When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
31 March 2005
30 March 2005
I never did get the problem resolved with Symantec (and I am now happily using Zone Alarm, a combined firewall-antivirus program that got PC Magazine's highest rating this year.)
However, my nastygram did get some results. I got a couple of apologetic e-mails, including one from Symantec's COO, and both the outsourcing company and Symantec itself redoubled their efforts to help me solve the problem. In the end, I ran out of time and patience and was just basically unwilling to continue operating my machine essentially unprotected while the wheels ground slowly on, so I manually uninstalled Norton Internet Security (the installation was so mangled at this point that the Add/Remove Programs uninstall routine no longer worked--removing everything by hand and cleaning up took about an hour) and installed Zone Alarm.
Today, in the mail, I received a check from Symantec refunding the full purchase price of Norton Internet Security 2005. While I would have preferred that they solve the problem (and would have greatly preferred that they didn't make getting decent, responsive tech support an exercise not unlike rewriting the Constitution), I think this was a pretty classy gesture on their part, considering that I was long out of their "money-back guarantee" period.
29 March 2005
1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.
2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.
3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.
4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand the New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.
5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.
6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.
7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.
8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who is running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.
9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.
10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country... or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy provided, of course, that they are not Republicans.
11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.
12. None of these is read by the guy who is running the country into the ground.
Had a long visit with my doctor today, and things are looking up. Fever is gone and bloodwork looks good, so any infection is on the wane; pain is (mostly) gone, and we are now entering the more aggressive phase of trying to nail down what caused the pancreatitis, and also dealing with the blood sugar issues. For the time being, the assumption is that I am officially a new diabetic, and that's how we're going to manage things.
Got a fistful of new prescriptions (sigh), referrals to specialists (endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, ophthalmologist) and a schedule of upcoming tests; it looks like, barring a real setback, I'll be able to go back to work on Friday, just in time for my traditional April Fools' Day pranks on my unsuspecting colleagues.
Ordered a very fashionable set of MedicAlert dogtags today. (The emergency instructions read, in part, "Sensitive libertarian: in the event of political derangement or appalling economic news, apply a current issue of Reason magazine and some medical marijuana, stat!")
Also have some good books on order from Amazon.
I now have my very own glucometer, am taking my blood sugar readings several times a day, and can look forward to (at least for the near future) permanently sore fingertips. The cute little gadget has a long memory (it holds your last 500 test results) and can be interfaced to a computer, so I'm sure that I'll be boring my doctors soon with Excel spreadsheets and graphs showing my blood glucose levels by time of day, phase of the moon, correlated with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nielsen ratings, the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction bestseller list, etc.
I hope that I will be able to restrain myself from posting them on the blog.
I'm also on a pretty strict diabetic diet, which, counterintuitively, in some cases means eating more - e.g., I've never been much of a breakfast eater, but I have to develop the discipline to eat at least a small breakfast (a little cereal, a piece of fruit) every morning. Can't miss any meals, and can't splurge or binge either. (Au revoir, Krispy Kreme! Sayonara, Pepperidge Farm!)
On the upside, it's an excuse to order some new and interesting cookbooks.
Thanks to everyone for your e-mails, calls, and offers of advice, assistance and prayer. I appreciate it all more than I can tell you.
28 March 2005
-- E.B. Farnum waxes philosophical on Deadwood (March 27, 2005)
(The "Deadwood" forum on TWoP is buzzing. The new season is off to a great start.)
27 March 2005
Type in the address of any website: your site, a friend's site, a famous site, any site you know. Choose a site that you'd like to punish, or whose destruction would bring you bliss and delight, or just fun.Here, enrevanche gets the Netdisaster treatment... aaaagh! worms!
26 March 2005
Okay, We Give Up(sigh) Oh, Scientific American, I love you. If it ever becomes possible for a man to marry a magazine, I'm going to show up on your doorstep with a suitcase full of costume jewelry and a bouquet of flowers.
There's no easy way to admit this. For years, helpful letter writers told us to stick to science. They pointed out that science and politics don't mix. They said we should be more balanced in our presentation of such issues as creationism, missile defense and global warming. We resisted their advice and pretended not to be stung by the accusations that the magazine should be renamed Unscientific American, or Scientific Unamerican, or even Unscientific Unamerican. But spring is in the air, and all of nature is turning over a new leaf, so there's no better time to say: you were right, and we were wrong.
