- Well, I watched yet another football game last night. The
Steelers won the Super Bowl. That was no surprise to me, because
exactly the same thing happened the previous time I watched a football
game. Barbara tells me that that means I'm averaging one football game
every 26 years, which seems about right.
Barbara and I managed to get out for a short observing session Saturday
night. Luna was up and 42% illuminated, so it wasn't worth a trip to
our dark-sky observing site. Instead, we went to the soccer field about
half a mile from our house. Between Luna, light pollution, and local
lights, it was difficult to see much, but we did manage to add ten
objects from the AL Urban Observing Club list.
I had a new experience Saturday. I was on the NewEgg web site, ordering
a few parts I need to build the "Budget System" for the new edition of Building the Perfect PC. Although
it's a budget system, we wanted it to be (a) quiet, and (b) capable of
running Windows Vista. So we decided to go with a third-party CPU
cooler (an Arctic Cooling unit) and an MSI nVIDIA 6200TC video
adapter rather than embedded video. I ordered those parts from NewEgg,
and everything appeared to proceed normally.
A couple minutes later, I got email from NewEgg to tell me my credit
card had been refused. That was pretty odd, considering the limit on
that card is something like $20,000, and we pay off our balances every
month. The email said that NewEgg would try to run the charge through
again shortly. I'd had this happen with NewEgg before, so I didn't
think much about it. And in fact, a couple of hours later, I got email
from NewEgg to say that they'd run the charge through again and it had
A few minutes after that, I got a voice-synthesized phone call from a
credit-card validation company, saying that it had noticed a suspicious
pattern in charges with our card. It mentioned the charge I'd just made
with NewEgg by date and time, amount, and company name, along with
details of other recent charges, so I was sure it wasn't a phishing
call. I pressed one to tell the automated system that that charge was
valid, and it reported the next most recent charge, which Barbara had
made an hour earlier at the drugstore. So I pressed one again, and it
went on to the next charge, which was a duplicate charge from NewEgg. I
pressed two that time, to tell it that charge wasn't valid, and it
transferred me to a human.
She explained that they were checking a suspicious charge pattern. I
told her about the double charge from NewEgg, and she said not to worry
about that because the automated system was reporting charge attempts
rather than only successful charges. Then she started reading me in
reverse chronological order the charges that made them suspicious. The
one for about $200 from Orion was valid, and I told her so. The next
one she mentioned was for $1,200, which kind of freaked me out. Then
she mentioned the name of the company that had placed the charge,
Southern Foods, and I realized it was valid too. Every few months,
Barbara places a big order with Southern Foods for meat, which they
deliver a few days later and stick in our full-size freezer.
Apparently, what triggered the suspicions of fraud was the fact that
only the drugstore charge had been made by actually swiping the card
through a reader. All of the others were remote charges, and that
combined with the amount and frequency of use, was enough to set off
- Here's the image that got Christine O'Hare in Merseyside in trouble.
Perhaps those lunatic Islamics will riot, burn, and kill some more over
- If you want to see what all the fuss is about, go here. I would have
expected the cartoons that have outraged the Islamic whackos to have
appeared on network TV, every newspaper, CNN, Foxnews, and so on. Hell,
by now I'd expect to see people wearing t-shirts with the cartoon on
them. Instead, I had to search Google to find them.
From the article:
is not only a religion; it is a totalitarian and expansionistic
The only argument I have with that statement is that the writer should
remove "only" from the first sentence. Islam is a totalitarian and
expansionist political system, period. As I have been saying for years
now, Islam is the enemy. Not "radical Islam". Not "Islamic terrorists".
It outrages me that our leaders refuse to do anything to deal with this
malignancy, nor even to admit the problem. The goal of Islam is to kill
or enslave all of us. And our leaders stand by doing nothing while Iran
develops nuclear weapons.
Israel, at least, is realistic. They have no other choice. Israel
cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of an Islamic state,
particularly one as deranged as Iran, and will act unilaterally if
necessary to prevent that from happening. I fully expect to awake one
morning in the near future to news footage of mushroom clouds over
- Barbara and I have come to despair of Malcolm ever growing up.
He turned six years old in September, and he still behaves like a
puppy. We don't even bother to make our bed any more--we just pull the
bedspread up--because Malcolm pillages it anyway. He pulls down the
bedspread, tosses pillows around the bed and onto the floor, and
otherwise rearranges things to his satisfaction. He also steals and
eats soft paper products. Kleenex, paper towels, paper napkins, toilet
paper, it doesn't matter. If he can steal it, he'll eat it.
