If you’re one of the people who reads this site in an honest-to-goodness web browser window (rather than a syndication aggregator), then you’ve probably noticed that I went and redesigned things around here. The last time I went and did that was in February of 2002, so that would explain why I’ve been feeling that my layout was a bit stale. Welcome to the 2006 version of Q Daily News… and keep your eyes peeled around mid-2010 for the next iteration!

A few notes on the design:

  • Given that the title and navigation never felt intuitive to me over in a bar along the right, I moved it all up to the top. Not really rocket science, but it certainly went a long way towards making the site feel right to me.
  • Over the past year or two, I’ve been trying to use categories when I write posts, if only to help gather similar subjects together on category pages. Of course, I never exposed any of this to viewing through the site (for reasons having more to do with laziness than difficulty), so I fixed that wrong. Likewise, I decided to make entry titles a little more prominent; they used to be visible only on each post’s individual archive page, but now they’re above each entry on the main page and on the monthly and category archive pages.
  • Over the past few years, I’ve been squirreling content away in various publicly-accessible web services (like the photo archive Flickr, and the bookmark storage site del.icio.us), something that always made me feel like I was competing with my own weblog. Rather than stop using the web services, it made more sense to me to bring that content back to QDN… so now you’ll see a few content areas in the righthand sidebar that weren’t there before, including the last three pictures I’ve uploaded to Flick, and the last five bookmarks I’ve posted to del.icio.us.
  • What you’ll see is now missing from the sidebar is a list of links (a blogroll, as it were); I found that my old link list rapidly got crusty as people shuttered their sites, moved URLs, or generally fell off the web. I’m tinkering with a few ideas about how to add it back and make it more current, so we’ll see what comes of that.
  • I used Tim Appnel’s mt-archive-dateheader plugin and a bit of PHP reprocessing to revamp the archive page. The long, thin list of links to month-by-month archives was always just on the barely-tolerable side of acceptable to me; at least displaying them within year blocks seems a bit more logical.
  • I was within micrometers of doing away with all TrackBack functionality (given that my last valid TrackBack was sent back in September), but I decided that the spam-filtering code in Movable Type 3.2 makes TrackBacks low-cost enough to keep around for a little while longer. I did tinker around with how they’re gathered and displayed on entry pages, though, which will make it easier to just abandon all TrackBack functionality if that’s what I ultimately decide.
rach and syd

Hi Rachie! (In the picture to the right, that’s Rach, with her daughter Syd.)

So, here’s a funny little story. My little sister Rachel came to town last night, not to visit Shannon and me (completely understandable, since we spent all of the past two weekends with her!), but rather to see one of her best friend’s new baby. Apparently, she randomly ran into one of my oldest friends — the one who passed my apartment onto me here in Brookline — in the Prudential Mall today, and while they were chatting, he made an offhand reference to Q Daily News. And therein lies the bit of hilarity… because before that mention, the only people in my immediate family who knew about this site were my brother and his wife. So of course, that conversation led Rachel to Google and then to here — and then to a phone call from my brother telling me that I’d been outed. And as it so happens, my entire family not only lives in NYC but was hanging out in Rachel’s apartment when she got back to the city this evening, so they’re all in on the gig. Which means that my earlier greetings need to be expanded: hi everybody!

(In all honesty, there’s no huge reason for the secrecy. When I started things here back in 1999, I’m not even sure that most of my family regularly checked their email, but I was more sure that they’d think a weblog was a bit weird. As time went on, it became a little bit of a challenge to see when they’d all find the site; my brother came knocking back in 2001, and I’ve always had a suspicion that my Google-loving parents have known for a little while. But now it’s all out in the open!)

Thanks, Steve; as predicted, my copyright notice (at the bottom of the right-hand content bar) was yet another that was rooted in 2004. All fixed!

I’m not a National Geographic subscriber, which means that I’m going to have to swing by the library over the next week or two — the feature article on creation vs. evolution this month looks like it’ll be a great read. (Of course, I can’t deny the added appeal in the issue’s cover text asking “Was Darwin wrong?”, and the pullquote on the first-page of the feature answering “NO. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming.”)

I’m not sure why I’m so intrigued by Google’s acquisition of satellite image provider Keyhole, but I am. Perhaps it’s because it’s one more sign that Google generally operates at the very edge of the search space, looking for ways to push those edges outward; perhaps it’s because it’s another huge data set that I’m sure hasn’t been sufficiently examined. Or perhaps it’s for one of the dozens of other reasons related to information mining, the places where wildly dissimilar data sets meet, and all the cool tools that Google’s made to date. In any event, I’m anxious to see what comes of it.

My hospital distributed PocketPCs to a group of clinicians a little bit ago, me included, and I’ve spent the past week playing around with the new toy. The platform that was standardized on is the HP iPaq hx4700, in a large part because of its built-in WiFi, and that means that in most places in the hospital, I’m able to get online. Of course, because I’m such a geek, that means that any time I get bored I find myself surfing the web. I usually end up crawling around the various sites that specialize in PocketPC-related topics, and one thing that I’ve been pretty amazed by is how many of those sites don’t do jack shit to make their pages display well on the platform. In fact, most of them don’t serve anything different to PocketPC browsers, meaning that I usually spend about a half a minute trying to find the place on the page that has content, another minute or so figuring out where the navigation elements are, and then about a microsecond giving up and hitting the back button. It’s am interesting case study in not knowing your audience, and as a result, providing a substandard experience.

After being deluged this morning with news about the changes coming Thursday to U.S. check cashing laws, I did a little bit of surfing around to see what I should know. Pretty much every single resource I found said that the most important thing that consumers should understand about the changes is that you should assume that the physical, actual check that you write completely ceases to exist at the moment that it is cashed. (This is because banks will now scan checks at the point of deposit, and then process them entirely from the information in the scan.) And this means that if a bank makes a mistake processing a check — say, they cash a $100 check for $1,000 instead — it will be somewhat harder for the person who wrote the check to prove that an error occurred. The new law anticipated this, and has a remedy: substitute checks. These are images of your checks which adhere to specific standards, and carry the same legal weight as the original check; the kicker is that many of those little images of your checks that you get with your statements don’t meet the standards of substitute checks, so you need to make sure that you specifically request “substitute checks” from your bank.

This is all confusing enough that, not surprisingly, I called my bank tonight to ask that all my statements contain the substitute checks and the representative had no clue what I was talking about. She put me on hold for about five minutes, and then came back to tell me that her supervisor said all accounts will have them on the statements, but I was less than reassured. I’ll make a mental note to call back in a few days, and see if the relevant information has filtered down.

Two long pieces that are worth the time it’ll take you to read: Tim Golden’s New York Times article, “After Terror, a Secret Rewriting of Military Law”, and Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article, “High Prices”. The former is an in-depth look at how, in the post-9/11 environment, the Bush Administration went about the secretive process of rewriting a slew of laws and rules to allow the unfettered detainment and civil abuse of anyone that it decided was a terrorist, and is one of the few written pieces that has made me understand just how unimportant civil rights have become under our current President’s leadership. The latter is a well-researched, impeccably-detailed trip through the problems that surround drug prices, pharmaceutical research, and physician behavior in this country; it’s really the piece that I wish I could have written nearly two years ago.

Interesting — it appears that eBay filters the email addresses that people use in their registrations, and somehow decides which it will allow and which it won’t.

For the past three or four weeks, I’ve been dutifully going through all my website registrations and changing the email addresses associated with them to new ones, all at the domain MASSHOLE.US (which I registered a few months ago). I generally haven’t had a problem; sites from Amazon to TypePad have accepted the new email addresses without issue, and the wholesale change has let me make a few changes to my email system that has decreased the amount of spam in my inbox. But eBay has not been as accepting; each time, I get an email to the old inbox saying that I submitted a change request and telling me to expect an email in the inbox of the new address which contains a confirmation code, but I never ever receive that promised confirmation email.

The first two times I tried the change, I figured that their system was just temporarily broken, and that I would be able to try again at some later time without problem. When it didn’t work a third time, I contacted their customer service via email (using the support pages that they provide), but a week later had not received any reply whatsoever. I then tried to make the email address change a fourth time, failed to get the promised confirmation email, and tried contacting their customer service again, but similarly never got a reply. That kind of rookie behavior pissed me off a bit, but I assumed that I’d eventually get some kind of response. Alas, tonight made two weeks of complete eBay silence.

On a lark, I just decideded to try to change my email address to one on my normal domain, QUESO.COM — and lo and behold, the confirmation email arrived instantly! I then tried again to use the MASSHOLE.US address, and still haven’t received any confirmation email. I can only assume that the difference in the two behaviors is rooted in the fact that MASSHOLE.US contains an objectionable word… but the fact that their system fails silently in its rejection, leaving me completely in the dark as to whether this is actually the case, is unbelievably frustrating. Of course, in the end, I don’t know which is worse: the way that the system is set up, or the nonexistent customer service that exists to support that system.

Shannon and I watched Nine Innings from Ground Zero today, and liked it a lot. Granted, it helps that we’re Yankees fans — the documentary uses the resurgence of the Yankees during the 2001 Playoffs as the centerpiece of the story, so it’s obvious how it would appeal to the fans in us. But it’s also a nice look at how the Yankees and Mets played a role in New York City’s healing, and easily brought tears to our eyes about a dozen times. If you get HBO, it’s probably worth a view.

Jesus, our election system is so damn broken. So let me get this straight — Republicans are allowed to pass an amendment banning the use of federal funds to pay independent United Nations elections monitors, and then use $360,000 of political money to pay partisans who are supposed to make sure that everything is up to snuff? Can there be any less of a doubt why there was a loud call for international monitoring this year?

As Rafe finds himself wondering what motivates people to consider reelecting President Bush, he should meander over to the website of the Lone Star Iconoclast (the Crawford, TX hometown paper) and read some of the letters to the editor that were received after the paper’s endorsement of John Kerry. Some choice clips (all spelling and grammar courtesy of the original authors):

It sounds like you’ve gotten on the “Flip/Flop” bandwagon and I sincerely hope that ALL Texans will ban your newspaper. Anyone that would speak of a sitting President of the United States as you have and all the rest of the liberal press have should be banned.

If Kerry wins, it will because the American public has been inadequately informed. In the Bible it is recorded that in Hosea’s time, the “people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”. (Hosea 4:6) It is no different today. The Bible also says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8) Ignorance destroying a people is not brain science. As far as Kerry being “unstable”, that can be explained in secular terms such as schizophrenic or pathological liar.

Your options listed in your iconoclast article regarding President Bush are nothing more than fabricated lies that are extremer left-winged liberal hatred.

You should be ashamed of what you printed about President Bush. I for one, hope you fold for this stupid article. You really gave Kerry a lot of fodder for his smear campaign. You must be a room mate of Bill Burket at the local insane asylum. My God people, this is your President, your neighbor. Are you trying to have your 15 minutes of fame at President Bush’s expense?

I wish I lived in your city so I could cancel my subscription and boycott anyone who advertised in your paper. To be this stupid You deserve your candidate Kerry.

Your reporting is biased and childish and you rant and rave like a renegade who can’t quite find the cause that he is seeking, so you make things up as you go. I will be glad when one day soon, I try to pull up this website and I find that you are no longer in business. I must ask. Are you redneck or stupid, or both? I have to guess that you must be both, because either one alone would not be quite enough to pull off a moronic blunder such as you have. As many, many thousands of others, I am thoroughly disgusted and appalled. Proud to be a supporter of the greatest president this country has ever seen, George W. Bush.

And, my personal favorite:

You have just made fools of yourselves. With the moron you put on msnbc.. Notice the old barn in the back ground. You could probably get a better spokes person there! Lets see how far your ratings go down. Your gonna indorse a candidate that waived a vietnamiese flag in public and went against his own fellow servicemen, and can’t tell the same story twice the same way. You have just lost major credability,, Not just state wide but nation wide.. I would be looking for a good bankruptcy lawyer.. Your gonna need it! You need to change your web site for home of George Bush to traitor of George Bush! Mr. Smith go fit yourself for a turbin, because if your candidate wins we will all have to wear one and learn arabic..

It’s not hard to see where at least these people are coming from…

Well, wasn’t that game seven less than fun. I’m happy for the Sox that they’re in the World Series (and finally have the chance to avenge the infamous E3 in 1986!), but it pains me that they went through the Yanks — outright embarrassing them with a first-time-ever four straight postseason wins — to get there.

Good luck, Red Sox!

Yep, I want the Yankees to win; yep, I’ve been crushed by the last three nights of my beloved Yankees forgetting that they have, you know, bats in their hands that are capable of, whaddyacallit, hitting the baseball. More than anything, though, I’m excited that, after the game tonight, this series will come to an end. Three straight nights of white knuckles and minimal sleep, and I’m pretty much toasted. You’d think that being on what felt like permanent call to the hospital last year would have prepared me for this paltry few-day stretch of baseball, but somehow, it didn’t.

Oh, and I couldn’t agree more — mama mia, did the fans at last night’s game reflect poorly on the Yanks. I’d hope that some time was spent by stadium officials today looking at video footage, and that there will be a few people turned away at the gates tonight…

In the past five weeks, my email scanning log shows the following statistics:

  • Total incoming emails: 40,128;
  • Number of those emails which were not spam: 1,386 (3.4%);
  • Number of those emails which were spam: 38,742 (96.6%).

In addition, about 100 emails have slipped through the cracks in that time period (they weren’t caught by SpamAssassin for whatever reason), which means that that percentage increases to 96.8%. I’m in the middle of modifying things with my mail system that should decrease that number massively; right now, for a variety of reasons, I receive email sent to any address at queso.com, and that’s the main reason why I get so much spam. I’m fixing all those reasons, though, so I expect to see a bigtime reduction in the next few weeks.

For those of you who are also watching the ALCS matchup between the Yankees and Red Sox: the infield fly rule. Who knew you could learn something new during about the rules of baseball during a playoff series?

I’m rarely one to hawk affiliate deals, but I got an email from Dell tonight that has a few offers in it I’d imagine might be exactly what some people are looking for. Here they are, for those who’re interested:

  • Take 30% off of any Inspiron laptop priced at $1,299 and above; enter coupon code “NKDP1HNP271J00” at checkout.
  • Get a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 system with 512 Mb memory, double-bay CD drives, and a 15” flat panel display for $499; click on this link or put in eValue code “1-D24BSDU”. And then, use coupon code “FMRRQRTFFK2LV0” at checkout to get an additional $70 off!

Both of these offers end on 10/18 at 5:59 Central time.

In an effort to stem the flow of spam to the addresses I use for domain name registration, I decided today to set up a new mail account for all my registrations, use sendmail’s plussed users feature (also here) to be able to give each registrar a different email address, and then put a set of tweaked spam filters on that account. I started going through all the registrars I’ve used, and successfully changed my email address with four of them. When I got to GoDaddy, though, the interface would not accept the new email address, and after talking to them on the phone, it turns out that their system does not accept plus signs in addresses. The technical rep didn’t know why this restriction exists, and his supervisor said that there’s no changing it.

It’s an odd decision on their part, given that the plus sign totally valid according to the RFC which governs such things; it’s as if they also decided that their system wouldn’t accept registrations for domain names with the letter “z” in them. And given that sendmail is the most used mail transport agent in the world, it’s hard to see why GoDaddy would enforce a restriction that actually has a specific function in the application, but whatever. All in all, it’s funny for a company which exists to support the internet standard of DNS to be so clueless when it comes to another internet standard, email.

I had an odd Linux crash this morning that I just don’t understand. I got a call from Shannon saying that the webserver wasn’t responding; I tried to ping it, and it didn’t respond. In fact, no services (web, mail, FTP, ssh) were responding, so I walked over to the machine, and while it was running (I could hear the fan spinning, and the lights on the front were lit), I couldn’t get anything at all on the monitor. I ended up having to hit the reset button, after which it came back up just fine.

Looking through the logs, there is truly no clue as to what happened. The main log (/var/log/messages) shows that the IMAP server processed its databases successfully, and then the next entry is from almost six hours later, when I reset the machine. Every other log — mail, cron, security, webserver — shows the same thing: entries up until around 3:02 AM, and then silence for nearly six hours, until the machine is restarted.

This machine has been running fine for a while now — I’ve had eight-month stretches without reboots — but in the past three or four weeks, I’ve started installing all the services that will allow it to become my primary web and mail server. Maybe one of them took it down; without log information, it’s hard to know, though. I’ve started to do a dump of the memory state every five minutes or so… maybe that’ll give me some insight into what happened. Any other ideas?

ESPN’s Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, is the kind of funny that leaves me laughing hysterically, in tears, gasping for breath.

A few notes on some things that have crossed my screen in the last 24 hours:

Now, for a night of awesome competition (Yankees vs. Red Sox, Kerry vs. Bush)!

This and this make me want to vomit. I’m happy to see that both stories were broken by local news affiliates; I’m also happy to see that, in both cases, the whistleblower was able to bring shreds of the torn-up forms to the relevant elections supervisors who confirmed that the voters had never been added to the rolls. (Of course, thanks go out to Josh Marshall, both for these links and for the great work he’s doing ferreting out stories like this.)

Little bit of a power outage this morning here at Chez Queso, meaning that this site and a few others were silenced for a bit. We seem to be back now; hopefully, the lifegiving juice will continue to flow!

Since I’m completely incapable of watching Presidential debates on television (and hell, there’s a baseball game on!), I’m instead enjoying the hell out of Paul Begala’s live debate weblog over at CNN. So far, my favorite:

Bush just said: “I hear there’s rumors on the Internets.” Is there some secret second Internet I don’t know about? Perhaps that’s where Bush gets the information that tells him things are so peachy in Iraq and the economy’s strong. He’s living in his own Private Idaho, apparently reading things on his own private Internet.

In the wedding planning process, it’s right about now that you realize that if just one more facility uses the phrase “Where dreams come true!”, you’re going to throw up. Let’s get this straight, people: the only way a location will make any engaged couple’s dreams come true is if it’s free, beautiful, comes with all the alcohol people can drink, has no limits on catering, music, or hours, and has a 42” plasma screen television and DVD player to keep the kiddos occupied while their moms and dads celebrate.

I’m finishing off a project I’ve been working on for my old hospital, and find myself evaluating rich HTML text editors — those little dealieboppers that let someone enter text into a web page and make it bold, underlined, in list format, whatever. (Given my druthers, I wouldn’t integrate one into the project since I’m much more comfortable coding text formatting by hand, but the intended users of the app want and need to be able to use the button-based editing interface.) I’ve come across a few, and am interested in any opinions people have as to benefits or drawbacks of any one of them (or any others that they might have seen while meandering the web).

The few that I’ve played with, either by downloading and installing or using an online demo, are: Kevin Roth’s Cross-Browser Rich Text Editor, Editlet, pinEdit, TwistText Rich Text Editor, and Elktron’s eWebEditPro. Out of those five, the first is the clear victor — it’s free, works in most browsers (not Safari, oddly), has no license that limits use, puts out decent code, and is easy to integrate into a project. The rest of them either cost a bundle, try to do way too much, or don’t work in some of the large-share browsers, making it hard to see how they would actually add to the application.


God, that Yankees game was a nailbiter. What poetic justice that the Twins were robbed of an assured run by a ground-rule double in the 8th… and then the Yankees were equally robbed by a ground-rule double in the bottom of the 11th. There’s nothing to bitch about, just solid baseball and a squeaker of a finish!

And now that I’m done with my Thunderbird playtime, I think I’ll take a week or two to kick the tires of three new (or new to me, at least!) apps that I hope will find a place in my programming setup: Smultron, TextMate, and VoodooPad Lite. The first two are geared to be hardcore text editors for programmers — syntax coloring, code libraries, and the like — and the third is more of a notepad to help keep track of all the information that doesn’t make it into the code. They all look cool, so I think it’ll be fun to see what they can do!

I’ve been playing with Thunderbird on my Powerbook for about two weeks now, and I have to say I’m generally underwhelmed. My biggest issues:

  1. Frequently, Thunderbird manages to show me a message in the mailbox list, but not let me actually see the message. For example, I currently have twelve messages in one of my folders, and while I can see the list entry for all of them, when I click on a specific one of them, the preview window is empty (well, save for the header information from the message that I was reading prior to clicking on it). Likewise, double-clicking that entry brings up a blank message window, and going to View/Message Source brings up a blank window, as well. And there’s nothing I can do about this — there’s no command to refresh the mailbox. Annoyingly, when it’s a message I really care about reading, I actually have to delete and recreate my entire mail account, then re-enter all the settings, and finally open the folder and read it. That all seems a bit much.
  2. There seem to be major problems with offline mode. I have a filter on my mail server that puts all my mailing lists into a specific folder, so that they stay out of my face when I’m busy but are easily perused when I get a few free minutes. Since those free minutes tend to pop up when I’m disconnected from a network, I have Thunderbird set up to download all the messages in the lists folder when I tell it to go offline. Alas, it seems that the program randomly chooses which messages to download, and as a result, I’m frequently left with half of them being unavailable, and no network connection to remedy the situation.
  3. If you add the previous and next buttons to the toolbar, they use the behavior that views the previous and next unread message, to much annoyance. This means that, instead of sending me to the next message in my inbox, Thunderbird frequently sends me to some message that was filed in one of my 150+ mail folders. The Go menu has entries for both options — read the next/previous unread message, and read the next/previous message of any type — so I know that Thunderbird knows how to behave correctly; the binding of the unread-specific functions to the buttons doesn’t make a lot of sense.

That’s what I have so far… I’m sure that Thunderbird will mature a lot in the move from 0.8 to 1.0, but until it does, it’s not the mail client for me.

si dailies, atlanta 1996

It makes me happy to have finally gotten off my ass, found good mylar sleeves, and packaged up all my copies of Sports Illustrated’s daily 1996 Olympic magazine. I ended up having two complete sets, and as many as seven or eight of some issues; now, they’ll all go into storage to give to my kids some day. (And, of course, there’s that magazine issue in the lower right hand corner, which makes me very happy to own!)

I’m not quite sure how I missed Typographica’s thread from November on the best font for programming, but I did. There are a slew of great suggestions in there, including Mark Simonson’s Anonymous, Bitstream’s Vera Sans Mono (screenshot here), and Lucas de Groot’s TheSansMono. I’m always looking for something that’d be easier on the eyes… time to play a bit!

I just realized that I forgot to post the requisite how-long-did-it-finally-last update for my iPod. So, the answer is 7 hours and 50 minutes. I still don’t understand, but have decided to just go with the flow. I’ll hang onto the replacement battery, but not install it until this battery tanks again. (By my estimate, that should be between a few days and a few weeks from now!)

SpamAssassin 3.0 is out! Notable in this release is the inclusion of a check against the Spam URI realtime blocklists (a huge help in the fight against spam), use of Sender Policy Framework tests (a huge help in the fight against fraudulent return address information), better integration with databases for storage of preferences and filter information, and a move into the Apache Software Foundation. If you run a mail server, you’d be doing yourself and your users a favor by hopping over and grabbing it.

And now, for an update to last night’s iPod story:

After 2 hours, and a battery indicator that flickered between two and three bars of remaining life, I decided to plug the damn thing into the charger and go to sleep. This morning, at 8:57 AM, I unplugged it, hit play, threw it into my backpack, and came into work. Right now, it’s four hours and 13 minutes later, it’s still playing, and the battery indicator is still showing four bars of power left. And I’m truly, completely baffled.

Remember — the only thing I’ve done is taken the back off of the iPod! Is it possible that the battery life can somehow be affected by whether or not the back is attached? I don’t see anywhere obvious that the battery could be shorting against the aluminum; what else could I be missing?

This is just freakish, and as sure as I am that I can’t explain what’s happened to the battery, I’m equally sure that the moment I decide that maybe I don’t need the new one and send it back, the seven-minute lifespan will return.

I don’t understand my iPod.

I have a first-generation, 10 gigabyte iPod, and over the past year, the battery life has been getting worse and worse. I decided to pretty much give up on it as a portable device about two months ago, when I disconnected it from the charger (into which it had been plugged for the prior 10 hours), started walking to work, and seven minutes later, it died with a low-battery warning. At that point, Shannon and I bought a cigarette-lighter power cord for it and relegated the device to a road-trip role in our lives.

Earlier this week, I happened upon a posting about an affordable extended-life replacement for the battery (I’d love to give the author credit by name, but he or she doesn’t really make a name accessible anywhere obvious!), and after a little hemming and hawing, I decided to give it a shot. I placed the order yesterday.

Given that, of course today was the day that Anil decided to email me a link claiming that all you need to do is open the iPod up, disconnect the battery, and reconnect it, and like magic, the battery’s long life would be restored. I cursed a bit, knowing that my replacement is about 10 hours away from delivery to my doorstep, but tonight I decided that it couldn’t hurt to give the unplug/replug method a try. I opened the little guy up (not as easy as I’d thought it would be!), but then realized that I hadn’t turned the iPod on to see what the current battery state was. I’m a scientist, after all; what kind of scientist would I be without data from both before and after the battery disconnection? So I powered the iPod up.

And therein lies the second surprise of the day. It’s now been almost three weeks since we’ve used the iPod — that was our last roadtrip — and since then, the device has been sitting in a drawer. Under normal circumstances, that would mean I could expect about three or four minutes before power-off… but of course, today doesn’t seem to be normal. It’s now been 75 minutes since I hit play, and the battery indicator shows three bars remaining.

No, really — I don’t understand.

I see that now, our country has upped the ante, moving from shitting on people’s basic rights to trying to prevent the Supreme Court from defending people’s basic rights. Americans can complain all they want about the downward trajectory this place is on, but when push comes to shove, all these policymakers were either elected by us or appointed (and approved) by the people we elected. And if we continue to elect and approve asshats who’d rather pillage the Constitution than read it — or worse, not vote, and let others choose our fate for us — then we’re to blame.

Wow, jetlag sucks. My brain thinks it’s 4:30 AM right now, and my coordination seems to be following suit.

From San Fran, a few skyline images from the Maritime National Park:

san fran skyline
skyline across the bay from san fran

Shannon and I escaped to San Francisco for the next few days; we had an eventless flight out here (thank God for inexpensive, direct mid-week flights from Boston to San Fran, curse God for out-of-control kids and their “I want my kids to think I’m cool, so I’m not going to discipline them” parents sitting near us on said flight), and collapsed in a heap last night when we realized that, in our brains, it was actually past 3AM.

Today, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate, and whatever else we can find to enjoy this beautiful weather! And with the clouds and rain that’s in the forecast for Boston, it looks like we hopped over to the Left Coast just in time…

It seems that, with today’s appearance of Mozilla Firefox Preview Release 1, we have the first general-availability build of Firefox that integrates the fix for the annoying-as-hell cookie problem. (For those who don’t remember, or are too busy to click through that link, the problem is that most Mozilla browsers limit you to a certain number of cookies before they start deleting them, meaning that you end up having to log back into your bank sites, news sites, and whatnot on a seemingly-random basis.)

There’s an important note about that fix, though: without doing a few manual config changes, you’ll only see a marginal improvement. The old Mozilla way of doing cookies was that you were limited to a total of 300, and this fix increases that number to 1000, a number that should get you a few more days’ worth of browsing before your website logins start expiring. That being said, the official specification states that “cookie support should have no fixed limits,” and that browsers “should strive to store as many frequently-used cookies as possible.” A way to approximate that behavior would be to increase the maximum number of cookies to the highest the pref allows (network.cookie.maxNumber, 65535); this should change the behavior back to that which you’d expect from cookies. (If you don’t know how to increase it, take a look at the MozillaZine guide to the about:config window.) I’m not sure how Firefox will handle the increased number, stability-wise — for all I know, the limit was there because the cookie-handling code isn’t comfortable dealing with more than a thousand — but I can tell you that not having to dig my wallet out to find my bank card number every week will make me a lot less annoyed.

Looking at my last three posts — damn, am I a geek. I need to get out more… :)

This morning, I awoke to an email from El Oso telling me that the link to my archive list was broken; sure enough, it was, and that was totally confusing to me, seeing as I had made no recent changes to the structure of my site. It bugged me the whole way to work, and despite being in clinic all day, between patients I kept sneaking a peek at the relevant bits of code to see if I could figure out the problem. I wasn’t able to find anything overwhelmingly wrong, though, other than the fact that the the archive index page was just plain horked.

After clinic, I dug in a bit deeper, and finally found a post over at WebmasterWorld that seemed to describe the problem I was seeing — and happily, it made it seem like the problem was a bug in Apache (and specifically, the version of Apache to which I upgraded two weeks ago), rather than some dumbassed configuration error on my part. I came home and put together a test case that reproduced the behavior I was seeing, and then submitted it to the maintainers of Apache as a bug. We’ll see what comes of it; in the mean time, I threw together a workaround so that my archives can shine once again!

(And of course, if there are any Apache wizards reading this, feel free to take a look at the test case and point out where my understanding of mod_rewrite and mod_dir completely sucks; while I feel that there’s likely to be a bug here, I also recognize that there’s just as likely to be an idiot with a poor understanding of Apache on this side of the keyboard.)

In doing some email maintenance today, I noticed that American Airlines didn’t have my current address information. I meandered over to their website to update it, and after submitting my changes, I got an error saying that they were unable to validate my apartment number. I tried everything I could to get it to accept my full address, but alas, the only success I found was when I submitted my address without an apartment number. At that point, I noticed that despite me entering a 5-digit ZIP code, the confirmation page contained a ZIP+4. That means that they do some sort of back-end processing of the address to generate the nine-digit ZIP code; from the error I got with the inclusion of an apartment number, I assume that the back-end also includes some sort of verification that my address actually exists in a big property database, and that that database doesn’t recognize the fact that my building is divided into apartments. As a result of that deficiency, their database contains an incomplete address for me, which benefits nobody at all. This all highlights the fact that, if you’re designing a web-based application and testing the data that people enter, you need to make sure that that test achieves its goal of providing better data without also setting up situations wherein the data becomes worse. That means one of two things: either your test needs to be 100% reliable, or you need to provide a method for people to clarify their entry when the test fails. And since the first option is nearly impossible to achieve, you’ll find that the second option is way more important.

It makes me sad when ostensibly tech-savvy writers completely miss the point of a technology they’re covering.

MX Logic, a company that provides both products and services touted to increase email protection and security, released a report this week that says that email spammers are now using the Sender Policy Framework in an effort to “dodge both legal and industry-backed efforts to curb spam.” A few news outlets — Information Week, CNet News, The Inquirer — all picked up the report and ran with it, implying that the SPF standard is more or less a failure at what it was designed to achieve.

What’s the problem? It’s that SPF wasn’t designed to eliminate spam! The standard exists so that when you receive a piece of email from a certain return address, your mail program can check to see whether or not that address is a forgery or the real deal. As a result, the goal of SPF isn’t to eliminate spam, it’s to implement trust — you are better able to trust that the email you receive is from who it says it’s from. A quote from the official how-it-works page sums it up nicely:

SPF aims to prevent spammers from ruining other people’s reputations. If they want to send spam, they should at least do it under their own name. And as a user, SPF can help you sort the good from the bad. Reject mail that fails an SPF check. Use it to help your spam filters make a decision. Have confidence that mail that SAYS it’s coming from your bank, your credit card company, or the government really is!

As for that latter bit — helping filters make decisions about the likelihood of an email being spam — the key is in the implementation. And while I can’t speak about all spam filters, I can say that the filter I use, SpamAssassin, does the right thing. If an email fails the SPF test (indicating a forgery of the return address), then SpamAssassin considers it more likely to be spam. But on the other hand, if an email passes the SPF test (indicating that the return address is likely to be legitimate), SpamAssassin doesn’t add or subtract anything from the likelihood of it being spam — it’s a wash.

And now, for the important bit, and the bit being left out by the news coverage: when spammers use SPF to try to increase their legitimacy, all they do is verify that the site they’re using to send their junk is real. That means that those fighting against spam (filter authors, lawmakers, whoever) are then able to take action against that site without fear that they’re netting an innocent bystander, and that’s a good thing for everyone.

Oh, yeah, and one more thing the press neglected to mention: the report that forms the basis of the news was issued by a company which sells spam filters. The more doubt they can plant in the effectiveness of other solutions, the more business they can drum up for themselves… seems like a fine reason to shout loudly that SPF isn’t working, but also doesn’t make it any more true.

Seriously, How to Pick Up and Carry Your iMac G5 might be the dumbest technical note I’ve ever seen published by a computer manufacturer. Are they really saying that someone might be slow enough to be unable to figure out how to carry a computer, but would be quick enough to figure out how to use the Apple knowledge base to pose the question? It boggles the mind.

This morning, while perusing all the postings my aggregator gobbled up overnight, I noticed that a bunch of people posted links to VoteOrNot.com, specifically affiliate links. VoteOrNot.com appears to be a sweepstakes being run by the guys from HotOrNot.com, allowing people to register to vote in the November election and aiming to give $100,000 to one person who registers through the site. They’re also going to give $100,000 to the person who refers the eventual winner, hence the affiliate links from everyone.

I figured that it would be a no-brainer to go over and sign up; while I’m registered to vote, I’m not averse to winning money by encouraging others to do so. Then I took a look at the signup form, though, and started thinking twice about the whole deal. They ask for my email address, physical address, and phone number, and make sure to have a statement above the form saying that they only need it to contact me if I win (sounds good). But then they ask me to agree to their Terms & Conditions, which says that by registering for the site, I “may sign up to receive email from Eight Days, Inc. (Sponsor),” and that I “can remove [myself] from the email list by following onscreen instructions” (sounds a bit more suspicious). And then came the kicker: under the personal information section of the T&C, I’m referred to the Eight Days, Inc. Privacy Policy, “available at Sponsor’s web site, http://HOTorNOT.com,” but going to that site, there’s no privacy policy anywhere to be seen or found. Even a Google search turns up nothing.

And that’s the ball game; they ain’t getting my personal information. You’d figure that a site that’s trying to encourage people to get out and exercise their civic duty would exercise a bit of its own…

Update: After an email interchange with James Hong, one of the founders of HotOrNot and VoteOrNot, a privacy policy is now in place at VoteOrNot that seems strong enough to make someone feel comfortable giving up personal info. James also let me know where to find the policy on the HotOrNot site — it’s in the tiny little scroll box on the page that lets you submit a picture for rating. Seems odd to hide it like that, but then again, it does say that they will “provide this personal information to third-party service providers who help us maintain our Service and deliver information and services to you and other users of our Service.”

giant cutter-thingy

No, really, this is the coolest machine I think I’ve ever seen. I really, really have to know what it’s used for (well, other than the obvious cutting-like things).

Update: Rafe, ever the diligent researcher, passed on this link showing that the behemoth is actually an excavator, and this Jamie Zawinski discussion thread in which someone linked to a Lego version of the thing. Awesome!

I’m in the midst of moving this site to another server; if you can see this message, you’re seeing the new site! Things should settle out in the next 24-36 hours, at which point I’ll start playing around with a bunch of the new Movable Type 3.1 stuff.

She said yes!

pretty ring on a beautiful girl

(And to preemptively answer the two questions that were the first out of everyone else’s mouths: we don’t know where, and we haven’t firmed up when. We’re just enjoying the moment for a little bit!)

Hmmm — I wonder what would happen if some random New Yorkers showed up on the grass in the backyard of 1 Sutton Place with beach chairs and books, and just soaked up the sun for an afternoon? I bet that a uniformed doorman-like functionary or two would come and try to escort them off the property, but if said group of people refused and demanded that the police come arbitrate, it seems that it’d be hard for 1 Sutton Place to make a compelling case. I’m just saying…

I promised a few people that I’d summarize my experience with DropCash, and after the (astoundingly short) 13-hour duration of my campaign, I’ve grabbed the information from PayPal and done a few calculations. Here’s my rundown.

I’ve been playing with Andre and Jason’s new bauble, DropCash, and I’ve gotta say I think it’s the bee’s knees, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s an awesome demonstration of how you can weave a bunch of different tools together into a seamless application — DropCash uses TypeKey for authentication and PayPal for the transactions, and hooks into both through their respective public APIs. Second, it layers an element of community atop the otherwise mundane task of requesting money, and since people generally would use services like this to ask for money from a community of their peers, I think it’s wicked cool to include community elements in the app itself. And third, DropCash itself is cleanly designed and quick to use, both of which are enviable in this era of overengineered and inscrutable web applications.

So, of course, what does a dork like me do when he starts playing with a new web application? Create a test case! I set up a campaign to raise enough money to buy a hardware firewall and VPN server for my home network; since I have a few big servers running here (including the one that hosts this very website, a moderate-volume mail server, a curriculum server for my old pediatrics residency, and the MetaFilter server), I figure that it’s a worthy goal to go for a dedicated, easy-to-use box to protect it all. And if I don’t raise enough, I can always put the money straight into the help-keep-MetaFilter-air-conditioned fund!

Lying on my bed trying to get the room to stop spinning and my stomach to stay in my lower abdomen, I came to the conclusion today that rollerblading isn’t much in the way of cardiovascular exercise.

I love the new popup killer that’s part of the Windows XP Service Pack 2 updates to Internet Explorer, but I have a question. Is there a way to tell IE that, for specific websites, you don’t want the Information Bar to appear and alert you that a popup has been blocked? For example, everyone knows that CNN went the way of the devil a long time ago, and that a popup will try to, well, pop up every single time you go to the home page. How can I tell IE to just silently block that attempt from cnn.com, but still let me know about other websites’ efforts to annoy me?

If the registration data of online news sites is really trustworthy, then I guess the Washington Post has proof that I’m, variously, a four year-old female Vice President-level attorney in the agriculture sector, a 103 year-old male hourly social worker for the packaged goods sector, and a 42 year old unemployed female energy veterinarian. Seems trustworthy to me!

While I’ve installed XP Service Pack 2 on one machine and had not one whit of a problem with it, I understand why corporations are wary of rolling it out at this point, instead opting for the (reasonable, logical) step of testing it in-house to integrate it properly and make sure that it doesn’t break any business-critical applications. Apparently, so does Microsoft — on Tuesday, the company released a set of policies and scripts which will block the download of the Service Pack, from both the Windows Update site and the automatic update process. Smart move, and shows a fine awareness of the reality of computing in a corporate environment.

If you’re hankering to understand the changes introduced by Windows XP Service Pack 2, you might want to take a look at the TechNet document dissecting the update, and also spend some time reading Tony Chor’s higher-level description. (Chor is the program manager for the Internet Explorer team, so his document is geared more towards the IE changes introduced in SP2.)

Madness is trying to debug a Windows ME laptop. Seriously, the past 24 hours of my life have been devoted to a machine that works beautifully when it’s sitting there all by its lonesome, but freezes solid when you plug a network cable into its built-in ethernet port. Luckily, the laptop’s owner is a dialup user (they still exist?!?), but it’d be nice to give the laptop back to her with everything working just ducky.

(Update: I’m giving Ask MetaFilter a whirl on this one, to see if there’s anything I haven’t thought of!)

Wow, there are so many things one could say about Bush’s denouncement of legacy consideration in the college admission process that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Would this man have achieved anything in his life if it weren’t for legacy considerations?

We’re 544th! We’re 544th! (See here for some background.)

The more I read about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the more sad I become about how easy it is to manipulate facts in the minds of the American voter. Too many people actually believe what these people say, despite the incontrovertible fact that every single living boatmate of John Kerry has stood by his side and unquestionably supported his Vietnam record. Alas… I’m sure it’s more that people don’t necessarily believe them in an active sense, but rather, they passively allow the group’s message to support already-set political beliefs. It’s similar to hearing, on NPR this morning, a voter express how strongly he stood for George Bush and the Republican Party based on his belief in smaller government and less federal spending; I can’t imagine that there’s any amount of data one could feed to the guy about the reality of the Bush Administration on both counts that would cause him to change his mind. So what we’re left with is an election, for what is arguably the most politically important job on Earth, that has less to do with the actual people running against each other than it does the allegiance people feel towards the parties that support the two men. Sad.

I’m currently playing with webRemote, a little app that runs on your Mac and lets you control iTunes from any machine nearby on the network. It’s not revolutionary so much as it is incredibly useful, especially in my new office configuration.

I’m not quite sure yet what to make of this graph of Bush’s approval rating superimposed on a chart of the timing of terror alerts, but it certainly is interesting.

Seriously, this might be the week to avoid saws.

If anyone out there is thinking of trying out one of the “RAM optimizers” that are heavily advertised on a lot of the tech sites, you might want to read this excellent dissection of these scam-filled products by Mark Russinovich. Every last one of these applications can actually hurt your computer’s performance by forcing the operating system to move actively-used information from the machine’s very fast RAM to its very slow hard disk-based virtual memory file, and as a result, you take a big hit as your applications have to copy that information back into RAM once they need it again. Most importantly, the peddlers of these applications rely on people having a belief that there’s some intrinsic, universal benefit to having a huge chunk of empty RAM hanging around… but most programmers will tell you that this is an untenable generalization, especially when there are tasks that are running which could benefit from having access to that fast RAM. (For a good example, look at a memory usage map on most any Unix machine, and you’ll see that the physical memory is almost always in use to the tune of over 80%. That’s because the Unix operating system has always understood the value of using the much faster RAM as much as possible to complete tasks.) Sure, some gamers want access to every last bit of memory to run their super-complex shoot-em-ups, and maybe this is the class of user that needs these products… but you’d think that the game programmers would then just build the functionality into their games, no? Seems logical to me.

(And do you think these RAM-boosting scam artists told the folks over at Download.com that they stole their download icon?)

OK, I’m done being a total geek for now.

Over at Slate, Andy Bowers has made a great discovery: based on their weight, most SUVs are banned from a great deal of California roads. As you’d imagine, the laws that ban them aren’t enforced at all, but the logic behind them — that vehicles over 6,000 pounds cause more wear and tear on residential roads and are more dangerous to pedestrians — is solid. According to the article, law enforcement officers seem to draw a big distinction between commercial and personal vehicles, and ignore the Tahoes, Hummers, Escalades, and Land Cruisers as a result But why should people be allowed to buy these behemoths explicitly because they’re heavy enough to classify for a commercial vehicle tax writeoff, but then not have to adhere to the commercial vehicle laws in ther communities? It’s all a bit silly.

Well, it looks like I went to Nantucket a bit too early, since in as soon as a month, a startup is looking to blanket much of the island with wireless service. I love the name, too — ACKblast — which reflects the three-letter code for the Nantucket Airport.

The Apple Product Cycle. It’s funny because it’s true!

Once again, I’m certainly one of the last people to this party… but for those who straggle even further behind, you really should read Ron Reagan Jr.’s Esquire article on the Bush Presidency. Entitled “The Case Against George W. Bush,” it’s not too difficult to figure out where Ron Jr. stands on the merits of the 43rd President of the United States; the piece is very well-written, with Reagan pinning most of his arguments on a fundamental inability to trust Bush. I can only hope that the press starts to pick up on this a bit, and document much of the travesty that has been the past three years of governance in this country.

I’m unclear how I’ve been in Boston for over a year now and never been to Nantucket. Shannon and I came out here for a wedding this weekend, and between the amazing weather and the beautiful island, it’s just awesome. Sure, everything’s about 200% the cost as it would be back on the mainland, and sure, last night was foggier and muggier than your average sauna, but that’s fine when the payoff is days like today. It’s crisp and nice out, thin wisps of clouds streak the sky, I’m sitting out on the wharf watching the boats coming and going, and the breeze off the water couldn’t be more perfect. (And thanks to what may well be the slowest WiFi connection I’ve ever experienced, I’m able to catch up on all the email I ignored yesterday in my effort to get out here!)

I need to take advantage of the world outside Boston a little bit more, I think.

If you missed Barack Obama’s keynote speech last night, and want to see it online, don’t bother pointing your Mac to MSNBC’s offering — the network requires you to be running Windows in order to see any video. Interestingly, the DNC’s video archives offer a few options, including both Quicktime and Windows Media, and both play just fine on a Mac. Gotta love deceptive platform lock-in… (Oh, and if you did miss Obama’s speech, you really should hear it.)

Today, over at Heather Armstrong’s joint, is the best euphemism for breasts I’ve heard in a long while: “beautiful, life-giving vessels of sweetness”. The Todd would be proud.

Today, Raymond Chen has an interesting look at the evolution of depth (you know, the third dimension) in the interface of Windows and Windows applications, from the original 2D look of Windows 1.0 to the waaaaaaaay too 3D look of Windows 95 to the more subtle mix of both in today’s Windows environment. I’d imagine that part of the reason for the pendulum swing is the ease of basic programming in the Windows world; when any Visual Basic user can whip up an interface in under 20 minutes, and more importantly, has complete control over every interface element’s style, color, border, and the like, the results can be a bit predictable.

It’s interesting that Project 21, a conservative organization which specifically identifies itself as “a leading voice for a new generation of African-American leadership”, has a Caucasian director (a fact which was learned via something as simple as a flat tire; video clips are available for a little while over at C-SPAN). I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around how any members of minorities can be a part of political belief systems that disparage them at every opportunity; from the looks of things, it at least involves equal parts of money and deception. And going into the meaty part of this election season, this story reminds me that, at least in politics, things are seldom as they appear.

I hit a few roadblocks when trying to install a slew of Perl modules on my new Powerbook, and after a lot of hairpulling and angst, I managed to track down the relevant information and solve the issues. I wanted to document it all here, lest someone else find themselves in the same boat.

(There’s nothing to see here; I’m just claiming my feed at Feedster right now…)

For all the other people who’re enjoying the cyclysm, there are two great discussion threads on yesterday’s Tour drama between Lance Armstrong and Filippo Simeoni, one on SportsFilter and the other on Ask MetaFilter. Armstrong may be arrogant, but he’s mind-bogglingly dominating in his sport, and tomorrow’s (probable) win is an undeniable feat for anyone, much less for someone who was (by the odds) likely to die of cancer under a decade ago.

