When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

28 February 2006

Light, lumpy blogging ahead

Bags are packed, waiting for the car to pick me up and take me to Newark Airport...

Yep, blogging will be on "travel schedule" for the next few days, meaning when and if I have the time to get to it.

Just to leave you with something to think about while I'm in the air...

Here's a classic example of why you need writers and editors who understand the subject matter they're writing about:
After almost 20 years languishing on the shelf, large companies are beginning to adopt ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library of IT services best practices guidelines (the British pronounce it "it-ill," while Americans say "eye-till"). Forrester Research predicts that 40 percent of large organizations will rely on ITIL by 2006 and 80 percent by 2008, up from a mere 13 percent that had implemented it by 2004.
[Ed. note: Hand-waving and hype about the future numbers, which are anybody's guess, and there are plenty of people in Europe who would point out that ITIL has hardly been "languishing on the shelf for 20 years," but probably more accurate than not. So far, so mediocre.]
Addressing ITIL and related IT management frameworks COBIT and ISO, a recent Forrester report notes...
Bzzzzzz! Wrong. "ISO" stands for "International Standards Organization," and you don't even want to think about how many numbered ISO standards there are, more than 99% of which have nothing whatsoever to do with IT service management. "ISO," to put it mildly, ain't a management framework.

Such a little thing.

Such a massively important thing--if you're trying to sell somebody on the idea that you know what you're talking about, you just blew it.

I know that Forrester Research has better writers and editors than this, so I'm pretty sure that somebody over at "Intelligent Enterprise" dropped the ball here.

The writer, by the way, most likely intended to reference ISO 9000 (quality management) or, if exceptionally hip, ISO 20000 (IT service management) though there are other possibilities as well.
Governance Gauge: Don't Worry, "ITIL" Be Alright [sic] (Intelligent Enterprise.com)

27 February 2006

Ex-Donkey Blog: RINO Sightings - The "Is It March Yet?" Edition

The last batch of RINO Sightings for the month of February are up over at the Ex-Donkey Blog. Gary does a really nice job with this week's edition; common themes that many RINOs are musing on, current-events wise, include the UAE Ports kerfuffle and That Essay By Bill Buckley.

Ex-Donkey Blog: RINO Sightings - The "Is It March Yet?" Edition

UPDATED: Knowledge Worker Free/Open Source Toolbox

A few updates have been made to the Knowledge Worker Free/Open Source Toolbox, which provides a list of freeware and/or open-source alternatives to popular commercial software.

Most notably, we’ve added a very good free, open-source functional replacement for Microsoft Project to the tools list: Open Workbench.

Open Workbench is an open source Windows-based desktop application that provides robust project scheduling and management functionality and is free to distribute throughout the enterprise. When users need to move beyond desktop scheduling to a workgroup, division or enterprise-wide solution, they can upgrade to CA’s Clarity™ system, a project and portfolio management system that offers bidirectional integration with Open Workbench.

Links to Open Workbench and other open-source tools can be found at the Toolbox (hosted at Knowledge Work.)


Knowledge Worker Free/Open Source Toolbox (Updated February 27, 2006)

(Also posted at Knowledge Work.)

26 February 2006

Carnival of the Cats #101

Is now up over at the animal family.

NYT weekend linky goodness

Some very interesting stories in this weekend's editions of the New York Times -- an unusually high concentration of them, in fact.

A quick roundup:

(1) The NSA goes "shopping" in Silicon Valley, talking with venture capitalists and hoping to steer them towards funding some technologies that the Feds would be interested in buying. (For those of you who thought the ACLU "pizza ad" example I posted earlier this week was ridiculous, virtually everything the NSA is looking at in the commerical software market involves data mining.)

On the [NSA's] wish list, according to several venture capitalists who met with the officials, were an array of technologies that underlie the fierce debate over the Bush administration's anti-terrorist eavesdropping program: computerized systems that reveal connections between seemingly innocuous and unrelated pieces of information.

The tools they were looking for are new, but their application would fall under the well-established practice of data mining: using mathematical and statistical techniques to scan for hidden relationships in streams of digital data or large databases.

(2) Software gazillionaire Thomas Siebel (of the eponymous Siebel Systems, recently purchased by Oracle) who lives part-time in Montana, is funding the Montana Meth Project, blanketing the state of Montana with anti-methamphetimine advertising that makes the old egg-in-the-frying-pan "This is your brain on drugs..." PSA look like an episode of Romper Room. For example:
The camera follows the teenager as she showers for her night out and looks down to discover the drain swirling with blood. She turns and sees her methamphetamine-addicted self cowering below, oozing from scabs she has picked all over her body because the drug made her think there were bugs crawling beneath her skin, and she lets out a scream worthy of "Psycho."
That's an interesting way to spend some of the metric buttload of cash he just got from Larry Ellison.

(3) There's a long, fascinating article in the Sunday NYT Magazine about Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, a non-traditional, older college student in his freshman year at Yale. He was out in the working world for a while before attending university--as a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"Fahad, Hyder, Rahmatullah, me — we fight every day," Ahmed says. "We have lunch together. At 6 o'clock we meet for dinner at the Slifka Center [ed. note: this is the kosher dining hall at Yale - where halal food isn't available, kosher suits many Muslims fine.] We sit together and eat food off one plate and talk about things. Sometimes we make fun of the Taliban. Every day we come up with something to fight about. We pretend to be only mocking, but we're genuinely angry. Friendship to a Pashtun means you have exclusive rights to abuse each other. After dinner we go back to my suite in Davenport and play foosball or stay up late playing Civilization. Rahmatullah loves the equality of how people are over here. He's very down to earth. He gets a lot of respect at Yale. If you want to test a man's character, either give him power or take it away — and see how he responds. I'm proud to be his friend."


Many distinctions could be drawn between his old life and his life at Yale. But he had seized on one.

"You have to be reasonable to live in America," he said. "Everything here is based on reason. Even the essays you write for class. Back home you have to talk about religion and culture, and you can win any argument if you bring up the Islamic argument. You can't reason against religion. But you cannot change Afghanistan overnight. You can't bring the Enlightenment overnight."
(4) Critics of the American health-care system (and I count myself in their number) who look hopefully to the Great White North for answers would do well to read this article about Canada's flailing, drowning government health-care system and the rise of technically-illegal private clinics and hospitals:

The country's publicly financed health insurance system — frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity — is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine.

Dr. Day, for instance, is planning to open more private hospitals, first in Toronto and Ottawa, then in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. Ontario provincial officials are already threatening stiff fines. Dr. Day says he is eager to see them in court.

"We've taken the position that the law is illegal," Dr. Day, 59, says. "This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years."

(5) Finally, Paul English's "get out of voicejail free" project, GetHuman.com, which has been blogged a time or two here at enrevanche, gets some nice coverage: Your Call Should Be Important To Us, But It's Not.
[L]ast summer, fed up with too many aggravating run-ins with awful customer service, Mr. English posted a blog entry that reverberated around the world: a "cheat sheet" that explained how to break through automated interactive voice-response systems at a handful of companies and speak to a human being. He named the companies and published their codes for reaching an operator — codes that they did not share with the public.
Stories referenced:

25 February 2006

Mayberry, R.I.P.

