughout the civil service, from the uppermost and most publicized positions down to the mid- to upper-management levels. The topmost positions will more than likely be reassigned with a change of Administration, but those embedded managers will continue to wreak havoc on the system for years to come. They have also required loyalty tests when screening people for the advisory board positions: What are your opinions on abortion? On drugs? Did you vote for the President? If your answers are not acceptable to the Christianist cabal in power, you are rejected. These questions are being asked of scientists across the board: oncology, cardiology, nephrology... What does abortion or the "War on Drugs" have to do with someone's scientific qualifications? What does how one votes have to do with their scientific ability?

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

[geek][politics] Censor, heal thyself...

iStockPhoto - Copyright: Dan Fletcher It appears that Tomo Foote-Lennox, currently in the news as spokesmoron (and lead censor) for censorware manufacturer Secure Computing (in case you haven't heard, their software classifies Boing-Boing as containing nudity), probably isn't in the position to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't be doing online... It would seem Mr. Foote-Lennox has some unusual proclivities, as well as some less-than unusual ones. Why is it that the censors always seem to be some of the biggest perverts? (Yes, that was rhetorical...) Thanks for catching that one, Kathryn!

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[politics] Neo-Nazis move from cyber attacks to arson

It seems that someone out there is dissatisfied with their attempts to silence The Holocaust History Project using denial-of-service attacks against THHP's servers - they've moved on to arson:
In the early hours of March 6, 2006, a fire broke out at a warehouse complex near San Antonio International Airport, causing extensive damage to the offices of The Holocaust History Project (THHP), an organization that has been, for the last ten years, in the forefront of confronting Holocaust denial online, in addition to providing educational materials to students throughout the world. Arson investigators now have confirmed that the fire was intentionally set and are continuing their investigation. It was just the latest in a series of attacks with the apparent intent to silence THHP. For the past 18 months, the THHP website has been under an unprecedented Distributed Denial of Service attack. This cyber attack began on September 11, 2004, and is being carried out by a specially modified version of the MyDoom computer worm, programmed to target the THHP web server.
As the saying goes, "the best disinfectant is sunlight" - and the best response to an incident like this is to stand behind THHP and their mission: to refute the lies and propaganda of Holocaust revisionists and deniers. This sort of thuggery is not acceptable in an open society, and must not stand. So please consider this my little ray of digital sunshine... (I forget where I first read this yesterday, but Orac appears to be getting credit for bringing this story to a wider audience.)

1 Comments:

Blogger dasein said...

Your post struck me after being pointed to your site by my life partner. I've blogged on your post regarding the neo-nazis, agreeing with your sentiments, although we may have different standpoints. My blog is known as Existential Ranting on blogspot.

3/09/2006 07:02:00 PM  

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

[random][geek] Never, ever, ever...

iStockPhoto - Copyright: christine balderas ...buy your parents a domain name if they're, uh, technologically impaired. That's all.

2 Comments:

Anonymous OM said...

? what name?

3/09/2006 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

Email in the pipe and on the way...

3/09/2006 08:20:00 PM  

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[politics] Codicil: WP as an anti-personnel munition & Zogby

Oh yeah, there was one other thing buried in Zogby's poll of troops stationed in Iraq that I thought was interesting. Remember all the noise out and about in the pro-military blogosphere in early- to mid-November about how white phosphorus (WP) and napalm are perfectly acceptable munitions to use in an anti-personnel role? Well, approximately 80% of the service members surveyed by Zogby disagree with that statement. Think about that for a second: 80% think it is unacceptable to use WP or napalm-like munitions against the Iraqi insurgency. 80%. In case you don't remember, a lot of what was said to discredit those who questioned the legitimacy of the use of WP and other incendiaries in Fallujah consisted largely of variations on "you haven't served"/"you don't know what you're talking about"/yadda yadda. This makes it easy for me to imagine the same criticisms being levelled against these survey results: Zogby underrepresented combat troops, he only surveyed desk jockeys and truckers and quartermasters, and so on and so forth. I don't know what the ratio is of combat arms to combat support to combat service support troops on the ground in Iraq - if previous wars are any yardstick, it's entirely possible that only 20% of our military personnel in Iraq are deployed with combat units (I've found unsourced statements that put the US Military's "tooth-to-tail" ratio at anywhere from 1:10 to 50:50, so YMMV). It's also possible that 100% of those service members who think that WP and other incendiary munitions are not legitimate anti-personnel weapons are not serving in combat roles - they just don't know what they're talking about, because they're part of the tail, and not the teeth. But somehow I doubt it.

