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

30 April 2006

furry paws: Carnival of the Cats #110

Carnival of the Cats #110 is up at Furry Paws.

Speaking Truthiness to Power

I didn't watch C-SPAN's coverage of the White House Correspondents Dinner last night. Usually much is made of this event every year, due to the yuk-yuk inside-baseball humorous skits that the politicians and the press put on for each other, but the ones I've seen before have been a big yawn.

Last night, however, my man Stephen Colbert was the keynote speaker... and having watched his scathing, subversive performance this morning via downloaded BitTorrent video, and seeing the audience's visibly stunned lack of response, I have to say that Colbert is my nominee for Man of the Year.

A few choice Colbert lines:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it's yogurt. But I refuse to believe it's not butter. Most of all I believe in this president. Now, I know there's some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias."


"I stand by this man [President Bush]. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."


"I mean, nothing satisfies you [the press]. Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg."


"John McCain is here. John McCain. What a maverick. Somebody find out what fork he used on his salad, because I guarantee you wasn't a salad fork. He could have used a spoon. There's no predicting him. So wonderful to see you coming back into the Republican fold. Senator, I have a summer house in South Carolina; look me up when you go to speak at Bob Jones University. So glad you've seen the light... Mayor Nagin is here from New Orleans, the chocolate city. Yeah, give it up. Mayor Nagin, I would like to welcome you to Washington, D.C., the chocolate city with a marshmallow center. And a graham cracker crust of corruption."
The politico-journalist-complex hacks in the audience were mostly too stunned to laugh; the reaction shots that C-SPAN cut into the performance are absolutely priceless.

Video links (must be seen to be believed):
Unofficial transcript of the Colbert speech.

Press coverage:

Adventures in gluttony

When I started my new gig last month, some dear friends sent us a bottle of really good wine (Ridge 2003 Lytton West Syrah - PDF backgrounder link.) According to the best research available, we could have safely cellared it for ten years or more, but (1) We live in a tiny NYC apartment that does not feature a wine cellar, and (2) We're gluttons, so we decided to drink it young. That is to say, we decided to drink it now.

The trouble is, we've both been so busy with work that we haven't been cooking much, and it certainly didn't seem like a smart thing to do to drink this exquisite Syrah with a takeout supper.

Finally, this weekend, we both had enough breathing space to consider composing a dinner that would be worthy of the wine. In fact, we made the wine the centerpiece of the meal, and spent Saturday afternoon hunting and gathering the ingredients for a fine repast.

From Faicco's Pork Store, home of Italian cured meats and other delightful comestibles, we bought homemade sweet sopressata, an economically ruinous amount of San Daniele prosciutto, and a pound of cracked Sicilian olives (no link to a cracked Sicilian, unfortunately, though it was tempting to point to this guy.)

From Murray's Cheese Shop, a hunk of sharp Bravo Farms Silver Mountain raw-milk cheddar (tangy, with a buttery finish) and a small wheel of gooey French sheeps'-milk Perail, a cheese that you really almost scoop more than slice or cut.

From Amy's Bread, a couple of fresh baguettes ("is that a baguette in your tote, or are you just happy to see me?")

And from our favorite local greengrocer, fresh grapes, Bosc pears and Fuji apples.

Here's what it looked like all plated up, with a not-glamorous but very serviceable tumbler holding a generous slug of that marvelous wine:

Serving Suggestion (Scaled)
What's for dessert?

It was very, very fine.

29 April 2006

Gas pains

A few thoughts on gasoline prices:

As a New Yorker, I don't own an automobile, but I'm already feeling the pinch from rising fuel prices. Everything that comes into New York City has to be trucked in; virtually no consumer goods are made or grown here, and we're already seeing prices rising and "fuel surcharges" being tacked on to deliveries.

I was out in California this week for some technical training, and when I fueled up the rental car, I paid something like $3.20 a gallon for 87 octane regular at a Shell station.

And you know what? I say, bring it on.

I'm disgusted when I see the Democrats trying to blame the Republicans for the current crisis, and when I see the Republicans bob and weave and try desperate Band-Aid measures to temporarily shave a few cents off the prices at the pump.

American addiction to cheap oil predates the current Administration and Congress by at least three generations. The current leadership most assuredly bears their share of the blame, but American oil production peaked a long time ago; we have become increasingly dependent on unstable foreign oil sources, and no major player, Republican, Democrat, or independent, has done one goddamned meaningful thing about it.

We are now in the uncomfortable position of being a nation of addicts with a pack of psychotics for high-level dealers and raving greedheads for middlemen. And like most addicts, we are deeply in a state of denial about the situation.

Frankly, the sooner gas hits about $7 a gallon, the better off we as a nation will be in the long run. It is my understanding that at around $6 a gallon, a lot of alternative fuel options suddenly start looking extremely cost-effective; there is going to be pain any way we play it, but we might as well try to grow up quickly and get over our extended, spoiled-brat adolescence as a nation... a case of arrested development that was made possible by using nonrenewable sources of cheap energy.

That particular party is over.

28 April 2006

The Downside of Certification

Long seen as a method to maximize employment opportunities and salaries in the post-dot-com-bust era, a study released today finds that pay for certified IT skills falls short of the pay for non-certified skills.

The Q1 2006 Hot Technical Skills and Certifications Pay Index, released April 25 by Foote Partners, a New Canaan, Conn., IT compensation and workforce management firm, found that pay premiums for non-certified IT skills grew three times faster than for certified ones in a six-month period spanning 2005-2006.

The study suggests that there has been a change in employers' acceptance of the value of non-certified tech skills versus certifications in maintaining competitive pay for their workers.

Sounds like employers are getting fed up with the performance of "paper MCSEs"--people who took cram courses to pass a Microsoft certification exam, but when faced with an actual server with actual problems in the real world, have no real idea of how to proceed. And they're finding out that certifications are no substitute for experience and a proven track record.

