halloween

Halloween – Well, 31 stairs and a big “No Soliciting” sign didn’t stop the kids from showing up. We had at least 50 kids stop by tonight for candy; it is good to see that people still trust their neighbors enough to send out their kids.

I wonder if anyone remembers the old song by King Diamond called Halloween?

Ben Parker, editor of Africa Online gave me some pushback on my comments about Oromo. I am sure that there are strong emotions and history there, but I just don’t see how things are better now that Ethiopia is no longer “Ethiopians”, but is instead a bunch of “Oromo”, “Eritrean”, and “Ethiopians” fighting one another. If I wanted to make sure that Africa never lifted itself out of poverty, that is exactly what I would do. Just polarize people, dig up old history and remind Tutsi why they should hate Hutu, Oromo why they should hate Ethiopian (and why they should work with Eritreans to destroy Ethiopians, but never trust the Eritreans too much because they can’t be trusted like your Oromo brothers). Like “Othello”, feed each side misinformation about the other until no side trusts the other and Africa stays bogged down in a quagmire of 50 different ethnic groups killing each other. To the American, they are all Africans, but to the African, they are all enemies. Like the Kardinal Offishall song Man by Choice says, it doesn’t matter what other people call you; it’s your choice whether to call yourself “Oromo”, “Big-Endian”, “Tutsi”, “African” or just simply “a man”.

I wonder how News.com was able to write an entire story based on the comments, “We’re working very hard in the settlement process, but we’re not going to comment on any aspect of the discussions,” and “We don’t have anything to say today. I can’t comment on any developments.” I can’t find the sequitur.

chess

Chess – Koneru Humpy from India just got her second GM norm. She is junior world champ right now, and will soon be joining the ranks of male grandmasters. Four of the top five Chinese women players are taking time off from the championships this year; three due to marriage. This year we won’t get to see Xie Jun beat Judit Polgar for the fifth time in a world championship. You can bet that Polgar will be pissed, but maybe she should be happy that she doesn’t have to get beat again. On the other hand, Polgar is rated slightly higher this year, and Jun is taking time off for college rather than marriage, so one might assume that she just doesn’t want to risk the championship.

Hmm, this guy was smuggling 30 tons of cocaine into the U.S. every month. Even after we took out Escobar, all of our drug-sniffing dogs and DEA agents couldn’t stop this guy from bringing in 30 freekin’ tons per month! So I wonder how we are supposed to stop people from smuggling in bombs, biological weapons, or money?

label, libel

Label, Libel – Did you know that there is a group of people known as Oromo who wish to be liberated? Apparently this is the best way to get a bunch of people to kill other people: find some particular thing that one group have in common and which differs from the other group. “How can ‘Oromo’ be legitimately ruled by ‘non-Oromo’?” This politics of polarization and splinterization is really stupid.

Speaking of stupid, I heard a “commentary” on NPR friday in which the “commentator” claimed as fact that the MSN Passport database has been hacked (with one line of code). This is completely, uncategorically false. I am accustomed to people saying misleading or distorted things about Microsoft (and this person said many of these things as well), but this was just plain false. I wonder if the rules of journalism say that it is OK to broadcast complete lies, just so long as you claim that it is only “commentary”? Is NPR absolved from responsibility for broadcasting lies if they were unaware that the guy was lying, and he was an outside “expert”?

I’ve been playing with HDML and ASP.NET at home. Now I can turn on and off lights in the house with my cell phone. I’m not sure how useful that is, but it was an interesting exercise.

This article about the Knights Templar, who were sort of like the “Christian Al Qaeda”, is interesting. When the pope finally attempted to dismantle the Templars and take over all of their wealth, it ended up being very difficult. Here’s a quote that could apply to today’s “war on terrorism”:

“This formidable trial [began 700 years ago], the greatest ever brought to light whether we consider the large number of accused, the difficulty of discovering the truth from a mass of suspicious and contradictory evidence, or the many jurisdictions in activity simultaneously in all parts of Christendom from Great Britain to Cyprus, is not yet ended.”

romania

Romania – Nadia Comaneci is now Romania’s candidate for IOC board position. I hope she is elected. One thing I find interesting about Romania is how many good XML people come from there. Dan Suciu and Dana Florescu are the two that come to mind first, but there are a number of people who came out of that same milieu in Bucharest.

Here is a photo of one of the anthrax letters. It looks like something out of a B-grade action film. Is this supposed to be frightening? “Bad bug! You die now!”

is mcs hungry?