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[random] Don't Go Disco

iStockPhoto - Copyright: anssi ruuska So I'm picking The Boy up from his after-school sports program the other day and I forget to turn off the CD player when I parked the car. The Boy gets buckled in, I buckle in, I start the car... AND THERE'S MUSIC! LOTS OF IT! Whoops. Quickly, I turn down the volume, drawing this plaintive response from the back seat: "Aw, daaaad. I like it loud." Heh. So do I, son; so do I. (title from one of the tracks on the disk in question - from these guys. Like Interpol? Peter Murphy? Joy Division? Early Sisters of Mercy? Then give these guys a listen...)

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Monday, March 06, 2006

[geek] 30-second science blogging - One of these days, Alice...

"...to the Moon!" It seems that Elon Musk and his company SpaceX have been up to more than they've been willing to let on - Musk has been using his PayPal fortune to build a reusable space capsule:
"It took SpaceX just over three years to build both a company and a rocket from scratch, including engines, structure, avionics, two launch sites [and to get through the] regulatory crud," [Musk] said. "If we hadn't been forced to go to Kwaj[alein] (sic), we would very likely have launched by now. As it is, total time from zero to launch will be just over three and a half years."
Well, maybe this doesn't move us that much closer to fulfilling Ralph Kramden's immortal words, "Straight to the moon, Alice!". But it seems clearer to me that we are so getting off this rock... [via /.]

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[politics] "Cracking down on illegal immigration"

It's the new "think of the children":
Congress is headed toward approving a plan that would require employers to check every worker's Social Security number or immigration work permit against a new federal computer database. [...] Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., says "this is not a national ID system." But several bills authorize studies of "tamper proof" Social Security cards or their issuance. The cards would include some biometric data and would be harder to counterfeit.
So remember, the next time you hear "stemming the tide" or some other such nonsense, it's probably just as much about illegal immigration as the Communications Decency Act was about shielding kids from smut on the internet. It's all about control, baby, all about control. [via AMERICABlog]

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

[politics] These games you play
They’re gonna end in more than tears someday

iStockPhoto - Copyright:Dane Wirtzfeld I don't get it... On the one hand, we tell India that they are free to build all the nukes they want; on the other hand, we tell Pakistan... eh, not so much. How's that going to look to the Iranians? I mean, India's had nukes since the 1970s, so this is in many ways just a pro forma gesture; on the other hand, India, like Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so this is what is so glibly described as 'rewarding bad behavior' (as if being able to vaporize Lahore is only worthy of a 'time-out'); on the gripping hand, India has proven itself to be a stable country as well as a non-proliferator. On yet another hand, India and Pakistan have pushed things to the brink of nuclear war, what? Twice? Three times? And on still another hand, I distinctly remember rumors in the 1980s of an Israeli/Indian/South African research exchange, so while India surely isn't in North Korea's league when it comes to sharing nuclear tech, I don't think they're quite as pure on the non-proliferation front as we would currently paint them out to be. Just to keep the hands balanced, as the symmetry of Hindu avatars demands, India is the most populous democracy in the world, and is an increasingly important power... Finally emerging from the shadow of the Raj, India is taking steps towards global leadership, while Pakistan is still mired in military dictatorship. This is probably the most constructive way to engage with India at this time. But I still can't help but think that the take-home message to the Iranians is that we'll support nuclear states - as long as they aren't Islamic states. And that doesn't bode well for the future stability of the broader Persian Gulf/South Asian region.
It's eight fifteen And that's the time that it's always been We got your message on the radio Conditions normal and you're coming home
[lyrics from OMD's Enola Gay]

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Friday, March 03, 2006

[random] Aphrodite's island refuge - Milos

Ever since I got this book as a gift (I probably wasn't all that much older than The Boy is now - I might have been 8, 9 at the most), I've always wanted to visit Greece. And, in what will seem like a completely unrelated point if you stop reading this too soon, this past year I've started to get into sea kayaking. After reading this article about the Greek island of Milos where one can see sites like this: and this: ...I now realize that I now have no reason to not do both at the same time. Looks like I need to get serious about my paddling, eh? Oh yeah - and they have catacombs - what's not to like!?

