Monday, December 15, 2008


I cannot believe that a sitting Republican president would even consider this course.
I have been a staunch supporter but this really earns them the DUBYA award. Shame.

Detroit is where it is, as is Wall Street, because of greedy, short-sighted management and workers.

They get what they deserve, there is no such thing as a free lunch.


WHAT makes them more deserving than ME???? I have a mortgage on a house, a boat, and a car. Why can't you bail ME out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What imbeciles.

Do you hear what I hear? How about the sound of a new Boston Tea Party?

Get it right.

Shame on them.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A letter to the President and Congress

I have sent the following excerpt from

to the President and my congressmen (since I doubt they read WSJ.COM)

=========== Open Letter to the President and Congress ===========


Bankruptcy doesn't make assets disappear.A government bailout of the Big
Three keeps huge amounts of productive inputs in firms that can't use
them efficiently. The bigger the unprofitable firm, the more vital it is
that it be allowed to fail.

If Washington gives no special subsidies to workers and suppliers
outside of the auto industry, why treat GM, Ford and Chrysler
differently? Are their workers or owners more worthy? Not at all.

It is precisely because the Big Three differ in no essential way from
America's other firms that bailing them out runs a real risk of
cascading into a march on Washington by countless firms and individuals
unable to see why they are less entitled to taxpayer funds.

Like ME!!

If you bail them out then bail me out too!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Obama and Hillary

"Limbaugh called the choice of Clinton "a brilliant stroke by Obama.""

I agree with Rush. A brilliant stroke.

But I also have to recognize that we may be at a tipping point. This stroke effectively emasculates dissension within the Democratic party. Gate's reappointment as SecDef takes strides to do so among Republicans.


So, if we have a new president who is inclusive and not partisan or sectarian we may have a real statesman who can actually solve problems instead of creating more, as so many before him, especially since Reagan, have done..

If the Democrats have finally come to the realization that they have plundered this Nation for the past 80 years and now are going to work to fix the damage then I am all behind them. Go for it.

Only the inclusiveness that Obama has shown so far will let this happen.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I worked for it, why shouldn't you?

I am in a conversation with a liberal friend about helping a young woman who has earned her BS nursing degree by waitressing for a number of years but now is having difficulty finding a position.

We are all rallying around, but I made a comment about our location (New England) to the effect that despite the reputation for liberalism there are a number of people here who nevertheless appreciate and will support young people who want to really earn their own way. My liberal friend says he inherited his money, while I say I worked my way up on my own:

> you seem to be saying that people that work for a living should
> naturally be conservative, and people that inherit money should
> naturally be liberal. Is that true?

Mmmm. Not sure about the words should naturally be. Perhaps substitute tend to be.

Conjecture is one thing, empirical fact is another: it is what it is; if the shoe fits, wear it...


In my case (certainly not speaking for all conservatives) I find it really offensive for someone else to give away my money. It's my money because I earned it and *I* shall decide where and how to spend it or give it.

Of course my plan doesn't work for some liberals because I will likely spend my money on my family and my grandchildren and my church, helping grow more people like me.

Liberals have this obscene delusion that they are somehow supernaturally omniscient and therefore own all the assets in the world and shall decide on their own basis how to distribute those assets.


Omigod. If everyone had the right do spend their money as they wish then what would happen to all these poor people who don't want to work?

So the liberals have devised, and through political correctness and brow beating, achieved an income redistribution system to take my money and give it to people who won't lift a finger.

At its base it is letting the people with the work ethic do all the work, some of them misguidedly investing in the stock market to make those non-workers rich, and then paying the rest in taxes to be given to the rest of the people who do not want to work.

In the past those of us workers who were smart enough just moved the money to Switzerland. But that is getting harder to do, and besides I'm living hand to mouth, so don't have money to spare to send to Switzerland.

So if the liberals do this enough then I just stop working.

Not a recipe for national prosperity.

In general you have to look at the marginal tax rate: as that approaches 100% you have then completely removed any incentive, other than altruistic, to work any further. And, as I have already shortlisted, I'm rather short on altruism.

An anecdote from my earlier years:

I was the operations officer of the ship, another fellow was the engineer. I was practicing prudent management, saving the requisitions that the crew had submitted that were not time- or mission-critical (like, replacing foul weather jackets) until the end of the quarter, while approving those that were needed now: e.g., radar magnetrons. I had already learned that you never give back money, but also believed that I could make sure the money was spent responsibly by waiting until all the cards were on the table, i.e., approaching the end of the quarter.

The engineer was not so assiduous. He raced through his money and then asked the captain for more. The captain, instead of chastising him, took my money. Needless to say I protested loudly, but the captain had done his deed.

So I then quickly learned to invest in durable goods and stockpile early in the quarter. The next time the engineer came begging all he found was radar magnetrons and CPR kits and foul weather jackets, which he could not use or trade in for cash. I knew that eventually we would need these things so it was not wasteful, just husbanding my resources.

So I have stayed in durable goods and out of the market ever since. As a result I am completely untouched by this so called Great Depression II that no one can see except Wall Streeters. See Peggy Noonan:

Now in the ship case, it really was not "my" money, rather more so the captain's, and indeed far more so the Navy's and the taxpayers'. But it was not prudent, fair, or in any way correct to take that which I had husbanded and give it to a profligate.

I didn't invent that idea, Jesus did, with the story of the prodigal son, and his was based on 3000 years of society at large as a precedent thereto. It is just plain wrong.

Now as in that story, perhaps I shall receive rewards in heaven and surely my life is far better than most, but I DESERVE IT AND HAVE WORKED FOR IT. So it really irritates me in a most profane way when others get GIVEN that for which I have WORKED, and ESPECIALLY when it it taken FROM ME to give to them.

