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Week of 21 July 2008

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Monday, 21 July 2008
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08:13 - Every weekday, I do a full backup of Barbara's and my home and working data directories to a separate physical hard drive in my main system as well as to two external USB hard drives. On Sundays, I do the same, but I also burn a DVD of all of our working data.

I keep a 50-disc spindle of blank DVD+R discs on my desk next to my system. Yesterday, I found I'd used the last disc on that spindle. I was about to open a new 100-disc spindle of Taiyo-Yuden DVD+R discs from my blank disc storage drawer when I noticed a partially-used 100-disc spindle of Verbatim MCC-004 16X DVD+R discs. There were about 50 discs left on that spindle, so I pulled them off that spindle and put them on the 50-disc spindle that I keep on my desk.

When I started to burn my backup copy to one of the Verbatim discs, things started normally enough. The burn speed got up to 6X or 7X and climbing toward 16X, when something happened. The burn speed dropped back to 4X and stayed there for the minute or two I watched it. That's a sure sign of a bad burn, so I stopped the burn and tried another Verbatim disc. The same thing happened.

It was then that I remembered why I had 50 unused Verbatim discs in that drawer. Either the discs are bad or the SH-203B burner simply doesn't work with them. It does good burns with the TY 8X and 16X discs. Verbatim MCC-004 16X discs are certainly a mainstream product, so they must be supported in the drive firmware. I remembered that I had concluded that the discs are probably bad, but I kept them because I intended to test them in another drive.

I've read enough reports of problems with Verbatim discs, and I've had enough problems with them myself, that I took them off my recommended list a year or so ago. TY discs cost a bit more, but they're simply the best blanks available. And the cost of the disc is a pretty minor issue for anyone who cares about the data on the discs he burns.

So I opened the new spindle of TY discs, my last, and made a note to reorder soon.

Jasmine is having a busy summer. In addition to gymnastics, which intensifies during the summer months, Jas is learning to drive, volunteering at the hospital as what we used to call a candy-striper, and has probably a dozen other things going on.

Before school ended, I'd offered to help Jas if she wanted to do independent study for the honors geometry and honors biology courses she'll be taking next year. As it turned out, that was already covered. She's taking all honors courses, and the school provided summer assignments for all of those courses.

When I commented the other day that I hadn't seen much of Jas so far this summer, Mary, her grandmother, told me that Jas wasn't getting out much this summer. When she's not at gymnastics, practicing driving, or at the hospital, Jas is working on her summer assignments for the honors courses. This kid is going places.


Tuesday, 22 July 2008
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08:37 - My dad would have been 85 years old today. I miss him.

Once in a while I start to doubt my geek credentials, but something always happens to reassure me. Yesterday, a big fat envelope showed up from Testfabrics, Inc. that was packed with fabric samples, stains used for forensic fiber testing, and pre-dyed swatches of multi-fiber fabric strips. I was really excited about this stuff and then I realized that I must still be a geek, because only a geek could get excited about an envelope full of forensic fiber testing materials.

I've nearly finished The Chapter That Will Not Die. Today I'll finish the final lab session, which is about doing transverse sections of fibers. Then it'll be on to the next chapter. I'm not sure if I'll start next on glass and plastic analysis or impression analysis, both of which are going to be a lot of fun.


Wednesday, 23 July 2008
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08:39 - I wasn't expecting a disc from Netflix yesterday, but one showed up. It was disc 4 of Robin Hood (2006), which I'd reported lost a week ago. More than 99% of the time, the post office provides one-day service to and from the Netflix Greensboro distribution center. This time, it took them a week to get the disc here. Oh, well. I suppose it must have slipped down between two sorting boxes or something.

At any rate, Barbara and I decided to watch the disc, even though we'd given up on the series. When we watched the first disc, I thought it was pretty bad, but I figured maybe it'd get better. It is a BBC series, after all. Disc 2 was worse. By disc 3, I was watching with the same fascination as I might watch a train wreck. Indeed, disc 3 was worse than disc 2. And disc 4 is worse than disc 3.

