Archive for September 2008

Horray! WordPress Sucks Less!

Regular readers may remember an earlier post when I took WordPress to task for bad security practices (Matt dropped by to defend himself).  Whelp, fear no more, gentle reader, they have fixed their major glaring horriblenesses:

Click on Edit Profile in the My Account menu of your dashboard and you’ll see a new field called Browser Connection. There, you can opt to “Always use HTTPS when visiting administration pages.” Click Update Profile to save the change, and you’ll be logged out. Sign back in, and you’re rolling with SSL, which encrypts your connection and helps prevent data scavengers from stealing your password and other info.

If you keep your WordPress blog hosted at wordpress.com, DO THIS.

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Posted September 30, 2008 by padraic2112 in security, tech, web sites

The Man’s After My Water   3 comments

We have a water softener (“Hey, Culligan Man!”).  In Pasadena, this is a very good idea, because about 40% of the water supply comes out of an aquifer loaded with minerals.  If you don’t soften your water, your pipes pick up mineral deposits, and slooooowly get smallllller and smallllller on the inside.  I should have taken a picture of what the pipes looked like when we replaced the water heater – suffice to say, our 1″ outside diameter pipe has less than 3/4″ inside diameter… closer to 1/2″.

Culligan sent me snail-mail spam saying that California is going to make water softeners illegal, and come onto my property and kill me and my children and rip off my water softener and take it down to wherever those commie-pinko liberal nanny state people take poor defenseless water softeners and cackle maniacally while they sacrifice it to the EPA gods (I’m paraphrasing).

A little research shows that this isn’t precisely what’s going on… I found the notes on AB 2270 online.  From the bill:

The authorization of local regulation of water softeners is the more controversial part of this bill, and arises out of a long history of legislative debate over water softeners, dating back 25 years. The Health & Safety Code includes provisions for use of residential water softeners and suggests that Californians have a “right to a water supply that is effective and functional for domestic requirements.” The statutory connection to water softeners seems to imply a right to use water softeners to achieve that “effective and functional” water supply. The statute therefore limits local agency authority to regulate softeners, requiring the agency to make certain findings as to the necessity of such regulation. (Cal. Health & Safety Code 116786.) These findings must be substantiated by an “independent study of discharges of all sources of salinity,” and the agency must enforce limits on non-residential saline discharges before limiting water softeners. Limits on softeners may only be prospective, barring any requirement of removal of existing water softeners and allowing owners of such softeners to continue discharging salt into community sewers. Advocates of this bill assert that these requirements are burdensome and costly, discouraging local agencies from doing anything about softeners’ saline discharges, which can exceed a pound of salt each day from each softener.

What I read from this bill is that salinity in the water is a real issue affecting water reclamation, and that water softener companies have been lobbying hard against putting any restrictions in water softener use.  Given that water is a big, big, big issue in California, I think it’s probably likely that restrictions on water softener use are going to happen, and we’re going to have to deal with the fallout of this at some point.  Cities can’t make the requirements set by the state without either preventing salt outflow into the sewer system, or performing remediation on the water in the sewer system to remove the salt.  The second is undoubtedly expensive, so the first is likely.  I guess our next water softener will be more expensive… at least Kitty or I won’t have to lug around 200 lbs of salt every time we need to refill the thing.

Posted September 30, 2008 by padraic2112 in politics, tech

For Ann   3 comments

Ann needs a full color poster version of this cartoon, found at Photobucket via Bad Astronomer:

Posted September 30, 2008 by padraic2112 in noise

Pitch Is Out, I Can’t Hold Altitude!   Leave a comment

Via NPR this morning, on the way into work… the $700 billion dollar bailout package is now the flameout package.  Surprise, even the Wall Street Journal called this one wrong.  The market is eating its own brain.

Declining stocks trounced advancing ones on the NYSE by about 30 to 1. On the Nasdaq, decliners beat advancers by more than 6 to 1.

I confess to being astonished; it’s just amazing to me that Congress didn’t pass this bill.  Not because I agree with the bill (or disagree, for that matter, there are plenty of arguments for both sides)… I just didn’t think it was possible that Congress *would* vote it down.  You pass the bill, and it doesn’t work, you can point your finger at everyone else, including both candidates for President.  You don’t pass the bill and markets crash, you’re going to be paying the piper when retirees’ 401k accounts lose 20% or more of their value in a week.  Retirees vote.  If you’re looking to cash out some of your retirement funds, you’re already plenty angry that the net value of your portfolio has dropped to 75% of what it was a year ago.  Losing another 10-15% is going to spur outright rage.  Not to mention what these guys think.  Apparently the thought process among the House Reps actually is completely backwards to the way I’m thinking – reps in competitive races were much more likely to vote against the package than for it.

