V7 (July)

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Steve Bogart

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27 July 2001

"I'm going to seem very hostile to you until we establish a relationship that involves you listening to me."
-- A handy phrase for many customer service encounters, courtesy of Michael Hall in his story of a really poor tech support experience with Dell [LinuxPlanet]; found via the returned Genehack

Navajo code talkers honored after 56 years [CNN]

President Bush presented four of the five living code talkers -- and relatives of the 24 others -- with the Congressional Gold Medal at an afternoon ceremony in the Capitol rotunda. "Today we give these exceptional Marines the recognition they earned so long ago," Bush said. The president said they brought honor to the United States as well as the Navajo Nation.

"This was a chapter of our military history that has not been given sufficient attention, and there are some real genuine heroes here who deserve recognition," said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico, who sponsored the congressional resolution to honor the code talkers. The Navajo reservation is in New Mexico and Arizona.

So it somehow slipped by me exactly where the tax 'refund' checks were coming from. I too was misled by the Bush folk saying "the government overcharged you, so you should get a refund".

  • Tax-relief checks actually an advance on next refund [Scripps Howard News Service]
    This check is not a "rebate" of taxes you already paid. It's an advance on the refund you'll get when you file next April.

    ...does that mean my refund in April will be $300 smaller than it would have been? And if I'm unlucky enough to owe taxes, does that mean my tax bill will be $300 higher? The answer to both questions is yes. But you'd never guess that from the 1040 form you'll fill out next year. It's been designed so that it's nearly impossible to realize how the checks affect your tax preparation in 2002.

    The law said that in 2001, the advance refund occurs "in lieu of" the rate cut from 15 percent to 10 percent.

So it's nothing like a refund, it's an advance. Why does Bush call it a refund? What happened to the money we were 'overcharged' last year? Anh?

Genehack is back. Yowza!

If you like the MacOS utility Stickies but you're stuck on Windows, you may find this useful.

If you don't like what some "scientist" from some backwoods institution like MIT is saying about your unworkable missile defense shield, just make some bogus legal threats and bully his employer. That ought to settle his hash.

  • M.I.T. Physicist Says Pentagon Is Trying to Silence Him [NY Times]
    At issue is correspondence between Dr. Postol, a physicist, and the General Accounting Office, an investigative branch of Congress, in which he accused the Pentagon of using doctored data to defend missile defense technology.

    Dr. Postol said his conclusions had been based on an unclassified report, which he disseminated over the Internet and can now be downloaded from Web sites around the world, including one in Russia.

    But after Dr. Postol began distributing the report last year, the Pentagon determined that it contained secret information. This month, Defense Department investigators asked M.I.T. officials to stop Dr. Postol from disseminating that information and to confiscate the document from him.

    "While M.I.T. certainly abides by the laws that protect national security, we also believe that the legitimate tools of classification of secrets should not be misused to limit responsible debate," the statement [from MIT president Vest] said. "Trying to treat widely available public information as 'secret' is a particular concern."

Here's one of the letters that got their attention:

  • Letter from Ted Postol to John Podesta on BMD [Federation of American Scientists]
    ...the [Ballistic Missile Defense Organization] review of the telemetry data from the IFT-1A flight test resulted in the defense system always wrongly identifying a partially inflated balloon as the mock warhead. The team performing the post-flight analysis dealt with this failure by simply removing the balloon from the data, as if it was never there.

    Even after removing the balloon, the post-flight experimental data still showed that two other benign objects were brighter than the warhead and therefore were judged more likely to be the mock warhead. The team performing the post-flight experiment analysis dealt with this outcome by arbitrarily rejecting the data from the time interval where the two other objects were brighter, and instead chose without technical reason a second time period where the warhead was brighter due to the accident of its spatial orientation...

Related: A handy cartoon summing up the recent success of the missile-defense test [Tom Toles]

I don't know anything about the dispute Marc Fisher is writing about; I just like his recounting of a Little League coach's lessons to the kids:

  • Small-Minded Take a Swing at A Worthy Camp [Washington Post]
    "Who enjoys winning?" A hundred hands shoot up. "Everybody. People say, 'Hey, did you win today?' Then you have to say, 'No, we lost.' And you feel down.

    "Try to focus not on winning and losing but success and failure. Focus on things you can control: Did you hustle on the field? Did you think on the field? Did you shine your shoes? Did you thank the groundskeeper? If you didn't, you should feel bad. But if you did your best, you're not going to have all those highs and lows."

    "Who made a positive comment to a teammate yesterday?" Several dozen hands go up. "I love that." McCarthy summons an 8-year-old girl who made a stellar, diving catch at third base the previous day. "When Katie made that grab, the batter said, 'Good catch.' The batter said it! That fired me up! Okay, let's do it, let's go!"

Life is not a winner-take-all, I-win-you-lose contest like a team-sport tournament is (and politics shouldn't be covered like it's a sport, but that's a whole other rant). This is why I like games like Settlers of Catan, in which even though at the end there's a winner, all the other players have had their own successes along the way in building their lesser empires, so it's not a complete waste of one's time even if you 'lose'.

More kids should be taught lessons like this guy teaches.

Surely this is how the 95 calls made during the recount between Jeb "I've recused myself!" Bush and the Bush presidential campaign [LA Times] went:

  • Clueless In Tallahassee by Arianna Huffington
    W: So, Jeb, what's the deal with these overseas ballots? Are your people making real sure they count 'em all -- no postmark, no witness signature, mailed after Election Day, whatever?
    JEB: Aw, W, you know I can't talk about that. I'm on the taxpayer's dime.

    ROVE: Great, Jeb -- you're just the person I need to talk to. I'm having a helluva time getting ahold of Katherine in the "war room." I need to discuss that petition she's about to file with the Florida Supreme Court.
    JEB: Wo, hold up there, Karl. I'm out of the loop on this stuff, remember?
    ROVE: Oh, yeah, that's right. My bad.

Giving Away Dot-US in an Unseemly Hurry [Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

...the Department of Commerce is planning to literally give away the management of .us to an outside, private entity. The new administrator would have the right to charge for listings -- a potential gold mine -- and would be encouraged to turn this public commons into yet another commercial outpost.

With a haste that is unseemly at best, the department's proposal period started last month and ends next week, an absurdly and improperly short amount of time for something so important to be taking place. Some observers say the process may favor Silicon Valley-based Verisign's Network Solutions unit, which came into its highly profitable existence through a sweetheart deal with the government years ago and now enjoys unearned dominance over key top-level domains such as .com.

The odor emanating from this entire process has led to questions and protests from public-interest groups, nonprofit organizations and members of Congress. At least, say the critics, the Commerce Department should reconsider its haste in this giveaway.

Apple, AMD, Sun and Transmeta working together? IN-teresting...

  • Hypertransport™ Consortium
    HyperTransport technology is a new high-speed, high-performance, point-to-point link for integrated circuits. HyperTransport provides a universal connection that is designed to reduce the number of buses within the system, provide a high-performance link for embedded applications, and enable highly scalable multiprocessing systems. It was developed to enable the chips inside of PCs, networking and communications devices to communicate with each other up to 24 times faster than with existing technologies.

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