The lights in the ground-floor corner room at the Y.M.C.A. in Raleigh, NC have been dimmed.

Actor Don Knotts, who made a long career out of playing comic nerds (most famously as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show) died today in Los Angeles at 81.

AP Wire | 02/25/2006 | Actor Don Knotts dies at 81

(Hat tip to Mr. Crash Davis at Metafilter for the headline idea.)

WFB: It Didn't Work

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed... Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samarra and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that 'the bombing has completely demolished' what was being attempted -- to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.
IT DIDN'T WORK - William F. Buckley, via Yahoo! News

24 February 2006

"We just got wired into the system..."

A libertarian privacy freak's nightmare...

It's just a few database integration steps away. (Flash required.)

Americans work more, seem to accomplish less

Most U.S. workers say they feel rushed on the job, but they are getting less accomplished than a decade ago, according to newly released research.

Workers completed two-thirds of their work in an average day last year, down from about three-quarters in a 1994 study, according to research conducted for Day-Timers Inc., an East Texas, Pennsylvania-based maker of organizational products.

The biggest culprit is the technology that was supposed to make work quicker and easier, experts say.

“Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it’s slowed everything down, paradoxically,” said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Americans work more, seem to accomplish less - Yahoo! News

Okay, time for a little rant on productivity.

The researchers cited in the article above have observed a couple of dynamics at work. First, technology raises the bar: it makes it possible for you to do more, so you’re expected to do more. Second, it enables multitasking, perhaps to an unhealthy degree: you’re constantly taking little bites out of all the tasks before you, but are you ever really finishing anything?

I would add a third observation: the technology that we use to do our jobs is often much more complicated than it needs to be, and we spend an inordinate amount of unproductive time trying to make the damned stuff behave. The cluttered interfaces and bloated feature lists of much modern PC software do *not* make positive contributions to usability and productivity.

I’ve had a lot of different job titles, but for the most part I write for a living. Several years ago I switched from a bloated, cluttered word processor (Microsoft Word) to a full-featured but much cleaner text editor (TextPad) as my primary composition tool. Only after I’ve written the basic copy and am ready to apply styles and formatting do I cut and paste into Word or OpenOffice (if I’m producing printed matter or a PDF) or Nvu (if I’m publishing to the Web)

Should you really need a day of training and a third-party manual the thickness of a small city’s phone book to get productive with a project management tool like Microsoft Project?

Does Microsoft Outlook really need to have an interface like a 747 flight simulator just so you can send and receive e-mails, make little notes to yourself, and keep an address book and to-do list?

(I’m not picking on Microsoft, honestly–but when you dominate a market like they do, you make yourself a fat target.)

Try one of 37Signals’ products (Basecamp or Backpack - ultraclean, usable project management and personal information management software, respectively) and then tell me you’d willingly go back to Project and Outlook.

(Also posted at Knowledge Work.)

23 February 2006

Cat, recumbent

Here's a tight closeup of our contortionist cat, Mister Gato, sleeping happily with his head resting lightly on his hind leg.

recumbent cat in closeup scaled
Note the coffee-bean toes.

Pull the shot back just a tad, and you'll notice that he is sleeping on a much-beloved box, with a blue fleece baby blanket (Wal-Mart, 99 cents) on top... with one leg hanging over the side.

This much cuteness should be illegal.

cat on much-beloved box scaled
Don't wake the kitty.

Visit the Friday Ark at The Modulator to check out more bloggers' pets from around the world--and don't miss the 101st edition of the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted by My Animal Family.

Public Service Announcement: Don't leash your cat.

With a tip of the enrevanche chapeau to the good folks at Gothamist, here's some very good advice: Don't Leash Your Cat.

Safe for work if you don't mind some muttered PG-rated language at the end.

Video courtesy of YouTube.

Direct video link: "We've got a wild cat on our hands!"

Eight types of meeting attendees

Jonathan Grubb describes “some personalities that come out in meetings, especially at big software companies”: 8 types of meeting attendees.

If you’ve done any time in project or staff meetings, you’ll recognize a number of these archetypes (The Talker, The Killer, etc.) as well as some contributed by Jonathan’s readers in the comments.

Personally, I have always been in complete, bewildered awe of The Stealth Lurker:

The Stealth Lurker
You might think this guy is a real lurker, but he isn’t. He’s the one who says nothing for the whole meeting then offers a single quietly stated opinion near the end. Then, no matter what everyone else agreed on, his plan gets implemented. How did it happen? Who knows. This guy has some power you don’t understand. Get to know him.

Sound advice.

Jonathan Grubb: 8 types of meeting attendees

(Also posted at Knowledge Work.)

22 February 2006

Follow the bouncing Willie

I've been a Willie Nelson fan forever, as both songwriter and singer. Even though Willie writes amazing stuff (Good God, y'all, the man wrote "Crazy" for Patsy Cline, and that alone would put him in the Hall of Fame forever) some of his strongest performances are when he works with material written by others. I think he does the definitive version of Paul Simon's "An American Tune," for instance.

You've probably read about Willie's latest release (available on iTunes) - "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly (Fond Of Each Other)". Written over twenty years ago by Texas songwriter Ned Sublette, it's a straight-ahead (pardon the expression) affirmation of gay love on the range.

As the chorus says:
Cowboys are frequently secretly fond of each other
What did you think that them saddles and boots was about?

A little background on the song, and why it's being released just now, when the whole world is apparently gettin' Brokeback:

Two years ago, David Anderson, Mr. Nelson's friend and tour manager of three decades, told his boss he's gay. Last March, while Mr. Nelson recorded a batch of previously unreleased songs for iTunes, he discovered the song in a stack of demos he had tossed into a drawer.

Singing "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other" was Mr. Nelson's way of telling a longtime pal everything was OK, says Mr. Anderson.

"This song obviously has special meaning to me in more ways than one," says Mr. Anderson, who lives in Dallas. "I want people to know more than anything – gay, straight, whatever – just how cool Willie is and ... his way of thinking, his tolerance, everything about him."

Dallas Morning News: Willie Opens Closet for "Cowboys" (Feb 14, 2006)
If you visit secretcowboys.com, you can hear the song in its entirety--and they promise a video soon.

You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there...

(Hat tip: retired blogger, New York City expat and good pal Scott.)

Time for the last post

On a winter-cold morning last autumn, before the leaves could summon up the energy to burn and fall, the barbarians entered the gate. A group of feisty young writers, known only to millions of readers by their blog names - Gawker, Gizmodo, Wonkette and Defamer - were in a soigne studio in New York’s Chelsea district to be photographed for the February issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

They represented the cream of Gawker Media - a mini-empire of clever, gossip-driven blogs launched in 2003 by Nick Denton, a former reporter for the Financial Times. But they were also emissaries from the blogging hordes, a raffish army of citizen journalists bent on overthrowing the old guard of the US media.