I’m sure New York misses you as much as you do New York, Anil.

My question about the new Google Toolbar Browse by Name feature: how do you override its behavior? I ask because I might not want to go to Ford’s web page about the Explorer when I type “Ford Explorer” into my Google bar; is the only way to avoid this to avoid the toolbar, go to the Google home page, and type “Ford Explorer”?

Maybe I’m misunderstanding the feature, but it seems to move away from making the Google Toolbar an intuitive, brain-dead way to use the power of Google in whatever way users find most effective for them.

It’s unbelievable how great Ask MetaFilter can be (at least when the question’s not about Bush, Kerry, Israel, Palestine, abortion, or anything else remotely political). It’s also unbelievable that, in the first 13 minutes, there were six answers that were all based on a legitimate understanding of physics and relativity, and no posts complaining about grammar or diction!


I could totally get used to this second-year fellow thing. After getting to work at 8:45 AM today, I sat through a few teaching sessions (a “consolidation course” for reinforcing all the clinical knowledge we picked up in the trenches last year), handled a few patient-related issues, and got out of work at the completely reasonable hour of 5:15 PM. It didn’t take long to hop out to our newly-furnished porch, Diet Coke in hand and laptop on my lap, to enjoy a cool Brookline evening — pretty much the diametric opposite of every single evening during my first year of fellowship.

Sure, I have ten on-call blocks coming up this year, fifty or sixty active patients of my own, and will be starting in the research lab in a few weeks, but things look much, much better from this side of the first-year/second-year divide.

A while back, I noted a lawsuit filed by a group of parents in Oak Park, Illinois attempting to get the school district to stop using wireless networking due to some alleged health threat; I’m happy to read today that the suit has been dropped. (Granted, it was dropped for reasons unrelated to an understanding on the part of the parents about all the other wireless exposures they encounter every single day, but we can’t have everything.)

Does anyone have any specific recommendations (or warnings) when it comes to DNS hosting? A friend and I are looking for a paid service to handle DNS for a few of our domains, and in taking a peek around the web, there aren’t a whole slew of companies competing for that slice of the market. The ones I’ve found are EasyDNS, ZoneEdit, Nettica, DNS Made Easy, and World Wide DNS, but the first thing that jumped out at me as I tried to compare them was that none of them has made it easy to find out exactly what I’d be getting if I were to sign up. (How many records would I be allowed in each domain? What does the web-based interface look like?) Based on just the information available on their websites, I’d be inclined to give Nettica a shot; the price can’t be beat (especially for bulk services), and they seem professional enough.

If anyone has any personal experience, with any of these DNS hosts or any others, I’d love to hear it.

A lot of people have complained about a recent uptick in spam, but I have to say I’m not getting hit all that much. I get around 3,000 unsolicited emails a day, and only about a half dozen slip through my net, a net composed only of SpamAssassin (with Bayesian filtering turned on) and ClamAV (for antiviral goodness). Here are the particulars of my setup, all of which takes place on my mail server so that I can use any old client and still enjoy the benefits.

  • When an email comes into my server, it first gets scanned by ClamAV, and quarantined if it’s dangerous.
  • Once an email proves that it’s not harboring any nasty viruses, it gets compared to a short roster of mailing lists to which I subscribe, and if it harkens from one, it gets sorted into my mailing list folder.
  • If it’s not from a legitimate list, the email gets fed to SpamAssassin.
  • SpamAssassin checks it against its own rules, the spam databases at Vipul’s Razor and the Distributed Checksum Clearinghouse, and my Bayes database. It assigns the email a spam likelihood score.
  • Email with spam scores of over 10 get deleted immediately, email with spam scores of over 5 but less than 10 get thrown into a spam folder, and email with scores of less than 5 get put into my inbox.
  • If a piece of spam manages to defeat all of this and make it into my inbox, I throw it into a reject folder. Thanks to a nudge by Ben Hammersley, this reject folder is processed every morning, teaching my Bayes filters that everything within is spam.
  • Other choice bits: ClamAV updates itself every night, SpamAssassin’s automatic whitelisting is turned off (due to a nasty prior bug that left a bad taste in my mouth), and I wrote a few custom SpamAssassin rules that make sure that all of MovableType’s comment notifications make it through unscathed.

I openly acknowledge that this all takes a little bit of maintenance every now and then, and that as a result, it’s probably not the solution for everyone. I have to keep up with the latest version of SpamAssassin (which is about to hit 3.0) and its related spam database clients, I have to dabble in Linux system administration in order to get it all configured, and of course, having the mail server sitting in my house helps a ton. All that said, I’m pretty happy with the current state of things, given that the less than two percent of my incoming mail that’s legitimate makes it into my inbox, and it’s the rare spam that comes along for the ride. And as a bonus, the other people that have accounts on my mail server get the benefit of all the work!

Every time I begin to forget what a jackass John Ashcroft is, someone takes the effort to remind me. I particularly love Krugman’s concluding paragraph:

After my last piece on Mr. Ashcroft, some readers questioned whether he is really the worst attorney general ever. It’s true that he has some stiff competition from the likes of John Mitchell, who served under Richard Nixon. But once the full record of his misdeeds in office is revealed, I think Mr. Ashcroft will stand head and shoulders below the rest.

Posted mostly as a bookmark for myself: how to perform dynamic text replacement (or, described a bit simpler, how to have your webserver instantly create an image that contains whatever text you want rendered in whatever font you want).

Remember that unbelievably short-sighted Mozilla Firefox cookie issue? The one wherein it only remembers the last 300 cookies, forcing you to log back into your bank sites, news sites, email sites, and the like if you do anything but the most lethargic web surfing? Well, despite the bug getting fixed and checked into the Mozilla source code tree back in April, it looks like Firefox 0.9 (which was released this past week) doesn’t incorporate the fix. (That last link is to a chart which traces the revisions of the source code file that manages the cookie issue; the fix was introduced in version 1.25, and as you can see, almost every major revision of the Mozilla browser branches off back at version 1.22.)

I was wondering why, after a two-month respite, I was being forced to log back into my bank site every few days again. That just sucks.

Enriched Uranium: What Every Parent Should Know, brought to you courtesy of Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. One choice gem: “Enriched uranium is what is known as a gateway element. Children who try enriched uranium are more likely to try plutonium and wine coolers.”

Once again, the mad syndication ninja has elevated his art with Feed on Feeds 0.16, adding XHTML and CSS, a one-page console and viewer, and a lot of bug fixes. Go forth and download!

FoF 0.1.6 screenshot

(Kellan McCrae, the author of the parsing library that sits at the core of Feed on Feeds, has also started experimenting with ways of extending the tool to allow both consumption and production of syndication feeds, and released a patch that allows you to republish posts into your own feed. Very, very interesting.)

I mean, this can’t be real, can it? Burning in your audio component cables to get better sound? I guess if you’re the kind of person who’s willing to drop between $500 and $750 on a freakin’ power cable, you might want to make sure that cable is burned in!

I’ve talked about the idiocy of Boston drivers before, but today I realized that I’ve been staring at the best example of how bad their behavior really is without even knowing it.

At work, I park in an underground garage, the first two levels of which are devoted to patient parking. In order to get to the levels that allow employee parking, I have to spiral through the two patients-only levels, and every day, it’s like negotiating a maze. People jam their rides into these two levels in ways that leave micrometers between cars, obstruct the driving lanes, bottleneck the ramps, and even block in other cars. Now, let’s reiterate: in order to park on level 1 or 2, you either have cancer yourself or you’re driving someone who has cancer. And as if that isn’t bad enough, and as if going to hear bad news, get chemo, or be blasted with radiation isn’t worse, there’s a decent chance that when you get back to your car, some jackass has made it hard for you to get your car out, all because he couldn’t be inconvenienced by continuing on to the next tier of the garage.

It’s sad when you pine for your old, calm days of driving in Manhattan!

By far, the best break-down of the controversy around the Pentagon how-to-justify-torture memo is currently over at Randy Paul’s site; he provides the most logical explanation I’ve seen of how the Bush administration’s attempt to justify torture under newly-invented wartime or enemy combatant rules is complete and total bullshit.

Update: if Randy’s post is the best analysis of the legal reality, then Billmon’s post about Mary Walker, the woman who led the legal team which assembled the memo, is the best analysis of how pathetically hypocritical one person was in her quest to justify torture. I mean, people are having a blast with this, because apparently, it’s just so damn easy!

After quite a bit of WiFi wrangling, around a month ago I begrudgingly admitted to myself that there was really no good way to boost the signal from my 802.11g router enough to provide any access worth a damn in the back of our apartment. And given that the root of the problem was the presence of thick, century-old plaster and lathe walls, the last solution I was interested in considering was drilling holes and running an ethernet cable all the way back. The only other option I could really think of was to set up wireless repeaters, but until just recently, they were either too expensive, too limited, or completely unreliable. Once I saw that the latest firmware for the Linksys 802.11g access point included the ability to serve as a repeater, though, my interest perked back up in the idea — we already own a Linksys wireless router (the WRT54G), so if all we needed was one of their access points (the WAP54G), then we were willing to give it a go.

Yesterday, Shannon and I went to Best Buy to pick up the access point, and learned that despite it having less inherent functionality than Linksys’s corresponding wireless router, it costs more ($20 more, at least at Best Buy). And while the stock firmware for the router doesn’t include the ability to use it as a repeater, I remembered that there is a flourishing community of alternate firmwares for the box (given that, underneath the pretty blue exterior, it just runs Linux!), and that some of those alternatives provide the repeater functionality. We made a quick decision to give it a try, and after getting home and doing a little research, I settled on Sveasoft’s latest firmware. I put around two hours of work into the configuration last night, ended up sleeping on the last remaining obstacle, and then awoke this morning to finish the setup — and it works!

The fancy name for the standard that provides wireless repeater activity is WDS, which stands for Wireless Distribution System. Setting WDS up in Sveasoft’s firmware is as confusing as it gets, hence needing two hours and an overnight of dream-based contemplation in order to get it working; that being said, now that it’s set up, our apartment is virtually bathed in WiFi goodness, and Shannon’s office computer is happily churning away on the network. (After personally hitting most of the potential stumbling blocks full-on, I plan to write up a how-to for what I did to get it working, and generally, what anyone needs to do to get WDS enabled on a Linksys WRT54G.) This all makes me realize, though, that once a company gets WDS distilled down to a single-click interface, it’ll make home wiring nearly obsolete.

An update on the Apple iBook Logic Board Repair Extension Program saga: I finally received my refund request letter on April 3rd, and sent it right back in. The letter said to expect my refund in four to six weeks. As of today, it’s been two months, and I have yet to see a single red cent from the company. Of course, that led to a phone call.

I spoke with a nice young man (of course he was nice, he was named Jason!) who offered to “escalate the issue with accounting” and get back to me in three to five business days. I told him I wasn’t really willing to continue to wait for them to return my money to me, so he offered to pass me on to his supervisor, Sheila. She acknowledged that Apple processed my refund request on April 26th, and that there was no clear reason why I hadn’t seen the refund yet. She offered up her direct phone number, and said that unfortunately, she could only do the same thing — escalate with accounting, and get back to me in three to five days.

So, here’s our timeline to date:

  • December 9, 2003: I brought my broken laptop into the Apple Store for repair.
  • December 11, 2003: I received my fixed laptop back, and was charged $289 for the repair.
  • January 28, 2004: Apple acknowledged the inherent flaw in the iBook logic boards, and started the “proactive” process of contacting people who paid for repairs to offer refunds.
  • March 23, 2004: After having never received any contact from Apple, I called them only to find out that they mailed my refund letter to the Apple Store that performed my repair. They quoted one week to get me a new letter to, you know, the place where I live.
  • April 2, 2004: I still had no letter in hand, and Apple told me to be patient.
  • April 3, 2004: I received my letter, quoting a four to six week turnaround for the refund.
  • April 4, 2004: I mailed the signed letter back to Apple.
  • April 26, 2004: Apple processed my letter.
  • June 8, 2004: After still not having my refund, I called and was told that they now need to escalate the process, and that they will get back to me in three to five business days.

The dates pretty much speak for themselves; I wonder how long this next hurdle will take to get over. I also wonder how long it will take for me to be willing to give Apple any of my money again.

Two quick observations on the Apple AirPort Express with AirTunes, announced today:

1. Wow — waaaaay cool, integrating stupidproof music into the mix.

2. Why do all the 802.11g repeaters/bridges only work with access points from the same makers? Read the small print on the AirPort Express page: “AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express can extend the range only of an AirPort Extreme or AirPort Express wireless network.” I’ve yet to see a consumer-level repeater that works with other vendors; is the WDS spec so difficult to work with that each vendor has developed an independent implementation?

I am exceedingly glad that there are people willing to stand firm on the ways in which gay nuptials threaten the institution of marriage, for I would never want the wedding of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony to be understood as anything but a sincere statement of lifelong love and commitment.

I’m not one of those people who puts pets on completely equal footing with humans, but still, I wonder what this woman’s attitude will be like when her new baby comes out — a baby that, at least for the first few years, will be “unbearably needy,” have “a tendency to drool when receiving her scant portion of affection,” and could (god forbid) have health problems! Sorta bolsters my belief, built up over years of seeing people’s various coping abilities in the face of the health problems of their kids, that quite a few folks don’t think through the full ramifications of becoming a parent.

I’ve been a hardcore user of Steve Minutillo’s web-based aggregator, Feed on Feeds, for about five months now. It’s awesome, allowing me to keep up with all the websites I’d love to have time to read individually; chances are that if I subscribe to your syndication feed, you’ve seen the URL of my Feed on Feeds installation in your referrer log a few times. I currently subscribe to nearly a hundred feeds, though, and when I go one or two days between checking in for updates, the list can get to be a couple hundred posts long — unwieldy enough that it discourages me from checking in, further exacerbating the problem.

A month ago, I noticed that Steve had set up a SourceForge tracker for feature requests, so I asked for an addition to the FoF interface that would let you mass-select the group of entries you’ve already seen with one click. I figured that at a minimum, people would discuss alternatives to my request, and felt the worst thing that could happen was that Steve would ignore my request. How happy I was, then, when a little birdy alit in my email inbox this morning chirping away about the latest version of FoF which including my requested feature! To me, it makes FoF that much more usable, and Steve that much more of a mad syndication ninja; I’ve moved from hardcore to evangelical. Go forth and use Feed on Feeds!

Let me be the one quadrillionth person to say how terrific Alexandra Polier’s story is. She’s the woman who was wrongly accused of having had an affair with John Kerry, and her story provides a fantastic look at how rumors and spin get turned into hard news in politics. After reading the piece, I feel like the “reporting” being done by all involved was a bit like the friend-of-a-friend thing, each level adding a small detail to the story that he or she thought would make it more palatable to the public, and never caring much that the small detail was invariably false. In the end, Polier played things perfectly by refusing to provide more grist for the mill (and being in Nairobi, inaccessible to a lot of the hungry carnivores!).

File under Geek Cool — the largest known prime number was just discovered by the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (aka GIMPS)! For those who don’t know, anyone can participate in the GIMPS project by downloading a client program. The GIMPS master computers farm out to the clients the work-intensive math that’s needed to check whether or not a number is prime, and the clients use only the “idle time” of the computers (the time that computers aren’t doing anything else) in order to do the computation. It’s a cool use of distributed technology; as of the latest status report, there are over 68,000 computers participating in the hunt for primes.

What a nice Memorial Day! After being on call for since Friday night, yesterday evening we went over to help some of our friends enjoy the first back-porch grillout of the season. I slept until noon today (always a welcome event in this house), and then, sufficiently inspired by last night, I assembled a little 14” charcoal kettle grill that Shannon’s parents gave us when we moved up to Boston. We buzzed around the apartment cleaning stuff up, and I made a quick run to the grocery store to grab the essentials of Memorial Day grilling. Some other friends brought their twin almost three year-old boys over, our landlord came downstairs with his girlfriend, we grilled up some burgers, hot dogs, and Italian sausages, and we sat around enjoying each other’s company.

First year of fellowship is so much more frenetic than I could have ever predicted, but as the year comes to a close, it’s nice to reflect on the rare day of pure relaxation and see the prospect of many more to come. And now I have my own little grill, to use each and every time one of them rolls around!

As if the dreary Boston weather wasn’t making me miss New York enough, today two things pop onto my radar screen that make me ache to be back there this weekend (instead of being on call for all pediatric hematology and oncology here in Boston). First, there’s the news that Columbia Hot Bagels is closing. What a travesty, and moreso, what an unbelievable loss to all the Morningside Heights residents who will have to go get doughy, undercooked kaiser-rolls-cum-bagels at Nussbaum & Wu or walk the thirty blocks for the (still inferior) H&H Bagels. (Piece of trivia: if not still, for years the famous Zabars bought their bagels at Columbia Hot. How do I know? I brought three dozen bagels into work every Sunday morning during college, and I would get there early enough to see the carts of bagels being loaded into the Zabars vans.)

The second New York info that made me miss the city is the fact that today is a Manhattan equinox. The relative rigidity of the city’s grid is soothing compared to the randomness of any other American city (like, say, Boston!); the fact that the rigidity lends itself to cool things like this makes New York all the more interesting. Enjoy this evening, New Yorkers, and take a glance down Upper Broadway for me!

Yep, what Dave Walker said.

Seriously, I know I’m about the millionth person to link to it, but all the comments on this post, from people who legitimately think that they’re conversing with Maury Povich, make for an awesome read. Give yourself about 20 minutes to spend on this one; it’s worth it.

Holy crap — Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game last night! He’s the seventeenth to have done it in the majors, and at 40 years old, he’s also three years senior to the prior record holder for the oldest (Cy Young). Totally amazing.

I know, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I can’t explain other than to say that for some inexplicable reason, my life exploded a few weeks ago; work at the hospital has been completely out of control, weekends have been spent traveling up and down the East coast, and I’ve been challenged to fit working, sleeping, and eating into the same 24-hour blocks of time. So, in lieu of interesting pointers to things on the web, I’ll just provide a few examples of what’s been taking up my time.

First, there are two of the last three patients who have become mine in the world of pediatric oncology. One is an adolescent young woman who came in with a large pelvis mass about a month ago, and was found to have alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma which had spread to a few bones in her spinal column — a dismal diagnosis with a similarly dismal prognosis. We started her on treatment, but last week, back pain led to the discovery that her tumor had continued to grow in spite of her chemo. She ended up needing emergent radiation, a wholesale shift in our plan, and many discussions about how much more dismal things had become. The other patient is a school-age boy with an extremely unusual presentation of pediatric leukemia. The treatment to get him into remission was the same we’ve used, without failure, for four years now; last Friday we learned that he became the first failure of that treatment. He was readmitted and started on much more intensive chemo, and we had to tell the family that we’ve moved from an 80-85% chance of cure to a 15-20% chance of cure.

On a less depressing note, Shannon and I spent a weekend driving down to South Jersey to pick up the last remaining stuff she had in her parents’ basement. This last load included most of the furniture for Shannon’s study, and almost all of her books, and getting it up here made us both way happier than one would think reasonable. For her, it was the first step to completing her little hidey home in the back of the apartment (the den from which Her Knittress will never emerge); for me, it was something hanging over our head for the past eight months, and it was fantastic to get it done. Another good thing about the weekend was that we did the move in a rented Dodge Ram truck, which was more fun to drive than I would have thought possible.

And finally, my brother is getting married, and I had a blast this past weekend going down to NYC for his bachelor party. We exercised in the morning, caught the Yankees (in what were the best seats my ass has ever seen in the House that Ruth Built), ate a ton of red meat at Spark’s, watched the Spurs get kicked out of the playoffs, and then worked on a few Guinness beers until 5AM. And yesterday, I caught up with a few friends at my old magazine, and took a lot of shit for not keeping things up-to-date over here. While the weekend didn’t do much for my sleep deficit, it was a much-needed respite from the hospital, and perfect for catching up with my brother.

I have a few more weeks on the oncology consult service, so I can’t promise to turn over a whole new leaf between now and then, but I’ll do my best!

Does anyone know the reason why the new Apple iPod update doesn’t enable support for the new compression format on first-generation iPods? It seems that Apple is slowly telling the people that made the iPod successful to get lost…

This might be the best comment posted here in a long while — using QDN to help try to figure out which of your sons fathered the baby born to the slutty girl who slept with them both! (I’m just glad I can help those in need.)

I’m a huge fan of Mozilla Firefox, but I have to say that one totally maddening feature/bug is close to making me stop using it altogether. I find that, after around four or five days, most of my cookies completely expire. It means that, if I don’t log into my online banking website every five days, I lose my stored bank card number (meaning I have to get up, find my wallet, and type it back in). If I don’t log into my Movable Type site every five days, and then I click on one of the links in MT-Blacklist’s automated emails, I have to log back into MT, then close the MT-Blacklist page I’m redirected to and reclick on the email link. If I click on a New York Times link and haven’t been to their site in the past five days, I have to log back in. It’s totally annoying, and apparently, it’s something that other people have noticed (although it’s not entirely clear that it affects everyone, and it might have to to with a suggested 300 cookie limit).

Wait, here’s the scoop: there is a hard-coded 300-cookie limit in all Mozilla-based browsers, and that limit is based on an incredibly poor reading of the cookie specification (see section 5.3). To me, the most important part of that section isn’t the 300-cookie minimum, but rather, the lines that read:

In general, user agents’ cookie support should have no fixed limits. They should strive to store as many frequently-used cookies as possible.

This is way more realistic, given that most people probably use a few web-based applications daily for work, a few more web-based applications daily to weekly for personal things (email, searching, travel planning, and the like), and then regularly visit a dozens and dozens of other websites that use cookies. But this realism doesn’t appear to have affected the Mozilla programming community, at least in response to two years of bug reports and forum posts.

The door is done! Shannon painted the hall side while I washed the car today; I painted the study side when she was off knitting this evening. After little new doorknob hardware, it was another DYI project completed!

new door, done  new door, also done

Something cool I learned in this — the french door’s windowpanes came shrinkwrapped in plastic, so that we didn’t have to do any taping off. (You can see the shrinkwrapping by comparing the original pictures to the ones in this post.) After the painting was done, I just ran a utility knife around the edges of each pane and peeled off the plastic; it’s looks completely professional, and was so damn easy. If you’re looking to buy an unfinished door for your project, I’d highly recommend choosing one with any glass in it pre-wrapped.

This is damn cool — it’s an open-source web application that searches, and otherwise completely interacts with, the iTunes Music Store as if you’re using iTunes itself. You can even download the script behind the app and use it on your own machine. Wonder how long before Apple cries foul…

(I promise that this will be the last Gmail-related post before I get to my review of the service…)

Over at Slate, Paul Boutin suggests that Google offer some sort of option for users that don’t want to see ads next to their email, and I agree entirely. At the end of the account signup process, Google should pose the question, “Do you agree to have contextual ads placed on the same page as email messages?” And when users choose “No,” then the next screen should say, “We’re sorry, but you’re asking us to provide you with a free service, but not allowing us to serve the ads that make the service free. That kind of thinking is what fueled all those idiotic ideas that you mocked during the dot-com boom. Might we recommend an account over at Hotmail or Yahoo!? Because we’re not going to give you one here at Gmail. Sure, the ads over at Hotmail and Yahoo! may be larger, have little to no chance to be of interest to you, use Flash, and ask you to punch monkeys, and sure, those services may even insert ads at the bottom of your outgoing messages, and better yet, sure, those services offer you a fraction of the storage space and nothing close to the power of Google’s searching abilities, but… well, there’s no but. Hope you enjoy your experience there!”

That would be perfect.

Seriously, the real-time blogging of President Bush’s press conference that’s going on over at Pandagon and Washington Monthly is just awesome. I know I’m partisan, and thus more than likely to apprecate both authors’ views of the spectacle, but if it’s going even half as badly for Bush as they make it out to be then I say it’s about time Americans understand who it was that they elected. Nearly half a minute trying to figure out the worst mistake he’s made since 9/11, and finally spitting out, “I can’t come up with something under the pressure of the press conference”?!? Wow.

California’s draft anti-Gmail law is, quite possibly, the dumbest proposed tech industry legislation I’ve seen in a while. Has the Honorable Senator Figueroa ever seen what Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, or any of the other free mail products look like? Does she understand how it is that all of the services exist at no cost to their users?

In a similar vein, has anyone demonstrated that the other big free mail providers don’t target ads to the email that a user is reading? I haven’t used Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail in a while, so I can’t say that I know either way, but it seems to be a no-brainer idea that would have crossed someone’s desk over the past year or two; if they don’t, I’d be willing to wager that it’s as a result of lack of innovation, not because Microsoft and Yahoo! have some stronger notion of the privacy of email users.

(Oh, and who’s forcing people to use the free mail sites? There are literally hundreds of companies who would be happy to let people pay them to host their email; if people don’t want to subject themselves to the terms of service for a free provider, they can let their wallets do the talking…)

The thing that jumped out at me the quickest after doing a few reloads on the compilation page of the most recent images posted to LiveJournal is the sheer number of people who take online “which [Friends/Buffy/Angel/Smallville/whatever] character are you” tests and then post the little thumbnail result. Who knew those little quizzes still existed!

For the past eight months, I’ve been jonesing to replace the door to my study with a french door that will let the light from the front of the house through to the hallway and the rest of our apartment. I wasn’t anxious to do everything that that entailed, though — chiseling out hinge mounts, drilling doorknob holes, and aligning all the mechanical workings wasn’t something that I thought I could handle. After succeeding at replacing a few mortise-type doorknobs in other doors last weekend, though, I started to think that this weekend was the time to try starting the Great Door Replacement Project, and in the aisles of Home Depot yesterday morning, Shannon reassured me that I could pull it off.

We bought the door, and this morning I trimmed it down to the dimensions of the frame. I then learned that the frame isn’t exactly square — houses built in 1900 seem to settle a bit, leaving angles that are a bit off of right. After that, I picked up the small fact that my 7.2 volt cordless drill isn’t powerful enough to bore the doorknob hole through 1-3/4 inches of solid pine. And last (but not least), I learned that a standard doorknob hole is slightly too big for the decorative knobs that we bought to match the rest of the hardware in our apartment. But in the end, I managed to get the door sized to the frame, and get it all hung and aligned.

new french door

Next week, we’ll prime and paint it, and then get all the plastic off of the windows; I can hardly wait to see it all finished!

Methinks I need to spend a little more time browsing around Brewster Kahle’s Live Music Archive, which achieved 10,000+ freely-available concert recordings without me knowing one thing about it. (Of course, that speaks way, way more about my unawareness than it does about the site!)

I’m sorry, but this and this are just crap. Voters in Boston and New York City should remember the elected officials who brought the conventions and traffic disasters to town when they go to the polls this November.

In the past week or two, I’ve spent a bunch of time trying to wrangle the configuration of my two Linux boxes, getting them to be good, cooperative members of my home email and file backup network. Nothing about configuring Linux is straightforward — something that goes fifteenfold for servers when compared to desktops — so that’s why I’m less amused by Eric Raymond’s rant about open source usability problems than I am by John Gruber’s note about the irony of Eric Raymond’s rant. The fact that one of the largest proponents of the open source movement, and someone who has quite a bit of technical and systems administration skill, dropped 3,500 words on the horrors of open source usability should raise a few eyebrows (but, of course, it won’t).

Yesterday, Susan Kitchens started thinking about how ubiquitous the web-based administration control panel has become — these days, we configure our wireless access points, webservers, printers, weblogs, and a whole host of other devices by plugging their addresses into our web browsers. Susan surmised that Cobalt’s Qube may have had one of the first web-based administration interfaces, and got me thinking when she asked if anyone knew of any others that preceded it.

The first thing that came to mind was Webmin, the Unix administration project which launched on October 5, 1997, five months before the first Qube shipped on March 12, 1998. But thinking back further, I swore that I could remember using a similar interface to administer the first version of Oracle’s application server, and a little digging came up with the 1995 manual for Oracle WebServer 1.0, which was released in December 1995 complete with web-based administration. Note that last link, in which the screenshot shows NCSA Mosaic as the browser being used; this is important, since version 2.0 of Mosaic was the first major browser which supported HTML forms (including boxes to type text into, checkboxes, submit buttons, and the like), all elements that most people would concede are necessary components of any web-based administration interface. (Here’s a screenshot of HTML forms in use in Oracle’s WebServer interface.)

NCSA Mosaic 2.0 went into alpha in January of 1994, and didn’t become publicly available until October of 1995. I’d bet that there weren’t many people developing administration interfaces requiring a web browser until that version (or some other browser which supported HTML forms) gained a little traction, so it wouldn’t surprise me too much if Oracle’s December 1995 offering wasn’t one of the first. Can anyone else point to a web-based administration interface that predated Oracle WebServer 1.0?

How strange, and yet so cool! Last night, Shannon, my sister, and I were talking over dinner, and conversation randomly led to us wondering what has happened around the Chernobyl disaster site. Then this morning, I randomly stumbled upon the site of Elena, a Kiev native who decided to take a motorcycle ride through the 2800 square kilometer nuclear exclusion zone that remains. She took a ton of pictures, documenting what can only be called this era’s Pompeii — homes, vehicles, oil tankers, entire factories that are frozen in time at April 26th, 1986. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing for Elena to expose herself to as much radiation as it looks like she did, but the photos that came out of the journey are amazing.

Over at the CJR’s Campaign Desk, Brian Montopoli has an interesting look at how Fox News accepted a decision from the White House which gave the news organization “permission” to make public one of Richard Clarke’s off-the-record interviews. Being the CJR, the piece is written from the perspective of journalistic integrity — essentially, that the accepted standard holds that once a reporter agrees to an off-the-record interview, the only person who can revoke that status is the person being interviewed. Could you imagine if the only hurdle the press had to jump in order to attribute formerly background information was to ask the interviewee’s boss? Fair and balanced, indeed.

Well, that’s certainly one way to handle it! Last week, the county commissioners of Oregon’s Benton County voted to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses today, but under extreme pressure from the state’s attorney general, they’ve taken a unique tack on the issue — the county commissioners have stopped issuing any marriage licenses.

That’s brilliant! It’s a way to guarantee that the county isn’t discriminating, and in addition, a way to expose man-and-woman couples to the treatment that same-sex couples have experienced forever. It’s also a strategy that isn’t explicitly banned by state laws of questionable Constitutionality, so even bigger cities — San Francisco, New York, etc. — could act similarly until the courts work out where this country is going with marriage rights.

Last week, after SxSW, Shannon and I took a short detour to San Antonio to visit my grandmother. After lunch, she surprised me with an awesome gift — a Contax 137 MD camera and a few Zeiss Planar lenses. My grandfather was an avid recreational photographer, and in their retirement, he and my grandmother spent a huge amount of time driving around South Texas taking pictures. Over two decades ago, he gave her the camera as a gift; since then, she’s gotten a few other cameras, and when she realized last year that she’s not interested in taking SLR pictures anymore, she decided to give the camera to me. It’ll never replace the two Contax RTS bodies — fully restored — that my grandmother gave me immediately after my grandfather’s death and were stolen when my apartment was broken into in 1999, but it’s going to be fun to play with SLRs again! (Of course, I guess it means that I’ll have to get film developed again, which is a pain that I haven’t missed one whit since moving to the digital world.)

I’m curious — has anyone heard from Apple yet regarding a refund under the iBook Logic Board Repair Extension Program? When I last spoke with them, they said that it would be six weeks minimum before Apple started “proactively” calling customers. It’s now been seven weeks, so I’m wondering if any others have heard from Apple before I start calling to bug the company.

What an awesome discussion of the two-spaces-after-a-period convention (gleaned from Anil’s daily links). If you look at my source, you’ll see that my grammar teachers sunk this rule deep into my literary psyche; try as anyone might, I’m unsure if there’ll ever be a way to dig it back out! Nonetheless, it’s a great look into how the convention may have come about, and a good example of how, in this day and age, its use is an issue of belief rather than correctness.

Aaron Swartz and John Gruber have put together Markdown, another simplified text markup syntax. It’s cool, but I’m not too sure what differentiates it from the other simplified markup systems that have been released over the years (i.e., the age-old ReStructuredText, or Dean Allen’s Textile). (John says that the difference is that Markdown is a preprocessor, meaning that Markdown syntax can coexist with regular (X)HTML, and that may be legitimate; I can’t confess to having played enough with the alternatives to be able to recall how they deal with HTML.)

If nothing else, an interesting diversion, and another Movable Type plugin to play with a bit.

Inspired by a comment made by Anil in the what’s-next-for-weblogs panel: the first Usenet post by me that Google Groups appears to have indexed. See, I’ve always been a geek!

(Alas, though, I’m a bit disappointed that my first indexed post wasn’t this one; there’s rarely a day that goes by when I don’t look down and notice the scar on my left palm that was part of that experience.)

What a totally cool notion — a firewall security system that’s based on poking and prodding specific ports in a specific order to cause a known response (e.g., opening up a route through the firewall for administrative control). Of course, any one scheme or recipe could never become commonplace enough to be part of a firewall’s default installation; that would degrade its security by making the recipe well-known (which leads to well-hacked).

(Note that this is geeky enough that you can assume I’m posting it mostly as a bookmark for myself. Thanks go to Cory for indulging my geekiness with this.)

Something that apparently became important to me on the flight down to Austin: the iPod Out-of-warranty Battery Replacement Program. Grrrrrrrrr.

Issue #173 of A List Apart is out, and it’s instantly going into the file-this-forever bookmark list. The Zebra Tables article (about automatically striping your table rows) is fantastic, and the CSS Sprites article throws some interesting image-manipulation concepts into the mix. Both make me happy to have a bit of web wrangling on my plate in the next few weeks.

Another little tidbit on the D-Link DI-514 wireless access point (in the interest of saving other people the time I just wasted): if you’re away from home, trying to access the remote administration site of your AP, and being turned away with the oh-so-cheerful 401 The web site is blocked by administrator, the problem is that you’re typing the hostname of your AP into the address bar of your browser. Try typing the IP address in, instead, and you’ll be all good.

What a dumb little bug!

Fascinating — Avi Rubin, the Johns Hopkins researcher who exposed the security vulnerabilities of the Diebold electronic voting machine by dissecting its source code, was an election judge in Baltimore County yesterday in a precinct that used the voting machines, and has written up his experience. It’s not full of shocking news or exposition of malfeasance, but rather a firsthand look at how electronic voting worked, and where the more practical problems could be come November.

As a pediatrician, something about this strikes me as just plain wrong. I know, I know — when compared to slicing off a little kid’s foreskin, it’s not all that shocking — but still!

The one-liner summary of the statement released by Baylor’s president today: It very well might have violated University policy for students to have exhibited independent thought, and as a result, they might be punished for it. Sorta serves as a good example of how the supposed echo chambers of today are merely updated versions of those of yesterday…

I love when reporters do what they’re supposed to do — dig into claims made to them, figure out if they’re being sold a story or told the truth, and then let the world know what they’ve found. In fifteen minutes tonight, I stumbled across two good examples of this: Brian Montopoli’s fact checking of Newsweek’s item stating that Wes Clark started the Kerry-and-his-intern rumor, and Fred Kaplan’s exploration of the Bush campaign’s claim that Kerry voted against a slew of weapons systems.

Of course, the sad side of all this is that for every reporter that finds the truth, there are a dozen that swallow the lie wholesale and haven’t the slightest compunction about regurgitating it to their readers.

By far, the best thing about this MetaFilter thread about trepanation is this guy’s response: “Saying that you need a hole in your skull to acheive enlightenment is like saying you need a sucking chest wound to breathe true air unfiltered by the barrier of your tongue and throat.” Had me giggling for a while…

I was sitting in a mall food court today, a convenient pause in Shannon and my trip back from New York City, and was suddenly burdened with a crushing question: why is there no national Chinese food chain?

I mean, we’ve got about a million burger chains (McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc.), and tons of sandwich shops (Subway, Blimpie, Schlotzsky’s, Quiznos), Italian food places (Sbarro, Olive Garden), pizza places (Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Little Caesars, not to mention the restaurant-like Bertucci’s, California Pizza Kitchen), and Mexican food restaurants (Taco Bell, Chi Chi’s). What’s missing in all this is a national Chinese food presence.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of local restaurants, and I know that there’s pretty much no cuisine that can’t be completely ruined by a homogeneous national chain. All of that being said, though, I’m just curious: why has Chinese food been so resistant to the big blender of corporate America?

To further comment on Jason’s notice, the server that hosts MetaFilter, Megnut, and A Whole Lotta Nothing (along with the SxSWblog and a few other sites) is currently sitting, turned off and with a broken processor fan, in Brookline. The problem? That I’m in New York City for the weekend, and when I left Brookline on Friday, the replacement fan hadn’t been delivered yet.

Damn precision electronics and their need to stay cool! Damn shipping companies and their inability to meet promised delivery times!

Hopefully, all will be waiting when I get back, and things will return to the chaotic norm soon thereafter.

Ibrahim Ferrer has been denied a visa to come from Cuba to the U.S. to participate in the Grammy Awards, citing a section of immigration law that says that people can be denied entry if it would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Are you *#@%ing kidding me!?! Ferrer is a frail, 77 year-old Latin jazz musician; it’s hard to see how he does anything but enrich the United States. And he’s the time since 9/11, he’s been granted a visa at least once, since Shannon and I saw him at the Beacon in New York City in November of 2001. What a shame that the politics of the Bush administration deprive him of being recognized for his artistic contribution to the world.

This is just freakin’ fantastic. The rendering is just perfect; well worth a look.

Dear Bert:

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for contacting me with your request to cross-link our websites. I have spent many recent nights wondering how I can generate traffic for my anemic home page, and at the very moment that I had decided the only thing left to do was to fix the two pages with obvious content issues, your welcome email came along offering to obliterate my traffic deficit with a crafty cross-linking agreement. I am saved!

Interestingly, I find it hard to imagine how we never found each other before! You mention that you represent the site of “a cosmetic company which offers acne treatment, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, removal of stretch marks, and other services,” and it’s clear to me that our two outposts in the electronic cosmos were meant for each other. After all, when people stumble upon my site after searching for ways to schedule MRTG updates in Windows NT, one can’t help but assume that they really want to remove unsightly facial hair! And there’s no doubt that wending around the web for ways to run Frontier as a service is simply the appetizer to a main course of searching for ways to clear up recalcitrant pimples. Our sites are a match made in heaven, a natural relationship rivaled only by that of the oxpecker and the zebra. Small, focused Windows apps are the Bogart to dermatology’s Bacall, and once we consumate this cross-linking agreement, I can only imagine that our traffic will skyrocket.

In closing, I am eager to discover the web address for your site, if only because that seems to be the penultimate step towards bringing my pathetic, seven-link home page the attention it so clearly deserves. I hope to hear from you soon, and if you have any recommendations for high-end webserver computers that are equipped to handle the demands placed on them by our can’t-fail cross-linking agreement, then I’m all ears!

Best regards,

I just got a new LCD monitor, a Dell 1800FP, and while setting it up yesterday I noticed that when ClearType is enabled, the text looks downright horrid. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but decided to do a little hunting today, and found out that this is a pretty well-known problem. Microsoft has made some changes to the ClearType tuner, adding support for monitors with a much less common BGR pixel sequence; switching to that sequence improves things a slight bit on the 1800FP, but the results are nothing like what text looks like on the Samsung 770TFT that I’ve been using for the past three years, nor does it approach the benefit that ClearType has offered on all the laptops I’ve owned. A freeware utility named ClearTweak that lets you bump up the contrast a bit, but again, it’s an incremental improvement rather than a solution.

I guess what I’m saying is that people should do a little reading before buying an 18” LCD from Dell right now. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted if I (or Dell) comes up with a solution.

One of the funniest things I’ve read in the past year: William Saletan’s account of Joe Lieberman’s exit from the 2004 campaign for President. Shannon and I have been making fun of Lieberman’s invention of the word “Joementum” for a week or so now; suffice it to say that Saletan has outdone us both, and in the process, made me laugh so hard that I couldn’t breathe.

I’ve gotta say, there’s precious little that makes me more annoyed than a company that miraculously decides to do right by its customers just after enough of those customers express interest in a class-action lawsuit against it.

Being someone who paid Apple $289 for the pleasure of having them repair something that should’ve never broken, I called them today to find out how I could get my reimbursement. I ended up speaking with Shirley in Customer Relations, who (very snippily) told me that I “need to be patient,” that I “should allow Apple to be proactive in contacting all the people who have been affected,” and that in no less than six weeks, I should get a letter in the mail explaining how I can collect the money that Apple cheated out of my wallet. With her attitude, it was hard to resist telling her that I found the use of the word “proactive” disingenuous, given how clearly reactive this all is. I also asked her who I should call if, in six weeks, I haven’t received my letter; she said that I shouldn’t call anyone, but rather, should “check the Apple website” to get information at that point. I actually had to push to get her to give me the direct number to Customer Relations (which is, of course, available on the web). The whole conversation was distasteful, and left me wondering whether Apple might have overlooked a few of Shirley’s character traits that might make her ill-suited for a job handling customer complaints.

(Note that I’ve turned off comments on this post. I wasn’t looking for them in the first place, and then an anonymous troll came to visit, so that’s that.)

For those who are similarly infatuated with all things Mars, I’d recommend keeping an eye on the websites of Susan Kitchens and Robby Stephenson. Both have been chock full of good info about the current missions, with detail that doesn’t make it into the general press. Worth a daily read.

Thanks go out to Matt for solidifying my depression by pointing out the fact that the Northeast has been colder than Mars over the past few weeks. I mean, we’re talking about a planet that’s nearly 50 million miles further from the Sun than ours, and it’s warmer there than outside my apartment window. Maybe a Mars colony doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all…

Today only brought one image from Opportunity’s camera on Mars that was worth reassembling in color; this time, though, it’s true-color.

mars in true color

(Also, I’m not too sure what that little, white, vent-like object is to the right of the calibration target, but looking at this picture taken by Opportunity’s twin, Spirit, it appears that we can use its orientation to determine which rover took a picture in which it appears…)

For those who, like me, have found the latest batch of Firebird OS X nightly builds a bit on the unstable side, there’s a guy putting together unofficial builds of the version 0.8 branch for the Mac. So far, so good on my machine…

What do you get when you combine a slow on-call day, a copy of Photoshop, and an unhealthy obsession with the Mars mission? The first color images of the Meridiani Planum, courtesy of the Opportunity rover. Using today’s raw images and Kano’s info about the color wavelengths that correspond to each of the rover’s camera filters, it was easy to create the color versions, and while they’re not true-color — NASA hasn’t provided the red channels — they aren’t all that far off, and they’re much more satisfying to look at than the black-and-whites that are all over the newswires. (Note that I also lightened the midtones, since the raw images are pretty dark in the visible range.)

Opportunity has landed! Every time I think about the logistics involved, I end up realizing how unbelievably astounding an achievement it is for NASA to have carefully orchestrated the successful landing of two complex, mobile exploration rovers on the surface of a planet that’s anywhere from 55 to 400 million kilometers from Earth. Sure, Spirit is having problems with its flash memory (and who hasn’t?), but NASA engineers seem to have a handle on that; soon, we’ll have two little friends rolling around the Martian soil and experimenting on our behest.