Is MCS Hungry? – CRN is running a news piece claiming that MCS (Microsoft Consulting Services) is now competing with partners for business, particularly in small and medium businesses. I’ve had a good deal of experience with MCS, and this article seems completely wrong to me. First, MCS can’t even come close to meeting the resource demands of the largest enterprise customers, and is forced to pick engagements very carefully to get the most strategic impact for the investment. Second, MCS is not primarily revenue-driven — MCS goals are to drive adoption of strategic technologies and maintain customer satisfaction. The revenue has historically been used to just break even and cover the costs of doing business, and I don’t think that is changing significantly. Microsoft is a software company; not a services company.

Computer people are still scarce. The article seems to contradict itself by saying that partners are worried about “poaching” of employees by Microsoft. If demand for computer services is so scarce that Microsoft would be competing with customers, then why would Microsoft be trying to poach employees to meet that demand. This is simple supply and demand — either the supply is weaker than demand or demand is weaker than supply — you can’t have it both ways. There also seems to be a contradiction in the article’s mention that Microsoft wants to force MCSE holders to update their skills to at least Windows 2000 after the launch of Windows XP. Are the people who are complaining about this the same people who claim that Microsoft is trying to oust them from their consulting gigs? MCS is about easing adoption of new technologies, and Microsoft obviously wants to get customers to use the newer stuff. If someone is complaining that they shouldn’t have to learn Windows 2000 to sell consulting services, they are obvioulsy not selling consulting services in a market that Microsoft is interested in competing in. Oh well…

Today Bill Kearney alerted me to the existence of a “File|Export|Messages” option in Outlook Express that allowed me to export my Hotmail archives to a PST. That was easy!

A co-worker pointed me to a new Arundhati Roy piece attempting to argue for the U.S. to stop fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. She says a very sensible thing in this article:


It is important for governments and politicians to understand that manipulating these huge, raging human feelings for their own narrow purposes may yield instant results, but eventually and inexorably, they have disastrous consequences. Igniting and exploiting religious sentiments for reasons of political expediency is the most dangerous legacy that governments or politicians can bequeath to any people—including their own.

But she loses me in her attempts to point out the lack of balance or “fairness” in this war. She says, Put your ear to the ground in this part of the world, and you can hear the thrumming, the deadly drumbeat of burgeoning anger.. As if we somehow missed the message on September 11!! Everyone in America knows that there are angry people in that part of the world, and we have just seen how deadly that anger can be. So what the heck is her point? They were angry enough at us before September 11 to knock down the WTC. What could we do after September 11 that would make them even more bloodthirsty for the lives of civilians? Miss Roy would have us believe that we risk getting the WTC knocked down a second time every time we affront Afghan sensitivity by dropping a bag of grain. But she seems to be missing the point.

War is not symmetrical or fair. War is what happens when differences are irreconcilable. And yes, there are such things as irreconcilable differences. U.S. policy will never be able to reconcile with a policy that says we should tolerate the existence of people who express anger by murdering thousands of Americans. For more than a decade, the whole world has known that groups like Al Qaeda existed and were plotting to express their anger by murdering mass numbers of women and children. Miss Roy has had ten years to convince them that violence is not the answer. The people of Afghanistan have had many years to throw out the Arab terrorists boldly strutting around in their country. The people in that area of the world have had ample time to clean things up on their own, and they have failed. They are not even making improvements; things are getting worse. Just doing what we did for the past ten years is obviously not working. Rewarding the cowardly murder of innocent civillians by appeasing the terrorist demands would be even stupider. The destruction of the WTC immediately destroyed all legitimacy that any demands for U.S. troops to leave Saudi Arabia might have had. Before September 11, such demands might have been seen as reasonable — now they are forever linked with “fanatic”. So if we can’t change the policies that Bin Laden wants us to change, and whatever the people in that region are doing has failed so far, we need to deal with the issue. It is not a win-win situation; it is clearly a scenario where some people’s interest’s will not be respected. That is why it is called “war”.

troubleshooting

Troubleshooting – A few days ago, I had to fix a problem that I was having with Radio Userland. Apparently it downloaded a newer version of the code, which wiped out the custom changes I have intertwined like spaghetti into the original code. This is what happens when source-code availability and sloppy code changes mix. Today I got my sloppy custom changes back in.

Also today I finally got around to restoring my archive of my Hotmail messages, which seems to get lost every time I reinstall my machine. The trick is to look for the DBX files that match your folders used in Outlook Express, and back them up. In my case, the DBX files are at: “C:documents and SettingsjoshuaaLocal SettingsApplication DataIdentities{A016FD10-DAF7-4943-9472-80F32B66A028}MicrosoftOutlook Express”. Then, after your machine is freshly installed, you have to go into Outlook Express and create a completely new, empty folder with exactly the same name, close down OE, replace the new DBX with the old one, and re-start. Well, at least that is the tortuous hack that has worked for me for the past 5 times I have accidentally blasted the archive.

