Saturday, December 29, 2007

Internet Wasteland

I installed a new spam filter at work as our poor e-mail server was straining under the load of serving up mailboxes AND processing the phenomenal amount of 'spam' attacks. Ah for the day when spam was just spam, now the traffic consists of address book attacks, trojan horse virus payloads and targeted 'spear' phishing (which is particularly scary).

Anyway this new filter sends out a daily report and yesterday we had around 36000 email attempts of which not even one percent got through. Particularly outrageous was the 6 PM hour where we got 3440 attempts (close to one a second) and you can take a guess at how many were judged legit enough to make it through the filter. It was closer to ten than ten percent I'll guarantee you that.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Canned Cake

I've mentioned it several times, and here it is, British canned cake:


Here it is out of the can getting ready to be nuked in order to partially melt the icing:


Of course the Brits don't call it 'cake', the call it 'sponge pudding', the word 'pudding' I'm guessing being a euphimisim for quick breads since I had popovers over there and they called those 'puddings' as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

RPG!

I've liked role playing games since I was a wee one, but I'm late to the electronic versions of RPGs since I never really thought that the graphics and limited game play on the early gen stuff could compete with the wide open, albeit imaginary, areas of a traditional RPG like Dungeons and Dragons. That changed when my brother turned me onto Final Fantasy X. If there was ever a gateway drug this was it since FFX is, at least in my very limited experience, one of the best single player RPGs to date.

It's worth pointing out that computer RPGs work much like their pen and paper ancestors: you start out with a base character(s) that fight monsters so that they can level up and fight harder monsters while gaining special abilities. All this leveling should sit atop a story that makes it worthwhile to spend hours in dungeons and whatnot leveling up your (hopefully) entertaining characters.

With that, let's take a look at some RPGs that I've blown some time on while I wait for Final Fantasy 13....

Xenosaga: Episode I

Synopsis: In the future Japanese anime type characters have to fight aliens and misguided...others, in order to...do....something.

Good points: Logged in at a brief (by RPG scales) 40 hours worth of game play. The game nails the 'space opera' motif with gargantuan ships performing feats that might be envisioned by the more pioneering minds. The artwork is quite 'Star War'-sie with narrow platforms over deep gaps and lots of flashing lights, robots, and all the other appropriate sci-fi stuff. Characters for the most part are entertaining. Oh yeah, did I mention that this series of games is best known for being watched for as long as they're played due to the length and frequency of their (for the most part excellent) cut scenes?

Bad points: Some enemies are uneven with bosses ridiculously harder than the run of the mill monsters in the dungeon and some bosses much easier than the creatures you had to fight to get to them. Like many newer RPGs you get more characters than you can have in battle at any one time, leading to half your characters sitting 'on the bench' and not fighting and thus (for the most part) not leveling up. The number of Characters and skills are wide, but shallow and for the back third of the game I found myself using the same two moves with the same three characters over and over and over again. The plot appears to have a Christian theme that was written by non-Christians (like all these games, it was made in Japan). I found out at the end of the game that 'Xenosaga 1' isn't like the Final Fantasy games wherein Final Fantasy 1-12 have absolutely nothing to do with each other; 'Xenosaga 1' is actually the first of a trilogy that I probably won't get around to playing out, despite the favorable reviews for the final entry.

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

Synopsis: Galactic losers assault backwards planets and fourth dimensional near-do-wells.

Good points: Dungeon design is some of the best I've seen and the game features a punchy soundtrack. The story for the first half of the game is involving and interesting.

Bad points: The story eventually takes a third rate 'Matrix' type turn which elicits groans more than anything else. About the same time, in order to artificially pad the play time, the dungeon monsters get ridiculously overcharged further exposing the game's absolutely horrid leveling system wherein your characters can only really level up in a rather arbitrary bonus scheme. Fast paced battles are devoid of strategy and are more closely related to a dungeon crawler like Diablo. New abilities seem to be handed out randomly and bench characters don't level at all, meaning that adding new, irritating level 1 characters halfway through the game is completely pointless. I made it to the final boss, but didn't make an effort to beat him since I knew there'd be another serving of inane dialog on the other side of the fight. And lastly, and the big rub for me, despite being sold with a sci-fi motif, the game has very little to do with anything remotely 'sci-fi'.

Final Fantasy VII

Synopsis: Square's classic RPG where a rebel group of misfits attempts to save the planet.

Good points: I've not played an RPG that started as quickly as this one (check out the remade beginning cutscene). Although quite dated (it's ten years old at this point), someone took the time to re-do the character artwork (via the Reunion Patch) for the PC version, that I obtained completely legally. The characters are all quite entertaining, 'bench' characters level up (for the most part), and the story moves along nicely with some unexpected twists. Overdrives, summons, and swappable magic add a great deal of strategic depth to battles.

Bad points: What do you think of an extra large scoop of Japanese 'Pagan Christianity'? Most aggravating as well is Square's habit of putting mini-games into a game engine that's in no way built for action since their character controls are optimized for moving in one of four directions*. The final boss all but required a secret 'weapon' that required about four hours worth of one such minigame and everyone in the Sandmich house was ready to murder the man who conceived of the chocobo.

*Apparently those crappy minigames have a draw somewhere since they've started making mobile versions of them.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fear of the Horizon

I was half listening to a local radio show when they put on one of their canned bits from a noted comedian. Now I don't know the name of the comedian (I wasn't paying attention at that point) but as part of his bit he made a note that by the year 20xx whites would be a minority in the U.S., at which point the audience riotously cheered. (For what it's worth the comedian was white).

"eww" I thought. Now I won't get into the "can you imagine..." game as that's easy enough for us all to visualize. "Well", I thought "if they're so fired up and whitey is so evil why don't they just start getting rid of whitey on a more....accelerated basis". Oh yeah....

