2004-02-17t17:20:56Z | TAGS: Bush. Comic Art. Faith. Family. Food. Fun. Iraq. Martial Arts. Money. Politics. Presidential Elections. Science. Sex. Tech.
2004-02-17t17:20:56Z

Bush

• Most Think Truth Was Stretched to Justify Iraq War
• 'Barely half -- 52 percent -- now believe Bush is "honest and trustworthy," down 7 percentage points since late October and his worst showing since the question was first asked, in March 1999. At his best, in the summer of 2002, Bush was viewed as honest by 71 percent.'
• "The Real Man" by Paul Krugman
• 'In fact, those 27 photos grace one of the four most dishonest budgets in the nation's history -- the other three are the budgets released in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Just to give you a taste: remember how last year's budget contained no money for postwar Iraq -- and how administration officials waited until after the tax cut had been passed to mention the small matter of \$87 billion in extra costs? Well, they've done it again: earlier this week the Army's chief of staff testified that the Iraq funds in the budget would cover expenses only through September.

But when administration officials are challenged about the blatant deceptions in their budgets -- or, for that matter, about the use of prewar intelligence -- their response, almost always, is to fall back on the president's character. How dare you question Mr. Bush's honesty, they ask, when he is a man of such unimpeachable integrity? And that leaves critics with no choice: they must point out that the man inside the flight suit bears little resemblance to the official image.

There is, as far as I can tell, no positive evidence that Mr. Bush is a man of exceptional uprightness. When has he even accepted responsibility for something that went wrong? On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that he is willing to cut corners when it's to his personal advantage. His business career was full of questionable deals, and whatever the full truth about his National Guard service, it was certainly not glorious.

Old history, you may say, and irrelevant to the present. And perhaps that would be true if Mr. Bush was prepared to come clean about his past. Instead, he remains evasive. On "Meet the Press" he promised to release all his records -- and promptly broke that promise.

I don't know what he's hiding. But I do think he has forfeited any right to cite his character to turn away charges that his administration is lying about its policies. And that is the point: Mr. Bush may not be a particularly bad man, but he isn't the paragon his handlers portray. '
• 'Still, we may be on our way to an election in which Mr. Bush is judged on his record, not his legend. And that, of course, is what the White House fears.'
• There is no meat to Bush. People merely want to believe that the President who was in office during 9/11 would represent us all.
• POST TOASTED! Did George Bush serve in the Bama Guard? Ancient, vague memories can't tell us
• 'Finally! Finally, someone had reported serving with Bush! But there was one small problem with [Bill] Calhoun's claim. His account contradicted the basic chronology of the case--a timeline that has been clear and unchallenged for the past four years. [Mike Allen] Allen and his editors [at the Washington Post] --hopeless incompetents--seemed ignorant of the story's simplest facts.'
• Liars!

Comic Art

• Cathy Gets Engaged!
• God freaking damn! It's about freaking time! She and Irving are finally engaged! The build up has been incredible but we've been so used to Cathy disappointments that we're still shocked: Almost as shocked as her mother!

Faith

• Children to study atheism at school.
• 'Children will be taught about atheism during religious education classes under official plans being drawn up to reflect the decline in churchgoing in Britain. Non-religious beliefs such as humanism, agnosticism and atheism would be covered alongside major faiths such as Christianity or Islam under draft guidelines being prepared by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which regulates what is taught in schools in England.'
• " 'The whole thing is terribly biased in favour of religion right now - it's all about encouraging an identification with religion,' said Ben Rogers, author of the report for the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank. 'There are huge numbers of people who are atheists or whose families are atheists and who are coming into a class where their family's view is not acknowledged. You should be able to have a conversation about ethics that doesn't collapse into a conversation about religion.' "
• Excellent! This sound perfectly fair to me. Government cannot avoid religion but it should not favor particular religions.

Family

• Once upon a time my wife and 2 kids were in the car this morning when 5 year old Connie asked for some assistance singing the "10 Days of Christmas". Julia said that it's really the "12 Days of Christmas", but yes we can help. So Julia started singing it. Julia is much better at singing than I am and she has a much larger repertoire, but the "12 Days of Christmas" is one of the songs that I actually know better than she does. So of course I eagerly jumped in too.