There *are* some certifications that seem to be growing in value... and, interestingly, they are not pegged to particular products or technologies for the most part:

Fourteen certifications have grown in value, showing an 11 percent or higher growth over the last year, including SCNP (Security Certified Network Professional), CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) and MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer).

In the New York City market, we are also seeing demand for ITIL certification (and, to a lesser extent, CMMI training) for IT specialists, developers, and managers. And, of course, PMI-certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs) are in high demand.

eWeek: The Downside of Certification

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

Murder by numbers

The oldest killer was 88; he murdered his wife. The youngest was 9; she stabbed her friend. The women were more than twice as likely as men to murder a current spouse or lover. But once the romance was over, only the men killed their exes. The deadliest day was on July 10, 2004, when eight people died in separate homicides.

Five people eliminated a boss; 10 others murdered co-workers. Males who killed favored firearms, while women and girls chose knives as often as guns. More homicides occurred in Brooklyn than in any other borough. More happened on Saturday. And roughly a third are unsolved.
New York Killers, and Those Killed, by Numbers - New York Times

Brangelina: Randroids?

Ayn Rand's most ambitious novel may finally be brought to the bigscreen after years of false starts.

Lionsgate has picked up worldwide distribution rights to 'Atlas Shrugged' from Howard and Karen Baldwin ('Ray'), who will produce with John Aglialoro.

As for stars, book provides an ideal role for an actress in lead character Dagny Taggart, so it's not a stretch to assume Rand enthusiast Angelina Jolie's name has been brought up. Brad Pitt, also a fan, is rumored to be among the names suggested for lead male character John Galt.
The inimitable telegraphic stytle, of course, is from Variety.

Angelina Jolie playing Dagny Taggart... about a million adolescent male Objectivists just "sat up and took notice," to put it politely.

And that strange sound you hear is Ayn Rand spinning in her grave. Like a lathe.

Variety: Lionsgate shrugging: "Atlas" pic mapped

27 April 2006

Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush

...[F]ar from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes
  • a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech—and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;

  • a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;

  • a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as 'enemy combatants,' strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror— in other words, perhaps forever; and

  • a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.
Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush (Cato Institute white paper)

El gato es nuestro jefe

It's Thursday Catblogging time at enrevanche.

From high atop his perch on the living room bookcase, Mister Gato supervises the work of his staff. In this case, we're retrieving some items that he's knocked under the couch, in his never-ending quest for lebensraum on top of the coffee table.

Gato the Supervisor scaled
A little to the left, Papa. There's the cordless phone.
I think the TV remote is behind it.

On Friday, visit the Friday Ark at The Modulator to check out more bloggers' pets from around the world--and don't miss the 110th edition of the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted at Furry Paws.

Internet Explorer 7 beta 2 releases

Microsoft has released Internet Explorer 7 as a public beta.

I've downloaded and installed it without difficulty. Still kicking the tires, but so far I haven't seen anything that would make me leave Firefox.

Internet Explorer 7: downloads (Microsoft.com)


Otters - The Photo Forum - Photography Discussion Forum

Hat tip: Popbitch

26 April 2006

What It Costs To Live Well In The U.S. - Forbes.com

How much does a family of four need to earn per year to live the upper-middle-class American dream? Forbes.com looks at a major metro region in each of the 50 states and estimates such expenses as primary and secondary homes, private education, taxes, utilities and more, to find out what it costs to live the good life.
It will surprise no one, I'm sure, that the most expensive city in America in which to live Forbes' definition of "the good life" is New York City, where your "upper-middle-class" (I'd add at least one "upper" there) lifestyle will require a net income after taxes of nearly $500,000 a year (considering federal, state and city taxes, you'll need to be pulling at least a million a year, gross); the least expensive is Wichita, Kansas, where living the stunted local analogue of "the good life" is more affordable: a net after taxes of $190,000 will do the trick (but you'd be in Wichita.)

You might not agree with Forbes' criteria, however. In addition to carrying hefty mortgages on a four-bedroom primary residence and a vacation home in "an upscale resort area" (e.g., the Hamptons for NYC residents) you'll be driving a BMW 325i sedan and a Lexus RX 330, paying private school and private college tuition for your two tastefully attired childen, taking three luxury vacations a year (e.g., Palm Beach, Paris, and Beaver Creek) and saving almost nothing that you earn (less than 1%, which, horrifyingly, is the national average.)

At any rate, an interesting and thought-provoking read, especially for aspiring vulgarians.

I can warmly assure everyone that one can live very well indeed in New York City on a small fraction of the income that the Forbes article projects as a requirement, and put money aside for savings and investment every month besides.

Of course, we have neither mortgage, car, nor child... but Mister Gato and the Chows have very expensive tastes. You have no idea what it costs to keep them well-supplied with tuna and pig ears.

What It Costs To Live Well In The U.S. - Forbes.com

Related: Calculator: Where can you afford to live?

Hat tip: Metafilter.

25 April 2006

Jane Jacobs, RIP

Jane Jacobs, the writer and thinker who brought penetrating eyes and ingenious insight to the sidewalk ballet of her own Greenwich Village street and came up with a book that challenged and changed the way people view cities, died today in Toronto, where she lived. She was 89.
Jane Jacobs, Urban Activist, Is Dead at 89 - New York Times:

Creating Passionate Users: Moving up the wisdom hierarchy

If you’re an aggregator “harnessing collective intelligence”, what are you aggregating? If it’s data and information, you’re competing with just about everything–Google searches, reference docs both online and printed, the majority of tech books and articles, etc. But if you’re aggregating up the hierarchy through knowledge, and especially understanding and wisdom, you’re adding huge value to someone’s life.

If you’re in knowledge management, what exactly are you capturing and managing?

If you’re a teacher, what are you teaching? Facts and information, or practical knowledge and understanding? Are you teaching the What and the How but without the Why and the When? More importantly, what are you testing? (Not that in the US most public school teachers have a huge say in this, unfortuntately)

If you’re a tech writer, what are you writing?

