Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Where I've been

I used to blog quite regularly. (Where regularly is defined as "often.") If you're one of my three acquaintances, you'll notice that my well has run dry lately. I've been sort of busy...

First off, after half my lifetime I have left the publishing business. I had my first ties to MSJ in 1989, and continued as a contributing editor in the 90s, eventually being hired as technical editor of Microsoft Interactive Developer in 1996. Things went well until a couple of years ago, and I'll protect people by not using their names here, but it was really time for me to get out of there. For the past two years, I've been set up for failure, and I prefer the opportunity to succeed. I was miserable, but I was fortunate enough to be able to keep my wits about me.

Many people, when faced with a situation like this, convince themselves that they are worthless just because they're being told they are. I know what I've done in the past, I know what I can do now, and I know how many people have gone through a similar situation (genius to garbage) quite quickly in my old division.

I was still working against time, because after a decade of superlative reviews I was given my first negative review at Microsoft this past year. I knew it was coming way back in October 2006. I knew it was coming in February 2007, when despite getting an OK review the previous year, and doing all that was asked of me, I was told that I was "having a terrible year." In the past, I've been able to wait out situations like this, but I'm older now, it was affecting my health more, and I was tired of enforced misery.

Just before Thanksgiving, I started a new position within Microsoft, as a technical accounts manager. It's like night and day. The job is great - companies buy a services contract from Microsoft, and I make sure they're happy with it. I work them through problem resolution, case escalation, site visits, architectural reviews, and anything else an ISV needs to be successful working with Microsoft products.

I really enjoy doing it, and it's a lot like what I did as an executive editor. I would meet with advertisers alongside our sales team, talk about their products, gauge their needs and requirements, and suggest solutions and future paths for them. I want people to be happy with what I do, and I want to be able to fix it when they're not. So here I am, from executive editor to TAM.

Review: SoftAmbulance Partition Doctor

My 250gb drive crashed last night. Specifically, it started to say "you must format this drive before you use it" every time I plugged it into my laptop. OK, this kind of sucks. My backup plan has been to backup all my data onto this drive, and then delete it from the laptop for space.

Frantically, not to mention cheaply, I looked for SHAREWARE DRIVE REPAIR.

Warning: SPOILERS































I downloaded SoftAmbulance Partition Doctor, and ran it on the drive. The program scans your drive and does a pretty good job of recovering data from unrecoverable HDs. The shareware version tells you what it finds; you have to pay for the full version.

SoftAmbulance Partition Doctor took a few hours, but it seems to have found thousands of my files. I've recovered lots of what I need from it, and it was a LOT cheaper than sending the drive away for recovery.

Verdict: This program actually did what it said it would, and the $140 was worth it. And the best part about it is the ultra-sexy About dialog!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wildlife Day in Bay Shore

(OK, so I took a couple of months off. Lots of stuff going on here.)

I got to the train station this morning. Half the place was marked off with yellow tape, and four cops were walking around looking for something. One of them pointed and said "There it is!" They all spread out to try and corner a rabid raccoon that was walking down the platform.

Then another cop car pulled up, giving them a force of five. (We have more cops than crime on Long Island.) Someone must've called for backup. With five cops against one slow-moving, sick animal, they eventually closed in and collared the perp.

Meanwhile, I was standing on the westbound platform, watching intently. I suddenly felt something on my wrist. I looked down, and it was a yellowjacket stinging me.

The train station: Better than any trip to the zoo!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Happy Memo Day!

Aug 6, 2001: "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US."

Friday, August 3, 2007

Buying subs

Mystery sub in the East River!

A man in a Revolutionary War-era submarine was cited by the U.S. Coast Guard for drifting into a security zone, and for unsafe sailing in New York's East River near the Queen Mary 2 luxury liner, the Coast Guard and New York City Police Department said Friday.



But, you say, where can someone purchase a second-hand sub in New York City? Oh, plenty of places.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

It was four years ago that I stepped into the gap when jumping off an LIRR train at Bay Shore. An overall nasty accident that resulted in a dime-sized chunk of flesh popping off my leg and disappearing.



Through modern forensic technology, I have now traced the path of that leg chunk over the years:





Monday, July 30, 2007

DigiGirlz Camp

Last week, I participated in the Microsoft DigiGirlz technology camp at Stony Brook University. The event hosted over 120 teen girls from all over Long Island and NYC for three days of hands-on technology. I actually sort of roped myself into it; a call went out for volunteers a month ago, and I replied that I could help if needed. A couple of days later, I was signed up to teach eight courses! The whole thing was only made possible by the incredible work of Laurie Carey from Microsoft, and a bunch of hard-working volunteers from Microsoft, CA, and other companies around the Island.

We started at 7:30 AM on Tuesday, registering the girls as they got off the buses or were dropped off at the Wang Center. Things got a bit hairy, since the reg lists were sorted by phone number instead of name. (Oops.) It took a little fiddling, but we were able to get everything sorted out.

I took on three classes on Day One: Microsoft Office, Popfly, and Critical Thinking. About 40 kids were led as a group into my classroom for the first session. This was actually quite handy, because when I’ve presented in the past, I’ve had to wait around for stragglers 10 minutes after the session was scheduled to start.

I asked how many girls had used Microsoft Office before, and almost everyone’s hand went up. However, almost none of them had touched Office 2007. The goal of the camp was to empower the girls and show them what the business world is like, so we used a real-world example in the training: business cards. We fired up Publisher and I led everyone through the process of making their own cards, choosing images and color and anything else they wanted to put on it. It’s amazing how everyone seemed to have a MySpace page with a million pix on it already. I offered to take photos of anyone who wanted them on their cards, but only one kid took me up on it.

After designing their cards, some assistants gathered them up and took them to be printed for a networking event. Unfortunately, the color printer couldn’t handle the thick card stock, so the cards ended up being run in black and white. As the cards were being run, the girls were taking a self-defense course (which I wisely avoided), and I headed to my classroom to prepare for Popfly.

Popfly is a new Microsoft program/Web service that lets you design Web component mashups visually, without writing any code. It’s pretty cool – I’ve used it once or twice. It’s also in closed alpha, which posed a problem. I didn’t have accounts for everyone to use, and time was ticking down fast. With 15 minutes to go until a flood of kids came in, I was frantically emailing around to get test accounts. I managed to get hold of a list of nine accounts to use. I looked calm and collected as everyone poured in.

Popfly was a bit more challenging than the other courses, because it was one of those “stay ten minutes ahead of the class” situations. I wanted to come up with something they would find interesting – many of these classes started out confusing, so an “aha” moment always does wonders. In this case, the “aha” was creating a program that let them enter their home address and see their house. It’s a complete no-brainer in Popfly: you connect a User Input box, a GeoNames box, and a Virtual Earth box. You click a couple of settings and run it. Voila! A geosearch program. When the students did this and zoomed in on their homes, I started to hear them gasp things like “this is so cool!” One of the kids in the back said to the girl next to her, “I thought this would be stupid, but I’m glad my mom made me come!”

Then the questions started. You never know exactly where a group’s mind is headed, and the focus of the queries surprised me. A lot of girls started asking how software goes from alpha to beta to final release. I talked a lot about the process that Microsoft uses, determining feature completeness versus release readiness, and the various debugging cycles.

The next batch of questions came as we changed Virtual Earth to bird’s-eye views. The girls started to see details in their neighborhoods that had changed in the past year. Several of them asked me how often the photos were updated. I explained how services like Virtual Earth and Google Earth use satellite images, and how the bird’s eye shots are probably a couple of years old. Then we went back to more questions about alpha software.

We ended the classroom day with a session on critical debate. I split up the room and assigned the kids to develop a pro-con debate on whether mobile devices should be allowed in classrooms. Most of the kids wanted them allowed, which made it a perfect topic for them to develop the con argument. We led them through how to research a debate point online – again, the skills they would need in the real world.

On Day 2, I introduced my group to Windows Vista. There was an interesting divide with the students. They had almost all used Microsoft Office, and some of them had used Office 2007—but almost none of them had used Vista. It was a simple demo, involving searching and using the Sidebar. I wanted to show them 3D flipping, but the machines we got didn’t have Aero abilities.
After that, we did the second day of the debate class. Now that everyone had researched their topics, I had them group together and hammer out a single presentation on each side.

Day 3 started with a surprise. We had an Xbox 360 and a Zune that we were going to raffle off to the kids. When the first staffers got to Stony Brook, the locked storage room was open, and the prizes had gone missing. Yup, some dirtbag had actually stolen the prizes. I had to spend my lunch running over to Best Buy at lunch and buying new ones.

I taught three classes on Thursday. I started with a unit on HTML, explaining how every Web page was just a bunch of HTML code, and opening up a few to give examples. We looked at some basic tags, and made a simple page or two. Some of the girls figured out how to open up their favorite pages and paste the HTML into their own page. Since the course was designed to spark interest, that worked pretty well.