The irony was sweet: Gawker was supposed to make fun of this kind of inside-the-establishment posing. But the victory was sweeter: it was a signal moment, a benediction from a magazine that, more than any other, has become the plush chronicler of the celebrity establishment. As Vanity Fair put it in the story that accompanied the photo-spread, “With a combination of smart-ass writing and low subject matter folded into crisply designed sites, the Gawker gang is bringing some wit and nasty fun to a dour decade.” The upstart press of the 21st century seemed to have truly arrived."

Financial Times / Arts & Weekend - Time for the last post
As a friend recently observed to me - "If somebody were going to start up Spy magazine today, they wouldn't. It would be a blog, and in many cases already is."

Which makes this article's appearance in Graydon Carter's Vanity Fair all the more interesting, I suppose.

Hat tip: John deVille.

Global spread of English threatens US, UK

The dominance of English as the world's top language -- until recently an advantage to both Britain and the United States -- is now beginning to undermine the competitiveness of both nations, according to a major research report.

The report commissioned by the British Council says monolingual English graduates "face a bleak economic future" as multilingual competitors flood into the workforce from all corners of the globe.

A massive increase in the number of people learning English is under way and likely to peak at around 2 billion in the next decade, according to the report entitled "English Next."

More than half of all primary school children in China now learn English and the number of English speakers in India and China -- 500 million -- now exceeds the total number of mother-tongue English speakers elsewhere in the world.

Global spread of English threatens US, UK: study - Reuters via Yahoo! News

(Also posted at Knowledge Work.)

21 February 2006

RINO Sightings: All Things Jen(nifer) - (俳句)

RINO Sightings up
At All Things Jen(nifer) blog
Now, in haiku form

All Things Jen(nifer): RINO Sightings (in haiku form)

New ITIL blog, search engine

The anonymous blogger behind Dr. ITIL has resurfaced after a long absence with a new blog: IT Service Blog - ITIL Inside (and a related project, an ITIL-focused search engine.)

With the current corporate focus heavily on “do more with less”, customer complaints at records levels and the never ending global phenomenon in offshoring in India and China - it’s time to take a fresh look at how IT adds value to any business organization.

The adpater layer is Service.

Business folks don’t care about servers, routers, application API’s and firewalls. They just want their services to be always on, perform well and form a reliable part of their working life.

From the top however - how IT adds real value to an organization - rather than cost a ton of money and show little return (as the next project comes in late, delivers little and costs 33% more than expected) it’s clear a new agenda in demonstrating IT Service Value is necessary.

ITIL helps.

We’ll be following this one with interest.

(Also posted at Knowledge Work.)

20 February 2006

Francis Fukuyama: After Neoconservatism

A tremendously important, insightful, and useful critique of neoconservativism in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, written by Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man (practically neocon scripture!) and a widely read neoconservative historian and analyst himself.

The way the cold war ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war, including younger neoconservatives like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, in two ways. First, it seems to have created an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core and would crumble with a small push from outside. The model for this was Romania under the Ceausescus: once the wicked witch was dead, the munchkins would rise up and start singing joyously about their liberation. As Kristol and Kagan put it in their 2000 book "Present Dangers": "To many the idea of America using its power to promote changes of regime in nations ruled by dictators rings of utopianism. But in fact, it is eminently realistic. There is something perverse in declaring the impossibility of promoting democratic change abroad in light of the record of the past three decades."

This overoptimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration's incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq. The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform. While they now assert that they knew all along that the democratic transformation of Iraq would be long and hard, they were clearly taken by surprise. According to George Packer's recent book on Iraq, "The Assassins' Gate," the Pentagon planned a drawdown of American forces to some 25,000 troops by the end of the summer following the invasion.
After Neoconservatism - Francis Fukuyama, New York Times

Little Red Dot

From my favorite online lexicographer, Grant @ Double-Tongued Word Wrester Dictionary:
little red dot n. the country of Singapore.
Read the entry for the details.

(Hi, Fiona!)

Carnival of the Cats, Century Edition

The 100th Edition of the Carnival of the Cats is up at Bloggin' Outloud.

Bienvenidos al 100th Carnival de los Gatos!

Washington Post: The Click That Broke a Government's Grip

The Washington Post is running what looks to be a terrific series of articles on the Great Firewall of China aka "Golden Shield," and the (often Western vendor-supplied) technology that empowers China's policy of thought control and censorship.

Here's a clip from Sunday's article:
The top editors of the China Youth Daily were meeting in a conference room last August when their cell phones started buzzing quietly with text messages. One after another, they discreetly read the notes. Then they traded nervous glances.

Colleagues were informing them that a senior editor in the room, Li Datong, had done something astonishing. Just before the meeting, Li had posted a blistering letter on the newspaper's computer system attacking the Communist Party's propaganda czars and a plan by the editor in chief to dock reporters' pay if their stories upset party officials.

No one told the editor in chief. For 90 minutes, he ran the meeting, oblivious to the political storm that was brewing. Then Li announced what he had done.

The chief editor stammered and rushed back to his office, witnesses recalled. But by then, Li's memo had leaked and was spreading across the Internet in countless e-mails and instant messages. Copies were posted on China's most popular Web forums, and within hours people across the country were sending Li messages of support.

The government's Internet censors scrambled, ordering one Web site after another to delete the letter. But two days later, in an embarrassing retreat, the party bowed to public outrage and scrapped the editor in chief's plan to muzzle his reporters.

Washington Post: The Click That Broke a Government's Grip

Free thought and free speech terrify tyrants. That's why they are such absolutely vital and fundamental rights, and why the complicity of Western vendors (like Cisco Systems, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft) in empowering thought control is so dangerous.

Congressman Tom Lantos's poignant (and pointed) questions to this new "Gang of Four" - "Are you ashamed?" are chilling echoes of Joseph Welch's famous verbal takedown of Senator McCarthy--"At long last, have you left no sense of decency? Have you no shame?"

Wired News: Literacy Limps Into the Kill Zone

Today I want to talk about the all-out assault on the English language and the role technology plays in that unprovoked and dastardly attack. I especially want to talk about the ways dumbing down the language is not only seen as acceptable, but is tacitly encouraged as the status quo.

Any number of my acquaintances excuse the bad writing and atrocious punctuation that proliferates in e-mail by saying, in essence, "Well, at least people are writing again." Horse droppings. People have never stopped writing, although it's reaching a point where you wish a lot of them would.


Business jargon is simply the art of saying nothing while appearing to say a lot.

As a result, we have CEOs of major corporations who lack the basic writing skills to pen a simple, in-house memo in plain-spoken English. We see marketing swine get paid princely sums to lie about their products in language so bloated with jargon that their lies -- and even their half-truths -- are unintelligible. We see company flacks churning out impenetrable press releases that no editor in his right mind would consider reading, let alone using. We see business reporting reduced to the trite and formulaic because the reporter is either too uncritical or too lazy to take a hard look at what lies behind the smoke and mirrors.

Wired News: Literacy Limps Into the Kill Zone

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)

19 February 2006

Fundies to Pat: STFU, Amen!

Fellow conservative religious leaders have expressed concern and even open criticism over Pat Robertson's habit of shooting from the hip on his daily religious news-and-talk television program, "The 700 Club."

The Christian Coalition founder and former GOP presidential candidate has said American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for pulling Israel out of the Gaza Strip.