Now, wouldn’t it be damn cool if Opportunity could hunt down Pathfinder and restore it to life, then go and tag-team a definitive repair on Spirit, and lastly find the Beagle 2 and resurrect it? I picture a merry, Wizard-of-Oz-like band of robotic friends marching around actuator-in-actuator, looking for answers to all that ails them…

I’m not sure which surprises me more, the convoluted and unnecessary crap you have to go through in order to turn off all the various annoying behaviors in RealPlayer, or the fact that users haven’t rebelled against this kind of crap with such force that Rob Glaser and his infernal company go bankrupt in an avalanche of shareholder lawsuits.
Now’s the time that I share two photographic notes from the end of my week; as always, click on the little pix to get bigger pix. Friday morning, Boston was cold enough that I was barely able to motivate myself out the front door. My engine turned over six or seven times in order to catch, and when I looked down, I was saddened to see the thermometer on my dashboard read six below zero.
dashboard thermometer
On my drive to work, NPR kept warning that, while the ambient temperature outside was in the few-below-zero range, the wind chill was making it more like forty below zero. It was the first day that, rather than spending one minute crossing the street, I decided to take the ten-minute, entirely-indoor route between my parking garage to the hospital. It was cold enough that, after doing a bone marrow harvest, I needed to again use the indoor route to bring the marrow across to the cell processing lab; we were told that the insulated cooler that we transport cells in just wouldn’t be good enough in that kind of weather. Friday evening, I was getting ready to leave the hospital when Shannon called. She had come home to find my cat sitting there drooling with her tongue out; Sammie was unwilling to close her mouth, and didn’t appear to be all that excited about eating.
sammie's tongue
I hurried home, and after a quick search, found a great vet who was still open, and (more importantly) was willing to see us right then. We took Sammie in to get checked out, and after some hissing, scratching, and a little sedation, the vet told us that she had some dental disease but no clear reason for her symptoms. Worried about a jaw dislocation or fracture, the vet did x-rays which didn’t shed any light on things; despite that, nobody could get Sammie to close her jaw completely, and we were left thinking that there was a possibility of a tooth abscess or other hidden infection. They sent us out with antibiotics for Sammie, and also with the instruction to have her checked out again if she didn’t improve over the course of one or two days. Last night, Sammie let me get enough of a look in her mouth to see that she appeared to have a malocclusion, and this morning I brought her in to our fabulous local animal hospital. They hooked us up with a visit this week to their dental specialist; we’ll see how that all goes. For now, Sammie has been relegated to eating soft food, and to forming puddles of kitty drool if she stops moving for more than five minutes. It’s sorta pathetic.
As an incredibly happy owner of a 2003 Outback wagon, Subaru’s move to reclassify the Outback as a light truck to avoid fuel and air pollution standards disappoints me. I like the fact that it’s not a truck, sitting a bit lower to the ground (improving stability) and with an interior that feels less like a hose-it-down utility vehicle. I understand that there are legitimate business interests involved in car companies cramming themselves into the voids created by the differences in the standards passed down by the Transportation Department and the EPA, but it’s possible that Subaru is messing with perfection here.
Sad update: V.J. Lovero passed away early this morning. After being diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, he opted to dig in and fight, and we all benefited from four more fantastic years with Veej. He will be sorely missed; V.J.’s spirit lives on in all that knew him.
When I got into my car this morning, the in-dash thermometer read minus 3 degrees. That’s in Farenheit, people. It was three freaking degrees below zero, cold enough to make the insides of my nose freeze in the time it took to walk from my front door to the car. Cold enough to make shifting my car into first gear feel like dragging a two-ton weight through a vat of molasses. Cold enough to make the 200-foot walk between the parking garage and the hospital seem like a legitimate threat to my well-being. Dammit, I grew up in balmy Texas, where temperatures below freezing were less common than Democrats, and when you talked about dressing for the cold, you meant that it would be a good idea to wear pants. Looking at the coming week, we’re going to get up to a truly toasty 38 degrees before plunging back down in the single-digits… I hope that I get through it without losing body parts to frostbite.
In case you weren’t able to grab last week’s cheap wireless router during Amazon’s rebate period, they’re offering up another great one, the Netgear MR814, for twenty eight bucks (after a rebate), and with free shipping. Same as last time — if you’ve been waiting to get into the wonderful world of wireless, this might be a good time.
Do you remember the great Google bombing article by Adam Mathes? Apparently, so did these plagarizing bastards, but they’re hoping that we didn’t. It’s unbelievable how stupidly dishonest people can be.
Presidential candidates who have recently spammed my referrer logs (no links, for obvious reasons):
  • Dick Gephardt
  • Carol Moseley Braun
Presidential candidates who have recently spammed other people’s referrer logs: I seriously can’t figure out what the motivation is, since generally, the only people who’ll notice are the people who are most likely to be pissed off by the spam. Of course, it’s not like we’re talking about viable candidates… smiley
As always, when one of our little space sentries alights on the firm ground of a neighboring chunk of orbiting rock, I get all giddy. If only the Beagle could participate in the party…

If you’ve got a D-Link DI-514 wireless router and an iBook (or any Apple machine with an Airport card), save yourself a few hours of annoying fiddling by reading this little tidbit of useful information. It’s amazing what a quick search on Google Groups can do for a frustrating problem…

Even though I’m on call over the holiday, the bone marrow transplant unit is quiet enough that I’ve been able to get out of there at a reasonable hour for the past two days, and spend some time working on setting Shannon’s office up. I mentioned before that the office is far enough away from the main net connection that we decided to use wireless networking rather than string (and hide) a cable all the way through the house. Yesterday, I was able to install a wireless card into her computer, but instead of seamlessly adding the desktop machine onto our network, I learned that Windows ME had an entirely different idea. The operating system acknowledged the card’s existence, and I could even half-configure the settings, but beyond that, I was the card’s bitch. “WiFi access point? What access point!?! You will struggle and curse and click on every single option, and yet I will still deny the existence of the access point!” Fucker. At first, I figured that the antenna on the card was just too weak to pick up the signal from the front of the house, and spent a little time fiddling with alignment and whatnot, to no avail. Then, I set my iBook on the desk and turned it into a wireless access point, but the machine wouldn’t even see that. Lastly, I thought foul, foul thoughts about WinME, and started backing up all of Shannon’s files so that I could erase the worthless operating system from existence (well, at least in this house). Not surprisingly, after a 40-minute installation, Windows XP instantly recognized the wireless card, and more importantly, recognized the wireless network. The signal isn’t strong, but running over 802.11g, it’s still faster than our Internet connection (which actually says a lot), and did I mention that it just plain works? That’s the key; I may not be sophisticated or nothin’, but I’ll take a working network connection over one that doesn’t work any day. WinXP also acknowledged the existence of the UPS, the combo FireWire/USB 2.0 card, the CD/DVD writer, and my JumpDrive, all of which made me much less interested in throwing the entire jumble of metal, wires, and glass through the window and into the sunroof of the sparkling new Passat sitting down below.
For those who haven’t figured it out, this is all about this. It goes without saying that Melissa Harrington will make far more in subscriptions than she’ll pay in fines…
Oh, by the way, as of about a week ago this site has an Atom 0.3 syndication feed (that should be valid, unless I did something dumbassed).
Thanks to Leonard (and mostly as a bookmark to myself), I now know of another good boot disk resource. Of course, there’s the damn fine bootdisk.com, and svrops.com’s library; between the three of ‘em, you should find anything you need.
On my top five list of presents I received for Christmas this year: Mattel’s Classic Football 2.
engrossed in football, christmas morning, 2003
I remember wasting hours of my pre-teen life playing the original while riding to and from swim practice; I would also be willing to swear that I owned the real original at some point. Now, I’m just waiting for the re-release of Merlin
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to go wireless with your computer, there’s almost no reason not to saunter over to Amazon and pick up a D-Link DI-514. Why? Because in addition to providing a good, basic wireless access point, it has a four-port switch that goes up to 100 Mbit/sec per port, and for the next five days, it’ll cost you a whopping twenty bucks after the rebate. How can you go wrong?
It’s funny how much better satire is at highlighting the hypocrisy of the religious right than straight news ever has been. (Note that that link is to the main McSweeney’s page, since as far as I can tell, the latest post doesn’t get a permalink until it’s no longer the latest post. Until then, you’re looking for “A Message from Pat Robertson and the ‘Vote No on Jesus’ Campaign” in the archives.)
Well, I guess my Apple accolades were a bit too congratulatory — it turns out that the problem that beseiged by iBook is not only widespread, but more or less ignored by Apple. There are dozens of other people that have posted descriptions of the exact same problem I experienced, and there’s even a thread on Apple’s support site full of people who are on their third and fourth logic boards. Most of them seem to have had to shell out the same few hundred I did in order to get their iBook fixed. And in that context, the service doesn’t seem quite as awesome. In the world of medicine, this many affected people would cause a drug to be pulled off the market, a new procedure to get scrapped, or a medical trial to get closed by the FDA. In the world of computer hardware, though, it just causes people to have to spend more money to fix products that are defective from the get-go.
I was all ready to write an excited, happy post about the unbelievable service that Apple provided when my iBook broke two weeks ago, and then Anil informed me that I had somehow missed Meg’s post about the exact same thing. Seriously, it’s identical down to the wacko Matrix screen seconds before total iBook lockup, and perfect in describing the amazing turnaround on the repair. Despite quoting me five to seven working days, my iBook went from dead to fixed in 48 hours, and all for a pretty reasonable flat fee. (And can I mention how cool it is that Apple offers a $50 service that will back up your hard disk before starting any repairs, but only if they deem that it’s likely that your hard disk will be threatened during the repair process? If they don’t end up needing to do it, they don’t charge you, and that just rocks.) The only downside to the service? That it makes me want one of the 12” aluminum PowerBook G4 all the more; too bad I live on a fellow’s salary. Of course, if anyone wants to buy me one for Christmas, that’s an entirely different story…
How cool — with the help of state media outlets, the story of Saddam Hussein’s strange Oregon license plate continues to unfold over at Slate.
In the next couple of days, a backup mail server that I run is going to be moving to upstate New York, and needs to be offline for a few weeks. As a result, I’m looking for a good, reliable provider as a temporary replacement. What I need is an ISP or hosting company that, instead of having some huge package that includes (as an afterthought) backup mail service for the domains that you host with them, has an inexpensive package specifically for providing store-and-forward SMTP service for domains that are hosted elsewhere. I’d also prefer a service that will let me host multiple domains for minimal extra coin. Most hosting providers seem to have a ton of online detail about how much it’ll cost me to host my website with them, but then have a “contact us” email link for anything less than that, so it’s hard to get any sense of who provides backup mail hosting service, and what it costs. Does anyone have any recommendations?
I will cut taxes, balance the budget, and rid the world of Skeletor. Skeletor is evil. Skeletor does not believe in free trade.
I guess I’m not the only one that noticed that a customer service phone number no longer appears anywhere obvious on Amazon’s website. (A few months ago, I bought a wireless keyboard from them, and when it was broken on arrival, went hunting for the proper way to deal with the problem. Alas, my biggest question — whether Amazon would pay for the return shipping on the broken keyboard — was left ambiguously unanswered by the help section of their website. Looking to get an answer, I then noticed that a phone number was nowhere to be found, replaced by forms that allowed me to submit my issue. Then I remembered that, way back in Amazon’s first days, I had put the phone number into my Palm… and sure enough, there it was, and it was still connected to the customer service department. By speaking with someone, I was able to handle the new order and return shipment in under three minutes. Of course, this was probably because nobody else knows how to call the company…)

It’s hard not to be impressed with the way that Wesley Clark’s campaign for the 2004 Presidential campaign has embraced weblogs. Going way beyond the now-requisite candidate weblog, the campaign registered ForClark.com, and (under Cam Barrett’s guidance) is using it to create smaller communities of supporters that are able both to coordinate their efforts locally and share them globally. There’s a Massachusetts for Clark weblog, an environmentalists for Clark weblog, a Clark fundraising weblog, and as many other ones as you could imagine; they all feed into the same content management system, which allows for communication between communities. The Community Network also allows for a uniform user experience when poking around all of the individual communities, establishing a clear brand that’s even stronger than many corporate identities on the web today. It’s so far beyond what any other candidate has implemented, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t significantly simplifying the communication within Clark’s campaign in the run for the White House.

A few browser-related thoughts that have crossed through my mind over the past few days…

First, why did it take so long for someone to come up with a free pop-up blocking toolbar for Internet Explorer? It’s been a while since every other browser on the market incorporated the functionality into their respective cores; Microsoft has held off on adding it into IE, for whatever reason, so the logical next step has always been for an ambitious third party to whip up a barricade to the annoyance of pop-up, pop-under, and whole-computer-taking-over advertising. Before the Google Toolbar, I tended to use other browsers just to avoid ads; now that the Toolbar has blocking features, it’s a pleasure to be able to go back to the speed of IE.

That being said, though, I’m currently playing around with Mozilla Firebird, and I like what I see. (I know, most cool people started using Firebird months ago…) The interface is clean and less dissimilar from the general Windows UI as have been past Mozilla products (but not completely… for example, why can’t Firebird abide by my preference to hide underlined letters for keyboard navigation until I press the Alt key?), tabbed browsing works beautifully, and the rendering engine is darned fast. One of the things I love most about Mozilla, the DOM Inspector, doesn’t seem to be part of Firebird, but seeing as it’s supposed to be a lean user-level browser, that’s understandable. Likewise, there are a few options missing that should be in the core package, like an easy way to switch search engines. All that being said, Firebird is advertised as a technology preview, and if the final product builds upon what’s already available, it’ll be a pretty damn fine browser.

“Here a front, there a front, everywhere a terror front.” In today’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd analyzes the first Republican television ad in the campaign for the 2004 election, and finds that it’s less an ad for Bush and more an ad to press people into voting Republican on the basis of fear. Even sillier, the ad uses clips of Bush’s statements from the State of the Union address — the same one in which we now know that our President used misleading or wholly false information as the basis of his terrorism fearmongering. I just hope that the American voter sees through this, and calls Bush out next year.
On this, the 140th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s address on a former battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I point you to the only known photo of Lincoln at the ceremony. More interesting than the photo is the story behind the photo; according to the Library of Congress website, the glass plate negative sat unrecognized in the National Archives for over 50 years before someone recognized Lincoln buried in the crowd. (Test yourself by checking out the entire photo before clicking through to the detail; I bet you can’t find him!)

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting a kick out of the “we can’t print anything at all about the allegation against the man in line to the British throne” thing going on right now. I’d imagine that news editors across Great Britain are getting sick of trying to figure out new ways to talk around the story, and getting sicker of reading the complete details in the print of their French and American counterparts. It’s interesting to me, though, that while it’s (apparently) against British law for newspapers to print the rumors that a former royal valet walked in on Prince Charles having sex with a male aide, it’s not against the law for those same papers to print the Prince’s retaliatory allegations that the valet was an alcoholic sufferer of PTSD. How very odd!

This certainly puts into perspective the preparation — and expense — that’s goes into Bush’s trip to London. But honestly, why does he have to bring 150 national security advisors with him?
While I’m completely in agreement with the sentiment behind Adam Kalsey’s Comment Spam Manifesto, I can’t help but feel like it’s just pointless. Remembering back to a few years ago, I was all into shutting down email spammers. I’d spend a few minutes here and a few minutes there emailing or calling ISPs to let them know about a customer of theirs who was sending out unsolicited email, and getting accounts shut down, full of righteous rage (as the unfortunate people who shared an office with me can attest) and feeling like I could make a difference. Unfortunately, then the spam explosion occurred. Today, I get somewhere between 200 and 300 unsolicited email messages a day, and if I were to count the messages sent to the 30 email addresses I’ve shunted directly into the bit bucket, that number would be around 750. Therein lies the problem with the strategy of deterrence through reporting — it very quickly becomes an exercise in futility.
Wow — the U.S. baseball team won’t be making the trip to Athens for the Olympics next year, having lost to Mexico in the quarterfinals of the qualifying tournament yesterday. There was even a lot of talk about Roger Clemens pitching for the team, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

Apparently, for today only, there’s a deal on online shopping through affiliates over at Dell (that link goes to Dell through their affiliate front-end); you can get $25 off of purchases of software or peripherals $350 or more by entering the coupon code “FCC8FD174C14” when checking out. Dunno if anyone’s looking for a reason to buy something today, but if so, maybe this is it…

I have a question to pose about spam etiquette. Say you go to the website of a well-known Fortune 500 company — an established company that’s been in the computer business for over two decades — and update your already-created so that you can buy something from them. Say that, during the account update process, you aren’t told that you’re also signing up to receive a junk newsletter from the company, nor are you offered the ability to tell them not to send you their marketing crap. Now, say that within a week, you start getting junk email from them, offering up the new products of the week and whatnot, and that at the bottom of the email is a clear opt-out link. What do you do? Do you just delete the email? Do you click the link, and opt out of the crap that you never opted into to begin with? Do you report the email to Vipul’s Razor, Pyzor, and all other collaborative spam databases? (Incidentally, this same should-be-aware-but-clearly-isn’t company lets you log into your account to change your settings, but on logging in, clearly shows that I have opted to not receive email from them. How can they justify sending me this newsletter when it’s clear they also know I don’t want to receive any marketing email from them?)
Shannon and I have a (least) favorite new smell: burning clutch. Yesterday, while driving back from New York in rain so torrential the Saw Mill River Parkway was turned into a virtual floodplain, I noticed that the clutch in my car started feeling really, really mushy. We were on a long, steep uphill, and the clutch was requiring quite a bit higher revs to engage; in addition, it was channeling the most acrid, horrific smell straight back at Shannon and me. There was at least a half-mile left of hill, so with some quick acrobatics, I got off to the shoulder and turned off the car. We debated how I’d be able to even look under the hood with the rain coming down as hard as it was, and we started hunting for the nearest Subaru dealer. (Thank goodness I kept the little “every Subaru dealer in the country” brochure when I bought the car!) After one dealer’s service department treated me like a radioactive, smallpox-laden anthrax spore, we found another closeby, and decided to start back up and limp along to see if they’d take a look. When we got to their service department, one of the techs took my keys and took the car out for a quick spin. He came back and said that it felt OK, and that the smell was undoubtedly the clutch; he said that it was probably OK to get back to Boston, but that I should bring it in to my local dealer today for a look-see. I got it in first thing this morning, only to learn later today that it won’t be until tomorrow afternoon before they look at the car, and then god knows how long before it’s fixed. One mechanic said that he thought some water got into the clutch, making it slip a bit to cause the burning smell; another said that there shouldn’t be any way for water to get into the clutch, and that they’d have to drop the transmission out of the car to see what had happened. And despite a quick bit of learning, I feel like I’m totally at the mercy of the mechanics — if they came to me tomorrow and told me it would be a cool grand to replace the gerbils and rabbit brain that run my transmission, I’d have to just fork it over. One hopes it’ll all be covered under the warranty… we’ll see.
Over at VentureBlog, Naval Ravikant wrote up his experience using Dartmouth’s amazing wireless network. Wired ran a piece last October about the university’s plans to build out a universally-available, open network that encourages both educational use and recreational tinkering, and from Naval’s piece, it looks as if it’s working. Students are using $50 voice-over-wireless handsets to make all their calls, and developing services based on location (like friend-finders and scheduling systems that send reminders timed according to how long it will take users to get to their next appointment from where they are). It’s not too surprising to me that Dartmouth is on the wireless leading edge; I remember visiting my brother at Dartmouth in the late 1980s and being totally knocked-out by BlitzMail, their revolutionary campuswide email (and, effectively, instant messenger) system. Now, they’ve found another place where technology carries interpersonal communication to the next level, and nothing but good can come of it.
Awesome! After promising it as one of the upselling features of the Pro- and Plus-level accounts, Six Apart has delivered TypePad’s domain mapping feature. (You can see it in action at alaina.org.) Now, maybe it’s time to convert this entire website over to TypePad… something to think about, indeed. At least I’ll move all my photo albums over, and just set them up at pictures.queso.com or something. Bravo, Six Apart!
new york times, 10/17/2003boston globe, 10/17/2003
Bill Buckner must be breathing a sigh of relief today, because at the top of the list of people most responsible for ripping the hearts out of all Red Sox fans, he appears to have been instantly supplanted last night by Boston manager Grady Little. Here at the hospital, just saying “Grady” or “eighth inning” causes nearly everyone to erupt with venemous rage, and there’s a poll running on the Boston Globe site that, with nearly 11,000 votes cast, is 67% in favor of tossing Little out on his ass. (Of course, it’s one of the worst-worded surveys in all of history, but alas.) Some of the headlines in the print version of the Globe today read: “Little was too late with ace in a hole” (continued with “Little tipped his hand by holding his ace too long”), “Little stood by his man, for too long,” and “A Little second-guessing”; exclusive to the website was the main Red Sox page headline “Sox blow it; Little’s failure to remove Pedro in 8th cost Sox the pennant .” It’s bad enough here that there’s a certain Cubs fan who’s probably relieved that, as horrible as his last few days have been, at least he’s not Grady Little. (And for posterity’s sake, there are PDFs of both today’s Globe and Times.)
yankees!  yankees!
OK, here’s where I admit that I had almost completely written the Yankees off somewhere near the end of the seventh; here’s where I also admit that I may have caused damage to both my sofa and the floor beneath it with all the jumping up and down that I did in the bottom of the eighth. What an unbelievable game, and what an even more unbelievable end. (Mariano Rivera pitching three complete innings for the first time since April of 1996!?! A walkoff home run from Aaron Boone!?!) I have to admit a bit of sadness for the Red Sox — since I’m always a sucker for the underdog, and now that I live here, I also have a bunch of friends that are going to be horribly sad for the next few weeks — but I also have to exult at the Yanks making the to Fall Classic. A few last notes before heading off to bed:
  • The choice of Rivera as the ALCS MVP was just obvious, and well-deserved.
  • It’s a shame that Pedro stuck around for the eighth; in the blink of a managerial eye, a masterful Pedro victory turned into an unfortunate afterthought. (Well, we’ll see how much of an afterthought it is in the Boston press tomorrow.)
  • Hey, Tim McCarver — could you possibly have been more annoying about whether or not it was going to be the end of Roger Clemens’ career? I’m pretty sure that we all got it the first twelve times you said it; we probably didn’t need the other fifteen hundred.
I know that it comes as shocking and totally unexpected to everyone that Verisign plans to reinstate the service that redirects any and all requests for nonexistent .com and .net domains to a page of advertisements. I’ll acknowledge that a huge part of me feels the same bile rising in my throat that floods forth every time I think about the fact that a huge chunk of the Internet is controlled by a company comprised of a thousand drunk anencephalic monkeys. But there’s also a cluster of neurons in my brain that hopes that Verisign does start Site Finder back up, so that ICANN can yank the .com and .net domains out from the control of the incompetent buffoons.

I’ve been sitting here in the fellows’ office at my hospital waiting for a lecture to start (and watching the MLB.com GameDay applet for the Yanks/Red Sox game), and just witnessed the funniest, stupidest interaction with technology ever.

One of the upper-year fellows was trying to print something, and the printer wouldn’t have any of it. She thoughtfully examined the display on the printer (“82 IO ERROR”), and then turned it off and back on. She tried to print again, but zippo happened. She then took out the paper tray, emptied half the paper, put it back in, and tried to print again. Shockingly, nothing happened. She then turned it back off and on. Nothing. Next, she turned it off and on about twenty times in rapid succession; again, the printer spit out exactly zero pages of her document. She then pressed every button on the top of the printer, all to no avail. After that, she hit the printer — hard — with only a sore hand to show for her effort. Finally, she ripped the plug out of the wall and stormed out of the room.

That’ll show the printer!

What a night of baseball! First, the Yankees’ other 40-and-over pitcher, David Wells, got it done in Fenway Park, pitching seven innings and striking out five. Then, the Cubbies learned that the Curse of the Billy Goat is alive and well when one of their own fans grabbed a ball from above the outstretched glove of Moises Alou, preventing the second out of what turned into an eight-run Marlin eighth. (Poor guy had to be scooped out of his seat by security, and later escorted out of the stadium, so that other fans couldn’t kill him.)

Of course, the Marlins win pushes the NLCS to the seventh game, which means that the Yankees/Red Sox game will be at 4:00 today… when I still have at least two hours left at work. Dammit!

I know you were all just aching to post comments and whatnot, but alas, that ability was hosed here today. (And here, and here, and here.) The reason? Because last night, I was foolish enough to accept a security update to the perl installation on my RedHat Linux box. I’m sure that the update rendered my machine more secure, but it also rendered every single perl script on the machine — including Movable Type — completely unusable. Trying to solve the problem led to a ton of other totally self-recursive problems, like perl not allowing me to install modules because those same modules weren’t already installed. It made for hair-pulling annoyance. In the end, I just downloaded the newest perl source code, recompiled from scratch, and installed what seem to be fifteen dozen modules in order to get everything back up and running. Crap like this is so annoying, so time-consuming, and just so idiotic. Could you imagine if you had to go through the same crap every time you wanted to install an app on your desktop machine?
My summary of tonight’s Yankees/Red Sox game:
  • Roger Clemens had early problems with control, giving up three hits and two runs in the first fifteen pitches. Luckily, he settled down, finishing after six innings with no more runs and seven strikeouts.
  • The Yanks scrapped away as they always do, turning gap shots and long low balls into runs. And with the only home run of the game, Jeter literally silenced Fenway Park; I don’t think I’ve ever heard the crowd that silent.
  • Pedro Martinez reinforced his reputation as a headhunter, hitting Karim Garcia in the fourth and then yelling further threats about throwing at batters’ heads into the Yankees dugout.
  • After a not-even-close pitch up and inside, Manny Ramirez inflamed already-smoldering tensions by strutting out towards the mound, causing both benches to clear and Pedro to lose even more friends by throwing 72 year-old Don Zimmer to the ground.
  • A moronic Fenway groundskeeper felt that it was a good idea to jump into the Yankees bullpen during the ninth inning, somehow leading to Karim Garcia getting injured. (Can you say criminal charges? Can you also say unemployed?) (Update: it appears that it may have been the Yanks responsible for the bullpen fracas; we’ll see where the fallout ends up.)
  • Mariano Rivera was, as always, just awesome. It’s just unfathomable that he has a postseason ERA of 0.74; during the playoffs, Mariano regularly gives the Yanks two solid innings in which all they have to do is concentrate on putting more runs on the board.
All in all, neither of the two superstar pitchers was all that awesome, and Pedro ended up losing the matchup both on the scoreboard and in his jackass behavior. (And for those who don’t know, there’s a reason Don Zimmer was bridling at Martinez pitching at people’s heads. In 1953, Zimmer was hit in the head, and was unconscious for nearly two weeks. He couldn’t speak for an additional four weeks, and he ended up with a metal plate in his head. Three years later, his season was ended by another pitch to the head that broke his cheekbone. In other words, he knows of which he speaks.)
Honestly, in the wake of pretty clear evidence of the Catholic church shuffling around pedophiles for years, does the Vatican really want to start another controversy by sending bishops and cardinals out there to claim that condoms are permeable to HIV? More than asinine, it’s just unconscionable, spreading lies and exposing people to an uncurable condition for the sake of religious zeal.
It figures that, on his own damn birthday, Matt Haughey gives us a present: Ten Years of My Life. It’s a website on which Matt plans to post a daily picture… for the next ten years. Happy birthday, Matt, and thanks for the promise of much more to come!
Oh, for the love of God… a group of parents in Oak Park, Illinois are suing their school district over the deployment of wireless technologies to connect the schools and provide network access within the schools. They are claiming that wireless networks are dangerous to the health of their children, and want the networks taken out of service. Am I really to believe that none of these parents have cellphones or cordless phones? That they never used wireless baby monitors? That they’ve never stopped off in a Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee, or set foot in an airport, or an airplane? That they’ve never used a GPS navigation system? Are all these parents going to disallow their kids from going to any college that has a distributed wireless network? A few other tidbits about the attempt to get wireless banned in Oak Park:
I gotta say, the worst thing about watching the Yankees-Red Sox games is that goddamn car zoom sound that all of the Fox on-screen graphics make. Seriously — in the last minute, there have been eleven effects that made the little zoom sound. Wouldn’t you think that they’d realize the freaking car sound is only within spitting distance of acceptable during Nascar broadcasts, and that even then it’s seriously debatable?
And there you have it; the most one-sided rivalry in sports now takes center stage, starting Wednesday night. It’s a shame that it looks like the pitching lineups won’t get Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez on the same field, but it does seem likely that Clemens will be pitching in Fenway Park one last time in his career, which is just awesome.

Imagine that someone out there goes and signs up for a web-based fantasy sports league, and when asked for his email address, decides to make one up. Imagine that the made-up email address actually exists, though; furthermore, imagine that immediately upon submitting the “fake” email address, that scoundrel’s login information to the aforementioned fantasy sports league is sent out to the all-too-real person at the other end of the address. Now, imagine the annoyed recipient of the information deciding to log into the fantasy league website, and sell the entire team of the person who decided to not use his own email when he signed up.

I’m just saying…

For those who haven’t grown so irritated by junk email as to seize at the mere thought of it, the Boston Globe Sunday magazine has a good article by Neil Swidey on the history and the future of the fight against spam. Sitting here with 1,980 messages collected in my spam folder since the Friday morning, I can see why the mainstream press is starting to talk about the problem. I’ve wondered something, though — with the email addresses of most members of Congress available online, do you think that there’s a spam filter running on the House and Senate mail servers? If so, is there someone who trawls through the filtered messages, making sure that email from constituents doesn’t get thrown in the can?
I know that anyone who’s anyone has pointed to this over the past week, but Trevor Blackwell’s homemade Segway scooter is just the coolest damn thing. Reading through his narrative, it’s clear that you’d need a pretty good handle on your physics in order to build one yourself, but it’s also clear that if the Segway’s popularity takes off, it won’t be hard for a slew of similar products to make their way to the market.
After a few good years of service, my TiVo has finally died on me. Specifically, the modem has died, meaning that the little “Dialing…” spinny ball just keeps spinning and spinning and spinning, all the while never even grabbing the phone line. I’m at the point where television without TiVo is pretty much unthinkable, so now I get to go out and buy a new one, as well as fork over the money for the service plan. (It’s pretty irritating that the “lifetime service plan” for my current TiVo dies alongside the machine… I guess that’s how they make their money, though.) Since I’m still convinced that TiVo is the brand to get, I guess I’ll partake in the current $50 rebate; I’m just pissed that I didn’t take advantage of the offer to transfer service to a new box when I the promotion was running back in March.) Anyone have any better ideas?

Oh, for the love of f!*@, can we really not do anything about telemarketers? Looks like all we’re left with is the advice Dave Barry gave us — calling the American Teleservices Association as often as possible at the toll-free (to you, but not to them!) number (877) 779-3974 — and giving telemarketers a piece of their own action.

Update: it appears that the ATA has changed its number! The new number is: (866) 500-4272. How funny, though, that they changed their number, something that the millions of people that their members annoy really don’t have the luxury of doing…

Damn, this is cool: Recall, the new full-text search engine from the Internet Archive. What’s so cool about it? It searches all the pages of the Internet Archive, meaning that it will return hits from sites that haven’t existed for nearly a decade. Worth playing with when I get a little bit of time…
Two awesome new weblogs about journalism and the press: CyberJournalist.net and PressThink. The former’s out of the American Press Institute, and the latter’s a product of New York University; both of them are going into my bookmarks bar so that I can spend time digesting what they’ve got to offer.
Now that Shannon is going to stay in Boston (did we mention that Shannon took a job in Boston?), we’re planning on turning the room at the back of the apartment into her study and crafts room. And rather than stringing a cat 6 cable all the way from there to the front of the apartment (where the T1 comes in), we’ve decided to do the wireless thing for her computer. Unfortunately, this is an old house, with plaster and lathe walls, so the WiFi signal really starts to wheeze a bit back there. I started researching stronger antennas, and eventually settled on a HyperGain 8 dBi Range Extender. Of course, in between I found a ton of confusing information and terminology. It took a bit of hunting around, but I finally found a few good references, and now I present them for you: Now, the next step is to get all of Shannon’s stuff out of storage in South Jersey…
(Warning for the geek-averse: the following post will, undoubtedly, bore you to death.) This weekend, in an effort to better handle the ever-increasing tide of spam that’s been flowing into all the inboxes I host on my mailserver, I set up a second Linux box to do all the mail filtering. (SpamAssassin has a pretty snazzy mechanism that lets you offload the spam checking work onto a different machine as the mail server.) After getting the client/server stuff up and running, I figured out that there were a few users that would end up using the spam stuff on both machines (the mail server and the filtering server); this meant that each user would end up with two entirely different SpamAssassin preference files, as well as two different Bayes databases. And this all led to figuring out how to set up NFS shares, working through each machine’s firewall, so that this could be avoided. Fun fun fun. Here are some pages that I found particularly useful in this grand endeavor:
  • The Linux NFS How-To, which (like most of the how-tos) is a simple step-by-step walk through setting up both sides of an NFS connection.
  • Some information about autofs, which has the potential to make life a lot easier.
  • Configuring NFS under Linux for Firewall control, which goes through all the changes that have to be made to various configuration files in order to get NFS to behave in a firewall-friendly way. (It doesn’t speak to how to get RedHat 7.2 to use a version of rpc.lockd that is willing to bind to a predefined port; that’s an exercise for another day.)
  • iptables options, which is one of the best translators of the gobbledygook that’s part and parcel of Linux firewall configuration.
  • FileThingie, a one-script PHP installation that lets users edit text files via the web. I’m using this to let one of my friends make changes to a few of his preferences files (including his SpamAssasin configuration).
It’s a cool setup, and it’s working beautifully.
My brother came to visit this weekend; he’s my only family member who reads this site, and as a result, he’s my only family member who really knows how pathetic my exercise attempts (or lack thereof) have become. This morning, he dragged me out for a trek in and around Boston, him running and me on rollerblades, and we had an awesome time. We hopped into the Emerald Necklace in Brookline, made a beeline for Back Bay, crossed the Harvard Bridge (all 364.4 smoots and an ear of it), cut in along the Charles all the way to the Weeks Footbridge, came back across to Boston, and then backtracked all the way home. It was the perfect day for it, too, with perfect temperatures and a nice breeze to boot. Maybe I should take up exercising again…
The two best first-person accounts of yesterday’s blackout in New York City: Grant Barrett’s and Amy Langfield’s. Good stuff.

How do you think the millions of New Yorkers who are still without power feel about the fact that, while Mayor Bloomberg and Con Ed are asking everyone who does have power to conserve it until they can get everyone up and running, Times Square appears to be all ablaze with its standard neon lights, video screens, and electronic tickers?

The graph of the day, courtesy of Berkeley (click it to see the whole thing):
blackout graph
(By the way, George W. Bush, President of the United States, just applauded the way that people are handling “this rolling blackout.” Is he really unaware of the difference between blackouts and rolling blackouts, such as the fact that rolling blackouts are put into place specifically to avoid fiascos similar to what happened today?)

Wired has a fantastic article in the upcoming September issue on the exploding field of manufactured diamonds, and the threat they pose to the De Beers stranglehold on the industry. One of the main points of the article revolves around whether or not people (specifically women, if you read the subtext of all the quotes) will accept man-made diamonds as equal to their earthen-born counterparts; I think that the more interesting question is whether or not diamonds will fall from their absurdly elevated prestige once the artificial scarcity holding them there is shattered.

On Tuesday, I started as the fellow for the inpatient peds oncology floor, which means that in the onslaught of work, I totally forgot to say congrats to the people at SixApart for the release of TypePad! I’ve been putzing around with it a little bit in beta form, and it’s fantastic, so much more capable than anything else out there, well worth the monthly costs. Go use it!
Am I the only one that finds it a bit weird that CNN is carrying AP stories on how to avoid getting caught sharing music online? It seems that CNN’s parent company, AOL Time Warner, would want to discourage that sort of thing…
I dunno — perhaps there’s a compelling argument out there somewhere for not exempting anyone from having to go through the metal detectors at government buildings.
I thank the editors at The Morning News for passing along a link that finally makes sense of the many layers that sit between a bottle of wine and your lips. It’s amazing to me how convoluted and arcane the laws are that govern importation and sale of alcohol; it’s even more amazing to me that the entire three-tier structure of alcohol control is based in the grant of state power contained in the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Of course, the Internet has challenged the logic of the rigid distribution network, and even more, has brought about efforts to fight it in the courts. Given the roots of the scheme in the Constitution and its taxation value to each individual state, though, it’ll probably be a long time before there’s any real change seen by consumers.

It’s only in its sixth day of life, but I gotta say that Matt Haughey’s PVRblog, a weblog devoted to TiVo, ReplayTV, and other digital video recorders, is already a damn fine daily read. Matt has already published a few longer pieces that are aimed at helping people through the harder parts of more advanced setups (like putting a TiVo on a network, rather than using a phone line), all interspersed with news and updates from the PVR world. If you’ve got a PVR, or are thinking about adding one to your life, I’d recommend a visit to the site.

Jenny Everett, a Popular Science staff writer, decided to call the Dockers customer assistance line to ask for more details about the company’s claims of a nanotechnology basis for its new Stain Defender line of clothes; the resulting conversation was pretty damn funny.

According to today’s New York Times, the White House has enacted a new e-mail system that makes it significantly harder for people to jot off notes to the President (and, one would imagine, many other top elected officials). Instead of simply addressing an e-mail to president@whitehouse.gov, now people have to negotiate nearly a dozen web pages, choosing from restrictive pre-selected subjects and indicating whether or not they agree with the present stance of the White House on whatever issue concerns them. (Note that I’ve been trying to verify the claims of the Times article all morning, but the new website and the site it redirects to have been down pretty much since I got to work.)

On the good side, the process apparetly does include a verification step — once an e-mail is sent to the President, a confirmation is mailed to the original sender which includes a mechanism for proving that that person was the author of the e-mail. That’s the sort of thing that is probably important, given that the from line of e-mail is too easy to forge, and there are plenty of reasons it’s important to know whether or not letters to the Chief Executive are legitimate.

And on the funny side, as seems to be the case lately, the Times could stand to do a little digging before choosing who to use as an article’s prime source. Tom Matzzie, the AFL-CIO organizer mentioned in the third paragraph as one of the first people to discover (and be affected by) the new e-mail system, is described towards the end of the article as “a professional Web site designer.” Elsewhere on the web, Matzzie’s involvement with the AFL-CIO is described as its Online Mobilization Manager, its Internet communications manager, and the organization’s webmaster. Given that the article’s entire purpose is to complain about the new, restrictive forms-based approach to communicating with the White House, wouldn’t it be relevant that Matzzie’s own website has an incredibly similar, and similarly cumbersome, forms-based “Contact Us” page?

I just started playing with TypePad a little bit, and I have to say, I love the photo album stuff. And with that, my first TypePad photo album awaits, and I’d be willing to bet that a few more albums will follow over the next few days.
While I’m as much for quiet cars and restrictions on cellphone use in trains and planes as the next guy, I also think that a few people in this Times article could do themselves a whole heap of good with an iPod and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones…

It’s decently obvious that the United States has now hit its saturation point of mobile phone dealers. Walking around the Arsenal Mall last night, I was struck with how many dealers were crammed into a small space. In one particularly hilarious fifty-foot stretch, there were two T-Mobile vendors as well as an actual T-Mobile store, and likewise, there were three or four AT&T dealers, a Nextel booth, and two Cingular shops. Not a single one of the booths had a customer at them, and of the stores, only the T-Mobile one had anyone other than employees in it. It was a bit of a joke, and it made me wonder when one of the cellphone providers will get wise to this and decide to cut out the third-party dealers, as well as the markup that their presence adds to the cost of cellphone service.

Shannon and I have returned to New York City for the weekend, and getting out of the new Boston apartment for a few days has provided enough perspective on the past week to allow for an update.

First and foremost, this past week has been a lot tougher than I ever would have thought, mostly because of the amount of work that Shannon and I have had to do in the new apartment. When I signed my new lease, my landlord and I figured out that there wouldn’t be a lot of time between residents. I agreed to take on a lot of the normal between-rentals work myself, after I moved in, if my landlord would handle one huge task: ripping out all of the electric blue shag carpet and decades of layered and dulled linoleum and refinishing the wood floors that lived underneath. What that meant was that I would arrive to some of the most amazing floors that I could ever have imagined, but I would also arrive to an apartment with walls that hadn’t been painted in almost a decade. I knew to expect this (and my landlord had already agreed to reimburse me for all painting supplies and expenses), but I didn’t really process how much work it would take to get it all done, nor did I predict the emotional toll it would take on Shannon and I. And despite a 24-hour trip to Boston two weeks ago to get some of the painting started and a 36-hour headstart for Shannon and her mother, my family and I arrived last Saturday to an apartment that still needed paint in almost every room, not to mention cleaning and other small maintenance projects all over the place.

Another huge fact that hadn’t even crossed my mind in the days and weeks planning for the move was that the need for painting would mean that there was no chance of me being able to unpack when I got to Boston. Needing to repaint and resurface the kitchen cabinets meant that we wouldn’t be able to unpack any of our food, dishes, or even appliances; needing to repaint the entire study (goddamn built-in shelves!) meant that all the one million book boxes would need to stay stacked up in half of the guest room. Add to it a bathroom in need of paint and minor work, a paneled hallway in need of a lot of detail work, and a few pieces of furniture that didn’t survive the move, and you’ve got a general picture of the tasks that have dominated every available minute of our past week.

The one last thing that I didn’t anticipate was the massive hit in clothing space that I took in the move. I had built quite a bit of shelf space in my huge New York bedroom closet, none of which I have in my smaller Boston closets. Similarly, Shannon’s clothes were in temporary storage in anticipation of the move, and we didn’t have any real answer for where they’d end up once they got to Boston. What this all means is that we’ve been living out of our bags for the past week, something that’s driven both of us nearly to tears at various points of tiredness.

Finally, though, it feels like we’re getting over a major hump. On Tuesday, I bought an awesome new desk, to replace the one that was decimated in the moving truck. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, we set up the major living room furniture and got cable and phones installed. On Wednesday, Shannon finished painting the kitchen cabinets and doors, and on Thursday she was able to unpack most of the kitchen and I got five of the twelve doors hung. Thursday night, the new T1 was finally brought up by my ISP. And today, we bought two big dressers that will totally solve the clothing problem.

Tomorrow, I’ll shut down all the computers that still live in my old apartment in New York (including the one running this site and the MetaFilter server), drive them up to Boston, and set them all up on the new T1. Shannon and I will then immediately set to unpacking our clothes into the new dressers and unpacking some books onto the finally-finished shelves, and I think that we’ll finally feel like we’re living in a home. I cannot wait.

Some geek-related stuff:

Things you can’t have enough of while packing:

  • Ziploc bags, sandwich-sized and gallon-sized, to pack all the loose crap in;
  • small boxes, to prevent yourself from packing too much in a single box;
  • cable ties and velcro wraps, to hold together pretty much anything;
  • bubble wrap, to protect pictures, mirrors, and electronics;
  • plastic milk crates, to carry things like plants and breakables to the truck;
  • air conditioning;
  • friends.

res•er•va•tion (1c): an arrangement to have something (as a hotel room) held for one’s use; also : a promise, guarantee, or record of such engagement.

Something I relearned today: when moving, call all the various companies you’re paying for moving day services to see if they actually intend to provide those services. In the case of moving truck rentals, their contracts are actually explicit in telling you that your reservation isn’t really a reservation of equipment, just of the price of the equipment if they have it to give you, so you have to call to ask if there’s even a chance of them providing everything you’ve asked for. Want the small equipment, like a hand truck? Find a friend with one. Want a truck? Make your reservation for the absolute earliest time the pick-up spot is open, so that you have a chance of getting the few that they will provide. If you rely on the company for everything to work out right, assume that it’ll all work out terribly; at least then, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t fall apart.

I cannot wait until this move is over.

What an incredible evening. As everyone is now painfully aware, my last few weeks have been jam-packed, planning for the move, finishing up at the hospital, and working on my custom content management system. All this time, tonight has been reserved on our calendars as a break, ostensibly for a dinner with Shannon’s parents and some of her father’s colleagues. Thus, we got all gussied up tonight — Shannon wearing, for the first time, a piece of clothing that she had knitted — and headed out to Dos Caminos. Imagine my face when we wound around all the tables and into the very back to find her parents sitting with my entire family and a bunch of my closest friends, all in a surprise party to wish me an early birthday, congratulations on finishing residency, and good luck on the transition to fellowship in Boston. I can honestly say that I’ve never, ever been as surprised. It turns out that Shannon, my sister, and my mother have been working since January to put this together, and it showed; there were hand-dyed name placards, custom menus, and a framed invitation in the middle of the table with a photo of a 1975 version of me blowing out my birthday candles. I had a fantastic time, received gifts both thoughtful and memorable, and left feeling like there was nothing I could have done to deserve that celebration. I’m glowing tonight, a little sadder about leaving everyone, but happier that I have such a close group of people in my life.

Is it rational for me to feel like a loser because there’s absolutely no evidence that the MSNbot knows of this website? Could it be that the new Microsoft search crawler knows about the lethargic rate of posts here as of late, and is merely acknowledging my sheer boringness?

It came as a pretty cool discovery to me this week that SpamAssassin has made its way to the world of major university mail servers. I’m the first to acknowledge that today’s filters aren’t a panacea for the ever-worsening unsolicited e-mail problem, but doing nothing hasn’t been a raging success, and legislating the problem away seems to be both improbable and impossible given the reality of the Internet. I’m hopeful that, as mail filters are implemented by larger and larger mail providers, they’ll get better, and they’ll also help everyone involved discover even more effective ways at getting to the root of the problem.

Five simple words: San Antonio Spurs, NBA champions. What a great way to send David Robinson off into retirement, and for Steve Kerr to win his fifth ring. And finally, my blood pressure is returning to normal.

Last night was my final 24-hour call in the hospital (a fact I didn’t realize until about 1 o’clock this morning). The milestones are just stacking up; next in line, my last class retreat (next weekend), my last clinic (two Tuesdays from now), and my last overnight call in any capacity (three Wednesdays from now). In the mean time, though, I’m off to Boston for one day of geekery before returning to marking the passage of time…

Another few milestones passed: my last overnight call as the senior resident in charge (last Saturday), and my graduation ceremony (today, although there are still two and a half weeks left). It feels totally strange to be finishing my association with an educational institution that has provided the last eleven years of my education, but it also feels liberating. In three weeks, I’ll be in a completely new hospital, with a completely new ethic, learning completely new medicine. I’ll have a new apartment, be driving my new car, and be further than three miles from my family for the first time in 10 years. From the start of college through now, I’ve rested on my New York haunches at every decision point, partly because it was the best thing to do in the context of each decision but also partly out of stasis. Now, I finally get the experience of totally uprooting my personal life just as I’m starting the next stage of my professional life, and once I get past the holy-shit aspect, it’s going to be a ton of fun.

I’m not entirely sure, but I just might be the target of this mockery… (Oh, and Anil, I am pretty sure that it was you who came up with the need for a docking cradle.)

suzie the subie!

Today was a very special birthday… for Suzie, a 2003 Subaru Outback Limited. (Not coincidentally, it is also my first day owning a car.) The arcane laws of the Great State of Massachusetts made it necessary to actually drive to Massachusetts to acquire Suzie, but that’s all behind me now, and tonight, she’s tucked safely into a space in a Manhattan garage. It’s a little overwhelming to own my first car (and to think about the payments that start in a mere 30 days), but all things said, I’m totally happy, and can’t wait to break her in a little bit.

Alas, it turns out that the online sharing abilities of iTunes 4 is less of an undocumented feature and more of an unintentional bug. So much for the alternative theory

How cool — a wild turkey has been making spotted appearances in the heart of Manhattan, much to the delight of residents and confusion of ornithologists. One sighting was even on a 28th-story balcony, amazing given that turkeys aren’t very good at tackling vertical distance. And people say that you need to leave New York City to find the great outdoors… (Thanks to Noah for the link!)

Re: The Matrix Reloaded, I’m right there with Philip Graham. Seriously, I have nothing more to add to his review; it’s spot-on.

Wow — a Manhattan judge ordered New York’s transit authority to roll back last month’s 50-cent fare hike within two weeks due to dishonesty in the process used in helping justify the hike to the public. Apparently, the MTA hid money off the books by shifting it into future annual projections, making its finances look $600 million worse than they really are. The MTA is complaining about how hard it will be to roll back all the equipment; that being said, if the allegations are true, nobody’s going to feel sorry for the predicament the agency put itself in.