The second class of the day was a winner – we wheeled in a bunch of old desktop machines and opened them up. We identified all the parts inside and what they did, and installed memory. After the class, one of the girls told me that it was really easy to upgrade a PC, and why would she have a store do it anymore? I showed them where the clock battery was, the difference between RAM and drives, how the power supply works, and all the parts of the motherboard. The kids kept asking what various small transistors on the machine were.

The final class of the day was the debate wrapup. I have to say, the kids raised some interesting points. For instance, what’s the difference between passing notes between periods and txting a friend? If the former is allowed, why wouldn’t the latter be? We had everyone vote on everyone else’s presentations, and the winners got some extra raffle tickets.

The debates wrapped up early, and I had more prizes to give, so I started coming up with trivia questions for everyone. The first one was “How old am I?” It elicited answers from 19 to 62. I asked who our senators are, and who the governor was:

“Is it…George Pataki?”
“No, but good guess. Pataki left office last year.”
“Is it…Governor Pataki?”

Well, points for trying. I tossed them a trick question, too. “How many kilobytes are in a gigabyte?” It took about five minutes for anyone to figure out that it’s really 1024x1024.

We all marched back to the Wang Center for the final ceremonies. I was swarmed when the kids saw the Xbox behind me, but we regained order and got everyone into the auditorium. After a few minutes of warmup, we were treated to a multimedia presentation that some of the girls had created, and then gave out the replacement prizes.

The girls were pleasantly surprised by the presentations; most all of them said they learned a lot and wanted to come back. I was surprised by what they were able to create when given just a little pointer. I also found it interesting that so many of them were so taken with OneNote! It’s a sleeper product, like SharePoint; they are both going to get a lot more popular in the next year.

The next time something like this rolls into town, I strongly urge you to volunteer for something. You don’t have to teach – you can just help at registration, or herd kids from one place to the next. But any involvement makes a big difference for everyone.

(Cross-posted on the MSDN Magazine blog.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Why I wear headphones on the train

Overheard conversations like:

"They're trying to get rid of talk radio."
"Why?"
"Because liberal Democrats hate it."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

News For Your Health!

I'd like to extend a note of thanks to my health care provider (or maybe it wasn't even mine - was it Kaiser or Premera or Fidelis? I forget) for sending me my regular health newsletter. Packed full of four pages of utterly useless shit, the flyer manages to wag its finger at me numerous times while doling out gobsmackingly obvious advice.

Included are stories about:

- How you should use sunscreen when lying in the sun for 12 hours.
- How you shouldn't eat expired cold cuts or raw chicken at a picnic.
- Why stress at work isn't good for you.
- How eating ten corn dogs at a sitting will make you belch.
- How exercise is good for you.
- How alcohol gel kills germs on your hands.

Great stuff, that. You forgot the articles about remembering not to stab your eye out with a steak knife, and why you shouldn't aim the wrong way and pee in your face. At first, I thought that maybe the entire world is filled with utter morons who have to be reminded that smoking makes you cough and to not play lawn darts with toddlers. But then I realized what this was really about.

If the health care provider told you all these great ways to "stay healthy," that kind of counts as preventative care. They've done their part, so don't get all in their grill about actually covering checkups and yearly tests and shit. And if you do need an eye operation, tough noogies. They did tell you not to eat all those corn dogs.

Hurting our troops' morale

For years now, we've been hearing the same old screed: If you criticize Bush, look at the war effort, or question any tactics, you are hurting our troops' morale and aiding al-Qaeda.

You're serving in Iraq, on your fourth tour of duty. You were originally told that the whole thing would last maybe six months. There's no end in sight. Every time you go back, things seem right back where they were. You're not stupid - you read the news, and you know that we're grinding our wheels in Baghdad and around the country.

Which of these is going to hurt your morale the most?

  1. Laura Bush saying that no one suffers more than her and her husband over Iraq.
  2. President Bush saying that we're sending in troops to draw all terrorists to Iraq, using you as a human trap.
  3. Bush saying that he doesn't care much about Bin Laden's whereabouts.
  4. Endless predictions that the hostilities would be over in just a few more months.
  5. Rumsfeld shrugging when asked why the troops don't have the proper equipment.
  6. Being trained for combat and being used for rebuilding or schools and hospitals that just get bombed again
  7. Training Iraqi police that then take the weapons and perform sectarian violence.
  8. The Iraqi government taking a couple of months off this summer, while you swelter and fight for them.
  9. Eating spoiled food and drinking tainted water supplied by Halliburton to the troops.
  10. The damn liberal media reporting that casualties continue in Iraq and that we're not making much progress.
I don't know...those first nine seem like they would sap morale, but what do I know? It's almost surely #10.

Wow, he DID walk

The commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence is, in my opinion, this is an impeachable act. Bush has subverted justice because the person in question was part of the conspiracy that involved not only the person convicted of obstructing the investigation into the conspiracy, but also much of the top levels of the Bush administration. In other words, they were able to put it all on a fall guy, and then spring him.

To make it clear, several members of the administration worked in concert to burn a covert agent out of spite. And the covert agent was working on intelligence regarding the Iranian nuclear program. When you remember the simple rule - anything conservatives accuse liberals of doing is something they're doing themselves - it puts all the "criticizing the war is treason" calls into a new light. This administration has committed treason by publicizing top secret information that damaged our national interests.

Friday, June 29, 2007

15 Minutes, The Hard Way

A few months ago, a gentleman became a hero by rescuing a rider who had fallen onto the tracks at a subway stop. The savior has had quite a bit of attention since then, not that it's undeserved.
But anyway, I was on the subway yesterday, minding my own business, when a new ad caught my eye.

GET CHECKED. IT'S JUST WHAT YOU DO.

50 or older? It's time for a colonoscopy - NOW! (blah blah blah) Be a hero for yourself and your family.

Picture: Subway hero Wesley Autrey with daughters.


Now, I know that some people are more attached to their 15 minutes of fame than others, but why would a subway hero make me get myself checked? "We've tried everything to get these people to have their asses checked. Maybe they'll listen to a subway hero."

It might've worked better with an alternate headline. Maybe... "Subway Hero says: Catch cancer NOW, before it gets into YOUR tunnel!"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Roto-Rooter

Roto-Rooter was supposed to show up between 8 AM and 11 AM today. They showed up at 3:34 PM.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I remember back to the old days, when "service" actually meant something. When your appointment was between 8 and 11, dammit, you showed up by 2:45 PM. No excuses. I guess it's too much to expect anymore in this day and age.

Why I (heart) British Sea Power

From their newsletter:

These shows serve as advance heralds for the third BSP album - ‘Now That’s What I Call World War One Joy Division’ - which is scheduled for the Autumn.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

When stories collide: Pope edition

Road Rules: Vatican City
VATICAN CITY, June 19, 2007

(AP) Got road rage? The Vatican on Tuesday issued "Ten Commandments" for drivers, telling motorists to be charitable to others on the highway, to refrain from drinking and driving, and to pray you make it before you even buckle up.



Priest Crashes Into Restaurant, Arrested For DWI
Jun 19, 2007 9:29 pm US/Central

(CBS 42) SMITHVILLE A Smithville priest is charged with drunk driving after crashing the pickup truck he was driving into a restaurant.

Father Karel Fink, the pastor of St. Paul Parish according to the Diocese of Austin, was arrested Monday night for DWI.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

FREE SCOOTER LIBBY!

When he goes to jail for his multiple federal convictions for lying and obstruction of justice, they should put a "FREE SCOOTER LIBBY" sign on his cell. You know, just to serve notice that other inmates won't have to cough up any cigarettes to purchase him for the weekend.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Kirk and Spock

Having every episode of the original (aka ONLY) series on DVD now leads to a lot of questions.

1. After Spock takes the captain's chair, does he leave it like 175 degrees?
2. Why does Mudd have that stupid accent?
3. Do Gorns live in lakes in Florida?
4. When Jack the Ripper drops by for a visit, why does Scotty hate women after a woman caused an accident? Did he hate men after men caused other accidents?
5. This list is lame. Sorry.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Tragic news

My favorite blogger of all, Steve Gilliard, died over the weekend at the age of 41. He had gone into the hospital in February to treat an unspecified infection, which gave him a cough, fever, and some other symptoms. It got to his heart, and he fought it for over three months.

He was a fierce defender of good, and no one else could call bullshit better than he. Not the fake type of high dudgeon you see from so many conservatives, but real indignation and analysis drawn from his extensive knowledge of military history, race relations in America, and innate disgust with the crap that the administration has shoveled at us for years now. I learned a lot from him, even when I didn't completely agree with him. (I still don't like Al Sharpton, but he was the first person who really explained why Sharpton is a popular and powerful figure.)

Best of all, he hated the Yankees as much as I did. Fuck the fucking Yankees.

Steve made the world a better place, and I can't believe he's not here anymore.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

When stories collide: Dog edition

A mystery in Westchester.

Did Wild Coyote Snatch Vanessa Williams' Dog?