Some canny observers think that if Robertson is crazy, he's crazy like a fox.

Brian Britt, director of the Religious Studies Program at Virginia Tech, said Robertson's remarks aren't just "off-the-wall, crazy uncle stuff" but part of a strategy that earns him headlines.

When people attack Robertson, he wins sympathy for appearing to be an underdog, Britt said.

"It reinforces an image of Christianity as a persecuted religion, a religion that is being hounded by the secularists out of the public square, rather than a dominant and hegemonic force," Britt said.

Pat Robertson Accused of Damaging Movement - Yahoo! News


Update on Mom

barry and betty
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
I've been in North Carolina for a few days visiting, and am happy to report that Mom (Betty) is recovering nicely.

While I've been at the house, Mom's physical therapist has been by twice, and she has taken some impressive walks down the hallway (with a walker, of course.) She is walking better than she has been in some time, to put it mildly, and we have high hopes that the wheelchair she is currently using to get around can be parked soon, permanently, and forgotten in a corner.

My Aunt Margaret and Uncle Worth, cousin Chip and wife Sharon and their daughter Maia all came over today to visit. I've attached a photograph that Sharon took of me and Mom. (Just remember when you look at us that the camera adds 10 pounds... or, in my case, 50...)

In the picture, Mother is wearing a lovely scarf/boa knitted for her by a friend who also dropped by to visit.

Mom really does seem to be feeling better. Her color is better, and her pain is under much better control.

Thanks to everyone for your cards, phone calls, e-mails, and continued expressions of concern. I head back to NYC tomorrow.

Congressman Lantos grills Net companies on China

Kowtow, from the Chinese term kòu tóu (Cantonese: kau tàuh) (Mandarin: kē tóu) (叩頭), is the act of deep respect shown by kneeling and bowing so low as to touch the head to the ground. While the phrase kè tóu (磕頭) is often used in lieu of the former in modern Chinese, the meaning is somewhat altered: kòu originally meant "knock with reverence", whereas has the general meaning of "touch upon (a surface)".

In imperial Chinese protocol, the kowtow was performed before the emperor...

I don't always agree with California Congressman Tom Lantos, but when a Holocaust survivor lectures you on human rights, you might want to pay attention.

This week, Congress called the "Gang of Four" (Microsoft, Cisco, Yahoo and Google) to hearings to explain just why it is they've been supporting the Chinese Communist government's technological efforts to suppress dissent and continue to oppress their population.

Here's a particularly nice exchange between Lantos and the Yahoo spokesdroid. (In 2004, Yahoo turned over key evidence--implicating Chinese journalist Shi Tao in acts of actual free thought, expressed in e-mails to friends abroad-- to the Chinese secret police; he's now in prison.)
Lantos, to Yahoo: Are you ashamed?

Yahoo: We are very distressed about the consequences of having to comply with Chinese law...We are certainly troubled by that and we look forward to working with our peers.

Lantos: Do you think that individuals or families have been negatively impacted by some of the activities we have been told, like being in prison for 10 years? Have any of the companies reached out to these families and asked if you could be of any help to them?

Yahoo: We have expressed our condemnation of the prosecution of this person, expressed our views to the Chinese government...We have approached the Chinese government on these issues.

Lantos: Have you reached out to the family? I can ask it 10 more times if you refuse to answer it. You are under oath.

Yahoo: We have not reached out to the families.
The whole thing is well worth reading.

And I'd like to send Lantos a case of good Scotch and a dozen roses.

Congressman quizzes Net companies on shame | CNET News.com

Related: Learning to Live with Big Brother (US News and World Report)

17 February 2006

Microsoft Rethinks Its Office 2007 Server Line Up

After more than two years of rumor and speculation surrounding its plans to create a new suite of Office servers designed to complement its desktop Office offerings, Microsoft on Thursday revealed its final Office 2007 server packaging line up.

While the company is introducing several brand-new servers as part of its next-generation office-productivity family, there is no comprehensive family of server offerings akin to the one that company insiders, testers and customers had been expecting. Instead, Microsoft has opted to roll up into a single new server, christened “Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007,” several server offerings that many company watchers expected to launch as standalone products.

…[T]he big kahuna on the Office Server 2007 side is Office SharePoint Portal Server 2007. That offering will combine Microsoft’s current Content Management Server, SharePoint Portal Server and what was expected to debut as a standalone Excel Server into a single product. Until quite recently, Microsoft was using the name “Office Server” to refer to Office SharePoint Portal Server 2007, company officials acknowledged.

SharePoint Portal Server 2007 will act as a backend for a variety of new client-based Office services. It also will incorporate a variety of workflow engines, designed to mesh with Windows Workflow Foundation, the next-generation Windows workflow technology that Microsoft is baking into Windows Vista, Longhorn Server and other future Windows releases.

Microsoft Rethinks Its Office 2007 Server Line Up (Microsoft Watch)

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)

Outsourcing Is Climbing Skills Ladder - New York Times

The globalization of work tends to start from the bottom up. The first jobs to be moved abroad are typically simple assembly tasks, followed by manufacturing, and later, skilled work like computer programming. At the end of this progression is the work done by scientists and engineers in research and development laboratories.

A new study that will be presented today to the National Academies, the nation’s leading advisory groups on science and technology, suggests that more and more research work at corporations will be sent to fast-growing economies with strong education systems, like China and India.

Outsourcing Is Climbing Skills Ladder - New York Times (February 17. 2006)

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)

G is for Gato (and Groceries)

Carrie was unpacking our FreshDirect grocery order the other night, and Mister Gato took advantage of the rare opportunity to go "mountaineering" in the high kitchen cabinets where we store our staple nonperishable foodstuffs.

He's always been intrigued by the padded, quilted plate protectors where our wedding china and crystal reside peacefully, mostly unused. (If we like you well enough to invite you over to dinner in our cramped little apartment, we like you well enough to serve you on everyday dishes, or paper plates, or right out of the cardboard Chinese-food takeout containers, for that matter.)

G is for Gato scaled
It just seems like all this padding... this box-like shape...
well, didn't you mean for me to be up here?

Visit the Friday Ark at The Modulator to check out more bloggers' pets from around the world--and don't miss the landmark 100th edition of the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted by Bloggin Out Loud.

16 February 2006

Oracle tried to buy open-source MySQL

Oracle tried to acquire open-source database maker MySQL, an indication of the profound changes the software giant is willing to make as it adapts to the increasingly significant collaborative programming philosophy.'

MySQL Chief Executive Marten Mickos confirmed the acquisition attempt in an interview at the Open Source Business Conference here but wouldn’t provide details such as when the approach was made or how much money Oracle offered.

He did, however, say why he turned down Oracle’s offer: the desire to keep his company’s independence. “We will be part of a larger company, but it will be called MySQL,” Mickos said.

Oracle tried to buy open-source MySQL (CNet News via TechRepublic)

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)

Chat rooms for business

This is a mighty good idea: a new service called Campfire allows you to create private “chat rooms” for your business or enterprise. This would be a terrific adjunct to, or even in some cases replacement for, teleconferencing or videoconferencing.

