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News, Pointers & Commentary Archive: October 1998
|28 October 1998||"You must remember that you don't know what people find in your work so there's no sense in trying to repeat it. You can only do, in the way that seems best to you. Like not knowing really why people like or dislike you -- do they like your brains? No, it is your cooking and perhaps your apartment. Is it your conversation? No, it is the fact that occasionally you let others talk. So -- for reassurance in finding some of your work so bad -- remember, you don't know."|
-- from the journals of Dawn Powell, reprinted in The New Yorker, June 26 & July 3, 1995.
Tonight: the beginning of the end for Babylon 5. Episode Finale-minus-4 will be on TNT tonight at 9pm Central. Recommended.
On a related note, TV Guide recently had an online chat with Peter Jurasik (Londo Mollari):
- Chat Transcript - Peter Jurasik - 9/30/98 [TVgen]
When the character of Londo was presented to me, I realized I would be the very first Centauri, so I could have him speak exactly as I would like him to speak, and no critic could ever say that wasn't what a Centauri sounds like. The accent is actually made up of several different accents melded or pushed together. That also was an attempt to create a completely unique vocal pattern.
Must...check...sources...: The estimable Eric Roling points out to me (regarding the Myers-Briggs item last time):Usually, your sources are very well cited, but I was taken off-guard by one of them in this case. Specifically, I was not aware until checking DataGraph's homepage that DataGraph is home of the Association of Forensic Psychometrics, and in my opinion has a vested financial interest in promoting handwriting analysis rather than MBTI as a preferred method of personality profiling.
This certainly doesn't invalidate their argument, but I think that a vested financial interest should have been disclosed when you use their argument as a critical reference since it wasn't obvious from the URL or source citation.
A fine point, and I apologize for not checking up on the source more thoroughly before citing it. I've added a note to the item below. Thanks to Eric for the heads-up!
Why 2k?: Microsoft wants to make sure people use the word "Windows", so they're renaming NT (sorry, "Windows NT") to use the same stupid year-number scheme as '95 and '98.
- It's official: NT 5.0 becomes Windows 2000 [Infoworld]
Putting a year number in a program's name makes great marketing sense but little actual sense...What if (VERY hypothetically) Microsoft makes a fabulous, works-as-advertised OS in 2000 that doesn't get (or need) a major update for, say, 4 years? People will feel like they're using outdated stuff when in fact it could work just fine for many years.
Of course, then all Microsoft would have to do is put out some tweaks & updates and give it a new year number, and everyone would want the new one, because, well, it's better to have *this* year's, right? Ding! Windows 98.
The differences between Win98 and Win2000 will be much greater than those between Win95 and Win98, but how will the consumer know? If they were using version numbers, that would be made evident (Win 3.1 -> Win 4.0  -> Win 4.1 [95 OSR 1] -> Win 4.2 [95 OSR 2] -> Win 4.3  -> Win 5.0 ). The new naming provides much LESS information to their customers. Yeesh.
Finally, a couple of Onion morsels:
|26 October 1998||"An omelette, promised in two minutes, may appear to be progressing nicely. But when it has not set in two minutes, the customer has two choices -- wait or eat it raw. Software customers have had the same choices. // The cook has another choice; he can turn up the heat. The result is often an omelette nothing can save -- burned in one part, raw in another."|
--Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. in The Mythical Man-Month
Still cheaper than milk:
- Gas prices drop slightly [Cnn]
I have yet to take the Myers-Briggs test. After reading these, I'm even less inclined to:
- The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [The Skeptic's Dictionary]
Do you have a preference for living a planned and organized life? If so, you are a J (for "judgment"). On the other hand, if you prefer spontaneity and flexibility, then you are a P (for "perception"). ... Unfortunately, what is considered "planned and organized" to one person is "anal retentive" to another. What is "spontaneous and flexible" to one person is "arbitrary and undisciplined" to another. I supposed this bifurcation of personality is supposed to accommodate the well-known division of the world into scientists and artists, or business persons and street musicians, or air-conditioning repair persons and poets.
- (Addendum [10/28]: This site promotes a different personality evaluation method, so take this link with a number of grains of salt...)
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [DataGraph.com]
The ... most serious problem is the binary nature of the answers to the questions, i.e., the testee is absolutely forced into a "yes/no" situation which may, or often may not, be true. For example: One of the questions asks if one bases his/her decisions on either experience or hunches. ... Now, as hunches are usually based on a large part on experience, a straightforward answer is not clear. Also, if one's preference is 52% to 48% either way, the forced "yes/no" answer gives a statistically distorted picture.
I never thought this sort of thing actually occurred, but...
Um...nothing to say, really, except that it seems to me to be a horrible waste and certainly goes nowhere toward solving the 'shameful situations'.
- Record number of bodies found in Japan's `suicide forest' [SJ Mercury News]
[the 1998 total is] more than 70 bodies.
The forest is considered a prime suicide spot because of its isolation, and was recommended in a book about suicide a few years ago, Mochizuki said. // He said it was unclear why more people are committing suicide there, but Kyodo News agency quoted unidentified authorities as saying the country's deep recession could be behind the increase. // Suicide in Japan is often seen as an honorable way out of a shameful situation, and experts say more Japanese are killing themselves rather than bear the humiliation of failure in business or at work.