In retrospect, this magazine's coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided. For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies. True, the theory of common descent through natural selection has been called the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time, but that was no excuse to be fanatics about it.
Where were the answering articles presenting the powerful case for scientific creationism? Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon? Blame the scientists. They dazzled us with their fancy fossils, their radiocarbon dating and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.
Moreover, we shamefully mistreated the Intelligent Design (ID) theorists by lumping them in with creationists. Creationists believe that God designed all life, and that's a somewhat religious idea. But ID theorists think that at unspecified times some unnamed superpowerful entity designed life, or maybe just some species, or maybe just some of the stuff in cells. That's what makes ID a superior scientific theory: it doesn't get bogged down in details.
Good journalism values balance above all else. We owe it to our readers to present everybody's ideas equally and not to ignore or discredit theories simply because they lack scientifically credible arguments or facts. Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do. Indeed, if politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction. To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong. In that spirit, we will end the practice of expressing our own views in this space: an editorial page is no place for opinions.
Get ready for a new Scientific American. No more discussions of how science should inform policy. If the government commits blindly to building an anti-ICBM defense system that can't work as promised, that will waste tens of billions of taxpayers' dollars and imperil national security, you won't hear about it from us. If studies suggest that the administration's antipollution measures would actually increase the dangerous particulates that people breathe during the next two decades, that's not our concern. No more discussions of how policies affect science either--so what if the budget for the National Science Foundation is slashed? This magazine will be dedicated purely to science, fair and balanced science, and not just the science that scientists say is science. And it will start on April Fools' Day.
I let my subscription lapse recently... we subscribe to a lot of periodicals in this house (two writers living together, what do you expect?) and my pile of unread magazines sits on our coffee table as a silent rebuke and constant reminder... but I just resubscribed, this time to their digital edition, which includes complete access to their archives.
(Interestingly, their digital subscriptions cost slightly more than their print subscriptions - but since the digital version includes archive access and therefore offers more value, I'd say they've got the pricing exactly right. I am, increasingly, subscribing solely to the digital versions of print publications, especially when they offer added value in terms of archive or database access... I've been reading the Wall Street Journal this way for years, and I'd argue that the WSJ's web site, with all of its wonderful research tools, is a much greater value than the print version of their newspaper.)
25 March 2005
The NYC Blogger Map is up and running again.
It's a directory of, well, New York City bloggers, but the organizational conceit is pretty cool: each blog is listed by the owner's closest subway stop, so you can work your way through the neighborhoods in the five boroughs by clicking on the subway map.
Here's a list of the bloggers at my station stop (the 14th St stop on the Seventh Avenue Express.)
But Mister Gato doesn't need a Drinkwell... he's got us trained to turn on his own private water fountain every time we pass the bathroom sink:
Mister Gato, of course, doesn't just like "found water" in the sink. He also likes "found water" in your glass, especially if you've got some ice in it, and he's never turned up his nose at "found milk" either.
(Earlier Mister Gato posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. See The Modulator and The Carnival of the Cats for more bloggers' cats from around the world.)
At some point, almost everyone encounters them - restless, eager people, consumed with confident curiosity. Researchers suspect that their mental fever shares some genetic basis with that of bipolar disorder, known colloquially as manic depression, a psychiatric disorder characterized by effusive emotional highs and bouts of paralyzing despair.
In recent decades, scientists have found that bipolar disorder is widely variable, and that its milder forms are marked by hypomanias, currents of mental energy and concentration that are less reckless than full-blown manic frenzies, and unspoiled, in many cases, by subsequent gloom.
New research helps explain how people with manic or hypomanic tendencies navigate the small triumphs and humiliations of daily life, and provides clues to how some of them quickly shake off the emotional troughs that their ambitious natures should make inevitable.
In cities around the world, community spirited techno-geeks have been setting up free Wi-Fi hotspots as part of the freenet movement. All it takes is a Wi-Fi router placed near a window or connected to a rooftop antenna, a cable or DSL modem and some firewall software. Users will always find free hotpsots.Here in New York, in addition to the cluster of nodes run by NeighborNode.net, we've got NYCWireless.net, too!