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[geek] Random note about Yahoo! accounts and throw-away Bug Me Not addresses

FYI, if you want to create a throw-away Yahoo! mail account that no one can ever access (including yourself, so be sure it's a true throw-away!), here's a sure-fire tip I just discovered: use a GUID for the password. What's a GUID? It means "Globally Unique IDentifier"; it's a 128-bit alpha-numeric identifier that is, for all practical purposes, unique, and there are (not surprisingly) plenty of websites that will generate them for you. Why, you might ask, would anyone want to use a GUID for a password? Well, it's secure as hell, and since I was creating a bogus email account that I was going to submit to bugmenot, I wanted an account that couldn't be cracked easily but that I didn't care about. So, log in to your Yahoo! mail account and copy-and-paste the GUID into the "Enter New Password" box and the "Confirm New Password" box. When you click "Save", Yahoo! will dutifully change your password... However (and this is the throw-away part) there must be something wrong with their validation process - the GUID must be too long for their database field, because if you try to log in again using your user name and new GUID password, it won't recognize it. It won't recognize the old password at this point either, so all I can guess is that it truncates the GUID when it saves it without kicking back an error message (Good job, guys!). You could probably sit there and fiddle with it to figure out what the new password is, but why bother? So, for the next 60 days or so (before Yahoo! shitcans the account because no one logs in to it), feel free to use "kmovregistrationsucks@yahoo.com" at sites that require you to provide an email address to view their content (KMOV is a St. Louis, MO television station that had an article I wanted to read...).

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

[random] "I never tell anyone this" - Unexplored region, indeed; part 3

original map photo, iStockPhoto - Copyright: nick belton [The 3rd installment of aforementioned long multi-part parenting-related post with boring self-absorbtion and introspection.
  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • You have been warned.]
    So, where were we? Oh yeah, the results of The Boy's testing. I jokingly described the test results to a co-worker as "Well, we have to tie up The Boy and throw him into Lake Union; if he drowns, then we're okay, but if he floats, we have to burn him." Based on her tests, the psychologist felt very strongly that The Boy should be in APP. In addition to his (scarily) high test scores, he showed some problems with prioritizing and processing information - the manifestations of which we'd definitely noticed, but wouldn't have identified as such. The APP program, with its smaller classes and teachers already accustomed to dealing with mutant kids with exactly these issues, now seemed like the only realistic option. Well, that certainly threw a new wrinkle into things... As we left her office with a grainy photocopy of the test results, we began discussing filing an appeal. My wife fired up her Treo to get the deadine for the appeal from the ALP website, and started freaking out. The deadline had passed the day before. In retrospect, I think we knew that when we scheduled the followup visit with the psychologist - but it hadn't seemed like a big deal because we already had the ALP's initial results and weren't planning on appealing. Can you say 'panic', boys and girls? We grabbed some lunch, and while we waited for the food, we tried contacting the ALP office - with mixed results. Unable to get a satisfactory reply from anyone we reached by phone, we decided to go and be a nuisance in person... We sucked down lunch and flew down to the district's administrative office. Once there, we wheedled a phone number out of the receptionist and actually got to talk to the director of the ALP. As related to me, the conversation went something like this: "Yeah, we're trying to find out what we need to do to file an appeal..." (brusquely interrupting) "Sorry, can't do it; the deadline was yesterday." "Yes, but we only got our testing results today." (pause) "Why'd you wait this long?" "Because we didn't expect his test scores to be so high!" (longer pause) "Do you have his test results?" "Yes." (pause) "How soon can you get here?" "We're in the lobby now." (long-suffering sigh) "Okay; write me a love-note and I'll see what I can do." So, this was to be our appeal: a handwritten note explaining how this had unfolded, with our blurry photocopy of the test results stapled to it. Not the most polished presentation we've ever made, but at least they were taking it... By the time we'd wrapped everything up with the School District, it was just about time to meet with The Boy's kindergarten teacher. She invited us into an extra classroom so we could talk in private, and, squatting on those damn tiny chairs, we laid out what had transpired: The Boy's test results, what the psychologist had said, what we'd done as far as filing our half-hour-past-midnight appeal... His teacher listened patiently and intently - it's pretty clear that she really likes The Boy, which is a good thing, because otherwise I think he'd already be labled as a Troublemaker-comma-Individual-comma-One Each. When we finished, she nodded, and said, "Well, that explains a lot". She paused, and then said "I never tell anyone this... [The Boy] needs to be in APP. Don't even bother with Spectrum - it won't be enough. Parents come to me every year asking if their child should be tested or if they should appeal to try and put them in APP, and I usually say 'No'. But not [The Boy]. If the appeal fails, keep him here for next year, and let him work on the social relations that are forming." She continued - "We've each got 25 kids in our classes, with a wide range of abilities and interests; there are no resources provided for kindergarten other than the teachers, so there are no screening programs or interventions available. I've got six kids in my class alone that I've put down as needing some kind of testing next year; [The Boy] was one of them, but I told the office not to start that process for next year, and that you guys were working on it already. But no; kindergarten is viewed by the state mostly as an exercise in socialization, not education. I don't have anything extra to offer [The Boy], and even if I did, I wouldn't have the time. The classes at Lowell are smaller, and the teachers there know how to deal with kids like [The Boy]." "He needs to go to Lowell." When The Boy's teacher found out that the deadline had passed, she asked if we had an email address for the ALP director - she was going on vacation, but she'd make sure to personally send an email on The Boy's behalf that night. We provided her with the email address, and discussed the pros and cons of filing a '405' with the school (an administrative plan for 'reasonable accomodation' of special needs kids) to get The Boy back on an even keel, and discussed which of the interventions that the psychologist had suggested would be do-able without adding to his teacher's stress. She didn't see any problems with any of the interventions, and we promised to regroup in a few weeks and see how things were progressing. So, all this was on a Thursday - on the following Monday, my wife called the APP office to find out if the fax of the psychologist's full report had come through. Oh yes, it did, thanks for sending it, but we've already made our decisions - the letters are being printed today, and should be mailed out before the end of the week. Well shit. No wonder the woman we talked to at ALP was brusque (nice, but definitely harried)... They were already deep into weeding out the appeals - and all we had supplied was what could charitably be called a bare-bones implementation. The letter would arrive right around the end of the open-enrollment period - should we fill out the paperwork to transfer him to APP and try and submit it without knowing his status? The person we talked to said that while it was their policy to not release information over the phone, if we hadn't gotten the decision letter by that Friday, she'd tell us what the decision was so we'd know what to do about the paperwork before that deadline passed. We got the letter that Wednesday - they granted the appeal, and we filed the enrollment paperwork with a couple of days to spare, so if I've read the letter correctly (and boy! howdy, have I read and re-read that letter), it looks like we're guaranteed enrollment at Lowell. Next fall The Boy's going to school at Dr. X's mansion. It should be... interesting.