Creating Passionate Users: Moving up the wisdom hierarchy


Today, April 25th, is ANZAC Day, Chap reminds us. With our own Memorial Day about a month away, it's never too early to remember and reflect.

Chapomatic » “It Will Not Do To Be An 80% Ally”

24 April 2006

Fine California Cuisine

My compadres at Chowhound have hooked me up with a list of fine dining establishments in the Pleasanton, California area to try.

But last night, I renewed my acquaintance with an old friend: IN-N-OUT Burger, otherwise known as God's Own Fast Food outlet.

An In-N-Out burger, cooked to order, is a thing of beauty. I had a double-double animal style with well-done fries last night, and that, with a glass of iced tea, set me back less than $6.

I don't understand how other fast food outlets even stay in business in towns where there's an In-N-Out. Oh, man.

23 April 2006

Carnival of the Cats #109

The 109th Carnival of the Cats is up at "My Animal Family."

Some sad news at that blog, as they lost a member of their animal family today. Condolences from our animal family.

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take you...

So I get to Newark Airport, about 6:15 on a Sunday morning. The cars are packed three deep at the curb, and there's a line 50 yards long for *curbside checkin.*

What the hell, I thinks to myself.

Inside the terminal, it's even worse: pure chaos at the checkin. I flag a passing Continental Airlines employee and ask, "Where the hell are all these people going?"

He grins. "You notice anything about this crowd?"

I scan the area. The demographic skews disproportionately young, white, and scruffy-affluent.

"Oooooooooooh," I say, smacking my forehead. "Spring Break."

"That's right," he said. "They're going to Aruba, Cancun, all the beaches."

I take a quick mental inventory of what I'd packed in the small rollaboard I had intended to check. Nothing that won't pass an x-ray or a bag search, except for a small pocketknife.

So I printed off a boarding pass at a "no bags" kiosk, paid a few bucks to mail my blade home to myself, and sailed through security upstairs... being a frequent flyer hath its privileges, as I was able to go straight to the Elite Access line (no waiting.) I'll check the bigger bag planeside and take my briefcase on board.

And now I'm cooling my heels in Continental's private lounge. Thank God they don't let these kids into the President's Club with the rest of us old fogies. A bunch of college kids and an open bar... (shudder)

Light bloggage ahead

Light bloggage alert: I'm on business travel for a few days, and while I will pop up occasionally, blogging will be lighter and more sporadic than normal. Our accustomed tempo should resume on Wednesday.

That is all.

22 April 2006

Burning down the house

The lobbies and entryways of New York City apartment buildings are usually full of (unasked for, unwanted) menus from local restaurants. Entrepreneurial delivery boys pile them by the door in the hope that residents will grab one on their way upstairs.

Around three o'clock this morning, some random, roving asswipe decided to set the pile of menus in our entryway on fire.

Here are a few things that I have learned from this experience.

(1) When Chow Chows smell smoke at three in the morning, they go completely, batshit insane. Considering that there wasn't enough smoke to set off the smoke detectors in the building, I actually find this comforting.

Chows with Bones 002
Early warning system.

(2) We live in a very friendly building anyway, but there's nothing to unite neighbors like even a minor, contained fire in the wee hours of the morning.

(3) The New York City Fire Department does not mess around. When a fire call (placed by the initial smoke-smellers before the source of the fire was discovered) comes in from a hundred-year-old, highly combustible building, they arrive quickly and in force.

(3a) The New York City Fire Department is also incredibly nice and understanding about being dispatched at three in the morning to extinguish a small pile of blazing restaurant menus.

(3b) Based on the comments I heard after the fire brigade departed, single New York City females find firefighters to be extremely hot, pardon the expression.

(3c) Married ones, too.

(3d) And not a few of the gay guys.

(4) A relatively small pile of cheaply printed restaurant menus set afire will make a stink that lingers in a six-story apartment building for hours and hours.

(5) It is somewhat difficult to go back to sleep with an adrenaline bolus in your system.

(6) A "near-fire" experience makes you want to reach out to your friends and family, the ones you love and hold dear. Hope all of you are well.

20 April 2006

Google Cheat Sheets (Version 1.02)

If you’re a frequent Googler (and who isn’t?) then you’ll definitely want to grab the newly-updated, two-page PDF version of the Google Cheat Sheets (Version 1.02).

Print them out, stick them in a plastic sheet protector and keep them near your PC.

What I really want to do is direct

It's Thursday catblogging time at enrevanche.

While our venerable Aeron chair is out for service (somehow, we managed to actually break the arm off of the chair... I guess we're going to find out about Herman Miller's 12-year warranty) we're using one of the director's chairs that we keep around the house for overflow visitors.

To Mister Gato, it's obviously just an enormous canvas hammock, and just as obviously intended for him.

what i really want to do is direct - display
My next project is going to be an action picture,
involving a big tomcat and an invading army of fat, legless mice.

Come Friday, visit the Friday Ark at The Modulator to check out more bloggers' pets from around the world--and don't miss the 109th edition of the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted at My Animal Family. (Hey! I've got one of those!)

Put a little in the kitty

Longtime blogger and all around good guy JimK of Right Thoughts is going through some tough times and a little strapped for cash.

If you've got a few shekels to spare, it would help keep him on the air.

Right Thoughts...not right wing, just right.

19 April 2006

Meet The Purple Party

So the simple question is this: Why can’t we have a serious, innovative, truth-telling, pragmatic party without any of the baggage of the Democrats and Republicans? A real and enduring party built around a coherent set of ideas and sensibility—neither a shell created for a single charismatic candidate like George Wallace or Ross Perot, nor a protest party like the Greens or Libertarians, with no hope of ever getting more than a few million votes in a presidential election. A party that plausibly aspires to be not a third party but the third party—to winning, and governing.