Well if it's any solace, whites, despite their sins, are the closest thing the planet is probably going get for an honest broker. Minorities who yearn to own the whole pie need not look any further than panaceas like Detroit (or Zimbabwe) to know that they're going to get exactly what they deserve.

Monday, December 10, 2007

OLPC Puzzle

Much has been written and said about this One Laptop Per Child bit (the famous $100 laptop that now costs like $300). I've written elsewhere that I think that computers tend to be a waste in American schools, so you can imagine my thoughts of pushing computer use among the worlds destitute in the middle of nowhere. Dvorak fortunately has written a couple pieces on this:
Even on the One Laptop Per Child site there is a creepy anecdote -- related as if it exemplified a positive benefit -- about how some poor family in Cambodia used the hand-cranked laptop's screen as a source of light for their abode.
Perhaps the organization should be thinking of the hand-cranked generator as serving that purpose alone and not computing. Lights, along with cellular phones and radios, seem more important than laptops.
And:
Apparently, saying anything negative about the OLPC XO-1 computer amounts to heresy in this community. You may as well promote NAMBLA or the KKK. People don't want to consider the possibility that their well-meaning thoughts are a joke and that a $200 truckload of rice would be of more use than Wi-Fi in the middle of nowhere.
Liberal-esque feel goodery abounds on this thing, but I know a couple articles have noted that the effort has also helped the capitalist quest to the bottom of the barrel in search of the cheapest ass computer that can be made. Still, there's pitfalls:
Negroponte retorted that Linux is an accepted and widely used OS that's actually running on 50 percent of the world's servers. Servers? Did he even hear himself? I just told him that these users are more like consumers than IT staff, and he's recommending a server OS. Is he serious?
And this:
Of course, it might be a problem if there is no classroom and he can't read. The literacy rate in Niger is 13 percent, for example. Hey, give them a computer! And even if someone can read, how many Web sites and wikis are written in SiSwati or isiZulu? Feh. These are just details to ignore.
Good luck talking those natives through a Linux kernel patch!
Someone had this comment on one of those articles:
These kids would be much better off with books and pencils.
The same thing could be said of most, if not all kids.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Cute Shopping Note

From Penny Arcade's shopping site after checkout:
You've successfully completed your quest for Penny Arcade merch. From the looks of your credit card, you had a lot more room to spend money. Next time how about you try a little harder to max it out?
Ha!
And no they can't tell what your limit is as I have like $10 worth of room left on that card.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

One More House Note

Bush has the fix in for the housing bailout. Will the Sandmich be a beneficiary of this subsidation of stupidity? Not hardly, I got a fixed rate on, get this, a house I could actually afford! Revolutionary! Now if you were a dolt who got an ARM on a house you couldn't afford when the ADJUSTABLE rate mortgage adjusts, there is now an agreement to allow you to keep your nice digs and sweet loan rate, from WSJ Political Diary:
[Government subsidy] #1,777 was born this week with a program to bail out subprime mortgage borrowers. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson says the program is "voluntary" without a hint of taxpayer subsidy. Wrong: The taxpayer subsidy is simply laundered through a provision that would allow states to finance mortgage bailouts by selling tax-free bonds.

What's striking about Bush-style Big Government is its selectivity. Similar spasms dumped billions on families who lost loved ones on 9/11 or whose homes were damaged in Katrina. But try getting a handout if your family tragedy wasn't 9/11-related, your home was destroyed by a different storm or your underwater mortgage wasn't taken out between the magical dates of Jan. 1, 2005, and July 31, 2007.

The only rhyme or reason to Bush generosity seems to be the amount of cable news coverage a given "need" gets. If the precedent holds, look for an endless conveyor of ad hoc bailouts in the future as interested groups realize it only requires making the threshold level of noise.
The only thing that reassures me is that the Dems wanted to give away the farm and force banks to do 30 year fixed rate loans with a 3% interest rate and a voluntary payback policy. It's a race to the bottom of the barrel.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Green PC

Stuff like this is incessant in the tech field at the moment. Newer technologies have made enterprise power management and device consolidation cheaper and easier than ever. There are many benefits to stuff like server virtualization (and some drawbacks) and reduced power consumption probably ranks as a nice side effect rather than a driving factor; but that doesn't keep the marketing types who are fresh from their collegiate indoctrination from pushing this Captain Planet crap, which is ripe from a company whose products are burned into the atmosphere over in China.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Stick to Pen and Paper

I admire people who want to use a computer, but many (most?) have such issues that they're probably better off going without. My latest tech call went something like this:
  1. User leaves a voicemail and reports they couldn't logon remotely from their laptop. My first thought was "please don't tell me they had the numlock on all weekend"/
  2. User leaves a second voicemail and reports that they had left the numlock key on. *groan*

If the numlock key on the keyboard is giving you issues, then I wouldn't sweat going without some PC access.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Too Many Lawyers

Further proof that this country has way too many lawyers:
A federal judge has blocked a middle school from enforcing an overly strict dress code that got a student punished for wearing Winnie-the-Pooh socks. The court ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California against the Napa Valley Unified School District and Redwood Middle School.
Is this something that we should have to pay federal judges to worry about? Can schools not be trusted to determine what kind of friggin' socks the students are allowed to wear?
"We’re ecstatic that the court recognizes our kids’ rights to express themselves at school,” said Donnell Scott, mother of 14-year-old Toni Kay, who was sent to an in-school suspension program called Students With Attitude Problems because of her Tigger socks. “I’m only sorry the school district didn’t respond to our concerns when we raised them two years ago.”
'Students With Attitude Problems'? Of course given the attitude of her mother, I don't doubt that such a program is necessary.

