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Week of 26 January 2004

Latest Update : Friday, 30 January 2004 08:04 -0500


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Monday, 26 January 2004

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8:53 - As I was surfing the web Friday, I came across a story that interested me. I grew up in New Castle, Pennsylvania, which is only a few miles from the Ohio line. A few miles on the other side of that line is Youngstown, Ohio. Back in pre-cable days, we had our choice of watching the three networks on the Pittsburgh stations or on the Youngstown stations, 21, 27, and 33. The article was about a young woman named Catherine Bosley who had until recently been a news anchor at Channel 27, WKBN-TV. She'd lost her job for participating in a wet t-shirt contest that apparently got a bit out of hand.

According to the article and other articles I found on the topic, Ms. Bosley had gone on vacation with her husband to Florida last March. She was recovering from a serious lung condition and open heart surgery, and was certainly happy to be alive. She stripped down and was dancing nude, along with several other women. There were cameras present. For a long time, nothing came of it. Then, a couple of weeks ago, images and video of her appeared on the Internet. WKBN management found out. The original reports said she was fired, but those were later amended to say she'd resigned. Obviously, she was in effect fired, although it may have been a resign-or-you're-fired situation.

Gary Coursen, the News Director at WKBN-TV, posted a sanctimonious open letter to WKBN viewers in which he states, in part:

Frankly, I am disappointed in the overwhelming negative feedback we have received from our viewers. WKBN has done nothing, we did not dance nude, nor did we fire Catherine, yet we have somehow come out as the bad guys.

Well, Gary, perhaps the reason the response was so overwhelmingly negative was that most of your viewers are reasonable people, who realize that Catherine Bosley did nothing wrong either. She was on her own time, on vacation, and more than 1,000 miles from home. She had been assured that images of her little celebration wouldn't be published. I wonder if you, Mr. Coursen, have ever done anything you'd rather not have show up on the national news. You may not have fired Catherine, but your viewers suspect, as I do, that you gave her little choice but to resign. And all over something that, as Catherine Bosley rightly observed, harmed no one and broke no laws. You are a small person, Mr. Coursen. I'm glad I don't work for you.

There's something wrong with a man who thinks images of an attractive young woman dancing nude are offensive. Had Ms. Bosley stripped down and danced nude during a newscast, you might have a point, although that would no doubt have improved your ratings. But nothing Ms. Bosley did in Florida "compromise[d] the integrity and professionalism of WKBN News." You did that yourself.

11:38 - We have several inches of snow and ice on the ground. Barbara went in to work this morning and didn't have much problem getting there, but the forecast for today and tonight is more freezing rain. Snow and sleet aren't usually a problem, but freezing rain causes power outages, sometimes of several days' duration. I don't think it'll come to that today, though. We're to get a quarter inch to half an inch of freezing rain all told, which probably won't cause major outages.

We're in good shape if the power does fail. We have unvented natural gas fire logs in the den that are rated at the same BTU output as our main furnace, and we know from experience that they're more than adequate to keep us warm even when the outside temperature is below zero Fahrenheit. Our water heater is natural gas as well, so we have hot water for showers even during an extended power outage. There's plenty of food in the house, and we have a Coleman propane stove to heat it with, as well as the grill. We have battery-powered Coleman lamps as well as some kerosene hurricane lamps from L. L. Bean. Even if by some extraordinary set of circumstances the natural gas were to fail, we have a wood-burning fireplace downstairs.

I just talked to Barbara at work, and suggested she tell Kirsten she's welcome to stay at our house. Kirsten lives about 10 miles northwest of Elkin, NC, which is an hour's drive from here under normal circumstances. Kirsten's home is out in the sticks, to put it mildly. Even with her 4X4, getting there and back might be difficult. Barbara said she'd already spoken to Kirsten briefly. One of her friends came to visit for the weekend, and is snowed in at Kirsten's house. Apparently, Kirsten came down to Winston-Salem over the weekend and stayed with her parents in High Point. Even High Point is a fairly long drive, though, so I hope Kirsten stays with us. Driving after an ice storm isn't for the faint of heart.