The pet Yorkie belonging to actress-singer Vanessa Williams is missing. Enzo disappeared from her Chappaqua yard Monday, becoming the second pooch of a high-profile owner to go missing from northern Westchester since Mother's Day.

While Williams raised concerns that there's some sort of dognapping ring, Mount Pleasant Police Chief Louis Alagno suggested another theory: Coyotes are snatching the bite-size pets.


Never mind, we figured out what happened to Enzo.
LONDON - A British artist has eaten chunks of a Corgi dog, the breed favored by Queen Elizabeth II, live on radio to protest against the royal family's treatment of animals.

Mark McGowan, 37, said he ate "about three bites" of the dog meat, cooked with apples, onions and seasoning, to highlight what he called Prince Philip's mistreatment of a fox during a hunt by the Queen's husband in January.

"It was pretty disgusting," McGowan said of the meal, which he ate while appearing on a London radio station on Tuesday. Yoko Ono, another guest on the show, also tried the meat.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Herb's Market

I dropped by Herb's Market to pick up lunch today. As they finished making my sandwiches, the woman said "Wait, you're the guy who wrote about us!"

Confused, I said "Uh...no I'm not."

She replied, "Yes you are, I never forget a face."

I thought back hard. "Did I say something nice?"

The woman shook her head and said, "No. You called us stupid."

It dawned on me that she had probably seen my critique of their long-gone fried chicken sign, which said "4 pieces, $4.00. 8 pieces, $8.00. 12 pieces, $12.00" on up to something like 47,200 pieces for $47,200.00. I pointed out then that the sign could've been shortened to "Fried chicken, $1.00 a piece."

Well, let me set the record straight right now. I apologize for anything I said that might've implied anything negative about Herb's Market in any way. Herb's is not stupid. Herb's is a great deli.

One of the things I like about Montauk is that the food isn't just an afterthought, and it's not just because I'm grotesquely obese. Life's too short to waste on crappy meals from Burger King, which is why I enjoy places like Herb's. I get sandwiches there almost every day when I'm out here.

To prove that I love them, and to provide pointers for others looking for good food in Montauk, here are the top ten things I like about Herb's.

1. Their fried chicken is reeeeeeally good. It's exceptional, with just the right salty touch in the batter. You can get it from the hot bar or order your own for big picnics. It's worth $5 a piece, which is what they'll probably charge me next time they see me.

2. They make really good BLTs. Tons of crispy bacon, fresh lettuce (not iceberg!), and plump tomatoes. You know when you get tomato on a sandwich and you end up taking it off because it's pale pink and chewy? We've never had one like that at Herb's.

3. They have homemade potato salad and macaroni salad that's about an order of magnitude better than what you'll find at a place like the IGA.

4. They sell Tate's cookies.

5. They always have good crunchy snacks, like Salsitos, and more importantly they have Irish crisps.

6. They have a bunch of good marinades, which work well with the prime meats they sell.

7. They hand-trim the meat that you get from their counter, even trimming the gunky membrane stuff off boneless breasts.

8. Every sandwich I've had there has been thick with meat. They don't skimp on anything, and their cold cuts are never weird-tasting or fatty. It's like the opposite of Quizno's. I suggest the chicken cutlet with swiss, lettuce, and tomato on rye with Russian.

9. They make really good smoothies in the back, near the hot bar. And unlike most places, not all their smoothies have banana in them.

10. They let me buy the sandwiches today, even though I evidently called them stupid once. Which I didn't mean to.

When you want to pick up sandwiches for the beach, or meats for the BBQ, nothing's better than Herb's Market in Montauk. They go great with an afternoon at Gin Beach.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

When you outsource headline writers...

You get headlines like this:

Royals To Get A Taste Of Angels' Colon

(Sports Network) - Bartolo Colon attempts to win his third consecutive start off the disabled list tonight for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who will be aiming to continue their recent dominance of the Kansas City Royals.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Roger that

So anyway, there's like this guy, Roger, who craves attention and who named this, like, the most useless blog in the universe. I'm not going to link to him to encourage him but just remember - I have YEARS of unread content, while he has like three things on his blog.

The throat hole

You know, I don't even smoke. I've never smoked. I will never smoke. And yet every five minutes, I am subjected to an ad where throat cancer victim Ronaldo Martinez tells me to stop smoking or I'll end up talking with a voice box like he does. OK, I GET IT. If you smoke too much you'll end up with a cool Darth Vader voice.

So this morning, I'm in the shower as my little morning radio blares next to the sink. I hear the ad come on. Not again - I'm so sick of listening to Throat Guy talking. (No offense to Throat Guy, but I'm not the target demo.) Then I step out of the shower. It's not even his voice on the radio - it's a talking didgeridoo from Outback Steakhouse. I guess there's at least one positive about having a hole in your throat - if you do find yourself accidentally eating a rapidly congealing platter of Outback cheese fries, they have a shorter, more direct evacuation route.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Next, wrestling my router to the ground

Another step towards victory.

After getting SharePoint 2003 nice and cozy on my server, I decided to upgrade to the latest, greatest version, 3.0. Woe is me.

I ran the installation, and it hit a couple of minor glitches, but ended up working OK. hen I ran the configuration wizard. Uh oh. It was a 12 step process, and it crudded out on step 10 every time.

I looked at the logs: NullReferenceException. Every time. The logs also contained the trace of where the problems occurred, in great detail. Helpful? Maybe, but probably not so much.Plus, it's a huge file because the SharePoint setup logging is quite verbose.

03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF Retrieved the content service and content service instance, now enum the web applications to see if there is a match with template STS
05/03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF Site with uri http://myurlhere.com/ and port 80 and template STS could not be found
05/03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF The site http://myurlhere.com could not be found in the Web application SPWebApplication Name=MY URL HERE Parent=SPWebService.
05/03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF Site with uri http://cynicor.com/ and port 80 and template STS could not be found
05/03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF The site http://cynicor.com could not be found in the Web application SPWebApplication Name=Cynicor Parent=SPWebService.
05/03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF Cannot find a site matching template STS
05/03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF Leaving function SPEvaluatorModeProvisioning.TryGetIsSiteProvisioned
05/03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF Leaving function SPEvaluatorModeProvisioner.IsProvisioned
05/03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF The default site url is http://myserver/, port 80
05/03/2007 14:15:38 11 INF The owner account for the default site is mydomain\administrator
05/03/2007 14:15:43 11 INF The owner email for the default site is someone@example.com
05/03/2007 14:15:43 11 INF The db server for the default site is myserver\Microsoft##SSEE
05/03/2007 14:15:48 11 ERR Task evalprovision has failed with an unknown exception
05/03/2007 14:15:48 11 ERR Exception: System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object. at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPConfigurationDatabase.CreateSite(SPWebApplication application, SPContentDatabase database, String originalPath, Guid id, Pairing pairing, Uri redirectUri, Boolean useHostHeaderAsSiteName, Boolean bypassExistingSiteCheck) at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPConfigurationDatabase.CreateSite(SPWebApplication application, SPContentDatabase database, String path, Boolean useHostHeaderAsSiteName) at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPSiteCollection.Add(SPContentDatabase database, String siteUrl, String title, String description, UInt32 nLCID, String webTemplate, String ownerLogin, String ownerName, String ownerEmail, String secondaryContactLogin, String secondaryContactName, String secondaryContactEmail, String quotaTemplate, String sscRootWebUrl, Boolean useHostHeaderAsSiteName) at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPSiteCollection.Add(String siteUrl, String title, String description, UInt32 nLCID, String webTemplate, String ownerLogin, String ownerName, String ownerEmail, String secondaryContactLogin, String secondaryContactName, String secondaryContactEmail, Boolean useHostHeaderAsSiteName) at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPSiteCollection.Add(String siteUrl, String title, String description, UInt32 nLCID, String webTemplate, String ownerLogin, String ownerName, String ownerEmail, String secondaryContactLogin, String secondaryContactName, String secondaryContactEmail) at Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.SPSiteCollection.Add(String siteUrl, String title, String description, UInt32 nLCID, String webTemplate, String ownerLogin, String ownerName, String ownerEmail) at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPEvaluatorModeProvisioner.Provision() at Microsoft.SharePoint.PostSetupConfiguration.EvalModeProvisionTask.EvalProvision() at Microsoft.SharePoint.PostSetupConfiguration.EvalModeProvisionTask.Run() at Microsoft.SharePoint.PostSetupConfiguration.TaskThread.ExecuteTask()

What could be causing this? I had no idea, but staring at the log for a few minutes made a light go off: my router was failing me. It was obvious!

A couple of years ago, I got a Belkin router/wireless station. It worked decently, and had a nice Web interface that let me set up everything I needed. However, it wouldn't let me get to my own sites by name. If I went to www.cynicor.com from inside the firewall, it would redirect me to the router's administration page.