Let the present, long-running duopoly of the Republicans and Democrats end. Let the invigorating and truly democratic partisan flux of the American republic’s first century return. Let there be a more or less pacifist, anti-business, protectionist Democratic Party on the left, and an anti-science, Christianist, unapologetically greedy Republican Party on the right—and a robust new independent party of passionately practical progressives in the middle.

It’s certainly time. As no less a wise man than Alan Greenspan said last month, the “ideological divide” separating conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats leaves “a vast untended center from which a well-financed independent presidential candidate is likely to emerge in 2008 or, if not then, in 2012.
How New York City Is Plotting a Third Way - The Purple Party: Part 1 - Kurt Andersen, New York Magazine


New York Overheard: The City Speaks

So it seems that Michael Malice has left "Overheard in New York" and just launched a web site called "New York, Overheard."

Gawker has the lowdown on the kerfuffle:
We were forwarded an odd email this morning from Morgan Friedman, publisher and co-owner of the incredibly successful Overheard in New York:
I am writing to inform you that Michael “Malice” Krechmer, the former editor of Overheard In New York and Overheard in the Office, is no longer affiliated with either web site.
So Michael has struck out on his own.

You really need to see the sites side-by-side to appreciate this. Check out the screen shots below. (They link to their respective sites.)

overheard in new york
Overheard in New York (original recipe)

new york overheard
New York, Overheard (extra crispy)

This should be interesting.

New York Overheard: The City Speaks

Bad crypto trips up Mafia boss

Bernardo Provenzano, the "boss of bosses" of the Sicilian Mafia, apparently "encrypted" key information in written messages using a cipher that anyone who does the Daily Cryptoquote in their hometown newspaper could break in about five minutes:
...Provenzano had been on the run for more than 40 years, many of them spent writing cryptograms on little pieces of paper, known in Sicilian dialect as pizzini.

The Italian police found about 350 pizzini in Provenzano's hideaway.

A few dozen of these notes contained requests to his family, such as having lasagne on Easter. All the others, featuring orders to his lieutenants, displayed numeric sequences that concealed the names of people...

"Looks like kindergarten cryptography to me. It will keep your kid sister out, but it won't keep the police out. But what do you expect from someone who is computer illiterate?" security guru Bruce Schneier, author of several books on cryptography, told Discovery News.

Under Provenzano's tenure, the Mafia didn't use computers, apparently.

Imagine the difficulty that Italian prosecutors would have now if someone had been hip enough to download a copy of GnuPG and use it properly.

Discovery Channel: Mafia Boss's Encrypted Messages Unraveled

Blogs 'essential' to a good career - The Boston Globe

Blogging is good for your career. A well-executed blog sets you apart as an expert in your field.

Ben Day blogged his way into a career as a high-earning software consultant while maintaining the freedom to schedule frequent jam sessions and performances as a keyboard player.

Blogging gave him the opportunity to stand out enough to support the life he envisioned for himself. ‘’For your career, a blog is essential,” says Phil van Allen, a faculty member of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

‘’It’s the new public relations and it’s the new home page. Instead of a static home page, you have your blog,” he said. It’s a way to let people know what you are thinking about the field that interests you.

Blogs ‘essential’ to a good career - The Boston Globe (April 16, 2006)

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

17 April 2006

Know Nukes

In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That's the conviction that inspired Greenpeace's first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.
Going Nuclear: A Green Makes The Case (Patrick Moore, Washington Post, Sunday, April 16)

The 10 worst ways to communicate with end users

An article geared towards tech support staff, but one that most of us who work in technology would do well to read:

You think you're a good communicator: You keep your users informed and you listen to their problems. So why is it that no one appears to read your e-mails or seems capable of following your instructions? Are you surprised to learn that the users have been living with computer issues rather than ask you for help? These are all signs of a breakdown in communication--which we, as support techs, frequently misinterpret as user indifference or even stupidity. Before long, we find ourselves on a downward spiral toward complete communications failure.

The 10 worst ways to communicate with end users (TechRepublic)

15 April 2006

Rethinking Brown

I read the papers, so of course I knew that South Dakota's legislature is mounting what amounts to a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.

As famous civil rights cases go, I've expected something like that for a long time.

But in this day and age, I never dreamed anyone would seriously attempt to challenge Brown v. Board of Education.

The Nebraska State Legislature had other ideas... and the representative leading the charge for the re-segregation of the Omaha public schools is an African-American:
In a move decried by some as state-sponsored segregation, the Legislature voted Thursday to divide the Omaha school system into three districts -- one mostly black, one predominantly white and one largely Hispanic.

Supporters said the plan would give minorities control over their own school board and ensure that their children are not shortchanged in favor of white youngsters.


"There is no intent to create segregation," said Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, the Legislature's only black senator and a longtime critic of the school system.

He argued that the district is already segregated, because it no longer buses students for integration and instead requires them to attend their neighborhood school.

Chambers said the schools attended largely by minorities lack the resources and quality teachers provided others in the district. He said the black students he represents in north Omaha would receive a better education if they had more control over their district.

Omaha school district to split along racial lines (AP via CNN)

The Fraidy-Cat of Hudson Street Is Yanked to Safety - New York Times

An update to an earlier post:

Molly's fine.
The epic search for Molly, the black, 11-month-old fraidy-cat stuck in the wall of a Greenwich village food store for two weeks, ended in jubilation last night after rescue workers spotted her in a small opening and quickly yanked her to safety.
The Fraidy-Cat of Hudson Street Is Yanked to Safety - New York Times

When staff officers get bored

At a length of 5,522 miles (8,891 kilometers), Canada and the United States share the longest non-militarized border in the world. Today we think of the two nations as the friendliest of neighbors, but at one time both nations had somewhat detailed plans for attacking one another... just in case.

The U.S. plan was titled 'Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan -- Red,' and it included plans for the invasion of Canada by the United States as part of a larger worldwide military action. War Plan Red was actually designed for a war against England and its Commonwealth. The scenario imagined a conflict between England (code name Red) and the United States (Blue) fighting over vital international trade and commercial interests.
Damn Interesting: America's Secret Plan to Invade Canada

Hat tip: Larry Bernard.