As we suffered through this series, I soon found myself cheering for the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisbourne. "Kill the little weasel," I'd find myself shouting at the screen. I kept hoping someone would strangle Marian, choke the obnoxious Much, and beat Littlejohn to death.

This series is not just bad, but ridiculously, stupifyingly bad. It's painfully PC, and rabidly pro-Islamic. The Saracens are presented as the good guys, and Robin quotes the koran (literally). Marian practices what appear to be badly-done Shotokan kata, and her dresses have zippers. I'm not making any of this up.

The BBC should be deeply ashamed of producing this stinker, let alone airing it. Everyone involved in this series should be blacklisted from ever producing another series.

Brian Bilbrey sent me the following graphic, which neatly summarizes the Christianity versus atheism debate.


Thursday, 24 July 2008
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08:40 - Kerby, one of Barbara's stuffed bears, got email this morning from a young woman in France.

From: Taz p
  To: webmaster@ttgnet.com
Date: Thu Jul 24 07:11:50 2008
  Re: Kerby!!!

Attachments:  kerby in car.jpg
Hello Robert I was searching the internet to see if there are any other kerby bears out there and noticed that you have one and was wondering where you got it from? I received mine for my 1st birthday in 1988 and has been everywhere with me he came over to france with me last year when i moved to Paris and then travelled through Europe and the UK. could you send me a photo of his hat because mine has lost his and i can't remember what is looks like.  Thanks  Tarryn

Barbara got her Kerby back in 1980 or 1981 from Avon, and he's been with us ever since. He currently lives on the dresser with some of Barbara's other stuffed bears, although he sometimes comes over on the bed. Barbara's Kerby posed proudly while I took some images, including one of his matching red nightcap, to send to Tarryn.


Friday, 25 July 2008
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08:35 - In what might otherwise have been cheering news, escaped spammer Edward Davidson has apparently killed himself. Unfortunately, he murdered his wife and three-year-old daughter before turning the gun on himself. Wouldn't it have been nice if instead he'd killed, say, ten other top spammers? But instead he murdered an innocent woman and child. I guess that's only to be expected from someone who was slimy enough to make his living as a spammer. As it is, no one will mourn him.

Yahoo Music customers are the latest victims of DRM, as Yahoo announced that it will take down its authentication servers as of 30 September. It seems to me that Yahoo should be required to do one of three things: (a) keep the authentication servers up permanently, (b) refund 100% of the price paid to people who bought DRM-protected tracks from them, or (c) provide unprotected tracks to those customers. As it is, they're keeping customers' money and just walking away from their obligations.

Yahoo's proposed workaround is completely unacceptable. They recommend that customers transfer the protected tracks to CD and re-rip them as unprotected tracks. Even ignoring the cost to customers in time and blank CDs, which Yahoo does not propose to reimburse, and the reduction in sound quality, the problem with this so-called workaround is that it requires customers to break the law.

The lesson here is that no one in his right mind should ever, under any circumstances, buy anything that's protected by DRM.


Saturday, 26 July 2008
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11:17 - I usually enjoy reading Charlie Demerjian's articles on The Inquirer. He's outrageous, funny, and quite often on-point. Yesterday, though, I think Charlie stepped way over the line. After I'd posted my own comments on the spammer killings, I visited The Inquirer, where I read Charlie's article, which had the following lead:

NOT ALL STORIES have a happy ending, but the tale of escaped spam king Edward "Eddie" Davidson sure does. After walking away from prison, he got a gun, killed his family, then killed himself.

I almost stopped reading right there. I hate spammers as much as anyone, or so I thought. I would not shed a tear if every spammer on the face of the planet dropped dead this moment. But Charlie must hate spammers with a passion that makes my feeling about them more akin to mild dislike. How else could he consider the murder of an innocent woman and child a "happy ending"?

I suppose Charlie might argue, with some justification, that the wife of a spammer is no innocent. Presumably she profited from his ill-gotten gains as much as her husband did, and presumably she could have walked away from him. Things might have worked out better if she had. But in no way could Charlie argue that the murder of a 3-year-old child was in any way justified.

The Inquirer has posted an apology, but so far there's been no apology from Charlie himself.


Sunday, 27 July 2008
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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.