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Friday, February 13, 2004
12:37 PM      

Hidden Economics
As I watched a news story about how jobs are being exported overseas while the economy is seen to be recovering, I started to think. Some talking head from a conservative think tank came on to say that exporting jobs overseas is the right thing to do, because it keeps America's economy competitive...

It occurred to me that by this way of thinking, there are a lot of people out of work in this country, who are no longer considered part of “the economy,” in much the same way as the unemployment figures only count people that are officially looking for work. For that matter, if the work is being done overseas, is that output really part of the American economy? Seems a bit like a shell game to me.


Electronic (no) Fun(ds)
I had reason to use PayPal's “Request Money” feature recently, and I'm finding the experience to be a mixed blessing. PayPal makes it possible to exchange funds without having your own merchant account, but it still has its rough spots.

A client of mine wanted to pay me for some work via PayPal, so I sent him an invoice through the system, and waited for the funds to show up. He submitted payment via credit card the first time. PayPal came back and told me that I'd need to upgrade to a commercial account and pay them a percentage of the transaction to accept a credit card payment. My client agreed to re-do the transaction using a money transfer from his account instead.

As I'd never confirmed my paypal account by giving PayPal a bank account number, I had a new problem. My client can transfer funds to my PayPal account, but there's a limit to how much money I can transfer to my bank before my account is confirmed. That process takes several days, and so does the funds transfer – it's not at all like a bank to bank transfer.

In the mean time, I've put in for confirmation, and requested a transfer to my bank account for as much money as I am allowed. Sometime next week, my account should be confirmed, and I'll be able to transfer the balance. Now for the other trick – even though PayPal doesn't charge for the transfer, I have a sneaking suspicion that my bank may.

I have a feeling that I'm not going to be using PayPal too much for this kind of thing.


Black History Month
Started off as “Negro History Week,” first officially observed on the second week of February in 1926. It came to be, thanks to the efforts of a historian named Carter G. Woodson, beginning with the creation of the Association for the Study of Negro Life – the organization that officially pressed for the creation of Negro History Week – in 1915.

The second week of February was chosen in recognition of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass – two people that had dramatically affected the lives of Black Americans.

The organization was later renamed the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, and it has successfully expanded Black History Week into Black History Month.

Some other Black History resources:

Black History Hotlist

History Channel

Martin Luther King Center

Martin Luther King Papers Project



National Urban League


... By my count, this year's budget contains 27 glossy photos of Mr. Bush. We see the president in front of a giant American flag, in front of the Washington Monument, comforting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, helping a small child with his reading assignment, building a trail through the wilderness and, of course, eating turkey with the troops in Iraq. Somehow the art director neglected to include a photo of the president swimming across the Yangtze River. ...

Operation Flight Suit was only slightly more over the top than other Bush photo-ops, like the carefully staged picture that placed Mr. Bush's head in line with the stone faces on Mount Rushmore. The goal is to suggest that it's unpatriotic to criticize the president, and to use his heroic image to block any substantive discussion of his policies.

In fact, those 27 photos grace one of the four most dishonest budgets in the nation's history ... Just to give you a taste: remember how last year's budget contained no money for postwar Iraq — and how administration officials waited until after the tax cut had been passed to mention the small matter of $87 billion in extra costs? Well, they've done it again: earlier this week the Army's chief of staff testified that the Iraq funds in the budget would cover expenses only through September. ...

...The sad truth is that people who have been taken in by a cult of personality — a group that in this case includes a good fraction of the American people, and a considerably higher fraction of the punditocracy — are very reluctant to give up their illusions. ...

- From “The Real Man” - NY Times Op- Ed by Paul Krugman [Link requires registration]

[ link | e-me ]

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
12:56 PM      

“I'll go through life either first class or third, but never in second.”


Cheap Space Documentary
The big bang and space exploration in a nutshell. Nice soundtrack, fun animation, cheeky attitude. Move over, Kubrick.