It was a jolly time and we were going along swimmingly, but when we got to the 11th day of Christmas,  nearly 3 year oldYork suddenly shouted out: "Shut up!"

Julia and I started laughing, but Connie was distraught about the interruption in the song. So we immediately jumped back in and finished the song strongly. Everything ended up just fine.

The End.

Food

Fun

Iraq

• Rebel assault routs Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, killing at least 20 and freeing prisoners
• 'The same security compound was attacked two days earlier by gunmen just as the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, was visiting the site in Fallujah.'
• 'The attackers freed 75 prisoners held at the station, killing the guards and shooting open the cell doors, police Lt. Col. Jalal Sabri said. The prisoners were criminals most arrested for murder or theft and none of them were suspected of involvement in the anti-U.S. insurgency, Sabri said.'

Martial Arts

• I just finished the 12 week course "Introduction to the Rapier" at the Chicago Swordplay Guild. It's been a blast! There are many aspects to it but the thing about it that hit me is that it is much more satisfying to skewer a person than it is to pull a trigger and kill someone. Swordsmanship requires more athleticism, more training, and more skill. I've joined the Guild itself and will continue to practice with all manners of weapons.

From left to right: Back row: Phil, George, Jim, and John. Front row: Ashley, Jain, and Nora.

Money

• 'The real shame in this whole thing is that there's a chance that innovation could have prevented it. This was highlighted in a Los Angeles Times column by James Flanigan who compares the supermarkets with Wal-Mart and Costco. The supermarkets are pointing to Wal-Mart as the bad guy because their labor costs are lower, which allows them to offer lower prices. However, equally successful Costco pays higher wages and benefits than either Wal-Mart or the supermarkets. Even union leaders hail it as the best in the retail industry. Costco's employee turnover is 20% -- one third of the industry average, a factor that some industry experts state could save 20% on labor costs for every 10% reduction in turnover. Plus Costco is refusing to follow the other corporate fad of offshoring jobs such as call centers.

Why?
CEO Jim Sinegal says it's not altruism, "It's good business." Costco developed a strategy that fosters higher employee productivity and yields enormous customer satisfaction and loyalty. Sinegal also states, "I don't see what's wrong with an employee earning enough to be able to buy a house or having a health plan for the family. We're trying to build a company that will be here 50 years from now." Which highlights another ingredient in this stew: Wall Street's short term mindset. Because Costco makes 1.7 centers per dollar of sales compared to 2.5 cents for the supermarkets and 3.5 cents for Wal-Mart, Wall Street considers this a shoddy performance. Bless Sinegal for staying the course.'
• 'The bottom line is always important, and the bottom line here is that perhaps what's wrong with supermarkets isn't employees' salaries but rather the lack of creative thought in management, and, very probably, a management team whose compensation is based on short-term Wall Street performance rather than a more long-term human, and humane, approach.'
• So Costco.com  has good ethics. So does Levis.com. That alone gives me brand loyalty. People, Planet, Profits.

Politics

Presidential Elections

• It's time to get back to the issues.
• "A few questions for John Kerry" by George Will. George Will is one of the few Conservative writers that I actually respect. He always comes up with some very good questions.
• Time for Clarity. 'Now, with the nomination seemingly within his reach, the Massachusetts senator must begin to more fully explain where he stands on the major challenges facing the country.'