I finally figured out that there WAS no way to repair this problem. Any request coming from inside the network would go out to the router, who would figure out that it was coming from inside the network and redirect port 80 calls to the router. I asked Belkin what to do. They said "just set your Web site up to use a different port, or call it by IP address internally." The problem with configuring that is that I have multiple domains that live on my server, and calling by internal IP won't allow Windows Server 2003 to filter the requests by header.

I wrote back to Belkin and asked if I could change the admin port on the router. They said no, and I would need a router with port address translation to make this work. Instead, I bought a LinkSys router at Best Buy. The LinkSys router lets you change the administration port it uses, and it defaults to 8080. This solved my port 80 problem! Now to test SharePoint.

I ran the configuration utility again, and it worked like a champ. No more exceptions. I went to bed and slept like a baby.

When I got into work the next day, I wanted to look at the server a bit more, so I tried to use Remote Desktop to get in. Oops, I'd forgotten to open that port. On the Belkin, I foolishly set the server to be the DMZ, which allowed port 3389 (and everything else) to pass through. I had enabled remote administration on the router last night, so I was able to access the port settings from work, through port 8080. Two minutes, a couple of clicks, and I was RDCing again.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Great shot!

Hey, let's go lens shopping.

This wide-angle lens looks nice! Let me click on the "enlarge" link to see a high-res version of the product shot.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Day By Day

Day By Day is a painfully unfunny, Republican comic strip that finds most of its audience on the Web. Various corners of BlogWorld have started a contest for the best cartoon remixed to resemble one of these atrocities.


I, of course, feel that to do it true justice, the cartoon should be in its original form, with Day By Day dialogue pasted in. So voila - this makes as much sense as the average Day By Day (click for full size):



UPDATE: A second one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wrestling SharePoint to the ground

I am doing a little programming project at work this week, and it involves the convoluted SharePoint APIs. (CAML? Why, oh why?) Instead of messing with an actual live server at work, I decided to set up a staging site.

My first choice was a test hosting account with Apptix. They sell full hosting for $40/month, with a trial month free. I dropped by, set up a site, and tried to program against it.

Oops. I tried to talk to the site via Web service in VB.NET, but I don't have the permissions to reach the site programmatically. So I decided to set up SharePoint at home. (I have a server at home that runs Windows Server 2003 and is attached to the Internets.)

Sounds easy, but I spent a day fighting SharePoint to the death, finally emerging victorious. For whatever reason, every roadblock that could've appeared did appear, and very little of it has been clearly documented online. Maybe some of this information will help future generations.

First off, I made sure that WS2K3 was patched and updated. I also put the .NET Framework 3.0 on it, as a prerequisite of running SharePoint 3.0.

Next, I downloaded and installed Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. The installation choked. It had a problem accessing a database called MSSQL$Microsoft##SSEE. Great. I went into Add/Remove Programs and tried a second time, and this time it completed successfully. I still had to run the configuration wizard to get things set up.

Uh oh. Same problem. The wizard went part of the way through and said something about the MSSQL$Microsoft##SSEE database again. It told me to disable the FrontPage server extensions. Why would they interfere with a database though?

I went into the ISAPI extensions and disabled FrontPage extensions. I tried the wizard again, and again I got the same problem. Maybe it was missing a DLL? I uninstalled 3.0, and installed Windows SharePoint Services 2.0. Then I immediately installed 3.0 as an upgrade instead of as a fresh install. No dice. Same problems.

I rolled back 3.0, and got back to 2.0. I repaired its installation just to be sure. Everything went fine. But then I clicked the administration link, and it went to fpadmdll.dll - and gave me a 404. The DLL was obviously where it should've been. But why was SharePoint still calling a FrontPage DLL after I'd disabled the extensions?

It took me a minute to find out where the actual installation point was for the FrontPage server extensions. They're hidden like a coin in a King Cake. You have to go to Control Panel. Then into Add/Remove Programs. Then to Add/Remove Windows Components to get to the Windows Components Wizard. Then you have to choose Application Server and click Details. THEN you have to choose IIS and click Details again. Finally, the list of IIS components appears, one of them being FrontPage 2002 Server Extensions, 14.1 MB. I uninstalled it and got out of Control Panel. Suddenly, everything worked. THIS is why you listen to the weak error messages, people.

I thought I was finished, anyway. I clicked on a link in the administration screen, and I got a message "There is not enough space on the disk." Every administrative task I tried gave me the same message. I had 22.4 GB on the drive!

This one was easier to nail down. I went to File Explorer, right-clicked on the C: drive, and checked Quotas. Sure enough, they were turned on. I turned them off (for now), and the last error messages went away.

So I did it. I wrestled SharePoint to the ground. I haven't upgraded back to 3.0 yet, but 2.0 is running great, under 384 KB of memory. And I finally have a test server I can program against, as well as a message board for the whole family. Life is good - or at least better than it is for the smoking monkey.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

"And would you like the curly chest hairs with that?"

http://www.tandoorgrill.com/fullmenu.htm


SOUPS & SALADS
Mulligatawny Soup ------------------------------------------- $3.95
Masculine Salad ---------------------------------------------- $4.95

Friday, April 20, 2007

Respecting our flag

In the comments on a previous post, someone allegedly named Anonymous said:

Don't you think it's disrespectful to our country for the person singing the Anthem to wear a jersey saying "Beat X" where X is the opponent, and then for the team to flash said jersey on the scoreboard, thus encouraging more disrespect?

You are correct, "Anonymous." I certainly do think it was disrespectful to show the "Beat Buffalo" lettering on her jersey while she was singing the anthem. It was a sign that the person running the scoreboard was trying to get the crowd going, rather than showing our nation's anthem the respect it deserves. In their defense, however, it was a matchup between two American teams, so there was no opportunity to show a bear crapping on a Canadian flag, as is the Coliseum tradition during the singing of "O Canada."

It also defiles the Islanders uniform to put extra lettering on it. However, when someone wears a Rangers jersey that spells "CRACKHEAD" down the front instead of "RANGERS", that's comedy gold.

What would I do if I were running the scoreboard? I would put together a montage of patriotic scenes that all Americans could be justly proud of. It would start with an American flag flapping in a light breeze. It would then dissolve to home-movie-quality footage of a toddler wiping his butt with a roll of Bin Laden toilet paper. Then a few more flags. Then it would switch to a naked, blind, 70-year-old man chained to a cage in Guantanamo, with dogs snarling at him. A couple more flags, a still shot of Bush falling off a Segway, and then the grand finale. Finish it off with an outline of Iran that turns into a mushroom cloud, and then morphs into a shot of some shirtless fat guys in the crowd, with American flags painted onto their hops-and-barley-bloated guts. Superimpose some fireworks over that, and you've got yourself an anthem.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Can't let go on Leggo

Last night, the Islanders scored to tie the Sabres with about a minute and a half left in the game. The referee, Mike Leggo, waved the goal off. He said that Ryan Miller was pushed in after making the save. (Untrue.) He also said he had meant to blow the whistle to stop the play because he lost sight of the puck. (Great. Maybe he can give some penalties out for hitting after the whistle, because he TOTALLY meant to blow the play dead but forgot.) He told the Islanders that the decision would be made by Toronto. Toronto said that the refs on the ice made the decision. None of the stories match up, but the fact is that Leggo made an awful call, on a clear goal, and then came up with 100 CYA explanations.

I did a bit of searching to see what Leggo's history in the NHL was, and it turns out that he has a proud string of really crappy, game-changing calls (and non-calls) to his name over the past few years. Why this ref is in the NHL, much less in the playoffs, is frankly baffling. And this was just on the first couple of pages of searches.





Buffalo gets benefit of Leggo blown calls vs. Rangers, day after Leggo screws up video replay, Nov 2006

But it's hard enough to have to face a team that good -- to have to face them on a second straight night of horrendous officiating that mostly went in their favor proved to be impossible. The litany of officiating errors in this game was legion, and all but one or two were by Mike Leggo, the referee who didn't see Cullen's goal the night before in Pittsburgh and failed to allow sufficient time for video review to correct his oversight (he had a different partner last night).

Leggo's errors in this game actually began with a bad call against Buffalo -- the double minor to Chris Drury for bloodying Adam Hall's nose with his stick was on the followthrough of playing a puck, which is not supposed to be a penalty. Leggo, as you an see from the replay, could not see the original impact through several bodies and made a late call only when he saw Hall on the ice.

The three calls that gave Buffalo a five on three for two minutes were all made by Leggo, and they were all correct (although he allowed Jason Ward to be crosschecked from behind when he cleared the puck over the glass for a delay of game call), but from there on everything went against the Rangers -- actually, some calls had already gone against the Rangers when Maxim Afinogenov was allowed to pick off Straka in his end of the ice and then get a call on Petr Prucha on a dive at the other end of the ice.

The absolute worst was when Jaromir Jagr was tackled right in front of Leggo, with no possible excuse for not seeing the penalty (which was actually the second against Jagr on the play after earlier obstruction). But it was not all -- Matt Cullen was tripped in Leggo's end of the ice with no call, even though the other referee had a line of sight as well; Straka was tripped on a possible breakaway with no call by the other referee; and Brendan Shanahan was obstructed off the deciding face-off as he tried to get to the point to defend against the shot that Drury deflected home for the game winner.