Around here, things have been busy lately. As soon as I finished in the emergency room, I was thrown into the inpatient wards as the senior resident on service, meaning a return to early mornings and fourteen-hour days. And just after walking in the door at night, I’ve been heading straight for the laptop, getting down and dirty with code as I craft a content management system for one of my web projects in the hospital. With Shannon in the middle of her finals, we make quite a couple, tiredly collapsing into our respective ends of the sofa and communing with our computers until the wee hours of the morning. All in all, it’s enough to form the framework for a new reality video, “Overextended Dorks Gone Wild.”

That being said, I’m really enjoying my work. The web project is allowing me to finally pick up a language I’ve wanted to use for years, and get off of a CMS backend that I absolutely despise. It’s also letting me play with workflow design and systems architecture, which may not sound exciting, but which makes my brain feel right at home. And importantly, the project may actually earn me a little money — something that I welcome wholeheartedly, given that my looming move to Boston is already taking a bite out of my bank account.

In the hospital, as the only third-year resident on my inpatient team, I’m getting a great chance to see how much I’ve learned over the course of the last few years. What took me hours of reading and contemplation two years ago is now second-nature; a kid who could instantly drive me to panic as a first-year resident now drives me to start delegating tasks and taking action. (It’s even been enough to push me into starting a new pediatric arrest curriculum for the hospital, which has unquestionably been the most satisfying thing that I’ve been involved in thus far.) I now have only six and a half weeks left as a resident, and while I only feel like I’ve been a pediatrician for fifteen minutes, those fifteen minutes feel like they’ve been jam-packed with great learning, awesome kids, and more rich experiences than I would have ever believed possible.

I’ve never been one to handle idleness well, quickly finding something to fill any gaps in time or commitments. These last two months in New York promise to be busy as all hell, but I don’t think I would want it any other way.

Two views of my apartment building, separated by almost a century:

April 2nd, 1909

April 2nd, 1909

May 4th, 2003

May 4th, 2003

The first picture comes from a print I found at the Columbus Avenue Flea Market this afternoon, making me one of the happiest people walking the streets of New York today. I bought four other prints, as well — one of the intersection of Broadway and 96th Street (taken during the construction of the subway in 1903), one of Columbia University’s Washington Heights campus in 1905 (when there were only five or six buildings on the site), one of Hilltop Park in 1905 (between 165th and 168th Streets on Broadway, the home of the New York Highlanders), and the last of my hospital building in 1931. Leafing through all the historic photos of New York made me remember that there’s a lot from of late 19th- and early 20th-century New York that’s still standing, and it’s what makes this city so amazing to me. I’m going to miss exploring New York’s history when I leave; I guess it’s time to start exporing Boston’s history.

(Update: Anil made a neat animated GIF of the two images.)

If you’re a New York state resident and have experienced problems with VeriSign — problems with the company screwing you over with domain name registration, or any other problem with its business practices — you might want to head over to Mike Wasylik’s site and help the good New York Attorney General out with an investigation into the company. (Mike is involved because he has served as Leslie Harpold’s lawyer in her inquiries into how her domain name, hoopla.com, was stolen out from under her.)

Wouldn’t it figure, just as I’m fixing to leave New York City, plans are firming up for a loop around the island of Manhattan for bikers (and, of course, rollerbladers). The grand scheme is called the New York Greenway, and aims to link up the disparate pathways that are currently chock full of people trying to get exercise. Parts of the loop are already open; Friday, I discovered this when I got to the south end of Riverside Park and was able to continue on a connection to Hudson River Park. Happily, Alaina and I were able to go all the way to Battery Park, and ended up with 15 miles on our blades. The route took us past the 79th Street Boat Basin, the U.S.S. Intrepid, Chelsea Piers, the New York Trapeze School, the World Financial Center, and the former site of the World Trade Center towers before turning around to come back to the Upper West Side. Had we continued northward, we’d have been able to get (with one major diversion onto city streets) to the George Washington Bridge. What a great way to get some exercise!

Finally, New York City’s new 311 call center is getting a little bit of press. I had the chance to talk with one of the developers of the service at a party a month ago, and learned that it came about as a result of our current mayor walking down a street during his campaign and noticing a fire hydrant leaking into a basement. He asked his aides who the owner would call to get the problem fixed, and was given a variety of possibilities — the fire department, the buildings department, the landlord of the building — and then when he learned that the real answer was the Department of Environmental Protection, he decided that there needed to be a centralized way for a NYC resident to get answers like this, not to mention to take care of the problems themselves. The city brought 311 online on March 9th, but didn’t advertise it at all, instead allowing agencies to start directing calls its way as their functions were centralized. And most interesting to me, any issue that isn’t completed by the end of the phone call is issued a tracking number, allowing callers to get status updates on the solutions to their problems. Bloomberg’s invested a lot of time and money in creating the 311 service, and it looks like it could revolutionize the relationship between NYC government agencies and their constituents.

(One interesting factoid: 212-NEW-YORK is the phone number people would use to access 311 outside of New York City. Cool!)

In what can be seen as an indication of just how big the problem has become, the war against unsolicited email hit the front page of the New York Times today. While not a terribly detailed article, it goes a little bit into the cat and mouse game that spammers and Internet service providers play on a daily basis, and talks about a few of the options that both ISPs and end users have employed trying to stem the tide. It also provides a few overwhelming statistics, such as the fact that 45% of email headed into Earthlink’s mail servers is now junk, and over 70% of that inbound to AOL is unsolicited. (We’ve all had a hint of this huge surge, both from the increasing numbers in our own inboxes and from those who keep us informed about how much crap ends up in their inbox.) The most frequent defense proffered by spammers is that the absolute most they’re forcing users to do is hit the delete button, but these numbers are this argument’s best refutation; there is a hell of a lot of network and hardware capacity that currently has to deal with email that nobody requested and nobody wants, and it’s all paid for by the unwilling recipients in the form of higher access and hardware costs. Luckily, as the numbers continue to rise, and corporate America continues to find itself buried under masses of unwanted email, lobbying for legislative solutions can only become more effective. Until then, though, I recommend continuing to make the spammers’ lives hard on both a business and personal level, by using collaborative mail filtering services, participating in projects that are able to continually adapt to the tactics of the spammers, and engaging in one’s own alternative solutions.

(Incidentally, I’m proud of the Times author for using the domain name example.com in his explanations, since it’s reserved for just this purpose. Too many other people choose random domains for their examples, leading to a lot of spam in the inboxes of the legitimate owners of those domains.)

I’ve spent the last few weeks looking for a good, inexpensive content management system, one which could serve as a replacement for the inadequate, buggy platform on which a project I’m involved in runs. I’ve installed about two dozen of the options out there, and evaluated twice as many more , and I have to say that there’s truly nothing inspiring to speak of. Nearly every CMS is built on its own confusing, overengineered foundation, and as a result, they all build equally confusing and overengineered websites. In addition, most of the CMSes focus too much on specialized features rather than generalized content management, incorporating modules that add weblogs, shops, bookmarks, Google searches, P2P messaging, photo galleries, polls, and advertising banners, among many other things. And then, to top it all off, pretty much none of the CMS options have documentation that’s worth a damn, making it that much harder to figure out the workflow and structure of the data representing the all-important content.

After seeing so many recurrent issues, I’m starting to believe that they’re not problems with the products, but rather, problems with the entire idea of content management systems that are applicable across projects and industries. Vignette may be great for news sites, but it doesn’t hold up as a medical database; Slash works out well as an online forum, but it’s a poor fit for a photo gallery site. The site I want to move is specialized in its own way, as well, and finding a CMS that works for its purposes without forcing users to jump through unnecessary hoops is proving to be immmensely difficult. Thus, I’m now at a crossroads: keep looking and thinking about how to work around the structure of a CMS, or decide to build my own. Maybe the latter option is the best, acknowledging as it does that there’s no such thing as a content management system that can manage every single website.

What an awesome picture! It always makes me happy to see the photo wires move images that give a story a little bit of color.

Wow, do I want me a Leica D-Lux. Over three million pixels on the CCD, a Leica-fabricated lens with 3X optical zoom, an aluminum body, unlimited video time, USB 2.0, and two lithium ion batteries — it’s an amazing package, and it very well may replace the Leica Digilux 1 as the digicam I would least mind seeing show up on my doorstep. (And if my impending graduation from my pediatrics residency isn’t reason enough for someone to send it to me, then I don’t know what is!)

If I’ve learned anything over the past ten years about rollerblading in Central Park, it’s that your level of enjoyment is directly proportional to your powers of anticipation and forecasting. Stated more succinctly: while whizzing around the loop, it’s important to keep your eyes open and be aware of everything that’s going on around you. Is that couple walking to the Boathouse going to get all the way across the loop before you reach them, or should you start figuring out a path around them that minimizes your loss of momentum? When you reach that clot of people extending all the way across the exercise lane, will their relative speed differences have created a manageable path through the blockade, or should you be looking for a spot to hop onto the sidewalk and zip right by them? Is that woman walking with the stroller going to continue to weave around on the roadway, and if so, are you both destined for the same patch of asphalt at the same time? (Alternately, is that woman with the stroller going to suddenly realize that the big, paved sidewalk immediately inside the loop was built so that people wouldn’t stroll in the exercise lanes of the roadway?)

And if that’s all not hard enough, there are certain times during the day that Central Park is open to cars, meaning that venturing out of the third of the road limited to bikers, bladers, and runners is an invitation to become either a hood ornament or road kill. If you’ve ever crossed an intersection on foot in NYC, you know that the likelihood of anticipating the future path of a cab is similar to that of hitting the Powerball; when you’re traveling 15 miles an hour on an unstable base of inline wheels, and the line separating you from the cab is only four inches thick, doing so takes on a whole new level of importance. Is that cab going to use the exercise lane to pass that Parks Department truck he’s been riding tight for a quarter-mile? Do you need to speed up a bit to get across the 72nd Street transverse, or will you reach it at the same time as that stream of cars, forcing you to stop and wait?

All in all, rollerblading in Central Park is a great way to exercise, complete with beautiful views, great places to rest, and the everpresent chance to spot celebrities. But if you’re the kind of person who likes to tune out while you sweat, then it may not be for you; self-preservation requires you to stay on your toes.

Listen, all you downtown snobs, you can say what you want about my Upper West Side, but I’ll just stay quiet up here, content in the knowledge that you’re all fatter than us.

No matter where you weigh in on the current conflict in Iraq, I recommend reading Eason Jordan’s op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. It’s a powerful demonstration that the presence of free world media over the past decade in nations like Iraq hasn’t necessarily meant the exposition of the atrocities that take place in those nations; basic human empathy, at the level of those in charge of the news bureaus, has intervened to protect those most vulnerable to retribution. (Of course, that fact also leads me to wonder what we don’t know about in other similar nations, like China.)

So, I was in the back of a taxi this evening coming up Amsterdam Avenue, and at 72nd Street, I decided to open up my laptop and see how many wireless access points were visible along my trip. Between there and 120th Street, I picked up 180 WiFi nodes; only 48 of them (27%) were WEP-protected. Of course, there’s no telling how many of them were willing to dole out an address to me, nor how many of them had filters preventing random computers from connecting, but that’s still damn impressive, and way more access points than I would have thought I’d see. There were plenty of interesting nodes, too: a bunch for Columbia University, one at St. John the Divine, one in a New York City Housing Authority building, two NYCwireless nodes, and one beaming out the bedroom window of a certain Filipino broad. There were also a dozen or more powerful nodes named TBA; I wonder if there’s a wireless project in the planning.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking to cop some free wireless access in New York City, I’m pretty sure that you can just set up shop at any of the sidewalk cafes along Amsterdam Avenue and surf away!

Whether or not you believe that elephants can actually run, one fact that’s now beyond debate is that, while moving quickly, pachyderms never have all four feet off the ground at the same time. While conducting a modern-day variant of Eadweard Muybridge’s famous 1878 horse experiments, John Hutchinson also clocked the huge animals at nearly 16 miles an hour (five miles an hour faster than his previous estimates). His findings were accepted for a brief communication in the journal Nature; there’s more information over at Hutchinson’s website, including the article itself (in PDF format).

There’s an interesting article in the New York Times about the closure of a few movie theaters on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, going into a lot of detail about the history of all the movie houses along Broadway, and the tough roads ahead of smaller theater owners as they, like all New Yorkers, face gentrification and the higher real estate prices that go along with it. I imagine that Manhattan has always been like this, with the push and pull of society and the economy doing a lot to determine the content of this itty bitty island; it’s amazing to me that any small businesses still find themselves able to afford setting up shop in the city. I just hope that Manhattan isn’t becoming one huge strip mall…

I don’t know why, but I think it’s so damn cool that Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and Bobby Hurley are actively pursuing the head basketball coaching position at Columbia University. The word in the press corps is that neither are likely finalists for the position, but still, it’s nice to see that Ivy League basketball is still considered a worthwhile pursuit at the coaching level.

Doesn’t it just seem logical for NASA to gather photos of orbiting space shuttles from military satellites? The NASA and military people quoted in the article imply that the image quality won’t be quite as good as we’d all assume, but that just doesn’t seem honest. It’s relatively well-known that the current generation of commercial imaging satellites have sub-meter resolutions back to the surface of the Earth, and fair guesses place the resolution of U.S. reconaissance satellites at somewhere less than four inches. Now, move your target a few hundred miles above the ground — and above the distortion of the atmosphere — and I feel confident guessing that the military’s best satellites would be able to show you the expression on an astronaut’s face. And if images from the satellites provide options for shuttle controllers in the event of in-flight problems, then that’s a major plus for the space program.

Something interesting and new to play with: Fotonotes.net. It’s a tool that allows you literally to annotate your images (well, JPEG images), providing information about the content of the pictures to people who are viewing them. It’s sort of like captioning them, but within the image itself; the information is only visible when the viewer wants it. (Dan Gillmor explains the technology a little better than I do.) The fact that it only works with JPEGs, and that the information is actually written within the image file itself, leads me to believe that the tool uses the IPTC metadata standard. If that’s the case, then there are a ton of other tools that should be able to read, if not manipulate, the information as well.

In a move that surprises nobody, AOL Time Warner is pulling free content from all its magazines’ websites, starting this weekend with People and Entertainment Weekly. Between AOL’s first-ever quarterly loss of customers and all the talk about how it’d make sense for Time Warner to dump the Internet service on its ass, it makes sense for AOL to leverage the content of the Time, Inc. magazines in order to get its subscribers back. It remains to be seen, though, whether anyone feels that People and EW offer unique enough content to justify shelling out $25 a month for a dialup provider…

We’re back from Puerto Rico (well, I’m back from Austin and San Antonio and Puerto Rico, and Shannon from the latter two), and it was an amazing trip all around. Good old and new friends in Austin, good old friends in San Antonio, and a big block of relaxation in Puerto Rico make for a good two-week break. (And nearly as good was coming back to find out that I didn’t fail the boards, and that Lia did a bang-up job taking care of the kitties and plants.)

More on all of this later; I have to be back at work in less than 10 hours…

the texas capitol building, austin

Goodbye, Austin, and SXSW 2003; it was a fun trip. Now, onto San Antonio for a few days, and then a week in sunny Puerto Rico for drinks with tiny umbrellas in them…

I’m glad that, in this time of threatened war and a terrible economy and whatnot, our Congress is working hard. Sure makes me feel more secure about our leaders…

A tip, for everyone who’s broadcasting their unencrypted passwords over the free wireless network at SXSW: don’t, since I’ve seen at least half a dozen people capturing packets off the network just to see what they can see. If you’re using one of the big commercial web-based email services, use their secure login, not the standard one; if you are uploading files to your webserver, use secure FTP or secure copy, not FTP. Likewise, realize that Outlook, Entourage, Eudora, and most every other mail client sends your password across the network as clear as day unless you set them up to use an encrypted service (and then have that service running on your mail host). Posting to your weblog is no exception, either (unless you want the person who grabs your login and password to also be able to work on your site); set up a secure tunnel back to your weblog host, and then use that to do your posting.

I’m glad to see that Matt’s trying to get back to writing longer essays. His latest piece is a fine review of the great features that Mozilla has made users expect from their web browsers, and it makes me remember how much I have enjoyed reading Matt’s perspective on the world.

The subject matter of the piece also made me remember a conversation I had with Anil recently, discussing Internet Explorer’s lack of a popup-blocking function. We both came to the conclusion that, in this day and age of the overwhelming proliferation of popups, the only possible reason that IE omits the function is a fear that Microsoft will be somehow blamed for yet another move destined to hurt the little guy, in this case, the advertiser trying to make money on the web. (Remember when IE was the first to implement third-party cookie blocking, and how people complained that Microsoft was being unfair to advertisers?) By resting on the huge browsing majority and letting popup blocking gain acceptance (or, more appropriately, achieve required status) with other browsers, you can bet that there won’t be a peep when the next version of IE includes the feature.

There are a lot of annoying things about working the overnight shift in the emergency room, but one huge entry in the plus column is that I can walk into the bagel bakery across the street at 6 AM, just as they unlock the front door, and have my choice of any steaming hot bagel my little heart desires.

Am I the only one that finds it terrifically ironic that Time Warner has national television commercials trying to convince people that they should get Roadrunner-brand cable modems so that they can more efficiently swap music with friends?

Generally, I’m pretty content with the understanding that there are probably quite a few threats to peace and security in the United States about which the lay public never learns. (After all, it’s the premise of the most basic spy thrillers, including most of the Bond movies — a brewing plot to destroy civilization as we know it is undone at the last second by secret agents, and life continues unaware of how close it was to coming to an end.) That being said, I’d love to know why there have been around a half-dozen National Guardsmen, armed to the teeth, in the subway station underneath the hospital the last few times that I’ve arrived for my overnight shift…

If you’re the administrator of a machine that runs sendmail, there’s a nasty security problem that found its way to the surface today. Discovered by the people at ISS, the bug allows someone to compromise your machine simply by sending a specially-formatted email; firewalls aren’t going to help you on this, since it’s the contents of the email that trigger the security breach. The list of affected systems and operating systems is pretty extensive, so you might want to peruse it before assuming that you’re not vulnerable.

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t learn something else about New York City. Today’s find, via an article in the New York Times: the New York Cross Harbor Railroad. It’s one of the shortest railroad lines in the United States, with only one and a half miles of track, a bunch of carfloats, and a single active locomotive. The line serves to move railcars from Brooklyn to Greenville, NJ (which means a trip across New York Harbor); on the Brooklyn side of the water, the train actually runs along city streets in order to pick up and deliver its cargo. The carfloats meander across the Harbor once or twice a day, providing shippers who don’t want to travel the extra 150 miles to Albany with a shortcut across the Hudson River. As you’d expect, the line faces many difficulties, from double-parked cars blocking its tracks to fog in the Harbor to the dwindling resources devoted to surface freight in New York City; despite this, it continues on, providing the city with a tiny anchor to its manufacturing and shipping roots.

Today was guy’s day out in my family, our annual celebration of my father’s birthday at the Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn. If you’re in New York and have never been, do yourself a favor and drop in sometime; most importantly, get the bacon, which may well be the tastiest morsel of food that’ll ever pass your lips. For the first year, the girls organized a competing lunch, and afterwards, we all met up at my sister’s new apartment to ooh and aah at her latest ultrasound pictures and catch a little of the Spurs game. It was a great day, and it’s the perfect example of something I’ll miss terribly when I move to Boston this summer.

I’m glad to note that SpamAssassin 2.50 has been released, bringing Paul Graham’s now-famous Bayesian filtering idea to the world of detecting unsolicited email. The new version also brings improved rules for detecting the telltale signs of bulk mailings, as well as a better way of modifying mail it suspects is spam (it encloses the original mail as an attachment, and then changes the main message to a preview plus an explanation of why it thinks the mail is unwanted). Mostly, I’m happy that the release made it into the world at all, given Deersoft’s acquisition by Network Associates last month. Here’s hoping to continued open source releases…

I don’t think I can put into words how cool I think this project is. James Meehan strung together a helium-filled balloon, a radar reflector, a Garmin GPS receiver, an Aiptek Pencam, a ham radio, and a computer system built from off-the-shelf components, and launched it all as an amateur weather balloon. It travelled nearly 80,000 feet into the air, sending reports back the whole time; the reports contained location information, allowing James and his team to track it while it was in the air, find it when it landed, and retrieve all the pieces (including the pictures taken by the camera). He called the experiment “Balloon 1.0,” which leaves me optimistic that there’ll be a few more iterations to come.

Shannon and I snuck up to Boston last night, a planned-at-the-last-minute trip to scout out the lay of the land for my eventual move this summer. It’s too early to start looking at actual apartments, so we spent today just driving and walking around neighborhoods — Brookline Village, Coolidge Corner, Jamaica Plain, Longwood — trying to feel whether or not I could call any of them home. A lot of the dread that I’ve been feeling over the past few months about the move is rooted in the fact that I’ve built up a lot of comfortable stasis in New York; to wit, I’ve spent college, medical school, and now residency at the same institution, I’ve lived in the same amazing apartment for nearly eight years, and my entire family is arranged neatly around me on the island of Manhattan. Moving away from all that isn’t easy, so the goal of this weekend was simply to begin getting a feel for the new life I’ll be starting in July, and maybe to see that there are places here to plant a new root or two. A vibrant neighborhood, a few beautiful apartment buildings, a ride past my new hospital on the T, a great dinner with friends — today, all of these things helped me take a few steps towards being ready to get on with things. None of it makes it any easier to leave New York, but all of it makes it easier to come to Boston, and there’s nothing but good in that.

sxsw kick 2003

Thanks to Eric Lacombe, the 2nd annual SxSW kickball game has a brand spankin’ new logo. Andre Torrez recommended him to me, after the great job that Eric did on Andre’s logo; I’m happy to say that he accepted, and the game’s all the richer because of it. Go check out the loot shop, complete with shirts and whatnot with Eric’s new logo, and buy stuff to support the game!

I’m starting to get excited about SxSW 2003, if only because of all the activity in the weblog arena lately. There’s Google buying Pyra, AOL sniffing around the periphery, the debut of TextPattern, the announcement of Movable Type Pro, the promise of Meg and Nick’s collaborative Lafayette Project, and whole slew of other, smaller interesting tidbits. Now, I know that SxSW is about a hell of a lot more than weblogs, but part of my connection to the conference is through my personal site. As my medical life exerts more and more pressure on my site and database design life, QDN remains the excuse that I use to justify the amount of time I spend learning new programming languages, content management systems, web standards, and design skills. Last year, I was glad to get a chance (if only for two days) to listen to people who have worked wonders in the world of interactive media, and I feel like I came away from the conference with a good deal more knowledge, not to mention the buckets of respect for the collective intellect that’s devoted to building a better web. If all the positive energy in the weblog world this year has any meaning, I’m eager to get back to Austin this year.

(Of course, I’m also excited about Kick 2003, but that’s a post for later this week…)

I mean, I know that we were expecting snow tonight, but holy crap did it start snowing in a hurry!

the blizzard of 2003

When Shannon and I walked into my parents’ apartment tonight for dinner, it was crisp and cold out, with nothing in the air but the mist coming off our breath. About fifteen minutes later, you could make out the barest of little snowflakes silhouetted against the glare of the streetlights below; within a half an hour, the sky was full of snow, blowing parallel to the ground and getting caught in swirling eddies around the trees in Park Avenue’s median. By the time our bellies were full, the roads were covered curb-deep, and we decided to try to get back across town. Somehow, it only took two or three minutes for Shannon and my sister to flag down the only cab that wasn’t either already taken or fishtailing its way across the unplowed streets (or both). The trip back to the Upper West Side was slow going, but we went through the Park, and the view of the trees and rock walls covered with flawless snow was more than worth the time it took. And while the sidewalks of the Upper East Side were mostly deserted, those over here have a few curious souls on them, showing their children the deep snow and enjoying the magical white blanket that comes but a few times a year.

The Commerce Department announced yesterday that it was expanding the eligibility for .edu domain names to all U.S. educational institutions which have been accredited by an agency on the Department of Education’s list of recognized accrediting agencies. This means that a whole host of vocational schools — massage therapy schools, midwifery training institutions, cosmetology programs, and Montessori schools, to name a few — are joining the .edu neighborhood. The change has come with a bit of complaining, of course, mostly from the elder elite who feel that .edu should remain the province of the upper crust; a retired Princeton administrator was actually quoted on the AP wire as saying, “Somebody who goes six months to a beauty school, I would not consider in the same league as somebody who’s even been two years at a community college…. There’s too much dumbing down already.” I have to ask: are there really people who judge a person’s academic worth on whether or not his educational email address had .edu at the end? (And as if a Columbia guy like myself needed another reason to look down on Princetonians…)

I think that I’m big enough to admit to the fact that tonight, while deleting the 2600 unsolicited email messages I have received in the past 8 days, I totally failed to appreciate the irony of the three messages entitled “Tired of Deleting Junk eMail?”.

I can’t wait for there to be a tenable way to stem the tide of spam.

A few collected links about the Hudson Railyards, which was pictured behind Alison on our High Line jaunt and is the proposed site of a massive development project:

Today, the scientific part of my brain was in control at the exact time necessary to help me put my finger on what it is I hate most about the Washington Post website’s idiotic, intermittent survey: it collects terrible data.

I use many computers in the course of a week. I have a half-dozen machines in my apartment, another one at Shannon’s, one on my desk at the hospital, and two on my desk at the magazine for which I do occasional work. There are also a dozen computers on every floor of the hospital, and a dozen more computers at my outpatient clinic. Add to that the two computers at my parents’ home, the one at my brother’s apartment, and the one at my sister’s, and of course, don’t forget the umpteen public terminals out there — at libraries, airports, Internet cafes, conference centers, and hotels — that I’ve used on occasion. We’re talking about a lot of machines here, and I’m reasonably certain that the Washington Post has counted me as a 29 year-old New York City male on each and every one of them. According to their database, there are dozens of keyboard-happy Manhattan twentysomething men banging down their virtual door; their automated ad generator spends countless cycles of processor time dreaming up sales pitches for bagels with schmears, spacesaving hardware projects, and Chinese take-out. And given my penchant for reinstalling operating systems (or, at the very least, clearing out my web browser cache and cookies) every now and then, the WP site counts me again and again and again.

I used to think that the best answer was to give them false information — once an octagenarian woman from Burkina Faso, the next time a months-old baby boy from the French island department of Reunion. The survey attempts to assuage those of us who hate filling out the form over and over by promising that the survey will help them better know their readers, improve the website, and serve better ads; it became fun to try to figure out what their marketing drones were going to choose as the best products to push to 110 year-old Micronesians. It eventually became easier to just enter my real information, though, but today I came to the realization that repeatedly doing so may be the best way of all to poison their database.

Since I was nominated for a PhotoBloggie today (the Best Photo Essay on a Blog category, for the High Line pictures), and I walked out of the hospital into a surprise snowstorm (well, a surprise to me, in any event), I figured that a photo might be in order:

snowfall in manhattan

Even that picture doesn’t do the snowstorm justice; the flakes are plump and airy, slowly wafting down and in no rush to join their colleagues on the street below.

Whenever I stay at Shannon’s apartment, my morning walk to the subway takes me down a long crosstown block that has angle parking. Every single morning that I walk that stretch of Manhattan pavement, there are at least three specific cars that are illegally parked, a black Lincoln Continental that’s nosed into a fire hydrant, a maroon Bonneville that’s up against another fire hydrant, and a dark grey Cadillac-type sedan that sits in a zebra-striped loading zone. All three cars have laminated signs on the dashboard identifying their drivers as members of the NYC police force.

The short walk from my apartment to Shannon’s takes me past the neighborhood police and fire stations, and on the block, there are invariably about a dozen cars, trucks, and SUVs parked illegally — in crosswalks, against fire hydrants, double- and triple-parked, blocking driveways — all with either shields or laminated signs on the dashboards. The volume of illegal parking on the block has made the extra-wide sidewalks into valid driving lanes, used to escape parking spots that remain blocked for hours and hours; it has also caused otherwise-legal parkers to leave their car six or eight feet out from the curb, so that there’s no room for someone to illegally block them in.

I gotta say, as an occasional New York City driver, count me in as strongly in favor of the aggressive enforcement of this city’s parking laws, but make sure that the new swarms of traffic cops ticket everyone, not just us hoi polloi who don’t have a badge.

Normally, I’m not one that gets too excited about anti-war rallies, but it seems that the activist community has finally hit on a strategy for protests that has a chance of getting me out of the house. It’s marketing melded with social awareness, at its finest!

If you’re looking for a real, in-depth look at Howard Coble’s idiotic defense of Japanese-American internment camps, head over to Is That Legal (starting with the February 5th entries). Eric Muller provides informative and well-researched background on the camps, from their origins in biased research done by the Secretary of the Navy to the voices of reason that were silenced in favor of racist, reactionary politics. He also puts a good deal of work into debunking Coble’s attempt to claim that internment camps were primarily for the protection of Japanese-Americans, and sent the explanation to Coble’s office as an added bonus.

I can’t believe that this schmuck just won himself another term in office.

What do you think makes an applicant more attractive to a college, getting great grades and working hard in an internship, or having a propensity for filing lawsuits against your school demanding better grades? Does the fact that the lawsuit is over a grade given by the applicant’s mother change the answer at all? How about the fact that the lawyer representing the student is that same aforementioned mother?

What a depressing piece of news: “Even if flight controllers had known for certain that protective heat tiles on the underside of the space shuttle had sustained severe damage at launching, little or nothing could have been done to address the problem.” Of course, there’s part of me that hopes that, had NASA or the orbiter crew known about the damage, another option would have presented itself; after all, I can’t imagine that anyone would have been able to predict the sequence of events that led the Apollo 13 astronauts to survive their ordeal in space. Given the amount of national grief, it seems that had anyone known that the lives of the seven astronauts were at such risk, nothing would have been spared to get them down.

When you’re a cat, life sure is tough…

sammie, oblivious to the world

Berkeley’s computer science department has provided yet another breakdown of last week’s SQL Server worm, this one more epidemiological than technical. One of the most impressive parts of the report is a Wargames-like graphic that shows the reach of the worm in its first 30 minutes of life; there are also good graphs showing both the packet traffic generated by the worm and the rapid decline in its traffic as system and network administrators responded. (Something that particularly interests me is that the traffic analysis was done in a “tarpit” network — a network that’s used only to collect data on incoming, unrequested packets like those used in virus or worm attacks — at the University of Wisconsin Advanced Internet Lab.) One of the big lessons to take from the data is that, with a rate of spread that quick and a penetration into networks that deep, a more malevolent worm could cause a hell of a lot of damage.

Since most of the new coverage of the Columbia disaster is perseverating on potential causes and the presence of the first Israeli astronaut, I’ve been surfing in an attempt to find out more about the mission. One thing I discovered that’s of interest to me is that STS-107 was possibly the last pure science mission for the Space Shuttle program in the forseeable future. As I mentioned earlier, Columbia was the first, and heaviest orbiter, and prior to its rehabilitation over 2000 and 2001, it was unable to reach the orbit of the International Space Station, and was perfect for science missions. Now, the future schedule for the Shuttle program is packed with ISS contruction missions, and science has mostly been displaced.

There were over 80 scientific experiments aboard Columbia, all of which were designed to exploit microgravity in the study of how cells, flames, organisms, magnets, and basic human biology operate. In addition to the crew, there were rats, garden orb weaver spiders, silkworms, fish, carpenter bees, and harvester ants on the orbiter, and countless colonies of human tissue cells and bacteria. There are factsheets for many of the experiments available online; there’s also a website, currently either down or overloaded, for the Space Technology and Research Students (STARS) Academy, a research organization that developed and sponsored many of the research projects. I have no idea how much data was gathered and transmitted back from these experiments, but there’s undoubtedly a great deal more data that was lost in the disaster.

Florida Today is the best source of collateral information on the mission that I’ve found; the site also has an amazing journal that has been kept for the duration of the landing and aftermath.

Tragedy strikes the U.S. space program again, for the first time since 1986. The Columbia orbiter was the first in NASA’s fleet, delivered in 1979 and first launched in 1981; it has gone through a retrofit and two complete overhauls since, though, and was most recently returned to service in early 2002. It also was the only orbiter originally not involved in the building of the International Space Station, since its weight made it impractical for carrying the necessary heavy equipment and modules into orbit. It came out of its last overhaul lighter and capable of reaching the ISS, however, and was scheduled to start helping with construction in November. (Interestingly, one crew member of that November launch was supposed to be Barbara Morgan, who was Christa McAuliffe’s backup on the fated Challenger mission.)

Last time the U.S. lost an orbiter, launches were postponed for nearly two years while the investigation was completed and modifications were made. This time, there are two big differences, and unfortunately, it seems to me that they conflict with each other. First, there doesn’t appear to be any video (or other precise witness information) about the Shuttle failure; after the Challenger disaster, the video appears to have played an almost critical role in the investigation, and I wonder what its absence will mean to the length of time it will take to determine what happened this morning. Second, and more importantly, we have astronauts up on the space station right now, and they’re supposed to be retrieved and replaced next month. I wonder if we’ll rely on Russia’s Soyuz transporter in the interim (since, as far as I know, it’s the only option available to us for manned spaceflight to and from the ISS). (Funny — while I was writing this, Time published a question-and-answer piece that ended with the same conclusion.)

What a terrible disaster.

It appears that even here in 2003, the Y2K problem hasn’t totally been tackled. I love the woman’s response — that last time she went to school, she had to walk an hour each way, so the free bus ride would be a welcome change. Still plucky at 106 years old…

A big bang-up accident just happened outside my window. Living seven floors above Broadway, all I heard was the screech of a set of brakes and then a rapid-fire series of huge crunches. A BMW 5 series is impaled into a Lincoln Towncar at a right angle; the Towncar is askew in a parallel parking place, and the BMW is awkwardly sticking out across two northbound lanes of Broadway, xenon headlights reflecting weakly around the edges of the hole it has made in the door of its target. A BMW 3 series is sitting in the middle of the intersection at 100th Street, its entire front end sagging and demolished into little, shiny, metallic bits that are now spread across the road. People are wandering around all three cars, seemingly content that nobody is injured and moving the larger projectiles out of oncoming traffic. And, as always, the cars that are backed up are honking and honking and honking, oblivious to the cause of their delay, anxious to get on with their commute home.

As anyone with an .org domain probably knows, the master registry for all such domains changed hands over the course of yesterday and today, from the devil incarnate to the Public Interest Registry. Some of the web-based domain lookups are confused by the transition, so I hunted around the web for the name of the actual WHOIS server for the new registry, but came up blank. A quick call to the PIR came up with the info, which I present here now (both as a reminder for myself, and so that nobody else comes up blank): whois.publicinterestregistry.net. Use it in health, all the while knowing that it’s one less piece of the Internet in the hands of evil.

Perhaps the best description (and dissection) of the worm that caused havoc here on Saturday, and continues to cause general slowness across the Internet, is over at Matthew Murphy’s site. I’ve got to say, as much annoyance as the virus has caused, it’s beautifully elegant; its simplicity, though, is what has led to the ease with which the damage has been controlled.

Oh, great. Between a new PalmPilot text entry method, a new set of web page markup tags, and an entirely new subset of pediatric medicine, I have a feeling my brain may very well explode over the next twelve months.

CERT has become a de facto authority for reporting computer application- or operating system-related security issues, and has a special category of reports (CERT Advisories) that reports only those issues that are deemed severe enough to lead to system compromise. In looking up information on an old bug today, I came across CERT’s page of 2002 advisories, and was surprised to see that out of the 37 reported, only 10 of them were related to Microsoft Windows; out of those 10, three were for third-party applications that run on Windows, and one was for a vulnerability shared by pretty much every major operating system out there. In contrast, 24 of the advisories were related to Unix or Linux systems (and two others were PHP-related, which I’m probably not out of line saying is run far more often on non-Windows machines than on Windows ones). To me, this is just another data point for the argument that a lot more is made of Microsoft’s security deficiencies than is actually there, at least when CERT’s perspective is taken into account.

Do yourself a favor, and read William Saletan’s article about the ease with which the press has been manipulated into reporting a story that has yet to have a shred of evidence. And when you get through the first paragraph and decide not to continue reading because you’re sick to death of the entire Raelian clone story, keep reading, because there’s a twist, and it’ll probably make you think a little bit.

For everyone who’s as addicted to the show as I am: The Truth About Trading Spaces. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises here, but rather, verification that there are a few other people helping out with the work (both the in-room work and the carpentry), and the budget isn’t as tight as we’re led to believe (since “general supplies” come out of a $30K-per-episode production fund).

It looks like the first salvos are being fired by mainstream television against digital video recorders (e.g., TiVo, ReplayTV) and their ability to allow people to skip commercials. Ad revenue is what keeps the networks on the air, but as PVRs become more popular, the argument is that commercials get seen by less eyeballs. Despite the television networks calling this outright theft, Dave Farber astutely noted earlier this year that the solution wouldn’t come from a courtroom, but rather, from television discovering other ways to integrate advertising into broadcasts. It looks like the WB is the first to the new feed trough, and it will be interesting to see how the public reacts to it.

There’s potential bad news in the war against unsolicited email: Deersoft has been acquired by Network Associates. What’s so bad about this? Well, Deersoft is the company set up by the makers of SpamAssassin to market the awesome spamfighting application to corporations, and with its acquisition, the two leading developers on the project are now lost to the world of proprietary software. (In addition, the third major developer, and the sole developer of version 3.0 of SpamAssassin, left the project this morning, since he’s employed by a competitor of Network Associates’.) The FAQ acknowledges NAI’s dedication to making any new development proprietary, which makes me fear that there won’t be much more magic coming from SpamAssassin without opening up your wallet.

Although I now look like a Paul Boutin groupie, he’s got another good article on Slate, this time describing the new 17” Apple G4 laptop as, variously, a Cadillac Escalade, a tricked-out hoopty, a mall crusier, and most aptly, a lust object. Seriously, though — 10.2 by 15.4 inches in size? That’s huge! I wonder how much of a real market there is for this machine, no matter how much lust it generates.

Paul Boutin addressed the shortcomings of the newest audio formats (DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD) over at Slate yesterday; depressingly, the biggest problems he noted are the compromises that were made by companies who will produce readers for the music discs. No hardware that can be installed in computers? No digital outputs on any hardware? What good is all that improved digital clarity and detail when it’s trapped behind analog converters? It’s such an amazing crock, and at a certain point, it gets hard to take any of this seriously.

Oh, this just sucks. At least instead of hiding behing the refereeing error, though, the Giants are taking responsibility for their second-half suckage Sunday night.

So, the proof wasn’t proof at all, but rather, evidence that Microsoft either is using HTTP 1.1’s persistent connections, or that the company actually reads old proposals for making Internet communications faster, and then implements them to make its products better than the competition. I haven’t done a packet capture on the conversations between IE and various webservers yet, so I’m not sure which it is; I’m just embarrassed that I bought into the “evil empire” argument, if only for a few days.

Oh my god, just kill me now, because if you don’t, then the FPS Personal Backpack Audio System assuredly will. I can only imagine how annoying it’ll be to have every damn schoolkid in New York City walking around the streets, buses, and subways blaring their music. (Thanks to our friends at Gizmodo for the heads-up.)

Compare and constrast this airport security experience with this one. It’s a little sad that bureaucratic favoritism is alive and well at airport checkpoints, the very place where personal freedom faces one of its biggest tests in this country’s recent history. I’m pleased, though, that instead of happily accepting the favoritism, Penn Gillette is publicizing his treatment and the response that he got from the Las Vegas airport’s public relations, and likewise, that he seems committed to using his disposable income to help secure equally rigorous protection of the rights of us non-famous people.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard rumors that the reason Internet Explorer loads web pages so much faster than its competitors was that it takes liberties with the way that it requests the pages. Finally, someone put the effort into analyzing the conversation that the web browser has with servers, proving that the rumors are true, and that as a result, there’s a built-in advantage to using Internet Explorer with Microsoft’s own web server. And as much as I love IE (and generally defend the actions of Microsoft in the software market), I don’t like that the company is playing loose with the fundamental specs that govern how machines talk to each other on the Internet.

It should surprise nobody that the Raelians have backed out of the promised DNA tests on Eve, the ostensibly cloned baby. (And on the subject, Jim Lewis has a thought-stimulating article over at Slate about how cloning introduces much confusion into the whole issue of how Eve is related to the woman who bore her.)

For the three or four of you who don’t already know about it, go check out Ticketstubs, the latest project of the esteemed Matt Haughey. And of course, if you have any of your own ticketstubs with memories, go contribute!

The more astute readers here will note that the “currently reading” slot over there at the right finally changed to a new book today. For the past month, I was stuck on Dave Eggers’ You Shall Know Our Velocity, but the timespan was no fault of Eggers, but rather, of working weird shifts in the hospital and spending a lot of time with my family (not to mention being a good holiday elf). Despite this, my pile of books-to-read has grown; it’s time to buckle down.

Last-minute ski trips are the best ski trips.

I don’t get something. If Raelians claim that the human race exists on Earth as a result of extraterrestrials cloning themselves and placing us here, then how can they claim today that they have created the first cloned human? Doesn’t that first group of people — created in the laboratory 25,000 years ago by aliens — represent the first cloned humans? Honestly, this seems a bit contradictory. (And wouldn’t you figure that having enough money to embark on a human cloning experiment would also mean you’d have enough money to keep your website up and running?)

Merry Christmas! With the snow here in the Northeast, it’s really feeling like a blustery winter wonderland; I hope that everyone is happy, safe, well-fed, and sharing today with the people they love.

As my departure from New York City gets closer (yeah, yeah, June isn’t that far away!), I’ve started to find more and more things about the big city that I either already love and will miss, or need to find time to do in order to love and miss. Last night, while coming back from a holiday party with Shannon and another couple, we all caught glimpse of the Roosevelt Island Tram, all lit up for the holidays and calmly gliding across the East River. Seeing it, I decided that a round-trip ride on the gondola has to be elevated to the top of the need-to-do list; lucky for me, Shannon agrees, as did our friends, and it’s in the on-deck circle for the new year.

Free e-commerce site design lesson number 112: don’t randomly empty your customers’ shopping carts.

In the past two weeks, I’ve experienced the same problem at two different big, well-established online stores. In the course of browsing, I added a few items to my shopping cart, and then when I checked out, I was asked to create a login to the site. On both sites, when I was done creating the login, my shopping cart was empty; the act of starting a new account and logging me in caused the sites to lose track of what I was buying. Having to go back and hunt down all the items that were dumped (and choose the right styles and options) was annoying enough that I’ll definitely think twice before shopping on the sites again.

(That being said, for certain things, shopping online is a hell of a lot nicer than enduring stores in Manhattan between Thanksgiving and Christmas!)

Out of all the press that Trent Lott has generated over the past week, there’s a condemnation in the letters to the editor section of the Philadelphia Enquirer today that stands out, insofar as it was written by Theodore A. McKee, a sitting judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. It’s a pretty ardent piece, recalling much of the legacy of Strom Thurmond and the effort that went into overcoming the hatred. Granted, Lott has done quite a bit over the past week to attempt to place his Strom Thurmond comments in some sort of context; I find myself in the (rare) position of agreeing with Mike Wasylik in thinking that Lott may be more of an idiot than a racist. Unfortunately for him, though, that idiocy demonstrated a remarkably thick amnesia about Thurmond’s past, and it very well may get him canned.

Congrats to Larry Lessig, Matt Haughey, Aaron Swartz, and all the many other folks at Creative Commons for their launch today! I see the Commons as a very ambitious undertaking, aiming both to make intellectual property rights more accessible to the people who produce content and to encourage those producers to allow greater reuse of their content. I’m anxious to see how people start using the licenses, and how developers integrate the licensing schemes into content production software (like Movable Type).

I’ve always been intrigued with distributed computing — harnessing the power of many computers in order to complete a single task, like cracking encrypted information, or discovering how proteins are folded, or even searching for extraterrestrial life. That’s why I’m floored with Gateway’s announcement that the company intends to create a huge distributed computing network comprised of all of the in-store floor model computers. What a cool idea! (A little more detail is available from arstechnica.) Gateway already has the computers sitting there, doing precious little (and even then, for less than half the day), and the incremental cost to installing a small piece of client software is negligible.

Of course, the next logical step will be offering a slight computer discount to customers who are willing to allow the distributed networking software to continue running after the machine is purchased. Juno tried something similar with the Juno Virtual Supercomputer Network — offering free Internet access in return for running number-crunching software — but the effort was short-lived, mostly because the company failed to notify customers that it was adding the feature to their software. Offering the option to customers up-front may be a better way to get acceptance, and potentially worth more than Gateway’s failed attempt at being an ISP.

AnandTech has a review of the new Tablet PC (or, more specifically, the FIC SlateVision) that made me want to run out and get one. It’s easy to rationalize how my next laptop should logically be a tablet, or how much I could use one on my fellowship next year… but, then again, it doesn’t take much to get me to start rationalizing new gadget purchases. The tablet I’ve really had my eye on is the PaceBook, with a cool on-screen touchtype keyboard (but with no wireless, strangely). I just wonder if the processor — the Transmeta Crusoe — can hold up. Has anyone spotted the perfect Tablet PC?

The Public Internet Project — a cool research database comprised of all the wireless network access points that are accessible from the streets of New York City — got a lot of ink today, in both the virtual and rubs-off-on-your-hands-real sense. It’s a snapshot-in-time glimpse at how fast wireless has permeated the computing world of the Big Apple, and a sobering look at how few of the wireless nodes actually have any security in place. (Granted, some of them aren’t intended to be restricted, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say far more were merely set up without any thought given to security.) Obviously, Manhattan’s sheer population density contributes to the impressive nature of the map; I wonder what maps of wireless nodes in other cities would look like, or what the Manhattan map would look like if wireless nodes on upper stories of buildings were included in it.