    2 Comments:

    Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

    Good luck with all of this. My wife is a former special ed teacher, loved her work, hated the system.

    But no; kindergarten is viewed by the state mostly as an exercise in socialization, not education.

    Bleh. Krep. Socialzation they need, sure. But you can educate 'em that young. My kindergartner is well on his way to reading, and he doesn't get but perhaps 2-3 hours at most of actual schooling a day.

    Of course we are home schooling which makes a huge diff.

    3/03/2006 08:36:00 AM  
    Blogger protected static said...

    Thanks - while I don't think this program'll be a silver bullet, it looks pretty promising...

    Part of the problem has been the need to teach to the lowest common denominator - his teacher's said that she was surprised by the number of kids in The Boy's cohort who couldn't count to 10 when school started. Normally she expects a couple, maybe three; this year she said there were 5 or 6 - out of 25. Another problem has been that the content has been so concrete, and The Boy's been able to deal with abstractions for several years already...

    I'm thinking Dr. X's mansion might be a Good Thing, despite our earlier misgivings.

    3/03/2006 06:12:00 PM  

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    [politics] Depressing news

    You know that Zogby poll of the military that lots of folks have already picked up on, right? The one where 72% of the soldiers surveyed favor getting the hell out of Dodge within a year? I finally got around to actually checking out the blurb on Zogby's site, and there are some depressing tidbits in there that have been missing from the coverage of the survey. First, 90% of the soldiers surveyed feel that the Iraq War was retaliation for Saddam Hussein's involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Oh, and almost 40% of them think that the Americans who favor a quick withdrawal do so because they are unpatriotic. Discuss...

    5 Comments:

    Anonymous karen m said...

    At least they know what their CO's want to hear...