OS Wars

From Slash-Dot:
About 200 people lined up in light rain to buy the software at Apple's
store in the ritzy Ginza district of Tokyo.
And that would be around 200 more people who lined up anywhere on the planet to buy Microsoft's Vista. Apple can get away with this since they have a more modest development cycle and can get away with charging $100 for a well rounded upgrade (though the security issues that have plagued the OS don't do as much to differentiate it from M$). Contrast this to Microsoft which puts out a modest upgrade, but has to price gouge out the wazoo to make up for their poor project management and outrageous development costs per feature (most of which were dumped in the final version).

In related news, Wal-Mart sold out of the first 10,000 of their cheapo $200 Linux machines. It will be interesting to see how well these hold up in the long run, especially since it looks like the majority of that first set went to Linux fan boys.

On both points, it would be nice to see some price pressure on Microsoft so that they might not get away with charging $200 for a crappy upgrade; but I'm not holding out hope.

Monday, November 12, 2007

NFL Notes

I know, football is incredibly boring to those who don't take an interest in it (few though you may be :), so I'll apologize ahead of time.

I'd heard that part of the reason the Dolphins were undefeated in the '72 season was that coach Don Shula himself helped at least influence who his team would play. A look at the stats over on the NFL site reveals that the Dolphins opponents had a combined record of 51-86-2. These stats are admittedly somewhat skewed since the Dolphins only had to play 14 games a season back then and eight of them were within their own division which apart from the Dolphins, looked pretty bad (the Jets had the best record of the bunch at 7-7, and only two of the other teams were over 500 at 8-6). As well, the Dolphins played no teams that made it to the playoffs.

Compare this to New England this season. The teams they play and will play have a combined record of 60-57 at this point in the season (a stat which is ironically skewed due to Miami's awful performance this year). New England will play/has played four teams which will win their divisions (PIT,IND,SD,DAL).

Not that the '72 Dolphins were bad (they did win the Super Bowl), but that they probably wouldn't have gone undefeated were it not for their schedule.

-----------------------

For me there are three things that hang over the NFL ready to destroy it at any moment. I know the league is well aware of these issues too.

  1. Thug players. As I've said on many occasions, a more caring society would have had a public hanging for future hall of famer Ray Lewis for his part in this. To the new commish's credit, he has sought to rectify this situation by handing out much stiffer penalties, mostly in an effort to try and keep the NFL from going the way of the NHL which, a different points in its history, came to be viewed as a sport played by thugs, for thugs.
  2. Gambling. Anyone notice how Michael Vick admitted to all the horrid dog charges but was careful to point out that hey never gambled on the fights? There's a good reason for that. The NFL has a real wink-nudge relationship with the gambling community. The people who call games regularly point out the 'spread', something which the NFL makes no effort to squash. The theory (which is sound) is that if someone was given to gamble on x, they would probably gamble on y, where y might equal a game in which the player is playing. The NFL doesn't care too much about the dogs, but it's real sensitive to the gambling issue, there was a whole movie made about it as a matter of fact.
  3. Demographics. You don't have to wonder very hard as to why so many Viagra, antacid, and arthritis medicines are advertised during football games. It's still not as bad as the evening news which features Depends ads, and football games still have video game and computer ads, but it's still something the league is panicked about. Thus all the ads pandering to women, Hispanics and other people who will never watch it, as well as stupid stunts like that green version of the Sunday night football game. The last one is a good example because I had to turn it off, it's a struggle to attract new viewers without alienating the ones you already have.

-----------------------

A large part of New England's success has been the superior coaching of Bill Belichick. The difference between them and everyone else was on display yet again yesterday as Cleveland's poor coaching led to bad play calling and the burning of two consecutive timeouts towards the end of the game in a failed effort to get a play overturned in their game against the Steelers. It's nothing against Cleveland, lots (most?) of the other teams make the same mistakes, but it's interesting that Bill Belichick's team is very rare with those types of miscues: playing smart is a priority. I used to be indifferent towards the Patriots, but I've picked up some of the local hatred directed towards Bill Belichick that originates from his time has the head coach of the Browns (to his credit, it appears that he coached the last playoff win for the Browns back in '94). Still, I'm envious that being smart is so elusive to the teams I that want to win.

I'm not a big football expert by any stretch (I'm not even sure what have the positions are), so it aggravates me all the more when coaches and players do something so stupid that even I'm picking up on it. Don't use two timeouts when you only have a minute and a half to drive for a score!

-----------------------

Did you know that the NFL doesn't own the pro-football hall of fame? It's actually a seperate entity. I've heard it said that they have an uneasy alliance: the Hall is dependent on the NFL for players and appropriate licensing, while the NFL needs an independent agency to house it's hall of famers. I guess the baseball one is the same way, but baseball is old, and it's the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum so it's generically related to baseball in general whereas the football hall of fame is the Pro Football Hall of Fame which is probably why there's a completely seperate College Football Hall of Fame. I figure someday I'll go down there and see if they have a broom closet set aside for the USFL and XFL players as a token showing of independence.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Even More J-Candy

First off is a citrus flavored candy made by Lotte, a company who appears to love overly dramatic candy packaging*:

This one is odd since it has a picture of a lime/lemon thing on the front and it tastes about the same. It features a gooey center a the package includes two or three jumbo sized pieces (regular packaging is on the right, jumbo left). It's nice enough but it continues a disturbing feature that I see all too often in foreign candies: hard candy that tastes like cough drops. Thankfully this was more towards Ludens than Halls (Ludens being a cough drop that tastes like candy; how I loved having a 'sore throat' in grade school while using a pack of Ludens to treat it).

