Archive for April, 2006
My analysis of the implications of Boot Camp are up in the Ramblings section.
Fans of Jeff Porten’s Spending My Summer In Boot Camp will see distinct parallels, of course…
Hat tip to Jeff Porten: Yakov Smirnoff has earned a graduate degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.
Coming soon, his new stand-up special: “What a University…”
(ED NOTE: Try it with a Russian accent, it’ll come back to you, I promise).
All right, this is really, really cool.
Quick summary: The British judge that recently ruled that Dan Brown did not plagiarize “The Da Vinci Code” from another book, italicized seemingly random characters throughout his ruling. A lawyer made an off-hand comment to The London Times that it would be ironic if the italicized letters were some sort of secret, embedded message. At which point, he got an e-mail from the judge telling him to check out the first few paragraphs.
Turns out the italicized letters in the first few paragraphs spell “smithcode” (the judge’s name is Peter Smith), suggesting that was exactly his intent. Here is the complete message:
Anyone have a solution?
UPDATE: It’s been solved by the laywer who found it. Something to do with the Fibonacci sequence…
I’m no expert here, but I smell political posturing here on both sides of the aisle.
Given: Gas prices are sky high
Given: People are pissed off that gas prices are sky high
Given: Gas comes from oil
Given: Oil companies are recording record profits lately
Conclusion: Oil companies should give back some of those profits and lower gas prices.
Here’s my problem: Correlation is not causation. Are the oil companies’ large profits the result of high gas prices? If you think about it for a second, it gets really murky.
First of all, we should distinguish between the different businesses oil companies are in:
There are the folks that drill for oil, find it, and then sell it on the open market. Since the cost of drilling for oil is relatively fixed, I would assume the profits in this business are driven almost entirely by the price of oil on the open market. Clearly, this is not set by the oil companies, but by commodity traders around the world. Just like people who play the stock market for a living, it seems clear to me that companies that sell oil will make higher profits when oil is trading at $70/barrel than when it’s trading at $50/barrel. And good for them, too. They’re taking the risk (what if oil dropped to $30/barrel?), and they deserve the reward. Asking them to sell their oil to anyone but the highest bidder would be as ridiculous as asking a farmer to sell his corn, sugar, or cotton for less than he can get for it.
Then there are the folks that sell gasoline for a living. Some of these folks are probably independent gas station owners and don’t work for oil companies at all, but let’s think about them for a second anyway. Oil is a key raw material in the production of gasoline, so if the price of a barrel of oil goes up, I’d suspect the price of a gallon of gas would go up. Higher prices at the pump don’t necessarily mean higher profits for the gas station. They could simply be passing their higher costs along to you.
Where it gets tricky is when you consider companies like ExxonMobil, who both drill for oil and sell gasoline. As discussed previously, there’s no reason to believe that the cost of getting the oil out of the ground has changed significantly (is there?). And since they don’t have to buy the oil on the open market, their cost of producing gasoline shouldn’t increase that much either. So why the high prices? My guess is it comes down to supply and demand. If they sold gasoline at $2/gallon instead of $3/gallon, people would buy a lot more of it, and they would eventually run out. Remember the gas lines in the 1970′s? Opposite problem (supply was restricted by OPEC, as opposed to demand skyrocketing due to the industrialization of China and India), but the same result: if you price too far away from the equilibrium, you can create a shortage. This makes inherent sense to me, but I don’t know enough about the mechanics of the oil industry to say for sure. Can anybody help out?
Oh, and while we’re at it – does anyone know what percentage of oil produced in the world gets converted to gasoline? Many folks (including the president) are describing the long-term solution to this problem with ideas like hydrogen-powered cars. How much of the problem will we have solved if we have hydrogen powered cars built in factories that are heated by oil, powered by electricity that is produced with oil, and made out of petroleum-based plastics? I think there’s more to breaking our “addiction to oil” than just getting rid of the SUV’s. Thoughts?
Keith Hernandez, New York Mets broadcaster, upon spotting 33-year old Kelly Calabrese (the San Diego Padres’ full-time massage therapist) in the San Diego dugout:
I won’t say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don’t belong in the dugout.
Later, during the same game:
You know I am only teasing. I love you gals out there — always have.
He was reprimanded by his employer, SportsNet New York, and apologized on the air during the following game.