Yet another: I turned 65 this year. I went from $37 a month military medical insurance to Medicare. The base rate for medicare is $97. But I get to pay $300 because I make too much money!!

So, thanks to all the liberals in the government, my medical payments have increased TEN FOLD for the simple sin of turning 65. And they are TAKING IT FROM ME TO GIVE TO SOMEONE ELSE.

So, NO. Anyone of that bent is just plain wrong and I shall and will fight them any way I can legally and morally.

And I will help and support young people who seem to be smart enough to figure things out the way I have. There is little or no hope of changing the minds of the liberals, but perhaps we can grow enough conservatives to outvote them.

"I WORKED for it, why shouldn't you?"

Friday, November 14, 2008

SyncML works for E90 and KDEPIM

I have tried and tried to get this to render correctly by font, but it is late and it won't do what I tell it to do, so sorry it didn't work out. I give up.

To quote my favorite popmail server...

But if you don't need it to be perfectly pretty, here it is:

Guess what.

SyncML works.

It exists in the Nokia phone in the +Menu +Tools +Sync function.
gives a howto for Ubuntu.
exposes the SyncML OBEX Client, which has an extensive list of commands. This article explains accessing the phone databases, but does not indicate how to address a program on the PC.

The documentation states that the Evolution plugin does not work. This problem does not exist for the kdepim plugin, so we concentrated our efforts there, since that is where we wanted to be anyhow. (Nevermind the couple of days we spent trying to make it work before finding the comment in the source code... but whatevah.)

It Turns Out That (ITOT) the kdepim plugin works just fine. So we have now not only fired Microsoft in general, but also fired Outlook in particular. We can sync the phone to the KDE PIM flawlessly.

So. There.

SuSE HowTo
1. Install the required software
2. Check the plugins
p1610:~ # msynctool --listplugins
Available plugins:
3. Create msynctool groups and add members
msynctool --addgroup nokia
msynctool --addmember nokia kdepim-sync
msynctool --addmember nokia syncml-obex-client
This creates the nokia group, adds the PIM connector as the first member and adds the phone (syncml-obex) connector as the second member.
4. Configure the members
Configure the PIM Connector
p1610:~ # msynctool --configure nokia 1
This plugin has no options and does not need to be configured
Configure the SyncML-obex client (phone connection)
The default resides at
while the current settings are at
msynctool --configure nokia 2
This brings up a very long list of items.
For brevity let's look at its values like this:
PC Suite

Note that the values are case-sensitive!!!
Check the configuration

p1610:~ # msynctool --showgroup nokia
Groupname: nokia
Member 2: syncml-obex-client
Member 1: kdepim-sync
No Configuration found: This member has no configuration options
5. Experiment
msynctool --sync nokia

There are a few gotchas:

* The authors freely admit this is clearly alpha-ware.

* Kontact, KAddressbook, KOrganizer, in general ALL the KDE PIM elements have to be closed, like turned off, not even just in the task bar. Otherwise the process hangs.

* It takes a very long while, especially when you sync the first time. Be patient, let it run its course. As long as you are seeing the disk thrashing icon and top says it is alive, let it run. After several syncs things shall be much faster.

* Watch for the conflict choices. If it finds a conflict it shall ask; the answer is not trivial. Initially you shall find choices between real entries and trash. This may be an artifact of earlier attempts. After several syncs you may find choices being offered between, say, contacts and calendar events. There is not always a clear choice. You can choose a number or Newest. Newest is generally a good choice except where that choice is trash. So pay attention.

* Once it has settled out, pay particular attention to Korganizer. You will click on a particular day, but depending on what event you have selected you may end up at the initiation day or some other day, rather than the day you used to enter the edit.

But all these things are part of paying attention to detail, which is always a good thing to do. "Trust me" almost never works.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hate to say I told you so... But I DID!

See today's Wall Street Journal:

On September 30 I asked, * Whom shall we be bailing out? and suggested that the answer is
Shareholders, stock brokers, corporate magnates, money people, that's who.

The article then goes on to tot up the bill at just the first three banks, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley, to some 31 B-B-B-Billion. So some five percent of the 700 billion bailout is going to disappear into the bankers pockets the minute it hits.

Good grief!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

'WAY Cool PDF Writer

'WAY cool. Just like the old free Adobe PDF writer of 1998 vintage. It lets you simply print directly to a PDF instead of first to a PS and then translating it with ps2pdf.

The details are at

The article is a little confusing, it talks about both the lpadmin command line approach and the CUPS GUI. ITOT you do all the work at the command line and then check it with the GUI.

So, to install this, all from the command line as root:
  • Install CUPS with the normal software installer (duh)...
  • Create a script file /usr/lib/cups/backend/pdf-writer per the provided text or our own now installed version, doing a chmod 755 in the process.
  • Unzip the designated Postscript Printer Description (PPD::
 cd /usr/share/cups/model
gunzip -d Postscript-level2.ppd.gz

* Download the free AdobeTM Distiller ppd file here:
* Unzip it and copy it to the target directory:Link
unzip -d
cp Adobe/ADIST5.PPD /usr/share/cups/model/Acrobat-Distiller.ppd
  • Add the printer with:
  mkdir -p /export/share/pdf
chmod -R 777 /export
lpadmin -p CUPS-PDF -v pdf-writer:/export/share/pdf/ -E -P \
/usr/share/cups/model/Postscript-level2.ppd -D "PDF Writer for CUPS" \ -L "PDF Backend /usr/lib/backend/pdf-writer"

lpadmin -p CUPS-PDF -v pdf-writer:/export/share/pdf/ -E -P \
/usr/share/cups/model/Acrobat-Distiller.ppd -D "PDF Writer for CUPS" \ -L "PDF Backend /usr/lib/backend/pdf-writer"
  • Then and only then, launch the 'way cool CUPS GUI:

and play with your new virtual printer.
  • When you print test pages from this interface the results are stored in /export/share/pdf
Very very good.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Game face

As long as we are breaking glass, what is the world view on makeup: lipstick, eye liner, eye shadow?