Next up is an adventurous attempt by Ribbon at a banana split type candy:

Despite having dehydrated strawberry bits in the candy, the mildly fake banana flavor runs roughshod over the delicacy of the taste. Again, it’s not bad, but little more than a glorified flavored Tootsie Roll.

Lastly we have a daifuku whose contents listed custard:

Oh my, it was all I could do to keep from woofing all these down in one sitting. They taste like a little flan pudding, except for the texture. I figured the great flavor would have wider appeal and my coworker volunteered to taste it. She of course liked it, apart from the raw bread dough like texture of the daifuku.

*If you think that's dramatic, check out their mission statement, or whatever it is.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Just What the House Needs....

...a TV that costs almost as much as it does.
103" 1080p plasma. I dunno but I'd have to think you'd need to sit pretty far away from it since even at 1080p you would still be able to count the pixels pretty clearly.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Business Smarts

Several issues of the latest series of WSJs have focused on the blood bath in the financial sector in relation to sub-prime mortgages.

When the subprime bandwagon was getting off the ground all I could think was "I sure hope the people who run my 401K are smart enough to realize that investing in ghetto housing isn't the smartest thing to do". I thought the same thing years ago when people were throwing money at tech companies that gave their product away. Umm, giving 4.3 billion to a company that doesn't even sell anything might not be the best idea. Likewise, there's nothing magical that happened on the planet to suddenly make unqualified home buyers suddenly liquid enough to purchase a house.

What kills me is that the European banks fell for the same bit. What am I missing? What did these idiots 'learn' in college that blinded them to the most simple of facts?

Further illustrating this absurdity is that Cleveland has another conviction under it's belt for mortgage fraud. It's not what you think though. How it worked is that corrupt lenders would team up with corrupt borrowers to get loans that they had no intention of paying on, all in an effort to bilk money from their 'betters' at places like Citibank and Merrill Lynch.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Spanish Death Watch

Guess Spain finally got around to convicting those terrorists that blew up that train station.
From Here:

Prosecutors were seeking sentences of up to 38,976 years each for the eight lead defendants — 30 years for each of the people killed in the attacks, 18 years for each of the wounded, plus more time for other terrorism-related charges. But the most time any can spend in jail is 40 years. Spain has no death penalty or life imprisonment.

Is this the same country where a couple hundred thousand died at the hands of their own countrymen not even a hundred years ago? And now they can't even bring themselves to send a mass murderer away for life?

I have a hard time believing that the commoners in Europe are okay with this, but of course as far as the elites are concerned only the little people take the train, so no biggie.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Streaming Tunes

When my alarm went off yesterday I learned about yet another facet of the American music industry's insanity. The DJ at the local college station that my alarm was tuned to said that he was running late on his tracks because once a quarter ("or" as he said "once every four months for those who can't do math", ahem)* the RIAA has them enter in every song they play into a computer over the course of two weeks. In order to help combat piracy they have to enter the song title, artist, album name, and how many people are listening on the Internet.

What in the hell does that accomplish? Did the RIAA decide that it didn't have enough enemies and that it figured it should (further) torcher those most dependent on their product? Oye.

*You're doing pretty bad when I'm out smarting you when I first get up; even the dog outsmarts me in the morning. Also, this was obviously the Cleveland State station and not the Case Western station.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oh Glorious Day

There's now a Super Walmart within 40 mintues of my house (it's probably 30 tops). I'm amazed the local corrupt grocery unions and their coporate sponsors weren't able to put the kibosh on this store opening up in the Cleveland city proper. Guess it shows how desperate the City is for jobs and businesses to locate here.

They still have a ways to go before they compete with several smaller towns though. The backwater location in which I lived before had about a half dozen super stores within a half hour of it.

Update:
About 6,000 people applied for 350 jobs there. Robert Simons, a professor of urban planning and real estate in the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, said that's a sign of a soft local economy. "That seems like a whole lot" of applicants, he said.
And of the 6000 who applied, probably only 200 were qualified to work there...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Michigan Notes

I was at a bar/restaurant dealie on my latest travels to central Michigan. Before I get into that, I’ll point out that the people who passed the smoking ban in Ohio are nothing but a bunch of nosy busy bodies whose only interest is controlling the lives of their fellow citizens, but I will concede that places that serve alcohol in Ohio have become significantly more habitable since the ban took effect.

I was reminded of that fact in Michigan when I got a side of free phlegm with my meal at what would otherwise be a pretty nice place to eat. As well, I've been to the local (Ohio) bar several times which would have been unthinkable without the smoking ban. I hate the control freaks who passed the ban, but I no longer care that it passed, and wouldn't care (and would probably prefer) if they passed elsewhere.

On another note, years (and years) ago, the Ohio lottery broke out their daily lottery drawings to be twice a day. "Who would want to play that thing twice a day?" I thought. Well Michigan has gone one better and using video terminals in bars they have drawings every four friggin' minutes. Would-be casual gamblers note, there's not much more depressing than seeing a bunch of losers smoking down a pack while they drop their days pay on state sponsored gambling.

I don't think I can go into a bar in Michigan again.

Hate Speech

Well hate speech laws are on the way. New York state is going to make it a felony to display a noose. Of course it will only apply to those who are using it to intimidate, so it will be completely open to the intimidate-ie to determine that. From here:
The bill also covers etching, drawing or painting the symbol. He said that, as in the case of Nazi symbols and burning crosses, an intent to threaten or harass would be part of an anti-noose law.
....
It was also in the so-called Jena Six case in Louisiana, where six black teenagers are accused of beating a white student. The incident happened after nooses were hung from a tree on a high school campus there.