Leggo gets confused by loud noise, waves off tying goal, Mar 2003

Selanne's back-hander rolled over the shoulder of Dallas goalie Marty Turco and into the net as the final 10th of a second ran off and the horn sounded.

The goal was waved off originally by referee Mike Leggo, and after nearly 5 minutes of video replay, the call stood to the disappointment of most of the 17,496 fans.

"I thought it didn't cross the line before I heard the horn," Leggo said.

Selanne was already in midcelebration before he heard Leggo's ruling. After seeing several replays and getting the support of the fans, Selanne was steaming about the final decision.

"This is a joke," Selanne said. "Thank god this game didn't mean anything. But this is the NHL, they should at least get it right."




Leggo blows high-sticked goal, Avs vs. Wings, Jan 2007

Except for the goaltending of Jose Theodore, who started for the first time in a month, the margin of defeat could have been far worse, but Quenneville's ire was directed at referees Don Koharski and Mike Leggo.

Quenneville was upset when a goal by Tomas Holmstrom with 5: 58 to play in the third period was allowed to stand after lengthy video reviews by NHL officials in Toronto.

The goal, which gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead, was produced when Holmstrom lifted his stick to swat the rebound of defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom's shot.

The play was reviewed to determine whether Holmstrom knocked the puck in with a high stick, but the replays were inconclusive.




Leggo allows kicked/high-sticked goal to stand, May 2006

The Oilers scored at very controversial goal at 16:07, with Hemsky kicking the puck in the net following what should've been a high-stick on Horcoff. On the play, Horcoff had his stick above his head and redirected a point shot at Legace. Mike Leggo and Mick McGeough blew the call, as it was pretty obvious Horcoff tipped the puck with a high-stick. McGeough was the closest on the play. Legace attempted to cover the rebound off the Horcoff re-direct, but couldn't get his glove on it.




Leggo's quick whistle negates goal, Mar 2003

Defenseman Brian Leetch had 10 of New York's 41 shots andthought he scored the tying goal with 10:19 left in the third period when he jammed a rebound through Luongo's pads. But aquick whistle by referee Mike Leggo negated the goal.

"He blew the whistle and you have to accept it," Rangers coachGlen Sather said.

"He lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle and it was atough break for us," Leetch added.




Canucks goal called off by Leggo "royal screw job", Jan 2006

Mike Leggo waved it off; said he lost sight of the puck. Fair enough, all he had to do was put the matter in the hands of the replay official. Nope, he wouldn’t do that either.

For the second time in the game, officials altered the course of the game with a whistle.

“They didn’t give us [an explaination],” said a stoic Marc Crawford. “They were adamant about it. They thought they had blown the whistle. But it’s his call to make, not mine.”

It was, as they say, a royal screw job worthy of its own castle.

Seriously, what's the problem with YouTube?

I would assume that YouTube has a server farm running. (Duh.) But why did they not actually make it WORK before releasing it to the public?

I posted a video yesterday, showing instant replay of a disputed goal call. After I posted it, it said it was processing the video. Fine. I understand. Then it came up with a link to the new video page. Great. Lookin' awesome.

I went to that page, and YouTube told me it didn't exist.

I went to my user page, and YouTube didn't list the video I had just uploaded.

It finally loaded a couple hours later, and when I went to the page it told me there were seven views.

I viewed it from three different machines, anonymously, and it still told me there were seven views.

Last night, I received email telling me that people had posted comments on the video. I went to the video, and it said "7 views, 0 comments."

This morning, I got email FOUR times telling me that there were new comments on the video. The first time I checked, I was told "112 views, 0 comments." I checked three more times, and each time I was told "112 views, 0 comments."

I just checked again. Now it's showing "112 views, 2 comments." Underneath this note, three comments are visible.

The email told me there were comments from users named Jaycwik, ethermp, Ajarzian, kindup2, and Bneezy. On the page, there are comments from Jaycwik, Titan124, and ethermp.

Oops, I just refreshed the page. Now there are "112 views, 2 comments," but six comments underneath.





Here, let me hit F5...and what the hell! Now it says "112 views, 2 comments," but it's back to showing three comments.

How can this site be such a buggy piece of squiggle? If Microsoft put out something this obviously, slap-in-the-face broken, you'd never hear the end of it. Why is Google, who now owns YouTube, getting the benefit of the doubt with broken software like this?

UPDATE (9:55 AM): Now it shows "247 views, 6 comments," with three comments showing underneath. It jumped from 112 to 247, and now it can't find all the comments.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Into the Coliseum

I took my daughter to the Isles playoff game last night. It was a pretty good game, although the Isles lost because of the refs. There was some extra-classy behavior going on in the stands too.

They led off with the standard "history of the Isles" video clips, and included Dubie's poke check as the last historic moment. They also had a montage of clips from the late playoff run, which was prefaced with a prediction from ESPN that they would finish 30th out of 30, and the now-famous quote from Sam Rosen that the Isles were eliminated: "They can't make it."

Before the game, they announced a moment of silence for the shooting victims in Blacksburg. The crowd stood in respectful silence, but 20 seconds in it was pierced by a single drunken moron in or around Section 335 yelling "THE RANGERS SUCK COCK!"

After that laff-fest, a young lady came on to sing the National Anthem. She was wearing an Isles jersey. Halfway through the anthem, the scoreboard switched to a shot of the back of her jersey, where it said "Beat Buffalo." The crowd started to cheer and yell through the rest of the anthem. I may be the only one to feel this way, but I find it to be disrespectful to our country to cheer during the anthem. I've taught my kids to stand at attention, hands by their side or on their heart, facing the flag. After the singer says "...braaaave" you can start cheering. Whether they should be playing anthems at sporting events is another story (they don't play them at movies!), but as long as they are playing it you need to treat it with respect.

There was no scoring in the first period, even though the Isles had a slight edge in play. They hit the Buffalo goalie in the face twice with shots, and coach Lindy Ruff actually said they thought the Isles were headhunting. Here's the problem: if you could shoot that accurately, why not put it into the net instead of into the face?

After the period, the line for the men's room snaked all the way to Freeport. As one Buffalo fan said, "You're kidding me. There are only four cans in this place?" Playoff crowds are always nice in the Coliseum, because you get that nice "fire code violation" feeling when you try to wedge your way over to the pretzel stand.

The real action started in the second period, as Buffalo was awarded a goal despite no red light, no goal motion by the ref, and no replay that provided a view of the puck clearly over the line. We sat there for minute after minute as Toronto tried to figure out what had happened.

Bizarrely, the Coliseum didn't show any replays at all. During the wait, they showed bouncing Buffalo and New York pucks dancing around a Stanley Cup. Calling it a goal got the crowd ornery. It only got worse when the Isles drew six minutes of penalties on a single play. The call that put the Isles down 5-on-3 was just inexcusable. Buffalo scored on the two-man advantage, and that was that.

This gives us a chance to nutshell the problem with the league today. Campoli can bear-hug a Sabre in the crease and smash him down to the ground. That's OK. But when a player taps another player on the ankle while going for the puck, it's a penalty. It's not making the game faster or more exciting, it's just making it as random as an airport shoe check. It's a carnival.

And they only make diving calls when the other player gets a penalty too. If someone trips you and you draw attention to it, it's not the same as when someone doesn't touch you and you pretend you're shot. But I have NEVER seen a diving call made as the only penalty.

And the rule where defensemen try to clear the puck and it goes over the glass? A two-minute penalty for that is stupid.

And after the refs have physically obstructed players or deflected pucks about five times, you'd think they'd learn basic positioning.

Worst of all, this guy one row above us just wouldn't shut up. He had a nasal, Chris Russo voice, and EVERY time the Sabres got the puck in, he whined "Oh no!" EVERY DAMN TIME. Every time they passed to an open point man, he wimpered "Oh no!" Every time Buffalo got a takeaway and made it to center ice, he whinged "Oh no!" I think it was his first non-Strat-O-Matic game.

So anyway, the Islanders were outshot 17-2 in the third period but still had a chance in the end, down only one goal thanks to DiPietro's work in net. And then, in the last two minutes, they were called for a completely meaningless minor penalty. All hell broke loose. Plastic beer bottles went flying, along with water bottles and rally towels. (Or as Greg Logan put it in Newsday, "giveaway t-shirts." Newsday also showed a picture, on page A77, of Nystrom "beating Bernie Parent" to win the Cup in overtime. Yes, Bernie Parent.) People were waiting for the stuff to get cleaned up before throwing more crap on the ice. Someone hit a lineman with a bottle and people cheered. After the Isles couldn't score at the end, more debris got tossed on the ice.