Instant messaging is great for one-on-one chats, but it’s not optimized for group chats of 3 or more people. Further, instant messaging is network dependent — if you are on AIM, and your client is on MSN, you can’t instant message. Campfire, on the other hand, is all about simple and quick network-agnostic group chats. It’s a self-contained, password-protected web-based chatroom that allows groups of up to 40 people to chat and easily share files together. No instant messaging software is required — all that’s required is a web browser.

Campfire is the newest project from 37signals–the same folks who also run Basecamp (web-based project management) and Backpack (personal and small business information organizer). They’re currently offering a 30-day free trial; it’s worth a look, especially if you collaborate on projects with people in farflung locations.

Simple group chat for business: Campfire

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)


Since I'm down in North Carolina for a few days, I hope that I can be forgiven a bit of ACC basketblogging.

Good God, y'all. Tyler Hansbrough was a monster last night against Georgia Tech. The big man contributed 40 points (an ACC freshman and Dean Dome scoring record) in UNC's come-from-behind win. (See Hansbrough pulls Heels past Ga. Tech (News & Observer) for more details.)

Speaking of which, one of my favorite things about being in North Carolina during basketball season is that I can turn the sound down on the television, turn up the radio, and listen to the play-by-play being called by Woody Durham, the Voice of the Tar Heels, just as God intended.

It turns out that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: Woody's son Wes is a radio sports announcer himself. And last night, Wes was in the Dean Dome with his dad... except Wes was doing the color commentary for Georgia Tech.
Woody Durham’s voice escapes from the car speakers, rumbling evenly like an idling Harley-Davidson engine. The play-by-play man for the North Carolina Tar Heels is crisp, clear and concise, the driver thinks to himself. He’s better than ever.

Granted, the driver, Wes Durham, is biased.

Long before his father’s voice became the household baritone of Tobacco Road, it sounded out Wes’ bed-time stories.
Tech color man follows father’s lead into the booth (Gwinnett Daily Post)

All manner of goodness...

...over at Chap's site, where he delivers himself of one of his periodic Link Dumps.

Pay attention when he does this. Everything Chap points to is worth reading, but the Link Dumps tend to contain the articles that have been preoccupying him of late.

There are two articles I especially want to point you towards.

First, my man Stanley Crouch, writing in the New York Daily News, hits it out of the park, writing about what it must feel like to be a moderate or liberal Muslim these days:
During the 1960s a white Southerner made me aware of a problem that now seems to be common to the complexity faced by modern people of many different societies and religions: The loose screws among them have come to represent the entire group.

Forty years ago, the white Southerner said to me that all of the televised redneck violence in reaction to the civil rights movement had made his Southern accent a social liability. Northern white people tended to assume, once they heard his accent, that he supported the Ku Klux Klan, had probably brutalized a black man and could easily have taken advantage of a black woman, who might be the mother of his unacknowledged child...

Read the whole thing.

And the second bit, which is just as irresistible - Christopher Hitchens reads Garrison Keillor's evisceration of Bernard-Henri Lévy's new book about America, and then proceeds to verbally disembowel the Bard of Lake Woebegone over at Slate:
Every now and again you come across the real thing: a case of full-blown, corn-fed, white-bread American nativist bloviation. This often used to take the form of populist and pseudo-egalitarian diatribes against the stuck-up English with their fancy ways, of the sort that Charles Dickens encountered in his 1842 journey to the United States (and summarized in his American Notes, as well as lampooned in his worst novel, Martin Chuzzlewit). But more recently, attacks on the effete and the elite have borrowed from that same England's oldest prejudice, and concentrated themselves on the Gallic.


Hey ho for Yankee Doodle, cock-a-hoop and strutting away. Not since the xenophobic patriots of World War I took to roughing up German waiters and announcing that sauerkraut was henceforth to be "Liberty Cabbage" has there been such a fiesta of all-American bullshit: of what Kipling of all surprising people called jelly-bellied flag-flapping.

I worry about Hitch, and would like to see him join a twelve-step program. But he's a well-lubricated rant machine, and it's a thing of beauty to behold when he's in full cry.

Chapomatic » Link Dump 14 Feb includes:

15 February 2006

The Gato Institute

From an exchange in the comments to the "WordCloud" post:
This Wordcloud is great - but my favourite part is the juxtaposition of the words. It seems to have created something called the Gato Institute! For libertarian cat-lovers everywhere, what could be nicer? - That's completely hilarious. The Gato Institute. It's like found poetry! I can see the fundraising letter now...

Wait, would that be for libertarians who love cats, or for the lovers of libertarian cats?

Because if it's the latter, we have a little problem. Mister Gato is decidedly authoritarian in his worldview.

Cats. Nature's fascists. -
Hmm, I see what you mean - the iron claw in the velvet paw, as it were.

It is sort of hard to imagine a libertarian cat: 'No, I won't sit on that newspaper, because it belongs to someone else ... not all cardboard boxes automatically fall under my mandate ... that mouse has just as much of a right to go about his affairs and pursue his own goals as I do!'

Having said all that, for all its dubious leanings, we'd probably still contribute to the Gato Institute if we received a fundraising letter - the cats here wouldn't give us any choice! -
Well, hell. If we've got people ready to pony up, the least I could do is produce a proper letterhead.

The Gato Institute

14 February 2006

enrevanche wordcloud

Bloggers, authors - get your very own WordCloud (and, if you like, a t-shirt that reproduces it.)

SnapShirt's software runs a word-frequency analysis on a sample of your blog posts, and then comes up with a "word cloud" representing the most frequently-used words; the bigger the word, the more often it's used.

Here's the "enrevanche" wordcloud:

enrevanche wordcloud

Heh. Looks about right.


(Hat tip: WordWhammy)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here's a sweet, romantic story that will warm the cockles of your heart:
[F]or detective agencies across the United States, [Valentine's Day] is a boon for business as it is the ideal time for a spouse to catch a cheating mate.

"Valentine's Day is the biggest day of the year for private investigators," Tony Delorenzo, of Private Detectives of America, a New Jersey-based company, told AFP.

"This year we're doing surveillance Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because if somebody has a lover it will be on one of those days to catch him."

Delorenzo and several other sleuths contacted said that in the run-up to the February 14 holiday, they had been overwhelmed with appeals by men and women seeking to find out whether their partner was unfaithful.

And here you thought it was just Hallmark, the candy companies and the florists who were making bank.

Valentine's Day boon for spies tracking infidelity AFP via Yahoo! News

An open letter to Andrew Sullivan


Like you, I am a lifelong conservative and Republican who is, all in all, fairly horrified by the pack of mooks we've currently got in the White House, and I've been following the Cheney-shoots-his-buddy story with much dark amusement.

I wanted to advise you of a terminology problem, however: you (and many other commentators) keep referring to the pellets that hit Mr. Whittington as "buckshot." No. If Mr. Whittington had taken a load of buckshot (the individual pellets of which are the approximate size of small industrial ball-bearings) in the face, he'd likely be dead now; buckshot is designed to take down large animals, like, well, buck deer.