I know there are a lot of cosmetics firms that do not want to hear this.

But here it is, anyhow.

The issue is whether you have a limbic or neocortical kind of connection in your relationship. For me both demand that you wash your face.

If a limbic connection you just close your eyes, sigh, and enjoy what follows. But if neocortical you relate with eyes open. And therein lies the problem.

Makeup, by definition, is synthetic. I have never seen a person for whom makeup added anything, especially lipstick, eye liner, or eye shadow.

If the person is naturally beautiful then makeup hides their beauty and distracts you to the makeup, which renders the natural beauty invisible.

If the person is not naturally beautiful then the makeup accentuates their lack of beauty and makes them look rather needy, desperate, and pathetic.

These effects are especially pronounced on people of fair complexions since they create such a marked contrast.

So why do they do it?

One possibility is that it is their game face. Tight skirts, spike heels, and a painted face is their equivalent of going out on an NFL field in face masks and body armor.

Fine, go for it, but don't ask me to be your friend...

Needless to say, I have engaged very very few ladies in this sort of discourse, but perhaps this posting will spark a kindly debate from which all can win.

So folks, please wash your face.

It is what it is. If it is naturally beautiful it will shine through. If it is not, then your soul will shine through. In either case, your honesty and willingness to deal with reality will shine through, and show you to be a person worthy of friendship, kindness, and engagement. Being painted up just shows you to be pretending...
Of course, there is a counter-attack. What about all these dudes with Titan pickup trucks that will never see a trail path, the cowboys with boots and big hats who never have and never will leave New England, the boaters with flag belts and Docksides who have never left shore, let alone Narragansett Bay? And so on and so forth.

We all adopt affectations. The offense occurs when the affectation distorts reality.

If you are an actor or actress then makeup is a tool of the trade. It is, after all, a trade of make believe.

If you are a boat skipper or a ship captain then Docksides make sense to help you stay on your feet in a tossing sea, as do all the other accoutrements of Henri Lloyd jackets, baggy pants, and light shirts.

The belts work if you are real in a sort of "If you have it flaunt it" kind of mode.

But if you are not in the trades, then why?

Maybe for fun. Colorful belts of what you'd rather be spending your time doing are fun. LaCoste shirts are reminders of exotic trips you have taken and wonderworlds you have visited, so fun.

Maybe for defense, as the game face approach above.

But once it gets past either being who you are, doing it for fun, or doing it for defense then it starts to fall on deaf ears.

I for one do not understand it.

So let's all wash our faces and examine our affectations.

If it is not true it is false.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Life is so simple, and so complex

We have had a tumultuous week this week, with the Dow diving southward and other things.

But it offers a view of what really matters.

You need someone else in your life whom you love and who makes you smile every time you see them.

You need them to be able and willing to spend time with you, doing stuff. Whatever: weeding, doing laundry, preferably biking, swimming, traveling, but regardless, doing stuff, fun stuff, together.

Besides your going to work to earn money to be able to do these things, nothing much else matters.

Life at its essence.

It would be nice if this other person were a pretty person of the opposite gender, but if that is not possible then a nice Siamese cat will do.

Regardless, we need someone else in our lives.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

OK, how we can make the bailout actually work... Needs and Wants

OK, OK, yes, I had some fun with numbers in the previous post. Sorry if I offended anyone.

Except the money people. They deserve to be offended.

But it is true and the Congress is admitting as much: they are bailing out the money people.

But they say it is for a good cause.

What they are proposing is to buy all the bad debt, putting money back in the pockets of the money people and then trusting them to do the right thing!

Good grief. How naive!!

The alligator just ate your first-born. You are now going to toss your second-born into the pond and trust the alligator to do the right thing? Reminds me of the joke about software engineers...

Give me a freaking break.

Oh yeh, and along the way are the inevitable plugins of perks, pork, and earmarks...

Good grief.


OK, enough complaining, how can we make it actually work?

I understand the following:

+ We want (not need) a viable long-term credit market to fund long term customer purchases.

(Please do not use the term "consumer" in my presence. I am not a consumer. A hog is a consumer. I am a customer, who chooses, based on quality of service, where to place my custom. If you are not kind, courteous, fair, and trustworthy then I will not place it with you.)

As customers we want (not need) to buy things like houses, cars, and even boats. Having credit means we can have them sooner than later (um, greed, but we can live with it).

If the credit is not available for these things then many fewer of these things shall be sold, so a whole bunch of people working in these industries may end up out of work, perhaps through no fault of their own. So maybe we should avoid that.

(OTOH, if they are following my previous suggestion of investing in real and durable goods they wouldn't be so bad off. And of course the whole credit system is a pyramid scheme, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. If we could convert credit to planning then people would have the money to pay cash for such things and the same number of builders and sellers could still be employed at the same levels. Of course that would then put the bank loan departments out of work... But I won't go there tonight.)

+ We also want (not need) a viable short-term credit market to provide liquidity to small businesses who have short term liabilities (payroll, for example) with rather longer term billing cycles. So they need to get the money to pay short-term liabilities until the longer term revenues accrue.