The world's most modern management is in India

I have seen the future of management, and it is Indian. Vineet Nayar, president of India’s 30,000-employee HCL Technologies, is creating an IT outsourcing firm where, he says, employees come first and customers second.

“Everybody was aghast the first time I said that,” admits Nayar.

Here are some things I can say about him with confidence: He is good at motivating employees, very committed to building a great team, but a little shaky on getting things done on time. These are not my observations. They are what his employees told him in an extraordinary process of upward evaluation he implemented last year at HCL.

Every employee rates their boss, their boss’ boss, and any three other company managers they choose, on 18 questions using a 1-5 scale. Such 360-degree evaluations are not uncommon, but at HCL all results are posted online for every employee to see.

Fast Forward: The world’s most modern management is in India - Apr. 14, 2006

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

Pencil Roving: Sometimes it's not easier to work at home.

Attention, Mister Gato fans - some extra catblogging this week.

One of the best things about my new gig is that I get to work from home much of time.

As Carrie observes, however... Sometimes it's not easier to work at home.

Big Four rebuild advisory divisions

The Big Four accounting firms are rapidly rebuilding their consulting divisions, though these days they're calling them "business advisory" groups. In the wake of the Andersen scandal, and fearing repercussions from crackdowns on conflicts of interest, three of the Big Four sold their consulting arms to outsiders: PriceWaterhouse sold out to IBM, Ernst & Young sold their consultancy unit to Capgemini, and KPMG sold its European consulting business to Atos Origin. Of the Big Four, only Deloitte fully retained its consulting arm.

And now that it appears that the feared crackdown may not come, the accountants are staffing up with consultants again.

Not surprisingly, they're going after people who used to work for them in the first place. (Ah, the comfort of familiarity.)

KPMG has poached the head of Atos Consulting, the French group that bought its advisory business in 2002, as part of a concerted new push into the consulting market.

Bernard Brown, a former KPMG partner, is to rejoin the accounting giant in October. He left when the firm sold its British and Dutch consulting business to Atos Origin for £420m.

Mr Brown's defection is the latest in a series of senior departures at Atos, many of whom are former KPMG partners returning to the firm. Atos has been so rocked it has agreed to waive a non-compete agreement due to stand until August on the condition that KPMG does not hire any more of its staff.

Daily Telegraph (UK): Big Four rebuild advisory divisions

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

14 April 2006

Parallels: Run Windows and Mac OS Both at Once

Curse you, David Pogue. We just got our estimated taxes paid, and now you're gonna make me go buy one of the new Intel Macintoshes.

When Apple's Boot Camp was announced (software that lets you choose between OS X and Windows XP at startup) I was mightily intrigued.

But--should've known it would happen--a little company called Parallels has come along, with software that enables you to run both *at the same time*.
The software is called Parallels Workstation for Mac OS X, although a better name might be No Reboot Camp. It, too, is a free public beta, available for download from parallels.com. You can pre-order the final version for $40, or pay $50 after its release (in a few weeks, says the company).

Parallels, like Boot Camp, requires that you supply your own copy of Windows. But here's the cool part: with Parallels, unlike Boot Camp, it doesn't have to be XP. It can be any version, all the way back to Windows 3.1 — or even Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, OS/2 or MS-DOS. All of this is made possible by a feature of Intel's Core Duo chips (called virtualization) that's expressly designed for running multiple operating systems simultaneously.

In the finished version, the company says, you'll be able to work in several operating systems at once. What the heck — install Windows XP three times. If one becomes virus-ridden, you can just delete it and smile.
Run Windows and Mac OS Both at Once - New York Times

Related: Parallels, Inc.

Hat tip: Greg.

Greenwich Village cat, trapped for the 13th day

Some sad news on the Greenwich Village Kittycat beat:
With Molly the fugitive feline sending out distress calls from a few feet - or maybe just inches - away, animal rescue and city experts tried anew on Thursday to lure the 11-month-old black cat from the innards of a 19th century building where she has been trapped for nearly two weeks.

The low-key drama, with no end in sight, was playing out in the basement wall and ceiling of a Greenwich Village delicatessen, where Molly had been official house mouser until wandering into a narrow space between walls and becoming lost in what rescue supervisor Mike Pastore described as 'a maze of beams and pipes, going every which way.'
The good news is that, since Molly is hiding out between the walls of a 19th century building in my neighborhood (this is all taking place literally around the corner from Chez Enrevanche), she is virtually assured of a steady diet of juicy rodents to eat.

In fact, I wonder whether she is all that eager to come out, especially with all the noise and commotion. If Mister Gato found himself in a setup like that--an endless mouse buffet in front of him, a bunch of noisy strangers near the exit--we'd just have to hope that he would take the time to write home occasionally.

Trapped NYC Cat Enters Day 13 of Captivity (AP)

13 April 2006

Kittycat as bodhisattva

Or, "I'm (next to) a little teapot."

Mister Gato loves (among other things) sources of warmth and the smell of green tea.

In this picture, our little feline bodhisattva positively radiates Zenlike serenity and calm while lying on the stovetop next to a fresh pot of green tea, warming his hindquarters and head simultaneously and pleasing his olfactory and aesthetic senses as well.

Gato Likes Green Sushi Tea
"Chop wood, carry water, bring me fatty-tuna sushi."

When Friday rolls around, visit the Friday Ark at The Modulator to check out more bloggers' pets from around the world--and don't miss the 108th edition of the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted at Begin Each Day As If It Were On Purpose (great blog name.)

Update: In the comments thread, Sissy suggests "puddysattva," which I wish I'd thought of.

Survey: Outsourcing saves less than claimed

Outsourcing of information technology and business services delivers average cost savings of 15 percent, a survey found on Thursday, disproving market claims that outsourcing can reduce costs by more than 60 percent.