Instead, as Mr. Whittington is no doubt thanking whatever gods he holds dear (deer?), the Veep was toting a small-bore (28-gauge) shotgun, which was loaded with *birdshot* (they were, after all, hunting birds.) Birdshot comes in various sizes, but in its common form, the pellets are about the size of BBs or peppercorns, and even though the pellets are travelling pretty fast, a large animal, such as a Texas corporate attorney, can be struck by quite a few of them without sustaining a whole lot of damage.

As a product of the Southern gun culture (I went hunting on many occasions as a boy and never managed to shoot a companion, a bird dog, or in fact anything other than an unimpressively small number of doves and quail) I couldn't resist reaching out to you with this correction. Otherwise, please keep up the fine work.


Barry Campbell

Update, Tuesday night: This letter is, of course, both a little less accurate and a lot less amusing, now that we know that some birdshot pellets lodged themselves in or near Mr. Whittington's heart, and that he had "a mild heart attack" as a result.

Digital Web Magazine: Practical Usability Testing

The most critical aspect of user-centered design, usability testing breaks down the wall between the designer and user, and allows us to see how real users do real tasks in the real world. There are many benefits of usability testing, including uncovering pitfalls in a current system before a redesign and evaluating the usability of a system during and after design. Usability testing should be an iterative practice, completed several times during the design and development life-cycle. The end result is an improved product and a better understanding of the users that we’re designing for.

Digital Web Magazine - Practical Usability Testing

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)

13 February 2006

Watermark: Carnival of the Cats #99 ~ Valentine Edition

Carnival of the Cats #99 ~ Valentine Edition is up at Watermark.

US group implants electronic tags in workers

From alert reader and sometime-blogger John deVille, this article from the Financial Times: US group implants electronic tags in workers.

An Ohio company has embedded silicon chips in two of its employees - the first known case in which US workers have been “tagged” electronically as a way of identifying them.


RFID chips – inexpensive radio transmitters that give off a unique identifying signal – have been implanted in pets or attached to goods so they can be tracked in transit.

“There are very serious privacy and civil liberty issues of having people permanently numbered,” said Liz McIntyre, who campaigns against the use of identification technology.

But Sean Darks, chief executive of CityWatcher, said the glass-encased chips were like identity cards. They are planted in the upper right arm of the recipient, and “read” by a device similar to a cardreader.

“There’s nothing pulsing or sending out a signal,” said Mr Darks, who has had a chip in his own arm. “It’s not a GPS chip. My wife can’t tell where I am.”

Financial Times - US group implants electronic tags in workers.

I have no cognitive difficulty with RFID tags being used to track inventory at Wal-Mart, or being slipped under the skin and into the ear-flaps of one of my pets to help identify them in case they ever wind up at Animal Control without their collars.

Putting them in human beings skeeves me out for reasons that I am currently finding it pretty difficult to articulate, but the point of pain is right at the intersection of my youthful sci-fi fascination and my neo-Fundamentalist Christian upbringing. It's all a bit too "Brave New World meets Mark of the Beast" for me to process this early in the morning.

Need more soma.

Borowitz: It was faulty intelligence...

Vice President Dick Cheney revealed today that he shot a fellow hunter while on a quail hunting trip over the weekend because he believed the man was the fugitive terror mastermind Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Mr. Cheney acknowledged that the man he sprayed with pellets on Saturday was not al-Zawahiri but rather Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old millionaire lawyer from Austin, blaming the mix-up on “faulty intelligence.”

“I believed I had credible intelligence that al-Zawahiri had infiltrated my hunting party in disguise with the intent of spraying me with pellets,” Mr. Cheney told reporters. “Only after I shot Harry in the face and he shouted ‘Cheney, you bastard’ did I realize that this intelligence was faulty.”
The Borowitz Report: Cheney Says Shooting of Fellow Hunter was Based On Faulty Intelligence

12 February 2006

RINO Sightings - The Vicodin Edition

Hello, and welcome to this week's RINO Sightings. (Because I'm on the road on Monday, the Sightings are going up a little early. Deal with it.)

So, I had a spot of trouble with a shattered tooth on Friday, a bit of oral surgery involving two (!) dentists and a pair of surgical Vise-Grips on Saturday, and now I've got (another) hole in my head and a whacking great dose of mood-altering pain medication coursing through my veins.

Of course, if world-famous conservative commentators can build huge listening audiences and entire broadcasting empires while stoned out of their minds on heroic quantities of synthetic opiates, surely I should be able to do a little blogging...

Aaaaagh! Snakes! Snaaaaaaaakes! Shoot them! Shooooot them!
(blam blam blam)

Ahem. As I was saying...

Surely I should be able to do a little blogging without the Vicodin interfering too much.

Look, on the horizon! It's a herd of oncoming RINOs!

Rhino Herd
Pictured, l-r: Senators Arlen Specter (RINO-PA),
Olympia Snowe (RINO-ME), and Lincoln Chafee (RINO-RI).

What's a RINO, you may ask? In everyday use, it's an acronym for "Republican In Name Only," usually a term of denigration used sneeringly by Movement Conservatives and other True Believers to denounce anyone who (for example) doesn't believe with their whole heart that gay marriage (1) is the most pressing issue facing our Republic and (2) makes the Baby Jesus cry.

In our little corner of the world, though, the Raging RINOs wear that pejorative label as a badge of honor; we are Republicans and Independents Not Overdosed (on GOP Kool-Aid.)

We RINOs are a cantankerous and contrary group, and the presence of a link in the following list shouldn't be taken as an endorsement of the writer's position on my part; I don't always agree with what my fellow RINOs write, and with this much codeine in my system, I'm not even sure what the hell some of you are talking about.

On with the Sightings.

Jane, at Armies of Liberation, gets pride of place this week, with the story of two crusaders for journalistic freedom in Yemen.

The Yemeni regime has a new label to target its reformers, opposition and civil leaders: “pro-Dutch.” (The regime employs a variety of stereotypes to label its opponents in an effort to turn public opinion against them: Zionist, Separatist, Houthi, Terrorist, Mason, American-leaning and Treasonous, to name a few.)

This is the story of Hafez al-Bokari and Rahma Hujira, two leaders of Yemeni civil society who have struggled for years for journalists rights...
Jane, also known by the Yemeni government as "that pain-in-the-ass uppity woman who won't give us a moment's peace," asks that if you have a minute or two, please drop by her blog and leave a comment on this post; among her daily readers are, apparently, some representatives of the Yemeni regime, and letting them know that the Whole World is Watching is a good thing.

On a much lighter note, Cardinal Martini has a funny (and true!) story from the University of Southern California, documented extensively with photographs: What if they held a free-speech rally, but nobody came?

(I, for one, find it hard to believe in the first place that you can't say "motherfucker" on the USC campus. Don't they have a Classics department? Don't they teach Oedipus Rex any more?)

Over at Digger's Realm, Dan is excited about an actual archaeological dig that made the news this week:
The first intact tomb since Howard Carter discovered King Tut's tomb in 1922 was uncovered in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. This is exciting news! There are 5 sarcophagi and mummies in the tomb.
The Unabrewer reminds us that some jurists feel it's the consequences of the law that matter; why get hung up on silly, outdated notions like the actual text of the law, and judicial intent?