(OTOH, if they were saving and not using credit but rather creating enterprise funds to save up in advance for these easily predictable expenses then they wouldn't need credit. Hmmm. It is sounding more and more like this is a bailout for bank loan departments! But I won't go there tonight either.)

+ What we DO need (not want) is a safe place (other than under the mattress) for people to put their hard-earned money until they are ready to spend it on the preceding wants. But, with the FDIC and some controls, we may already have that.

+ What we NEITHER need NOR want is yet another license for the same money people to eat our lunch, again.

So what is to be done?


Before I answer that, let me put in a plug for frugality: the people of Netherlands are notoriously (and wonderfully) frugal. They also run the industrial world.

(If you doubt that then start looking closely at all the major players in all the markets: Shell, Phillips, shipping companies, freight companies, industrial machinery companies, van this and van that... Of course, they are actually building stuff, not just inventing pyramid schemes...)

We are starting to see that here as well. What happens there and with enterprise funds here is that you allocate money on a regular basis to targeted savings funds to prepare in advance for fully expectable expenses, like rent, electricity, and (duh) payroll. And you do not use or allow credit for such things. Period, full stop. No cashee, no purchasee. Even for food.

In short, these practices demonstrate restraint, foresight, planning, and, of course, personal discipline and responsibility.

How quaint.

Of course, that is foreign to our normal yahoo cowboy mentality and political correctness so cannot be foisted on the populace. It needs to be learned (since we seem to have forgotten it) and we haven't time for that right now.

But it does work, wonderfully.


OK, so here is what the Congress can do in the short term to 1) provide the short- and long-term credit markets we want and at the same time 2) prevent paying money back to the same yahoos who squandered our future with stupid and dangerous investments and are laughing all the way to their bank in the Turks and Caicos:

1. Establish a set of credit guidelines on how much money can be lent for how long at what rate for a person with how much income. This is a number cruncher's dream and ultimately doable. I remember my father reciting guidelines for how much house you could buy with a 25 year mortgage if you made $12,000 a year. That sort of thing. Give me a couple of hours of Googling and I'll bet I'll come up with a pretty good list.

2. Tell every bank in the world that has FDIC protection that they must adhere to those guidelines if they don't want to lose their FDIC protection. Make it effective immediately.

3. Revise Fannie/Freddie and all their cousins to start making short- and long-term loans to the public following those guidelines. In other words, start up a public sector honest broker competitor to commercial banks. That will get the money people up on their toes.

4. If that is too hard, then invest in the zillions of Federal Credit Unions and Federal Savings Banks, either with direct investment or higher insurance coverage and lower taxes, to have them provide the short- and long-term credit. Firms like Navy Federal Credit Union - or USAA Federal Savings Bank - These organizations are, by charter, customer-oriented and -controlled and essentially non-profit organizations; they have Federal regulations and rulesets that require that excess profit is returned to the account holders, the shareholders, who regularly vote on by-laws and board member selections. They are responsive, responsible, and highly functional.

And non-predatory.

5. Now it gets harder, but we also need (not just want) some form of personal accountability for irresponsible speculation and exploitation. I'll think on this and let you know.

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, but it does feel good when you get a chunk of it yourself. Cutting off their ears or other body parts prolly won't pass muster with UN human rights commissions, but it would feel good.

In the meantime, measures such as the previous four will meet the needs (and wants) and avoid paying money to the perpetrators of the crisis by buying bad debts.


How far can 700 BILLION go? A very very long way, if it is spent carefully, responsibly, prudently, and conservatively.

And not simply turned over to the same dude that just did you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Maybe someone can explain this bailout to me ...

* Why do we need to bail out some people to the tune of $700 B-B-BILLION?

* Whom shall we be bailing out?

* What happens if we don't?

* Will someone bail me out?

Guess what:

* We are not bailing out the Government. The Government will not go bankrupt.

* We are not bailing out the poor people on welfare. The Government pays them.

* We are not bailing out people with savings accounts. They are insured by the FDIC to the tune of some $100,000 per person per bank. If they are keeping more than that kind of money in a bank uninsured at typically stupidly low interest rates then they are not very smart and deserve to lose it. (Yes, Social Darwinist, deal with it.)

* We are not bailing out those of us who choose to park our savings in real estate and durable goods. These shall not lose their value. They are real and durable. Duhhh...

* We are not bailing out the cash economy. You know, like Newport, RI, where all transactions are in cash and nobody reports any income.

So who is left? Shareholders, stock brokers, corporate magnates, money people, that's who.

Which is where all this problem started: People trying to be cute, knowingly at the expense of others, with rampant disregard for their fiduciary responsibilities to others:

This citation recommends reestablishing a standard for value that is independent of the "unbridled greed and recklessness" of men. A standard such as gold or a bimetallic (gold and silver) that would provide such a buffer. The point is, that if you back your value with reality (gold, silver, real estate, durable goods) then you are insured against the stupidity and greed of market manipulators.

* So, why should I bail them out? Guess what: high risk investment is just that: possibly high gain, but possibly high loss. This time they got caught out and should pay the price.


Here is some basic math; all it takes is simple division:

+ Let's see: I have some $300K left on the house mortgage and another say $50K on various personal property items. $350K in round numbers, which happens to divide nicely into 700,000,000,000.

+ 700,000,000,000 divided by 350,000 gives 2,000,000. TWO MILLION people like me.

* So who is going to bail me out? Why not bail out ME?! Isn't it better for society at large to bail out TWO MILLION honest, hardworking, and responsible people than a much smaller number of predatory and irresponsible people?

How much smaller a number? The census bureau points to some 3,512,000 people working as financial specialists:

Not all of them are irresponsible, of course, but if two-thirds of them are then we are back to this magic 2 MILLION number. So it starts looking like $700 billion is going to bail out 2 million financial workers with lifestyles like mine.