(With all of the clickthrough traffic that the PIP has generated today, though, am I really the only person so far who’s noticed that all of the graphic banners actually say “Public Intetnet Project”? Update: fixed now. Cool.)

Oh, this is great. Alan Ralsky granted the Detroit Free Press an interview, during which he bragged about his ability to send over a billion unsolicited email messages a day and gave the columnist a tour of the $740,000 home/computer center that he built with the money he’s earned sending out other peoples’ spam. Slashdot users discovered the address of the new home and posted it online; this led to the mysterious appearance of tons of unsolicited real mail in his mailbox. Needless to say, Ralsky isn’t amused, but after having deleted over 1500 junk messages from my spam filter inbox, I’m plenty happy to see that he’s being forced to lie in the bed he made.

Bookmarks for next week’s threatened New York City transit strike: NYC strike information center, NYC MTA home, NY1’s transit page, Daily News’ Gridlock Sam.

Am I the only one that sees the irony in VeriSign, the company which may well have the absolute worst record in customer data verification, announcing a service to help other companies verify the identities of their customers? Honestly, is there any plan for them to use the system to verify the information about VeriSign’s own customers?

Another good find in the science section of today’s New York Times: an examination of vipers, from their behaviors to their unique physiology. Most interesting to me was the fact that certain vipers can go over a year without defecating, using retained feces as metabolically-inert ballast that anchors the tail ends of their bodies to the ground as they strike out with their fangs.

Nature is damn cool.

Great, just what the already-troubled American educational system needs: a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrating that Internet filters in schools and libraries also manage to prevent access to healthcare information. The New York Times has an article about the study, including a hope that administrators learn from the results and ratchet down the settings of the filters. The article also mentions the forthcoming Supreme Court arguments about the government mandate to use filters; it doesn’t make clear, however, that the only issue in front of the Court is the use of Internet filters in public libraries, and that use in schools has already passed legal muster.

I think it’s damn funny that, in Leander Kahney’s wrap-up article about his five-part series on Mac loyalty, he exhibits (and denies!) the exact same traits that he spent five articles detailing. Macs as psychosexual tools? Yes for others, no for him, but he does want “to touch them, feel them, caress them.” Owners are more obsessed with Apple as a brand than Macs as products? Yes for others, no for him, but he does acknowledge that “every time Apple comes out with something new, I want it. My god, I want it bad.” It’s either a great way to assuage the authors of the reams of flame mail he got, or a funny way of demonstrating that his series was based in the reality of his own life.

first snowfall 2002

After a weak-as-hell attempt last week, we were hit but good today with a snowstorm. I love the first real New York blanket of fluffy white; there’s something about it that the rest of the winter’s storms aren’t able to touch.

Honestly, I hadn’t the slightest clue that today was the third birthday of this site until Danielle posted a happy comment earlier. I can’t believe that I’ve been at this for three years; I guess I did start throwing my nonsensical thoughts at unsuspecting readers right about when my medical school workload lightened and residency interviews started. I have to say that I’ve learned a lot through this site, from new programming languages and better content management skills to more effective writing techniques and even standards design. I’ve made some good friends, met a particularly amazing lady, learned about more than a few great products, and become a member of a community that I admire.

It’s been a fun ride.

I have no idea what I’d do with it, but I think it’d be damn cool to have an Axis Device Server Platform. It’s a box with a 100 MHz processor, an ethernet port, two serial ports, 4 Mb of flash and 8 Mb of RAM; Axis even provides a Linux distribution that runs on the box without a sweat. It’s the same hardware/software combo that runs the Axis network cameras (like the QuesoCam) and print servers, but in a form that can be integrated into your own embedded device. Wonder what I could do with it?

One reason why Columbia University deserves cheers: starting tomorrow, all NetBIOS traffic coming into or leaving the university’s network will be blocked, preventing denizens of evil from accessing poorly-configured student computers on the network (and preventing Windows Messenger spam).

One reason why Columbia University deserves jeers: in the recommendations for email programs, Netscape 6 is unsupported because it’s “unstable and buggy,” yet Netscape 4.7 is both highly supported and recommended. While I’m not saying that Netscape 6 is a dreamboat, I can’t remember when I used a more unstable and buggy app than Netscape 4.7.

(All this was found while hunting for instructions about setting Entourage up to use secure mail transport.)

For those of you so persuaded, Leslie Harpold’s 2002 online advent calendar is up and running. Not quite as fun as flipping open the little doors, but to compensate, a whole lot more each day than those little compartments could ever hope to hold.

Maureen Dowd has a spectacular op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times on Bush’s choice of Henry Kissinger to head the official government investigation into the events of September 11th, 2001. She’s as irreverant as you’d expect her to be, and assuredly pulls no punches in addressing Kissinger’s legacy. The piece is worth a read, if only for the line, “Now Mr. Bush can let the commission proceed, secure in the knowledge that Mr. Kissinger has never shed light on a single dark corner, or failed to flatter a boss, in his entire celebrated career.”

The weblogs found over at The Nation also provide a few observations on Kissinger’s appointment. David Corn devotes a little column space to details about the former Secretary of State’s record as a potential war criminal; John Nichols concludes his own shorter look at the appointment with the idea that there’s a slim chance Kissinger will look at this opportunity as a way to redeem himself, but that “no one who cared to find out what really led up to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington would gamble an investigation so important as this on so remote a prospect.” Good stuff.

Six weeks ago, the mother of a five month-old baby girl noticed that her daughter was breathing rapidly. She had never been to the pediatrician before — somehow, the mother had managed to avoid all of the regular infant visits — but she knew that there was something wrong with her daughter’s health, and felt that a doctor’s visit was in order. The pediatrician took one listen to the baby girl’s heart and also knew that there was something wrong; after being shipped to the local hospital for an echocardiogram, the heart specialists confirmed that the baby’s rapid breathing was a consequence of a congenital heart condition that had slowly caused fluid to back up in her lungs, and they arranged for her to be transported to our hospital for emergent surgery. On the morning of the surgery, the infant was found to have a severe viral infection of her lungs, one which had a significant impact on the chances of her surviving the operation. Her surgery was postponed, and she returned to the intensive care unit to await the time when her lungs would be ready.

During the time that she was waiting, a tube of the infant’s routine bloodwork was dropped in the laboratory, splashing in a lab tech’s eyes. This event triggered a routine hospital response; whenever an employee is directly exposed to blood, steps are taken to help determine the need for treating with medications to help prevent the spread of HIV and other communicable diseases. Among other things, routine consent was obtained from the parents to run HIV antibody tests on the infant’s blood, and most everyone (except the lab tech) promptly forgot that the precautionary tests had even been sent. Thus, nobody was prepared for the phone call that we received three days later: the tests were positive.

Immunologically, five month-olds live in two worlds — their own immune systems are up and running, but they also still have their mothers’ antibodies floating around, helping to fight against infection. Because of this, further tests had to be run to determine if we were seeing the signs of a maternal infection or a pediatric one. In addition to a few confirmatory tests on the infant, blood was sent on both parents, hunting for the source of the antibodies that we were seeing on the positive tests. All of the further testing on the infant has, thus far, come back negative; both of her parents, however, have proven to be HIV-positive. In the flash of a single broken test tube, a family learned that both parents are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, and that their daughter is still not out from under its shadow. Upon further questioning, we learned a piece of information which completed the depressing epidemiologic tree: the father was infected by HIV while in prison, the mother was infected by the father, and the baby was exposed while in utero. Three lives have been placed in jeopardy by a single deadly virus.

Today, both parents have a good chance of living to see their daughter grow up, thanks to advances in HIV and AIDS therapy which have extended the life spans of those infected by decades, if not longer. The emotional toll that the virus takes on children and their families is not as easily addressed, though. Fortunately, organizations like the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation focus on enhancing the lives of children and families with AIDS, and better medical information up front helps people more clearly understand how to avoid contracting HIV. Only through this two-pronged approach — better medical research and wider social acceptance — will we tame this modern beast.

link and think / world AIDS day 2002

Today, in the four hours that I played pool with Shannon’s dad, the cellphone of the teenage guy at the table next to us rang somewhere in the vicinity of thirty times. He probably spent two of the four hours on the phone. At some point during the time I spent there, a young lady friend came to join him; we only saw them speak to each other twice, but at least four times, he and she were on their cellphones at the same time, wedging them between their ears and shoulders while shooting.

I wonder which will happen first: (a) cellphones will cease to be so damn annoying; (b) society will relegate cellphones to the status held by cigarettes a decade ago, wherein some places ban them outright, others accept them, and yet others give patrons a choice. Personally, I can’t wait for a restaurant to ask me: “Would you like cellphones or no cellphones, sir?”

New York City’s supposed to get its first snowstorm of the year tonight, further reinforcing the complete absence of the season of autumn this year. It should prove to be an enormous pain in the ass for anyone travelling through the tri-state area over the Thanksgiving holiday, but on the flip side, there’s almost nothing as awe-inspiring as New York City with its first blanket of snow of the season. (Feel free to watch a less awe-inspiring picture of any snowfall over at the webcam; since I’ll be at work through midnight or one in the morning, if you see any cool images, please send them along to me!)

If you haven’t heard yet, Linksys is making yet another aggressive move in the wireless marketplace by promising “Wireless-G” equipment by Christmas that supports the draft 802.11g standard. (That’s the wireless networking standard that supports the speeds of 802.11a in the frequency band of 802.11b.) In reading the press release and product pages closely, though, I noticed that Linksys never promises that the equipment will be able to be upgraded to the final 802.11g standard once it’s ratified. Interested, I emailed them about this, and after a few attempts at avoiding answering the question, I was able to get the sales representative to state specifically that owners will be able to flash the gear up to the final standard once it exists.

Just thought you’d like to know; if you’re thinking about buying a wireless access point for someone for the holidays, you may want to consider one of these puppies, because with that information, they look great.

It’s been about 24 hours now that I’ve had my iPod, and I’m pleased as punch with it. Despite putting a lot of effort into getting a Windows-specific unit, I wound up with a 10 gigabyte iPod for the Mac; because of that, I have put some serious web time in over the past day, looking for information that would help me understand exactly how this iPod is different from the one that I wanted, and what I’d have to do to easily use it. All the information’s out there, and now I figure it’s my turn to sum up how to use your Mac iPod with your Windows machine.

my new iPod!

My brother and I walked into an electronics store today to investigate MP3 players for him, and while he didn’t get anything, I ended up with a new iPod. (I particularly love Steve Jobs’ poignant message emblazoned on the cellophane wrapper.) Time to play…

It must just be me, but I can’t see how loosening pollution restrictions on energy producers encourages emissions reductions. Of course, I’ve come to expect this of the current administration; what’s more disappointing, though, is that every story I’ve read on these new EPA rules just repeats that quote, without ever questioning how it could possibly be true. What happened to hard journalism?

If there’s anyone out there who wants to send along a Christmas present, I’d be happy to find one of these under the tree next month. It looks like the first mainstream computer to be built on Shuttle Computer’s X PC chassis, and it’s a doozy. As Anil said, they finally got the PC right.

One of the things I love about TiVo is that there’s always been a strong hacker community; hell, it’s why I got my TiVo in the first place (the ability to use the fruits of their labor to quadruple my storage capacity). This community has also spent a lot of time discovering a group of “backdoor” codes, sequences that a TiVo user can punch into the remote control to enable special features (like a 30-second skip mode); all these codes require that a master backdoor password be entered first, enabling them to be used. Each version of the operating system has had a different password, and discovering each password has been an important part of maintaining access to the special features.

Alas, the latest version of the TiVo operating system introduced a few new barriers to getting the master backdoor password. Unfazed, though, the community rallied, and now have a distributed computing project running to try to crack the code; they’ve already ripped through an unbelievable number of possibilities, and (as with all distributed computing projects) offer anyone the ability to download a client to contribute to the effort.


Traditional spam-catching systems work by predicting the likelihood of a piece of email being an unsolicited ad. The task of prediction isn’t easy, though, and as a result, users still have to deal both with unwanted mail that gets through the filters and with legitimate mail that’s caught and filtered away. As a result, there are a few ideas floating around out there about alternate approaches to the unsolicited email problem, approaches that try to achieve lower false-positive and false-negative rates. Two that caught my eye today are IronPort’s Bonded Sender Program and Habeas’ Sender Warranted Email.

The Bonded Sender Program turns the traditional approach around, aiming to guarantee that a specific piece of mail is not spam. It’s able to do this because companies contract with, and pay, IronPort to list their outgoing mail servers in a database of machines guaranteed not to send spam. Then, when your mail server accepts a piece of mail from a machine, it checks to see if that machine is listed in IronPort’s database, and if it is, the mail flows through any spam filters and into your inbox. This seems like a great way for companies that operate legitimate, double-opt-in email lists to make sure that their sales missives reach the intended audience — it appears to be poison-proof (meaning that spammers can’t fake the system into thinking that they’re legitimate), and at least one of the big spam filter providers, SpamAssassin, is on board.

Sender Warranted Email works in another way, and one that I can’t imagine will be able to sustain itself. Senders “warrant” that their email isn’t spam by including a “trademarked, copyrighted” set of headers that they’ve paid for the right to use; it’s these headers that filters look for to decide that the mail is legitimate. Habeas promises to aggressively sue anyone who uses the headers without the right to do so, providing the teeth behind the system. (Wired News wrote about this back in August.) Unfortunately, I envision that almost every piece of unsolicited email will soon include the headers, in an effort to overwhelm Habeas and make the company unable to go after everyone who is circumventing the rules. (You know the signature block that still graces the bottom of mail unsolicited emails, claiming to be acceptable under some obscure Senate rule? Same thing.)

Despite the questionable long-term effectiveness of Habeas’ approach, I applaud both companies for coming up with new ways of attacking the problem. With spam making up an estimated one third of email sent daily, someone’s got to tackle this problem before it takes the entire mode of communication down with it.

Another intrepid urban adventurer, David F. Gallagher, took a trip along the High Line and brought back some damn fine pictures. (Proving that there isn’t always a concrete divide between word people and picture people, you might recognize David’s name from the pages of the New York Times and Slate; don’t mistake him for Simon from 7th Heaven, though!)

This weekend, Neil Swidey of the Boston Globe published a pretty good article describing the ways that big pharmaceutical companies keep their profits high at the expense of the American public. The centerpiece of the article was AstraZeneca’s push to get people to move from the anti-ulcer medicine omeprazole (Prilosec) to its close cousin esomeprazole (Nexium), a push that’s being made both in the doctor’s office and via direct-to-consumer advertising. The relatively obvious reason for AstraZeneca’s efforts is that the patent on omeprazole is expiring, an event which will have predictible effects on the $4.6 billion in Prilosec sales the company experienced last year. By working hard to get people to ask for Nexium, and to get doctors to preferentially prescribe it, AstraZeneca can help build another profitmaker for itself.

If Nexium is an effective anti-ulcer medication, why do I have such a problem with this? Easy — because while it’s effective, it appears to be no more effective than omeprazole, or even than lansoprazole (Prevacid, made by another pharm company). AstraZeneca’s efforts to make it appear more effective even provide a textbook lesson in why scientists should look at published studies closely for false comparisons; the study performed by AstraZeneca showing an apparent benefit compared 40mg of esomeprazole with 20mg of omeprazole, which is akin to saying that the V6 Subaru Outback sedan is faster than the V4 wagon. (If you look closely on the second page of the package insert for the drug, you’ll even see this disclaimer: “There are no comparisons of 40 mg of NEXIUM with 40 mg of omeprazole in clinical trials assessing either healing or symptomatic relief of erosive esophagitis.”) And when the comparison in cost to consumers and insurance companies is as great as around $4 a pill versus a small fraction of that for a generic version of omeprazole, it’s a real issue.

Probably the most disappointing aspect of all this to me is how physicians are just rolling over and doing exactly what the pharm companies ask them to do. There are way too many doctors who either don’t know or don’t care about the scientific evidence involved, who’ve lost sight of the bigger picture of cost to the American healthcare system, and who are way too susceptible to the free lunches, nights on the town, and junkets to “conferences” at warm beach resorts. These are usually the same doctors who complain the most about new insurance industry constructs like pre-approval for nonstandard medicines, when the only reason such constructs exist is the overprescription of medicines like Nexium. All in all, it makes me sad to watch the nobility of medicine take such a big hit from pure profit greed.

The best part of Salon’s review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the description of Gilderoy Lockhart as “the Cornel West of Hogwarts” — “the fellow who’s happy to sign copies of his books for his adoring admirers, but who doesn’t know (or care) enough about his specialty subject to be any good at teaching it to his students.” (Incidentally, contrary to the general tenor of the review, I really enjoyed the movie and recommend it unreservedly.)

In all honesty, if I go the rest of my life without seeing another close-up of Michael Jackson’s surgically-mangled face, I’ll be just fine. Really.

One of the Achilles’ heels of weblog software has always been formatting. For the most part, people use their web browsers to update their sites, typing their words into little text boxes. These text boxes don’t provide much flexibility in terms of showing authors any character formatting that they add to their posts, nor do they provide much lattitude for determining line breaks or other paragraph-based formatting that we’ve all grown so accustomed to controlling in modern-day word processors.

The first problem is the easier of the two to manage; so long as you’re running Internet Explorer, most weblog software deals with it by providing a formatting bar allowing at least for bold and italic text. While this suffers from a few problems — it doesn’t let authors actually see their formatted text, and it obligates authors to use presentational tags rather than logical ones — it does show them a crude derivative version of their formatted documents, and that’s a step in the right direction.

The second problem is tougher, though, mainly because software has to employ a predictive algorithm in order to figure out how authors want to break the lines in their text. Should the software adhere to the strict meaning of whitespace in HTML, and ignore it? On the other hand, should it carry the word processing paradigm over to HTML, and translate carriage returns and double carriage returns into line breaks and line spaces? Manila never has handled this right, offering no choice to the author and using terrible HTML markup which makes compliance with XHTML standards or proper use of CSS an absolute impossibility.[*] Many of the other popular weblog software provides a “convert line breaks” option, but ends up stomping on an author’s occasional attempts to explicitly control a paragraph’s formatting.

One thing I love about Movable Type, however, is that programmers can extend its functionality with plugins, and one of the more prolific plugin authors, Brad Choate, has done so in a way that allows a great deal more paragraph formatting flexibility for authors. Today, I installed the plugin, and using the “smart_xhtml_p” mode, I’m able to combine MT’s ability to format a post for me with the ability to override the formatting on certain elements. Now, I can maintain XHTML compliance while still being able to apply alternate block-level styles, and that’s a good thing.

[*] And while Manila can do plug-ins, too, they can’t fix its paragraph formatting problem. The way that the relevant code is written, there’s no way to override the auto-paragraph thing without doing some serious modification of Userland code, something that’s generally met with the personal wrath of the software’s author.

I don’t know about you, but I love getting spam like this:

I can just imagine the newbie spammer sitting at his computer, thinking about the millions of work-from-home dollars he was promised as the disc he paid $45 for spins in the CD-ROM drive. “I can’t wait for people to start sending me money for my eBay secrets! Wait… what am I supposed to put into this ‘Subject’ field again?”

There’s an article in the past weekend’s New York Times Magazine that’s pretty disappointing, both because of its sensationalism and because I feel it puts enough baseless doubt in the minds of parents to cause actual harm to their kids.

The article, “The Not-So-Crackpot Autism Theory”, drags out the question of a link between neurologic damage and thimerosal, a preservative that used to be used in vaccines. This isn’t the sensationalism; there is a real question of the safety of thimerosal due to its organic mercury content. Rather, the sensationalism is represented by the baseless leap that the Times author makes between the generic notion of neurologic damage and the specific entity of autism. (To his credit, it’s the same baseless leap made by countless of people in web discussion groups, not to mention thousands of personal injury lawyers.) The idea of vaccine-related autism has only ever been raised as a consequence of one single vaccine (the MMR), and even that has been debunked with the only actual clinical data that’s been gathered on the topic. And the data supporting thimerosal-preserved vaccines as a cause of neurologic damage in infants is weak at best (many vaccinologists feel that it was the need for public confidence in vaccines and the strength of the fear of lawsuits, rather than the strength of any data, that led to its removal from all the routine childhood vaccines).

The most concerning part of this is that the article makes nothing but a single, tangential reference to the fact that thimerosal has been removed from all routine infant vaccines in the United States. Without knowing that there’s no thimerosal in routine use, parents who become concerned by what they read in the article are going to withhold vaccines from their children; that means more morbidity and mortality from H. flu meningitis and invasive pneumococcal disease, not to mention diseases like tetanus and hepatitis. The return of preventable diseases as a consequence of overt conjecture would be a real tragedy.

Wow — someone who sees an entire legal framework in the songs of Bob Dylan. (Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link, and for a generally tremendous legal weblog.)

In what I can’t even fathom was a fair trade, my sister gave me her old (and now unused) ThinkPad 600E for my old Sony Clie PDA, and I’ve been a happy little puppy setting it up to be my new machine-away-from-home. One annoying thing, though, is that IBM doesn’t believe in putting the Windows keys on the keyboard, and as a result, all the shortcuts my fingers have been trained to use aren’t available. After a bit of searching, I tracked down an excellent utility, RemapKey, that’s part of the Windows 2000 Resource Kit. It lets me remap any key to another, and now my righthand CTRL key is standing in as the Windows key. Mucho mejor! (If you’re interested, there appears to be a copy that’s one version out of current available on a German tech support site.)

Belated happy birthday wishes to Jill and Lisa, both 28 years young.

I find it interesting that VeriSign moved one of its root DNS servers this week; I only find it interesting, though, because VeriSign moved it in order to correct a glaring error in its network planning that had existed for years. VeriSign controls both the A and the J root servers (two of the machines that allow you and me to type “www.gringa.org” into our web browsers rather than “”), but both of the servers were under the same roof and on the same connection to the Internet — totally defeating the purpose of the distributed design of the Internet’s name resolution system. Of course, it’s not all that surprising that the company is just now playing catch-up… it has a tendency to do the right thing only after its competitors make it a business necessity.

Today’s entry in the category of incoherent ramblings of the day: George Brody. (Note that the author isn’t really named George Brody, but rather, Gyongyi Gaal; nobody has a clue what’s motivating her freakish behavior, now or in the past.)

I have to admit that I’m pretty pleased with how the voting process went today in New York City. It took about 20 seconds for the volunteer to verify that I belonged at my (new) voting place; I had to wait another two minutes for the person ahead of me to vote, and then about 60 seconds later, I had exercised my civic duty.

The question is: is there a bulge in the middle of this picture, or is your brain just playing tricks on you? Damn, I love the blurry areas that lurk between what we know and what we think we know.

(Thanks to Akiyoshi Kitaoka for the image.)

Dahlia Lithwick examines a few of the potential legal issues centered around today’s midterm elections; she predicts that the Supreme Court may have learned its lesson with Bush v. Gore, and won’t be quick to step into the fray even if the control of the Senate hangs in the balance.

vj and the angels

I swear, you have no idea how much this picture warms my heart. The guy in the middle (being drowned with champagne) is V.J. Lovero, the team photographer for the Anaheim Angels and a staff photographer for Sports Illustrated Magazine. Just under three years ago, he had a grand mal seizure in his grocery store and was quickly diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. Out of the blue, V.J.’s doctors gave him six months to live. After taking stock of his life, he decided to fight the cancer aggressively, and now he has the last three years to show for it. Early on, V.J. told me that he wanted to get to the next World Series; I think that it’s poetic that this year brought the World Series to him.

Go New York, go New York, go!

Thanks to a TLC special today, I learned a bit about Colonel Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., a man who actually jumped out of an open helium balloon at 102,800 feet (that’s 19 and a half miles) above the surface of Earth.

As part of military research into the best ways to secure the safety of pilots who had to eject at high altitude, Kittinger made a series of jumps from balloons, testing parachutes meant to stabilize a pilot against flat spin during the freefall part of descent. On August 16th, 1960, the project Excelsior III got underway, as Kittinger’s twenty-story tall balloon sprung skyward from the White Sands Missile Range at 1,200 feet a minute. It took an hour and a half to settle into the float altitude of over 19 miles above sea level; twelve minutes later, Kittinger started the cameras pointing down from the gondola and stepped off. He plummeted 16 miles in total freefall before his main parachute opened, reaching a top speed of 714 mph. To this day, it marks the first time that man exceeded the speed of sound without the aid of engines, as well as the longest duration of freefall. (It was the highest to date that anyone had gone in unpowered flight, broken by the current recordholders one year later.)

For some good reading on Kittinger’s legacy, check out his own description of Excelsior III in the National Geographic article “The Long, Lonely Leap”, as well as the Airman article “Leap of Faith.”

This past week’s Slate Diary was a great one. It was written by Zac Unger, a Californian firefighter who is the father of a 27-week preemie; he’s done a pretty damn great job of capturing the day-to-day medical issues that the tiniest of preemies face. He also focuses a bit on the issues that I rarely deal with (and thus don’t think about that much), like difficulties with insurance coverage and interactions between parents on a medical ward. And the most interesting twist to Zac’s story: his daughter was carried by a surrogate mother.

Oh my god, are you joking? The New York Times still uses Atex!?! Atex was the publishing system that we used to put out my college paper (and dumped the year after I got there); it was also the system used at the magazine I started working at in college (and was dumped two years after I got there). I know it was powerful and all, but it’s shocking to me that, with its dedicated text-based terminals, cumbersome key commands, and complex workflow, Atex had any life left in it once WYSIWYG editing and color entered the computing landscape. Their new system, CCI NewsDesk, looks pretty cool; in this day and age, it seems like a necessary fact that reporters and writers need to be able to use their publishing system on the same computer that runs their email client, web browser, and custom workflow applications. (Thanks to Anil for the heads-up on this one, and on the Times Talk site in general.)

There has been quite a bit written over the past few days about the fact that Google removes various sites from the search indices that it provides in certain countries. My personal favorite, though, is today’s column by the BBC’s Bill Thompson, lamenting that the removal is done without due process. To Thompson, the real solution is “an internet that is properly regulated,” and “where Google and other search engine providers had a legal obligation to provide full and comprehensive results to the best of their technical ability and to inform searchers of any areas where content had been removed from their index on legal grounds.” Huh?

Hey, Bill, who’d regulate it? Would it be the United States (where, rather than restricting search engine returns, we just try to ban information from the net entirely)? The EU (whose restrictions on speech are what currently have Google caught up in this mess)? How about China? Oh, yeah; obviously, it’d be the United Nations, with an international court and police unit that would enforce the regulations.

Holy pie-in-the-sky idealism, Batman…

And in other spam-related news, there’s been a little bit of hubbub lately about referrer log spamming, mostly centered around this company (which started showing up in my logs on Friday). Proving that web authors are always up for a challenge, though, Mo Morgan has engineered a neat response: a web form that lets you insert whatever you want into the referrer logs of the company that started the fracas. Have fun!

Congrats, Alaina! We’re now just a few short years from having a trustworthy behavioral scientist around to help explain that Anil freak…

While I was at work yesterday, Shannon received another little bit of Windows Messenger spam on my desktop, demonstrating that I had not yet banished this annoyance from my home network. Luckily, there’s been even more progress in tracking down exactly how the messages are sent, and it turns out that I left one last itty bitty port open (UDP port 135).

Before adding a rule banning traffic on that port to my router, I checked the access list logs, and saw that more than 1,500 attempts had been made to send packets over the previously-banned ports. Is Windows Messenger spam becoming this popular?

I enjoyed reading Clay Risen’s article about the business of coming up with brand names over at The Morning News, but couldn’t help thinking that many brand names only seem silly until they become commonplace enough to be unremarkable. Names like Microsoft, Kleenex, and Google now have lapsed into the everyday and ho-hum, but I suspect that each would be mocked outright if it were suggested today. Handspring? Pshaw. Xerox? It’d be ridiculed. Ultimately, I feel like a lot of a brand name’s success depends on the success of the company’s actual product; money is probably better spent on things like quality, usability, and support than it is on coming up with the ultimate name.

In the vein of la tortillita’s note on misused quotation marks, I bring you one of the three pieces of spam that made it through my email filters today:

”Order” today and start ”losing” ”weight” tomorrow with next day shipping. Also take advantage of a ”Free” Consultation for a limited time. ”Viagra” also available.

But wait… maybe the quotation marks aren’t misused. You’re not ordering, you’re being suckered; you’re not losing weight, you’re hemorrhaging money. Likewise, the consultation isn’t free, it costs you your pride, and it ain’t Viagra you’re getting, it’s sugar pills.

Makes much more sense now.

Thanks to Mark Pilgrim and Sam Ruby, there’s now a damn fine RSS validator available. (Am I the only one, though, who thinks it’s a tad bit sneaky to tell Movable Type users that the way to make their RSS 0.91 files valid is to convert them into RSS 2.0 templates?)

Late night ER shifts. Bad family doings. A visit to South Jersey. Starting the pediatric ICU.

Things have been busy.

All this is to say: sorry if I haven’t replied to your email, taken a stab at your new templates, migrated your site off of an infernal piece of junk, or finished off your departmental website. It’s all at the top of my list, and this week, I’ll do everything I can to get it done. Promise.

Remember the Windows Messenger spam that I received, and thought I had dealt with by configuring my network to not accept any Internet traffic from the outside world on the relevant ports? Alas, I was wrong; I received another batch of annoying popup dialog boxes a few days ago. Perplexed, I was — my network fix should have prevented this!

My daily read of Heather, though, led me to Wired’s discovery of the newest method of pissing people off, which shed some light on the situation: the popups somehow use port 135, not the traditional ports 137 through 139. Newly vested with the information, my router should finally be all set to repel this odious form of spam…

For those who are so inclined, Michael Dorf, Columbia Law professor, has a good two-part preview of this year’s Supreme Court term. (In actuality, it’s a preview of appellate cases; some of those that Dorf details probably won’t reach the Court this year.) Predictably, this term could bring a few questions in front of the Court that relate to the rights of people accused of terrorism; also abiding by a recent trend, there are a few death penalty-related cases on the near horizon. As always, it’ll be an interesting year to sit in the bleachers and watch.

angie harmon

I mean, as Shannon can attest, I love Angie Harmon as much as the next over-androgenized Law & Order addict, but… perhaps she should think about eating something sometime soon?

My next mini-project: build a new Movable Type website that uses the mt-rssfeed plugin to allow me to download a good amount of my daily website reads to my PalmPilot. Or has someone already written a good tool to allow syndicated reading on a PalmPilot?

I gotta tell ya’, have little to no sympathy for website publishers that complain about Internet Explorer’s third-party cookie privacy standards on the basis that it makes it harder for them to generate effective advertisements. The protections were put into IE mostly at the behest of concerned consumers, who didn’t want their viewing habits on editorial websites to be known and tracked by advertisers; web bugs were becoming out-of-control, and users frequently had no idea which domains were able to garner information about their viewing habits, even on relatively well-known websites. All Microsoft did was took a well-known standard, advocated by the Network Advertising Initiative and passed by the World Wide Web Consortium, and implemented it in Internet Explorer.

My personal favorite is that the biggest critic in this article is iVillage, whose site maintainers also admit that they haven’t deigned to add P3P-compliant statements to their sites’ privacy policies. Let’s get this straight: in order to make your advertising work, you have to add statements to your sites’ templates that codify your privacy practices. You haven’t done so… so you blame Microsoft?

Next week, we can expect an article from a company complaining that they have to remove all <blink> and <marquee> tags from their website because modern browsers don’t support them.

Yesterday was a day that verified one of my suspicions: when the weather is crappy, pediatric emergency rooms quiet down a lot, but the kids who show up are the ones who need to be there.

Normally, a shift in the ER involves convincing around 2/3 of the one billion people that you see that their kids don’t need to be seen in the emergency setting, and helping the other 1/3 get the acute care that they need. Yesterday, though, it was raining cats and dogs in New York City, and inside our ER, the volume of patients was drastically lower than normal. Instead of the usual big pile of blue (meaning non-acute) charts, the bins for the green (semi-acute) and red (acute) charts kept us occupied. I ended up admitting almost every single patient I saw to the hospital, including two infants with meningitis, a toddler with a big pneumonia, a four year-old heart transplant recipient with a fever, and an adolescent with seizures; the other residents who were on also admitted three asthmatics, two toddlers with croup, an adolescent with a large abscess, another adolescent with an incarcerated hernia, and an infant with recent heart surgery and pallor.

The moral of the story? On rainy days, it’s possible to see how a pediatric emergency department should operate — acute care for acutely-ill children.

Add another legal weblog to my bookmark list… Now, could someone help the authors of SCOTUSblog fix their archive links so I can read all of their posts?

1. Dave Winer asks for community help deciding on a way for someone’s website syndication feed to indicate that it is outdated and that there is a new version elsewhere. He punctuates the request with: “This could be a first experience at really working together, with no flames.”

2. Phil Ringnalda makes a few suggestions, and over the next few hours, a couple other community members weigh in on the pros and cons of alternate ways to implement the idea.

3. A mere twelve hours after the original post, Dave Winer himself lights the fire himself: “You guys need to step back a few steps and look at all the discussion you’re having over a brain dead simple addition. Unbelievable. Just add the fcuking namespace and be done with it. Geez Louise.”

Lawrence Lessig has filed his report on his performance in front of the Supreme Court (and his perspective on how it went) in last week’s Eldred v. Ashcroft arguments.

It’s incredibly interesting to me to see his approach to the entire line of reasoning — how the Court has historically viewed the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution as granting an enumerated power that has inherent limits, and that the goal was to get the Court to see the copyright clause as granting a similar enumerated power. (For background, Glenn Harlan Reynolds has a great explanation of the concept of enumerated powers.) It’s also heartening to note that his worry isn’t that the Court won’t agree with the greater need to limit terms of copyrights, but that the Court will conclude that it is not within its power to set such limits. He’s right: “They are motivated to do the right thing; they are resisting the right thing for the right reasons. Both sides are good.”

Aaron Swartz also posted his recap of the arguments, as well as his entire day in Washington, D.C.; the most interesting part to me, of course, was his description of Brewster Kahle’s Internet Archive Bookmobile. I wish the damn thing would come to New York City!

While I’m not too into the new color scheme, the redesign over at Wired News deserves bigtime attention for the fact that it’s implemented completely in XHTML and CSS, proving that a large, end user-oriented website can also adhere to web standards. Great work, fellas!

From the Dahlia Lithwick department: where is her dispatch from yesterday’s Supreme Court arguments in Eldred v. Ashcroft? And how did I miss Dahlia ripping the L.A. District Attorney’s office a new asshole over its continued, dogged pursual of a felony conviction against Winona Ryder?

Michael Gartner, Pulitzer Prize winner and former president of NBC, had a funny op-ed piece in USA Today yesterday with a set of counterpropositions for the airline industry. (Many may remember Gartner’s writing from his most recent press-related position, the ombudsman for Brill’s Content magazine.)

Heard on Law & Order tonight, from Assistant DA Jack McCoy to Associate DA Serena Southerlyn: “Never get Freudian with a man with a pickle.”

On today’s Supreme Court docket was Eldred v. Ashcroft, the case contesting the lengthening of copyright protections that was pushed through Congress mostly at the behest of major media companies.

So far, there have been a few recaps of the arguments on the web, including Raul Ruiz and Ernest Miller’s perspective over on LawMeme, the recollections of Kwin Kramer, and the Washington Post and New York Times articles. (The fact that the Times article showed up in the business section speaks volumes about the real motives behind the original law.) Eagerly anticipated, of course, are the perspectives of Dahlia Lithwick and Aaron Swartz. (Not to mention the eventual retrospective by Lawrence Lessig…)

Oh, how much I love rollerblading in Central Park.

From the barrel of great ideas: ZOË, an application that sits between you and your mail, indexing it all and making it searchable (among other things). Once this puppy understands IMAP mail, I’ll have to give it a test ride.

one year of movable type

Congrats, Ben & Mena! Your work on Movable Type could not be more appreciated. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’m a happy SpamAssassin user, but over the past few days, I’ve noticed a bunch of unsolicited email that’s made its way through the filters and into my inbox. After investigating a little bit, it turns out that the way that the filters work changed a bit with the latest upgrade — essentially, it’s easier for long-term spammers to make their way onto the auto_whitelist (the list of addresses allowed to send mail through the filters). Luckily, though, one of the project’s administrators also noticed the failure of the new behavior, and the next revision is going to eliminate it. If you’re running version 2.42 and seeing the same thing, I’d advise you watch the download page for the 2.43 release.

What an awesome day for New York City: the U.S. Postal Service has reached a deal to sell the James Farley Building to the city, allowing the construction of a new Penn Station. The current train station is a disgrace, especially since the building of it (and Madison Square Garden) involved tearing down one of the greatest train stations ever. Since then, we’ve been left with an underground series of caverns and dark hallways that are always inhabited by a clinging, burning smell, and an arena above it all that (given the Knicks’ and Rangers’ performances) doesn’t seem to have been worth the loss of the old station.

The Farley Building was designed by the same architects — McKim, Mead, and White — that crafted the old Penn Station, as well as a ton of other buildings in and around New York City. (I admit a bit of a bias, too — they designed much of the campus of my alma mater.) From everything I’ve seen, the building will serve as a terrific replacement for what is now just an outright eyesore.

Just over a month since he died, the New York Times has a good retrospective on the 60 days that James Quinn spent with the AbioCor artificial heart in his chest. The article does a good job of demonstrating the level of detail that goes into planning trials of devices like artificial hearts, from the patients (must be within a month of expected death, must have a chest big enough to hold the device) to the family (must be able to handle the constraints, must be able to deal with the uncertainty) to the home (must have stable electrical power, must have furniture!). With the shortage of organ donors in the United States, and the loss of countless organs due to the lack of presumed consent, the development of reliable artificial organs is becoming more and more important, as is understanding what that development entails.

What does the first day of the Supreme Court term mean? Dahlia Lithwick’s first Supreme Court Dispatch of the term! Today, she pines for Supreme Court Dancers, admits to her feelings that Justice Breyer looks like a rockstar, and suggests that the majority of the currently-seated Court is cryogenically frozen every summer. Good stuff.

So, has anyone seen any Democrats lately? You’d think that, with the homeland here falling apart pretty much on its own — the stock market sucks, kids are becoming so numb to violence that a mob of them beat someone to death, there’s a sniper having his way with Maryland, and politicians are as crooked as ever — there’d be a few voices trying to offer up some different opinions on how we should be focusing our energies. Apparently, you’d be wrong. How disappointing.

For the end of my vacation, I’ve spent the last three days in Atlanta, Georgia with Shannon; we’ve been visiting Alaina for the last time (actually, my first and last times) before she makes a big move northward. We’ve had a great time — shopping has been a huge part of it, playing with the menagerie of animals down here has been another, and watching movies has made up the rest.

Tonight, we watched Startup.com, and the best I can characterize my emotional response is that it spanned the barometer from amused to incensed. Honestly, though, I was most saddened by the news that Tom formed another startup with Kaleil; I guess that some people really do always want to assume the best about others.

Tomorrow, it’s back to NYC, and Monday, it’s back to the emergency room for two weeks. It will be nice to get back to work (although I will also be returning to a personal project that got some bad news in the last two weeks), and back to my kiddos in clinic.

It’s pretty damn funny that last week’s stories about the looming extinction of blondes from the human race — ostensibly due to recessive traits and societal preferences — turns out to be a big hoax.

I’m glad that someone — Aaron Swartz — finally got around to taking the New York Times XML feeds and turning them into something more useful, namely a Times-specific weblog. This is something that’ll definitely end up in the bookmarks list; hell, with a little modification of the source, it’s also the perfect AvantGo channel.

(And I apologize, but I can’t help laughing at the fact that the XML feeds were released by the Times specifically for Radio UserLand users, but that UserLand wasn’t able to create a similar readable web page of the feeds because they couldn’t keep Radio UserLand from crashing.)

Excellent — Five Experiments with AOL’s Voice Recognition Software. Does the technology really suck as badly as this?

Which had taken or from all obstacles to the wind up to the nasty deed tonight my proper one beautiful to the world chance I will send out the scene of humor of because I know you check your males oral…

It’s funny — I’ve found myself convincing more people recently about how much cleaner the Hudson River is than they think, and then today, the New York Times went and gave me some cold, hard facts! I love when that happens, and I’d love even more if someone managed to build a beach on the Hudson shore.

Talk about idiocy: today, I received unsolicited email from none other then Sendmail. And to top it all off, what were they advertising? The Sendmail Advanced Anti-Spam Filter [*], “the most powerful email and SPAM filtering solution ever created.” Honestly, it’s sad to see cluelessness from the company that’s responsible for such a huge proportion of mail transport on the Internet.

[*] I’m not linking to the product because I’m not going to be responsible for sending business their way.

I’m not sure what triggered it, but I’ve started to feel the most minor little rumblings of panic about my upcoming (well, June 2003) move to Boston.

I think that the biggest part of the panic is just plain money-related. As a hematology/oncology fellow, my salary is most likely going to be slightly less than I currently get, and with it I’m going to have to make rent payments (in a real estate market that looks to suck as badly as New York City’s) and make car payments (something I’ve had the luxury of avoiding in my time here in NYC). Add to that a travel budget (since my whole family is in NYC, and Shannon may be in Washington D.C.), and I inevitably worry about it all. Luckily, the first year of fellowship is immensely busy, so I won’t have a lot of time to worry or to spend money in other ways.

Another part of the panic is that, over the past few months, I have achieved an entirely new level of comfort in my apartment. I’ve lived in the same two-bedroom apartment since July 1995, but I was never here alone; my first roommate was my brother, after that, a girlfriend, and most recently, an old friend from college and medical school. When it came time for him to start his residency, though, I decided to go solo, and in the time since he has moved across town, I have really made the place my home. I’m going to be very sad leaving this apartment next year.

And lastly, there’s the aforementioned fact that I may be 450 miles north of Shannon for a few years. This crossroads was pretty much unavoidable, since the fellowship decision process occurred only six months into our relationship. With much teeth-gnashing, I decided that I had to rank the best programs first, and that if Shannon and I are meant to be, we’ll survive any temporary separation. That doesn’t mean I have to be enthused about that fact, though, and throwing it into the already-nervous mix doesn’t help things.

Not that people haven’t seen these before, but in my work today I stumbled upon two good pages about the strict rendering modes of web browsers. The first, CSS Enhancements in Internet Explorer 6, is from Microsoft’s library; it describes all of the cascading stylesheet differences that IE6 brings to the table. The second, Eric Meyer’s Picking a Rendering Mode, does a good job of covering the oddities of both IE and Mozilla, as well as earlier versions of the Netscape rendering engine.

(Of course, every time I read any articles like these, I realize how badly I cannot wait for the day where web designers don’t have to worry about major rendering differences between web browsers.)

Oh, great. Just what I needed — an elitist, I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine award from yet another A-lister looking to get some attention…

This link is for Lisa, who appears to need a good turn in her seemingly-neverending quest for satisfactory housing in the Big Apple: Keeping Spot and Fluffy Home. (It’s a good review of NYC’s Pet Law, which can be summarized thusly: if you have a pet for three months and make no efforts to hide it from those who maintain your building, then no matter what your lease says, you and your pet are legally in the clear.)

It’s always fun helping someone move onto Movable Type. Welcome to a wonderful new world! (Now, time to work on the comment and TrackBack templates…)

Another bit of cool geekery in Movable Type: a TrackBack module for RSS, providing a way to reference the TrackBack URLs of entries in a syndication file. In basic terms, it makes it that much easier for people who read this site via my syndication file let me know when they write something related to one of my entries.

I hope that TrackBack vs. PingBack doesn’t become another source of much discord in the weblog community. (Given the surfacing of a certain player and his random, factless opinions, though, I’m less optimistic that war can be avoided.)

A friend of mine asked me to help him fill a computer job here in New York City. Here’s his (slightly edited) description:

I am looking for an entry-level employee for a hybrid tech/production job. The person will need strong Windows 2000 skills, as well as an ability to learn. The magazine is starting to move into digital photography, and is now looking for help handling the files. The back-end system is a very cool image database with 1.4 million images; on a normal day, the magazine inserts 4,000 images and has 250 concurrent users. The work schedule is less than ideal — it includes Saturday, Sunday, and most holidays.

I can say this: the magazine is a great place to work, with lots of resources and many cool people. I know many people who work (and have worked) there, and can honestly say that the position that my friend is looking to fill is a legitimate way for someone to start working up either the technological or the editorial ladder. If you’re interested, or you know someone else who’s interested, do not email me. Instead, email picjob@jache.com with the subject “Digital Job”.

Why was there so much silence around here for the last week? Because I was on vacation! I went to Seattle, and took a three-day trip out to the San Juan Islands. Until I catch up a bit, here’s a little teaser: a view of Mount Baker, from the ferry station in Anacortes.

mount baker, from the ferry station in anacortes, wa

Other highlights of the trip: seeing the last Seattle Mariners home game this season, sticking my head into Elliott Bay Bookstore, spending an entire evening playing with one of the cutest two-and-a-half year olds ever, and getting to hang out with my brother and sister for an entire week. Oh, and one other: finding two issues of McSweeney’s quarterly journal in a random newsstand in Fremont — cooooool.

I really, really like the perspective Greg Knauss lends to the notion of a “weblog candidate” for the U.S. House of Representatives. If you’ve been following the candidacy of Tara Sue Grubb at all, the essay is worth a read.

(Oh, and you must read the comments at the end.)

In the wake of Thursday night’s attack on the Kansas City Royal’s first-base coach by a crazed father-son pair, ESPN’s Ray Ratto has a hilarious column that attempts to better understand the thought (or lack thereof) that went into attempting to ambush an anonymous baseball coach in front of 10,000 fans and dozens of security guards.