After professional fees, severance pay and governance costs, savings range between 10 percent and 39 percent, with the average level at 15 percent when contracts are first let, according to outsourcing advisory firm TPI.

"This research proves that the promise of massive operational savings is unrealistic when you take into account the costs of procurement and ongoing contract management," Duncan Aitchison, TPI's managing director, said in a statement.

Survey: Outsourcing saves less than claimed | Tech News on ZDNet

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

11 April 2006

Instructing our youth

A DEA agent giving a DARE lecture at a Florida school brandishes a gun during a propaganda segment on gun safety, and proceeds to shoot himself in the foot with it.

This story just works on so many levels.

Did I mention there's video?

Hammer of Truth » Shot Through the Foot, But Not to Blame

Technorati: Barry Campbell's Favorites

Everyday reads... a work in progress:

Technorati: Barry Campbell's Favorites

San Jose Mercury News: H-1B visa law criticized

When a Sunnyvale tech company laid off the manager and most of his colleagues in its reliability testing group a year and a half ago, the manager said a few employees were spared -- younger, foreign workers on H-1B visas.

The laid-off manager was infuriated that as an American citizen, he wasn't given priority over the H-1B employees. The H-1B visa program allows employers to hire skilled foreign workers when there's a shortage of available American workers.

"The law does not protect American workers at all,'' said Frank, a 45-year-old Chinese-American who was out of work for five months, and who insisted his last name and the name of his former company not be published because he fears repercussions from potential employers. "It only helps American businesses and technology companies keep their costs low while sacrificing American workforce. That's not right.''

MercuryNews.com | 04/07/2006 | H-1B visa law criticized

Pork barrel spending, incompetent foreign policy

George Conway, writing in "Reconcilable Differences" on National Review Online:
I've never voted for a Democrat in a general election in my life, and I don't expect to anytime soon, but it's been impossible for me over the past couple of years to get enthused about the Republican party. I voted for President Bush twice, and contributed to his campaign twice, but held my nose when I did it the second time. I don't consider myself a Republican any longer. Thanks to this Administration and the Republicans in Congress, the Republican Party today is the party of pork-barrel spending, Congressional corruption — and, I know folks on this web site don't want to hear it, but deep down they know it's true — foreign and military policy incompetence. Frankly, speaking of incompetence, I think this Administration is the most politically and substantively inept that the nation has had in over a quarter of a century. The good news about it, as far as I'm concerned, is that it's almost over.
Mr. Conway, I'm right there with you. I voted for Bush twice myself (my reasons can be summed up in four words: Al Gore, John Kerry) but the fiscal imprudence (to put it *mildly*), breathtaking corruption and hamfisted foreign policy of the Bush administration have been more than a grave disappointment; they've caused me to seriously reconsider my lifelong party affiliation.

I continue (barely) to see the GOP as the least-worst alternative between the two major parties, but will probably re-register as an Independent this year, and as for writing checks, unless someone with genuine principles shows up as a candidate, forget about it.

Hat tip: Sully.

One Hundred Rules for NASA Project Managers

NASA project manager Jerry Madden, the Associate Director of the Flight Projects Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, was a legend in his field. He began collecting and assembling a set of rules for project managers early in his career; after Jerry retired in 1995, others maintained and updated the list.

Two caveats:

(1) Much of this stuff is what a friend of mine calls “advanced common sense,” and most experienced managers wouldn’t find much to disagree with here.

(2) Some of it deals specifically with government-contracting situations, and may not be directly applicable to what you do (if you do something else.)

As a quick, readable reminder of What’s Really Important, though, it almost can’t be beat.

A few of Mr. Madden’s rules:

Rule #12: Don’t get too egotistical so that you can’t change your position, especially if your personnel tell you that you are wrong. You should cultivate an attitude on the project where your personnel know they can tell you of wrong decisions.

Rule #24: One must pay close attention to workaholics—if they get going in the wrong direction, they can do a lot of damage in a short time. It is possible to overload them and cause premature burnout but hard to determine if the load is too much, since much of it is self generated. It is important to make sure such people take enough time off and that the workload does not exceed 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 times what is normal.

Rule #33: If you have a problem that requires additional people to solve, you should approach putting people on like a cook who has under-salted the food.

Rule #40: A working meeting has about six people attending. Meetings larger than this are for information transfer (management science has shown that, in a group greater than twelve, some are wasting their time).

Rule #66: Don’t assume you know why senior management has done something. If you feel you need to know, ask. You get some amazing answers that will astonish you.

Rule #83: Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. It is also occasionally the best help you can give. Just listening is all that is needed on many occasions. You may be the boss, but if you constantly have to solve someone’s problems, you are working for him.

Rule #89: Whoever said beggars can’t be choosers doesn’t understand project management, although many times it is better to trust to luck than to get poor support.

One Hundred Rules for NASA Project Managers

(Note: The version of "100 Rules" at the NASA site is different, and is now up to 128!)

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

10 April 2006

Soft paternalism

Liberals sometimes dream of a night-watchman state, securing property and person, but no more. They fret that societies have instead submitted to the nanny state, a protective but intrusive matriarch, coddling citizens for their own good. Economists, with their strong faith in rationality and liberty, have tended to agree. As many decisions as possible should be left in the individual's lap, because no one knows your interests better than you do. Most of us have gained from this freedom.

But a new breed of policy wonk is having second thoughts. On some of the biggest decisions in their lives, people succumb to inertia, ignorance or irresolution. Their private failings—obesity, smoking, boozing, profligacy—are now big political questions. And the wonks think they have an ingenious new answer—a guiding but not illiberal state.

What they propose is “soft paternalism” (see article). Thanks to years of patient observation of people's behaviour, they have come to understand your weaknesses and blindspots better than you might know them yourself. Now they hope to turn them to your advantage. They are paternalists, because they want to help you make the choices you would make for yourself—if only you had the strength of will and the sharpness of mind.
Soft paternalism: The state is looking after you -- Economist.com

09 April 2006

Carnival of the Cats @ The Scratching Post

The Carnival of the Cats is now up at The Scratching Post.