But hang on, these dudes are NOT like me. They make a whole bunch more than I do. Looking at the same table I find that there are 492 thousand financial workers making over $100 grand. Wow!

So let's get real:

Let's be generous. Let's round this up to 500 thousand such people in the financial sector making over $100K a year. Divide that into $700 billion.

* That gives $1.4 million to each one of these dudes!!! Tax Free!!!

Yikes! Better than the lottery.

Will anyone give ME $1.4 mil, tax free (or otherwise)??

Of course not...

Oh, and by the way, they may already have parked their fortunes elsewhere. The following article cites $3.4 TRILLION (that is $3,400,000,000,000 - man, look at all those zeros!) as residing overseas, or just under $7 MILLION for each of those 350,000 money people making over $100K:

Think about it.

Of course, I know my conclusions are guesses. As someone said, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

But they give you a sense of the magnitude and scope of the problem:

* The proposed bailout will benefit a relatively small number of people who do not deserve to benefit

* The proposed bailout will not benefit the vast majority of us who are not at blame for, nor at risk from, the situation.

* The economy and those of us not at blame shall survive, as evidenced by today's quick market rebound.

* If anything is to be done it is to return the money system to a reality based standard, such as the gold standard or a bimetallic standard to preclude this sort of damage from predators and speculators (one and the same...)

So, the immediate and correct answer is NO. To any of these schemes, but especially to the bailout.

Ye reap what ye sow.

Deal with it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Doers and Losers

As noted by the previous post sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the events of stupidity, laziness, and ignorance that surround me, resulting in a huge storm in my mind.

The following article is an affirmation that it is not only I that suffers in this manner:

I am having my own travails with Pantaenius UK and Fedex.

The former, when presented with an invoice for some 5000 euros has allowed only 2000 euros and refuses to forward this up the chain to higher authority. So I have to take my precious and billable time to try to track down an address for higher management, someone with common sense, to resolve it.

The latter quoted me (over the phone of course, but "conversations are recorded for purposes of quality control" so we can get to them if necessary) some 470 USD to ship a 50 lb bike to the Netherlands, but then charged me some 2400 USD.

How the heck it can cost 2400 USD to ship a 50 pound bike worth no more than 2400 USD is beyond me.

Stupid people.

These shall be resolved, if only by extracting a pound of flesh.

The point is, how can people behave in such stupid ways? They must know that they are misbehaving, behaving in an irrational manner. But they have such a storm in their minds that they simply cannot behave correctly.

We have to fight this. Every time you walk away it makes it easier for them to blow you off. Every time that you push back you make them just that little bit less likely to behave in that manner again. Just hoping that someone will read your blog and do something is not enough.

So you just really must push back.

So I am calling, writing, and using my excellent lawyers to threaten and cajole these people into behaving correctly. Fortunately I have the means to do so, and hopefully my doing so will result in others not having to do so.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The storm in our minds

I was amazed, impressed, and saddened by today's article in the Wall Street Journal that gives an extract of David Foster Wallace's work.

Who the heck is David Foster Wallace? I never heard of the guy before. But it seems he was brilliant and prolific.

And suicidal.

He was found to have hanged himself last Friday:,0,246155.story

I was saddened by his death. I have known several folks who took their own lives, my mother, Mike Boorda, and now this person. That is incomprehensible to me, but these people obviously were miserable beyond comprehension.

I am so sorry for their misery, but equally sorry for our loss of their presence.

But it is what it is.

OK, now that we are past all that, let me tell you why this person was so special.

The cited article

describes exactly what is going on in each of our minds, and what we can do about it.

Just one excerpt that I am sure the WSJ will allow me, especially since I am flogging their excellent article:

By way of example, let's say it's an average day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging job, and you work hard for nine or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired, and you're stressed out, and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for a couple of hours and then hit the rack early because you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home -- you haven't had time to shop this week, because of your challenging job -- and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It's the end of the workday, and the traffic's very bad, so getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping, and the store's hideously, fluorescently lit, and infused with soul-killing Muzak or corporate pop, and it's pretty much the last place you want to be, but you can't just get in and quickly out: You have to wander all over the huge, overlit store's crowded aisles to find the stuff you want, and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts, and of course there are also the glacially slow old people and the spacey people and the ADHD kids who all block the aisle and you have to grit your teeth and try to be polite as you ask them to let you by, and eventually, finally, you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough checkout lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day-rush, so the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating, but you can't take your fury out on the frantic lady working the register.

Anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front, and pay for your food, and wait to get your check or card authenticated by a machine, and then get told to "Have a nice day" in a voice that is the absolute voice of death, and then you have to take your creepy flimsy plastic bags of groceries in your cart through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and try to load the bags in your car in such a way that everything doesn't fall out of the bags and roll around in the trunk on the way home, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive rush-hour traffic, etcetera, etcetera.

David was able to describe in detail the storm that rages in each of our minds every single day, every single moment. He also pointed to, but obviously did not attain, the solution.

This section is so much like the Gilbert and Sullivan monologue about Crossing the Channel from Harwich, a brilliant description of a nightmare (do th following in all one line): 2006/01/blog-post_113764713618167128.html

I'm an engineer and like having things be orthogonal: separate, independent, identically distributed.

Life unfortunately is not so.

I see each person as a tiramisu: layers upon layers of different stuff.

Consider your life as a set of layers:

+ A layer for your spouse, your health, your kids, your job, your dreams, your accomplishments

Then consider each layer to have a slider bar from 0-10 (or 0-100 if you think you can be more precise) and grade each of these layers on that scale, sliding the slider to the proper position.