For the few (OK, very few) who have asked about it, the Lo-Fi version of Q Daily News is back. (To add it as an AvantGo channel, you can click here.)

I’ve gotta say, the best thing that has come out of the brouhaha over RSS 2.0 is that I’ve started reading rss-dev again.

(For those who don’t know, or who aren’t following the ruckus out of sheer amusement, RSS is a specification which enables websites to provide content in an easier-to-syndicate manner. There has been an authoritarian rollout of a new RSS version, and this has caused an understandable amount of angst in the developer community, many members of which use rss-dev as a more democratic forum for discussions aimed at improving the specification.)

Much like my move off of UserLand’s Manila to Movable Type, spending a little time looking over the shoulders of the developers on rss-dev reminds me that there are actually people out there who put effort into trying to improve the general community of personal website authors. This makes me happy, and makes me much more likely to use their technologies and products.

Screw the foosball table, dammit — look at all those Aeron chairs!

Did you hear? There’s a virus that’s causing infected websites to display only XML today. Victims noted so far: Sippey, Anil, Andre, Leslie, Andy, and Jason K. Due to its rapid-spreading nature and apparent magnetism for the weblog hotspots, the industry’s best and brightest minds have now committed to working on a fix. We may know more soon.

Update: Thanks go out to the virologists who worked long into the morning hours to provide a fix. Things appear to be back to normal…

line number nine

Welcome back, number 9, we missed you so.

(I’m also proud of NYC for giving the contractors, who finished the restoration of the tracks a month ahead of schedule, a $3 million bonus. Well-deserved…)

Yesterday, my new sofa arrived, and setting it up in my second bedroom set into motion a grand plan to move all my computers into the room as well, officially making it my study. When the work was all done, a computer closet was created, and I reached the pinnacle of my geekdom. (For those viewing the picture, that’s the MetaFilter server on the right, my Linux box in the middle, and my Win2K server on the left.)

So, here’s a new one for me: spam via the Windows Messenger service. (Note that that’s not MSN Messenger, but instead, the built-in networking communications service.) When Shannon and I got back from an errand today, my desktop computer had a Messenger Service dialog box with the first part of a Japanese ad for some home cleaning product; dismissing it brought up about nine more dialogs completing the ad. After doing a little research, it turns out that these spams have turned up before; there’s even a TechTV episode on the new form of annoying advertising. Alas, there won’t be any more of this on my network — my router now bans all traffic on the relevant ports. Spammers, you’re not welcome here!

The improvement in a tiny lung’s ability to draw in air, the slow easing of tension in a mom’s face as a fever dwindles away. The proud eyes of a medical student who suddenly gets it. A parent’s eventual understanding of the nature of his child’s disease, and the willingness to fight harder to help prevent complications. The bloom of a smile on a face that, for days, has known only misery. A maternal sign of relief as the needle slides into a vein and a flash of bright red appears in the tubing. The release of a held breath as news comes back good.

There are times during residency when I’m not that busy — generally, when I’m not involved in the direct care of kids admitted to the hospital — that I lose touch with the parts of my job that make me happiest. Whenever I return to the inpatient wards, it takes a little while to grab onto them again. This past week, they all came within reach, and despite a few of the most busy days of my training, I took hold.

On this day last year, after the worst tragedy I could imagine happened in my very own city, I issued a plea to donate blood. Unfortunately, much of the blood donated over the next week went unused, and had to be thrown away. Now, a year later, the U.S. blood supply has reached a critical low, something I can personally verify with the stories of my two patients who had to wait for special deliveries from the area blood bank in order to get their much-needed transfusions.

If you can find it in you to spare half an hour sometime over the next week or two, please, go give blood. You’re providing life, which seems to me to be a terrific way to pay respects to those whose lives were lost last year.

I was hoping to get a special something done for tomorrow, but have failed.

I was going to put together a TrackBack-only weblog (similar to BlogPopuli) that could be pinged by any and all September 11th-related posts. In my little brain, it could serve as a focal point for the words and wisdom coming out of the weblogging community on the anniversary of a day that both changed our lives and changed our community. A year ago tomorrow, people found their voices, relationships formed roots, and new genres of personal websites claimed their space under the weblog umbrella; I had hoped to set up a site that could try to capture some of the reflection and thought that will inevitably come from this entire community. All of America will be exposed to an avalanche of mass media reporting tomorrow on the events of September 11th, 2001, and I envisioned a forum that would spotlight the more personal counterpoint that most other webloggers found so enlightening and comforting in the hours and days following the attacks.

Alas, I failed. I so wish I hadn’t, and I hope that someone else implements this successfully. (Of course, you can ping this entry if you so desire, but it’s just not the same.)

Ummm, yeah, ditto.

Similar to the days immediately after the disasters, the New York Times Magazine has done a fantastic job in these days leading up to the first anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Centers. First, there’s James Glanz and Eric Lipton’s “The Height of Ambition”, a seven-part story which details the decisions — architectural, design, safety — that went into the building of the skyscrapers. Then, there’s Herbert Muschamp’s “Don’t Rebuild. Reimagine.”, making public a “study project” organized by the Times in which a group of both well-known and unknown architects designed an entire framework of options for rebuilding lower Manhattan. There are also two excellent interactive features, one linked to the study project called “Reimagining Ground Zero”, and another, “How the Towers Stood and Fell”, describing the ways in which the design of the Towers led to various parts of the events of September 11th.

As we get nearer to the one-year mark of one of the worst U.S. tragedies in this generation, the press surrounding 9/11 is spiralling a bit out of control. These Times Magazine features seem to be a bit above that, and I’ve already found myself returning to them, learning more each time about what happened and what New York can do to continue healing the wounds.

Sad: it took ICANN threatening to revoke VeriSign’s control of the .com top-level domain to get the evil clowns to correct glaring problems in its database of information about who owns what domains.

Sadder: out of the seventeen examples of errors, nine of them remain uncorrected (and two more are only “corrected” in that VeriSign’s nameservers point at themselves, causing a self-recursive nightmare that prevents the domains from being resolved at all). Yes, folks, you did that division correctly — at best, VeriSign’s got a 53% failure rate, and we’re talking about the company that controls the largest single top-level domain on the Internet.

By my count, the deadline set by ICANN will be upon us in nine days (September 18th). As we get closer, I find myself wondering if the body has the strength to adhere to its threat…

What a great idea — an application that runs on your wireless-enabled Linux box, creating thousands of fake wireless access points to confuse hackers and make their break-in attempts more difficult. Part security-through-obscurity, part messin’-with-their-brains.

If anyone’s ever wondered how each year’s flu vaccine comes into being, I was goaded into describing it all in a MetaFilter thread. The basic point: despite much whining about fairness issues with the distribution of the vaccine early in the flu season, there’s a reason for it, and it’s based on the fact that the vaccine manufacturing process has to start anew every single year.

As if the terrible, horrible other things they do aren’t each enough justification for pulling VeriSign’s right to manage Internet domain registrations, ICANN nailed the incompetent company today for “taking what appears to be a cavalier attitude toward the promises it made” about keeping registration data accurate. ICANN cites seventeen specific examples of registration entries that contain plainly false information, as well as specific people at the company who were notified of the inaccuracies anywhere from thirty days to eighteen months ago. While nobody really thinks that they’ll do it, if VeriSign doesn’t both correct the specific problems and implement ways to prevent them from happening again, ICANN can take the .com domain away from them.

Let’s see… on the same day, a whaling expert openly states that a killer whale should be put to death and a whale breaches over a fishing boat, killing the owner. How can the two not be connected?

What an amazing idea: creating a tattoo using fluorescing dye that changes intensity as a person’s glucose levels fluctuate. (Gerald Cote, the Texas A&M professor who leads the development effort, has a page up about the work his lab is doing on this.) Currently, people with diabetes check their blood sugar levels up to half a dozen times a day, a process which involves pricking a fingertip with a needle, putting a drop of blood onto a test strip, and then analyzing the strip with a handheld monitor. Suffice it to say that most diabetics hate the whole process; working out a reliable way to do the same thing noninvasively would be a terrific advance, and I can’t imagine that people with diabetes wouldn’t jump all over this. (Thanks to Cory for pointing this out.)

Ohmygod, I love this Morning News story: Dennis Mahoney (the Non-Expert) “explains” why people always come and press the elevator button after you’ve already done it. I’m embarrassed to say that I recognize myself — or, more accurately, my impatience — in a few of the things ascribed to the fictional Bob. (And does anyone else remember the HBO series Not Necessarily the News, with the awesomely-invented sniglets? They were words that don’t, but should, exist, and one of the most memorable was “elacceleration,” meaning the additional speed imparted to an elevator by someone repeatedly pressing the call button. It’s a word that, for all intents and purposes, now exists in the little dictionary in my brain as a result of the show.)

While puttering around the city today, helping Shannon move back into her apartment and doing all sorts of errands, my brain kept returning to the sheer number of changes that have taken place since September 11th. Tonight, I learned that there’s now proof of the change that I’ve suspected has taken place, and which scares me the most: nearly half of America now believes that the First Amendment goes too far in protecting free speech. Of course, there’s a certain amount of irony in that — people criticizing their government for extending them the right to speak out against their government. Makes your brain hurt if you think about it enough…

There is one other finding of the poll that may put all this in the right light, though: 63% of people judged that the American educational system does either a fair or poor job of teaching students about the freedoms of the First Amendment. Perhaps if people were taught more about the importance of free speech, they’d appreciate it all the more.

Another writer I respect, Neale Talbot, weighs in on the saddening changes that have taken place over at Little Green Footballs. While Neale’s website stylesheets seem to be in the midst of a massive seizure, his analysis hits the mark, and helped me understand better the shift in attitudes that has allowed sites like LGF serve as magnets for blind hatred and vitriol against a single ethnic group. I’ve begun to wonder when people will start to take note and realize that fear, not logic, is driving much of the attitude shift. Will it be before we start to see waves of violence against people of Arabic descent in the U.S.? Before internment camps are set up? Or, like Neale asks, will people stand up against those who choose to generalize hatred for a few into oppression of many?

(Oh, and with Neale’s stylesheet issues, this is a good time to plug the CSS Stylesheet Browser, that’ll let you turn on or off any aspect of a stylesheet to make a page more readable.)

I’m in the hospital today, as the on-call senior resident, but since it’s Labor Day weekend, it’s been pretty quiet thus far. This week, though, has been completely hectic — the job of a senior resident is to walk all the various other members of the team through how to be an inpatient doctor, and this early in the academic year, it’s a very hands-on job. I have four interns on my team, and only one of them has been on the inpatient teams before; the other three have spent all week getting their sea legs, figuring out how to handle taking care of patients (most of whom have a multitude of active issues) while also participating in the day-to-day educational activities of a pediatrics residency. I also have a fourth-year medical student on the team, who essentially is supposed to be able to function at the level of an intern, and three third-year medical students, who are brand-new to the entire clinical medicine thing. It all makes for busy days, from making sure that patients get the care they need to making sure the interns and students get the teaching and help that they need.

Fortunately, we have a few extremely interesting patients in the hospital right now that have kept the curious and intellectual side of my brain in the game as well. On my team, there’s a girl whose kidneys decided to stop working for no apparent reason, a boy with Holt-Oram syndrome, and a young woman who is slowly recovering from Stevens Johnson syndrome. On the other team, there’s a boy who appears to have an incredibly rare bone and fibrous tissue disease, as well as an infant awaiting transplant for his inherited liver disease. When I get home at night, I’m enjoying reading about the diseases, and associating actual patients with the syndromes that I learned about in school. It’s how I learn best.

Well, it’s that time of year again — time for me to return to the general inpatient wards and manage the kids who’ve been admitted to the hospital for your more standard (read: non-oncologic) pediatric issues. This time, I return as the senior resident, which means that instead of micromanaging (“are you using your incentive spirometer every 10 minutes like we asked you to?”), I get to command a team of interns, subinterns, and medical students taking care of 15-20 patients. It’s a fun job, since without the micromanagement, I have a lot more time and energy to devote to thinking about bigger-picture issues and entire disease processes. I also get to see more volume — more kids, more ways of coming to medical attention, more pathology, and more interventions.

As a result, though, my volume here may decline a bit for the next four weeks — but I hope to be posting more about what’s going on inside the hospital than I normally do.

I’m not sure if the essay was meant to lead to its own validation (and I wouldn’t put it past that sneaky bastard Anil), but there may not have been any more effective a way to prove the point of this essay than the development of this thread.

I’m nearing the end of redesigning the second bedroom in my apartment, a room that had a roommate in it up until two months ago. I repainted it, wired it up so that I can move all my computers in, and bought some new furniture; the last thing I needed was a new radio for the room (so I can listen to my jazz station while I’m on my computer). I was ready to buy a little shelf system when Shannon intervened, mysteriously telling me that there were some little birdies out there that were going to satisfy my radio need, and that if possible, I should just be patient.

Yesterday, the birdies came forward — it was my brother and his fiancee, and they got me a Henry Kloss Model One table radio. I love this thing — it’s beautiful, it sounds terrific, and it’s perfect for the new room. If you’re in the market for a new radio that looks classy and sounds even classier, I recommend it. Now, maybe for the bathroom… (Oh, and thanks Noah and Lauren!)

I’m now using the MTAmazon plugin to provide the “currently reading” information over there in the sidebar. It’s neat — all I have to do is put Amazon’s ASIN for the book I’m reading into a file, and the plugin generates the HTML with the cover image, title, and author using Amazon’s XML data. I’m aware that this isn’t nearly as cool a use of the new XML programming interface as something like Amazon Light, but it’s useful to me, and that’s sorta the point of the user-accessible interfaces, isn’t it?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

— Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

You see, government can hand out money, but it cannot put hope in people’s hearts or a sense of purpose in people’s lives.

— President of the United States George W. Bush, yesterday, August 23, 2002.

I think it’s phenomenally sad that our President feels that the various levels of government in the United States can’t give people hope or help them feel purpose in their daily lives. Can you imagine someone like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt uttering these words? To me, this is a mark of a failing on a truly overwhelming level, that where a President understands his role in helping the ordinary citizens of his country achieve their hopes and dreams, and feel that their existence has meaning.

Today’s one of those days when I can’t believe I got paid, since instead of spending it in the hospital, I got to chaperone 24 renal clinic patients to Six Flags Great Adventure. I was fortunate enough to escort the older kids around the park, which meant one thing: rollercoasters. Each one was better than the last, and before leaving, we got in two rides in the front row of the Nitro. We’re talking 230 feet up, and then an 80 mph near free-fall (at around a 75 to 80 degree angle), with six more hills and three or four corkscrews. It’s easily the best rollercoaster I’ve ridden. (Of course, that’s a record waiting to be broken if I’ve ever heard one.)

For the first time, I’m annoyed at Google.

Moving this site from Manila to Movable Type meant moving it to another machine, which meant that the IP address for q.queso.com needed to change. There’s a way to handle the address change gracefully, and help web clients (browsers, indexers) find your new machine quickly — for the technically-minded, a few days before the move, you set the time-to-live of the nameserver entry to a shorter duration so that nameservers are sure to grab the changed entry as soon as you make it. Alas, it turns out that Google’s indexing system doesn’t play by these well-established rules. As a result, when a site changes IP addresses, Google continues to try to index at the old address, and misses any changes to the site for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. And what I’m seeing here is that the machine running my old site continues to get hits from Google’s indexing spider, while the real updates here on the new machine are ignored. Bleah.

At some point, when my brain is less scrambled, I need to dig into Paul Graham’s Plan for Spam (kindly pointed out by Jim Roepcke). He describes a pretty cool algorithm that he’s using to filter email and sort out the unsolicited crap, and it looks both effective and pretty neat. (Besides, how can any method that uses tokens, hashes, and a corpus not be superbly effective?)

Sorry about the sporadic downtime here tonight — I’m trying to upgrade a component of Apache, and having a bitch of a time doing it.

It seems to me that we’re in for at least a month of “shocking” pieces by CNN about various and sundry things seen on the recently-discovered al Qaeda tapes. Why do I think that? Because almost all the stories state that there are 64 of the tapes, and so far, CNN is revealing about a tape or two a day to us. On Monday, we had the tape showing dogs dying by poison gas; on Tuesday, we learned about Osama bin Laden’s declaration of war on the west. Yesterday was the day of urban terrorism training, and today’s revelation is the instructional tape on the assembly of explosives (released late yesterday on their “War on Terrorism” pages, but now carrying the lead on the website).

The sad thing about this is how up-front CNN is being about drawing out the news of the tapes. In the right-hand sidebar of most of their al Qaeda-related pages, there’s a box detailing the schedule for future stories about the tapes, and they even have a “Caught on Tape” gallery that breaks down the news by the day that it was released. The entirety of the coverage feels manipulative, and well-timed to coincide with the time when waning interest in the news coming out of the Middle East is crossing paths with the rising interest in the anniversary of the events of last September.

If you’re the kind of person who’d dig a cool-as-all-hell view of the former site of the World Trade Centers, you might want to check out Alison’s view from last week.

For those who are interested in reading the release notes for the upcoming service pack to Internet Explorer 6, they just so happen to be posted. (They were in a deep directory on the Windows Update site for a little while, but once NT BugTraq members found them, they were further hidden. Of course, someone downloaded a copy first…)

Images from my new camera are now up, in a slideshow that’s (appropriately) named First Images with a StyleCam Blink. I have to admit that, despite the obvious lack of comparison to my CoolPix 995, I’m pretty pleased with this little toy. It comes down to one thing, a bit of wisdom that my friend Phil told me: no matter what the quality, a camera that’s with you is worth infinitely more than a camera that’s sitting on a shelf at home.

In doing a little web research into a photo caption this evening, I stumbled across a great site documenting the history of King’s College in New York City. (King’s College went on to be renamed Columbia University, and was the fifth chartered school in the British Colonies.)

The site is not that unique a find — there are plenty of other websites that go into a good deal of the history of colonial higher education — but discovering it comes at a great time for me, since I’m reading City of Dreams. It’s a neat novel about five or six generations of a family of physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries as they wind their way through eighteenth-century life in what’s now New York City, and the amount of historical detail Beverly Swerling goes into (all factually correct, as far as I can tell) is amazing. I’m finding it hard to not keep grabbing my Encyclopedia of New York City to find out more about places and people mentioned in the novel, and I am loving forming mental images of the island of Manhattan in the 1700s. There’s also a good deal of medical history in the novel, which obviously isn’t diminishing my interest.

Both of these works — the website about the history of King’s College, and City of Dreams — are worth checking out.

All of the third year pediatrics residents have to do one major presentation, a talk about an interesting case that we’ve seen, including a discussion of the literature that’s relevant both to how the child presented and the disease the child ended up having. Mine is tomorrow, at 8:00 AM. Wish me luck!

I have to say, it’s damn cool that it looks like Fred Thompson, former attorney and minority counsel of the Watergate hearings, former movie actor, and current U.S. Senator from Tennessee is going to be the next New York District Attorney on Law & Order. Given Dianne Wiest’s uninspired performance over the past two years, it’ll be nice to have someone come in who has the chutzpah that Steven Hill had.

Interestingly, today, someone decided to sign up for their Western Union website account using a fake email address in one of my domains. Did she not realize that doing so means that I have total access to her account, including being able to transfer money to myself on the credit card that she stored in her account? Hell, I could just post the account login somewhere, and let others do their thing. Really, it’s one of the dumbest things this woman could have done. I guess it’s lucky for her that I have a sense of ethics.

I tried calling the woman on the number that she used in her account, but it’s “disconnected or no longer in service.” I changed the password on the account, and changed all the password hints, too, so that she’ll be forced to use another one. I can only do so much…

I’m not quite sure why, but the idea of being able to post via my cellphone’s short message service intrigues me a bit. Of course, the more I look at that page, the more I realize that it just describes generic posting-via-email; there’s nothing SMS-specific about it. (The author, Raffi Krikorian, even added better protection against hacking.) Of course, there are times when posting via email wouldn’t be such a bad feature to have…

Lately, I’ve noticed that the water in the big tank behind my toilet has occasionally been leaving a stain around the inside of the bowl. I decided to get one of those little drop-in thingies for the tank today, but now, every time I pee, I immediately harken back to the commercial tagline for Glad sealable sandwich bags: “Yellow and blue make green!”

While doing a little reading about the curfew law mentioned in this MetaFilter thread, I found some other strange laws that are remain on the books in the fine city of Houston. Here are some of the things that are illegal:

And, in addition, the curfew law in question seems a little hinky to me, specifically section 28-173(d), which sets up a special exemption for religious events. Why should religious events get targeted government approval? (Oh, wait… it’s Texas we’re talking about.)

Yesterday morning, in Lenny’s Bagels:

Couple walks in, comprised of an all-American man and a fairly pretty woman, both in their mid-to-late 20s.

Man: This is the kind of place where they’ll put whatever you want on your bagel.
Woman: Mmm-hmm…
Man: They’ll put butter, cream cheese, tuna salad, cold cuts… whatever you want.
Me: (thinking to myself) What other kind of bagel places are there?
Woman: Ummm… I have to tell you now that I don’t know what a bagel is.
Me: (jaw drops onto floor)

The kicker of it all was that the woman had as Brooklyn an accent as you can get.

In general, I’m of the opinion that there has been way too much written about the so-called phenomenon of weblogging, and that part of the reason is that the medium is still at the stage where people are kicking its tires, trying to figure out if weblogs add value to the world. That’s not to say that some of what’s written isn’t valuable, entertaining, or even needed; on the contrary, given the relative newness of personal web publishing, there is a real value in well-reasoned pieces that try either to familiarize readers with the medium or to help writers understand those things which make weblogging unique, powerful, and an entirely different way of reaching readers.

As a good example of the latter, the latest issue of A List Apart brings us Mark Bernstein’s “10 Tips on Writing the Living Web.” Mark focuses on the dynamic nature of weblogs (or, better yet, of any site that represents frequent personal input and guidance), and gives ten good rules that aim to help writers both understand that dynamism and shape their creative energies accordingly. It’s the kind of essay that I’ll bookmark and send along to anyone who asks me about weblogs; it may be the best example yet of capturing the reasons why weblogs have become such a success. It’s definitely worth a read.

stylecam blink

I just got my latest toy, a StyleCam Blink, made by SiPix. It’s the littlest digital camera you’ve ever seen — less than two inches square — and has a 0.3 megapixel CCD (that’s 640x480) with enough built-in memory for around 100 images at that resolution. It’ll also take a rapid series of pictures and assemble them into an AVI, and will function as a webcam when connected to your computer. Best yet, it’s under $40, which is what made me give in and buy one for playing around. Fun fun!

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding myself entertained by the controversy that sprung forth when Tiger Woods revealed that the things he’s paid to say and the things that he wants to say are two entirely different things. I also found myself thinking a bit about whether or not someone like Woods has a responsibility to take a stance against exclusion based on race and gender, and the more I thought about it, the stronger I felt that he does. Precious few people find themselves in a position to say something that reaches as many ears as his voice does, and part of my core belief system is that I feel that we all have a fundamental responsibility to try to improve the world around us in whatever ways we find ourselves able. Tommie Smith and John Carlos held their fists up over their heads on the Olympic medal stand in 1968, nearly a hundred musicians put together Live Aid in an effort to improve conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, and the NFL took the the Super Bowl away from Arizona when the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. day; all found themselves able to bring about social change due to their stature. Perhaps its time for Tiger Woods to do the same.

Once again, Wired has an awesome magazine issue out. Articles not to miss: the progress that’s been made in brain implants that allow blind people to see; a team of former MIT students who put together a revolutionary team-based approach to beat casinos; and the work being done on gene-based vaccines.

Back in the beginning, Wired cut its teeth on having total geek cred, with in-depth stories on the fringes of intellect and technology. As the Internet economy took off, though, the magazine spiralled downward as it succumbed to the pressure to be yet another dot-com profiler. Back in April, I noticed that things had changed for the better; it’s nice to see that the magazine is still on track.

One one hand: I’m flattered to be on the reading list for UC Berkeley’s upcoming class on intellectual property weblogs. On the other hand: I’m embarrassed that the selection the professors have chosen is this trainwreck of a thread. I’d like to think that I’ve spent a good amount of time discussing actual issues of intellectual property — music sharing, website design theft, software licenses and enforcement — that are probably more on-point to the site; the recognition comes for a flamewar, though. Alas…

My pictures from last week’s walk of the High Line are now up.

high line montage

Today, I learned that RedHat wants to charge me to get security updates.

Will Charles Heston’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease force him to give up his guns? Two media sources — Slate’s Bryan Curtis and the New York Daily News’ Rush & Molloy — quote the same California attorney general spokeswoman to come to opposite conclusions. It’ll be funny to watch if Heston takes up the cause of the right of demented people to bear arms…

There’s some good news out of the medical community: it appears that doctors are finally heeding the warnings and are prescribing less oral antibiotics to kids. (What warnings, you ask? It’s pretty well-known that overprescription leads to bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics; two months ago, the CDC identified the first Staphylococcus aureus that is completely resistant to vancomycin. That should scare you. A lot.)

The move is complete — you’re now reading a Movable Type-run site. I fully expect there to be a few things that I’ll still need to fix around here, but for the most part, the major functionality is in place. I’m loving the new system, and you can soon expect to read a little bit about what it took to make the move.

If you find anything broken, please feel free to leave a comment here, or drop me a line.

(Oh, and TrackBack is pretty much enabled throughout the place, so if you want to use it, feel free.)

Today was a good day, for after work, Alison, Yanda, and I walked the High Line.

the high line

Thanks have to go out to Rosecrans Baldwin; his photo essay a few months ago reinvigorated my interest in the abandoned freight line, and Alison’s trip to New York turned out to be the perfect time to finally climb up and explore a bit. (Update: the photo collection from our trip is now available.)

I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what would be added to the functionality of TrackBack by changing it’s implementation to XML-RPC. Too often, stuff like this gets overengineered, and then become so much more difficult to implement on systems other than the ones on which they originate; the beauty of TrackBack’s current setup is that it’s completely trivial to implement elsewhere, since all the new system needs to do is be able to request a web page.

I’m leaving town again, for a long weekend with Shannon in, of all places, Alabama. Last week at camp spoiled me — I need my fix of swimming, reading, and lounging, and one of Shannon’s cousins has just the right place to visit.

When I get back, item one on the agenda will be finally making the move to Moveable Type. I finished the script to export from Manila, I conjured up a CSS-only layout that replicates the layout here, I figured out all the mod_rewrite rules to make references to pages in Manila find their way to the right MT pages, I wrote a new picture show script, and I got the new search engine running — there’s not much left to do but import the entries and flip the switch!

See you all soon…

For those of you who live in a town that has the Citibank “Live Richly” ads plastered all over things, Tim Carvell penned a pretty funny “interview” with Citibank, with the bank’s words made up entirely of the moronic quips from the ads. (Joseph Lamport observed the same silliness over at Salon back in February.)

It’s a little ironic that OpenSSH, a product that most likely provides security for more computers on the Internet than any other, was distributed with a Trojan horse over this past week. The CERT advisory is here; if you downloaded the server code at anytime over the past week, you’d be wise to check to see if you got the infected version.

Ah, the wonderful things that people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can do…

I think it’s pretty cool (geek cool, but cool nonetheless) that I live in a country that keeps track of all the asteroids that run the risk of colliding with Earth. (I discovered this JPL website when I was looking for more info on the two asteroids — 2002 NY40 and 2002 NT7 — that have gotten a lot of news playtime the past few weeks.)

I’ve always been intrigued by honeynets — networks of computers that are set up as attractive targets for hackers, so that the hackers can be monitored, and ultimately, improvements can be made in network security. It seems logical that, in this day and age, honeynets would be extended to wireless networks; Cisco and SAIC have done just that, and I’d imagine that it’s just a matter of time before wireless security gains a little bit of, well, real security as a result. (And I love the term David Sifry has coined for these intentionally-vulnerable networks: honeyspots.)

It’s totally weird when two previously-separate branches of your life collide, specifically when it’s in the form of one of your patients being the subject of a thread on a community website. Sorta cool, but also totally weird.

I’m back, and while there’ll be a more comprehensive wrap-up of my week at oncology camp, I have to say this about the last week: SpamAssassin trapped about 1500 email messages, and out of all of them, only one was something that was worth reading. There really isn’t a better testament to the program than that.

I know I’m late to the ballgame on this one, but I’m enjoying the hell out of True Porn Clerk Stories.

Just as an alert, on the off chance that someone cares: I probably won’t be posting for most of next week. Instead, I get to spend the week swimming, making crafts, hiking, cooking, and playing with any and all of our oncology patients that are well enough to take a summer break. I wasn’t able to make it to camp at all last year; I cannot wait for Sunday to roll around.

I’m pretty sure, thanks to Anil, that I know what my next desktop computer will look like. It’s the first computer that I’ve found that has everything I want — onboard networking, FireWire, USB 2.0, ATA/133 disk support, and good audio — and it’s itty bitty to boot. I’m eagerly anticipating it going on sale… (For a few better reviews, try here and here.)

Oh, please, for the love of God and all that’s holy, don’t start sending video email, no matter what c|net has to say about it.

I think it’s soooo awesome that scientists have found a new species of centipede, and in Central Park, no less. Even cooler, it’s unique enough that it’s being classified as the only species within its very own genus. I’d bet that there’ll be more than the usual number of kids and parents hunting around the Park this weekend, hoping to catch a glimpse of the creepy crawly.

I have started the leg (and keyboard) work for moving off of Manila for this site (to Ben and Mena’s fabuloso Movable Type), and have started to put together the list of functionalities for which I need to find replacements or methods of implementing.

  • Search engine: I want to find a search engine that runs locally, and works with Movable Type’s MySQL database-driven format. It would be nice if I could have it index multiple sites, so that the other people I host can use it, as well.
  • Pseudo-static pages: Most sites like this have pages that are more static in nature (e.g., an about page, or a site map). Movable Type is phenomenal when it comes to weblog-type entries, but for pages that are more static and that I want wrapped in the site’s template, I need to figure out the best solution.
  • Log and referrer browsing: I built custom Manila plugins for both, and I’d like to continue having the information when I move to Apache on Linux. My referrer browser is pretty simple, just showing the various referrers and the number of times per day that they’ve sent people this way; my log browser (which isn’t available to anyone but myself) is pretty complex, showing pretty much all the data available for each individual hit to the webserver.

I’d appreciate any ideas that anyone has — pointers to tools that you’ve found to work well, tips as to things to watch out for, and whatever other expert advice that you’ve all accumulated.

I gotta say, I’m proud of Jeffrey Dvorkin and the entirety of NPR, both for changing their linking policy and for being big enough to admit that they didn’t understand the medium to begin with.

I had a wonderful weekend in Washington D.C., escaping the hospital and any other distractions for a few days. The two highlights were the International Spy Museummuch bigger than I thought it’d be, and despite the wait and the crowds, fascinating pretty much from start to finish — and seeing Julie again. The lowlight? Waking up at 3:30 AM today with a raging pain in my throat and nausea to beat the band, and not being able to go back to sleep. I can only imagine that I caught something from a child that I saw during last week’s stint in the emergency room; I am at least happy that it didn’t catch up to me until the end of my weekend visiting Shannon.

What’s my definition of a sad day in the ER? Having the sister of one of my favorite oncology patients sent in by her doctor for new-onset trembling of her hands, and diagnosing her with a big intracranial mass. Now, their mother has two children with cancer, a two and a half year-old with metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma and a four year-old with a brain tumor, and needless to say, she was on the verge of a total breakdown when my shift ended. Despite my additional hour in the hospital (spent running interference between the neurologists, the neurosurgeons, and the intensive care team who was preparing for her transfer to their unit), I still left trying to put myself in their family’s shoes; I can’t begin to fathom what they must be feeling right now.

Anyone who’s ever spent any time on the lower West Side of Manhattan and wondered what’s up on the abandoned elevated rails that start in the 30s and meander southward needs to take a look at Rosecrans Baldwin’s The High Line, a photo essay capturing images from one end of the line to the other.

(The tracks were once called the High Line, and they supported the railway cars that brought supplies into the factories and meat packing plants that lined Chelsea’s western border. As with anything else in New York City, there are a lot of dreamers who have ideas for reuse of the old structures.)

I mean, it’s amazing to me that a man can still be so embittered by the fact that someone didn’t give him enough credit in her essay on the history of weblogs. Or, I should say, it would be amazing to me if that man weren’t Dave Winer, and it wasn’t in-your-face obvious that his definition of “respect for the story” is “willingness to make specific mention of Dave Winer and UserLand.”

If you’re looking for what is, in my opinion, a fair review of Rebecca’s book, try here.

A couple classically idiotic bugs that I have run into over the past week:

  • If you have Windows XP’s Welcome Screen enabled, and you turn on auditing of all logon and logoff events, then XP logs a failure for every account listed on the Welcome Screen every time that the Welcome Screen is displayed. According to the MS Knowledge Base, “this behavior is by design,” which I’d have to vote is one of the more moronic design choices that’s been made in XP.
  • If you have a Manila server, and have a search engine set up, creating a new story on your Manila site does not submit the page to the search engine for indexing. While a legitimate bug (rather than a design decision), it’s a bug that was submitted to UserLand seven months ago, and their response was that the architecture of Manila prevents them from fixing it. A while ago, I’d have been shocked that they’d be willing to just let a bug like this go unfixed; that sort of thing doesn’t surprise me anymore.

Seth Schoen has some detailed and thoughtprovoking notes on Palladium, the secure platform that’s been proposed by Microsoft and a few hardware vendors. If you’re looking for the rare exception to the typical fearmongering and kneejerk, reactionary drivel that predictably dominates the press, check out Seth’s impressions — by my read, Palladium looks to be an incredibly well thought-out architecture, and has the potential to bring computing to an entirely new level of security.

I spent a little over an hour tonight trying to solve a bug that was causing the occasional corruption of mail messages sent to me. Once I found what I was looking for, I decided to scribble down a few notes on the problem and potential solutions; I figured that I had been unable to find the solution via search engines, and as a consequence, others may not be able to do so either. Hopefully, now they will. smiley

Maggie strikes gold again with a look at towns which have been decimated by single events. For me, the stories of Centralia, Pennsylvania and Lake Nyos in Cameroon are totally astounding; in the case of Lake Nyos, it’s equally astounding that there is currently more carbon dioxide dissolved in it than there was at the time of the disaster, and that even if current attempts to degas the lake are fully implemented, it will take three to five years to dissipate enough CO2 to make the lake safe.

A little update for those who asked about my little patient with the belly mass: things are looking good. She went to the operating room, where the mass was found to be large but solitary; that meant that they were able to remove it in its entirety. By all accounts thus far, it looks to be a Wilms’ Tumor, treatment of which is one of the great successes of pediatric oncology. (For a real warm and fuzzy feeling, take a look at some of the pages about kids with Wilms’ tumors.) Last night, I got the awesome pleasure of extubating her, and seeing her smile (and her parents smile!) for the first time in days.

A few nights ago, in the pediatric ICU, I got a glimmer of my future…

How can I have considered myself a good New Yorker without knowing anything about the Pizza-Subway Connection? Apparently, common wisdom has it that the price of a subway token in NYC is tightly linked to the price of a slice of pizza, and since pizza prices have risen over the past few years, there’s talk of the inevitable subway fare hike that’ll come after this fall’s elections. How funny!

It stuns me that our President is urging “stiff corporate penalties for crooked executives” despite himself being the alleged perpetrator of corporate fraud on the order of four times as large as that which has Martha Stewart lined up for the gallows. Thankfully, a series of ads are going to run on the East coast starting this week are calling Bush and Cheney out on their hypocrisy when it came to Harken Energy and Halliburton.

What a great, great interview with Alfred Goodwin, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge who issued last week’s decision in Newdow v. US Congress (the decision which ruled the “under God” part of the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional). I like when judges are seemingly unaffected by the public reaction to their legal rulings; for the most part, our legal system is supposed to care less about public opinion than it does about whether something is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

The pro se pleadings by Zacarias Moussaoui (the ostensible twentieth hijacker) are slowly being unsealed and released by the U.S. District Court in Eastern Virginia, and I’m fascinated by them. From the Motion to Stop Leona Brinkema DJ Playing Game With My Life to the Motion to Phone and Contact Freely The European Court of Justice, The European Parliament, The International Court of Justice, The British House of Common, The British High Court, The German Parliament, The German High Court, The Deutch Parliament, The Deutch High Court without the FBI Prosecution Listening and Reading My Communication, there’s a frenetic mania that virtually pours out of his handwritten pleas.

Examples: here, he argues strenuously that he should be allowed to enter a nolo contendere plea, despite apparently not understanding that such a plea is the functional equivalent of a guilty plea and would be one of the quickest ways for the government to get him into the death chamber. Here, he demands “certification” that no information about him was placed on the “National Computer Crime System,” a demand that’s repeated in a few other pleadings without much further explanation.

There are gems in all of the motions, and I’m finding that I check daily for new ones to be unsealed. This isn’t healthy, I tell you…

I’m not sure how I missed it, but thanks be to my brother for pointing out that Walter Dellinger and Dahlia Lithwick sat at Slate’s Breakfast Table last week. They discussed Atkins v. Virginia (in which the Supreme Court held that executions of mentally retarded people are cruel and unusual), the Ninth Circuit ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance, and Hispanic hitting streaks. Great stuff, it is. (For those who don’t know, Dellinger was Solicitor General from 1996 to 1997, and Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel for the three years prior to that; Lithwick is a Slate senior editor, writing their Supreme Court Dispatches and covering most other notable legal issues.)

I’ve gotta tell you, it’s freaky seeing the place you grew up, the highways you drove daily being totally overwhelmed with floodwater. I remember driving along 281 on the section that crosses the Olmos flood control basin, always wondering how water could possibly get high enough to cause trouble; the pictures on the news today made it a little clearer to me. As you’d expect, the local coverage has the best pictures.

Am I permitted to say “ditto”? Maybe not.

One year ago this past weekend, Shannon and I met face-to-face for the very first time. We had had a few months’ time talking before that — initially, in the geekiest of ways (email, AIM), and then on the phone into the latest hours of the night — but then she had to come to New York City to lay the foundations for her eventual move here, and that meant that we finally got to meet.

My memories of the weekend reflect my myriad of emotions at the time — the tension of the “what if she hates me!?!”, the happiness of “she really is as cute as she looks in her pictures!”, the intimidation of “wow, she’s smart”, and the sheer pleasure of “this is really, really comfortable.” My memories of the few months that passed between that weekend and our eventual decision to give a relationship a try are a lot blurrier — there was a great deal of hesitation, fear, and worry on both sides. My memories of the past ten months, though, are crystal-clear, and I couldn’t be happier that things have worked out. We’re both the same kind of dork, we’re better with each other around, and I can honestly say that I am happy.

Does anyone else get the sense that a lot of civil liberties are being rolled back in the name of the war on terrorism? Today’s example is the newly-proposed Homeland Security Department, which our President wishes to be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, as well as from Federal whistleblower protection laws.

As to the first sought exemption, it’s pretty clear that the FOIA already contains pretty strong precautions against the release of sensitive information. Quoting from House Report 106-050 (“A Citizen’s Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records”), emphasis added by me:

An agency may refuse to disclose an agency record that falls within any of the FOIA’s nine statutory exemptions. The exemptions protect against the disclosure of information that would harm national defense or foreign policy, privacy of individuals, proprietary interests of business, functioning of the government, and other important interests.

As to the second exemption, does anyone remember the fact that it was a whistleblower that brought to light the inadequacies of the current system? Allowing people to alert oversight committees when bureaucracy is getting in the way of actual work seems to be a good idea to me; after all, the protection only applies when the whistleblower alerts the Office of Special Counsel, not the general public, and one would hope that the OSC can then prevent anything that it deems sensitive from reaching the public.

We went and saw Y Tu Mamá También tonight, and I have to put it up there on my highly-recommended list. It’s pretty pornographic at times, and really crass at others, but thoroughly enjoyable. I only wish I knew better Spanish, since it was clear that there was a lot that went unsubtitled.

Scott Rosenberg has a pretty well-written column about the Pledge of Allegiance controversy, highlighting the relatively inane notion that the rights of Americans are derived from a grant by God, an idea being furthered by many of those who wish our children to be honoring the Judeo-Christian Supreme Being every morning. I mean, really — people with actual educations believe that rights, including the right to a free practice of any (or no) religion, were granted to us by the singluar head of a handful of specific religions? This honestly scares me, and the thought that these people are then in charge of creating logically-consistent laws (and amendments to the document explaining those rights) is even more frightening.

Another thing that scares me is all the posturing being done by all sides in Washington right now, and the fact that there isn’t a single Congressman (hell, a single politician anywhere!) who is willing to stand up and defend the Constitutional protection against state-enforced allegiance to religion. It’s enough to make you think it’s an election year…

Rabbit rabbit! (And with extra luck for my birth month…)

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?)

Sometimes, bullfighters win; other times, Darwin does. (For those of you who read Spanish, there are updates to the bullfighter’s condition on his home page. And since when did WorldLingo not allow Spanish-to-English translations?)

The New York Times has an insightful article about the current state of nursing affairs in the United States. The short form? Doctors should be pretty scared about how things look right now. Today, twelve percent of nursing positions are unfilled, and that number is growing; hospitals are resorting to aggressive recruiting measures just to make sure that inpatient wards are minimally staffed. From personal experience, I can attest to another problem — nurses in the big academic centers face tons of work and even more stress, and many of them are fleeing for the relative calm of suburban community hospitals, impacting clinical research and medical education. Hopefully, state and federal incentives are going to have an effect soon.

Are you looking to sublet a fabulous studio apartment here in NYC for the next three months? Know someone who needs to? It’s on the Upper West Side, in a nice and modern building, furnished, convenient to two subway lines (the 1/2/3 and the A/B/C/D), and is available from this weekend through the end of August.

Interested? Mail me, and I’ll fill you in on the rest.


Yeah, yeah, yeah — I may be late to jump onto the bandwagon, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there’s a kickin’ site, nycbloggers.com, that catalogs the swarm of webloggers that call New York City home. It’s well-done, and all the sites are broken down by subway line and stop, which is an awesome touch. Definitely check it out.

Inquiring minds have to ask: what was the verdict gonna be? (Update: Dan says that it was guilty!)

To finish off the day, I’ve got one more teaser picture from my Italy trip. (I plan to clean up and post all of my pictures sometime in the next few weeks; tidying over 200 pictures is time-consuming!)

replica of michaelangelo's david in the piazza signoria

Remember that great scene in Best in Show, when the inane dog show announcer asks if dogs from different countries speak in different languages? Well, it turns out that he may not be so inane — or at least that’s the case when it comes to birds. This totally explains why the dogs in Venice didn’t respond to me when I made goofy barking noises at them — they don’t understand my New York accent!

Congrats go out to Trish and Tony, padres muy orgullosos — Juliana is here! I cannot wait to go down to Washington D.C. to visit the little beauty…

For a while now, the post-September 11th news coverage has felt really stale to me, almost like it’s struggling to stay relevant to the here and now — what’s going on in Afghanistan, where Osama is thought to be, and coverage areas for new terror alerts. This weekend, though, the New York Times threw off the need for current relevance and published a deeply-researched and incredibly poignant retrospective into the 102 minutes that spanned initial impact to final collapse. “Fighting to Live as the Towers Died” is haunting, collecting accounts from survivors of the WTC alongside the phonecalls and emails from many of those who perished. There are some powerful interactive features on the website, as well — a chronology, a series of diagrams — with audio narration — that detail the areas in which most of the victims were trapped, and a set of transcripts of communications sent out from the two towers before they came down. The biggest sign to me of how good the coverage is lies in the fact that I haven’t gotten through it all yet; it brings back a lot of pain, and I have to dole that out over time.

Lydia Markoff tipped me off to a lawsuit that’s brewing in the world of medical education over the way that the residency matching process takes place. The issue is that residency positions are mostly filled in a match, in which there is no room for negotiation about wages or hours; in all the coverage I’ve read, it seems that most of the residents who were interviewed hate their equivalent hourly wage. My perspective is this: residency is part of my education, and I consider myself lucky that they’re paying me anything. Bitching and whining about how it all plays out is biting the hand that feeds you.

Due to the November settlement between Microsoft and some of the parties suing the company, there’ll be a Service Pack for Windows XP this summer that will introduce a few interesting options into the configuration of the operating system. News.com has a good article that explains the four new options that provide varying visibility to Microsoft “middleware” (Outlook Express, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, Windows Messenger, and even the Microsoft Java VM). Furthermore, there will also be an anti-piracy “fix” — all the people who are using a specific stolen corporate WinXP install key will be unable to install any future Service Packs, effectively freezing their machines at their current states of updates.

kitty on the field!

I don’t know why, but I love this picture. Maybe it’s the cat’s totally freaked-out appearance (which only a cat owner can appreciate); maybe it’s the mental image of the cat romping around on the outfield that it inspires. Or, of course, it could be that a cat with, well, white socks ran out onto the White Sox field. Who knows why, really, but I think it’s great.

Those of you that aren’t in the NYC metro area may not be exposed to that much of the controversy that surrounds the site of the World Trade Center, but rest assured that there is plenty. Time Magazine has a pretty good article right now that delves into much of it, and is correct in saying that the combination of the unthinkable that happened and the opportunity that lies ahead has brought out the visionary in everyone that’s even remotely involved.

It’s funny — despite all the various and sundry doomsday scenarios that people argue will come about due to genetic engineering and embryo manipulation, it wasn’t until I saw all the pictures of featherless chickens that I felt that maybe things have gone a bit too far. Those things are creeeepy…..

So, today is Match Day for my hematology/oncology fellowship, and I just found out… I got my first choice! I’ll be in New York for another year — for me, fellowship doesn’t start until July of 2003 — but after that, I’ll be moving to Boston!