Displaying noose = felony
Nearly beating someone to death = no biggie
nice

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rice Things

I know my brother-in-law is a fan of these things, so I figured I'd bring 'em up:


They're a Japanese treat made out of sugar and rice gluten. The texture is usually what throws people off, kinda like uncooked bread dough. At roughly 30-40 cents a piece (their diameter is a little larger than a fifty cent piece) they definitely rank as a special treat.

These are honeydew melon flavored and they're pretty tasty. Mrs. Sandmich also bought me some orange ones, which had an okay taste, but unfortunately they vaguely tasted like an antibiotic that I had as a kid* and I can no longer stomach anything that tastes remotely like that sick stuff (any attempt to make foul tasting medicine taste better only results in some horrid franken-taste).

*I actually didn't know it was an antibiotic until we to get it for Kid Sandmich. Mrs. Sandmich had to be the one to give it to him 'cause I could probably only give that foul tasting stuff to persons on my 'enemies list'. For those who might know, it's the liquid stuff that you have to keep in the fridge.

Domain Name Rant

Network Solutions may well be the worst domain name hosting company out there. What's sad is that they were at one time the only company that you could register at (I'm sure their arrogance has caught up to them). I won't get into the technical details of why they suck, but I will point out that I don't think I should have to sit through a river of ads in order to utilize a service that I've already purchased from them.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Misguided Efforts

From here:
Investigators had downloaded about half the videotaped images late Thursday, police spokesman Paul J. Browne said. He said they planned to review tape from up to seven digital security cameras in and around the building where the noose was discovered early Tuesday morning.

Police also were testing the 4-foot-long piece of twine for DNA evidence and interviewing students and faculty, but said they had no suspects in the case.

Meanwhile, police were called to the Ivy League campus again Thursday to probe another distasteful discovery — a caricature of a yarmulke-wearing man and a swastika found on a bathroom stall door. The NYPD's thought hate crime unit was investigating the black-ink drawing, but police said there was no reason to believe the two incidents were linked.
I remember when my sister's place got broken into (twice), it's all the police could do to come out and file a report and say "meh". Maybe she should have pretended she was black (an unimaginable uber stretch to be sure) and charged 'hate crime' instead of 'break in'. Maybe then the local law enforcement may have made an effort to catch the perps.

Likewise, it's amazing the resources being mustered to find the perps against this rich black woman. The poor black women in Cleveland who are threatened with real crime everyday can forget ever having this amount of care and concern ever being directed towards them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Data Violations

Expect more of this stuff in the future:
This is to say nothing of the TJX/CardSystems breaches. Personal information is spread around in too many locations to expect that every outlier is going to have it perfectly secured. I even got a letter from IBM, for whom I only worked for nine months more than twenlve years ago, that they had lost a backup tape with my info on it. Great.

I don't know. I think the whole system is riddled with flaws since our 1920s level of record keeping was never meant to hold up under this strain. Unfortunately the current system is so huge, and has so many different invested parties that any movement (if it occurs at all) towards better security is going to be painfully slow and expensive.

Update 11/5/2007: Steven Gal agrees

Friday, October 05, 2007

Government Black List

From Strategy Page:
Last month the U.S. Army locked out Time Warner's Roadrunner customers, because Time Warner refused to act on army complaints that hackers were using Roadrunner access to try and hack into military networks. The army lock out got Time Warner's attention (they said they had no idea the hacking was going on.)
And the reason Time Warner didn't have any idea was because they flat out don't care. Rather than take some modest steps to secure their networks, ISPs put on their best Sergeant Schultz face and declare "I zee nauthzing, nauthzing!"

This does bring up a troubling idea though: the government blacklisting ISPs ('black listing' is the semi-tech term used to describe what the U.S. Army did to Time Warner). Granted it was fairly justified in this case, but I wait for some government do-gooder to blacklist some ISP out of some spite related to a fashionable stand (such as trying to bring down a controversial web page). Best to squelch this right now.

More Ohio Tax Insanity

The sales tax auditor was back in this week (yes such things exist in Ohio). Some questions came up on a different subject, but I was given this example of the lunacy of the Ohio tax code:

  1. If we purchase rubber gloves for the employees to use in order to protect the product being produced, those are tax exempt.

  2. If we purchase those same gloves in order to protect the employees, they are taxable.

I'm sure so idiot in Columbus is pleased with this one he's throwing to business: here ya' go, a nice arbitrary tax cut. However they're not doing anyone any favors since the cost to analyze (and then re-analyze every time the auditor comes in) every apparent 'tax break' isn't worth the money saved from the break itself. It would be better for everyone if they just taxed obvious items and then equally obviously, not taxed others.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

*snicker*

From the land of ill thought out domain names (intentional?). While looking into one of the many Internet attacks against my organization, I came across this server hosting company in Denmark:
http://www.balsax-it.com/

'U.S. education system is lacking'

So says the U.S. Chamber's Institute for a Competitive Workforce.
Those who deal with what is often the end result of the U.S. education system—the business community—feel that it is lacking. In a 2006 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Statistics and Research Center, 53 percent of business organizations felt that the current school curriculum did not adequately prepare students for college and the work force.

The business community made several suggestions, the first of which is that new programs and school planning concepts be in order. Half felt that the school year should be longer, and more than one-third (38 percent) felt that it should be year round. Almost all argued that more frequent assessments should take place on students to find trouble areas.
I'm always one to pile on to the faults of U.S. public education, but I'm tempted to think that some of it's faults might have more to do with the product they have to work with, rather than educational processes themselves. American Educrats certainly make a bad situation worse, but I don't know how much better U.S. public education would be under the guide of those with the best of skills and intentions.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Puppy Love

And yes, that is the bottom step on my deck...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Racial Groan

I'm not familiar with this 'Jena 6' case, but I'd imagine that if black people held the same tolerance level for the poor behavior within their own community that they do for every real or imagined slight, that there'd be fewer of them in jail.