These shall all arrive at different positions, unless you are extraordinarily extraordinary.

Your "Happiness Index" shall be the aggregate you choose (mean, median, mode) of the layers. In this case a simple mean (average) is Good Enough.

On this system, I am pretty well off, but still some layers have very low scores.

I wonder about David.

His article is so very much like my own thoughts while going home on a Friday night with a zillion other harried drivers. I saw three bloody, yes bloody with blood flowing down the street, accidents on the other side of the road, driving home from Logan to Newport. I had already read David's article, and spent a lot of the time thinking about the poor souls who suffered these events, their families, their children, the dads or moms who could never come home again.

So I drove much more carefully, for a while.

So what is the message?

We are all in our own personal envelopes of trials and tribulations. We all have our sliders on the various layers at various settings. Some of the settings are at the extreme ends of the scale, either high or low. When those occur we are distracted from what may be vital issues, like paying attention to the road.

So we need to do two things: 1) temper our own behavior to recognize the distractions and provide for them, like by paying attention to the road, and 2) to recognize the existence of distractions in others and accommodate their distractions.

I also think that we have the right to 3) point out to others, kindly but pointedly, when their behavior indicates that they are distracted and their distraction is affecting us.

So it was a bitter sweet day, and I am so very sorry for David and his family and the victims and their families of the scenes I observed.

And I identify with David's observations, but have no intent whatsoever of doing away with myself over them.

What a loss. What a loss when anyone dies, but especially when it is someone so brilliant who could have done so much for us all. And very especially, when that person could not recognize his own worth in a manner to prevent him from doing away with himself.

That is the bitter. What is the sweet?

That we can recognize the difference. We can change this by changing our own behavior.

David recognized this but could not follow through.

Bitter sweet.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

There really is hope for the airlines

I have despaired of the future for U.S. airlines. They have seemed to be in an uninterruptible downward spiral. But today's experiences seems to reverse this trend.

I have several theories on the cause of this effect. The first is the greediness of CEOs and management. I am well acquainted with their abilities to suck the life out of golden eggs.

But mathematics suggest something else is afoot.

At first you want to blame fuel, unions, and the employees.

But a recent experience shows me that some of this emerges as a consequence of the
airline being embedded in the airport culture. The airports of course hire the lowest capable people who are enmired in a very negative frame of mind.

So perhaps, the airline people, who are a bit of a cut above, are being dragged down by their environment.


Today's experience started to put flight to these miserable thoughts: In short, I was amazed at, and delighted by, the cheerful professionalism and attention rendered by a host of people in the transportation industry, including Logan International Airport in Boston, U.S. Airways, and the Sheraton Crystal City in Arlington, VA:
+ I was amazed at how efficient Logan is for parking and checking in for the USAIR Shuttle at Terminal B. They seem to be picking up on the Dutch (AMS) system of having smaller distributed security checks for individual airlines - the Dutch have a mini security for each *gate*. Makes life MUCH easier.

+ I was amazed at how courteous, cheerful, and attentive the USAIR desk people were. A huge change from previous experience, indicating a huge change in leadership. They have been, in my experience, the most offensive, surly, and dismissive crew I'd seen. This is a HUGE change.

+ I was prepared to snarl at their nickel and diming fees (ok, $5-15 fees), but the apparently sincere courtesy defused that. Yes, I know they just want my money, but they did a good job of pretending they were actually pleased to have us there.

+ I was pleased to be able to get a Caesar salad that was not all stalks, pepper, and dried out chicken. The Terminal B Creative Host actually had minimal stalks and still moist chicken and a glass of Cabernet. Good. (Although the only beers they had were Bud, Bud Light and something else Light. Yuk.)

+ I was amazed to see that the boarding agent actually was enforcing the "take your turn, board by row" rules and actually turning away queue jumpers. I thanked her for this when it came to be my turn.

+ I was amazed to see the flight not packed elbow to armpit. There was actually an empty seat between me and the lady next to the window.

+ I do continue to be amazed at the size of a large number of passengers and their luggage. I had a short discussion of this with the flight attendant. She sighed and said, yes I know, you must be the millionth person to mention this to me... If the fuel is so dear then I think my weight and size footprint (half the size of others) deserves a break. But I digress.

+ I was really amazed to find that despite the dire reports of nickel-dime fees, beer and wine are *free* on the shuttle. I don't know if that was just this flight attendant thumbing her nose at management, but it is what it is. A free glass of wine.

+ I was delighted to find that the hotel has a free door-to-door shuttle from door #9 (luggage rack #9) and a very cheerful and helpful driver who offered maps and all kinds of tips. Including where to go best for dinner (23rd street, a couple of blocks south from the hotel). Am I really in DC? Not Amsterdam????

+ I was amused to find that the lady answering the hotel phone had a curious accent that I identified as being Nederlandse. And indeed she is. :-)

+ 23rd Street is indeed a diner's nirvana. Easily a couple of dozen outside sitting Italian (mostly but also:), Thai, Korean, Japanese, sports bar, and others.

I met one of my colleagues and had a lovely dinner at
Cucina Vivace
509 23rd St S
Arlington, VA 22202

+ My other colleague, who will not arrive until about an hour from now will be disappointed to find that he is at the Sheraton National, in the boondocks of Pentagon City, not Crystal City. These are two quite separate Sheratons in this area. So I am glad my agent did not book me there. My colleague will need a shuttle just to get to the Metro.

So I think for future flights we should always investigate the BOS connection, not only PVD.
So all in all, a good day. There is hope for the U.S. Airlines.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Regarding Education

The following is à propos of a discussion recently suggesting a watchdog committee for education.