Last night's basketball games were but an appetizer for the main course today:
Three teams from the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) region of North Carolina--UNC, Duke, N.C. State-- are playing their regional semifinal games tonight. (And but for a very tightly contested second-round loss in double overtime, a fourth North Carolina team, Wake Forest, would be right there with them.)
As Mike Wise observes, reviewing last week's games in the Washington Post:
Meantime, what a weekend for Carolina hoops. For the first time since 1989, three teams from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle advanced to the round of 16. The Tar Heels, the Wolfpack and the Blue Devils, 2-0, just like that. The state of Indiana did not even have a team in the tournament this year. Down here, they serve sweet tea and humble pie with their hoops.As a man who grew up in Raleigh (as a State fan, actually), graduated from the University of North Carolina, and has had the good sense to hate Duke (unless no other ACC team is in contention, in which case I will offer my grudging support) since I was a small child, I must say, it's an embarrassment of riches.
North Carolina was awesome. The Tar Heels did not wear down Iowa State as much they punished and buried the Cyclones, 92-65, to advance at Charlotte Coliseum. They won their first- and second-round NCAA tournament games by a combined 55 points. The Tar Heels scored 188 points in two games. With respect to Illinois, Roy Williams's team is the best in the country.
I am thawing out a pound of Don Murray's excellent barbecue (stashed in my freezer since my last trip home), making some cole slaw and (sadly, given current blood-sugar issues) unsweetened iced tea, and settling in tonight with gleeful anticipation.
In the Austin regional semifinals, Duke plays Michigan State at 7:10 PM.
In Syracuse, we've got N.C. State playing Wisconsin at 7:27, followed by UNC vs. Villanova at an estimated start time of 9:57. I'll definitely be taking a disco nap this afternoon to stay strong for that one.
And if it goes like I think it might, UNC will play NC State on Sunday and then go on to face Duke in the Final Four... what my friend BobLee refers to as the "Apocalypse Sunday" scenario of N.C. State beating Carolina is just too grim a prospect to be considered.
24 March 2005
And the best (IMNSHO) Windows news aggregator client, RSS Bandit, issued a major upgrade, with a pile of cool new features. Nifty stuff! Thanks to the RSS Bandit development team.
23 March 2005
I will say this, however: if you are of legal age, and you do not have legal documents setting out your wishes for medical care in the event that you become unable to speak for yourself, fix that situation immediately.
Here are some good resources:
The American Bar Association's site on Advance Directives.
The invaluable Nolo.com's area on medical powers of attorney and living wills.
Courtesy of Commerce Clearing House, here's a site where you can download legally valid power of attorney and medical treatment forms for any state in the U.S.
The U.S. Living Will Registry has all kinds of information resources, and also allows you to register and store your living will with them (free of charge) once you create it.
Finally, a very affordable commercial solution: for less than $50, Quicken WillMaker Plus 2005 will create legally valid healthcare directives and powers of attorney (as well as just about every other kind of estate planning document you can think of); the program will ask you all the relevant questions, saving you from having to do the research yourself.
P.S. And if you care at all about your wishes being actually followed, you'll probably want to stay out of Catholic hospitals if you're seriously ill:
The free and informed judgment made by a competent adult patient concerning the use or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures should always be respected and normally complied with, unless it is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.At least the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is up front about letting you know that their values trump yours.
22 March 2005
Very busy couple of days at the office on Monday and Tuesday of last week.
Wednesday I woke up feeling bad, called in sick. It felt like sort of a mild stomach flu or something. Fever, headache. Crampy, achy - a bad pain in my lower left side. Ick. Slept approximately eighteen hours.
Thursday: Lather, rinse, repeat.
By Friday I realized that things were getting worse, not better. Had been having trouble getting an appointment with my overbooked-and-popular regular MD, so I got myself to the local doc-in-the-box.
The doctor ran a couple of quick tests and, to use a technical term, freaked out. In particular, my blood sugar was through the roof (blood sugar? Dude, I'm not a diabetic... um, I don't *think* I'm a diabetic...)
He sent me straight to the emergency room (which, in New York City, is quite an experience... like being trapped for eight hours in an overpacked passenger car on an unusually incompetent third-world railroad, say.) I was admitted to the hospital directly from there.