For the record, I think what Hernandez said was unbelievably tone deaf, and he deserves the slap on the wrist he got. But the reaction itself is not all that surprising. The article doesn’t mention if Ms. Calabrese is the first woman with a regular spot in a major league dugout, or if she’s the only one in such a role right now. Having watched baseball for a very long time (although not as long as Keith Hernandez), I’m pretty confident in saying that if she’s not the only one, she’s a member of a very, very small group.
So yes – a surprised reaction is not entirely out of bounds. And once a broadcaster is surprised like that, what comes out of his mouth next is more than likely going to get him in some kind of trouble. But my sympathy ends as soon as he uses the phrase “belong in the kitchen” followed by a veiled sexual reference.
Apparently, a few teenagers in Kansas decided they would celebrate the anniversary of the Columbine shootings by killing a bunch of their classmates. The plot was foiled because one of them talked about it in a MySpace.com post. A fellow student read the post and notified the police, who arrested the would-be murderers, and found guns and knives in their bedrooms.
I heard about this yesterday in the waiting room of a doctor’s office (they had CNN running on a TV in the room). An older couple was sitting behind me and when the story ran, she turned to her husband and said, “See? The Internet causes all sorts of trouble.”
All she heard was “kids planning to kill classmates” and “Internet.” Some folks will never learn…
Once again, the power of Google saves the day…
The other day, Windows automatically downloaded and installed a number of patches (as per my instructions – I used to look at each one, but I never, ever said “No,” so I just changed it to automatic. Go figure…). For those who are finding this through a Google search, the patches were: KB915597, KB890830, KB911565, KB911562, KB912812, KB908531, KB911567, KB892130 and KB890830.
Anyway, after the patches were installed, my Microsoft Office 2003 Applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook) all began exhibiting a quirky problem: If you did File…Open or File…Save As, and tried to navigate around the folder tree, the program would freeze up, eventually giving a “Not Responding” error, and forcing you to close it.
I had visions of backing up all of my data, reinstalling MSOffice, reinstalling all the LiveOffice patches, and praying the problem went away. But before I did any such thing, I typed “MSOffice Save As Not Responding” into Google, and it led me to this Google Groups discussion on the problem. The last poster in the thread, a guy named Tom [Pepper] Willett, found and linked to the Microsoft Support Page that detailed the problem and provided the (2-minute) fix.
To summarize quickly: The problem is an incompatability between the recent Windows patches (specifically, patch #KB908531) and Hewlett-Packard’s Share-to-Web software, which gets installed on your machine if you have HP PhotoSmart software, an HP DeskJet printer, an HP Scanner, some HP CD-DVD RWs, or an HP Camera. The Windows patch installed a program called VERCLSID.EXE, which “validates shell extensions before they are instantiated by the Windows Shell or Windows Explorer.” I have no idea what that means, but basically, it makes MSOffice freeze up when you try to navigate the folder tree.
The Microsoft page gives you an 8-step process to correct the problem, which involves adding a line to the Windows registry (they even put the line in a textbox so you can cut & paste it without having to re-type it yourself). Basically, what you’re doing is putting this HP software on a “white list,” so the VERCLSID.EXE program doesn’t trip over it. Problem solved – and I didn’t even have to reboot the machine.
Now, here’s the amazing part: the Windows update came down late Thursday, April 13th, or early Friday morning. The first post about the problem in the Google Groups thread was at 1:44AM on Friday morning. Within 48-hours, 12 people had weighed in, and the last person had posted the link to the Microsoft-authored solution (which was posted on April 15th – the site doesn’t specify the time).
All hail Metcalfe’s law: “The value of a network equals approximately the square of the number of users.”
Flipping channels over the weekend and coming upon one of those infomercials, I was struck by this thought: What if one of these products was actually a real breakthrough?
I mean, what if the vaccum cleaner they’re touting actually IS a thousand times better than any other vaccum cleaner out there? What if the diet pill they’re going on about really DOES make you lose weight with no exercise or change in eating habits? We’d probably all ignore it, right? A really, really good idea might be lost forever in a sea of shlock.
Maybe we should nominate someone to buy one of everything, test it out, and report back to us. Any volunteers?
The latest survey of global broadband access ranks the US 12th in per capita broadband. Iceland took the prize with a whopping 26.7 broadband users per hundred.
Well, of course – what else is there to do in Iceland?!?
Remember Sniglets? Words that should be in the dictionary but aren’t? Why did they ever go away?
Anyway, I need a new one: what should we call that feeling you get when you accidentally type your password in the UserID field, and it shows up as actual characters instead of asterisks? You know – that feeling that everyone can see it now, even though no one is looking at the screen but you?