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2003 (old posts, page 2)

Housekeeping

And that's the condensed version of the last couple of weeks. Hopefully I'll be able to return to a slightly more regular posting schedule for a while now.

As an aside, I now appear 1st (cheating) and 6th on Google for "andy oakley". Yes, it really is a tragic measure of self-worth.

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Win32.Slammer

It's been a long time with no posts; work has become very hectic of late. With a ship date bought forwards by four months, there's a lot scrambling to be done to make everything happen in time. Nothing like a challenge.

I'm off to LA tomorrow for a few days vacation, meeting up with Lauren. I'm really looking forward to some time off, and seeing the delights that California has to offer - Disneyland, Hollywood and all.

The Slammer attacks of Friday/Saturday have calmed down somewhat, but I imagine it's going to be a busy few days picking up the pieces. It's fascinating to see such a small fragment of information (376 bytes) can have such a profound effect on so many people and businesses, preventing them for accessing the increasingly indepensible internet. True, you could say something earth-shattering with 376 bytes (God doesn't exist, we're all aliens, for example), but it's extremely hard to find a case where the fragment has the same evidence that proves what it says is really true.

Of course, at the end of the day, it must be Microsoft's fault, so any further discussion is somewhat redundant.

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Microsoft reports Q4 earnings

SEATTLE, Jan. 16 �?" Microsoft Corp. announced its first-ever dividend to shareholders Thursday and said it will issue a two-for-one stock split. Heeding some investors�?T calls to share in the Redmond software giant�?Ts $40.5 billion in cash, the company said it will pay an annual dividend of 16 cents per share on a pre-split basis.

More details on MSNBC.

Meanwhile, proving litigation isn't a sound business model

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Jan. 16 �?" Sun Microsystems Inc. Thursday reported its largest net loss ever, taking more than $2 billion in charges chiefly for investment losses, but managed to squeeze out a small operating profit in a tough environment for selling high-end computers.
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Driving an SUV supports terrorism

I mentioned the drugs-support-terrorism ads a little, and it seems the story didn't stop there.

The Detroit Project (Americans for Fuel Efficient Cars) has created a set of serious parodys (if there is such a thing). Guess what: Drive an SUV? Now you're supporting terrorism too.

WHAT IS YOUR SUV DOING TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY?
DETROIT, AMERICA NEEDS HYBRID CARS NOW.
How far will patriotism go?
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Freedom of the press

Freedom of the press is an interesting notion. Although the US takes such values as a matter of pride, there still seems to be scope for interpretation. Who decides which pieces of news are important?

Consider the unfolding ricin investigations in the UK. These reports seem to be generating a lot of interest - I find it on the home page of CNN, MSNBC, it's making regular news on those TV stations too, as well as getting a slot on local news here.

At this instant, I have to navigate to the UK News page of the BBC, where it's listed as the fifth story in the 'Other news' category.

Priorities are getting confused somewhere. With the current fear of terrorism, are the news corporations delivering valuable information, or just inciting hysteria? As 'ricin' is currently the most popular search term on MSN, I sadly suspect it's the latter.

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McDonalds in the rain

Today did not go according to plan. I woke up with a serious hangover, which disrupted just about everything. I spent a couple of hours in McDonalds on Alaskan Way, enjoying some writing and people watching (next to the ferry terminal). That restaurant has got to be heading towards one of the least clean I've ever known.

I watched two very different films this evening Chocolat and Ali G in da house. The former was good, but left me unsure why I'd just spent two hours watching it. The latter just jogged a few memories, like humour, what England looks like, and Jon Snow on Channel 4.

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Subtle differences

These days I'm finding myself becoming more and more familiar with the environment that I'm living in, to the extent of looking at life in the UK as different, and perhaps a little strange.

When the differences are subtle, it's very easy to miss them at first glance, right until the new experience has become expected. A lightswitch is on when it points up, cold water comes out of the right tap, identical products come under different names - the more I look, the more I see how much has changed without me noticing.

I'd suspect that this brainwashing would be less pronouced in a different situation where the before and after scenarios are less similar. However, as human beings we are very able to adapt, and I'm starting to realize that adapting to new surroundings doesn't merely meant coping and surviving, it means they become normal.

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Strange goings on at night

After a rather hectic day, I headed out on a bar crawl with some people (Sean, Tina, Chris) from work. I've finally overcome an irrational fear of Capital Hill and discovered a few new bars up in that neighborhood.

Deciding to walk the couple of miles back home, I again noticed the strangeness of downtown at night. Unlike many other areas of Seattle, central downtown is absolutely deserted after 10pm - absolutely no-one, all the shops are closed and there's no traffic. It's an eerie feeling while the traffic lights continue to change for vehicles that never come.

Move across a few blocks, and there's overwhelming activity; the streets are lined with buses, sleeping the night and waiting for the cold morning. Traffic control and police mingle around, making sure everything is going according to plan, as if the new day promises extraordinary challenges demanding intricate planning. But no, move on please, tomorrow will be just like today, nothing special.

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Things I have seen

Since this journal is turning into precisely that - longer posts of daily thoughts and revelations, I've decided to start brainmunchies, a day-to-day directory of delightful finds. Hopefully it will turn into an interesting collaborative venture with Ed.

I've recentlty been toying with the notion of 'things I have seen'. Basically the web can be partitioned into two spaces: things that appear on a Google results list, and things that are a click away from a page on the results list. The latter are often the more interesting, but Google can't (yet) say 'you should look at this'. Enter the human element. I can look at something, and if it was valuable in some sense, I'll remember that I've seen it even years from now. Where it is located is not as important, I'll be able to track it down eventually. For convenience, say I make a record of these things I attach some worth to (in the most vague sense); now when I'm looking for it, I'm looking through 5000 items instead of the 3 billion Google is looking at. Chances of finding it again quickly are looking pretty good.

It's easy to conceive of automating much of this process. If I read a web page (and by read, I mean start at the top and scroll down at a pace that corresponds reading rather than skimming or an incidental hit), it's some indication that the content has interested me. Same argument goes for e-mail - we're currently stuck with this read/unread binary paradigm - I really want something to figure out 'he read this and found it was really useful'.

There's an interesting side effect which is already evident. I used to remember phone numbers, e-mail addresses, web sites and all sorts in memory; that's stopped, hopefully not because of ability, but rather because it's more efficient (or easy?) to simply know how to find the information, rather than actually knowing it. Of note, I'm now paying more attention to names, interests, people's more human aspects, instead of the boring details like phone number and free/busy information. Maybe the invasion of such personal-assistant-like functionality isn't to everyone's taste, but there are no complains here.

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The price/quantity convenience

In the supermarket today I noticed a strange, yet well known, trend in pricing different quantities of the same product. I can get my toothpaste in small, medium or large tubes, with prices to match, where the savings are better for the larger containers. Toilet rolls too - $4.49 for six rolls, $4.89 for nine. Generally, I can understand - I'm not too thirsty, so I won't get a supersize Coke today. But really, how is there any money to be made from selling the lesser quantities of repeated items? It's not like I'm going to stop needing toothpaste when this tube has run out, so who chooses to 'save' a few cents to in fact waste several more, generate extra waste and force a return trip soon. The American Dream - fuelled by the senseless consumers.

At the most unlikely moment today, while buying eggs, I realized why the lines 'Que sera sera' and 'Whatever will be will be' follow each other in the Doris Day song. I truly can't say how I used to think the former line was spelt, but I can't help shake the feeling that somewhere I saw the words written on a product or poster just prior to that moment and the penny finally dropped.