The only reason I needed the archive was to get my license code for TextPad, which I purchased awhile back. Now I just need to take the time to get my old messages out of the OE DBX and into an Outlook PST like all of my other archives. But TextPad is no longer nagging, so I’ve lost interest.

poor seattle

Poor Seattle – Tonight the Mariners’ World Series hopes were dashed by the Yankees. It wouldn’t hurt so bad if they had put up more of a fight. Now we focus on the next big east-west contest: this Friday at 2PM PST, Rumsfeld will announce whether it is Boeing or Lockheed-Martin who gets to build the new ultra-cool JSF fighter jet for the American and British military. The odds right now are on Lockheed, because the USAF apparently isn’t too keen on taking risks with a new company (Boeing) and a fairly revolutionary design. And I think that the USAF will be buying more than anyone else. Both companies met all of the design goals, which include ability to fly supersonic, hover, vertically land, short take-off, and cost less than $30 million. The Lockheed model is more like an F-16, and the Boeing reminds me of the Marine Corps Harrier jump jet. I found some cool video footage of both the Lockheed and the Boeing contestants. I’m crossing my fingers for Boeing; that is one cool plane!

I have heard lots of stupid news related to the two anthrax deaths today. One of the public officials claimed that they had been right to delay testing, claiming that it was a natural escalation process to find skin anthrax, then pulmonary anthrax, and then decide that there might be a problem. The reporting seems intent on perpetuating this idea that the pulmonary anthrax infections came after the skin anthrax. This is stupid. These people have probably been infected for the last 30 days. The thing about pulmonary anthrax is that the victim is infected for a really long time, and it is only when the person is about to die that the symptoms become apparent. And it usually takes at least 24 hours to die, so the authorities must have had a pretty good idea about this yesterday. In any case, the incidence of skin anthrax should have immediately caused health officials’ little light-bulbs to blink on with “Hmm, some people got skin anthrax; that means it is possible that people could also have pulmonary anthrax right now, and we had better check for it now, while we have a slight chance of saving them!” And if two of these guys are dead of pulmonary anthrax, that means that there are quite possibly a number of other infected people from that location who have been incubating the stuff in their lungs for the past 30 days and could drop at any moment. Call me cynical, but some of these officials sound like they are desperately in CYA mode right now.

Another stupid statement I heard was something along the lines of “There are still only a few deaths due to Anthrax, so people are far more likely to get struck by lightning than die of Anthrax.” This is dishonest. In fact, the statistical chance of dying by Anthrax after Sept. 11 has become vastly greater than are the chances of dying by lightning. Of course, there are many other factors that influence the odds of getting nailed by Anthrax or lightning, but since most commentators seem to use historical data to justify their head-in-the-sand approach, let’s look at historical data: The National Severe Storms Laboratory keep statistics on fatalities due to storms. It turns out that death by lightning is not too common, and is especially rare in the areas that have so far been affected by Anthrax. The only way to make a case that Anthrax is less likely than lightning death is to extend the sample period to include a large slice of time when terrorists were not releasing Anthrax in the United States. And extending the sample period like this is really dishonest. People are more likely to die of bubonic plague than by a drunk driver, so long as I extend my sampling period back before automobiles were invented. People should go ahead and use electrical devices in the bathtub, because historical data shows it is more likely you will get crucified by the Romans than electrocuted in your bathtub.

sleepers

Sleepers – Tonight, after work, I planted 8 containers of bamboo. They are tucked in with a nice blanket of manure, bark, and organic compost. Now it is time to wait and let nature do it’s work.

Today I read an interesting article about a terrorist who set up western tourists for kidnapping by befriending them. This particular terrorist was considered to be incompetent by his handlers because he was not very good at sitting and waiting with no interaction for long periods of time. A much better sleeper agent, Mohamed the Egyptian Magician, lived in Santa Clara for many years without anyone knowing who he was. I also found an article from a year ago, which talks about how the radical Islamist uprising in Central Asia is more complicated than just Afghanistan and Bin Laden; and explains some of why Uzbekistan is helping us today.

Two good pieces of software shipped today. The first is the full RTM of Marrowsoft Xselerator, which is a really nice XSLT editor and debugger. The other is a beta set of NNTP/SMTP/POP programming libraries for .NET shipped by Mabry.