Now normally, I love a good beer-soaked riot, but here's the problem with what happened. First of all, it's classless to throw things on the ice, drunk or not. The exception is when you throw hats on the ice to celebrate a three-goal game. Second of all, everyone cheered when soemone hit a lineman - he's not the one you're pissed at. Third of all, why are you throwing stuff from the 200s? You just ended up hitting other spectators. Fourth of all, you hit some Sabres - it's not their fault the refs boned the game. Show some sportsmanship and smear crap on the ref's car instead, willya?

As we were walking out of the Coliseum, I asked my daughter if she enjoyed her first drunken mob. She did, and so did her little fuzzy Islanders bear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Membership ha's it's priveledge's

The sign of a great hotel chain: the inability to spell the name of its own rewards program properly.


Sunday, April 8, 2007

Great moments in targeted advertising

The article:

Alcan spill turns Saguenay River red
Company says the substance will not
endanger the environment

The Canadian Press

Environment experts in Quebec on Saturday were monitoring a spill that turned several kilometres of the Saguenay River red.

An unknown quantity of red aluminum production residue spilled into the river on Friday after a pipe ruptured at an Alcan plant in Jonquiere, north of Quebec City.

There is no danger to people and likely not to aquatic life either, said company spokeswoman Renée Larouche.

"We want to first reassure the population that despite the way the river looks, there is no danger to the population," she said.
. . .


The accompanying ad:

Saturday, April 7, 2007

If I were a Freeper, that would be fresh!

If I were a Freeper, I could make stupid comments like calling Hillary Clinton "Hitlery." I could make brilliant comments like the one found here:


“Who made decisions, if any, that resulted unnecessarily in a lot of people getting sick?” asked Congressman Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes the World Trade Center site."

What's Jerry gonna do, sit on Rudy and crush him if he doesn't 'fess up to some made-up crime?

Photo of the extra-large Jerry:
http://www.sfgate.com/c/pictures/2006/06/19/ba_nadler01.jpg


What's the problem? The photo is from many years ago, before Rep. Nadler had weight loss surgery to fix a genetic obesity problem. Prior to that, he had tried everything, including a month-long stay at the Duke University weight loss center.



So not only is this an ad hominem argument, the supposed zinger is five years stale. He had the surgery in 2002, and he now looks like this. Let's review:


Stolen candy, cheap

I'm walking to the E subway station on 52nd and 5th. In front of the branch library, there are several young gentlemen aggressively selling candy for some alleged fundraiser. Most people want no part of it, but the youths keep up their edgy-yet-jovial tone.

I pull out my Treo and pretend to look at the screen, because this usually discourages people from bugging me. It always works when the old VFW guy tries to sell me raffle tickets for a boat in front of Stop & Shop. Not in this case. The slightly-too-aggressive teen walks right up to me - RIGHT up to me - and asks if I want to buy his candy. As I ignore him and keep walking, he actually steps in front of me to pitch, but I keep walking and ignoring him. I bump him. Really, more of a brush-by. I keep on walking as if nothing happened.

Candy Teen completes his sales pitch with the perfect closer: "You just bumped me? Fucking say you're sorry. You're not even going to say you're sorry, you candy-ass son of a bitch?"

Well, in that case give me TWO packets of stolen M&Ms!

But why chlorine?????

I just had MSNBC on while I was cooking some breakfast. The anchordunce was talking with a "military analyst" about chlorine bombs recently used in Iraq. She said, and this is a very close paraphrase, "I mean, why chlorine? What makes chlorine so deadly when it's the same chemical we use in our swimming pools and cleaning products and bleach?"

Other questions she might want to ask the analyst: "Why are bullets so deadly? I mean, women need to take daily iron supplements." "If E. coli is in everyone's gut, why isn't everyone sick?" "How can electrodes on someone's genitals hurt? I mean, it's the same electricity we use to watch television with every day!"

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

America's Mayor

Rudy Giuliani seems to be getting pissy about coverage of his personal life. Last night, he told WCBS that people should lay off his third wife.

The former New York City mayor is fending off increased media scrutiny of his third wife -- the former Judith Nathan. Rudy is now asking the media to back off.

"Attack me all you want," Giuliani said. "There's plenty to attack me about. Please do it. But maybe, you know, show a little decency."

Yes, this is Rudy Giuliani asking others to show a little decency. Rudy Giuliani, the man about whom the Village Voice once said "he's never walked past a pissing contest without unzipping."

This is the same Giuliani who, when a "celebrity madame" was busted a decade ago, made sure that they announced that one of the names in her black book was Marv Albert's. No charges, no evidence that it was him instead of someone using a fake name. No reason at all to do this other than to be a smirky little shit.

This is the same Giuliani who lost the city $290K when someone called his radio show to complain that cops were running a traffic-signal trap near the Bronx Zoo. Giuliani got pissed and had the man's prior arrest record released, including a dropped charge of sodomy in the 1970s. Giuliani said of the incident, "There is nothing to apologize for."

This is the same Giuliani who released juvenile records of Patrick Dorismond after the unarmed man was shot by cops.

This is the same Giuliani who made the MTA take ads from New York magazine off the sides of city buses. The ads said "Possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn't taken credit for."

This is the same Giuliani who, as a DA, would make high-profile arrests by marching Wall Street executives out of their offices in handcuffs, past their coworkers and preassembled media. Usually, these cases were later dropped.

And after living his life like this for decades, after using the tool of shredded dignity in order to punish the innocent people who crossed him, Rudy Giuliani expects that people should treat him with decency?

Giuliani is a petty little bitch who will take every opportunity to slime someone personally and ruin their reputation if it means it'll win him a dispute. Or even if it doesn't, to make sure that the other person doesn't win either. Or even worse, just for fun. He's got surprisingly little character, and he surrounds himself with people like Kerik.

Show him some decency? Screw that.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Traveling to Santa Clara

I made the trip to Santa Clara this week for SD Expo. It was a great conference, but I have a few minor travel-related complaints. Please bear with me.

1. The AirTrain. When you park in long-term now at JFK, you hop on the AirTrain to the main terminals. This is great, efficient, and free. And the gap between the train and the platforms is just the right size so that the $3 luggage cart you rent gets stuck when you try to wheel it on and off. All your bags go spilling. What a pain.

2. American Airlines. Remember "more room in coach?" They undid that. It's now "less room in coach." What the hell?

3. American Airlines. You're charging us for the snacks too now? Seriously, go F yourselves.

4. American Airlines. I used to be able to save up my miles and upgrade from coach. I guess I'm undesirable, because I now can't upgrade my tickets for any price, miles or cash. Why? What a load of shit. TWA used to let me do it. YOU used to let me do it.

5. Vector iMobile power inverters. Sure, the $25 deelies seem like a good idea when they first wink at you from the shelf at Target. Their only function, when plugged into a power port on a plane, is to stop working and beep loudly every three minutes. Utter crap.

6. SFO Airport. Why did it take us over an hour to get our luggage? The belt buzzed and started to go around, and two bags were disgorged. We all stood there as the two bags went around twice. Then the belt stopped. Time passed. The belt buzzed again and started going around, but nothing came out. Then it stopped. We had two bags going around in circles, plus a tabletop fan in a tray. Someone checked a loose tabletop fan as baggage.

The belt buzzed again, and five bags came up the conveyor belt, only to stop at the crest. A passenger ended up climbing into the middle of the conveyor to pull the bags down. Buzz, nothing. Buzz, nothing. This continued for over 45 minutes, until finally the luggage came spewing out. WHO THE HELL CHECKED A TABLETOP FAN?

7. Avis. I picked up my car. They gave me a complimentary upgrade, so that instead of driving something, well, driveable, I ended up in a Lincoln Town Car. It was like driving the Queen Mary. It was about 20 feet too long, too wide for many of today's slimmer parking spots, and it handled like a bear with a harness on. Big cars are supposed to be safer, but I was terrified behind the wheel of this thing. I could drive over a Mini and not even notice it. I had to keep checking all sides because I didn't have a feel for how far this thing stuck out into the other lanes. I had to swoop left to make a right turn, like a bus driver. I felt like my grandfather behind the wheel of this behemoth. I could've run over four or five people and never even noticed.

8. Food choices. I got in so late that the only thing I could find open was a Jack in the Box. I treated myself to a 99c chicken disk on a bun. A day and a half later, my hand still smelled like fast-food mayo.

9. The hotel. I stayed at a quaint place called Mariani's Inn, in the Korean muffler shop district of downtown Santa Clara, between Jimmy Kim's Muffler Panda and Johnny Kim's Muffler Nice. I opened the door of my room and got slammed by a blast of disinfectant backwash. The carpet was that deep burgundy pile you might recognize from the 1970s. I was a little bit afraid to touch any surfaces lest I get athlete's hand or find a scrunchie in the pillowcase. On the other hand, it was pretty inexpensive.

10. Jet lag. Maybe it was the paper-thin pillows I had at the hotel, or the way I was sleeping with one eye open in case the Sunnyvale Strangler decided to climb through my window in the middle of the night, but I just didn't get good sleep out there at all.

11. Early flights. What was I thinking when I booked an 8 AM flight out of SFO? Yuck. And I got lost in the back of the Town Car for 15 minutes, which made me even later.