Don Surber goes all meta on us and sends in a Carnival post (in this case, a Carnival of the Celebrities) as a RINO Sightings entry. Whoof. I think my head just exploded.

Speaking of explosions, Pigilito tells us that to give ourselves the gift of peace, we could always convert to Islam... but you'd sure want to be careful about the details...

...and speaking of Islam, Dean Esmay argues persuasively that Islam is not incompatible with freedom or democracy as those terms are commonly understood, while noting that freedom-wise, the majority-Muslim countries have a long way to go. (Interesting comments thread on that one, by the way.)

Nick Schweitzer at The World According to Nick offers some optimistic thoughts on "flipping the democracy switch" in the Islamic world, and also offers a heartfelt plea for a little more reasonableness in the blogosphere:
I know it's very unbloglike... but with some of these more weighty controversial topics, I'm trying to slow down my responses to them so that I can take in more information before hand, and make more reasoned judgements. Sue me.
Nick, I am *so* down with that. Just because you *can* respond instantly doesn't necessarily mean that you *should.*

SayUncle has a thoughtful and detailed post on the effect of market forces on firearms design, which should be of interest to all you gun geeks and libertarians out there (as a member of both groups, I was fascinated.)

And speaking of Gun Geekery (nice segues, huh?) John from Castle Argghhh! reminds us of the true meaning of gun control: shooting tight groups.

Rachel at Tinkerty Tonk has some thoughts on the danger of pandering to your base. Conventional wisdom, for instance, tells us that Rudy Giuliani couldn't survive the Republican primaries because he's too liberal for the GOP base voter. Here's what Rachel thinks:
People like Rudy Guiliani because they perceive him as strong leader and a man with principles. He handled 9/11 superbly. He also turned down money from the Saudi prince on principle. Likewise, he's been a staunch defender of Israel. The war on terror isn't going to end when George Bush leaves office. Not surprising that many see Rudy Guiliani as a fit successor to carry on.
At the Strata-Sphere, A.J. Strata would like to "protect America, not terrorists' rights," by removing what he sees as artificial and anachronistic distinctions between domestic law enforcement and global warfighting.

At Restless Mania, Mr. Proliferation thinks that former Navy Secretary James Webb has a good shot a winning a Senate seat in Virginia in 2006... as a Democrat, running against George Allen.

(As an aside, Webb's social history of the Scots-Irish in America, "Born Fighting," is one of the better non-fiction books I've read recently. Like Webb, my people come from the Appalachian Mountains, and I think he has extraordinary insight into the Scots-Irish character.)

Two Dogs at Mean Ol' Meany has some politically incorrect and possibly NSFW thoughts on February as Black History Month, and some additional suggestions for what we might devote the other eleven months in the calendar to studying.

Kevin W at The Liberal Wrong Wing drops a trio of posts on us: Republicans on Education, The Gay Community, and The State of Our Union.

At Inside Larry's Head, Larry Bernard has a message for his foreign readers, many of whom visited to discuss the Mohammed cartoons; it provides some historical context on where Larry's coming from.

David Porter of the Pacesetter Mortgage blog has been digging through his site statistics, and finds that about 10% of his visitors are from overseas. He's like to know where other bloggers' readerships are coming from.

(Here at enrevanche, roughly 80% of our visitors are from the US or Canada; Europe is about 10%, Asia about 5%, rest-of-world about 5%. And I just got my very first (and only-ever) hit from Antarctica last month; I had written a post about wanting to travel there, and someone at a research station down there actually found it.)

Professor Bainbridge thinks that he sniffs the scent of resurgent isolationism in the wind--and also thinks that a "to hell with 'em hawk"--strong on defense, but essentially isolationist with respect to foreign policy--could reap great electoral rewards in 2008. (I think he may be on to something there.)

Tom Hanna at Tom Rants thinks that the practice of earmarking is the *real* corruption scandal in Congress:
The whole backscratching practice is essentially nothing more than Congressmen from both parties using taxpayer funds to bribe each other to vote for further misuse of taxpayer funds... earmarking Congressmen use money stolen from the nation’s Treasury to bribe each other and that has a stench that makes Abramoff smell like a rose by comparison.
Jim K at Right Thoughts has a short piece that ought to win some kind of investigative journalism award; he's discovered where they make those highly-realistic looking 55-gallon drums that are used in shoot-em-up videogames.

Mark at Decision '08 thinks that what's missing from the Winter Olympics right now are a few good enemies:
The one totally tangible memory that most people have (even people who didn’t watch it, in the curious way these things work) of a real athletic moment of glory is Al Michaels asking “Do you believe in miracles?’ as the United States defeated the Soviet Union at long last on the hockey rink at Lake Placid. That’s the Soviet Union, not Russia, and we’re talking Cold War here.

The Soviet Bear was the ultimate Olympic adversary. Capable of winning huge medal counts, a system of recruiting and training that Huxley could have envisaged, copious use of banned substances - really, Hollywood could not have scripted it any better.
And last but not least, Dan at Searchlight Crusade offers us a thoughtful post on the (tricky) politics of national defense.

Sunday evening updates:

The Commissar crunches some casualty numbers from Iraq and, in The IED War, comes to some interesting conclusions about the strength of the insurgency:
The insurgents (or terrorists, if you prefer) cannot or do not engage the U.S. forces. They only set off roadside bombs under our vehicles. I hasten to clarify that there is nothing cowardly or disgraceful in itself about waging war by irregular methods; any American knows of the Minutemen and battles of Lexington and Concord.

But, essentially, the enemy in Iraq does not engage the American forces. The insugency show no sign of going away, but as Juan Cole noted, the guerrillas are really no more than mosquitos to US forces. It shouldn’t even be called a war, maybe a war-let.


Well, New York City is getting the blizzard they've been warning us about. While we slept, the snow started falling in earnest, and this morning, it's bitterly cold out (23F), the winds are high (40mph) and the snow is coming down in sheets, along with (and this is something of a rarity) occasional thunder and lightning. There's an active blizzard warning until 4PM, and who knows how high it'll be piled up by the time it stops?

At a little past eight in the morning, Carrie and the Chows are all still happily asleep under a pile of comforters in the bedroom; Mister Gato, as always during a terrible storm, is curled up near me with the kind of smug, pleased expression on his face that only a recently-fed former street cat could wear. "We're all warm and dry in here, and not freezing out there!"

Amen. And as I put on a pot of decaf (having had my caffeine quota for the day already) and plan on how to defend my breakfast of soft-boiled eggs (the perfect nosh for a guy with stitches in his mouth) from the quadrupeds, all of whom love anything eggy, and as the storm howls outside...

I'm thankful for the blessings of food, and shelter, and the love of all the mammals I live with.

11 February 2006

Follow the bouncing dhimmi

With a tip of the enrevanche chapeau to Carol at planningblog (recently added to Le Blogroll):

"It's In The Koran" -- A Musical Message for Danes (As Well As The Rest Of Us)

(Warning: Yes, there's music. And much political incorrectness. All brought to you by Rob and the rest of the certifiable nutjobs at File It Under.)