I guess they’re going with the, “It’s not my fault, I didn’t do it!” line?  Somehow I don’t think that’s going to sell well with the constituency, but we’ll see.

I think I might actually have to applaud “free market” lawmakers for putting their money (and not taxpayers’ money) where their mouth is -> “let the market correct itself!” is IMO a goofy way to manage a complex economy, but damned if we’re not going to find out right now how well that works out.  I imagine there’s more than one “conservative” investment banker who is suddenly realizing that “leaving the market alone” applies in good times and bad, and that the party who has been tagged as “pro-business” maybe isn’t as “pro-business” as that investment banker thought.  I expect a number of those not-really conservatives to vote for blue come November, just because they’re angry that they’re getting exactly what they’ve asked for.

Of course, this just could be a fake fight, like the Democratic fight against FISA.  If the market drops to 9,000 before tomorrow’s close, a bunch of those holdouts might cave before the week is out, especially if those aforementioned retirees bombard them with phone calls.

Shaping up to be an interesting week, no matter how you slice it.

[edited to add: photo humor]

Posted September 29, 2008 by padraic2112 in news, politics

Bending Spacetime   2 comments

Thomas Friedman wrote a book a while back called “The World Is Flat“, about globalization and the implications of such on the world economy.  It’s a pretty good book; we read it for our IS Managment class specifically because of the parts on outsourcing and offshoring, both of which are pretty big movers in the information economy.  He recently followed up with “Hot, Flat, and Crowded“, which I haven’t read yet.

One of the underlying premises of The World Is Flat is that globalization is essentially unstoppable, and that the economic consequences to this country are mostly unavoidable; Friedman’s trying to issue a wake up call to his liberal brethren who think that economic protectionism is good for the U.S. worker.  I agree somewhat with his point – you can’t stop people in Bangladesh from producing things cheaper than we can produce them here, and trying to correct for that with tarriffs (or Obama’s currently proposed tax breaks for companies that keep jobs in-country) just impacts the U.S.’s ability to compete with other nations in the global economy.  We can’t subsidize our way out of the world’s desire to build crap cheaply.

But, overarching globalization is not unstoppable.  True, IT work will probably still spread out among any country that has a digital infrastructure, because of the nature of the work…. but manufacturing won’t.  Agriculture won’t.  There are three reasons that China produces most of the goods the U.S. consumes: one, the cost of living is astronomically lower there so the workers get paid less; two, the environmental and regulatory burdens are lower in China so the companies can externalize more of their costs; and three, shipping is still (in spite of the current price of oil) dirt cheap.

The first is already correcting itself; China is building a middle class, and middle class workers want to *buy* the stuff they make (not to mention the fact that China is going to have a horrrrrrendous problem with an aging population – you think our worries about Social Security are bad because of Baby Boomers, just wait until China’s 1-child-per-family policy ripens in one-worker-per-two-retirees fruit).  The second is going to correct itself – if nothing else, the air quality in Beijing during the Olympics illustrated the current depth of this problem.  In the rush to build, China has ignored all of the environmental lessons that we learned during our own Industrial Revolution, and they’re going to have to deal with the consequences of that, and soon.  The last is also going to correct itself – shipping is cheap because the bunker fuel that is used is excruciatingly bad for the environment, and that problem is becoming untenable.

The world is becoming round again; at least when it comes to real goods.  Your children are not going to be able to buy buckets of cheap crap… the crap isn’t going to be cheap, and it’s not going to be plentiful, barring some major paradigm-shifting event like fusion.  There will be a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S. in the next 20 years; it’s simply impossible for us to continue to move this stuff around the globe for the price we’re currently paying.  Of course, by then we’ll have retired or finished outsourcing all expertise in manufacturing to those countries that currently make things… and we’ll have to import that expertise again.

