Excellent! Shannon just gave me my early birthday presents (since she has to go back to Washington, D.C. tomorrow, before my real birthday), and the biggie was the atomic clock I drool over every time I see it. I had to get it to work the instant that I unwrapped it, but alas, the radio signal from the National Institute of Standards and Technology isn’t strong in New York City right now (it’ll probably be adequate at around 10 PM, and hit its peak at about midnight). What a damn cool technology.

Rick Tait, a New Yorker who has been providing free wireless Internet access via his Time Warner cable modem connection, has received a cease-and-desist order from the provider. While I feel bad for him — as I do anyone who has to deal with Time Warner in any more than the normal perfunctory ways — I don’t feel too bad for him, nor do I feel like he’s in the right on this one. He has Internet service with an agreement (that he should have read) that specifically forbids redistribution of the connection to others, and if he didn’t like that, then he should have found another connection (like EarthLink service over Time Warner cable, which doesn’t seem to have the restriction in their use policy). As it is, he’s been caught, and he should just admit to it and move on. (Oh, and Rick: have you heard of non-broadcast SSIDs and WEP? Lead shielding may be taking the dramatic flair a bit too far.)

I actually had some good stuff to say about the unconstitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance today, but then the T1 to my house died, and I had to scramble around fixing it, and then it died again, and I had to scramble further, in the dead of night, to fix it again. And now I’m too tired to think, other than remembering that I’m working a 27-hour shift tomorrow. Oh, well; I’ll just leave you with this history of how “under God” came to be added to the Pledge, and this look at the strange origins of the entirety of the Pledge.

my post-root-canal tooth

So, today I had my very first root canal, and I have to tell you — it was totally painless. My doctor swabbed the inside of my cheek with something banana-like, and then while making chitchat, anesthetized my lower jaw in under 20 seconds flat. Within five minutes, I didn’t know I had a lower jaw, and in another 20 minutes, he was done. I don’t know if it’s just that enormous progress has been made since the days that the phrase “as much fun as a root canal” was coined, but honestly, I’ve got nary a complaint.

Further acknowledging my server hosting duties, I officially declare that anyone who wants to buy me this is more than welcome to. It’d definitely cut down on the space needed in my closet…

Acknowledging the fact that I’m essentially now running a server farm from my apartment, I finally got an UPS installed here over the weekend. My plans call for having the UPS supply power to the three computers that run as servers, and have one of those computers also hooked up to the serial port of the UPS in order to monitor it (and direct a gentle shutdown of all the involved systems in the case of a power failure).

As ideal as these plans sound, turning this configuration into reality isn’t as easy. Due to what I can only explain as either terrible software design or corporate greed, APC doesn’t provide any method for machines to communicate with the monitoring computer and shut down gracefully; instead, they want you to buy a $300 add-on card that allows you to plug your UPS into the network, and then use software that interacts with that card. It’s lunacy, but it means more money for them. Lucky for me, though, the power of Google turned me on to NUT, a freeware tool that claims to be able to do the right thing. I’ll keep you posted as to whether it works as advertised.

A big thanks goes out to Karen for pointing out the best reference to Linux command-line tools that I’ve seen. (Also, a huge congratulations goes out to Karen and Jake, on this almost-one-month anniversary of their wedding!)

Anyone who claims that an advantage Linux has over Windows is the avoidance of DLL Hell has clearly never run up against package dependencies. Imagine if the newest version of A needed a newer version of B, but the newer version of B needs the newest version of C, but the newer version of C needs the older version of A and a newer version of D… makes you want to rip your hair out.

(This rant brought to you by OpenSSH 3.3, which took me waaaaaay more time than necessary to get installed today.)

Can you tell when the DNS servers for metafilter.com decided to stop working?

(Rumor has it that the DNS problems are in the process of clearing as we speak. Until they do, though, you can still get to MetaFilter using one of its other domain names.)

Merlin has the best dissection I’ve read of the newly-discovered, lunatic, no-linking-without-permission policy over at National Public Radio. Marek has compiled a few links of other peoples’ responses to the policy, most of which highlight that NPR has yet to reply to anyone who has requested permission with decisions.

And a sidenote for Derek, posted here because his entry doesn’t have comments enabled: no, it’s not up to NPR to decide whether or not I can link to their content. The fundamental flaw in your question — “Shouldn’t they have the right to ask how it gets used?” — is that I’m linking to their material, not using their material. Do you think they asked Tammy Faye’s permission before posting this? Or Science magazine’s permission before talking about its global warming study? I can’t imagine that they did, because they’re not republishing it, they’re discussing it, something that’s allowed (and that one would think NPR would encourage).