12:13 - I despair for Southern drivers. The news says there've been a bunch of accidents already, with a bunch more expected this afternoon and evening as the freezing rain starts making the roads really treacherous. On the evening news last night, they interviewed a State Trooper on Interstate 40. He had his radar on, and said that the average car was doing 75 MPH. Average, mind you. This on roads covered with several inches of snow and ice. The plows hadn't even been able to clear the Interstates and other major roads because the storm dumped so much so quickly. And we have morons driving as though it were sunny, dry, and 80 degrees.

The difference between Northern drivers and Southern drivers in these conditions is pretty obvious. The Northern boy won't venture out unless he has a 4X4, except in a real emergency. He'll install chains if he has them. He'll put it in 4WD, low-range if necessary, and drive smoooothly, trying to avoid complete stops or sudden changes in speed or direction. On an unplowed Interstate covered with snow and a layer of ice, he'd be driving probably 20 MPH, if that. He'll try to leave 20 or more car lengths between him and the guy in front of him. Northern boys know that a 4X4 is a help on snow, and no better than a regular car on ice.

Southern boys regard snow and ice as a minor inconvenience. They'll head out on the most trivial of errands in an ordinary car with bald tires. They'll drive their usual speed, and leave their usual one car length separation for every 50 MPH. When it's time to climb a steep hill, they'll often realize belatedly that they may not make it, so they'll come to a dead stop at the bottom of the hill to think about it. They'll pass even when it's impossible to tell where the road is. After all, you can generally judge by the positions of the guardrails where the pavement must be, so it's just a matter of estimating a path halfway between the guardrails. And heaven help you if you're following one that misses his turn. He'll stop dead, even on a step downhill grade, planning to back up and make his turn. He seems to be deaf to your screams as you slide down the hill behind him.

Okay, so I'm generalizing. But not all that much. There are plenty of Northern morons, I know, but most of them seem to have at least some sense of self-preservation. The same can't be said of Southern morons, unfortunately. Even when I was a teenager and drove like a maniac, I drove sanely on snow and ice. Down here, every time there's a snow storm, such extraordinary sights as clueless 50-something matrons driving above the posted speed limits on roads with patches of glare ice are commonplace. The conventional wisdom for winter driving is that it's always the other guy you have to watch out for, and that's nowhere more true than in the South.

14:25 - Found on the Internet. Hell, she's gotta be better than any of the Democrats...

15:58 - Slave reparations. Geez. Money grab, more like. Disregarding for a moment that the actions these companies are accused of were completely legal at the time, any reasonable interpretation would admit that the statute of limitations had run its course a hundred years ago or more even if a crime had been committed. But there was no crime under the laws in effect at the time, and attempting to make the actions of these companies criminal retrospectively is an abomination.

As a civil matter, there is even less justification for allowing the suit to go forward. Even assuming that a civil suit were justifiable, it would be so only against the stockholders at the time the events occurred. None of the current stockholders were alive then, and only those who inherited stock in a direct line from those stockholders of the time could in any way be considered to have benefited from the actions of those companies in the 19th century. Current stockholders who purchased their stock are in no way responsible for actions taken 150 years ago. I suppose it might be argued that those who had inherited stock rather than purchased it might reasonably have a claim filed against their holdings, but even that claim is shakier than SCO's claim to own rights in Linux.

I also fail to see any justification, even under the tortured logic of the suit, for including R. J. Reynolds as a defendant. The R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was not formed until 1874, eight years after the end of the Civil War. The R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company never owned a slave, nor benefited from slave labor. Why, then, are they being sued?

 

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Tuesday, 27 January 2004

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9:24 - A new virus/Trojan/worm began making the rounds about 1900 UT yesterday. Symantec calls this one Novarg. Other AV vendors call it Mydoom or Mimail.r. Symantec classes this new worm as category 4, which is pretty severe for a newly discovered worm. Many reports say that this one is worse than Sobig.F, and it appears to be spreading very rapidly. You couldn't prove it by me. I received only 76 copies of this new worm overnight. At the height of Sobig.F, I was sometimes receiving virus-laden emails at an instantaneous rate of several hundred per hour. Still, this one is likely to get a lot worse before it gets better.