You think the immigration problem is bad now, when we have millions of undocumented workers working the fields and the few manufacturing plants we still run here… imagine what it’s going to be like in 20 years when we have to rely on immigrant labor for middle managment and manufacturing plant design.  We’ll have illegal immigrants filling middle class jobs.  Whether you like it or not, get ready.  The borders will be broken down, and people will be coming here from everywhere… or you’re going to be paying $10,000 for your desktop computer again.

I imagine quite a few of the more liberal types I know will have made remarkable 180s in their thoughts about immigration when they’re in their 50s and a quarter of their neighborhood doesn’t speak English, I’m already amused at the future grumps complaining that their neighborhood is changed and nothing is the same.  Me, I’m kinda looking forward to it.

Posted September 29, 2008 by padraic2112 in news, politics

All For Justin   Leave a comment

Found this today, from Kart Hayabusa, via Ride Lust, by way of Digg:

This guy is certifiable.  I think he’s actually crazier than the jet powered man.

Posted September 29, 2008 by padraic2112 in noise

Sunday Memes Deus Ex   1 comment

This one from Baino, via Megan:

What are your nicknames?
I wish the “Jimmy the Fish” Justin tagged me with at the same time he doled out a bunch of nicknames stuck, but I’ve been the only “Pat” in my various groups of friends my entire life, so it usually cuts back to that.  Some of the longer lasting ones: Beth still calls me Paddy O’ Furniture.  Gogit and Gogribbit still come out of the woodwork every once in a rare while (Patrick is really hard for small kids to pronounce).  Hm, maybe I should have left that off of the Internet.

What TV gameshow/reality show would you like to be on?

Gold Case!  Well, okay, that’s not real.  Holmes on Homes, because my house needs a few things and Mike would go crazy and fix everything.

What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD?

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan on VHS.  On DVD… egads.  I bought four movies the day I bought the DVD player.  Tom was with me, it was at the Circuit City near the Orange house.  Justin… was Justin there?  Maybe Greg Johnson.  Thinking, thinking… just checked the collection and I know two of them were The Great Escape and The Blues Brothers, and I think the other two were Enter the Dragon and La Femme Nikita.

What is your favourite scent?

My wife.

If you had one million dollars to spend only on yourself, what would you spend it on?
I can’t conceive of an answer to this question.  Two kids and a wife… whatever I spent it on, they’d get something out of it unless I spent it entirely upon something self-consumable, and that just seems inconceivable.  If I had no choice (someone is giving me the million dollars with the precondition that I *can’t* use it on anyone else)… I’d take a million-dollar buy-in poker tournament.  Megan’s trip idea is good, but I couldn’t be away from the family that long.  At least with the poker tournament, I get a chance to walk away with money that I can share.

One place you’ve visited, can’t forget and want to go back to?
The roof of the World Trade Center.  You didn’t say it had to be possible.

Do you trust easily?
Yes and no.  I trust pretty easily, but not deeply.

Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?

I’m generally thinking, sometimes on too many levels.

Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days?

I lost my temper the other day (it’s been a stressful month).  I hate that.

Do you have a good body image?

Yes.  There are some things I don’t like, but I don’t obsess about it.  Who’s perfect?

What is your favorite fruit?

Three way tie; peaches, pineapple, and cherries.  Depends on the mood.

What websites do you visit daily?

Digg, Google, Schneier’s blog, CGU’s library portal, one of (the BBC, the LA Times, the NY Times), work wiki, the web interface to the ticket system, our OpenNMS monitoring console.  There’s probably another 40 that I visit weekly, but not daily.

What have you been seriously addicted to lately?

Nothing, I’ve been too busy.  Coffee.

What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

I wasn’t tagged, I picked it up.  But if you’re counting Megan… she’s my sister.  It would take a whole blog post to *start* answering that question.  I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything that has actually surprised Megan.  She might not have understood it, but it didn’t surprise her.  Or if it did, she’s never showed it.

What’s the last song that got stuck in your head?

“You Don’t Want Me Any More”, Steel Breeze.  Thanks Dave, you bastard.  Don’t click on this.  I mean it.



Favourite clothing

Blue Jeans.

Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy?

I did.  I don’t anymore.

What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground?

It depends.  If it was reasonable to find out who it belonged to, I would try.

Items you couldn’t go without during the day?

My USB stick, my glasses (I can get by without them, but I get a headache).

What should you be doing right now?

Sleep.

Posted September 28, 2008 by padraic2112 in family, memes, noise