I finally received a copy of the much-ballyhooed Kenneth Mehlman/Karl Rove PowerPoint presentation yesterday (HTML here, PPT here), and I find it pretty interesting, for two reasons. First, it has found its way into the hands of nearly everyone in Washington, reportedly by the simple mistake of a staffer dropping a diskette in Lafayette Park. Second, it shows just how much the Republicans are targeting every last chance to regain control of the Senate — and that they are practicing election-related politics using the taxpayer-funded resources of the Executive Office, something that they made a huge stink over when Al Gore reportedly made calls to solicit donations from his office in the White House.

And my favorite part? Both of the authors referring to themselves as “The Honorable” in the title slides.

You know what I hate? Going into work expecting nothing but sheer normalcy, and then halfway through the day, looking at my PalmPilot and realizing that I’m on call that night. That happened to me yesterday, for only the second time during residency; it left me totally discombobulated, annoyed that I had to cancel plans with people, and just plain irritable. Luckily, the call night went well — no major catastrophes, all 20 of the oncology and bone marrow transplant kids did well, and only a few minor normal-for-my-hospital screwups in blood tests and nursing issues. Best of all, I got some sleep, leaving today open to actually get some errands done, and generally be a normal human being.

There’s a Steve Gillmor article over at InfoWorld that’s pretty interesting to me, but not because of the subject — protection of freedom on the Internet — but because of the mention of the redistribution deal that UserLand has with the New York Times.

For those who don’t know about it, UserLand makes a product that claims to have exclusive access to a series of syndication feeds from the Times, feeds which contain links to NYTimes.com articles and which can be fed into the news aggregator that’s part of the UserLand product. One of the selling points of Radio Userland has been that, after subscribing to the feeds, your personal homepage would contain automatically-updated links to NYTimes.com stories that interest you, and would make it easy for you to share those links with others.

There’s been a bit of word-of-mouth spread of the URLs to the XML files, for those who have kept their eyes open. Unfortunately, despite all the bluster about standards and whatnot that generally comes out of the UserLand camp, the XML files aren’t standard RSS, but rather, are a proprietary format that most news aggregators won’t read. Fortunately, though, Mark Pilgrim has written a great script that you can grab and install that converts the proprietary XML files to standard RSS; at that point, the sky’s the limit, all without having to buy the UserLand app.

Just another case of Internet users routing around outages

Shannon and I went to see The Bourne Identity this weekend, and I really enjoyed it — it’s a fun movie with lots of action, and it’s different enough that it didn’t feel hackneyed or trite. Most of all, though, I liked seeing Franka Potente in a big role — I loved Run Lola Run, and have been wondering if she’d ever break into the American film scene. I’m glad to see she has!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been getting a little peeved that my TiVo has occasionally had an extra item at the bottom of the main menu with a few weird and unrequested promotions (two Sheryl Crow video rehearsals, some strange “Electronic Feng Shui” spots). I felt similar to Howard Greenstein — “Once you start taking up space I paid for, it’s war.” But then I sauntered over to the TiVo Community Forum and read the explanation offered up by TiVo, and I have to admit, I’m satisfied. They’re not taking up space that’s otherwise available to my programming, they’re taking space that has always been reserved on the disks for promotions. Also, based on feedback, they’ve modified the feature to delete the items from the menu after four days. And given that they used to use this space for something called Pre-TiVo Central Messages — the equivalent of pop-up ads — I’m happy with how things are.

Despite the fact that I went into Barnes & Noble today looking for a single book to get me through one more day of jury duty, I came out with:

Really, it’s impossible for me to survive a trip to a bookstore without spending at least $50.

I dunno why, but I figured that the release of Mozilla 1.0 was a sign that all the reported bugs were fixed. According to this version of the CSS level 1 spec that’s annotated with active Mozilla bugs, though, I was wrong. It’s a handy bookmark to have for those of you who need to program around the problems that still exist in the released code.

I’m on jury duty today (and tomorrow, and maybe even Monday, and all bets are off if I’m chosen for a jury!), and was dreading it. Walking to the criminal court building this morning, though, I remembered something awesome — my ISP’s major East Coast data center is a hop, skip, and jump away from the court, and now I’m sitting here on my lunch break in their client lounge (with free Starbucks, woohoo!).

Alas, though, I haven’t been called to sit on any voir dire panels yet, and the clerk (who may be the funniest man I’ve been in a room with in a long time) warned us that the court calendar has been a little slow these past few weeks. I’ve already finished one book, and after a quick bite of lunch, it’s off to Barnes & Noble to get another one.

