Nation

New York Times on The Worst Is Yet To Come: Anonymous Banker Weighs In On The Coming Credit Card Debacle

The New York Times’ Executive Suite Blog says that The Worst Is Yet To Come: Anonymous Banker Weighs In On The Coming Credit Card Debacle.

I’ve been pondering this very topic for a while, and wonder what’s in store for all of us in the spring.

[Via Daring Fireball.]

Paper cuts: Layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers

Having once been a newsroom intern, I have a soft spot for newspapers and newspaper people. It’s a bit disheartening to see the scale of layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers.

Even though some would newspapers are anachronistic or dinosaurs, this mashup still represents good people trying to do important work.

$100.01

The price of a barrel of oil closed today at $100.01. The number, by itself and not adjusted for inflation, is historic. I like history. So I’m writing this post about it. And now I’m done.

Those who count the votes

Contrast this story at Daring Fireball, refering to this+“Can+You+Count+on+Voting+Machines?”+story+at+the+New+York+Times, with this+article+from+our+local+paper+regarding+New+York+State’s+tardiness+in+complying+with+the+Help+America+Vote+Act. Choice lines in the first two graphs:

“State officials took another step in New York’s slowest-in-the-nation process of implementing an election-modernization law by filing a court-ordered timetable for having accessible voting equipment by September of this year and replacements for lever voting machines by fall 2009.

Board of Elections officials, who were excoriated by U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe last month for running afoul of the Help America Vote Act, said the plan calls for the board to decide Jan. 23 which machines counties can choose for the disabled.” [My emphasis, especially on “excoriated.”]

I’m all for accessible voting machines, if indeed our level-based ones and whatever alternatives are offered are not sufficient. But I’m a computer person, and as in the Daring Fireball commentary, I’m generally against implementing these new electronic voting systems just for the sake of having something new. There seem to be major problems with the systems that have been in the news, and I have a hard time wanting to lay our democracy on them at this time. Therefore, I have to wonder if New York State’s delay isn’t actually for the better.

(I wish I had a link handy at this very moment for the simple paper-based system I came across a few months ago, which sounded like a great solution that allowed anonymity, automated counting, and a verifiable vote.)

Having an EDGE

Gadget news sites today are carrying reports of upgraded EDGE speeds on the AT&T wireless data network. EDGE performance seems to be at the core of most of the negative reviews of and objections to the iPhone (see Why You Don’t Want an iPhone — Yet for one example), so any improvement is welcome news. It’s clearly good for existing AT&T customers, and probably a great sigh of relief for all of the new iPhone owners who’ll jump on the network starting this evening.

This factor is also important to me, since EDGE performance has been building in my mind as a serious drawback, reminding of my less-than-stellar experience with 1xRTT data speeds for my Treo 650 on Verizon Wireless. Eventually, I got so fed up with the price vs. performance — even though I wanted pervasive ’net access — that I cancelled the data portion of my plan. (It didn’t hurt a bit that we shaved around $45 dollars off our monthly cellular charges.)

I did some research this week and discovered that with AT&T’s current data coverage, none of the cities in the Empire State other than New York City have any 3G data. Not Buffalo … not Rochester … not Syracuse … not Albany-Schenectady-Troy … not Yonkers … not Binghamton. That’s right, only one of the state’s top cities/MSA’s has 3G UMTS data. It’s exactly like watching those commercials about wireless cards for laptops where the two competitors are responding to questions about their coverage, and the Cingular guy keeps saying “No,” for every city named.

Sure, more of the metro areas will be upgraded in time — perhaps as early as this summer, if I remember some news/rumors correctly. Hopefully my home will be one of them. But, this is still a significant drawback today.

Those that (rightly) see EDGE as a weakness of the iPhone should still take a dose of reality by looking at those coverage maps. That will clearly point out that AT&T’s 3G network is currently deployed in very limited geographical areas. Why have 3G support on the iPhone (or even other AT&T devices) if it can’t be used? If AT&T really has been upgrading their EDGE capability to support higher speeds, that change will have a significant and widespread impact in the short term and be of particular benefit to the iPhone launch.

Anyway, my conspiracy theory is that UMTS (or even HSDPA) support is actually in the iPhone, but will only be revealed later as an update when the network can handle it.

Update: Thanks to the iFixit take-apart, 3G support through a software update no longer has any credibility for me. If the chipset doesn’t handle 3G, game over.

So long and thanks for all the apiaries

Does anyone else see the massive+honey+bee+die-off as some twisted re-imagining of the dolphins leaving Earth in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Hm.