    3/02/2006 11:42:00 AM  
    Blogger protected static said...

    See, here's the thing - I don't think it's just "what their CO's want to hear". Take my brother-in-law, for instance - he's an LTC in the Air Force, and while I don't think he'd be in the 37% that sees anti-war Americans as 'unpatriotic', I think he would be in the 90% that believes that this is payback for 9/11. Even the ones that know that there was no Iraqi involvement in 9/11 have it rationalized as part of 'dealing with terror states in the Middle East' - the link between Saddam and 9/11 is drummed into them continuously...

    As a for-instance, the family newsletter that my sister sent out with their Christmas card showed her husband in full battle gear standing in front of sign that was a "Why We Fight"-type of deal, listing every terror attack on US troops or Americans since the 1983 bombing of the USMC in Beruit.

    Almost none of those incidents were perpetrated by the same group more than once... Yet the official line is that they're all related.

    3/02/2006 06:46:00 PM  
    Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

    Karen, I don't know how many service members you know but most of the Marines I served with had no trouble speaking their mind and telling people what they thought.

    F*ck a lot of what the CO wants to hear. Most troopers and Marines are not there to be Lifers. They are there to fulfill an obligation, do their four (or eight in my case) and get out. The service is ran by lifers and career Marines but it's staffed by, and gets it tone from citizens who do not have a career to worry about.

    No offense meant of course.

    3/02/2006 08:16:00 PM  
    Anonymous karen m said...

    No offense taken, certainly.

    I think my perspective is skewed because of the folks I do know who are currently/formerly serving. There are 4 in my husband's family, all were career guys (in one case, he recently retired after 30 years at Ft. Bragg, training paratroopers). Every conversation we had about the military and war has been interesting, to say the least. Not what you might expect, especially my father-in-law. He's retired Air Force and vehemently anti-war. Certainly when it comes to Iraq.

    So yeah, I think it's different from the average soldier over there. Keith's uncle in particular - the guy who was at Bragg - feels much freer to say what he thinks. Most of the time it's certainly not what I want to hear, if that's what you're wondering, but it's not the same as an active soldier's opinion either. Which is why I made the comment in the first place; there's less privacy and anonymity in the military than anywhere else on earth, even if you're responding to an "anonymous poll".

    3/03/2006 06:46:00 AM  
    Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

    there's less privacy and anonymity in the military than anywhere else on earth

    Certainly. But that never kept me from voicing my opinion, which was my point. I don't (or didn't) care that the CO knew what my politics were or how I felt about X, Y and Z - you ask and you'll get an earful.

    Things might be differnet now - it's been fifteen years since I seperated - but I don't see how.

    3/03/2006 10:17:00 AM  

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    [politics] Help me to understand here...

    Here's an emerging theme in the right-wing blindly pro-Bush blogosphere: Right-wing commentators who are criticising the conduct of the Iraq War and the policies that led to it, and who are now predicting the failure of our Iraqi misadventure are misguided but their intentions are good, whereas those of us who are not Fukayama or Buckley but who have been saying exactly the same thing since, oh, 2003 are somehow responsible for the impending failure in Iraq. Wow. That's really some reality distortion field going on there. There's even an amusing corollary to this: Anyone who tries to point out this contradiction is merely attempting to exorcise their guilty conscience over the failures in Iraq! So, here's the equation: ((control of all 3 branches of the Federal government) + ((Democratic fears of being 'soft on defense') = (no meaningful opposition)) + (filling key positions with flunkies, toadies, campaign donors, and 'yes' men) + (unprecedented efforts to control and co-opt the domestic media message) - (warnings by career military and civil service personnel)) = (those damn liberals and their media lost us the war) Speechless, I am... Aren't these fuckers supposed to be the party of "personal responsibility"? [via Sadly, No! and The Poorman]

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    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    [geek] Today's dose of geek irony has been brought to you by...

    Google's Quote of the Day generator:
    "Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality." - Nikola Tesla
    This from someone associated with UFOs, perpetual motion and free energy... M'kay. (To be fair to the genius of Tesla, most if not all of this linkage is due to his eccentricities, not to mention the loopiness of those doing the linking... (Google "tesla free energy" and get back to me, 'kay?) Oh yeah - and the fact that the FBI swooped in after his death in 1943 and impounded all his research... Plays right into the mindset of the black helicopter crowd, it does.)

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