Quote of the Day

March 17th, 2008

From this article: Stocks Down After Bear Stearns Deal

The Fed appears to be pledging to do everything in its power to keep the credit crisis from destroying the financial industry and the economy.

Well, isn't that comforting?

England, my country, the home of the free...

March 17th, 2008

Which it isn't, but it's also not. At least, it doesn't seem to want to be. The evidence: "Put young children on DNA list, urge police"

Primary school children should be eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behaviour indicating they may become criminals in later life, according to Britain's most senior police forensics expert.

And that's just the first paragraph of the article. It's all downhill from there. The summary goes like this: If someone (teachers? school officials? doctors?) think that a child ("as young as five") could, possibly commit a crime at some point in the future, then that child should be tracked in a database of potential criminals, and "targeted between the ages of five and 12 with cognitive behavioural therapy, parenting programmes and intensive support."

The idea being that it's better to treat them like criminals now than possibly have them commit a crime later. And have to deal with that.

[The new DNA spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, Gary Pugh, said] "society needed an open, mature discussion on how best to tackle crime before it took place."

As Karl put it: "It does, and that discussion should be one sentence: Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law."

Ideally, of course, it wouldn't just be children who would be tracked, have their DNA collected, and, let's be honest, treated like criminals for their entire lives: "[Pugh] said the notion of universal sampling - everyone being forced to give their genetic samples to the database - is currently prohibited by cost and logistics."

Which will take, what? Five, ten years to overcome? It's not like you can't buy the storage space at any half-decent electronics store these days. Hell, you could probably store most of the records on a single laptop. And then lose it. But, hey, how often does that happen, right?

It's like the people in charge of security (or "security") read 1984 and Brave New World and thought, "Interesting, but just not quite oppressive enough..."

Free, and Worth That

March 12th, 2008

Working on some slides for a presentation that I'll be giving next week (short version: "Hey, programmers: What do you want from the docs?"), I decided to look for something other than the boring old templates that come with PowerPoint.

Because A) many of them are ugly; and B) I like to look around for more interesting stuff. For a grand total of nine slides, it hardly matters, but I'd hate for anyone to look at the slides and become distracted by thinking, "Tsk, everyone uses that design. Honestly."

Of course, I wanted to avoid the obvious scam sites, or places trying to sell me templates. Fortunately, Microsoft provides.

I do wonder, though, what some of those templates were designed for. What sort of presentation do you give with Hunting in the Early Morning as a background? A talk about hunting is the obvious answer. But that's pretty limited, isn't it? How about "We're downsizing your department!" or "Surprise! Your project is canceled!"

Similarly, this Halo template wouldn't seem to have a lot of uses. Other than "Let me explain basic tactics" or "Halo is teh roxx0r." But if your company isn't making the next Halo game (and, even then, shouldn't you use a "Halo 4" template?), or you're not giving a presentation to your teammates (using PowerPoint? Really?), then...

Actually, now that I think about it, I'm starting to like it. At least, I like the idea of a bunch of middle managers at IBM, or Midwest Office Supply, having to sit through yet another one of Bob's meetings, where he's using the Halo template yet again. Yeah, Bob, we get it: You love Halo. Enough already.

F-117 Retirement

March 7th, 2008

Link: http://www.afmc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123088771

3/5/2008 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- A retirement ceremony to honor the contributions of the F-117A Nighthawk, the world's first attack aircraft to employ stealth technology, will take place here March 11.

But...but...the F-117 is a symbol of how totally futuristic and Space Age and massively advanced our armed forces are! And they're retiring it already? Why, it wasn't that long ago that I was playing F-19 Stealth Fighter game, where the box art showed a spearhead-shaped aircraft. Or the updated, massively fun version, with the correct aircraft shape and designation.

Ok, maybe that was a little while ago. But I grew up flying the F-117! You can't retire it! That makes me feel old.

It's been in service for 27 years, but only officially for the last 20 (and only 18 since they were trotted out for public viewing). And now the Air Force wants some shiny new F-22s.

Hell, the Navy just retired their F-14s a year and a half ago. They at least got 34 years out of those. Still, we've gotten over 50 years of service out of the B-52 and C-130.

Of course, I haven't played F-117 in years, but it was a great game. Did I ever tell you about that time when I flew deep into East Germany, skillfully avoided those pesky Doppler radars, SAM sites, and patrolling MiGs, only to blow most of my own tail off during a low-level bombing run? That was one hell of a return flight. Leaking fuel, far from a friendly base, enemy MiGs swarming around me...

Classic rock to keep you moving

March 7th, 2008

And by that I mean "moving you from here to someplace else."

Some classic rock satellite radio station is piped into the men's locker room at my gym. Now, in general, I'm tired of classic rock. I've heard it. I've moved on. Yes, sure, I won't object to the Beatles, or early Rolling Stones, or a few other bands. No objection, happy to listen, you won't hear a word of complaint.

But I don't need to hear The Eagles every damn time I'm in there. I'm sick of them. I got sick of them 20, 25 years ago. I can go the rest of my life, and be quite content, without hearing "Hotel California" or "Take it Easy" every again.

But they play them every damn day. Probably immediately after playing The Doors. The Doors, who have an impressively high ranking on the Most Overrated Bands Ever list. Stop worshiping Jim Morrison, people. He mumbled, rambled a lot, and was generally crap. Honestly: "L.A. woman! L.A. woman! L.A. woman mrmphl mrph bgwn."

And then there's Neil Young. I cannot stand Neil Young. He might be incredibly influential, and every musician might bow at his feet, but I just cannot stand his voice. He whines. Maybe his songwriting is absolute genius, but I just can't listen to his whiny, reedy voice, especially when he's singing "Rock and roll will never die" in a slow, nasally way that seems to be his attempt to get a few stabs at the body, deathless or not.

Of course, this is a silly complaint: "Oh no! They play crappy music in a place that I'm not interested in lingering in, anyway!"