Science

• Scientists develop new hydrogen reactor. 'The reactor is a relatively tiny 2-foot-high apparatus of tubes and wires that creates hydrogen from corn-based ethanol. A fuel cell, which acts like a battery, then generates power.'
• After Packing M&M's Together, Scientists Like What They See
• 'The research is a more complicated version of a long-studied problem: how tightly identical spheres can be packed together. Neatly stacked, as in a pyramid of oranges at a grocery store, the spheres occupy 74 percent of the available volume. Arranged randomly, however, the spheres fill only 64 percent of the space. In the new research, the scientists considered spheroids -- spheres stretched into cigar shapes or squashed into M&M shapes. Stacked neatly, the spheroids still take up 74 percent of the space, just like spheres. But in random arrangements, computer simulations and experiments with M&M's showed that spheroids could be packed much more densely, filling up to 71 percent of the space.'
• 'If the spheroids are deformed in a second direction, into ellipsoids (in other words, stretched or squashed so the M&M shape is no longer circular when viewed from above), then the maximum packing density increases to 77 percent, more tightly than the simple neat stacks.'
• Ha ha! We dealt with stuff like this all the time in Chemical Engineering.
• Astronomers Spy Massive Diamond
• 'If anyone's ever promised you the sun, the moon and the stars, tell 'em you'll settle for BPM 37093. The heart of that burned-out star with the no-nonsense name is a sparkling diamond that weighs a staggering 10 billion trillion trillion carats. That's one followed by 34 zeros.'
• 'The diamond is a massive chunk of crystallized carbon that lies about 300 trillion miles from Earth, in the constellation Centaurus. The galaxy's largest diamond is formally known as a white dwarf, or the hot core of a dead sun.'
• Scientists: Hard heads a key to survival: Clubbing heads may have been part of mating rituals. This explains things like The 3 Stooges and the shape of Linus's head (from The Peanuts).

Sex

Tech

• IPAddressWorld.com. Show's the IP of the computer you're on.
• Windows Source Code Leak
• Hmm. Seems like more attacks against Microsoft than usual in the past several days.
• Profanity, partner's name hidden in leaked Microsoft code
• 'Dunham and others spent hours looking for clues in the code, a mix of assembler, C and C++ programming languages. The leaked Windows 2000 code contained 30915 files and a whopping 13.5 million lines of code, he said. And the Windows NT breach had 95,103 files and 28 million lines. Both were available as zip files being exchanged readily on the Internet, Dunham said.'
• Windows Source Leak Traces Back to Mainsoft
• 'Because Mainsoft used only select portions of the Windows source for MainWin, Microsoft may find itself more worried about the egg on its face than possible exposure of its flagship operating system; Windows 2000 served as the foundation for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.'
• We Are Morons: a quick look at the Win2k source
• 'In the struggle to meet deadlines, I think pretty much all programmers have put in comments they might later regret, including swearwords and acerbic comments about other code or requirements. Also, any conscientious coder will put in prominent comments warning others about the trickier parts of the code. Comments like "UGLY TERRIBLE HACK" tend to indicate good code rather than bad: in bad code ugly terrible hacks are considered par for the course. It would therefore be both hypocritical and meaningless to go through the comments looking for embarrassments. But also fun, so let's go.'
• 'In short, there is nothing really surprising in this leak. Microsoft does not steal open-source code. Their older code is flaky, their modern code excellent. Their programmers are skilled and enthusiastic. Problems are generally due to a trade-off of current quality against vast hardware, software and backward compatibility.'
• The Next Move in Programming: A Conversation with Sun's Victoria Livschitz
• Brilliant stuff. Really looks at the roots to go beyond the present. She proves what I've believed that programming right now is low-level: like working in the sewers. Eventually programming will become easier, more high-level. It has to be that way to do anything of complexity the complexity must be encapsulated and hidden from the bosses/users, and yet the complexity must be uncompromisingly correct and well designed.
• "And here's what's really sad -- the overwhelming majority of so-called "successful" development projects produce mediocre software. Take almost any corporate accounting application, and you'll find it poor in quality, unimpressive in capabilities, difficult to extend, misaligned with other enterprise systems, technologically obsolete by the time of release, and functionally identical to dozens of other accounting systems. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on development, and millions afterwards on maintenance -- and for what? From an engineering standpoint, zero innovation and zero incremental value have been produced."
• "The correlation of the size of the software with its quality is overwhelming and very suggestive. I think his observations raise numerous questions: Why are big programs so buggy? And not just buggy, but buggy to a point beyond salvation. Is there an inherent complexity factor that makes bugs grow exponentially, in number, severity, and in how difficult they are to diagnose? If so, how do we define complexity and deal with it?"
• "I can see two reasonable ways to create complex programs that are less susceptible to bugs. As in medicine, there is prevention and there is recovery. Both the objectives and the means involved in prevention and recovery are so different that they should be considered separately. "
• "Having said that, these technological advances are still inadequate in dealing with many categories of bugs. You see, a "bug" is often just a sign of recognition that a program is behaving undesirably. Such "undesirability" may indeed be caused by mechanical problems in which code does something different from what it was intended to do. But all too often the code is doing exactly what the programmer wanted at the time, which (in the end) turned out to be a really bad idea. The former is a programming bug, and the latter a design bug, or in some exceptionally lethal cases, an architectural bug. The constant security-related problems associated with Microsoft's products are due to its fundamental platform architecture. Java technology, in contrast, enjoys exceptional immunity to viruses because of its sandbag architecture."
• "I don't believe that future advances in software engineering will prevent developers from making mistakes that lead to design bugs. Over time, any successful software evolves to address new requirements. A piece of code that behaved appropriately in previous versions suddenly turns out to have deficiencies -- or bugs. That's OK! The reality of the program domain has changed, so the program must change too. A bug is simply a manifestation of the newly discovered misalignment. It must be expected to happen, really! From that vantage point, it's not the prevention of bugs but the recovery -- the ability to gracefully exterminate them -- that counts. In regard to recovery, I can't think of a recent technological breakthrough. Polymorphism and inheritance help developers write new classes without affecting the rest of the program. However, most bug fixes require some degree of refactoring, which is always dangerous and unpredictable. "
• 'Q: What about the notion of complexity as the primary reason for software bugs? Do you have any concrete ideas on how to reduce complexity?