Happy DST 2007

Well, after all the work and preparations for lots of software development and information technology organizations, I’d like to wish everyone a happy daylight-saving time change in 2007. Overnight, we spring forward. Hopefully, it’s going to be a non-event …

Here’s a tip o’ the hat to Congress and the president, without whom this exciting event could not have happened!

Happy President’s Day, Mr. President

I wish you a happy President’s Day, mostly because I happen to hold Abraham Lincoln in high regard. Really, he’s one of my favorite presidents.

It wasn’t always this way. Actually, I can trace it back to a class I took in college, Psychohistory with Dr. Murdoch. (Unfortunately, it wasn’t the mathematical wisdom of Hari Seldon, brought to the human race eons in advance. No, we could have used that.) In this class, I ended up reading a lot of character studies about various figures, eventually finding out that all of them were narcissistic. We spent a good bit of time on both Honest Abe and Woodrow Wilson.

I still return to Lincoln, from time to time. At this very moment, I have Team of Rivals by Goodwin on my shelf, beckoning to me.

Some of my other favorite presidents include Andrew Jackson (he of scar and smallpox survival fame) and Woodrow Wilson (who leapt from university president to the world stage).

On Confab’s 2006 review topics

I have to laugh because I have this weird connection to Confab topics. I was listening to the latest episode, Number 28, and the discussion could have been drawn from currently-open tabs in my browser, notes in Entourage, other podcasts I listen to, and television shows that we’ve watched recently.

  • Missing the snow: we’ve barely had any this year in Rochester, while there’s been extreme weather in Buffalo, Seattle, Denver, and the midwest.
  • Brainstorming and bad ideas: see Python PEP 3099, covering “Things that will Not Change in Python 3000.” The first sentence is, “Some ideas are just bad.” And there are bad ways of expressing them, too. Grin.
  • Discussion about where to live for a year: this reminded me of the great Bruce Campbell interview response:

    Q: When stuck on a deserted island, what would you most want with you?
    Bruce Campbell: A continent.

  • Houndsditch restaurant reviews: I’d never had Eggs Benedict until the fall trip Christen and I took to Vermont to visit Michelle and Lyle, so my ears perk up when I hear about them. Thus, I know that Christen was watching one of those Food Network TV show last night that talked about the history of Eggs Benedict; the upshot is that it sounds unlikely the dish was being served in London before New York. The show also featured a gentleman who’d sampled Eggs Benedict from over 150 restaurants in New York City—he’s feeding that obsession.
  • Old buildings and the Hagia Sophia: I listen avidly to the Twelve Byzantine Rulers podcast (one of the best podcasts I’ve ever heard), and have been interested in the Eastern Roman Empire for years. (It’s the history buff in me…all the good history books were up on the quiet, empty fourth floor of the university library when I was in school.) I just listened to the episode about Basil II, who created a building to rival the Hagia Sophia—but not a brick of it remains today.

From voter #7, with levers

In New York State, we still use levers to vote. It may have brought fines or other tribulations from the federal government, thanks to the Help America Vote Act—as a good New Yorker, I’m oblivious—but I happen to think the levers work pretty darned well. The low-tech approach is fine by me; perhaps I’m enough of a pessimistic technologist to appreciate the simplicity, pragmatism, and relative reliability of mechanical voting.

In any case, Christen and I voted very early today, at my urging. In our district, I was voter #7 (the magic number, of course!) and she was one spot ahead of me. It’s good we got there so early, since there were twice as many cars in the lot when we left. The stream of voters was certainly picking up as we hi-fived our way out of the polling place.

For our efforts, we received “I voted today!” stickers. I promptly had mine fall off my coat on the way into work, from all appearances. Why, oh why, did the election volunteer affix it to my outerwear?

This was sad, as there are some special offers available today to people bearing the stickers. I know this because Christen called to tell me about one. Equally as important as discounts, you also get nods of respect from the huddled masses you meet during the day, just for doing your civic duty. It’s so clearly a win-win that I shouldn’t need to explain it.

Beyond that, you can also make hand motions while you say catch phrases like “Rock the vote!” with a relatively straight face, because you’ve just rocked the vote and there’s a good chance that an estimated 60% or more of the adults you meet this Election Day won’t have bothered to make their voice heard by … er, um … quietly pulling levers.

On my way back to my car in the afternoon, I was astounded to find an “I voted today!” sticker on the ground. What were the odds?

Even more amazing, I turned it over to find fuzz that may have come from my snazzy new woolen coat. It must have been my long lost sticker! That turned my earlier dejection into a broad grin.

Rock the vote! (If you’re in an electronic state, roxxor the vote!)

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