I picked up the 20th anniversary edition of The Mythical Man-Month this weekend and am eagerly devouring its contents. Excellent reading if you go anywhere near the process of software development (especially from a managerial standpoint).
|24 October 1998||"The deadly game of chess continues! Suenteus Po's next move is king's bishop to queen's bishop four... Disaster looms! How very like disaster... "|
--Punisheroach, in "Flight" (Cerebus #159)
Taking a weekend trip (hi Pete! hi Toni!); no time to write.
I've finally signed up for my own domain name, though. Watch for an announcement and URL change (to something easier to type and remember) someday soon! :)
|18 October 1998||"Most people deceive themselves with a pair of faiths; they believe in eternal memory (of people, deeds, things, nations) and in redressibility (of deeds, mistakes, sins, wrongs). Both are false faiths. In reality the opposite is true: everything will be forgotten and nothing will be redressed."|
--Milan Kundera, quoted in Steve Martin's Pure Drivel
MacOS 8.5 is out:
Seems quite good: faster, more stable, looks better, adds useful new features.
Especially cool is the integration of similar functionality to both LiteSwitch (keyboard application switching) and The Tilery (visual indicators for all running applications); I always put those two free utilities on any Mac I configure; it's nice to know that in 8.5 and up I won't have to think about it.
So I'm looking to get my own domain and run my own server. Where would I go about looking for server co-location services in the St. Louis area? Where are those sorts of things advertised? I don't expect that they're in the yellow pages...
Suggestions for domain names?
Playing around, looking for available domain names, I tried "mine", as in 'www.mine.com'. Imagine my surprise when miningco.com appeared instead and didn't redirect the url to point to their canonical URL:
- The Mining Co.
"We mine the net so you don't have to"
It seems to be a pretty insecure enterprise, as evidenced by the fact that they spend a whole page trying to demonstrate how Yahoo is a bunch of bullies for not including their pages in Yahoo's listings:
I see. So Yahoo is obligated to list them? If they were such hot stuff, what would it matter if a competitor pointed to them or not? Yahoo is not the gatekeeper of the Internet, nor is it the kingmaker.
And what's with the whole separate host name for the 'about' page?? - http://aboutus.miningco.com/ - Do those pages get so much traffic they had to be moved to another server? Please. Would the URL www.miningco.com/aboutus/ be so much harder to understand or remember? Come on.
Saw my first Ally McBeal a couple of weeks ago. Not bad, but I'm not going to seek it out. I'm trying to pare down the number of shows I consider 'musts' - NYPD Blue and Babylon 5 (and, fading fast, Homicide) are the only remaining shows that I'll go out of my way for. (Anybody else still miss Northern Exposure?)
NYPD Blue returns this week, and there's only one more week till Babylon 5 comes back.
- Microsoft's paper-clip assistant killed in Denver [CNN]
The assistant, a paper clip with expressive eyes and hyperactive eyebrows that offers user tips, has been the source of wide scorn among developers, who have little use for its cuteness and intrusiveness. The assistant's demise triggered a hearty round of applause.
Nice idea. Unfortunate name.
- Web White & Blue - 1998 Election Information
Web White & Blue provides you with single click access to some of the best online election directories and voter information sites. From each topical section, you will jump off this site to a wealth of information that can answer your questions about voting, candidate positions, and issues.
|12 October 1998||"Doors on the other hand...Doors are reeal tricky..."|
--Chimpanzee bartender, to the Roach (who is dreaming that he has finally decided he wants to leave the bar, but can find no exit) in Cerebus: Women by Dave Sim
Darn interesting reading, and relevant to academia: State goverments are having trouble holding onto IT workers. Mainly, the problem is salary.
- Missouri's problems retaining computer workers reflect national trend [CNN]
[California is] contracting out more and more of its computer work. // "While we may have to pay (outside workers) $150 an hour, we only have to pay them for six months," says John Thomas Flynn, California's chief information officer.
This I consider a fallacy. Paying outsiders $150/hour for six months is pretty much like paying one of your own $75/hour for a year, right? Or, say, $60/hour plus benefits? That's still a $117,000 annual salary! (37.5 hour week, 52 weeks/year). A far cry from California's average IT salary of $45,000, yes? Surely there's some middle ground.
All I can figure is, the $150/hour for six months can't be referring to people they pay for 40 hours a week.
"Those numbers seem absurd in terms of the kind of raises we would typically see in state government," Benzen says. "But we have fallen so far behind a fast-moving market, we can't keep up."
"This is not an issue of who deserves a raise, but how are we going to get the jobs done at the best cost to the taxpayers," Capps says.
A nice complement to the above article: Michael Surkan addresses the measuring of the costs and benefits of information technology:
- 'Total' in TCO is bigger than you think [PC Week]
Yes, IS budgets are larger than ever, but that doesn't mean companies are throwing their hard-earned dollars down a bottomless pit ... The costs of file servers and desktop PCs are readily tallied in ballooning MIS budgets, but does anyone really think we'd save more money by going back to massive secretarial pools and vast mail rooms?