Happy day!

Hey, Jason, couldn’t find a more appropriate forum for this — just thought you’d be interested, and wondered if any other medical residents or residents-to-be had any thoughts on it or were part of the class action:

Resident Physicians Ask Court for Relief
The National Law Journal
May 21, 2002

A class action antitrust suit is the latest skirmish in the long fight waged by doctors to improve their working conditions. The suit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., targets the National Resident Matching Program and organizations that participate in the program, charging they illegally conspired to eliminate competition in the recruitment, hiring and compensation of resident physicians.


Happy birthday to him, happy birthday to him, happy birthday dear Phil, happy birthday to him!

I’ve got to go to sleep and get my body back onto New York time, but in the mean time, I’ll share one of my favorite pictures from the vacation:

shannon in the window

Two transatlantic flights, two amazing cities, two dozen incredible meals, more wine than I can remember, more cappuccino than wine, 277 digital pictures, three rolls of film, and an engagement (not mine!).

We’re back! More later, when I get the Palazzo Levine in order.

Ummmm… you mean you didn’t check the new machine for the same vulnerabilities as the old one? Seems pretty, well, idiotic. [Extra five points to anyone who gets the reference…]

Dammitall! Shannon and I wanted to go see Spider-Man tonight, and in New York, it’s practically impossible to see a movie without buying your ticket ahead of time. So off I set this morning on my quest to get our tickets.

The largest chain of theaters in the city now uses Fandango for all their online purchases, and it’s impossible to get all the way through a purchase on their servers without getting either a “server too busy” or “could not process your request at this time” error. For phone purchases, the theater uses Tellme.com — but the phone system thinks that there are no theaters within 40 miles of New York City that are showing Spider-Man, thwarting that approach.

Looks like we won’t be seeing a movie tonight. Bummer.

I’m off to Italy on Sunday, for a long-anticipated and much-needed vacation. We’re spending a week in Florence and a week in Venice; I plan to eat and drink my way back to rest and relaxation. I can’t imagine I’ll check in here much; I will have my camera there, though, so you can expect a few pixies when I return. Now, does anyone know where I put my spare liver?

[UPDATE: This could put a cramp in our plans, at least on one day of the trip…]

I think it’s pretty damn cool that, despite not even having finished the cleanup down at the former site of the World Trade Center towers, the city has begun rebuilding the subway station destroyed in the collapse. Service all up and down the west side of Manhattan has been dodgy since the southern terminus of the 1 and 9 was left unreachable; it will be a welcome relief to get the Trade Center station open again.

In the next 27 hours and 10 minutes, I need to put together my final ranked list of places that I would like to do my pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship. It’s due tomorrow, by 11:59 PM; the programs all had to turn their lists in by tonight, and after all us applicants submit our ranks, the match computers start doing their thing. On May 22nd, the results are released, and I’ll find out where I will spend the three years after residency.

I’ve never really been an indecisive person; on this, though, decisiveness isn’t exactly nipping at my heels. I’ll probably just sleep on it, and tomorrow morning, certify my list and not look back.

So, as you can see, the machine is back on its feet, and a little dusty from the chaos.

(For those who missed it, the primary hard disk of the machine running this site died today, and it’s taken me all afternoon to get everything back up and running.)

Law.com has a great column up naming the ten judges who committed the most grievous offenses against their profession in 2001. It’s a funny read; I especially like the part about the guy who served as judge and prosecutor in a trial.

Wow — has it really been a year since Shannon read this, posted this, and wheedled her way into my life? smiley

Last night was a tough one in the neonatal ICU. I was on call, and over the course of the night, it seemed like every bad thing that could happen did happen. One super-premature infant (born at 26 weeks gestational age) started having bloody diapers, and it now looks like he has necrotizing enterocolitis. Another premie (30 weeks) with bad lung disease developed a pneumothorax and needed an urgent chest tube, as well as initiation of big-time cardiac support meds and inhaled nitric oxide. The obstetricians delivered a baby via emergent C-section and inflicted a 5-cm, down-to-the-bone laceration on the newborn’s scalp. A baby in the newborn nursery, who had had an arterial blood sample done just after being born, developed blue fingertips. A baby was transferred in from another hospital with horrendous lung disease, and needed bloods drawn every few hours and aggressive respiratory management. Everywhere I turned, there was a baby that needed intervention, and while I stayed on top of it all, I felt like I could be sucked under at any moment.

The nicest thing about hard nights on call is that, while the hits keep coming, it’s impossible to stop the clock. By 6:30 AM, one of my classmates was there to take over her kids; my other two teammates were there by 7:00, and the whole team was rounding at 8:00. By 10:30, I was out of the hospital, and by noon, I was soundly asleep in my bed.

Man, I haven’t been keeping up with my Dahlia. Last week, she had a great column about Hope v. Peltzer (a case in which a prisoner was cuffed to a hitching post for seven hours) highlighting Justice Scalia’s, ahem, personality. And a few weeks ago, Dahlia handicapped McCain-Feingold’s chances of getting past the Court. She’s still the best out there at distilling complex legal issues down to easier-to-understand arguments, and nobody comes close to her ability to bring out the real people that sit on high at the Supreme Court.

For future reference: using JavaScript and HTML to build a WYSIWYG webpage editor. (Of course, it only works in IE5/6, but it’s damn cool, and some neat programming to boot.) If I start writing my own content management system, this is guaranteed to be a part of it…

So, the solitude around here for the past few days has been enlightening, in that I’ve learned that New York’s premiere telco still doesn’t have its shit together.

My T1 went down at 12:53 PM Eastern yesterday, and my ISP’s automated trouble system immediately noted it and generated a ticket to their networking group. It was quickly determined that the problem was between me and them — in other words, in Verizon’s territory. Verizon did some testing, said they fixed it, then when it wasn’t fixed, did more testing and eventually determined that they’d have to come here to check out this end of the circuit. The only problem with this was that it all was determined at 9:30 PM, and by the time that they got the dispatchers to look at the ticket, they claimed that it was too late to dispatch for a repair. (This was despite my ostensible 24/7 service contract.) So they were set up to come this afternoon, when Shannon could be here to let them in.

They came this afternoon, and within an hour, determined that another Verizon tech had stolen one of the cable pairs that makes up the T1 to use in another line. The kicker? The tech said that they’ll never be able to figure out who did it. Yep, that’s right — they know that it happened at 12:53 PM, and they know which pair was involved, but their records aren’t good enough to determine who it was that caused a 30-hour outage on a T1.


In one of the surest signs that spring has sprung, there was a street fair outside my building today (and, like a dumbass, I didn’t get a capture from my webcam). Shannon and I were able to take a two-hour break and play a little; we got faux-cheese nachos, pad thai, fresh corn, and a few little necessities. Shannon was also able to take unknowing advantage of my total love for street fairs and coax a new necklace out of me — I’m such a sucker when her wearing pretty shiny things is the potential outcome. smiley:

If you’re looking to set up secure (SSL-encrypted) access to your Linux mail servers — like I was, tonight — you may find the following three pages of immense use:

And remember — if you’re setting up your machine to have an SSL pathway to the SMTP server (the mail-sending server), then you’ll want to make sure to set up your access restrictions again, since the sendmail anti-relay stuff doesn’t apply to connections coming in via stunnel on the same machine.

(WOW, that was all geeky of me.)

I don’t get it. When people started sharing music and software over the Internet, depriving artists, authors, and companies the money that — whether you agree with the price or not — they have the right to charge, did they really not see coming efforts by those same groups to protect and enforce their rights?

Don’t get me wrong; I can’t even begin to support the heavyhanded way that the SSSCA infringes on some already-present rights (like fair use and backups). I can, however, support the more general premise behind both WPA and the SSSCA — that reliance on the general law-abiding behavior of people has been a miserable failure, and that something is going to have to fill that breach.

pMachine could very possibly be the new weblog publishing tool that I’ve been looking for. I’ll try to download it over the weekend, and kick the tires a bit. (Thanks, Derek, for pointing it out!)

How about another disclaimer, Dave — that using the Radio outliner to manipulate Manila directories has a longstanding bug that Userland hasn’t fixed?

Cory Doctorow has a great response to the Author’s Guild call for a member boycott of Amazon over its aggressive integration of used book sales into the Amazon bookselling site. It’s a short read, and well worth the time.

How is a supercolony of ants stretching thousands of miles not one of the coolest things ever? (There’s a CNN story here, for when the Yahoo one expires.) I mean, we’re talking about a total society of ants; they probably have little areas that they think of as cities, and others that are vacation spots.

I can just see them chattering back and forth: “Take Intercolony 95 north, and you’ll want to take exit 42 to Fern Mound. Best. Leaves. EVER.”

I’m off to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore tomorrow, for my very last fellowship interview before I have to rank all the programs and commit myself to fate’s hand. I have to wake up at the crack of the middle of the !@#*%& night to catch my train, due to excessive laziness on my part leading to all the convenient trains being sold out; my train reading was delivered yesterday, though, so it’s not as bad as it could be. (Update: Shannon, in her infinite wisdom, recommended that I keep checking the Amtrak site to see if the later trains opened up… and one did! so instead of the crack of the middle of the night, I now leave on the edge of the crack of the beginning of the morning. Whew!)

Wish me luck!

Reading this article about New Jersey trying to make the Catholic Church share some culpability for priests who engage in sexual abuse, the only thing I could think about was: you mean New Jersey has a friggin’ law that prevents charities from having to take responsibility for knowingly hiring sexual abusers? That’s disturbing.

“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally-important groups — the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”

If you, like me, can recite that entire preamble from memory, then you’ll enjoy Molly Haskell’s NYT article, “A ‘Law and Order’ Addict Tells All.” (You’ll probably want to hit that link soon, since it’s from last Sunday, and thus, will fall into the pay archive soon.)

“I actually think cheating is good. A person who has an entirely honest life can’t succeed these days.”

— quote from CNN’s recent article on the rise of cheating in high schools, and disgustingly, it appears that the speaker’s now in the majority.

If you (like me) find yourself in the market for a new DVD player, and (like me) want to know what all the “progressive scan” hoo-hah is about, look no further than Don Munsil and Brian Florian’s progressive scan primer. Replete with examples, hypotheticals, and illustrations galore, it’s a great reference, and it helped me understand why my new DVD player should support the feature.

Network Solutions seems to have illegitimately yanked hoopla.com out from under Leslie Harpold, and now, four days later, have yet to reinstate her as its proper holder. Really, could NetSol be any worse at what it does? How can there be people who don’t quake in constant fear that the company controls a huge chunk of the net?

With much prodding, I finally got the pictures from my trip down to Washington, D.C. last weekend online.

I’ve just gotta go on record and say that I had no idea that Wired — I’m talking about the made-from-dead-trees magazine here, rather than the website — had gone back to publishing legitimately good articles. The April 2002 issue is an absolute keeper, with an awesome Bruce Sterling piece on the militarization of space, a look at the way a simple manual water pump has changed the face of Kenya, and Steve Silberman’s glance inside the mind of Oliver Sacks. It’s worth finding a copy on the newsstand, if only for the illustrations that go along with Sterling’s piece.

Interesting — this post on Sean Gallagher’s site (about hypocritical asses who question everything that other people do but don’t tolerate even the most casual of glances at the propriety of what they themselves do) used to have comments, but they somehow got dropped into the ether. Naturally, I find myself wondering who did the dropping…

I have a very hard time understanding Microsoft’s wanton desire to completely ignore my preferences every time a security update to Windows Messenger is released, and reinstate the “Run this program when Windows starts” option despite me having explicitly turned it off. It’s really, really annoying. (And, of course, the “Contact Us” link that is provided on the Windows Messenger help pages doesn’t work…)

Matt Frondorf, a photographer and engineer, pointed a camera out the passenger window of a Ford Explorer, hooked the camera’s shutter release up to the odometer, and started driving from the Statue of Liberty (well, near it in New Jersey) to San Francisco. Every mile, the camera took a picture, resulting in 3,304 images that form mile markers for a cross-continental journey. It’s a pretty cool idea, and some of the images are beautiful.

It’s funny, though — as cool as this is, it happened at least three years ago, and the site’s been around for equally as long (although the Wayback Machine only has entries starting in August of 2000). I wonder what recently sparked everyone’s fancy.

Think you know wireless? Sure, a lot of you probably know the difference between 802.11b and 802.11a, but do you know what 802.11g is? How about 802.11e? Don’t worry, Glenn Fleishman’s got your back; he has a good summary of each spec, and the progress made on each, in his 802.11 Task Group Update over at O’Reilly. It’s worth a read, if only to check the status of standardized higher speed equipment, and see where things stand with implementing actual security over wireless.

There’s another good story over at CNet about the (pretty moronic) FCC petition filed by Sirius and XM Satellite Radio that proposes new limits on the stray interference caused by wireless networks. At issue is the fact that the two satellite radio systems transmit on a bandwidth very near that used by the 2.4 GHz wireless network standard (otherwise known as 802.11b, or WiFi), and the makers are worried that the networking equipment will cause enough interference to prevent the satellite radios from succeeding.

As is typical, though, my sense is that this is an issue of a company being pissed that their business model isn’t succeeding due to circumstances that they didn’t take into effect. You can see that in two big problems with the FCC petition: the companies are demanding a lower emission limit for others than they themselves are limited to, and the limit that they propose is actually 8 dB below the thermal noise floor (roughly meaning that the interference that results from random thermal noise in the environment is greater than what they are proposing WiFi manufacturers be limited to).

Really, if popup ads weren’t enough, now we’re going to have to deal with popup downloads? I would say that a general uprising of disgust by the web community would put and end to this kind of thing, but I suspect it wouldn’t, given that popup ads are not only alive, but present on a ton of otherwise respectable sites these days. Mozilla has an option to prevent the ads, but since I haven’t found a site with the downloads, I don’t know how it deals with them; it’s about time for Internet Explorer to follow suit, though.

I’ve been pretty quiet about all the recent problems that I (and one of my employers) have encountered with Frontier, the application upon which this site is built, mainly because I felt that Userland should have a chance to fix the problems and return to the entire world of supporting a core product of theirs. However, I now find myself in the position where the two Userland people who were helping me have both been let go, and the President and COO of Userland has told me that his company can offer us no more support (that perhaps I should “consider another system to accomplish [my] programming goals or a consultant”).

I’ve talked about moving off of Frontier and Manila before; I think that if I take this entire situation, and add it to Userland’s current focus on another of their products to the near exclusion of all support and maintenance of Frontier and Manila, it’s hard to argue against a move. (Of course, this is where I wish I had more time to actually figure it all out.)

(Personally, I love the “consider a consultant” statement, since I would probably consider myself a pretty strong Frontier/Manila programmer, and on top of that, I don’t know how much anyone outside of Userland can do to fix actual, crashing bugs in the Frontier application itself. I also love how much the Cluetrain that Userlanders talk about so much applies here — specifically, numbers 76 through 79.)

Very, very cool: British doctors have combined gene therapy and bone marrow transplantation to cure 18 month-old Rhys Evans of SCID. (SCID is a disease wherein both forms of lymphocytes — the heavy lifters of the immune system — are defective as a result of a single genetic defect, causing the need to live in total, sterile isolation from the rest of the world due to an inability to fight infection.)

Diseases like SCID are perfect for this form of potential cure; the defect originates in cells produced by the bone marrow, and since doctors have been performing bone marrow transplants for decades, using gene therapy to correct the defect in a small population of cells and then replacing the defective marrow with the corrected cells is as close to a cure as you can get. In the coming months to years, we should be hearing about attempts to use the technique for other diseases that are similarly terrific candidates, the largest of which is sickle cell disease.

Boxes and Arrows currently has an interesting article up about how Usability.gov came into being. It turns out that the site (that I’ve mentioned before) originated in the redesign of CancerNET (now Cancer.gov); the designers collected everything that they could find which offered real data on usability, and conducted a great deal of testing on their own, in order to base the site’s new look on more than just their own feelings of what should go where. They then collected all that evidence into one place, Usability.gov. It’s now one of the only places that webdesigners and information architects can find actual evidence-based guidelines on design, and probably should be on every web designer’s bookmark page.

Whew, I’m glad that New Mexico cleared that one up! (For those looking to view the New Mexico governor’s actual press release, it’s also available.) [Thanks to Shannon for the heads-up.]

Just as a preemptive warning: I just discovered that my ISP, who provides the T1 that serves this site and a bunch of others, is in Chapter 11. I am investigating the details of the situation, including what would be involved in moving the T1 elsewhere; I’ll keep y’all informed.

(I just did a little bit of searching, and it turns out that this has been going on for a few months now. I need to stay better-informed of what’s going on with my ISP!)

Shannon and I ran away to Washington D.C. this weekend for a well-deserved bit of rest and relaxation (pictures to come), and we both were able to take the new Acela Express train back to New York (her yesterday, me tonight). Looking out the window, I didn’t think that we could be going that much faster than the normal train, but getting a glimpse at the engineer’s control screen and seeing 115 MPH in big, bold letters made me happy. Zoom zoom!

(I also realized that, in the current air travel atmosphere, you’d be nuts to take the airline shuttles along the Northeast corridor; the train takes three hours, the stations are all right in the hearts of the big cities, you don’t have to get to the train station 90 minutes early, and the seats are way more comfortable.)

Today, I got unsolicited email to the address I used for my SXSW registration. The message — from an organization that I otherwise trust — said that my address was culled from the SXSW attendee directory with their permission, which seems to be against both the stated policy of the registrant directory and the spirit of the privacy policy. Makes me a lot less interested in giving them any reliable information about myself next year; it’s sad that an organization that’s supposed to get it can’t even respect basic privacy wishes.

Another week, another fellowship program looked at and added to the list of places to drool over. In all honesty, I’ve now been to six programs, and four of them are so amazing that I only have a faint glimmer of an idea of how to begin processing them into a final rank list. Like I’ve said before, though: I consider myself pretty fortunate to be in this position, and I’ll probably be happy at any of the hospitals.

The other morning, while I was getting ready for my interview in Houston, one of the morning news shows had on a bereaved widow of the September 11th attacks, talking about her goal of preventing anything from being built on the former site of the World Trade Center towers. I immediately dismissed her quest as pretty unrealistic; later in the day, though, my brain returned to the idea, and for the past week, I’ve been batting around the reasons why it would never happen.

New York City has a history of impermanence. Limited by land, but unlimited by goals and desires, the city is caught in a quandary — the need for growth without the room for growth. To deal with it, New York continually demolishes the old and builds in its place — the glorious old Penn Station was replaced by Madison Square Garden, the Singer Tower made way for One Liberty Plaza, the Polo Grounds became low-income housing, the Murray Hill Reservoir was drained and the New York Public Library arose. Sentiment lives on in the pages of historical texts, while the real estate moves on.

Good or bad, this quality is part of the very fabric of this city. To not rebuild would be against all that New York has stood for in its history; to return the land to use, to begin establishing roots in the ground of Battery Park that will give rise to the return of daily life, would keep true to the spirit of the millions who have passed through this island over the centuries and would serve as the ultimate monument to those who lost their lives that day.

I had a great experience on my flight tonight. I was in the second-to-last row, and for most of my flight, I put on my noise-cancelling headphones, listened to a little Chuck Lives, and buried my head in geekreading. About 30 minutes from NYC, my rowmate asked me about the book I was reading, and we began a nice conversation — until I finally noticed the obnoxious guy behind us. My rowmate explained that he had been blathering on for the whole flight, each boast bigger than the last, and each statement more laced with sexual undertones than the last. By landing, there was a clan of us in the last four rows who were all rolling our eyes, gritting our teeth, and within inches of beating him about the head and neck with the in-flight magazine.

Which then led to quite a surprise on all our faces when he stood up, and we noticed a well-thumbed copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People in his back pocket.

There’s a thread over at SXSWbaby that’s worth a read. It began with a complaint about the ostensible male whiteness of the panelists (huh?), and led to a discussion about disadvantage and access to the web on a more general level. And despite the predictible reactionary blather, the thread also resulted in a few terrific contributions by people who I have grown to respect immensely over the years, and who I finally met at SXSW.

I could not be happier about Megnut: the column. Why? I think for the same reasons that Meg herself states — that it’s the natural evolution for a person who writes well in snippets, but clearly enjoys (and has a lot to offer in) the longer, more researched format. (It doesn’t hurt, of course, that her first column expresses a lot of the feelings that I had about the panels at SXSW this year but wasn’t able to express.)

One thing I dislike with a passion: slow dialup.

A few things I like with something approaching a passion: Google, which is still damn quick on slow dialup; pine, which lets me quickly read my mail on slow dialup; WinXP Remote Desktop, which is still usable over slow dialup.

I’m off to Memphis today, for yet another fellowship interview. It’s a short trip — I come back tomorrow — but the hospital and the program that I’m visiting are, by all accounts, so amazing that people tell me I’d be doing myself a disservice by not going. So off I go!

Does anyone know any history behind the domain name atwola.com? It’s owned by AOL Time Warner, and every time that you go to a bunch of sites (CNN and Barnes & Noble among them), banner ads and whatnot are loaded from a host named ar.atwola.com. Every time my browser hangs while trying to load the data from that machine, I try to figure out where the domain name comes from. What does “atwola” mean? Why aren’t they just using some aol.com hostname? I don’t get it.

Maybe I just have too much time on my hands. smiley:

Cool — there is now photographic proof (times two!) that I sat up in front of a roomful of strangers (well, and newly-minted friends) at Fray Cafe and told my story.

Buried in MSNBC’s article about today’s cut of travel agent commissions by American and Continental is the following quote: “An official with one of the largest corporate travel management firms accused airlines of seeking an unfair hidden price advantage over travel agents.” Am I missing something, or does the word “unfair” not really fit here? Of course the airlines should have a price advantage over travel agents — they’re selling their own freakin’ product!

Generally, a producer can sell its own product cheaper than a reseller can; that’s why resellers usually have to add value, and hope that consumers recognize the added value (in the case of travel agents, examples would be more thorough fare searches or entire-trip planning) and are willing to pay for it. Travel agencies are understandably worried, though; with the disappearance of the commissions, and the ease with which people can plan every aspect of their own trips online, the ways in which agents can add value are shrinking.

I’m finding it very hard to understand why this story appears on the BBC News website. It’s about a 15 year-old Welsh girl who appeared to have some form of chronic fatigue-like syndrome; the article claims that it was due to her dental braces, which “played havoc with the teenager’s immune system by effectively blocking passages which allow vital fluid to circulate around her brain and body.” Yep, I shit you not— the braces blocked passages which allow vital fluid to circulate around her brain and body. Huh? (Clue #1, by the way: not a single quote from an actual medical source.)

I have always thought of the BBC as a pretty damn respectable news organization; I guess the bar’s not as high as I had figured. (Thanks to Alwin for the heads-up on the link.)

I added it to my ever-evolving page of SXSW 2002 people and links, but I felt that Anil’s meandering list of non sequiturs deserved its own front-page treatment, as well. The man’s a master of simultaneous understatement and exaggeration; he also is the master of the quasi-hidden references, and for what lies beneath, I couldn’t be happier.

If you’ve ever had to use FedEx’s godawful web-based shipment system, you’ve probably come close to putting a stapler through your monitor. You’ll probably also be interested in knowing that the fine folks at 37signals feel the same way, and as a result, have put up a proposed redesign of the shipment form as a promotional for their work. Take a look; even if you’ve never used FedEx for online shipment prep, it’s worth seeing how simple interfaces can contain complex logic and good functionality.

Anil introduced me to one of the greatest little bookmarklets while I was in Austin — the show HTML comments bookmarklet.

So, given that I got about 12 hours of sleep last night (while on call!), I spent most of today writing a new system to view comments here. Below each home page post, there’s a new “Comment” link (replacing the old Discuss link), which will take you to a pop-up window where you can jot off your remarks about whatever drivel I’ve written. You still have to log in — or create an account, and then log in — in order to participate; that’s something that would take a little more effort to work around with my software.

I still have a few things to tweak (like letting you log in from the comment page, rather than jumping to the login page and then back), but I’d be happy to hear any comments about what people like and don’t like with the new system.

Derek has the audio from Fray Cafe 2 up — it’s worth a listen if you’ve got some time on your hands. I wish that it was available in some non-RealAudio format, though; it seems like the perfect thing to throw onto a CompactFlash card and listen to with my MP3 player on the subway. (I also wish that my voice didn’t sound so much different to the outside world as it does inside my head!)

Any resident will tell you that there are a few days that are particularly memorable in a given year of their training. There’s the first night on call on a new service, and the first time that a patient dies; there’s also match day (when it becomes official that an entire new group of medical students has been chosen to become interns at your program, allowing you to advance another year).

Pediatrics residents have another added day, though: the day that it becomes clear that winter has ended. On this day, the frenetic pace of admissions and discharges melts away, and — gasp! — there are empty beds in the hospital. Likewise, we have a chance to sit down once or twice, and maybe even learn something about our patients. While I was in Texas, winter ended here in New York, and I couldn’t be happier.

I doubt that my hospital’s unique in the fact that we have an intranet; I hope that we’re unique in that the home page of the intranet website has recently starting making extensive use of the <blink> tag. (Of course, all that does is make me eagerly anticipate the introduction of a few <marquee>s in the coming weeks.) Really, with the apparent glut in jobs in the website production world, you’d think that they could hire someone who knew something — anything — about visual design; I guess not.

There’s a new entrant in the free wireless network space, Sputnik, and they’re just interesting enough that they could shake things up. They make software that will turn any computer with wireless and network access into a wireless gateway, and includes a firewall and authentication; their apparent goal is to ultimately produce boxes that are just plug-and-go and would serve as “picocell” access points to a free global network.

Interesting concept, with a lot of problems but also a lot of potential.

And, in addition to the link page, I’ve finally gotten around to putting up my SXSW 2002 photos. They’re sort of random; there are whole blocks of time that I appear to have forgotten that I had my camera with me. Sorry ‘bout that!

I’ve started gathering notes and links from SXSW; the page will evolve a little bit as I find more, and as I remember people and things that I’ve already forgotten. The short version, though, is that it was awesome, I finally put faces (and personalities) to a lot of names, and I had a great time.

Hey, look! Yet another feature that Manila users could implement on their own if only Userland would give us a macro that the Radio people have had pretty much forever. (Wow, actually, there are two such features in one day!)

SXSW was a total blast this year, despite the fact that I had to leave early for a fellowship interview. This page is just some scribblings, mostly as a reference for myself — people I met, pictures that other people took, presentations that people did, that sorta thing. It’ll evolve as I find more and remember more.

People: (in no particular order)

These are all people that I met at some point (whether it was during kickball, or while imbibing in the lobby of the Omni). For most, I was just happy to finally put faces to their names; it was awesome to get to know quite a few of them a little more than that, and start some good friendships.


A lot of people have already put up their photo pages from SXSW; these are the ones that I’ve found. I’ll update the list as I find more, or as people put up their pix. (Of course, if you find some that I’ve omitted or not found yet, feel free to mail me with the links.)


These are links to presentation-type stuff. Some of it pertains to panels and conference stuff, other links are to artistic things that happened at night. It’s all good.


These are just things that people wrote on their sites — either during SXSW or after they got home — that I liked.

Wow — with today being the first day of the Tribute in Light and my post about it earlier this week, Google has sent a lot of love my way today; welcome to all the people who’ve clicked through to the home page! Hope you enjoy your stay…

At my first sight of the National Guardsmen in at Laguardia Airport in New York last Friday, I suddenly realized that this trip is my first time on an airplane since September 11th. While on the plane, I tried to keep it out of my mind — that shudder of the airframe was just turbulence, that man standing up and walking to the front just needs to use the restroom — but it was always bubbling just underneath the surface. Changing planes in Dallas, though, it wasn’t hard for it poke right up into my consciousness, since all the National Guardsmen here in Texas are carring their M-16s right across their chests, the American terminal was empty (where it used to be full of people waiting to meet flights), and things just felt palpably more…. tense.

Today’s the six-month mark after the attacks, and it’s fitting that I’m traveling; it’s one way to force me to think about what happened, make it a little more personal, and remember everyone and everything that was lost that day. Nobody can seriously say that America was innocent before that day, but in looking back, it’s clear how much more innocent we were, and how much has changed in our daily lives. Thinking about the past six months is still sobering, it’s still thought-provoking, and it still has the ability to completely overwhelm me.

I’m sitting in the Austin airport right now, leaving SXSW early (insert big frowny face here), thinking about the last panel that I sat in on today. Steven Champeon talked about non-traditional web design, but it wasn’t design in the sense that everyone talks about — he was talking about true design, from the back end all the way to the user experience, including the structure of a site, the storage system that holds the site’s text and image and whatnot, and the way that that raw data flows from that system out to the user as a palatable document.

At some point in the 75 minutes, I started wondering if I was outgrowing the system that I’ve set up — Manila, with a few custom extensions and whatnot — and how I could go about both setting up a new one and get my data into it. Userland seems to be making a clear move towards Radio, with features that aren’t in Manila (and that it isn’t clear will be in Manila), but that I want in order to implement some of my ideas. Maybe it’s time to start programming my own; we’ll see.

I’m having a great time in Austin, but alas, I’ve got to leave early tomorrow, to make my way to Houston for another fellowship interview. I’ll try to catch up here when I get to my hotel tomorrow evening; there are some good pictures hanging out on my camera, and some cool events to talk about.

Danger, Will Robinson; there’s a fake Microsoft Security Update making the viral email rounds. You’d be well-served by not running it (since Microsoft never, ever, ever sends out security updates as attachments), and best-served by running a good antivirus app with frequent and comprehensive updates.

Could it be more obvious that Sammie wants to join me on my Texas trip this weekend? (Click on the image for a wider-framed version, if you’re so inclined…)

[Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.]

I hate when people in the hospital abuse the fact that I, as a pediatrician, am much more interested in making sure that the right thing gets done than they are, and shirk their own jobs knowing that I’ll come along behind them and make sure that some family or child doesn’t get hurt by their brevity.

Last night, I spend an hour talking to a family about their five-week-old baby, answering their concerns and walking them through what was done to their child. What was the problem with this? The child was a neurosurgery patient, and as a pediatrician, I’m definitively not the right person to be doing this. But the neurosurgery resident spent no more than two minutes in their room — most of which was spent suturing a leaking wound that he initially insisted couldn’t have been an issue — and the parents got the sense that he felt overwhelmingly bothered by their questions. So as the pediatrician covering the neurology service overnight, I went by to see how they were doing, and ended up leaving an hour later.

(This morning, I was glad to learn that at least a little good came of it all. The chairman of pediatric neurosurgery came by our morning rounds to ask “who’s Jason?”; it turns out that the family had told him that the only person to actually spend time with them had been me, and that while the rest of his staff didn’t represent him well, at least there was a pediatric resident who made up for it. That made me smile a little. smiley: )

Being that I’m rooming with the poor schlepp at SXSW, how can I resist this temptation?

Mike Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, has announced that on March 11th, the Tribute in Light memorial will start shining. It will be 616,000 watts of light, pointing upwards from just next door to the original site of the World Trade Center towers; it’s a derivation of the Phantom Towers idea that graced the cover of the New York Times Magazine the week after the attacks.

I can’t stand it when I go to a website to get information about some computer product, click on Products, and then am asked to choose whether the thing I’m looking for is for home or office use. (Example of the day: Hewlett-Packard’s handheld and PocketPC page.) Does this distinction have any meaning for most computer products? Are there really explicit criteria that differentiate a home handheld computer from an office one? What about desktop and laptop computers? Antivirus software?

The very nature of the products means that any of them can (and will) be used in pretty much any environment, and as such, trying to shoehorn them into meaningless cubbyholes makes users less able to find the information they need, and ultimately, less likely to spend their money on them.

I need me a good CompactFlash MP3 player.

I have a ton of CF cards, because of my camera; I want a good MP3 player that can use ‘em, so that I don’t have to keep track of a billion kinds of different media cards. I currently have a Frontier Labs Nex II, but it’s buggy — it randomly freezes, and skips a lot when I use MicroDrives. I have kept the data page for the e.Digital MXP-100 bookmarked, but haven’t pulled the trigger, mostly because I know nothing about it from actual users. And Anil tells me (possibly tongue-in-cheek) that the only obvious choice is an HP Jornada.

Does anyone have any ideas?

It’s a well-established (and well-known) fact that the risk of chromosonal defects (like Down’s syndrome) increases with increasing maternal age. A Spanish research lab is now reporting that the same fact holds true for increasing paternal age; it’s the first time that this has been demonstrated. (That sound you just heard was a billion men startled by hearing their own biological clock ticking for the very first time.)

How many people really wish that this Microsoft Knowledge Base article really existed? It’d be nice to be able to email it back to certain groups of people…

Oh my, what a good entry. I hope that the dog learns to trust someone, and if she has puppies learns to trust them to that someone, too.

I’m back from Boston, after what felt like a whirlwind trip — on a train at 7:30 PM Thursday, arrival at 11:45 PM, immediately to sleep, awake and at the hospital by 9:30 AM, interviewing until 5:00 PM, dinner with an old friend and his girlfriend until 8:30 PM, and then back on a train, arriving back at Shannon’s at 2:00 AM Saturday morning. Then, tack onto the end: back awake at 7:45 AM, in my own hospital at 9:00 AM, on call overnight and until 10:15 AM this morning — I’m beat. But the interviews went really well, and I’m starting to feel excited about the entire process of becoming a fellow. (Of course, it’s not until July 2003, so there’s a bit of time between now and then!)

I’m off to Beantown, on a just-over-24-hour trip for another interview. The sad thing is, the part I’m most looking forward to is the train ride, since it’s a guaranteed four hours in each direction when Shannon and I can just sit back and relax, without any question of having to rush around and get stuff done.

I can only imagine the havoc that a water-cooled laptop computer is capable of wreaking.

I happened upon a hosting service catering to weblogs today, and was happy to see that one of the people behind it is a certain working mom. Blogomania looks to be a good deal — a hosted MovableType (or GreyMatter) site, a decent amount of disk space and transfer bandwidth, and both access to raw and processed log information, all for not a lot of money. All this is to say: if you’re in the market, you may want to check them out.

This has been a good week.

Back in mid-January, I applied to ten fellowship programs. Yesterday, I heard from the tenth; I got interviews at all of them, and now, I need to start deciding if I feel good enough to cancel any of the interview trips, or if I should just go and be dazzled by them all. It’s a good decision to have to make; I had absolutely no concept that I’d be in the position to do so, and I’ve been walking around with a huge grin on my face for the past few days because of it.

Yesterday, I was in my clinic, and was pleasantly surprised to see a patient on my schedule that I haven’t seen in a few months. He looked great — you’d never know that he spent a week of his first month of life in a pediatric ICU with an RSV pneumonia that nearly killed him. I was even happier to hear that, despite plans to move to the central Bronx, his parents have no plans to start taking him to another pediatrician.

Lastly, even though it’s only for 24 hours, Shannon and I are getting away tomorrow night, to go to Boston for my second interview. I’ll see an old friend, visit an amazing hospital, and spend two relaxing train rides reading and dozing. Should be nice.

What is real? (415) 564-1347.

Pretty high on the list of fears for infertile couples must be finding out that the donor of the sperm or egg has recently been found to have a late-onset hereditary disease.

The more I read about the upcoming Shuttle mission, the cooler it sounds. The official goal of the mission is to perform routine maintenance and repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope, but nothing about the flight is routine — there will be five spacewalks, each lasting over six hours, and when finished, the Hubble will have entirely new solar arrays. It’ll also have a new camera (with over 10 times the resolving power as the old one), a new cooling system to revive the long-dormant infrared camera, and a new power unit. That last one is the cause of the greatest complexity; in order to replace the old unit, the Hubble will have to be powered completely down, for the first time ever. (Quietly, engineers are holding their breath, hoping that the telescope powers back up without incident.)

Oh, great — just when I was getting all comfortable and crap with the current DVD standard, along comes a new one. The nine big tech companies have come to a tentative agreement on the Blu-Ray standard, which will increast the capacity of DVDs sixfold, and allow faster playback and easier computer recording. The only thing that will remain the same between today’s DVDs and Blu-Ray discs is the size; given the upsides of the change, though, I’m not complaining too much.

If Microsoft were to release an operating system with a built-in mail server that allowed anyone, including spammers, to relay mail through it, we wouldn’t hear the end of it. If someone else — say, Apple — were to do the same, we would barely hear a peep.

I’m the first to admit that, sitting here in the middle of NYC, I started tuning out the news about anthrax pretty early, maybe in a fit of denial. Because of that, I found the New Scientist’s catch-up article on everything that’s happened in the anthrax investigation pretty enlightening. For instance, I didn’t know that it’s now a definitive fact that the anthrax came from the U.S. military strain; I also didn’t know that the army has continued to produce weaponized anthrax. The investigation is ongoing, and in part hinges on the development of techniques to allow the differentiation of the strains of anthrax at each of the dozen U.S. research facilities (which all derive from the same one). At each stage, though, it’s become clear that nobody was prepared to investigate something like this, and we may end up having to rely on the very institutions for protection which were compromised and allowed the anthrax release to occur in the first place.

I could easily spend hours and hours of amazed bliss staring at Scott Kim’s various visual inversions. Each link in his gallery is another example of an amazing blend of visual design, symmetry, and even trickery to produce damn cool results. No, really — go take a look, it’s worth the time. [via MeFi]

Wow — I honestly had no idea that anyone still had hope for recovering the black boxes from the two flights that hit the World Trade Center towers. It’s hard to imagine that they’re really going to be found.

So, tomorrow holds in store my first fellowship interview. Eeeep!

So, there’s been a small wouldn’t-even-conflate-it-to-a-redesign here tonight; it was inspired by being very tired, but knowing that if I went to sleep early, I’d wake up at 3 AM totally wired. Of course, there are a few issues still outstanding:

  • I think that I want to make the background a nice neutral gray — #CCCCCC, to those of you in the know — but two opinions tell me it’s a no-go. So meanwhile, I borrowed Tigerbunny’s background, which looks pretty nice.
  • Why does Mozilla put a few pixels of extra space below the logo at the top right? I’ve already spent more time than I care to admit trying to fix it; I need to do a smidgen more research, and then maybe I’ll file a bug report. Another Mozilla oddity — the non-collapsed borders around the logo and in the calendar and membership box — seems to already have been reported.
  • I’m sorta going to miss the big background Q; I’m already wondering how to incorporate something resembling it into this layout.

Hang in there, Jan and Keith (and most importantly, Zeke!) — RSV is a nasty disease, but with good care, it’ll pass and Zeke will get right back to normal (which, of course, is eating, sleeping, and pooping — what else do one-month-olds do?!?). And rest assured that he’s not just getting good care; at Children’s, he’s getting great care. (Actually, one of my med school classmates may be his doctor in the ICU!)

Dahlia Lithwick has another great column covering the Supreme Court, this time recounting the oral arguments in HUD v. Rucker. It’s an interesting case about the fairness of federal housing rules that state that any drug use, by a tenant or a guest “under the tenant’s control,” will lead to eviction. At issue are four elderly tenants who were evicted, all due to use of drugs by others who were arguably under control of nobody; the kicker of the column is Dahlia’s list of “The 10 Best Ways To Lose the Most Sympathetic Case in History.”

colored chicks on display

OK, there are some things in this world that are just plain wrong, and I’d say that displays full of green, pink, red, blue, and purple chicks firmly fits into that category. Luckily (for the chicks), the dyed down is replaced by normal baby plumage in about two weeks, so they won’t grow up looking like complete freakshows.

Given that Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue cover is already up on the Yahoo most-emailed photo list despite a clear embargo until later this morning, methinks that Yahoo’s news department needs to work on abiding by the restrictions that are placed on stuff they get over from the news service wires. In all actuality, they are usually pretty good; I wonder how this one slipped through…

There’s little that makes me smile in the ongoing battle between AOL and Trillian, but I have to admit I giggled a little bit when I read this transcript of an AOL live tech support session. In response to AOL’s banning of Trillian, a bunch of people have made their websites inaccessible to anyone using AOL for service; one such person decided to contact AOL, pretending to be an unaware user and asking why he couldn’t get to those sites. Of course, the tech support person turned out to be clueless; it’s just funny seeing that cluelessness onscreen.

Interesting; there’s now an open-source project to develop a Terminal Services client for Linux. (For those who aren’t technically-inclined, it will let Linux users connect to a Windows server and see the desktop of the machine, with all their apps, just like they were sitting in front of it.) Of course, there’s already a good Java client out there that I recommend highly; this just adds to the options available on Linux.

Sorry about the “Unable to reach the server” messages you’ve been getting if you’ve tried to visit me the past three mornings; my Manila server has become a bit crashy this week. I hope to work it out soon.

UPDATE: in an effort to help things out, I’m doing a total reinstall of the server that hosts Manila. You may notice some minor blips here and there, but for the most part, I was able to move my Manila sites to another server for the mean time.

Hmmmmm…. I wonder if this decision’s gonna get appealed. It’s reading crap like this that makes me proud to be a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is now on-record as supporting same-sex parents. Despite the opinions of the justices (one of whom is well-known for other religious-right fanaticism), there’s now pretty good evidence that children reared by gay parents aren’t freaks, nor are they sociopaths; they’re normal kids, and likely to do just fine. Now, if we could say so much for judges and politicians…

Joel Spolsky has written another good column, this one about how to deal with the fact that, many times, people who get to make decisions about programming and projects don’t have any understanding of how such things actually work. I like his main recommendation — until you have them actually programmed, don’t let your users (or your non-technical bosses!) see the features that you intend to include in a project.

Yes, Shannon and I are total dorks, but dorks who are nonetheless meant for each other.

the tulips shannon sent ME!

I ran out on errands today, and about a half-hour later, as I was coming back, I noticed a whole lot of hubbub on the street in front of my building. It turns out that an SUV lost control and [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] , ending up [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] , pretty much right where I had walked to catch the bus not too long beforehand. Having a fire escape on the front of the building, [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] took a break from her “studying” and we [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] ; after it was pretty clear that nobody was hurt, we turned our attention to hoping that the [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] isn’t replaced, leaving us with one more parking place on the block.

Wow — I had no idea that USA Today “revised” both the online version of Christine Brennan’s column as well as the version that went into Wednesday’s print edition, deleting out the accusation of vote tampering on the part of the French judge. (Interestingly, USA Today itself covered the revision of the column.) Given how things have turned out, I’d bet (and hope) that they feel like idiots.

(I also feel a bit honored to have discovered all this by [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] in Jim Romenesko’s MediaNews; the flattery won’t stop me from urging Jim to get himself some permalinks, though!)

Foveon is an interesting company in Silicon Valley that’s developing a different kind of digital sensor array for digicams, one which could significantly change the resolution and quality of those images. Instead of having an array of sensors that each pick up a single color (red, blue, or green), it’s three layers of sensors which determine the proper color based on how deeply light passes through them. The New York Times has an article about the technology; I found that I didn’t really understand what they were talking about (and thus how you could get better resolution out of the same size array) without also checking out the multimedia illustration (linked right under the photo at the top) and Foveon’s own explanation.

I’ve been hanging onto this one in my pocket for a little while, wondering if it was too creepy to post. Today, I decided I’d rather just get the shortcut off my desktop, so here it is: a website that Russell Yates put up with pictures of his five children, the ones that were killed by his wife, their mother. It’s also a plea for money for her defense fund, and an attempt to indict his wife’s prosecutors.

Pure and simple, Sale and Pelletier were robbed.

(Later-in-the-day update: there may be more to the idea that Sale and Pellitier were robbed than just raw emotion. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan has what appears to be a scoop today — the French judge, Marie Reine Le Gougne, appears to have told the ISU that she was forced to vote for the Russians in a vote-swapping deal that would bring the ice dancing gold to the French next week. Brennan also mentions reports of the judge possibly being in a position of wanting to curry favor with the Russian delegation, who would make it possible for her to gain a seat on the ISU technical committee.)

It’ll be interesting to see what the findings of the ISU’s “internal assessment” turn out to be.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to think about combining all the Enron investigations into one, so that our Congress can turn at least some attention to other business.

I’m testing out a procedure that’ll pause the webserver here tonight at 11 PM, in order to do some routine maintenance on the files from which this (and a few other) websites are served. Hopefully, this will be the start of me not having to restart my Frontier/Manila server every few days in order to keep it stable.

Update: the procedure ran fine, but it remains to be seen if it helps deal prevent Frontier’s memory allocation from growing and growing; that’ll take a few days. And it appears that I may be able to take out the part of the procedure that contributes most to the time it takes to run, so tweaking will continue. In the meantime, it’ll run at 5:14 AM (Eastern), so expect about 20-30 seconds of downtime right around then.

A little reference for myself, for the various picture show macros that I’ve installed here:

  • webpages:
    • /picOrderEdit: the editor for the order of pictures in a picture show. Lets you define the previous and next image for each photo in the show, as well as a title for the show. Caveats:
      1. you need to manually put in the picture show title on each picture page (it doesn’t handle automatically doing this for you);
      2. you need to make sure that you submit the info for the last picture in the show, so that the info about the previous photo to that one, as well as the title of the show as displayed on that photo’s page, are saved.

    • /pictureShow: the page that actually displays the pictures themselves, as part of the picture show. Takes a single search argument, as such:


    • /popupPictureViewer: the page that displays popup images; you’ll never need to call this by yourself, as the {popupPicLink} macro should generate the link for you.

  • macros:

    • {popupPicLink}: generates the link for a pop-up picture window. Used as follows:

        {popupPicLink(“num”, “link text”)}

      where num is the message number of the picture, and link text is the text that you want to be the clickable link. Here’s an example:

        {popupPicLink(“1393”, “me and shannon at dana’s wedding”)}

      should generate: [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] .