12. The TSA. I actually got into an argument with a security guard at the airport at 7:00 AM. I was completely correct, but lost the argument. The TSA allows you to carry on a third bag with photography equipment. I knew this. The TSA security attendant didn't know this. The ticket agent didn't know this. She said "OK, sir, if you can bring me a printout of that rule...." Sure, that's what I'll do right now. I cited the rule exactly, and she said it meant that I could make my camera bag a second checked piece of luggage. Yeah, dummy, they have a special rule for what your second piece of checked luggage can be.

I asked her if she could ensure the bag's safety, or mark it as fragile. She said that they don't do any special handling for fragile items, but I could take one of their shitty paper name tags and write FRAGILE on it. I said no thanks, that would just be a signal to your employees to open the bag up and steal from it. Wow, you get pissy looks when you bring up the fact that airline baggage handlers are notorious thieves.

I took everything out of my little bag and shoved it into my bigger camera bag, then handed the empty, small bag over for checking. The clerk said "You're really checking an empty bag?" No, dummy. I'd like to give it to you as a gift for dicking around with me and being unaware of TSA regulations. Of course I'm checking it empty. That's the only way to ensure that your work-release program luggage handlers won't strip it down to its straps.

Note: TSA Editorial 1248 states that


You may carry one (1) bag of photographic equipment in addition to one (1) carry-on and one (1) personal item through the screening checkpoint. The additional bag must conform to your air carrier's carry-on restrictions for size and weight.

13. American Airlines. They evidently removed another 1/2" from their seats in coach between Sunday and Thursday. I think they even got smaller during the flight.

14. American Airlines. Seat 30C was supposed to have underseat power. It did on the flight out.

15. American Airlines. When a flight leaves at 8:00 AM, people don't want their only food option to be a smoked turkey sandwich 40 minutes later. Especially when you're charging them $5.00 for the privilege and that's it for choices.

16. American Airlines. Two hours into the flight is not the time to start telling people that there's no bottled water left, but they can get some water out of the sink in the lavatory.

17. American Airlines. Because the Eye On American entertainment loop they showed on the monitors was from last October, and featured "coming soon" previews of theatrical releases from early November.

18. American Airlines. Oops, the seats just bunched up by another 1/4". Here's a helpful tip, though. If you're in an aisle seat, you can usually reach under the outer armrest and find a ridged lever close to the hinge of the seat. If you slide this just right, it'll disengage the lock and you'll be able to swing your legs out into the aisle. And then the flight attendant who looks like Nancy Grace will repeatedly run your foot over with the cart they use to not serve food for six hours.

19. The AirTrain. Because of their sign pointing to "All Tereminals."

So now I have athlete's neck from the hotel room, all my clothes smell like hotel, and my legs are cramped up from the flight. At least the weather was nice out there.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

AirTrain, JFK

Airline Tereminals? I bet this one'll cost $25 million to fix.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Simulated coal miner

If you've ever wondered how to simulate life as a coal miner, it's now within reach!

Pop a couple of Entenmann's chocolate donut holes in your snackhole. Make sure they're the St. Patrick's Day ones with the green and white sprinkles. Masticate and swallow.

Voila! You now have the diseased black sputum of a lifelong coal miner. Effects last 4-6 hours.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Convicts, not immigrants

From the New York Times:


In a pilot program run by the state Corrections Department, supervised teams of low-risk inmates beginning this month will be available to harvest the swaths of sweet corn, peppers and melons that sweep the southeastern portion of the state.

Under the program, which has drawn criticism from groups concerned about immigrants' rights and from others seeking changes in the criminal justice system, farmers will pay a fee to the state, and the inmates, who volunteer for the work, will be paid about 60 cents a day, corrections officials said.

Concerned about the possible shortage of field labor, Dorothy B. Butcher, a state representative from Pueblo and a supporter of the program, said, "The workers on these farms do the weeding, the harvesting, the storing, everything that comes with growing crops for the market."

"If we can't sustain our work force, we're going to be in trouble," said Ms. Butcher, a Democrat.



So they outlawed immigrant labor in this area. The crops all rotted because they couldn't find anyone who would work for shit. Now they've worked it out so they can pay convicts 6 cents an hour.

If there were justice in this world, these farm operators would be compelled by law to mark any such fruit and veg as having been picked by prisoners. Maybe with a little Convict Fresh! sticker on each piece:

Geocoding to Brewster

This is geeky and kind of cool, while at the same time being painfully boring. I drove to Brewster NY yesterday, and I rigged up my camera to take a photo every 15 seconds. On top of that, I plugged my homemade GPS receiver into it, so every photo was tagged with its exact location. And now, I have a photo essay of the L.I.E., Cross-Island, and I-684.

The cool part is watching all the pins render on the map.

http://maps.smugmug.com/?feedType=geoAlbum&Data=2546082

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ten great Bush lies

I was actually asked today what Bush had lied about, versus just being taken out of context or treated otherwise unfairly about. Here's a quick list of ten of them, with sources.

1. "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Included in the 2003 SOTU address. The previous autumn, George Tenet urged Bush to remove this line from any speeches because it was "highly dubious." In Dec 2002, ElBaradei told the White House that the documents were forgeries. Bush chose to keep the line in his address despite knowing that the Niger docs were forged.

2. "I would like this to end as quickly as possible. If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

"President Bush declassified sensitive intelligence in 2003 and authorized its public disclosure to rebut Iraq war critics...." So Bush himself misused the declassification process to out a covert CIA agent for political gain. OK, technically might not have been a crime, but boy, if Clinton did that....

3. "177 of the opposition party said, 'You know, we don't think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists.'"

This flat-out lie is one of the more transparent. The vote was over whether the administration would need to get readily obtainable secret warrants to continue to wiretap. In no way is this not a lie.

4. "Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to strike America, to attack us. I would have used very resource, every asset, every power of this government to protect the American people."

CNN related this quote, in a piece that also talks about how the airplane attacks were thought about six years earlier in the Pentagon.

CBS reporter David Martin revealed that weeks before the attacks, the CIA had warned Bush personally of Osama Bin Laden’s intent to use hijacked planes as missiles.

5. "We do not torture."

Bush claimed this on a visit to Central America.

Human Rights Watch documented that Bush authorized "unlawful interrogation methods.

6. "These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren't wearing uniforms . . . but were there to kill."

This is from a boilerplate Bush sound bite about how all the Guantanamo detainees are all evil and stuff.

Even the conservative Andrew Sullivan has documented otherwise, via Stuart Taylor. For example, "a high percentage, perhaps the majority, of the 500-odd men now held at Guantanamo were not captured on any battlefield, let alone on 'the battlefield in Afghanistan.'" And "the majority were not captured by U.S. forces but rather handed over by reward-seeking Pakistanis and Afghan warlords and by villagers of highly doubtful reliability."

7. "A wiretap requires a court order."

Bush also said that "When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."

So go back to #3 above and explain the anger as Bush accused Democrats of near-treason for wanting to require a court order before wiretaps.

8. "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories."

Wrong. You can argue that Bush was too stupid to actually have lied about it, but he didn't exactly issue any timely retractions.

9. "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

The Washington Post documented this statement, as well as ripping it apart. "In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show."

10. "I remember campaigning in Chicago and one of the reporters said, 'Would you ever deficit spend?' I said, 'Only – only – in times of war, in times of economy insecurity as a result of a recession or in times of national emergency.'"

Bush used this line quite a bit in the earlier days of his presidency. Too bad it was completely made up.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Two problems solved

Story 1:

Dr. Pepper hid the winning coin in a promotional stunt within Boston's 347-year-old Granary Burying Ground, causing officials to lock the park amid fears that the historical site would be overrun.

Story 2:

TV news cameras caught dozens of rats gamboling around a KFC/Taco Bell on West Fourth St. in NYC, causing officials to shut down the restaurant until the health violations were fixed.

Solution:

Dr. Pepper should hide the winning coin inside one of the rats, and the first contestant who finds it gets the prize. Two problems solved!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Who am I voting for?

Well, since the 2008 election is only two years away, I thought it would be time to make a firm decision on a candidate I could support. Sure, we don't know who'll be running yet, but why let that stop us? Unfortunately, there's not a single standout as of yet. There are candidates I'll be more or less happy to support, but we'll have to see how things shake out. Here's my list:

Definitely not: Brownback, Cox, Giuliani, Hunter, Romney, Gilmore, Huckabee, McCain, Paul, Tancredo, Thompson, Gingrich, Hagel, Pataki. Anyone who willingly self-identifies as a Republican after the past six years has inadequate judgment to run a country.

Biden - Pushed the horrible bankruptcy bill. Forget it.

Clinton - I vowed not to vote for her two years ago because of her support for the Iraq War. It was politically expedient for her, and she thought it made her look tough. Now she's trying to squirm out of it without admitting she was wrong. She started a "listening tour" and when people told her they wanted her to admit she was wrong, she stopped listening. I do like how her mere existence enrages the right, however.