(all one line, this blogger chops off the last few characters... :-(

I think a watchdog is a good thing, primarily in that it may affect how the tax funds are spent. As I've said numerously publicly and privately, there is no excuse what so ever to increase taxes. Give me any budget and I will find zillions of dollars being misspent. It is the nature of the beast.

Having said that, we do not live in a perfect world so must do the best we can with what we have, which is the current system.

Primary and secondary schools are a long way in the past, but I have fairly sharp memories of undergraduate and graduate studies. (For better or worse...)

History 101, Economics 101, Physics 101 are all pretty much the same any where you go, and all taught by graduate students, although the name on the shingle is Professor XYZ. (I know. I taught Trigonometry 101 as a graduate student... :-(

So what are we to do?

We are to stop (if we ever started) thinking that someone owes us something, get up off our haunches and move out.

The education system provides resources and *some (perhaps not much or certainly not enough, but some) guidance to work through those resources.

But at the end of the day it is up to the individual to make the most of what they have. If they do not then they have no one to blame but themselves.

This article points that out.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

080814 Musings

Interesting day. I'm currently on the Left Coast wrapping up a week of "TAD - Temporary Additional Duty". For the uninitiated this means doing strange and unnatural acts for the benefit of the Nation in addition to your day job.

In this case, the strange and unnatural act is submitting yourself to the vagaries of the US flight and aviation system.

I have zero problems with the imposition of extreme security measures. The enemy is insane and requires extreme measures to foil. Zero problem in that regard.

However, the execution begs, pleads, for improvement.

I spent the last six weeks in Europe: Valencia, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Mallorca, Netherlands. Six weeks without a single cross remark, without a single confrontation of any sort.


I returned to Dulles International Airport. The first thing I heard on leaving the aircraft was "MOVE IT!!" uttered by a warder at the end of the gate access tunnel. A few more "MOVE IT"s and another fellow and I started making "MOOOOO" cattle sounds.

Welcome to America.

On the current business trip I checked in with United at Providence on Monday 11 August. As I arrived the young brunette woman dispatched her two colleagues, saying something like, "go on, I will take care of this."

"Nice," I thought. "Take care of the troops. Good."

But then I then proceeded to the login terminal. "Sorry. a ticket agent will attend to your requirements" or words to that effect. So I moooed a bit and stood in line while this young brunette mooned at her current client.

In due course she noticed the other clients standing in line and ushered three others through, checking their baggage and issuing boarding passes, while I stood there, perplexed. After the third, I approached her: "Excuse me, how does this work? You have moved three people in front of me?" This was followed with a snit of self justification: "There is only me!" "What's your hurry, do you have a flight to catch?"

Huh? Generally unsatisfactory behavior.

So I mustered up my best command presence, looked her in the eye, explained the problem, and she backed off.

Twit. But I wouldn't want her job for anything..

Then, I had to change flights in Chicago. This required changing terminals from A to C, or vice versa. I forget. Whatever, it required boarding a shuttle bus. The driver was wearing his "do-rag" with his girlfriend in the right seat. "MOVE IT" emanated again.

Rudeness is a weak person's attempt at a display of strength. These people are worthless.

I finally got to my San Diego destination. The return flights were totally overbooked. There was no visible way to return home before Saturday.

OK, let's just wait and see. Fortuitously (although not for my travel agent, as it put her through the wringer yet again) , my schedule changed to requiring return from Los Angeles LAX.

Cool. All well, lots of flights at reasonable hours. Screwtape defeated.

Not so fast so. The 0815 return flight tomorrow has been canceled, so after due consideration I decided on the red-eye tonight.

Signed over 7000 miles ($ 50) for a stay in the "Red Carpet Club". Pleasant enough, but no food. OTOH, the lady at the desk, from Ecuador, was very pleasant and helpful.

Tonight's adventure was struggling with T-Mobile's Hot Spot. I found that for $10 I can get T-mobile WiFi internet access for 24 hours. Initially it does not work with Firefox, but I called the service number and was pleasantly surprised to find a young person who actually knew what the problem was and fixed it instantly by giving me the numeric IP address for the login site: you put

in the address field of the browser and that takes you to a screen that lets you log in, assuming you have already bought an account and registered a username and password.

The session does expire rather quickly, so you may have to log in again. This requires closing your browser session and/or clearing your cache.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Nokia E90 Progress


Trying to get the Nokia E90 Communicator and the associated Digital Pen working but seem not to be able to get the E90 to work with PC Suite running on Windows 2000 as a client on a VMWare host on SuSE 10.2 Linux.

Whatever I do causes VMWare to freeze, requiring a reboot of the entire Linux host.

The PC Suite will not connect to the E90 even when I remove the memory chip that serves as the USB thumbdrive.

== Basic Issue ==

The issue is a power struggle between the Linux OS and VMWare for a USB automount.

When I plug in the E90 it offers two modes: "PC Suite" or "Data Transfer".

The former is functional only when connected to a Windows Session running Nokia's PC Suite. This provides synchronization with Outlook and other services of PC Suite.

The latter serves as an automounted USB thumbdrive to either Win2k or the host Linux OS.

When you plug in a USB device HAL grabs it and automounts it. When you subsequently run VMWare there is an option under VM > Removable Devices > Nokia E90 to wrest control of the device from Linux and connect it to the VMWare client Win2K session.

The last is the part that is not working. When I do VM > Removable Devices > Nokia E90 the VMClient freezes and with it the entire Linux session.