The most interesting thing about this worm is that it appears to be primed to launch a DDoS attack on SCO beginning sometime between 1 February and 12 February. SCO will no doubt claim that this worm was written by Linux zealots, but the truth is that it seems to have originated in Russia and has the same goal as the later Sobig variants--to take over millions of PCs so they can be used to send spam.

The New Hampshire primary is in progress, and Kerry appears to be the likely winner by a large margin. Dean and Edwards are fighting it out for second place. I seldom try to predict elections, but it looks to me as though Kerry will be running against Bush in November. Kerry is, of course, more or less a younger clone of Ted Kennedy. If this is the best the Democrats can come up with, they're doomed. I've seen the poll that says Kerry would beat Bush, but I think it's badly wrong. My guess, if nothing major changes, is that Bush will trounce Kerry in November.

I certainly don't care for many of Mr. Bush's policies, but better him than Kerry. Kerry represents everything that's bad about the Democratic Party, which is to say everything. Bush is no conservative, let alone a libertarian, but he's less evil than the Democrat wannabees. I just wish the American people could see the real choice. Voting for any Republocrat is voting for statism. Voting for the Libertarian is voting for freedom. I hope Ron Paul makes a serious run for President on the Republican ticket in 2008. He's one major-party guy I'd vote for without a qualm, as would most libertarians. He'd be the best President since Thomas Jefferson.

 

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Wednesday, 28 January 2004

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8:22 - I made a tactical blunder last night. I was going to show Barbara one of the neat things about my Fedora Core desktop, which was how easy it made displaying image files. I'd saved to my home directory the 40-some images of news anchor Catherine Bosley dancing nude, so I fired up the file manager, which displayed thumbnails of those images. Barbara's response? "You *saved* those pictures?" Uh-oh.

"Of course I did, but that's not the point," I said. "What I wanted to show you is how the mouse wheel lets you resize the images on the fly." So I double-clicked one of the images and rolled the mouse wheel back and forth to show Barbara how I could resize the image from invisibly small to so large that the individual pixels looked like a quilt. "There! Try that with Windows," I proclaimed. Barbara's response? "You *saved* those pictures?"

There's something women just don't get, and I'm not sure why. All normal men like to look at attractive nude young women. It's hard-wired in our genes, and there's no harm in it. Any man who claims he doesn't enjoy looking at attractive nude young women is either lying, homosexual, mentally ill, or blind. In fact, my advice to a woman who finds herself with a man who truly doesn't enjoy looking at attractive nude young women is to run the other way. He's at best abnormal and at worst may be a serial killer. One way or another, he's seriously bent.

I keep reading that the SCObig worm is the worst one yet. If so, you couldn't prove it by me. At the height of Sobig-F, I was getting literally a hundred or more copies every time I checked my mail, sometimes at an instantaneous rate of several hundred per hour. I got only about 130 copies of SCObig overnight, which averages out to perhaps 10 copies per hour.

The fact that this worm targets SCO with a DDoS attack beginning 1 February is unfortunate. Not that I much care what happens to SCO, but various ignorant people, led by SCO, are claiming that this worm was released by Linux zealots. They have no evidence of that, of course, but the mere allegation harms OSS. SCO has already pointed to Linux zealots as the source of the supposed DDoS attacks they've suffered in the past, again without any evidence to support those allegations, and those charges have stuck in the sense that most people who are not intimately familiar with the SCO case believe the charges to be true.

I deplore this attack on SCO, and suggest that everyone else make a point of doing the same. I hope that SCO crashes and burns, certainly, but a courtroom is the proper venue. If you hear anyone state that this attack on SCO was made by Linux zealots, ask him what evidence he has of that.

15:33 - A word of advice for Darl McBride:

He who sells
What isn't his'n
Is headed for
Some time
In prison
Burma Shave

 

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Thursday, 29 January 2004

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8:47 - The kids are out of school again, for the fourth day. They'll pay for it later, of course. I grew up in the snow belt of northwestern Pennsylvania, and I don't remember school being canceled for weather very often. It was an unusual year if we had more than one snow day. Usually we didn't even have that. When the roads were really terrible, the busses didn't run, but it was still up to us to get to school however we could. If we didn't make it, we were marked absent.