“...One of the most serious Microsoft vulnerabilities ever released”
- Marc Maiffret of eEye Digital Security Inc.

“ extremely deep and pervasive technology in Windows... The breadth of systems affected is probably the largest ever. This is something that will let you get into Internet servers, internal networks, pretty much any system.”
- Stephen Toulouse, Microsoft

If you're running Windows, you want to get and install this security update ASAP.

eEye discovered the problem more than six months ago, but agreed to keep quiet about it until MS released a patch. Now they're saying the delay was “just totally unacceptable,” considering the nature of the vulnerability. Now that the problem is public, they predict a damaging Internet infection within weeks. Looks like a lot of corporate IS departments have their work cut out for them.

[ link | e-me ]

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
2:05 PM      

“Bullies” Descend on NYC
The annual Westminster KC dog show is running right now. Among the many breeds that are being shown are the Bull Terrier (not to be confused with its cousin – the Pit Bull Terrier – two completely different dogs), which is also the Target dog.

Target put together a promotion where they dressed up a bunch of Bull Terriers and their owners in Target-logo paraphernalia, and dispatched groups of them to about 30 locations around the city. I caught up with one group shortly before they boarded a van to head in for the day.

Buddy and his dog Delroy came in from the Boston area.
He's expecting this gorgeous pup to be a champion in a couple of years.

The promo seemed to do the trick. Lots of people stopped to ask questions or take pictures, even as I snapped my own.

Not far up the street, another dog was expressing his free will


Rogue's Gallery

Browsing the bookstore. The subtitle on “The Book on Bush:” How George W. (Mis)leads America; on “Bush Country:” How Dubya became a great president while driving liberals insane. Right next to them is the book in which Pete Rose comes clean about betting on baseball and lying about it for all those years.


Skirting the Issue

“Dr. Kay also stated that some prewar intelligence [has] not been confirmed. We are determined to figure out why.”

That is not an acknowledgment that there are no WMDs, and it is not a promise to tell the public what was determined, whenever they figure out why. The implication of the wording, even now, is that the intelligence could have been accurate. He's playing the same game Clinton played with “sexual relations.”

The numbers, according to this Time/CNN poll are starting to change. Yet, even though people express doubts, 54% still approve of the way he's handling the job, and 53% still think “honest and trustworthy” still apply to the man. It also appears that the confusion campaign has worked: 51% of respondents say that not finding WMDs has not made them less likely to trust Bush on other issues, and 53% say the invasion of Iraq was worth it, regardless of the WMD issue.

Bush was giving what amounted to a campaign speech in the midwest yesterday. He said “Pay attention to the rhetoric... they're going to raise your taxes.” Mind you, he didn't really cut taxes for the people he was talking to, though he seemed to be playing it that way.

It's still a long way off, but if the election were held today, it's a toss-up whether Bush would be reelected. The point difference between him and either John Kerry or John Edwards is inside the margin of error. With any luck, it won't come down to Florida again.


[ link | e-me ]

Monday, February 09, 2004
12:29 PM      

Janet's isn't the Boob That Frightens Me.
CBS had a censor installed in the production facility to intercept any “inappropriate” images during the tape-delayed event. He briefly masked out the front of Christina Aguilera's deeply-cut dress, just in case her cups overspilled.

"I'm surprised that it's shocking that a boob might be seen somewhere outside 'National Geographic Explorer'... That was surprising, that such a big stink could be made over such a little (thing). ... As shocking as it could be, it doesn't seem like it deserves so much attention."

[ link | e-me ]

12:15 PM      

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

Considering that pretty much everything you get on TV or in the papers has spin on it, it becomes increasingly important to try and get beneath the surface. One place to get assessments of some of the claims being made by political candidates is

You can sign up for special reports and fact checks by e-mail, but in a sign of the times, the sign-up feature tells you to disable your popup blocker, and an announcement about missing e-mails tells you to check your spam folder.