A: Well, I see two principal weapons. One is the intuitiveness of the programming experience from the developer's point of view. Another is the ability to decompose the whole into smaller units and aggregate individual units into a whole. Let me start with the programming experience first.

Things appear simple to us when we can operate intuitively, at the level of consciousness well below fully focused, concentrated, strenuous thinking. Thus, the opposite of complexity -- and the best weapon against it -- is intuitiveness. Software engineering should flow from the intuitiveness of the programming experience. A programmer who works with complex programs comfortably does not see them as complex, thanks to the way our perception and cognition work. A forest is a complex ecosystem, but for the average hiker the woods do not appear complex.'

• "Object-oriented programming allowed developers to create industrial software that is far more complex than what functional programming allowed. However, we seem to have reached the point where OO is no longer effective. No one can comfortably negotiate a system with thousands of classes. So, unfortunately, object-oriented programming has a fundamental flaw, ironically related to its main strength. "
• "In object-oriented systems, "object" is the one and only basic abstraction. The universe always gets reduced to a set of pre-defined object classes, some of which are structural supersets of others. The simplicity of this model is both its blessing and its curse. Einstein once noted that an explanation should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. This is a remarkably subtle point that is often overlooked. Explaining the world through a collection of objects is just too simple! The world is richer than what can be expressed with object-oriented syntax."
• "Processes are extremely common in the real world and in programming. Elaborate mechanisms have been devised over the years to handle transactions, workflow, orchestration, threads, protocols, and other inherently "procedural" concepts. Those mechanisms breed complexity as they try to compensate for the inherent time-invariant deficiency in OO programming. Instead, the problem should be addressed at the root by allowing process-specific constructs, such as "before/after," "cause/effect," and, perhaps, "system state" to be a core part of the language. I envision a programming language that is a notch richer then OO. It would be based on a small number of primitive concepts, intuitively obvious to any mature human being, and tied to well-understood metaphors, such as objects, conditions, and processes. I hope to preserve many features of the object-oriented systems that made them so safe and convenient, such as abstract typing, polymorphism, encapsulation and so on. The work so far has been promising. "
• "Hierarchies and collections are pretty much the only tools we've got to define how things relate to each other and how they should be organized into manageable structures. Hierarchical aggregation fits well with the fractal nature of many organic and artificial systems, and it is intuitively obvious to most people. Plus, the depth of the aggregation scales linearly with the exponential growth of elements, which is hugely important. Collections are similarly plentiful in the natural and virtual worlds, fit well with peer-to-peer systems, and once again, are totally intuitive. Unfortunately, this wonderfully simple division of structures into hierarchies and collections is, again, too simple for our needs. "
• "Equipped with such a powerful component architecture, a new theory of reuse may be developed, this time addressing the entire software lifecycle over a project's lifetime in a graceful, truly evolutionary way. Refactoring will no longer be a brutal, destructive operation. Instead, a safe, almost organic rejuvenation of the old components by the new ones -- guaranteed at compile time to be semantically, as well as syntactically, correct -- will become possible, analogous to the cyclical rejuvenation found in every corner of nature."