Now, to figure out (a) if my ISP has wireless hubs here, and (b) if they reach all the way to the floor of the courthouse building that the jury room is on…

Thanks go out to Laura for passing on the news that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has finalized required limits on resident works hours for all programs seeking to remain accredited in the United States. (There’s a PDF of the requirements on the ACGME website.) Us New York residents aren’t really affected by this, though; after the 1984 death of Libby Zion, we have the Bell Commission laws (see section 405.4) that already impose pretty stringent requirements on our hours.

Why did I never know that Leslie Harpold (of hoopla.com fame) is a Manhattanite? She wrote a fantastic tale for The Morning News yesterday detailing the way that New Yorkers hoarde information about experts-for-hire (painters, plumbers) and their shops. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see one of the things I like most about New York described so perfectly; anyone who has spent even a year in this city has enjoyed the furtive delight of getting a name of the perfect apartment broker or housecleaner, and the angst of deciding which of their friends deserves also being let in on the secret.

Isn’t this just as American as it gets: someone is tricked by a hoax email and gives up their PayPal username and password, and then sues Paypal when the authors of the hoax email take $1,600 from his account. My favorite part is that this guy is actually a computer parts salesman, and probably should know better than replying to an email request for his password. Alas, he didn’t, and now he’s trying to hold PayPal responsible.

Honestly, if you’re not reading the World Cup 2002 Blog, you really oughta start. I have to thank my brother for turning me onto the site, which has kept me laughing every day since he told me about it. Yesterday was a good example:

Clint Mathis….at what point did you think of getting a mohawk and decide, “Yeah, that’ll look good!” Reason I ask, mate, is I want you to isolate that moment so that the next time it happens you can go outside and slam your head in a car door.

I’ve got it — I’ve figured out the next big step in Microsoft’s Grand Scheme™ to take over the world, and it came to me during a (partly-self-instigated) reinstall of Windows XP. If you pay attention closely, one of the drivers that’s loaded during the first part of the setup process is for the Human Interface Parser. When I noticed that, something clicked and everything became obvious — Microsoft is planning to be the only operating system that is easily available and usable by non-humans!

First, things will start out innocuously — there will be Feline and Canine Interface Parsers, and they’ll be marketed all cute-like to kids and parents who want their pets to take the big next step of becoming wired. But behind the scenes, Microsoft’s Intergalactic Interface Department will be ready to introduce a parser that’s compatible with whatever superrace from outer space that chooses to colonize Earth and strip us of our resources. “Hello, Lord Dvvexrgawa from the 1743 Nebula, just load this driver and your PDA can control any Windows XP machine on the planet!”

Remember, you heard it here first.

I love when companies have a sense of humor. Tonight, I registered for an account on the MINI Cooper USA website (droooool), and at the end, the following disclaimer came up:

I understand that by signing up I agree to the following: For the sole purpose of giving me the best service possible, I agree to let MINI share the information I provide with other groups in the immediate MINI network, such as MINI dealers.  MINI will never sell the information I have given.  Nor will they share it with any 3rd parties that have no clear and direct link to MINI.  Furthermore, even other groups within the immediate MINI network will never contact me in any way shape or form until I have explicitly granted them permission. I also agree to avoid ruts. And I agree to change my locker combination to include the numbers 1964 (the year we won our first Monte Carlo rally). I agree to chase squirrels around the park every now and then and giggle like a madman while doing it. I agree to be more adventurous and try to avoid homogenized restaurant chains. I agree to name my first-born Cooper. I agree to bare the soles of my feet to the earth and feel grass, sand, stones, and streams. I agree to watch the movie "The Italian Job" as soon as I can. I agree to at least think strongly about learning to play a musical instrument. I agree to consider painting the roof of my house in contrasting colors. I agree to the terms.  Sign me up.

Now that’s funny shit.

I soooo wish that I had kick-ass artistic talent that I could use to make this joint a little nicer…

I love it. Today, Dave Winer posted a long piece, analyzing some anonymous reporter’s silence on an issue which involves the reporter’s employer, and concluding that the guy doesn’t qualify to be called a journalist as a result of his silence. Not eight hours later, though, Dave had to issue a retraction to another big chunk of the piece — it turned out that quite a few of his facts were poorly-researched and totally false.

Now, which quality would you say is a necessary part of the definition of a journalist: the willingness to report on one’s employer, or the willingness to research the facts that one proffers as truth to his readers? I can’t imagine many people will have a difficult time answering this one.

Of course, this all is coming from someone who believes that the essence of journalistic integrity is “never [stating] as fact something you know not to be true.” Note the wording — it’s not “always state that which you know to be true,” but instead, the reverse. By this logic, I can pen an article that accuses the government of orchestrating the events of 9/11, and since I don’t know it not to be true, my journalistic integrity remains intact. It’s really a fascinatingly self-serving way to look at things, and it serves to explain a lot.