== Crash Resolution ==

I can press a bunch of keys and eventually close the Win2K client and return control to Linux. (But I haven't figured out which combos actually make the switch - at this point VMWare is responding very slowly.) At this point the Ctrl+ options and any caps lock functions are gone, as are any key repeat functions, page up or down and so forth. basically the x-client is trashed. so I reboot.

=== Experimentation ===

I've tried various different sequences of plugging in the USB; without Win2K running, without even VMWare running, etc.

+ Absent VMWare and Win2k the USB functions exactly as desired in that case, i.e., as a thumbdrive.

+ I tried wresting control by VMWare without a client session but that option is greyed out if there is no client session running.

+ I then started a client session. Wresting control resulted in connecting to the E90 in data transfer mode with no crash.

But it cannot now connect to PC Suite. The resulting help file says to disconnect and reconnect, which will prolly invoke the Linux automount.

Howevah, In the Nokia E90 under Tools > Settings > Connections > USB there is an option to change the type of connection. If you change it from data Transfer to PC Suite you get a nag screen but the system does not crash. However it still not recognize the Windows PC Suite.

So once again I wrest control:

When I plug in the E90 in PC Suite mode Win2K freezes and with it the VMWare host and the entire linux machine. goto ´ćrash resolution' above. interestingly, the mouse functions perfectly.

After a while the client session crashes, returning me to the host.

I checked dmesg and messages and find no obvious culprits. What happens when I plug in the E90 is:

It is detected and automounted as sda1

When I select PC Suite mode it is effectively unplugged, but not unmounted.

Then apparently the reconnecting as a PC Suite mode fails. Here is messages:

Nov 12 10:47:52 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 2
Nov 12 10:47:52 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: new device found, idVendor=0421, idProduct=04cf
Nov 12 10:47:52 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: new device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
Nov 12 10:47:52 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: Product: Nokia E90
Nov 12 10:47:52 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: Manufacturer: Nokia
Nov 12 10:47:52 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: SerialNumber: 353659011534977
Nov 12 10:47:52 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
Nov 12 10:47:53 P1610 kernel: SCSI subsystem initialized
Nov 12 10:47:53 P1610 kernel: Initializing USB Mass Storage driver...
Nov 12 10:47:53 P1610 kernel: scsi0 : SCSI emulation for USB Mass Storage devices
Nov 12 10:47:53 P1610 kernel: usb-storage: device found at 2
Nov 12 10:47:53 P1610 kernel: usb-storage: waiting for device to settle before scanning
Nov 12 10:47:53 P1610 kernel: usbcore: registered new driver usb-storage
Nov 12 10:47:53 P1610 kernel: USB Mass Storage support registered.
Nov 12 10:47:54 P1610 kernel: Vendor: Nokia Model: E90 Rev: 1.0
Nov 12 10:47:54 P1610 kernel: Type: Direct-Access ANSI SCSI revision: 00
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: usb-storage: device scan complete
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: SCSI device sda: 3969799 512-byte hdwr sectors (2033 MB)
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: sda: Write Protect is off
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: sda: Mode Sense: 03 00 00 00
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: sda: assuming drive cache: write through
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: SCSI device sda: 3969799 512-byte hdwr sectors (2033 MB)
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: sda: Write Protect is off
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: sda: Mode Sense: 03 00 00 00
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: sda: assuming drive cache: write through
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: sda:
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: sd 0:0:0:0: Attached scsi removable disk sda
Nov 12 10:47:55 P1610 kernel: sd 0:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg0 type 0
Nov 12 10:47:57 P1610 hald: mounted /dev/sda on behalf of uid 1000

Change to PC Suite mode
Nov 12 10:48:02 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: USB disconnect, address 2
Nov 12 10:48:02 P1610 hald[2650]: forcibly attempting to lazy unmount /dev/sda as enclosing drive was disconnected
Nov 12 10:48:02 P1610 kernel: scsi 0:0:0:0: rejecting I/O to dead device
Nov 12 10:48:02 P1610 hald: unmounted /dev/sda from '/media/Nokia 2G' on behalf of uid 0

Nov 12 10:48:03 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 3
Nov 12 10:48:03 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: new device found, idVendor=0421, idProduct=04ce
Nov 12 10:48:03 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: new device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0
Nov 12 10:48:03 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: Product: Nokia E90
Nov 12 10:48:03 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: Manufacturer: Nokia
Nov 12 10:48:03 P1610 kernel: usb 1-1: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
Nov 12 10:48:04 P1610 kernel: usbcore: registered new driver cdc_ether
Nov 12 10:48:04 P1610 kernel: rndis_host 1-1:1.12: RNDIS init failed, -32
Nov 12 10:48:04 P1610 kernel: usb%d: unregister 'rndis_host' usb-0000:00:1d.0-1, RNDIS device
Nov 12 10:48:04 P1610 kernel: unregister_netdevice: device usb%d/dff04800 never was registered
Nov 12 10:48:04 P1610 kernel: ------------[ cut here ]------------
Nov 12 10:48:04 P1610 kernel: kernel BUG at mm/slab.c:595!
Nov 12 10:48:04 P1610 kernel: invalid opcode: 0000 [#1]
Nov 12 10:48:04 P1610 kernel: SMP
Nov 12 10:48:04 P1610 kernel: last sysfs file:


+ Maybe I will try one more thing: to not accept the connection on the E90 until AFTER I have given control to the client session.

That worked, the E90 synched, then Win2K crashed. On restarting I'm back to the same thing, it hangs the entire machine.

+ Another option, connect it as for data transfer, then eject it and reconnect.

These simply do not work. additionally, the crash kills the caps capability of the keyboard as well as all Ctrl+ etc combinations.,

+ Ah. Try this: REMOVE the USB chip, using the E90 machine as phone only. Nope, that doesn't work either.