Ordinarily, my dad dropped me off at high school on his way to work. I remember walking to high school one snowy day that my dad didn't go in to work. The snow plows had made a pass on Highland Avenue, which was a main drag. Walking on the sidewalk, I could hear vehicles with chains clanking along, but I couldn't see them. And I was pretty much the same height I am now. The snow plows had piled up the snow so high that I couldn't see over the piles. And school wasn't called that day.

I know this sounds like the old joke about having to walk ten miles each way to school in the snow, and it was uphill both ways. But it's the truth. Of course, back then we had neighborhood elementary schools, and there wasn't any risk of little kids being snatched. The only danger was traffic, and there were crossing guards for that. We had two junior high schools, one on each side of town. My elementary school was only six blocks from our house, and my junior high school was only two blocks, so snow was never an excuse for missing school unless they'd closed the schools that day, which was almost unheard of. We had only one high school, which was a fifteen block walk for me.

Back then, most kids walked to school. The schools were placed based on how far it was reasonable to expect kids to walk. There were a dozen or so primary schools, because little kids can't be expected to walk far. There were two junior high schools, because junior high kids could reasonably be expected to walk farther. There was only one high school, because senior high kids could walk farther still. As I remember, the rule was that you weren't entitled to a school bus unless you were more than two miles from your school. As best I can remember, none of the elementary kids were bussed.

George Washington Junior High School, which was two blocks from our home, served the North Hill (where we lived) and the West Side, which was primarily black. That meant most of the black kids rode the bus to get to George Washington. Ben Franklin Junior High School served the South Side and the East Side, and I presume that many of the kids also rode the bus to get there. New Castle Senior High School was located on the North Hill but not far from the town center. Essentially all of the North Hill kids walked or got rides with their parents (we weren't allowed to have cars). Busses delivered kids from the farther reaches of the South, East, and West Sides.

Now, of course, we're a lot more dependent on school busses. In Winston-Salem, even elementary kids are often bussed. I think that's a Bad Thing. We'd do much better to have many small elementary schools, each serving a limited area, than our current arrangement of a few very large elementary schools. Of course, we have a consolidated city/county school system, which leaves the county kids still being bussed. In New Castle, we had a city school system. The areas surrounding New Castle were townships, each of which had its own school system. That's probably how it should be here, too.

At any rate, the kids are off school again today, and it looks like they may be off tomorrow as well. Nothing like missing a full week of school that you have to make up later. I understand why they don't want to risk opening the schools. The main roads are in good shape, but many of the secondary and neighborhood roads are still sheets of ice. As is our street. The city sent a grader out yesterday. It plowed Winburn, which crosses our street a block down, but it didn't touch our street. That makes a kind of sense, because Winburn is a steep hill, but it still leaves Witherow covered in ice.

Our driveway is covered in ice as well. Fortunately, Barbara hasn't had any trouble getting in and out. She just puts her Trooper in 4WD and goes. At least the sidewalk to our front door is clear. Barbara shoveled that the other night and put down calcium chloride. I was going to help shovel, but she wouldn't let me. She's afraid I'll drop dead. Hmmm. I'm in great shape for a man of 32 (hex). I get lots of exercise. Just walking the dogs totals nearly a quarter mile a day, or almost two miles a week. And that doesn't even count all the trips to the kitchen to get Coke and to the bathroom to get rid of the Coke.

I'd better get back to work.

 

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Friday, 30 January 2004

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8:04 - More heads-down writing today. I have several chapters in progress, and am still waiting on various components. When I reach a stopping point in one chapter because I don't have all the components I need, I move to another chapter. Before long, I'll have four or five chapters in progress simultaneously. I needed to submit a full sample chapter to O'Reilly early in the process, so I did the Home Theater PC chapter. For the others, I'll delay the actual system builds until late in the process. It's relatively easy to re-write stuff to take new components into account, but I really don't want to have to rebuild systems and re-shoot images.

 

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Saturday, 31 January 2004

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Sunday, 1 February 2004

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