Dodd - Yawn.

Gravel - Who?

Vilsack - Yawn. Also, we've had enough DLC for now.

Richardson - Could be decent, but I'm uncomfortable with how he failed to challenge the 2004 results in New Mexico, when there was a lot of evidence of problems there.

Kucinich - Probably the most closely aligned with my beliefs, but looks like Gollum.

Edwards - Good potential. Did the right thing in not firing the bloggers when that racist bag of crap Donohue demanded it. Dems have to learn not to let people who will never vote for them dictate what they should be doing.

Obama - I like the way he isn't playing the Fox News game, and isn't taking the "apologize for everything" bait. I don't like how he's using GOP talking points like "Lincoln Bedroom," although it might be a signal to the Clinton camp to back off because he'll return fire in kind. And boy, the Fox News crowd is terrified of him. What I don't like is the emphasis on "faith," as if claiming a religious belief magically makes you a more moral, better person. It doesn't. Two words: George Bush.

I could also vote for Clark, Gore, Dean, and Feingold. Feingold was my first choice. I think that Dean's 50 state strategy was GREAT, and was the biggest reason we took the House in 2006. Carville was crazy to go after Dean last year, and it demonstrated Snakehead's waning influence.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The greatest Web site in the universe

For my birthday last weekend, my daughter (age 10) put together a tribute site. Start with the volume down, then turn it up slowly to suit.

Interesting question from last weekend

"Who is that guy Peter who always leaves comments on your blog? Do you know him, or is he just one of those anonymous Internet kooks?"

The answer is not as simple as it may, at first, seem. There are many Peter Taylors in the world. One has an award named after him. Another Peter Taylor won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1987.

Now that I look at their bios, these two seem to be the same Peter Taylor. The real Peter Taylor is manager at Crystal Palace right now. He also works in Australia, taking sea slugs out of dogs. And of course, he wrote about three entries for his blog before forgetting the password.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Escape to Jamaica

It's been snowing/sleeting/icing/freezing raining all day, so I thought it would be wise to leave work a bit early. I took off at 3 PM and caught the 3:21 train.

As we approached Jamaica, I noticed that there were several trains just sitting on one side of the station. We pulled into Track 7, and the announcement came on: "Due to the weather, this train is being taken out of service." Done. Everyone off.

After we got off, they announced that there was no eastbound service past Seaford because of downed power lines, but that they were sending a diesel to get us. OK, no problem. It's 3:45 now, and the replacement will surely be by soon.

Then they announced that not only is the Babylon line down, the Ronkonkoma line is down too because of a jacknifed tractor trailer on Wellwood Ave. No trains past Hicksville.

There are plenty of Far Rockaway and Oyster Bay trains, thank god. Nothing for us. After standing on the platform for a while, we started heading up to the walkway over the tracks. I found a single set of benches with the same kind of heat lamps they use to warm up stale curly fries at the Roy Rogers on the NJ Turnpike. The snow and ice was coming down, the wind was howling, and the temperature was dropping. Fortunately, all the announcments about our plight also stopped.

Aha, I figured, the 4:04 would be by soon. Nope. Cancelled. As was the 4:21. We just kept waiting and waiting. I went over to the information booth and asked where the Patchogue train would be. The clerk said Track 6. We went over to Track 6. No train. Then a Port Jeff train. No Patchogue train.

Finally at 5:20, something told us to run over to Track 8, where the Patchogue train was pulling in. This would end up combining four other trains in an orgy of shared anger. I couldn't feel my extremeties by that point, and I actually lost three toes. Fortunately, they weren't my toes. But my doctor says they will be if I eat one more amaretto cheesecake.

A disheveled gent sat next to me, and started ranting about the day. "This railroad has no (bleep) idea how to run a (bleep) (bleeeeep). One inch of snow. This is (bleep) ridiculous. They should not be allowed to run a railroad. This is absolutely incompetent."

I meekly agreed with his rant. He turned to me and said "I hope you don't blame me for this. I work for the railroad."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Endtimes are coming...eventually

If you firmly believe, as I do, that the Endtimes are coming, why not check out Endtime magazine? Of course, the Endtimes aren't that close--which is why they offer a 2, 4, or 6 year subscription. And don't forget to ask for the refund if you can't use the last three years of the subscription for some unforeseen reason.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Down weather's memory lane

They actually keep track. The Weather Channel lists all the music that they play behind the Local Forecast every month. And you can browse their archives back to 1998! Just in case you heard a catchy ditty during a local forecast six years ago just couldn't remember its name.

Strange hands

Seen on the T in Boston last Friday. It looks like the guy had options for getting into college, and also for slaughtering the admissions office.



Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Michelle Malkin, champion of concentration camps

There was this "big" "controversy" last week when Jon Edwards hired Amanda Turcotte to run his blogging efforts. Some rightards accused Turcotte of deleting some of her older messages. (It was a server problem.) Then Michelle Malkin, who writes about how concentration camps are a good thing, decided to make a "funny" video on YouTube. She read some of Turcotte's old posts with her schoolyard mocking face, designed to show that they were crazy. Some people posted comments.

I posted a comment. I got a note that there was a reply. I went to YouTube this afternoon, and there were 9 pages of comments. I found the reply to mine (the reply was basically a claim that all Democrats were sexual deviants). I replied to it, listing a few dozen deviant Republicans.

Then I got a second YouTube note that I had a reply to a comment I made. I went up to the site and...suddenly there were 3 pages of comments. Down to 28 total. Replies were now floating in space without context. One of my replies was gone.

Proving what? That either a) people whining about Marcotte are actually revising comment on a public site, or b) servers really do lose posts from time to time.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Chow mein warning

I had a package of Nissin Chow Mein for lunch. Thai Peanut flavor, thanks for asking.

This isn't real chow mein. It's nothing but a tray of ramen noodles with three packets. One has peanut-crumb-flavored floor sweepings. One has "flavoring." One has a VO-5 hot oil treatment.

The directions on the shrink wrap are different from the directions on the peel-back lid.

The package says "plenty of vegetables" and shows a steaming noodle heap with sliced green onions and cilantro. None of those made an appearance in today's lunch. No sliced green onions. No cilantro. No plenty of vegetables.

I dutifully ate my "chow" "mein", then disposed the tray of properly. And now my office stinks of peanut-crumb-flavored floor sweepings. It's that typical indeterminate aroma that food manufacturers often call "Oriental flavoring," and it's wafting all over my 8x8 space. NISSIN CHOW MEIN REEKS.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Jilly's page

I don't know, I just keep thinking that Cordelia could've put in just a bit of effort to make it a bit, well, flashier.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Amaryllis portrait

I've decided that I want a job where I just take pictures of flowers and stuff all day. And then sit in a big comfy chair in front of a fireplace. That would be the life.



This photo is a 30 second exposure using a single incandescent bulb as backlighting.

It's got "News" in its name, so it must be news!

For some odd reason, one of the aliases I own has been placed on the NewsMax daily mailing list. As you know, NewsMax is so truthful and newsy, it even has "News" in its name! There are eight or nine Democratic candidates for president in 2008, but for NewsMax, it's all about hard-hitting coverage that looks fairly at both sides.

So in the interest of news, here's recent NewsMax newsletter coverage of Hillary's campaign! (It's a NewsMax newsletter - it's so newsy that it's got "news" in it twice!)

Dec 7 Dick Morris: Hillary Can Win, But Must Not
Dec 13 Rush, Dick Morris Praised 'Hillary's Scheme'
Dec 14 McCain Trounces Hillary
Dec 16 Hillary Clinton Dines with D'Amato, Koch
Dec 19 Hillary Snubs French Socialist Royal
Dec 19 Dick Morris: I'll Leave U.S. if Hillary Elected
Dec 20 Obama Threatens Hillary
Dec 21 Give 'Deck of Hillary' for Christmas
Dec 21 'Crafty' Hillary: A Mom in the White House?
Dec 24 Hillary Disavows Her Iraq War Vote
Dec 25 Dick Morris: Hillary's Mom Strategy
Dec 28 Dick Morris: Obama's Gift to Hillary
Jan 5 Hillary Plans to Derail Obama
Jan 10 Hillary Picks Launch Pad, Koch on Iraq
Jan 12 Dick Morris: Democratic Civil War
Jan 16 Hillary Slams Edwards, Navy Ships Head to Iran
Jan 21 Breaking: Hillary Worried Makes 2008 Announcement
Jan 21 Dick Morris: Hillary in Trouble
Jan 22 Bush Hater Tossed from Jet; Rush and Hillary, More
Jan 26 Dick Morris: Poor Hillary Eclipsed by Pelosi, Obama
Jan 29 Hillary Fibs in Iowa, Bush Warns Iran
Jan 30 Harry Reid's Land Deal; Hillary; Chavez
Jan 31 Hillary's Antics Help the GOP
Jan 31 Dick Morris: Hillary's Achilles Heel in Poll