The fact that, apparently, several black youths skipped out on their education so that they could partake in this idiocy is, well, unsurprising.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Off My Desktop

Here's a couple of old, Japan related pics that have been rotting on my desktop that I figured I should get around to posting. The first is an image taken from one of those online retailers that's based in Japan, but sells stuff in the states (solly, lost the link):

I figure if you're going to pay someone to make a piece of art you'd at least do a Google search to make sure you have the right thing; but of course then it would be without any charm, like the next picture that has that certain 'train wreck' appeal:

And lastly, I originally grabbed this picture because of the Mac store in the background (believe it or not), but the shot is a nice microcosm of urban Japanese culture.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Two Strikes for M$

Microsoft was recently fined over 600 million dollars by the EU for monopolistic behaviors. The first part of this ruling is a joke of lawsuit where Real (of Realplayer/Realmedia fame) sued MS because Real found a way to make a media application that's worse than Microsoft Mediaplayer. For whatever reason, the EU saw fit to use the power of its bureaucracy to beat up one American company (Microsoft) for the benefit of another (Real). The second part of the ruling is more murky. On this portion the EU ruled that Microsoft is using their monopoly in the desktop market to corner the market on the workgroup type servers, an area once dominated by Novell.

While I have no love of the EU, this is almost certainly the case. In their defense, Microsoft has said that if it is forced to share its communication protocols with all forms of untrustworthy organizations that it will be a hey-day for virus writers. There's a kernel of truth to this, but it's really more marketing cover than anything else (Linux has their own version of these protocols and they're a constant source of patching due to security issues).

Still, it's not hard to think that the Europeans are going after Microsoft because they hate American business success in IT. Check out this quote and see if you notice a pattern:
[The ruling] also gives EU Competition Commission Neelie Kroes a green light to pursue other antitrust cases and complaints involving Microsoft [American], Intel [American], Qualcomm [American] and Rambus [and well lookie here, American], and to issue draft new antitrust guidelines that were put on ice pending the ruling.
Long and short? The EU is probably right, but I still hate them and wish them ill.

Microsoft was also recently dealt a blow when it tried to establish it's Office document format as an international standard. I initially thought this was more of the same anti-US hokum, but the voting broke out weird with, for example, consortiums in Germany voting in favor of making it a standard and those in Japan voting against. Microsoft was seeking this approval so that it's Office products would be certified as holding to open, international standards, thus making it a viable option for those organizations that don’t want to get stuck on the Microsoft upgrade treadmill. Needless to say, this blog post set me straight (it’s really techie and written by a non-native English speaker):
We have a case of poor engineering [in Microsoft’s creation of the ‘standard’], creating unnecessary problems for others to worry about.
...
Microsoft strategy itself is to provide as little information as possible about the huge impedance mismatch between ECMA 376 [Microsoft’s open draft of the ‘standard’ that they wanted approved] and the actual implementation. Expect ECMA 376 to evolve only marginally, while Office 2007 next version will come with plenty more of Microsoft proprietary layers, especially those integrating the Microsoft Office suite with Windows (on the client), more undocumented integration points between Microsoft Office, Windows and Sharepoint (on the server), more undocumented client-server protocols (between the Microsoft Office client, and servers running Microsoft server software).
Sounds like Microsoft's relationship to Java where they wrote to the standards (which in that case were real standards), but then wrote their own 'extensions' which only happened to work on Microsoft's platforms.

I don't know. I'm not whipping out the world's smallest violin for Microsoft, but I'm not playing anything large either.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

KimChi Thought

While eating some kimchi at work a coworker stopped by with a question: "Are you eating cabbage or something? I just want to make sure a toilet isn't backing up somewhere."

yes, and thanks :)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

H-1Blues

Proving yet again that Microsoft thinks that arrogance is a viable marketing strategy, they're crowing about taking U.S. jobs to a foriegn country because they don't like the laws in this one. From here:
Fed up with U.S. immigration hurdles, Microsoft announced July 5 plans to open a software development center in Vancouver, British Columbia, that it hopes will "be home to software developers from around the world."
...
In a press release, Microsoft did not mince words about how the new facility will allow "the company to recruit and retain highly skills people affected by immigration issue in the U.S.," a move that seems to send a clear message to the senators who let the H-1B increase slip through employers' fingers.
Maybe if the senators didn't try importing the whole third world on the same bill, the H-1B provisions would have fared better. On the whole I have torn feelings on H-1B. I don't care for the fact that it depresses the wages for skilled U.S. workers (especially for IT workers like yours truly); however, I like the idea of looting the smart people from countries that the U.S. would otherwise have to compete with. As well, an influx of East Indian immigrants (who may, or may not have come over on an H1-B visa) have kept the Cleveland suburb in which I live from going the way of other old immigrant neighborhoods in the area and turning into a slum full of refugees from the Cleveland city proper.

I'll note though, that big corporatations complaining about their inability to import cheap(er) labor puts the stink of corporate welfare onto H-1B, as well as other immigration programs, such as the following. From here:
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will raise application fees an average of 66 percent. The cost to become a legal permanent resident, known as a green-card holder, will jump from $180 to $1,450.

A Painesville group that advocates for Hispanic migrant workers predicted the staggering jump will be a devastating blow to workers and the area's farm economy.

"It is only going to drive farm workers deeper into poverty," said Veronica Dahlberg, director of the Hispanic Organizations of Lake and Ashtabula Counties. "Farm workers are notoriously underpaid."