After four days of blood tests, x-rays, CT scans, etc. etc., they delivered the final diagnosis:
- Pneumonia, lower lobe of left lung (say that five times fast.)
- Inflamed pancreas, verging on pancreatitis
- The elevated blood sugar (probably due to the pancreatic inflammation) is being treated for now as new-onset Type II diabetes (oh joy!) until treatment is completed and we can sort things out.
If I owe you an e-mail, apologies. I'm working on it!
12 March 2005
To: [Symantec CEO, COO, CIO]
cc: [Clueless Indian Outsourcing Company]
Subject: Technical Support Woes
On Saturday, March 5, 2005, I opened up a case with Symantec's web/e-mail based tech support, regarding my sudden inability to use Live Update with Norton Internet Security 2005. The case was assigned as number [redacted].
I was contacted by a representative of Iseva, where Symantec has apparently outsourced its technical support. The entire e-mail trail is reproduced below my signature [blog readers: I have spared you this - bc], but in essence, what happened was this:
-- I used the web form on the Symantec site to describe my difficulties using Live Update in Internet Security 2005. In the web form submission, I indicated that I had already tried all the relevant troubleshooting procedures in the Knowledgebase, with no success.
-- The Iseva rep wanted to walk me through a troubleshooting procedure I had already performed, based on a document in the Knowledgebase that I had already found.
-- When I informed the Iseva rep that I had already tried everything he was asking me to do, I heard nothing further from him. My last communication from the Iseva rep was on Sunday, March 6, almost one week ago; I wrote on March 8th to ask what was happening with my case, and there was no reply.
I have several questions.
-- Does Symantec feel that this is an adequate level of technical support for a paying customer? (I don't.)
-- Does Iseva feel that they are doing a good job for Symantec? (I don't.)
-- Is abandoning the customer once the first-level support script is exhausted an official Symantec and/or Iseva policy? (It appears to be.)
Frankly, I think that this has been an absolutely disgraceful performance on Iseva's part, and by extension, Symantec's.
I am stuck with disabled software on my desktop machine, and am at the point of removing it, demanding a refund from Symantec, and installing AVG Anti-Virus and ZoneAlarm.
Please give me a reason--any reason--to reconsider.
11 March 2005
Which brings us to today's text, courtesy of WRAL-TV (Raleigh, NC) news:
Bill Would Establish Shaggin' License PlateOkay. When Southerners talk about "shagging," they mean to reference a rather stylized dance that one performs to "beach music."
RALEIGH -- The Daughters of the American Revolution have one. Recipients of the Purple Heart and the Silver Star have one, too. You can even get one to show your support for sea turtles.
State Sens. David Hoyle and Tony Rand are co-sponsoring a bill that would establish a license plate paying homage to shag dancing.The proposed license plate would bear the phrase "I'd Rather Be Shaggin'" and would also have a picture illustrating two shaggers.
For such a license to be printed and issued, the Division of Motor Vehicles must get 300 or more applications.
In much of the rest of the English-speaking world, especially the UK and environs, people will think you're talking about this.
Personally, I will always treasure the memory of asking (in all freshman innocence and earnestness) a beautiful English exchange student, at a college party where beach music was being played, whether she'd like to shag.
(Hat tip: Ruby Sinreich)
The mainstream press has also weighed in on the story, including heavy hitters like the Wall Street Journal's technology columnist Walt Mossberg, who gave Firefox high marks in his December 30, 2004 column (WSJ subscription required), praising it for its tabbed-browsing features and integrated RSS support.
But until recently, analysis of the business case for choosing between Firefox and IE has been curiously lacking, as has a solid market analysis of current conditions.
Enter Knowledge@Wharton, a newsletter from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, with their article, "Browser Wars: Will Firefox Burn Explorer?" They offer interviews with Wharton School faculty and experts on the topic. For example:
Okay, so it's not exactly rocket science. But the Wharton business geeks make some solid points and demonstrate a reasonable understanding of both technical and market issues with respect to the Browser Wars, 2005 edition. It's worth a read if you're interested in the subject.