I saw a man wearing an interesting handmade button the other day. It read “Resistance is Fertile.


No vacancy at the landfill...

The black splotch is an Adbusters sticker that reads “RESIST CORPORATE RULE”

You might not know it, but Starbucks will actually knock a small amount off the price of your stylish espresso drink if you ask them to put it into a mug that you supply. I have a nice insulated mug that keeps my lattes warm much longer, and that's one less paper cup headed for the trash heap.


I'm having fun coding Flash again, after putting it away for a few months. A couple of projects have come up that require it, and one of them is allowing me to explore some nice OO coding.


I generally prefer

to take pictures of people when they're not completely conscious of the camera. Very often, they freeze up and don't look like themselves when a camera is pointed at them, and some people go to great lengths to avoid having their picture taken. Not so with these kids. I was taking a picture of some ice, when they noticed I had a camera. One of the girls said “you taking pictures?” I looked up to respond, and she was already standing in a pose.

The boy was so excited to have his picture taken, that he almost slipped and fell as he crossed the patch of ice I'd just taken a picture of. When I showed him the shot (above), he made a face like he didn't like it. I think he imagined that he had a harder look.


Another Stroll Downtown.

The headline reads like something Yoda would say

Mother Nature can open a safe, even if you can't

[ link | e-me ]

Sunday, February 08, 2004
1:04 PM      

Setting the Record Straight
My sister-in-law forwarded this pic, apparently an authentic historical artifact, showing Saddam moments after his capture. And you thought Barney Fife couldn't do anything right!

All in a day's work for Deputy Barney Fife

Thanks, Rhonda.


The Symbolic Diversion Initiative

In sum, for those who are concerned about such things, this bill will not substantially increase energy supplies, will not reduce dependence on foreign oil, and will not accelerate the development of viable new technologies. It will, however, provide a politically useful but ultimately dishonest symbol of action while dispensing a stunning amount of pork for the well connected at taxpayer expense.
- From “Stop That Energy Bill,” Published by the CATO Institute

A couple of months ago, the Senate narrowly rejected the above mentioned energy bill, which was put together under great secrecy in back-rooms around DC, with (of course) very little public input. It's classic BushCheneyCo stuff, and they're gearing up to try and ram the bill through Congress in the current session. Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and CATO Institute all have information about the bill, and Robert Redford has become personally active in mobilizing action to block the bill.

NRDC has a page on their site where you can send a message to congress opposing it. I sent my message in a little while ago.


Brian Wood is the Bomb
I'm most of the way through his graphic novel “Channel Zero,” a tour de force in minimalist storytelling. The images are spectacular. It's a little bit Max Headroom meets Rudy Giuliani's crackdown on “quality of life” crimes. Not as trippy as Max, but true to the ideas of communication-centered underground activism that is at the heart of the original Max story. This from the back cover:

Special interest groups have bullied the government into passing the Clean Act, effectively killing freedom of speech and silencing the country into submission. TV and God become one and the same as America wages its own Holy War against its citizens. Meet Jennie 2.5, media slut turned info-terrorist, out to save the country from itself, and restore free will and self-expression.

Hailed internationally as ground-breaking work in the field of sequential art, Channel Zero challenges and tests the limits, combining current events and no-future shock into a dark, paranoid, deep-ambient visual narrative.

Jennie 2.5 sounds like the ultimate blogger, doesn't she? Cool thing - Brian's got his own blog.

“I had no intention to make her a hero of any sort, although I guess some may see her that way. She had something to say, and she did whatever it took to make us hear it. That's not to say that her points were correct, or even helpful, and I hinted that maybe she just did it to get fame and attention. I think something like that is a lot more interesting than a good girl vs. the big bad government type of story.”
- From the Remote Induction interview

If you find yourself hooked (like me), you can find other Brian Wood titles at



And thanks to Brian, I've discovered Satan's Laundromat.

[ link | e-me ]
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