Many of the region's small produce farms and nurseries depend on foreigners who get paid by how much they pick. A worker earns about $10,000 annually, said Dahlberg. "They get paid by the bucket," she said, estimating that at 45 cents a bucket of tomatoes, a worker would have to pick 2,067 buckets -- or 66,000 pounds of tomatoes -- to pay the new green-card fee.
Here's an idea, if the nursery loves so much to depress the wages of low skilled, low wage Americans, why don't they pay for the green card fee?

More Linux Fun

I attempted to install Xubuntu on a PC of mine and received an odd error. Needless to say unless Linux stops requiring posts like this just to install the operating system, it shall always be a bit player. Sample:
seems /dev/hd drives have become /dev/sd drives cause of new lbata as /dev/clast says above. you should really switch to UUID's for your drives though
Gee, thanks!
Some other suggestions put forward are to use one of the several different Linux distros out there instead; but my experience has been that all you accomplish after several hours (at least) of downloading is swapping one problem for another.

For instance, my Fedora install at work has the clock stop on the PC (thus locking it up) if you use the canned install routines. The only work around is that I have to (*ugh*) build my Linux kernel, which is as much as it sounds like.

I guess that's why every year for the past ten years someone writes an article to the effect of 'Linux, finally ready for prime time!'. Unfortunately it looks like Linux will always be the OS of tomorrow.

Oye, why is Microsoft the only ones who can write an general use OS?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Toll Workers of the World

When I was driving back from a recent business trip I was coming down I-80, Ohio's lone toll road. While I was on it I gave half a thought to the idea that Ohio might be able to change all the highways to toll and get rid of the odious income tax (a'la Florida). Of course, I eventually came to the toll booth and was cleansed of that thought.

Would it be possible, ever, for toll booth workers (in Ohio at least) to pretend that they don't hate their decent paying, lifetime employment job for the combined 2 minutes I have to deal with them every year? I know they're probably upset about having a job that's basically a screw-over for everyone on the road*, but I don't think they have to be bitter about it!

Anyway, for at least the toll booth workers in Ohio, and probably elsewhere, a special summer time message from the Sandmich:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us



*Despite being the lone toll road in the state, I-80 is in just as much a deplorable state as the other highways and with just as many (if not more) cops.

Friday, August 24, 2007

It Came from the Camera Phone

My mother-in-law is old school and still keeps excess lard for cooking purposes:

More power to her; the one time I tried doing that the stuff went rancid within minutes so I don't quite have the skills to pull it off.

On our trip to Mammoth Cave, we stopped by one of the many depressing souvenir stores. I remember going to those as a kid and marveling at the huge 'cave gems' they had, until my dad casually pointed out that they were glass. That doesn't stop them from selling stuff like the bubble-laden-cave-gem / recycled-sprite-bottles below for $100 or more.



I spied this over a gas pump at a local service station that's run by a regional grocery concern:


Shows the market penetration of sushi; or I should say, 'sushi' since these fake-crab filled rolls are clearly pressed out by a machine that may (or may not) be located in the same time zone. Still, it can provide a quick fix for junkies like me who might be looking to eat some sushi but need something to fill the void until the real deal can be obtained.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Courteous European

I had sent in an abuse complaint to an ISP in Belgium and got this (edited for time) automated reply:
Dear Sir,
This message was automatically sent to you because you (or someone using your email-address) sent a message to abuse@telenet.be The content of this message possibly doesn't apply to the message that you sent us. We would still appreciate it if you could find the time to read this.

If possible kindly copy-paste the headers or log to the body of your message. If you would prefer to attach a file to your complaint, then kindly only use plain-text files.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.
We would also want to thank you for your efforts in making the Internet livable.

Yours Faithfully,
Telenet Internet Abuse Department

This contrasts sharply with typical American ISP replies that are along the lines of "thanks, but no thanks; we may have time to get to your complaint, but we probably won't". And that's if you even get one. Last month I even got a personal e-mail from a (different) Belgium hosting company apologizing for the fact that they may not be able to track down the abuse, but to keep them informed if such an event happens again.

Chinese Miner

Over the weekend I joked that if someone in China read that only six miners were killed that day, that they would consider that a GOOD day. I guess though, it wasn't a joke! From here:
A Cabinet minister sought Wednesday to portray a mining accident that left 181[!] miners trapped and presumed dead as a natural disaster, deflecting criticism that more could have been done to save the workers.
...
China's coal mine industry is the most dangerous in the world. Coal feeds most of China's energy needs, but accidents kill an average of 13 miners a day.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Latin Doggy

Please humor me if you would for another pet obit...

Our dog Sylva died recently and it's amazing how much one can come to depend on a larger, ornery dog to keep you stuff in line. Sylva was one of the smartest dogs I've seen, with the familial protection instincts of a Golden Retriever and the orneriness of a Chow.
Regular ES readers will recognize Sylva from various winter pics when she would take advantage of the snow and twenty degree weather to cool down.
We named her after a Latin word that I picked up in high school. Meaning 'forest' or 'woods', I had the intention of naming a future daughter Sylva, but opted to use it with the dog when I determined it too obscure to curse a child with (though, the name Sylvia is a direct derivative of the Latin 'sylva').

Anyway, after more than thirteen years of companionship and spoiling us with her protective instincts, she will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

H-2-OH-NO

We've had a bit of a drought going on in the area, but no more! Check out the road in fron of my place of work:



UPDATE:
This is what the same spot looked like about four hours later:

And the humidity, OMG the humidity! I was melting right out the door.

The Return of RTCW

OMG OMG OMG OMG
Return to Castle Wolfenstein, my favoritist game of all time, is coming to Steam!
http://www.gamespot.com/news/6176191.html
At least the multiplayer is my fav, the single player was a bit of a let down. They're also supposed to be making a Wolf movie, let's hope they get it right and they have Hitler in a giant mech suit!. id also appears to be publishing their entire back catalog as well which is good since I could never get the original Wolf to run right on XP.