"Defending America"

The country's main military goal is clear. 'Our nation is engaged in a global war on terror that affects the safety and security of every American,' President George W. Bush told an audience of Idaho National Guardsmen last August. 'We're using all elements of our national power to achieve our objectives.' Winning could take decades. Bush compares this fight with the half-century struggle against Soviet communism. The Pentagon, in its newly issued master strategic plan, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), has a new name for the campaign: the Long War. Iraq and Afghanistan are just the opening theaters.

So one would think the Pentagon's $70 billion annual weapons systems budget would focus on winning the war on terror. But a look at the arsenal the Pentagon is building tells a different story. Take the DD(X). According to critics, targeting terrorists with the destroyer, which hits the seas in 2012, is like crushing ants with an 18-wheeler. So why is it in the budget?

In fact, inside the defense establishment, the Long War has competition. In many minds, the real threat is a rising China. But containing China requires different weapons than breaking up Al Qaeda--weapons that were designed for Cold War-style fights. So nearly $10 billion a year goes to ballistic missile interceptors originally designed to stop Soviet missiles; $9 billion to next-generation fighter jets meant to take on MiGs; $3.3 billion to new tanks and fighting vehicles; $1 billion for the Trident II nuclear missile upgrade; and $2 billion for a new strategic bomber.

This QDR doesn't ignore the Long Warriors: They get more commandos and more robotic vehicles. But the China camp is ascendant: Most of the endorsed hardware seems only tangentially related to stopping the terrorist threats that Bush has called a "mortal danger to all humanity." That's not surprising. The bigger the weapons system, the more advocates it has and the harder it is to cancel.
Popular Mechanics - Defending America - April 2006 Cover Story

Milk Bath: A Flickr Photoset

The cat's name is Milk, actually, and he has a skin condition that requires bathing.

Our cat, Mister Gato, has suffered from eosinophilic granuloma complex (which it sort of looks like is what Milk might have - the sores under the limbs, visible in a few of the photographs, are typical of this condition.) We've been lucky in that we have been able to sponge the affected areas with a topical solution and done all right with that, but bathing is necessary sometimes too.
Milk (and his owners) have our sympathies. Hope he's feeling better soon. Amazingly great pictures... I recommend that you view them as a slideshow.

Milk Bath: A Flickr Photoset

(Hat tip: Metafilter)

Inaction does not save you

"If you do not assume responsibility for breaking the system in the way you want it broken and then integrating it to a better plateau, it will break by itself to a worse plateau. So inaction does not save you; it gives the power of your demise to outside forces."

Ichak Adizes, Managing Corporate Lifecycles

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

Wunnerful, wunnerful.

Lawrence Welk covers the Velvet Underground. (From WFMU's excellent Beware of the Blog, via a tip from Chap.)

You know what they say about the classic Welk gigs.

Not many people saw them play live, but everyone who did went out and started their own champagne orchestra.

08 April 2006

The Great Indian Tech Sale

Some major acquisitions activity, possibly presaging a trend towards consolidation, in the Indian offshore/outsourcing space. EDS has apparently just picked up a big chunk (in excess of 40%) of Mphasis:

The EDS-Mphasis deal is part of an ongoing trend that has software and BPO firms shifting large parts of their operations to India. IBM Global, in the last four years, has built its India base from scratch to 40,000 employees—more than a quarter of its estimated 150,000 US workforce. Accenture’s count of its India hands is at 20,000.

The rest among the industry leaders have lagged behind. EDS, Capgemini and Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) had 3,000 to 5,000-strong offshore teams in India. “Apart from IBM and Accenture, all of them took their eyes off the ball,” says Ganesh Natarajan, deputy chairman and managing director at Zensar Technologies.

If the EDS buy of Mphasis goes through, it will grow its India presence nearly four times adding the target’s 11,000 workers in India and another 1,000 elsewhere to its rolls. “This helps our service delivery and brings in new software application development skills,” says an EDS spokesman In addition, having Mphasis in its stable will allow to bid for contracts less than $100 million, a size it has traditionally stayed away from.

The Great Indian Tech Sale (Financial Express, Bombay, India)

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

07 April 2006

Terminix, eat your heart out.

When you search Dogpile.com (which consolidates major search engine responses) for "mouse infestation," Mister Gato comes in as link number 2.

Terminix *paid* Ads By Google to be Number 1.

The killer wore tiger stripes.

Mister Gato, Weapon of Mouse Destruction

BBSes and Blogs

A great question over at MetaTalk brings the BBSers out of the woodwork: "Were you a BBSer? Did you run a BBS?" The person asking the question has noted some similarities between BBS culture and blog culture, and I think that's a very good observation.

For those of you who weren't around or weren't paying attention in the early 1980s to mid-1990s, a computer Bulletin Board System (BBS) was
...a computer system running software that allows users to dial into the system over a phone line and, using a terminal program, perform functions such as downloading software and data, uploading data, playing games, reading news, and exchanging messages with other users. During their heyday (from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s), many BBSes were run as a hobby free of charge by the "SysOp" (system operator), while other BBSes charged their users a subscription fee for access.
(Thanks, Wikipedia! Like many of their articles on technical topics, the Wikipedia article on BBSes is almost mindsnappingly good and extremely detailed.)

I must confess that I was a rabid BBS user back in the day, and wound up owning and running not one but *two* of the beasts. I ran Homestead BBS, a Wildcat board, out of my apartment in Chapel Hill for a couple of years in the late 1980s, and then I ran one of the first public Usenet boards in North Carolina, "Chatham Host," after sweet-talking a friend at Duke University into providing me with a Usenet feed.