• "Software is truly amazing media, unlike anything else found in nature or created by humankind. Like information in general, software is not an entirely physical substance, for it has no mass, volume, or density. Neither is it an entirely metaphysical concept, for it interacts with real, physical entities, and causes very concrete physical impacts, such as the rotation of a turbine, the flow of electricity, or the imprint of an image on the page. Software is a product of our imagination, like a book, a painting or a movie, designed to synthesize a particular representation of the real world. But unlike all other forms of pure art, software is constructed for utilitarian purposes to do more then merely reflect the real world; software interacts with the world and in many cases even controls it. And what is truly amazing -- software is replicable: instantaneously, in arbitrary numbers, at zero cost! "
• "Don't take everything you've been told about good software engineering as gospel truth. Don't be bamboozled. Maintain your sense of skepticism and look for more intuitive metaphors. "
• "The complacency around C/C++ and the Java language is pervasive. C#, the first programming language in years, looks more like the Java language. Enormous productivity gains remain to be uncovered and difficult problems are yet to be solved. The world has gone crazy with XML and then web services; SOAP and UDDI are getting enormous attention, and, yet, from a software engineering standpoint, they seem to me a setback rather then a step forward."
• Where's Metafilter and Megnut? OK: Mystery solved. MetaFilter.com has been down for several day because of a bad fan.
• max-width in Internet Explorer
• 'Most web-developers know that IE has fallen behind in the race for standards and being able to show the latest and greatest. Many CSS2 properties are unsupported. Some of the more useful ones, are properties such as  max-width,  max-height,  min-width and finally  min-height.I will argue, how max-width is a crucial property, when it comes to on line readability, and then I will show you how to make IE emulate the behavior of max-width, and in turn, how to make it emulate many other properties that Internet Explorer for Windows is not directly capable of.'
• I agree 100% that Microsoft needs to catch up with the W3C standards, including  max-width. However, I personally prefer to adjust column widths myself by resizing the windows. One particular use for this is if I'm viewing multiple windows at once and I want to read a window that has a large width but a short height. Besides I like to read as wide as possible (forgive the pun) if it will cut down on page scrolls. EG: Many pages have paragraphs with a lead sentence/link in bold. I like to scan the bold and ignore the rest if I can. Wide pages allow me to do this with fewer page downs.
• Search For Tomorrow: We Wanted Answers, And Google Really Clicked. What's Next?
• There have been many articles praising Google. But this is the first to make me remember that there was a world before Google. Oh as far as the question of "what's next?", it's just that old semantic web crap.
• 'The transition into the Google Era has not occurred without some anguish. The stacks of a university library can be a rather lonely place these days. Library circulation dropped about 20 percent at major universities in the first five years after Internet search engines became popular. For most students, Google is where all research begins (and, for the frat boys, ends).'
• 'Students typically search only the most obvious parts of the Web, and rarely venture into what is sometimes called the "Dark Web," the walled gardens of information accessible only through specific databases, such as Lexis-Nexis or the Oxford English Dictionary. And most old books remain undigitized. The Library of Congress has about 19 million books with unique call numbers, plus another 9 million or so in unusual formats, but most have not made it onto the Web. That may change, but for the moment, a tremendous amount of human wisdom is invisible to researchers who just use the Internet.'
• A Complete History of Tux. So that's why Linux has a penguin mascot.