Maybe it's worth paying for 10 more costly network administrators if it means that we can avoid hiring 30 or 40 additional securities analysts, administrative assistants or clerks. // The danger in misunderstanding growing IS costs is that penny pinchers may hold off purchasing money-saving technology, not realizing that the technology more than offsets its cost.
...corporate computing resources should be thought of as profit centers. Not only do PCs and networks decrease a company's need to add workers, but they also have an increasingly dramatic effect on customer satisfaction.
Moxy Früvous is back in St. Louis!: They're appearing tonight (Monday) at Borders Books & Music in Creve Coeur. Best live band I've ever seen, you'll never regret trying them out:11745 Olive Blvd.
Creve Coeur, MO 63141
Software that works as advertised is all I really want. If Microsoft Windows NT, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Access, et al., actually did what Microsoft claims they do, without breaking through normal use, I wouldn't be so annoyed with them.
Here's a PC columnist feeling a bit of hostility himself:
- Windows is a grief-causing kludge [PC Computing]
I know lots of Microsoft employees, and they're among the very sharpest, smartest, hardest working, most dedicated folks I've ever met. They should be ashamed for publishing a release this sloppy, for putting millions of users through such endless torture. For robbing us of so much of our lives futzing around with all-thumbs controls and spit-and-baling-wire repairs. If this were the first release of Windows maybe I could understand it. But it's the fifth. They've had plenty of time to get it right.
When Medina, Washington (Gates' home town) needed a computing solution to handle all the documents related to his fancy home, what did they conclude?
- Gates pushes hometown to Linux [Computerworld News Wire]
...a product that runs on Caldera's version of Linux. This product rang in at less than 10% of the price of its NT counterparts...
To my everlasting regret, last weekend I stumbled on and watched about five minutes of truly vile television. Avoid this show like you would a rotting pile of cockroaches:
- Unhappily Ever After [Touchstone Television]
A sexist twerpy "teen" cracking Clinton cigar jokes was just one of the things that made me gag...
Don't expect another update for a number of days...I'm having to juggle even more things than usual, and I'm usually too beat at the end of a day to think about the page...someday this will all change, right? Right?
What I really want is a nice, long vacation...fat chance while I'm still working here.
To end on a fun note, COMICS!
- Delightfully cruel math teacher... [Foxtrot/Bill Amend, link will expire soon]
- "By the Book" [Story Minute/Carol Lay]
- Science Cannot Explain Everything [Tom the Dancing Bug/Ruben Bolling]
- Evolution of a Hip, Ironic Catch Phrase [Tom the Dancing Bug/Ruben Bolling]
- The Education of Louis [Tom the Dancing Bug/Ruben Bolling]
|5 October 1998||"...the shock of being suddenly single after many years is the feeling that women over 35 are no longer considered attractive, not even by men over 35. // It's a pity, he says. The problem with American men is that they are so superficial. They want youth and beauty right up front in their faces. That isn't interesting. European men like to discover what's beautiful about a woman."|
--from An Italian Romance, chapter two in Salon
I've been pretty impressed with the new Student Life site (WU's student newspaper) at http://www.studlife.com/. They're doing a lot of Good Things, like keeping each issue online with consistent URLs that follow an easy-to-deduce pattern. (They leave out their April Fool's issue, which is probably a good thing because of all the obscene crap that goes into it - that's not the image they or WU want presented to the rest of the world). These are some recent articles that caught my eye:
A nice profile of the City Museum, a great local attraction:
- Museum of Marvel [Student Life]
Almost everything in the museum is taken from someplace in St. Louis. The marble stairs to the second floor were once a part of an old city hospital. The metallic walls around the restroom are built of 2,000 stainless steel mice cages that were once used by the Washington University Medical School.
An angry editorial on the new building Olin is adding to the campus, with some useful undergraduate perspective. I hadn't thought of things this way.
- New Building Reflects Poor Priorities [Student Life]
With classroom and dining facilities to be housed within the building, executive education students will not be participating in the life of the rest of the campus. Nor would they want to; most of the participants will have graduated from college long ago and will not be interested in mixing with a student body much younger than they are at say, Fraternity Row. This building and its program, then, could be anywhere.
For Olin's purposes, there are great advantages and cost savings to having the new building so close to the current building - some staff will be able (or is it forced?) to serve both buildings. That's the only rebuttal *I* can think of off the top of my head.
McGwire gets a road:
- Forget a Street, Big Mac Gets a Highway [Student Life News Briefs]
The St. Louis section of I-70, now named Mark Twain Expressway, [will] be renamed Mark McGwire Interstate Route 70.
The Cedar Rapids
GazooGazette is wired now, at http://www.gazetteonline.com/ - online news from home! Whee!
Here's a new (to me), fun comic strip: User Friendly. It's a Unix-biased, geek-oriented strip with an irrational hatred of both Windows and Macs, but it's pretty funny if you can deal with that.
Here are some good, representative ones: