Friday, December 21, 2007

Some Good Whale News

Just spotted this:
Giving in to U.S. pressure and worldwide criticism, Japan's government on Friday announced a whaling fleet now in the Southern Ocean for its annual hunt will not kill the threatened species as originally planned.
On the other hand,
The fleet will, however, kill some 935 minke whales, a smaller, more plentiful species, and 50 fin whales.
But they had planned to kill 50 humpbacks for "research," and now it appears they will not, at least this year.

Killing whales is still a bad thing, but this is an improvement. One can hope it signals a willingness to resolve some of the ongoing issues between the whaling nations (primarily Japan and Norway) and the rest of the world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cancer Claims Another

Damn, but I'm tired of this.

Just saw a note that musician Dan Fogelberg died of prostate cancer over the weekend. I always admired the poetry of his music and lyrics, and I'm sad to see him go at such a young age (56, the same age my Dad was when he died of cancer).

Dan's own words:
Sometimes in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath and yet untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing like the taste of some forbidden sweet
And every ghost that calls upon us brings another measure in the mystery
Death is there to keep us honest and constantly remind us we are free
Stay healthy, get yourselves checked regularly, and live strong.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Failure of Imagination

That phrase was used to try to explain why the 9/11 attacks were able to happen and why the initial American response to it was so poor.

Well, it appears that lack of imagination is rampant in government:
All five voting systems used in Ohio, a state whose electoral votes narrowly swung two elections toward President Bush, have critical flaws that could undermine the integrity of the 2008 general election, a report commissioned by the state’s top elections official has found.

“It was worse than I anticipated,” the official, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, said of the report. “I had hoped that perhaps one system would test superior to the others.”

Wow. How dense does an elections official have to be to not get the gravity of this issue? If they don't take this stuff seriously, how can we expect voters to do so?

Here's the key: Those who run elections are paid to anticipate the problems in voting systems, be they verbal, physical, printed, or electronic. At this stage of the process with electronic voting, anyone who doesn't anticipate problems either hasn't been paying attention or is completely incompetent.

Knowing nothing about this Jennifer Brunner, I can't say one way or the other, but it doesn't speak well for her.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Meaningless Personality Tests

First, a quick introduction to my friend, JS Ouyang. I discovered his blog recently, and it's as eclectic and interesting as he is. I hired JS years ago at E-LOAN, and I think at this point he pretty much has my old job.

Perusing his blog, I found Yet Another Personality Test (but at least it's a very simple one):

What Type Are You?

I initially shied away from one image, and clicked one that turned out to be completely not me. ("Extroverted"? I think not!) So I went back and clicked the image that initially appealed to me, and it seems entirely accurate: "analytical, trustworthy, self-assured."
You appreciate high quality and things that endure. Consequently, you like to surround yourself with little "gems," which are often overlooked by others.

Culture and tradition are important to you.

You have found your own personal style, which is elegant and exclusive, free from the whims of fashion.

Your ideal, upon which you base your life, is sophisticated pleasure.
Sounds like me. Cool.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Belatedly Marking a Passing

I didn't know Dave well. I know a lot of people who did. We were about the same age, went to the same college, and cared about a lot of the same things.

I only found out recently that Dave had died. Today I learned the details:
When I finally meet the Doctor, he seems relaxed and happy to see me. I bluntly ask — is it a tumor? Yes. Is it malignant? Yes. Oh crap. I have cancer.
There's a lot more. It was quite an ordeal, with ups and downs, and it doesn't have a happy ending. Yet another friend touched (hard) by cancer.

Take care of yourselves, take everything seriously, and live strong. We can beat cancer.

Dammit.

Nice Job, Guys

My jumbo package of Microsoft security updates arrived this evening. Yipes! Twelve updates for a Windows XP Pro system with Office 2003 this month.

Then I read this in the Security Fix blog:
Of the seven patch bundles released today, only two did not affect Windows Vista systems, suggesting that the vulnerable components were carried over into Vista from older versions of the OS despite the multi-year secure coding review conducted for Vista. That said, two of the bundles were released to plug security holes that were found exclusively in Vista.
I know security is hard, and I know Windows is/was a mess, but really. Two years.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ack!!!

Say it ain't so!

Just found this on the net:
Workers in the cocoa management bodies of the Ivory Coast have gone on strike. Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa, controlling almost forty percent of the global supply. A continued strike could lead to chocolate shortages this Valentine's Day or even sooner.
This could be dire. Thanks to PZ at Pharyngula for alerting me to the impending disaster.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Storybook Story

I've been meaning to write this for a week or so. *sigh* Life....

Anyway, last week I was relaxing by watching all the special features on the extra DVD for The Princess Bride (Buttercup Edition). I love that movie, have watched it far too many times (and yet somehow, not enough), but hadn't gotten to watching the special features. That was a blast! Gets a little repetitive (it was as if each documentary maker just had to show Billy Crystal snarling out through the peephole in the door), but quite a fun way to spend an evening.
By the way, if you love the movie of The Princess Bride but haven't read the book, you really ought to. It's very funny and well-written, and there is more to the story, including a lot more background on all the characters that explains some of the lines in the movie.
But out of it all, I came across several interesting bits:
  • Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes didn't know how to fence before the film (it's an important item for both of them), but both learned and did all their own sword work, which is quite impressive.
  • When Andre the Giant was a child in France, he was too big to ride in the school bus, so one of his neighbors who had a big car often drove him to school. The neighbor was Samuel Beckett. (No, not Sam Beckett!)
  • Wallace Shawn claimed he had no sense of humor whatsoever, and didn't get the jokes. He said he just played the role in ways that seemed to make people laugh.
But by far the most interesting to me was Mandy Patinkin talking about his role as Inigo Montoya, the Spaniard seeking revenge on the Six-Fingered Man who killed his father. Patinkin talked about how he had lost his own father, to cancer, and how Inigo's quest to avenge his father's death somehow became his own attempt to come to grips with losing his father to cancer.

[SPOILER ALERT -- Don't read the following if you haven't seen the movie!]

(Spoiler: You have been warned!) At the moment where Inigo finally exacts his revenge, driving home his sword into Count Rugen, who has offered him "anything" if he will spare his life. Inigo finishes with the memorable line, "I want my father back, you son of a bitch!" Patinkin says at that moment he felt his own kind of catharsis, that for just a moment he had brought his father back to him.

I mention this mostly because that scene and that line have always gripped me. I could sense and share the feeling Inigo was expressing, and had no way of knowing that Patinkin was acting out not just the scene in the story but a scene in his own life drama, which is one I can relate to all too well. That line has always brought tears to my eyes (even now, just writing about it), because there is nothing in the world I have ever wanted so much as my father back.

Maybe writing about it can help me drive that sword home and at least momentarily defeat the cancer that took away my dad. It doesn't dominate my life the way it does Inigo Montoya's, but certainly not a day goes by that I don't think about my dad and miss him terribly. It motivates me to stay healthy and make sure I will be around for a long, long time for my daughter, and it makes me nag all of you to stay healthy and support cancer research.

Live strong.