"Were you a BBSer? Did you ever run a BBS?" | MetaTalk

Windows iMac runs Photoshop faster than on OS X

With Windows XP Pro running on a 2.0GHz iMac Core Duo, we ran our Photoshop test in less than half the time it took with the same system running OS X 10.4.5: 2 minutes, 49 seconds vs. 6 minutes, 30 seconds to be exact, or a difference of 57 percent.
Windows iMac runs Photoshop faster than on OS X - Alpha Blog - alpha.cnet.com

Kitten Authentication

KittenAuth is a new system for human-checking that forgoes all the useless random string crap that people cannot read, and replaces the whole lot with pictures of cute animals.
TPCSv8: Kitten Authentication

06 April 2006

Michael Yon: Back To War

Michael Yon is back with a fresh dispatch: Back To War.

Thursday catblogging: Here comes the sun(beam)

It may be a few more days until I get back to my normal blogging tempo, but Mister Gato is always glad to pinch-hit.

Here's a Saturday-morning picture (snapped by Carrie) of Gato-sama soaking up some early springtime rays from the bedroom window. (We've cropped my semi-conscious form out of the picture, but I've dozed off while reading the book that lies conspicuously open in the left side of the frame.)

mister gato in a sunbeam scaled
Gato's moment in the spotlight

Visit the Friday Ark tomorrow at The Modulator to check out more bloggers' pets from around the world--and don't miss the 107th edition of the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted at The Scratching Post.

05 April 2006

Oh, dear.

CUPERTINO, Calif. - Apple Computer Inc. unveiled software Wednesday to help owners of its new Intel-based Macs run Microsoft Corp.'s rival Windows XP operating system, despite the computer maker's insistence it won't assist such efforts.

Apple's new "Boot Camp" software, a "beta" test version available as a free download, lets computer users with a Windows XP installation disk load that system on the Mac.
My last logical defense against the purchase of a new Macintosh has just evaporated.

Apple Launches Software to Run Windows XP - Yahoo! News

04 April 2006

He's baaaaaaack

If you've been missing the daily combination therapy doses of splenetic venting and sodomy that used to be on offer at the incredibly not-safe-for-work blog Bill in Exile, I've got good news for you.

Scott, the proprietor of Bill in Exile, is now back, blogging at Boozhy.
I was going to write a really gushy first post about how great Juan is for asking me to save write for Boozhy and how I'm looking forward to exploring issues here both topical and prurient in nature but as I started to write I couldn't get my mind off of some of the recent polls I've been reading and I began to fixate on a question that kept drifting in and out of my brain housing group throughout the morning. That happens to me a lot, the drifting that is, because I've got the AIDS on the brain AND because I've done more recreational drugs in my life (before cleaning up over three years ago) that the residual amounts still in my body are enough to provide a ferocious contact high to anyone who comes within twenty feet of me. But I digress. So this question started to nag at me and I decided not to gush and fawn all over Juanita for offering up his blog for me to vent and bloviate on and instead I have elected to save the gush and go right for the vent.
Ah, it's bracing like a shot of overproof rum, it is. Welcome back, Scott!

Boozhy: a blog: Boozhy Questions: The Thirty Four Percenters---Who Are You People?:

Blogging on the light side early this week

Blogging is likely to be on the light side for the next few days; I've started a new gig and am deeply enmeshed in training right now. Back soon!

03 April 2006

Below The Beltway

A new home for Below The Beltway... they've ditched Blogger for WordPress, and can now be found at their own dedicated URL: http://belowthebeltway.com.

Blogroll updated.

02 April 2006

Carnival of the Cats Number 106

Carnival of the Cats Number 106 is now up at Life~Florida~Whatever (aka petsgardenblog.com.)

"Castration without malice"

You know, here in New York City, we are justly proud of the sleaze that's on offer to the discerning consumer. If the advertisements in the back pages of the free weekly newspapers can be believed, almost every fetish imaginable is catered for, and I'm sure that if you know who to ask, you can find most of the stuff that even the Village Voice (or, for that matter, Screw) won't commit to print.

This being a place where captains of industry and other alpha male types are as common as spring pollen, and the perverse logic of sexuality being what it is, BDSM "dungeons" seem to be in high demand here. And, I would imagine, you could get just about anything you want...

Except, you know, this one thing... for this, you've gotta go to Haywood County, North Carolina, where the wholesome mountain folk live:
WAYNESVILLE, NC – At least six men traveled from across the nation and South America to have their genitals mutilated in what Haywood County authorities described as a sadomasochistic dungeon.

Three Haywood County men are now in jail on felony charges of castration without malice and practicing medicine without a license.
I have no idea what Haywood County sheriff Tom Alexander looks like, but I am picturing a rather well-fed good old boy sort of adjusting his Sam Browne belt, scratching his head and wearing a look of bemusement as he delivers this line:
“This right here beats everything I have ever seen.”
Me too, Sheriff Alexander. Me too.

And I have the feeling that if I took this article down the street to the neighborhood tranny bar, they'd say so as well.

Haywood County News: Authorities shut down sadomasochistic dungeon

(A tip of the cap to the half-dozen folks back home who made sure I had copies of this article from various NC newspapers within mere seconds of it hitting the wires on Friday.)

01 April 2006

Google Romance

When you think about it, love is just another search problem. And we’ve thought about it. A lot. Google Romance™ is our solution.

Google Romance is a place where you can post all types of romantic information and, using our Soulmate Search™, get back search results that could, in theory, include the love of your life. Then we'll send you both on a Contextual Date™, which we'll pay for while delivering to you relevant ads that we and our advertising partners think will help produce the dating results you're looking for.

With Google Romance, you can:
  • Upload your profile – tell the world who you are, or, more to the point, who you’d like to think you are, or, even more to the point, who you want others to think you are.
  • Search for love in all (or at least a statistically significant majority of) the right places with Soulmate Search, our eerily effective psychographic matchmaking software.
  • Endure, via our Contextual Dating option, thematically appropriate multimedia advertising throughout the entirety of your free date.
Google Romance

google romance