Rawk on — Alex Feinman has written a free add-on to the Windows XP native CD writing stuff that will create and write ISO disk images. During the beta phase of XP, there was a MS-written PowerTool to do this, but they pulled it for some reason; finally, someone’s filled the void.

A certain white supremacist, Jew-hating website started popping up in my referrer logs a few weeks ago, and I made a conscious decision not to point to it and rant, because I didn’t even want them getting the hits. I didn’t even spend much time on the site, except to note that the front page was full of pretty disgusting epithets and raw ignorance. Well, I have to break my decision today, because Cory seems to have found the one page on the site worth reading, which he subtitled “White Supremacist Dating Tips.” Read the whole thing, but pay particular attention to the first rule for men — it’s a true winner, and hopefully, when guys actually start to implement it, it’ll help thin the herd of ignorant asses out there.

I’ve been reading a little bit about UPnP (Universal Plug and Play), after getting a few Linksys routers that support it, and I’ve gotta say that it sounds like a cool technology. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be that many devices that use it yet, and more, there don’t seem to be many places on the web to read about it. The two best ones that I found are the resource page of the official UPnP standards body (which tends to the technical), and Microsoft’s overview of UPnP in Windows XP (which tends to the practical).

Update: Microsoft is already using UPnP in useful ways; for example, the Remote Assistance feature automatically senses if it’s behind a UPnP-compliant device, and translates the computer addresses accordingly.

I love the audacity of software companies. Does anyone run Norton AntiVirus? They’ve implemented another step in the LiveUpdate process within the past six months or so, where it verifies that you have a current subscription to virus signature updates. Lately, this step can take forever, and usually then times out (leaving you without many options). Searching their knowledge base for a way to fix this, I found a few enlightening articles, one suggesting that you just have to tolerate a process which “could take 15 minutes or more,”, and another that blames it on “temporarily busy” subscription confirmation servers and asks that you leave the error dialog box open for 30 minutes and then let it retry. Do they really think that people will tolerate their incompetence for very long?

Ohmygod, how have I missed BetterDog’s Blogs for Dogs? Sharp.

So, I’m on call here in the hospital, and I overheard the most amazing conversation this afternoon. One of the ward clerks — the people who answer the phones, pick up new orders in the charts, etc. — was complaining to one of the nurses that another ward clerk was (angry, shocked emotion inserted here) doing work that wasn’t specifically part of the ward clerk job. He occasionally helps find equipment that the nurses need, takes specimens to the pneumatic tube system, and even sat with a patient the other day while the mother ran a quick errand — and, in the eyes of the clerk today, this is all bad. She even threatened to report him to the union, lest his work ethic become a model for others.

A little while later, I asked the nurse to whom she was complaining about the conversation, and was pretty stunned to learn that it is, in fact, against the union rules to do work that isn’t part of your explicit job description. In fact, the employee’s union here encourages members to report instances when it occurs for disciplinary action.

It’s stunning to me how lazy people can be, and how much more work many of them will put into fighting off threats to their lazy lifestyle than they will into their jobs.

(It probably wouldn’t shock anyone to learn that the woman who was complaining hasn’t done any part of her job, much less something extra, in over a decade. When we come into work and she’s at the desk, we know that our jobs have just grown by 50% for that shift; she’s completely worthless.)

Critical IP sucks.

Tom Shales has a well-written column today on the NBC coverage of the Olympic opening ceremonies, agreeing that Bob-n-Katie’s coverage was painful, but also extending his criticism to the producers of the television event. I particularly like Shales’ notice of Costas’ failed attempt at making his script seem like impromptu eloquence (with his “the temperature here is in the twenties” quote); I also like his conclusion, which reads, in part: “More and more, NBC is becoming a living monument to execrably bad taste.”

Really, how much better would the Olympic opening ceremony be without the inane, unceasing blather of Bob Costas and Katie Couric?

It turns out there may be a little less principle than you think there is behind Dubya and Cheney’s stalwart stance on executive privilege in the energy task force/Enron investigation. It’s nice to see at least one media source pick up on the hypocrisy of it all.

Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor has a profile of David Walker, the head of the General Accounting Office and the man who is taking the White House to court over access to the documents. I like his take on things, and had no idea that he was a partner at Arthur Andersen before he took on his current job.

Some of the stupid-thing-I’ve-done stories that people contributed to Heather are good; others made me laugh hysterically. What I don’t get, though, is why the occasional asshole felt the need to contribute; I guess it’s easy to be a mouthbreathing cretin when you don’t have to attach your name.

From Piper, Kansas comes a sad tale of a teacher who caught 28 of her biology students plagiarizing their semester projects and failed them, and then after parents complained, was told by her school’s board to give them all partial credit and reduce the weight of the project grade. She resigned from her position, disgusted with the school’s tolerance of cheating; at least a dozen other teachers have threatened to follow suit. CNN has another take on it here, and the Kansas City Star has more on the Teacher’s Association reaction to the conflict, as well as an active online forum.

It was sheer coincidence (serendipity?) that, during a break from a big web design project this week, I meandered by Matt’s online home, and found both a damn fine study on user’s expectations of websites and the damn fine usability newsletter from which it came. I like the study a lot, mainly because it’s supported by actual user data rather than supposition; it shouldn’t shock anyone that, coming from the world of medicine, I demand that conclusions be backed up by real data.

For those of you who demand the same, I’d recommend heading over to Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines. Managed by the National Cancer Institute — another of those groups that is sorta stickly about having real data before doing something — it’s an awesome repository of information about implementing usability, and each recommendation is rated by the strength of the of evidence which supports it. It’s a don’t-miss in the world of website design.

I mean, really… is there anyone who doesn’t want one of these? (Seattlites would need this version, of course.) It seems that the company could use a good dose of help from Dean Kamen to help ‘em get over the final hurdles, though.

I find it interesting that I have yet to see anything on the ‘net that talks about the tastelessness of the U2 halftime show at the Super Bowl yesterday. Specifically, what I didn’t like what the way that the two huge curtains behind U2 — pretty clear artistic replicas of the Towers themselves — came crashing down while the names of the people who died in the buildings were scrolling by; to me, it was pointless and crass. Boooooo.

My current reading material: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman. I’m reading it for a community pediatrics rotation, wherein I’m supposed to be learning how to be more culturally sensitive of my community and patients. The book is irritating me, though — there’s a lot of blame laid at the doorstep of doctors for doing their job, a generous amount of idealistic attitude about what doctors should be doing for their patients, and a conspicuous lack of stressing the responsibilities that go along with being a parent.

Strangely, after all the activities that this rotation has thrown at me over the past three and a half weeks, I have the same feelings about a lot of what goes on in my hospital’s community. There’s a ton of emphasis placed on how doctors don’t do enough to understand the community; there’s no emphasis placed on how the community doesn’t do much to understand the hospital.

It’s frustrating always being the bad guy.

This past weekend, I decided to start reading more about the entire Enron scandal, and am simply aghast at what I’m learning. The deception and fraud are, by all accounts, enormous; Ken Lay may be the devil himself, and I hope that someone is able to get into the public eye exactly how much money this man has lying around, so we can be spared the sob stories by his wife about how broke they are. I also hope that Congress subpoenas his ass into the hotseat, rips him to pieces, and then does the same with our friends at Arthur Andersen.

I freakin’ hate AOL Instant Messenger right now. All day, it’s randomly denied my attempts to log in, saying “You are attempting to sign on again too soon. Please try again later.” It’s related to using Trillian, I’m reasonably sure; that being said, I’m using the same version of Trillian that others are using without problems. About an hour after the error starts, I can log in again — but then, within 30 minutes or so, I get booted.

If the fuckers at AOL are really going to start playing the only-our-client game, methinks it’ll be time to stop using the damn thing entirely. God knows, there are other good services out there…

Finally! Maybe now I’ll !@%#*$ remember when it’s the first of the month. [Praise be to Heather for the niftiness.]

How did I miss this? The Wall Street Journal had a recent article about the problems that Sports Illustrated faces — competition from ESPN Magazine (and television in general), the budget cuts that came hand-in-hand with the AOL-Time Warner merger, and the loss of the magazine’s managing editor. There’s a lot of meat in this article; it’s interesting to see this kind of perspective on the magazine.

There’s a good thread brewing over at MetaTalk about the life/death/rebirth of MetaFilter. It all got started by a formerly-prominent member’s proclamations of impending MetaFilterian doom, but it’s developed into quite a discussion about what sites like MF should be (and why people even try to figure things like that out). It’s also got a lot of misplaced melodrama, which is far and away the most entertaining part.

The other night, Shannon and I were downtown eating and seeing Amelie1, and noticed that the Empire State Building lights were green. “Why green?”, we asked ourselves. Of course, the answer’s on the ‘net — it’s March of Dimes Month, and somehow, green’s the color to represent that. (Interestingly, there’s no mention of it being March of Dimes Month on the March of Dimes website; maybe they meant Birth Defects Prevention Month?)

1. I apologize in advance for linking to a website with background music, but the site’s good enough that I justified it to myself.

Last week, Matt pointed out that a few researchers at my fair alma mater are running a sociology project that is trying to replicate the famous six-degrees-of-separation experiment, this time via email. Whereas both Matt and a friend of his were underwhelmed with their own experiences participating in the experiment, I had no problems doing so; it was quick and easy, and it will be interesting to see where it leads. Icon has a reprint of a NY Times article about the project, for those interested. (Oh, and my message for Matt’s friend Ed: it’s hard to take your complaints seriously when you openly admit to trying to sabotage the experiment with false data.)

In December, parents of a baby who died an hour after childbirth at Queen Mary’s Hospital in England were aghast to find that the hospital mortuary had lost the body a few days before the funeral. They were even more aghast when the body turned up — at the laundry facility for the mortuary, after having been through a wash cycle. The parents still haven’t accepted the apology of the hospital; the fiasco has even merited statements by Tony Blair. What a horrible ordeal.

Hey, cool! It looks like Microsoft finally released driver support for USB 2.0 on Windows XP. (Note: that’s a link to a Google Groups posting pointing to Intel’s version of the installer. I just gave Windows Update a whirl, though, and it’s available there, as well; it’s the “Microsoft Usb Driver Version 5.1.2600.0.” You’d think that they’d put some acknowledgement that it supports USB 2.0, wouldn’t you?)

Michael Dorf, a law professor at Columbia, has a damn fine column over at FindLaw about the difference between prisoners of war and unlawful combatants. Why should you give a damn? Because the basic breakdown is that the former are governed by the Geneva Convention, and the latter aren’t, for pretty good reasons. And this matters because it’s pretty clear that any Al Qaeda fighters are in the latter category, and it’s almost as clear that the Taliban fighters are, as well. Puts another context around the squabbling about the imprisonment conditions at Guantanamo Bay.

I’m feeling healthy and productive today.

I was an outdoor swimmer as a kid, and as a result, I’ve ended up with a few little moles and whatnot that have never worried me. A few weeks ago, though, Shannon noticed one that didn’t look like the rest, so I went to a general internist this past week. He didn’t think it was anything, but decided to let a dermatologist take a look; while I was there, he did general bloodwork. Today, all in about an hour, I saw the dermatologist and got the results of the bloodwork. As for the dermatologist, he thinks it’s nothing, but he did an excisional biopsy just to be sure. As for the bloodwork, completely clean bill of health — good glucose screening tests, decent cholesterol level. Satisfied, healthy me.

And the productive part comes from this weekend, when I decided to finally finish off my fellowship applications. It was a bitch — I spent literally all day Saturday working on them, scanning and typing the forms, writing my personal statement and CV, and generating all the envelopes, labels, and cover letters. Tonight, I just sealed up eight applications to go into the mail tomorrow, and I emailed a ninth, which leaves only one to go (my own hospital, which has yet to get it to me).

With so much accomplished, where will my daily angst come from now?

stop sign reflected in raindrops

What a kick-ass picture. I wonder if the central effect was intentional, or if random happenstance caused that raindrop to reflect the sign so clearly; whatever the cause, the image is the kind that I wish my brain would help me compose when I’m behind my camera.

I hadn’t realized that one consequence of the tightened post-September 11th airline industry is that high-speed, in-flight Internet access is being put on the back burner. Bummer; it would have been damn cool to surf the Web during my upcoming flight to Italy.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of my Mom as I was this morning.

I don’t know what it was that got me to go to the pediatric morning report today; I was on call last night, and I was seriously dragging by the time I signed everyone back in this morning. For some reason, though, I went. The child that was being discussed was a teenage boy who had presented with acute mental status changes and bleeding gums, and it was eventually determined that he had thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (or TTP). The rest of the discussion focused on the salient teaching points of TTP, and at one point, my chief resident made an offhand remark that she was using “the big hematology textbook” as her primary reference for the talk. Through my tired fog, all I heard was that sentence, and a little bell went off in my head, with the realization that my Mom wrote the chapter on TTP in what’s considered to be the authoritative heme textbook. At that point, I reached over the table and took the stack of papers from next to my chief, and sure enough, on the top was my Mom’s chapter.

Dude…. my Mom’s smart and shit.

Wow, what a cool story, and one that I never knew anything about: in 1976, the owners of the American Basketball Association team the Spirits of St. Louis made a deal with the rest of the ABA to forego merging with the NBA, and instead, to collect one-seventh of the annual television revenues of the other ABA teams — forever. They’ve made over $100 million from the NBA to date; with the new NBA television contract, they stand to make that much again in just over four years. Stunning, and awesome. [found at MetaFilter]

Somewhere along the way over the past year, I fell off of the McSweeney’s bandwagon. I’m not sure why, and I can’t remember exactly when, but after sauntering through the site tonight, I’m a little upset with myself — it’s as funny as ever, just the kind of fantastic, straight-faced, flight-of-ideas humor that makes me giggle hysterically. I gotta get back on that wagon.

Reading this NPR transcript about GM’s use of the World Trade Center attacks in their recent line of commercials brought to mind this commercial running in NYC right now that pisses me off every time I see it. It’s for a union for teachers, and it outright states that, due to the attacks, we now need skilled teachers more than ever, and that they need to be well-paid. For the life of me, I can’t figure out the link between the two; it’s just outright pandering, and it’s annoying as crap.

The O’Reilly Network has an interview with Brewster Kahle, the director of the effort that has resulted in the Wayback Machine (the web-based search-and-retrieval interface to the 100 terabyte Internet Archive). He provides some great information on the technology that the company is using to implement both the archive and the interface.

“All we can do is stand around and watch you plow away at your stringy skank queen. Great, just great dude, you hippie freak.”

There’s no gettin’ around it; Brent is a funny, funny bastard.

How has it remained so quiet that two Republican Congressmen have introduced a bill to reinstate the U.S. military draft? House Resolution 3598, the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 2001, would force all men between the ages of 18 and 22 into six months to a year of basic training; it would also authorize the various Secretaries of the branches of the armed forces to “allow” women to volunteer for training. Honestly, I just can’t see this one getting very far. (Also, can’t women currently volunteer for service? Pretty damn patronizing…)

For other people who’ve invested in a Linksys wireless router and 4-port switch, Jake Bordens has a great page of information and links about the box. Well worth putting into your bookmarks…

I can’t, for the life of me, imagine why Nokia felt that this is the right time to create a subdivision that specializes in “luxury” cellphones. In this economy (hell, in any economy), who’s going to spend more than 20 grand on a phone?

Really, honest to God, it’s a true story.

I went and did it, and got a wireless network access point for my apartment. I’ve been wanting to get one for a while, but the prices were a bit prohibitive; now, with the release of a newer wireless standard (and much talk about yet another standard), prices have fallen like rocks, and it seemed like a good time to buy.

All in all, setting up the access point and a single wireless node took all of about 10 minutes, and was completely painless. I got Linksys access point and router/switch, based both on reading reviews and on price; for the client side, I got an Orinoco Gold PC card, as it is the de facto gold standard, with what appears to be the best driver support and farthest range. Despite the presence of a few 2.4 GHz phones in the apartment, I get excellent throughput on the network, and no discernible interference on the phone.

Happy happy!

One of the things I absolutely can’t stand in this world is people who have some cause, and feel that I’m a lesser person if I don’t have the same passion for that cause as they do. I spent my entire afternoon with a group that deals with domestic violence in Upper Manhattan, and instead of educating us about the things that we should look for or do, they patronized us with an hour-long soap opera about a woman being abused, and then made us feel small (or tried to, at least) because we didn’t immediately adopt their cause as our own. The sad thing is that it’s my understanding that most of the residents have had the same experience, and that means that rather than helping a group of pediatricians better recognize domestic violence, they just pissed us all off.

Remember the images of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center towers? There was only one video of it, captured in the background of an instructional video that, of all people, the firefighters were making in lower Manhattan on September 11th. Well, it turns out that that’s just a small part of an entire 90-minute video, the rest of which captured the rush to the scene, the mayhem inside the buildings, and the collapse of the south tower. Dozens of people on the video died that day; the tape may never be seen by the public.

OK, now I’m on a wireless kick. I just found out about NYCwireless, which is a database and loose network of free wireless access points throughout New York City. The Bay Area has a similar free access point list, as does Boston, Seattle, and Portland. I’m sure that I’m missing many more.

As a bookmark for myself, and a reference for others, Ross Finlayson has put together a good document on using a Unix box as an wireless network base station, and Jean Tourrilhes has a great reference for using Linux and wireless networks. Or, for another approach, there’s a seemingly good Windows management app for the Apple Airport base station available, as well as a Java version. Finally, Ben Gross has a damn fine compendium of wireless links to help you set up a network. When I finally get off my ass and put together a home wireless setup, these will save me some money.

How cool is this?! Swiss researchers have released some data which suggests that anger is actually the driving force behind human cooperation. This makes me smile, since it affirms my faith that all the time I spend getting frustrated at (and then frankly angry with) customer support representatives has a greater beneficial purpose.

More personal video recorder-related good news/bad news:

Why anyone would want to hitch their wagon to that star is completely beyond me.

Salon has a damn fine article about how Google Groups — the as-definitive-as-possible archive of Usenet — is the awesome thing that it is mostly because of a trove of magnetic tapes and the foresight of a Canadian department of zoology.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand how one man, his wife, and their three children can live in a house like this. Or, while we’re talking about it, how another man, his wife, and their two children can live in this house. It all seems a bit… overindulgent.

I can’t say I’ve salivated about anything over the past few years as much as I’m now salivating over the Moxi. Combining a digital cable receiver, a music jukebox, a digital personal video recorder, a DVD player, and a cable modem into one, the Moxi looks to be the next five generations of TiVo combined. Of course, there’s a catch, though; it looks like it also plays right into the digital rights management game, and thus, could turn into just another way for your cable company to rack up incidental charges on its customers. We’ll see.

File under User Interfaces that Piss Me Off: the Sears.com website, which forces you to opt out of their promotional and event mailings nearly every time that you have to type in your email address.

Why would they want to risk pissing off their customers like this? It’s not like there’s a dearth of online places to shop; I’d figure you’d want to make your customers happy.

I now have to go on record as saying that the Tiny Personal Firewall rules. In setting up one of Shannon’s parent’s computers, it installed easily, and works perfectly. I don’t know why anyone would buy anything else, at least for personal use.

I dunno why, but I feel pretty confident predicting that the newest Apple whizbang announcement — flatscreen-on-a-stick — will be a pretty grand failure. Wait… thinking about it, I do know why I feel that way, at least partly. The Apple Cube was a miserable failure, and that was during times when geek money flowed in the streets. This new computer doesn’t seem to add anything by itself, but rather, does so with software that’ll run on any other Mac, and doesn’t appear to be much different than the new imaging software that’s built into Windows XP. Realistically, this isn’t a recipe for raging success. (The Time Canada link above probably won’t work next week; I’ll try to update it with a more permanent link once Apple announces the machine.)

Ummm, Jill? What the hell do you expect? You live in freakin’ Delaware. Move to a place with more than three dozen men, and your chances are bound to be a little better. smiley:

I took the weekend off and fled to Pitman, NJ (“Everyone likes Pitman!”) for a bit of R&R… which, in Jason-speak, means setting up computers and networks. Shannon’s parents needed a bit of persuading to graduate to the wonderful world of cable modems, so we came down here to set them up.

What we learned, though, is that the collapse of @Home is as bad for the cable modem industry as everyone is saying. The provider down here, Comcast, relied on @Home for its tier 2 service, and now is scrambling to move people over to its own backbone. While doing it, they are promising things that they cannot deliver to prospective customers, and even yanking things away from old customers, generally screwing everything up royally.

Examples? Well, despite being part of the advertised service, new subscribers won’t get any email addresses until February 28th; this was a service previously handled by @Home, and Comcast won’t be able to take it over until then. Another big thing lacking (which bit us on the ass bigtime) is multiple IP addresses — not only will they currently not give new subscribers more than one IP address, but the supervisor to whom I spoke said that they have to yank any multiple IP addresses from old customers once they migrate them onto the new backbone, at least until they “get the capacity in place.”

I guess my warning to everyone is this: if you’re signing up for any cable modem service right now, be sure to ask about everything up front, and get their promises in writing from someone at a supervisor level. You’ll be glad you did.

I couldn’t be happier to note that Greg Knauss is back online. (I’m assuming that this first chapter is written from the perspective of Greg’s father-in-law, and that Greg himself hasn’t suffered a similar terrible misfortune; of course, I could be wrong.)

While I never motivated to get the pictures up from my first visit down to Ground Zero, I did put up images from my trip yesterday. It’s amazing how much work they’ve done in the past three and a half months; it’s also still sobering to see what these men were able to do to New York City.

I, too, am surprised that this first-hand account of the attempted detonation of a shoe bomb by “Richard Reid” didn’t get any real play in the major news outlets. Also, I, too, love the fact that the Web is what makes reading accounts like this possible, and makes reliance on the major news outlets less and less important.

If anyone knows the show Trading Spaces, then they’ll know sort of what things were like here over this past weekend. As a combined Christmas present and thanks-for-helping-Shannon-move-to-New-York present, Shannon and her parents took over my bedroom, morphing it from the [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] off-[Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] pink [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] proto-[Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] dorm [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] room to an off-white adult’s bedroom. My formerly bare walls now are the home to [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] framed pictures and [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] shelves with all my smaller photos; all my toys now have homes on special [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] toy shelves, right within arm’s reach of my desk. It’s all [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] wood and chrome and [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] neat and organized, and I love it.

I hope that everyone had a happy New Year! Mine was spent taking over my parents’ apartment in Manhattan (they went to a friend’s home in Dutchess County) with Shannon, Anil, Karen, Jake, Jill, and two other friends of Shannon’s; we cooked a big meal (salad, vodka pasta, chicken in a white wine, tomato, and lemon sauce (essentially this, with the flour replaced by garlic salt), and italian ricotta cheesecake), sat by the fire, and passed out at 1 AM. It was the first awesome New Year’s Eve that I’ve spent in New York, and I’m glad to now know that such a thing is possible.

In my hunt for spam filters over this past weekend, I stumbled across a great reconstruction of the history of the word “spam” as a reference to unsolicied email and news postings. It was written by Brad Templeton, whose name you might recognize; he has a very long history on the web, and is currently the Chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He also wrote 10 Big Myths on Copyright Explained, which I’ve pointed to from here before.

I was very glad to learn this week that American Express plans to return to Lower Manhattan early in 2002. Their [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] world headquarters building is Three World Financial Center, located immediately next door to the north tower of the former World Trade Center, and was [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] damaged extensively in the collapse; estimates are that the building will be ready for occupation beginning in March or April.

(In looking for information about the building, I was also surprised to note two things — that the World Financial Center’s home page has a post-attack image, and that MapQuest has updated their aerial photo of the World Trade Center site, which now also is a post-attack image.)

I’m happy to read that Meg is now the proud owner of a Coolpix 995. Of course, having had my 995 for half a year, I’m already lusting for the newer, cooler toy in Nikon’s arsenal; if anyone wants to buy me one as a last-minute Christmas present, you won’t get any argument from me!

Has anyone else noticed the immense upsurge in the amount of spam (unsolicited email) flying around the net these days? It started to get to me last week, when I noticed that around 85-90% of my inbox was comprised of offers to make millions while working from home and ads for Cipro or Viagra without a doctor’s visit or prescription. Since I control my own mail server, I went searching around the net to find a good way to filter all my incoming email, and ended up discovering SpamBlocker. I spent a good deal of time last night and this morning getting all the pieces in place (and correcting a major set of typos in the example config file), but now I have what seems to be a damn fine set of filters determining what should go into my general inbox, and what should be filed away in folders that I can check once or twice daily to see what fell through the cracks. I’ll keep you all posted as to my experiences from here on out.

Given this news about caffeine (also archived here), I’d say that my favorite Christmas present so far has just become even more cherished!

Shannon, Anil, and I went to see Lord of the Rings last night, and I have to say that there’s a lot more hype than there is movie. The whole thing felt rushed (which is a feat for a three-hour movie), with little to no exposition for any of the characters. Before seeing it, I understood the movie to have garnered quite a few accolades of the “best film of 2001” type from reviewers; afterwards, I can’t understand how that possibly could be the case.

It just seems typical that we’re all hearing a ton and a half about this security problem, yet hearing next to nothing about this one. Sorta highlights my point on matters like this, actually — Microsoft is known for its security problems not because they exist, but rather, because they affect more people and because the popular press publicizes them more.

There’s a ton of sadness eminating from the Upper West Side of New York City today, courtesy of a five-alarm fire that destroyed part of St. John the Divine. Originally funded by J.P. Morgan, it’s the largest Gothic cathedral in the world (or will be when it’s finished, if that ever happens); it’s also the host to the annual Blessing of the Animals, when people bring animals of all sizes to be blessed by the Bishop of New York. The biggest fear today is that the organ sustained major damage in the fire, which would be a tremendous shame indeed.

Do all the moron Congresspeople who constantly want to pass a Constitutional amendment banning flag desecration realize that stuff like this would fit under most definitions of flag desecration?

Since when did CNN go to referring to metal detectors by their more scientific name (magnetometers) in news articles? It smells like a weak attempt to avoid striking fear into the hearts of every American traveler, a dreadful realization that undertrained and unaware security screeners could have forgotten to plug in the metal detector, thereby letting everyone and their dog waltz through with their metal weapon of choice.

For those of you who use Outlook XP (aka Outlook 2002) and are considering using Russ Cooper’s NoHTML add-in, did you know that your version of Outlook will convert HTML messages to plain text natively? You can only turn on the option via the Registry (which is a decision I can’t understand), but it’s there for you. (Note: apparently, that MS Knowledge Base article contains a typo that you should know about.)

Frighteningly, researchers have recently found that white coat hypertension — high blood pressure only when faced with having it measured at a doctor’s office visit — can actually be a sign of future heart disease. For doctors, this should mean that any hypertension should be followed closely; for me, this should serve as a warning (since I have had white coat hypertension at my last two physicals, despite having a normal-to-low blood pressure at other times).

Let there be a day of mourning on the web, for AdCritic has gone offline. Anything that brought me this much joy for so long shouldn’t be allowed to go offline.

As is generally true, the MetaFilter community has provided a pretty interesting perspective on this. (And as I was posting this here, a few nice comments were added onto the MetaTalk thread involving this very site; thank you to both of you, and I’m glad that someone found my Manila additions worthwhile!)

Thanks go out to Rogers for thinking to use the Wayback Machine to find Sunil Doshi’s original post that led Shannon to my doorstep. I use those archives all the time for other things, but didn’t once think to use it to find the post last night; I’m a dumbass sometimes.

Alas, the popularity of what may have been my favorite online puzzle, Reflections, has led to its demise. Isn’t there a good advertiser-supported gaming site that could have picked up the slack here and hosted it?

The folks at Google continue to crank out amazing products, and assure that I visit their domain about a million times a week. In addition to the best general-breadth search engine, they now have a 20-year archive of Usenet, and have put together a timeline of first-mentions (e.g., first mention Microsoft, first thread about AIDS, first thread about the Challenger disaster, first mention of The Simpsons, and even the first mention of Britney Spears), a search engine that’s specific to mail-order catalogs, and a search engine that’s specific to U.S. Government sites.

Really, Google is light-years ahead of its competitors; it’s a wonder people continue to use other search engines.

Today, Shannon asked me to take a trip back through my logs to find out any information I could about how she first came across my site (and thus set the stage for our meeting and falling for each other). It was thus that I came across the original first entry from her work computer in my logs, and discovered that Sunil Doshi had sent her my way. (I wish that I could find his actual entry linking to me, but alas, he’s dumped all his archives.) So now, I feel that I owe Sunil a belated thank you — one little hyperlink led to this happy romance, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Hmmm… can you tell, from the following graph of the bandwidth usage of servers in my apartment, when it was that Jason released the Megway 0sil8 episode?

I’m not quite sure what happened, but somehow, a few weeks ago Blogdex went to listing this very site as offline, and now refuses to crawl here for updates. I emailed the listed contact email address asking what happened (and asking if it could be switched back to online), but haven’t heard anything in days; does anyone have any ideas how I could go about fixing this problem?

I cannot say enough about the coolness of Trillian, the all-in-one client for AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, and IRC. The latest version, 0.70, adds support for file transfers and direct IM conversations, and works damn well. Give it a try… you’ll probably end up keeping it installed.

New York at Christmastime is a great place to be. All the streets are lit up and decorated, Christmas tree vendors are on every block, storefronts are all glittery and festive, and I swear that people are cheerier and more willing to forgive the occasional bump and tussle on the subways. Today, it finally got cold in the city, and Shannon and I stood and listened to the Manhattan Grace Tabernacle choir sing carols outside their church on Broadway; it was as nice as I could ever have hoped.

Of course, now I’m on a total Carol of the Bells kick, and actively searching for the definitive best version of it. (I’ve got to say that, so far, one of my favorites is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24, which is more rock-influenced than anything else.)

Today was a frustrating day at work, mainly because a mother decided to abscond from the hospital with her child. The girl was a pretty tight bronchiolitic who was still receiving oxygen, as well as nebulizer treatments every three hours; the mom had been itching to take her daughter home, and had made that fact known to everyone. Two different doctors had explained to her how important it was for her daughter to remain in the hospital, apparently to no avail. To top it off, the mother left decoy belongings in the room to make it appear that they hadn’t truly left — a purse (which was empty), a few scarves (but no jackets or blankets), and a few personal items of food.

I doubt that this mother understood exactly what she was starting when she decided to leave with her daughter, but as far as I understand, there’s now a warrant out for her arrest, and given that the child is young and requires medical attention, there are a significant number of New York City’s Finest out on the streets looking for the family. There’s also an open case with the Administration for Child Services for medical neglect, something which rarely ends well for parents who demonstrate that they aren’t concerned about the health of their babies.

Dubya appears to have been caught sneaking a peek

Fucking Frontier. At around 4:45 PM tonight, Frontier crashed on my machine. I ran it again, and did a File/Save As… on all the open databases, and then restarted the app. When Frontier started back up, though, it wouldn’t open most of the databases, and after a ton of unsuccessful debugging (and convincing myself that the problem was with corruption in the kernel verbs), I decided to reinstall. This helped (the databases all opened), but now I have to trawl through the root database and reinstall all the changes that I’ve accumulated over the past few years. Dammitall…

This weekend was my first one off in a long time, and I had a great time hanging out in New York. Alaina came to town, and she, Anil, Shannon, and I all went to see Monsters, Inc. again (with the outtakes!), eat smores for four, try out a cool Lower East Side hangout, watch Iron Chef (and the worst movie known to mankind), see [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] The Tree, and generally [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] be dorks together. Christmastime in New York is so much fun, and it’s even more fun when you have [Macro error: Can’t evaluate the expression because the name “newsSite” hasn’t been defined.] cool people to share it with.

Yay! I could not be happier for Karen and Jake; it seems like just a short seven years ago that they started dating. smiley: From Shannon and I, all the best; may you remember this year for the good things that have come, rather than the bad ones.

I may only be a pediatrician, but I’m reasonably certain that there’s something wrong with this x-ray.

The old gray lady is getting in on the interface design action. I’ve never understood why people think that interface design is so trivial; likewise, I’ve never understood people who relegate it to an almost afterthought, and how they can be happy with the end product — the one with the stupid widgets, nonsensical dialog boxes, and convoluted workflow — that comes out of their subpar efforts.

It seems that, this month, it’s hard to get the Supreme Court to get off the subject of porn. (And yeah, I did say “get off” and “porn” in the same sentence. Get over yourselves.)

Best wishes to Matt and his family; here’s hoping for a quick and complete recovery.

After my experience on the pediatric oncology ward over the past three years and dating someone for a while who had Hodgkin’s Disease, I can agree wholeheartedly that it generally feels like the healthcare system has no interest in making the lives of those who suffer from cancer any easier. Patients and their families have to fight, day in and day out, with hospitals and insurance companies over the most trivial things; at a time when positive thinking and stamina are an absolute premium, they’re both sapped by bureaucracy and lifeless functionaries trying to save a buck at the expense of the last link in the chain.

I am going to have to spend some quality time poring through Marie’s World Tour. It’s an ongoing chronicle of Marie Javins and her trip around the world via land and sea; she’s spending the entirety of 2001 hopping from continent to continent, and logging it all. (via MetaFilter)

All’s I got to say is — IMAP is the way to go. (This is to say that I successfully converted all my various mail archives over to proper IMAP mailboxes this weekend, and now, my web-based mail client feels a lot zippier, I can actually search my mail without having to block off an hour or two of time, and all my mail-reading clients are sharing the same archives of filed mail. This all makes me happy.)

Dahlia Lithwick weighed in last week on the arguments before the
Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. ACLU (the government’s attempt to defend the second generation of protection of children from online smut). I wonder how much time the Justices spent poring over the exhibits in the case…

I don’t know what it is about this year, but first, Thanksgiving snuck up on me, and now, I was shocked to read today that the Olympics are a lot closer than I would have guessed. (Of course, this article also made me wonder how the Olympic torch is going to travel across the Atlantic in a plane, with the security restrictions that are currently in place. Given what happened three weeks ago, will the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport staff allow a burning flame to arrive at their facility? smiley: )

Because KPMG apparently hasn’t a single clue how the web works, I feel that it’s important to link to them as much as possible. (Interestingly, searching the KPMG website for the term “Web Link Policy” comes up with nary a single page.) Join in the fun!

I know that this will shock you all, but smoking cigarettes with less nicotine still causes cancer!

Does anyone have any good suggestions for applications or utilities that’ll convert a folder of mail messages (all in RFC 822 format) into a single IMAP UNIX-style mailbox file? I found UniAccess today, which may do the trick; I was hoping for something that wouldn’t cost me $300 for a single-time run, though. Ideas?

How did I not know that all six “New York Miracle” ads were online? My favorites are the Woody Allen and Yogi Berra ones.

I’ve started as the senior resident on the general peds inpatient wards, and wow, is it more tiring than I’d ever thought it could be. It’s a blast, though — I have three interns and three third-year med students on my team, and managing a team (rather than a few patients) is a lot of fun.

Of course, it’s also a lot of work, and part of the work that I didn’t anticipate involves dealing with other services that — how can I put this — don’t put the wellness of the patient as their primary priority. One of the surgical subspecialty services had a kid on the floor Wednesday night that spiked a fever to 107.2, and the covering fourth-year resident took over two hours to come to the floor to evaluate the child. (I ended up contacting his departmental chairman the next day and transferring the patient onto my service.) Likewise, the emergency room sent an asthmatic up to the floor last week that had no business being on a semiacute floor — he was as tight as they come, moving little to no air, and it seemed that he was sent up more because it was busy in the ER and less because he was ready for less acute management.

All in all, though, it’s a great experience; I get to teach the interns about day-to-day management, but also spend time working on the bigger picture (long-term management and diagnostic dilemmas).

I could not disagree with Alan Cooper any more on his advice to Microsoft to dump the browser. His reasoning is that browsers are like remote interfaces to distant server-based applications… and that this is somehow a bad thing. As an applications designer (one of the few hats I wear, for those who don’t know), that’s precisely the thing I love most about the web. If I program my app correctly, I don’t have to worry about different platforms or different versions of an operating system. Granted, web-based apps aren’t right for everything, but they’re perfect for a huge chunk of the things that people need to do on computers these days. Could you imagine if Travelocity wanted you to use some custom application to interface with their sales engine? Or if you had to have eBay’s client on your computer in order to participate in an auction? Hell, web-based email alone is a great example of the goodness of the browser.

Oh, this could be good — it very well may be that the Al Qaeda nuclear plans that everyone’s so worried about are actually copies of the scientific parody “How to Build an Atomic Bomb.” (The Daily Rotten also has a little bit on this.)

I knew that my decision to hold out on actual, physical exercise would seem less moronic in the 21st century! Now, you’ll have to excuse me while I get back to my imaginary chin-ups and squats…

A few days ago, I mentioned a way to have Windows XP automatically log you onto an account. It turns out that the older way of doing it still applies, though, and allows you to not delete all the other accounts on your machine.

To me, there’s something so fitting about people who have no problem stealing music also bitching and moaning about their favorite music-stealing client moving to an advertising-based model. Don’t want their music artists to get paid, don’t want their programmers to get paid… they’re all probably tapping off of their neighbor’s power lines, too.

It always has to get worse before it can get better. Now, it has come out that the mother that I mentioned yesterday did not have legal custody of any of her children, due to prior incidents of abuse and neglect. The twins were supposed to be living with an aunt in Virginia, and authorities here don’t know how they came to be back with their mother; in fact, social services stopped tracking them in December of 1999, satisfied that their placement down south had gone successfully. Now, one is dead, and I’m sure that there are a few city agencies that wish that they could turn back the clock a little bit.

Last night was one of the slowest I can remember in the ER, but the last case I got this morning was one that there’s no way I could ever have anticipated, and one that’ll stick with me for a long time.

A small girl was brought into the emergency room strapped to a NY fire department stretcher, but she was talking up a storm, seemingly as happy as can be. The paramedics dropped her off with the triage nurse and then motioned me over to one of the empty bays to tell me the story. It turns out that they (along with the police) responded to calls for help from an apartment in the neighborhood, and when they got there, they found the four year-old little girl, soaking wet from head to toe. Then, in one of the beds in the apartment, they found her twin sister, dead from an apparent drowning, the water still overflowing from the tub in the adjacent bathroom. Their mother was delusionally ranting over her body, saying that the deceased twin had had evil spirits in her that she had to purge, and spraying some kind of aerosol bottle in her mouth in order “to give her air.” At that point, the police took the mother to the adult psychiatric ER, and the paramedics brought the surviving twin into me.

My job was to check out the girl for signs that she had been harmed in any way; she had not, but we still had to hold onto her until the various agencies could sort out where to place her. The paramedics never left her side for the time that I was there, even going so far as to have one of the police officers find the exact lollipop that she was asking for. When my shift was over, I went over to tell her that I was leaving and she gave me a huge hug and a kiss on the neck, and raging through my mind were thoughts about how hard her life will be from today onward.

Shannon has made my weekend — she and her friend schemed our way into tickets to Harry Potter this Friday night! God, I hope I’m feeling better (although honestly, who am I kidding… I’d need to be sedated and paralyzed to miss this opening night).

I’m feeling all crappy — congested, cough that can wake the dead, just plain icky — and all that I wanted tonight was to get out of the apartment and find a place that was serving tomato soup. Turns out that that’s not too easy… tomato soup isn’t a staple on any menus in my neighborhood. What’s so hard about keeping tomato soup on the menu? Am I the only person in New York for whom tomato soup is the ultimate comfort food?

I worked the overnight shift (8 PM to 8 AM) in the emergency room last night, came home, and then was just about to dive under the covers when I decided to turn on the TV quickly to see what TiVo had recorded overnight. That’s when I noticed that every single station had pictures of a huge plume of smoke rising from Far Rockaway, and I learned that there had been another airplane tragedy in New York. So far, this one doesn’t seem to have been a result of terrorism (notwithstanding the incredible speculation in the weblog world), but it did paralyze New York City for a little while. And it’s sure to paralyze my hospital’s community even more; we’re situated smack in the middle of the largest Dominican population outside of the Dominican Republic, and it’s hard for me to imagine that there weren’t people on that plane near and dear to my patient’s lives, or that at least one of my actual patients didn’t perish today. (NY1 has more from-the-scene images.)

First, women get the Wonderbra; now, men get Packit jeans, complete with “bulge enhancement.” (I’d link to the jeans on the Lee Cooper website, except the website is a godawful mess, and on top of that, I can’t seem to find them anywhere on it.)

Finally, an online image gallery that has a good reproduction of Milton Glaser’s redone “I Heart NY” graphic (with the smudged heart and “MORE THAN EVER” underneath). Now, if I could only get over the wracking guilt that I’d have submitting the image to CafePress and having them make me a shirt with it on the front. Does anyone know if Glaser has licensed the image to anyone who’s legitimately printing shirts?

There’s a group of telephone booth ads that I’m seeing all over the NYC right now that I love — they’ve been taken out by the CJ Foundation for SIDS, an organization set up to fund research and educate people about sudden infant death syndrome, and they all use funny stuffed animal poses to show parents the right way to help lower the risk of SIDS in their infants.

I so loved Monsters, Inc. — but I also so loved the animated short feature before the movie, For the Birds. (Incidentally, I’m trying to get all the Monsters, Inc. McDonalds Happy Meal toys — I have Boo (and her door), and I have Celia Mae (and her desk). I still need Sully, Mike, Randall, the Yeti, Waternoose, Roz, George, and the CDA agent. Anyone?)

Like I always tend to do when there’s a new operating system in my life, here are a few Windows XP tips ‘n stuff that I’ve accumulated over the past week or two.

  • Do you hate how Windows Messenger wants to be running at all times? Here’s the best thread I’ve found about how to stop that boorish behavior.
  • Windows XP finally has the ability to easily set the system time from Internet time servers, but by default, it only does so every seven days. If this doesn’t suit your fancy, though, you can change it.
  • Do you need your machine to automatically log into an account on startup? It seems that there’s a new way to do it with the Home and Professional editions; it’s not as convenient as in past versions (e.g., it won’t log onto a domain account), but it may be the only way.
  • Want to download the entire Internet Explorer setup package, but can’t figure out how to do it under Windows XP (or Win2K)? Here you go.
  • If you have a stubborn system service that won’t quit, you can use the Kill command-line utility to make it go away. (This one also works with win2K and WinNT.)
  • There are a slew of new command-line tools that come with Windows XP; learn them and love them.

Remember back on September 11th, when I asked everyone to go and give blood? Well, there’s always a need for blood in the U.S., and there’s always a shortage, and that’s why it’s just as important today to go give blood as it was nearly two months ago.

If you have a spare half-hour, go by your local blood donation center, or keep your eyes open for blood drives in your area. Give the gift of life.

I wasn’t the only one interested in the World Series this year — it turns out that game seven garnered the highest TV ratings for the event in the last 10 years. That’s just awesome. (And for those who aren’t sick to death of the Yankees, ESPN’s Jayson Stark has a great column from yesterday about just how amazing the Yanks have been over the past decade or so.)

I know it’s probably considered cliche to rag on Calista Flockhart’s rapidly-disappearing body fat content these days, but I’m actually hard-pressed to believe that she could possibly get any skinnier. She used to be cute; now, she’s just gross.

I’ve spent the last two weeks in the crankiest of cranky moods, and I’m just now starting to surface.

For me, this week is the second of two weeks of evening float weeks in the pediatric emergency room; that means that I’m there from 5 PM to 2 AM every day. And that’s a pretty popular shift for the kiddos — they’ve been horsing around on the streets after school for a few hours and injure themselves, or their parents are just getting home from work to discover that they picked something up at school. It’s busy, it’s hard to even get a chance to breathe for those nine hours, and I generally get home all worked up about something or another.

In addition, I got roped into doing an hour-long journal club presentation yesterday, after the people who manage the club realized that they had screwed up by scheduling someone to give the presentation who would be on vacation. I had a little over a week’s notice about it, and it meant that I spent my weekend in Washington D.C. with my need to prepare for the talk looming over me.

Lastly, I found out last week that I was not chosen to be one of the two residents (out of 21) that will stay on an extra year to be chief resident of the program, and it’s been hard to hide my bitterness about it. It was something that I had convinced myself I really wanted to do — a year of teaching, managing the residents, and helping improve the program — and I can’t deny that I still think that I would have been a better choice than at least one of the two that are going to get that opportunity.

Happily, though, the weekend in D.C. actually did a lot of good for me, getting away for a bit and spending some very nice time with Shannon and her friends. And then last night, I got home from the ER to find that Shannon had bought me a few awesome presents yesterday; that went a good long way towards pulling me back from my funk, and today, I’m feeling a lot better.

I ran away from NYC for the weekend, getting down to Washington D.C. with Shannon to visit some friends. It was nice getting out of town, but as always, it’s also nice to come back. It wasn’t nice to see the Yanks lose that nailbiter last night, though, but life does go on.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve stumbled across a few great archives of material related to the September 11th terrorist attacks.

First, the people behind the Internet Archive have put together september11.archive.org, which is a fully-searchable and -surfable archive of sites that reported on or relate to the attacks.

Next, there’s the Television Archive, which has archived video from dozens, if not hundreds, of television networks from September 11th, all of which is available for viewing.

Last, Columbia University has The World Trade Center Attack: The Official Documents, where official communications from the United States government are being archived for posterity.

I’m giving AntiPopup a try-out, and I have to say that I like it so far. It’s a little system tray applet that monitors your web browsing, and automatically closes the annoying pop-up (and pop-under) ad windows that have become the bane of any websurfer’s existence. The program’s caught the three that have attempted to launch in the last 15 minutes of my surfing; it it keeps working this well, it’ll earn a spot in my Startup folder.

This could be the funniest MetaFilter (or, to be technically correct, MetaTalk) thread ever. Talk about a thread hijack…

As expected, searchers have found and recovered most, if not all, of the $200 million in gold and silver which was secured in vaults in the World Trade Center.