They're also coming out with a 'Quake Wars' game which is supposed to be RTCW on 'roids.

Looks like it's time for some upgrades to my box!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Local News

Another unfortunate soul is taken by some high speed criminals. From here:
DiGiorgio died at MetroHealth Medical Center shortly after being hit by a stolen car driven by 13-year-old Dontez D. Hairston, as she and her husband were crossing Prospect Avenue on their way to see "The Lion King."
...
Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland police union, said nothing, he said, is more tragic than an innocent bystander losing her life. He added, "This is the unfortunate reality of police work."
I've commented on this elsewhere, but it's worth mentioning again: how is the general public served by restraining police in car chases? Is the criminal that is speeding through an urban environment any less of a threat than a criminal that is running down the street with a firearm threatening people? But police can shoot at one and not the other? My guess would be that there would be far fewer of these car chases if the criminals knew that the police were permitted to shoot them up for doing so.

In other news, the illustrious commissioners for Cuyahoga county decided on their own to boost the county sales tax a quarter of a point to 7.25% for a serving of corporate welfare:
The extra tax collection will begin in October unless opponents collect more than 45,000 valid signatures in 30 days. In that case, the issue probably would land on the March 2008 ballot.

Those supporting a referendum include some local Libertarian and Green Party members, several Cleveland City Council members - including Democrats Zack Reed and Brian Cummins - and a Republican Lakewood councilman.

"I'm disappointed my colleagues would . . . threaten a referendum," Dimora said after Reed and Cummins spoke at the hearing. "It's your community that's the main beneficiary of this.

"What other opportunity is out there?" he said. "There is nothing."
That pretty well sums up Dimora's arrogance and lack of imagination on this issue. I heard him on a local radio show and his point was basically along the lines of "I know we need this because I'm so smart and the public should just let this pass (without a vote of course) because they're too dumb to understand the nuances of the issue". I'd say this would give the area the largest sales tax in the state, but unfortunately that's already the case even without the boost.

On another tax related note, Mrs. Sandmich told me this morning that local senior citizens are going to get a reduction on their property taxes. There's so much wrong with that, that I don't know where to start. It'd be one thing (barely) if it was rated according to income, but it's not. It would appear to be a just a ploy to get senior citizens to vote for property tax increases in the future that won't affect them. The joke will be on them though when the first financial crisis hits and the benefit is waved off!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fortune Cookie

Here's a picture of an actual fortune that Mr. Kendall pulled out of a fortune cookie at a local Chinese buffet:


In other Asian restaurant news, I made stop by for an impulse sushi purchase at a local Asian themed restaurant (Wild Ginger). While there, I noticed a bottle of Zen Green Tea liqueur up on the shelf. Intrigued, we asked the lady who was serving as bartender what it was all about. She said that they were having issues developing mixed drinks with it; which is understandable since I would think green tea wouldn't lend itself well to mixed drinks. Or so I thought.

She let us (me) try a couple jiggers (it tasted like a children’s cough syrup) and I then bounced the idea of actual green tea+soda water+the liqueur might make a pretty respectable drink. I figured she'd play with it later but she brewed some tea up on the spot, mixed it up and gave me the drink (at this point I already had two beers in me, so it wound up being a bit of a challenge to walk right out to the car*). Tasted pretty good. It was like a green tea with attitude.

Anyway, she said I could name it since I came up with the recipe, but since my first name the 'Kancho Kooler' was rejected I kinda lost interest :)

*At one point while I was drinking the mixed drink I told Mrs. Sandmich that it didn't have that much alcohol in it, at which point the bartender got a puzzled look and double checked to see how much she put in. At that point I knew I was screwed since it wasn't that it didn't have that much alcohol, but that I couldn't taste it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pants Man!

With nearly a million views, this is old news, but it's new to me! From the country where the phrase TMI has no meaning:

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

PVD Mania

For those of you not familiar with trance master Paul Van Dyk, his song 'Time of Our Lives' is being used on the new Jeep commercial (though apparently not very new, guess I don't watch enough TV). As well, I finally picked up the latest PS2 DDR game when I noticed that his song 'The Other Side' was a featured track.

Side note, dance songs in particular make poor music videos, IMHO. Kind’a like New Age music in that regard.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Weekend Movies

The Simpsons


Bit of a disappointment. I was hoping for a movie that would return The Simpsons to what made it great in its early runs fifteen or so years ago, but it wound up being a movie length version of the same crap they've been running on the small screen for the last couple years. It typifies lazy, elitist humor of the day by making PC enviro claims while making fun of working class whites and Christians (the only two groups you can make fun of without having to worry about the ire of the NYT editorial board). Visually stunning though; if I didn't speak English I would've guessed it was one of the greatest things ever made. I should point out that all the golden moments from the film are in the trailers over on YouTube. Heck, even this Burger King ad was more enjoyable than much of the film.

Rescue Dawn


A beautifully shot, if rather depressing film. I probably have a favorably biased opinion of this film since I saw it after that mediocre Simpsons movie. Kudos to Christian Bale for a fine performance. I know he had lost weight for the film, but I think this the first time I saw an actor change his weight for a role while the film was in production. I know he has trouble changing that goofy expression on his face; but when it came to this film, as the football players might say, he 'left it all on the field'. My only minor gripe with the film is that it had a slight 'foriegn' twinge to it (for lack of a better term I’ll call it ‘conceited amateurism’). I can't quite put my finger on it, but a reviewer elsewhere said it had to do with the fact that the German director didn't have the ability to shoot an English language production properly. I dunno, but I was happy to see many more people in at least our theater watching Rescue Dawn than were in with us to see The Simpsons.