As far as browsers go, customers are disgruntled with Microsoft. The non-profit Mozilla Foundation, formed in July 2003 with funding from America Online's Netscape unit to promote open source web software, cites 25 million downloads of its Firefox browser in the last 100 days. Web measurement company WebSideStory reports that Firefox had a U.S. market share of 5.69% as of Feb. 18 compared to Internet Explorer's 89.85%. While it's far too early to call Microsoft's browser an also-ran, Internet Explorer had a market share of 95.48% in June 2004, says WebSideStory. Globally, the trend toward Firefox is the same. On Feb. 28, Amsterdam-based web analytics company Onestat.com put Firefox's market share at 8.45% globally, up 1% from November 2004.
"The Internet Explorer is a terrible browser and it has security problems," says Wharton legal studies professor Dan Hunter. "Firefox is just a better browser, but I would argue that its market share gains have come because spyware and other hacks plague Explorer."
According to [Wharton marketing professor Peter] Fader, increased marketing of Firefox is unlikely. After all, Mozilla doesn't have the marketing budget to do a sustained campaign. Meanwhile, Microsoft has one asset that is almost unbeatable: Inertia. Microsoft's browser is packaged when you buy a PC. Other software such as Outlook and Office is included. Are people going to go out of their way to download a Firefox browser or some open source alternative to Microsoft products? "Sure you could argue that some of Microsoft's products are bloated and suboptimal, but they do get the job done reasonably well," says Fader.
(Disclaimer: I've been on record for a long time as a Firefox supporter, and have not only blogged about in the past, I've urged people to switch. Just so you know where I'm coming from.)
Also posted on enrevanche.
We North Carolinians take our basketball seriously... and basketball takes us seriously, too; three of the top five teams in the nation right now (Duke, UNC, Wake Forest) are based in NC.
Just watched UNC almost lose a game to bottom-ranked Clemson. (The Heels woke up late in the second half and pulled it out, 88-81.)
Was IMing with a friend this morning, and he observed that his favorite thing about college basketball was that in any given game, any team can get hot and beat their highly-ranked opponent.
He's absolutely right. We saw it happen last week when three nationally-ranked teams succumbed to underdog opponents, and we almost saw it again this afternoon in the UNC game.
Of all places to find wisdom about college basketball, here's an interesting article from Reuters (dateline: Raleigh, NC.)
U.S. interest in college basketball, especially in areas where professional sports do not dominate, can be nearly as rabid in March as is the following for soccer in Europe.The analogy to World Cup soccer is right on.
"I don't think anything can compare (to the NCAA tournament) for a three-week span," said sales representative Chester Brown as he waited for lunch at a sandwich shop in Raleigh this week.
"For four days a week, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for a three-week span, everybody in every office building in the country is talking about basketball," Brown said.
Once again, I point you to the ACC Hoops blog and to Yoni Cohen's excellent College Basketball blog. Terrific blog coverage at this time of year.
10 March 2005
Then I saw this story come burbling over the AP wire:
BATES TOWNSHIP, Mich. - A man cooking in his kitchen was shot after one of his cats knocked his 9mm handgun onto the floor, discharging the weapon, Michigan State Police said.The wound was apparently not fatal; otherwise, I think we would've just been introduced to the latest candidate for the 2005 Darwin Award.
Please, gun-and-cat owners: if you are going to disregard the fundamental rules of firearms safety (hint: *never ever* leave your semiautomatic pistol lying around with one in the chamber!), please practice good Cat Awareness.
Cat Awareness 101: If your personal property is sitting in a location where your cat might like to lie down, it's toast. Mister Gato, in his unending quest for lebensraum, has knocked everything from the day's mail to expensive electronic equipment onto the floor.
(There is, of course, ample literary precedent for the pistol-packing kittycat. Come to think of it, Behemoth carried a nine, too.)
06 March 2005
Unlike Jason Giambi and Jose Canseco, he did it without the benefit of steroids.
(Earlier Mister Gato posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. See The Modulator and The Carnival of the Cats for more bloggers' cats from around the world.)
Checking in quickly at halftime of the Duke-UNC basketball game... speaking of which, Yoni Cohen has moved his excellent College Basketball blog to spiffy new quarters. As March Madness approaches it's a must-read every day.
Much news to share with you, which I'll try to do tonight and tomorrow.