Related: Lyrics and explication of "It's In The Koran" (Mark Humphrys)

Well, that was interesting

It took two mouth-doctors (one dentist, and one oral surgeon) to remove what was left of my battered bicuspid from my jaw this morning. The dentist shot some X-rays, got me numbed up pretty good and futzed around for twenty minutes or so without being able to get more than a sliver or two of tooth out.

So he packed my mouth with gauze (think Brando in The Godfather) and sent me down the street to an oral surgeon who also, thank God, works Saturdays. After more X-rays and enough Novocaine to take down an elephant, he unwrapped what looked like (but surely couldn't have been) a sterile pair of surgical Vise-Grips and a little prybar, paused to determine the best angle of approach, and had the whole damned thing out in about fifteen seconds. Then he put a couple of stitches in, re-packed my mouth with gauze and sent me on my way.

I'm sporting an ice-pack and a gap-toothed grin now, and will be blogging under the influence of Vicodin for the next few days... but even the post-surgical pain is a tremendous improvement over the "shattered tooth with exposed nerve" pain. Once things heal up a bit, we'll discuss the pros and cons of bridgework vs. dental implants; although I'm proud of my hillbilly heritage, the toothless look is not one that I'd care to sport for long.

Weekend dentistry in New York City

People often describe a painful process (an unpleasant meeting, a dreaded confrontation) as "a trip to the dentist."

This morning, I'm looking forward to a trip to the dentist, actually--if I can find one with (a) Saturday hours and (b) a free appointment slot. Added difficulty bonus - there's a blizzard slated to arrive later this afternoon, so all this has to happen before the snow flies!

I broke a tooth yesterday afternoon. My lower left first biscuspid, to be precise (the one that sits right behind the canine tooth.) I have no idea how I did it, but may I just say, ow. Ow, ow, ow. Much/most of it is gone, and I don't know whether what's left is even enough to slap a crown on; it may have to be a simple extraction at this point.

Ibuprofen and the judicious application of Orajel kept me from keeping the neighbors awake last night with unseemly screaming, but something really does have to be done about this. So blogging is likely to be light today, as I have my mouth excavated and my wallet lightened.

Update, 8:50 AM - New York, New York, it's a hell of a town - got an appointment with an emergency dentist at 10 AM. He even takes my insurance.

RINO Sightings on Monday, Feb 13

We're hosting RINO Sightings here at enrevanche on Monday, February 13.

Now, we've had cats here several times before, but never RINOs. I'm guessing that we're going to need to order quite a bit more kibble.

RINOs, please get your submissions in to me by noon EST on Sunday, February 12 (with trackbacks if you want them.) You can use the Blog Carnival Submission Form, or email them to me - enrevanche at gmail dot com.

10 February 2006

Kitten Goes Undercover in Vet Scam Probe - Yahoo! News

A streetwise New York kitten helps bust a fake veterinarian:
He came from the streets of Brooklyn, a cool customer on four legs, the perfect bait for a sting on a fake veterinarian.

Meet Fred, undercover kitten.

Authorities on Wednesday introduced the 8-month-old former stray cat that posed as a would-be patient while police investigated a college student accused of treating pets without a license.
Book him, Gato. (And cue the music.)

Kitten Goes Undercover in Vet Scam Probe - Yahoo! News

LaptopLogic.com: Resources

Laptop owners/users: LaptopLogic.com has a list of freeware resources that you really need to know about, including the invaluable Notebook Hardware Control utility (which allows you to prolong your system’s life by customizing the CPU, hard drive and fan settings to keep your laptop nice and cool, among other things.)

LaptopLogic.com: Resources

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)

Trend Unit: Tips & tricks on how to become a better trend watcher

Let’s face it: never before has knowing about emerging consumer trends been as important as it is now. Luckily, finding out about trends has become much, much easier. In a world that’s fully connected, where tens of thousands of smart professionals and amateurs are spotting, observing, thinking, and innovating, and putting their findings online for all to see, insanely valuable resources are up for grabs.

Yes, this avalanche of trends, insights and new business ideas may cause information overload, but there is definitely an exciting innovation overload, too. The only thing that separates YOU — passionate CEO, marketer, entrepreneur — from being in the know is the time to devote to absorbing these sources, if not adding to them yourself.

TREND UNIT: Tips & tricks on how to become a better trend watcher

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)

09 February 2006

Guest cat: Meet Demerara

Demerara is a kind of unrefined light brown sugar long popular in Europe, but not often seen in the United States; it's sort of like turbinado, which US readers probably have seen and/or tasted before (it's the chunky raw stuff in the brown packets at Starbucks, y'all.)

"Demerara" is also the name of a very refined, lovely golden tabby kittycat owned by my dear London friends Bunny and Iain; Demmy introduced himself to me not long after my arrival at their house last week, and after a few polite preliminaries rather imperiously demanded a belly scratch (which, of course, I was only too glad to administer.) He is just as sweet as his name.

(He is one half of a matched pair with the brother of a black cat named "Molasses," not shown, and the brother both are the younger housemates of of "Tufter," who has made a guest appearance on this blog before.)

In this picture, Demerara takes advantage of an empty box to perch comfortably on a mountain of colorful building blocks.

Demerara is king of the mountain (of building blocks)

Mister Gato, who has never met a box he wouldn't try to sit (or sleep) in, would approve.

Visit the Friday Ark at The Modulator to check out more bloggers' pets from around the world--and be sure to visit the 99th Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted by Watermark.

Outsourcing enters a new era (Consulting Times)

We’re definitely into act two of the outsourcing drama. TPI notes that the first-generation deals are all now coming up for review—they expect to see €36.5bn of renewals in 2006 rising to €40.8bn in 2007—over a fifth of the total market. Although historically 90% of renewals go to incumbents this still represents a huge opportunity for the “chasing group” as many of these deals date from a period where the choice of providers was very narrow. IBM and EDS in particular will have to look to their laurels, as it’s clear that clients are casting the net wider. TPI figures reflect this diversity—in the $40m plus bracket, 36 different providers signed more than two contracts, up from 29 in the previous year. Clearly this is partly due to the fact that outsourcing is becoming attractive to smaller and smaller clients. There’s certainly anecdotal evidence to suggest that smaller clients often feel a bit overlooked in the Big Six world. But the Big Six’s share of the Top 50 deals also declined—with more deals going to European and Indian providers.

The march of the Indian providers makes fascinating reading. In 2004 they took just 1% of both contracts and total contract value. Last year this had increased to 6% of contracts and 4% of value. It’s easy to see why Wipro, for example, was able to grow profits by 24% this year.

Figures like this are almost impossible to extrapolate, but I suspect this is only the beginning of the story as far as Indian providers are concerned. They are still facing huge inertial friction with European and US clients—the brands are not well-known, they do not have the client contact based on consultancy or IT assignments. But all that can change very rapidly. Ten years ago very few western executives would have had call to visit India. Now, as a result of outsourcing, many companies have active commercial links with the Sub-continent. It’s not scary or unknown any more. That growing familiarity with Indian business culture may be the biggest threat to the dominance of the Big Six.

Consulting Times: Outsourcing enters a new era

(Also posted at Knowledge Work.)