Oh, gawd, Pacman on the web won’t be a good thing for my use of time….

Apropos of nothing, I bring you the best pictures I’ve found of the now-extinguished Tribute in Light memorial, from the camera of Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. The three shots are beautiful, and make me wish I had been able to get down to the site to see it from up close.

So, I decided to be as unbiased as possible, and not only install Mozilla 1.0, but use it as my primary browser to see if it would grow on me. And in the first two days of using it, I have to admit… it didn’t. It crashed three times, once when I clicked in the address bar, once when I submitted a web form, and once when I played a QuickTime clip. I didn’t like the nonstandard widgets in the interface, either — they felt clunky and slow. I did like the tabbed interface, but didn’t like how some things wanted to open in other windows, and others were OK with opening in other tabs of the present window. And so I’m back to IE, and happy about it.

And all of a sudden, a million computers hit Google at once and searched for “Jodie Kidd nude”

In my post-Italy daze, I missed the fact that in the latter half of May, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned its own decision in Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists and upheld an injunction against the authors of the horrific Nuremburg Files website. (A PDF version of the decision is here.) The website is the one that you remember reading about, listing names, home addresses, SSNs, and family information for a bunch of abortion providers, and providing rewards for “persuading” them not to continue providing abortion services.

Dahlia Lithwick has an analysis of the decision, specifically in the context of allowable speech in a post-9/11 America. I like her last sentence most of all — “Let’s not become so protective of speech or so enslaved to doctrine that we blind ourselves to the intentions of those who put no value at all on life.”

Sorry, no link to the Nuremburg Files, since I’d rather not be sending people to a website that’s so damn abhorrent.

Bristol-Myers Squibb was sued by 29 states today for allegedly obtaining fraudulent patents on paclitaxel (otherwise known as Taxol), and then attempting to extend the patent protection of the drug via bogus lawsuits. Honestly, I’m pretty happy to see this lawsuit; the way that BMS has seemed to work every angle and scam to earn more money off of Taxol makes me ill. Consider these data points:

  • paclitaxel was discovered by the Research Triangle Institute in 1967, and the first data was published in 1971; BMS didn’t get its hands on it until 1991.
  • in 1992, after BMS received the exclusive commercial contract for paclitazel, it still had committed no funds to either development or research of the drug; at the same time, BMS was charging over 20 times as much per milligram of drug as it paid to obtain it from Hauser Chemical, the manufacturer who was able to make it.
  • in countries that have allowed the production of generic paclitaxel, production costs have been cited as much as 85 times less than those cited by BMS.
  • when a few U.S. manufacturers began applying to produce generic forms of paclitaxel, BMS hurried through an application to use the drug for Kaposi’s sarcoma, which, under U.S. orphan drug use laws, grants it another seven years as the exclusive seller.

What’s the worst thing about all this? If BMS loses their patent on paclitaxel, they’ll just grease up physicians with freebies and specious data to get them to prescribe the specific BMS formulation. What’s the best thing about all this? The lawsuit cites the Sherman Act’s proscriptions against anticompetitive behavior, which could mean triple damages.

holy precision!

The headline above comes to you courtesy of CNN’s Department of Precision News Coverage. (The link points to this news article, which thankfully has a headline that clarifies things a bit.)

Technology Review has an interesting list of 10 technology disasters that each show how new applications of technology can go horribly awry. I hadn’t heard of a lot of them, but that was part of the point; the editors passed up a lot of the more well-known disasters (like the Challenger and Chernobyl) and found what they felt were better lessons learned through failure. It’s worth a quick read.

How can it be possible that it’s been under a year since I bought my Coolpix 995, and yet I already have camera envy? This new bad boy looks great; I agree with Derek, though, that the greenish stripe on the front is a bit wimpy. Won’t stop me from craving one, though…

I’ve been watching the NBA for well over a decade now, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen as poorly-officiated a game as I did in game six of the Lakers/Kings series. Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post has a pretty accurate summary of it all that’s worth reading, and I don’t know if I have anything to add to his assessment. I also don’t know if it’s just random happenstance or if it’s closer to the conspiracy ideas about the NBA and NBC needing a marquee team in the Finals, but I do know that the officials handed the Lakers game six, and thus, their chance to get to the Finals. (There’s also a SportsFilter thread about the game.)

I promised myself I wouldn’t spout off about this unless it turned out to matter; with the Lakers advancing to the NBA Finals last night, it now matters.

This week’s sign that America’s educational system is truly struggling: Palm Beach County high schools are making 23% a passing history exam grade. Hell, it’s a multiple choice test — if there are four possible answers to each question, random guessing would get you a 25%!

(Would it be passe to connect this back to Palm Beach County’s other bigtime embarrassment involving multiple choice and percentages?)