Cool! Radio Userland just started giving me a strange error, and when I followed the instructions on the discussion board, that fixed it. Less than 3 minutes.

It’s very gratifying to see @Stake supporting Microsoft on our call for security analysts to stop publishing exploits. Script kiddies will still be able to eventually get exploits from someone, but at least not from the “white hat” guys anymore. Mudge and Hobbit are two of the best minds in the hacking community, and they usually don’t come down on Microsoft’s side. Another notorious “O.G.” hacker who went on to work for a security company was Dave Meltzer (aka ReDragon). Today his company, ISS, announced a loss. However, they have purchased Network Ice recently, and the current worm issues prove the value of a company like ISS.

A bit of disappointing news is that MobileStar is shutting down. Just when everyone started to realize how cool it can be to get 11Mbps wireless at any Starbucks, they shut the service down. This is just as tragic as when Metricom shut down. In the case of MobileStar, though, I wonder if it had anything to do with their name? The name reminds me too much of CoinStar.

what, no emmys?!?

What, no Emmys?!? – I wonder if there is a single person who cares that the Emmys might not happen this year? I have never seen an Emmy ceremony, but apparently this is an event where a bunch of people involved in TV production all vote about which of their colleagues they like the most, and then they all sit and watch each other get awards. This seems innocent enough, sort of like a high-school “homecoming queen” vote or similar popularity contest. But the thing that is different about this popularity contest is that it involves adults, and they broadcast the event under the auspices of providing entertainment to an audience of “plebes” who are actually interested in this navel-gazing orgy of media narcissism. I’m sure that people watch the thing, but I suspect it is more of a “nothing else is on” thing than a “I can’t wait to see who won” thing. And now the media expect us to be distraught at the possibility that we cannot see our anticipated media incest event. So we get TV shows talking about the horrifying possibility that we might miss this year’s TV show about people who do TV shows who honor their colleagues who do TV shows. Yeah, that is right at the top of the list of things that keep me awake worrying at night.

more path

More Path – Yesterday I spent the day hauling around stepping stones and crushed gravel to complete a little path behind the house. I also dug up the ground where I’ll be planting my bamboo, and mixed it with bark mulch to improve the drainage. The soil acidity is just about perfect, but holds water for far too long. Besides turning in mulch, I’ll finish installing a french drain system throughout the patch of ground next weekend or the weekend after. Depending on the weather, I’ll plant the bamboo tomorrow. The grove at the end of the little path will have purple bamboo, and the timber bamboo is going in at the corner of the property. The bamboo will probably not shoot up new culms next year, since it will concentrate on sending out rhizomes. The year after next the bamboo should start to grow above ground, and a few years later it will be unstoppable.

I also had an interesting experience picking up a Chenrezi statue I ordered from a monestary in Nepal. They sent the statue air cargo via Singapore Air, so I had to go to the airport to pick it up. I had to visit customs in downtown Seattle first, and apparently Nepal’s duty free status has expired along with a bunch of other countries, and congress has been too busy with more urgent matters to address renewal. The customs official was kind enough to offer me a reimbursment form so that I can get my duty money back after congress renews the duty-free status. After a light interrogation by the customs guy, I was able to pick up the package. The terminal I visited reportedly receives lots of Hasbro toys, garments for Nordstrom, and parts for Boeing. The whole process seemed extremely chaotic and easy to compromise.

Speaking of chaotic, the project I started on less than two months ago is being burned to CD today. This launch basically establishes a beachhead in what will be a longer campaign; but I am honestly surprised that we made the deadline and it feels soooo good to ship! Others on my team have just RTM’d two pretty significant releases; the MSDN links finally went live today. SQLXML 2.0 is one of my favorite products in the company, and the install includes MSXML 4.0, which also just released.

Madhu Menon pointed out this Arundhati Roy piece which questions the wisdom of a “war on terrorism”. I don’t really agree with that particular article. But when Shaadaab S Bakht slams the Newsweek/MSNBC piece on “Why Do They Hate Us?” today, I have to agree. The Newsweek piece is essentially a re-print of Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” and I am surprised that Bakht didn’t point out the disgusting similarity. Another interesting slip in Bakht’s piece is his citing Edmund Burke as supporting Islam. It is true that Burke had much to say that is relevant today, but one one of Burke’s more memorable beliefs was his idea that society functions best when the rich spend “just enough” energy buying off the poor to prevent them from having the will to revolt. This is close enough to a “rich man’s burden” that one would expect Bakht to see the same arrogant overtones as the Newsweek piece.