Here's a picture of Malcolm's depredations six years ago:
And here's what I found when I went back to take a shower:
The end on the bed looked chewed, so I suspect Malcolm has had his
- I think I'm going to bag Netflix and sign up for Blockbuster.
Netflix has been screwing with me big-time since the first of the year.
Netflix sent me only 13 discs last month, and they're on track to do
worse this month. Since 1 February, they've sent me four discs, one of
which was scratched and unplayable.
They're taking longer and longer to ship a disc to me, they ship it by
slow boat, and now they've started not acknowledging discs
they've received for an extra day. Based on their current patterns, I
estimate that Netflix might end up shipping me only 11 or 12 discs for
the month, which is less than half the level of service they led me to
expect when they shipped me 25 discs in my first month as a member.
I've read numerous posts from people who've been through the Netflix
throttling experience. It doesn't get better; it only gets worse. One
guy reported that Netflix had throttled him down to only 8 or 9 discs a
month, which is pretty outrageous on the three-at-a-time so-called
But if you drop Netflix for a while and then rejoin, they supposedly
don't throttle you immediately. So I'll join Blockbuster for their
two-week free trial and see what they're like. If they start to
throttle, I'll drop them and go back to Netflix, perhaps after taking a
break from it all.
My advice to anyone who is thinking about joining Netflix is not to
expect to get a lot of movies from them. If you're willing to pay $2 to
$3 per disc, you'll get what you want quickly. But if you expect
Netflix to live up to its promises of "unlimited rentals" and "one-day
service", you're in for a disappointment.
- Jerry Pournelle frequently asks his readers to tell him what
they'd like their computers to do for them that they don't do now.
Jerry seems to think that computers have enough power now to do pretty
much everything we want them to. I've told him that I don't believe
that's true, not by a long shot. What I do believe is that we're pretty
much stuck until the next massive leap in computing power.
We don't need computers that are ten times faster than those we have
now. Those computers would do pretty much what they do now, but faster.
We need computers that are three to six magnitudes faster than what we
have now. Such computers could do things that are qualitatively
different than what computers do for us now.
For example, we had our first noticeable snow of the season last night.
Barbara took one of the digital cameras out in the front yard and shot
a few pictures. I just downloaded those from the camera, filed them in
a new directory under /photos, and downsampled one of them to an
800X600 main image and a 200X150 thumbnail and posted those on her web
page for her.
Here's one of the things I'd like to see a more powerful computer do
for me. When I walked into my office carrying the digital camera, my
main desktop system, newton,
greets the camera, and notices that it has new pictures in its memory.
(My other computers also notice the camera, of course, but they discuss
it among themselves and decide, "Don't worry about it; newton's taking care of it.")
So, newton grabs the new
images from the digital camera and takes a look at them. He recognizes
that the images are of our front yard and that there's snow on the
ground. He labels each image with metadata, including the date and
time, the overall subject of the image, and recognizable people and
things in the image. He notices, for example, that there's a dog-like
thing in one of the images, and compares that against previous images
to decide that the dog-like thing is probably in fact a dog, and it
looks like Malcolm. He adds that fact to the metadata.
After he finishes analyzing and labeling the new images, newton puts a little flag down on
the taskbar to indicate that he'd like me to check his work. I click
that flag, and newton brings
up a page with medium-size thumbnails of each image, along with the
labels he's entered. Newton
has highlighted stuff he's unsure about in red to make sure I review
it. I make any necessary corrections by telling newton verbally what needs to be
fixed. Newton makes those
fixes, learning from his mistakes, and then stores the images locally,
as well as sending backup copies to a remote server.
Newton has noticed that
Barbara likes to post snow pictures on her web page, so he suggests to
me that he go ahead and choose one or two of the images, generate lower
resolution versions for Barbara's page, and write them to that document
file, awaiting Barbara's approval.
That's just one example of what newton
might do for me if he were three orders of magnitude faster. If he were
six orders of magnitude faster, he'd probably become self-aware and I
would think of him and treat him just as I would any other friend.
- I see that Microsoft has announced that Halo 2 will run only
on Vista. It's difficult to see what they hope to accomplish. Surely
they can't believe that gamers will upgrade to Vista just to play Halo
2. Not only is Halo 2 a second-rate game, it's an old second-rate game.
And it will be older still once Vista actually ships. Anyone who's
interested has probably already played it to death on an Xbox. For
those few that haven't, it's possible to buy an Xbox and a copy of Halo
2 for about $200, less than the cost of installing Vista. And you can
recoup most or all of that cost later by selling the Xbox and game.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce