Friday, November 11, 2011

3393 The boys in the club

Friday, November 11, 2011

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same
time, will that it should become a universal law.
-- Immanuel Kant, the categorical imperative
Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals --


Happy Nerd New Year! (11/11/11)


I left a comment on Becs' post re the Penn State mess, and I decided to just copy it over here as a post. She wondered why that graduate assistant (now an assistant coach, I believe) is not being charged or fired, and what is wrong with people who allow things like this to happen.

Yeah, I wondered about the grad assistant, too. He's apparently the only one who actually SAW something. For everyone else, it was a case of second or third hand information, possibly watered down, easily denied by Sandusky. And yet, the grad assistant is the only one not in trouble.

BTW, there had been several accusations in the '90s. The local DA (who mysteriously disappeared a few years later) had investigated. Mothers (the kids were fatherless) had confronted Sandusky and participated in the investigations. But it was all dropped, no charges, because there was no proof. "He says/he says" kind of thing. That grad assistant's eyewitness testimony could have made all the difference. And yet, the grad assistant is the only one not in trouble.

As to what's wrong with people, when people (and particularly men) belong to a tight-knit group, they will defend the reputation of the brotherhood at all costs. Threats to the group are quashed. People also tend to see things through filters - there's a psychological term for it, "motivational bias" - such that things that don't fit our world view are simply not given credence, or are reformatted with excuses, or made to go away. We all do it, but fraternal groups in group think do it more.

The randomly generated green quote at the top of this post seems particularly apt.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

3392 Awards I never got

Thursday, November 10, 2011

“I refuse to believe that corporations are people until Texas executes one.”
-- DemocraticUnderground's Earth First --


On a recent episode of "The Good Wife", the law firm received government documents with most of every page redacted --- just about everything crossed out with black magic marker. It reminded me of an incident when I was working in the litigation lab.

The Company was in litigation with a competitor, and the competitor was required to turn over documents to us, and vice versa, and in every document sent or received, much of every page had been crossed out.

We used "foils" in meetings. Y'all might remember them. You'd run a page through a machine with a heat-sensitive transparent plasticy sheet, and the machine "burned" the dark parts of the page into the foil, and then you could project the foil onto a screen.

It was the usual practice in our office to make a copy of the page from a stapled or bound document, and then burn the foil from that, and then the foil looked just like the original, redactions in place and all.

One day I had an unbound document, so I burned a foil from the original page. Surprise! Magic marker doesn't reflect enough heat to burn into the foil, but doesn't prevent what's under the marker from reflecting heat! The black marks were gone, and the redacted areas were as clear and readable as the day they were printed!

I went to my manager's office, closed the door, and silently handed her the original page with the black redactions and the clean foil. After she picked herself up off the floor, she called the headquarters attorneys. After they picked themselves off the floor, they told us that this phone call didn't happen. However, Company documents sent to the competitor from that day on contained copies of pages with redactions. And of course everyone in our office was shown this "secret" "neat trick".

The competitor never caught on.

This should have earned me a huge outstanding contribution award, but since no one could admit it happened, I got no acknowledgement. It didn't even go into my record.


There was another similar incident.

We had a lot of data on the big disks (the ones about the size of a dishwasher) on dedicated mainframes under triple lock with video cameras and motion detectors and no remote access. Much of it was competitor's code. When a particular set of code was no longer in dispute, we were required to delete it from the disks. That had been going on for a few years, until eventually that particular dispute had been settled, and then auditors from the competitor were going to come to examine the disks and insure all of their material was gone.

In a department meeting a few weeks before the audit, we were reminded to delete materials. I had none of the subject materials under my control, so I hadn't been deleting stuff, so I innocently asked what the procedure was. It turns out they were simply issuing a "DELETE" command on those files.

I walked into my manager's office, closed the door, and explained to her what was wrong with that. When you delete a file, the data is not erased! Non-programmers, or programmers who don't know how the operating system works, were at that time unaware that when you delete a file, all it does is remove the pointer to it in the directory, and mark that section of the disk as "free". If you don't write over the file, the contents are still there. (Now, of course, everyone knows that because it's key to TV detective dramas, but back then it wasn't widely known.)

So those disks contained years of data that we had reported as deleted and that we were now illegally in possession of, and that the auditors would be sure to find.

After she picked herself up off the floor, she called the headquarters attorneys. After they picked themselves off the floor, they told us that this phone call didn't happen. However, we were to say nothing to anyone, just clean those disks immediately!

So for the next ten days I worked enormous amounts of overtime, alone, printing off directories, identifying all the free disk/cylinder/head/file etc. areas, and overwriting them all with blanks. All my other work was put on hold, and I got into a lot of trouble with a lot of people in product areas and at corporate for holding up deadlines, but no one could be told why.

I should, again, have got an enormous outstanding contribution award for pulling the corporate ass out of the fire, but since no one dared to mention the situation, instead my reputation took a hit. In fact, folks at corporate held up my next promotion because I was "unreliable".

Is it any wonder I retired as soon as a decent package was offered?

For the first ten years of my retirement I was barred from mentioning any of this, on pain of losing my retirement benefits. It is now twenty years later, and I doubt anyone cares any more. Statute of limitations and all that.

3391 My door

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"I am never gratuitously rude. My rudeness is carefully calibrated to the stupidity
and obtuseness of the people I am dealing with."
-- Adam Carr --


I wish they had a "Do not call" registry for front doors. I'm getting tired of people knocking on my door and trying to sell me stuff - always with the "gotta sign up now or lose the discount" line. I may have to print out and put up my sign. I had this sign posted on the door at the old house, and it was very effective:

If you are not here by invitation
Read before ringing doorbell

Grizzly bear within. Hibernation times are not regular. Disturbing at the wrong time for the wrong reason can result in great bodily harm, not to mention a bad mood.

Sales folks
Mail us something. Thanks. G’bye.

Package delivery
If you need a signature, ring bell.
If you do not need a signature, leave package at door.

Kids collecting for school, scouts, sports
Ring bell. (Bears like kids. They are delicious.)

Political folks
Mail us something. Thanks. G’bye.

Religious folks
I’m sure you are very nice people doing what you think is right. You make nice neighbors. But we are quite happy with our choice of belief, and rather resent your assumption that it’s not good enough. Please do not disturb. Thank you.

It worked just fine until I missed out on Girl Scout cookies one year, because the little girl I usually buy them from was afraid of the bear ... as her father the Hairless Hunk laughingly reported to me later.


"Several teachers at Lindsay Thurber High School in Red Deer, Alberta, reacted to a bomb-threat note found in a classroom by sending students out to search lockers to find the bomb, with one teacher offering extra credit to the one who brought it in." From Leland Gregory's book, Hey, Idiot! : Chronicles of Human Stupidity, 200+ pages to dip into when you feel that you need an image lift.

A little research uncovered the fact that the Red Deer high school gets a few bomb threats per year, all of which have so far proven groundless. The little rural elementary school a half mile from my old house in the Mid-Hudson Valley always got a few bomb phone calls per year, almost always on beautiful spring mornings. It usually resulted in cancellation of the rest of the school day while the cops scoured the building.

Neighbors suspected teachers, not students.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

3390 More stuff I don't understand

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

You can fool some of the people all of the time, you can even fool all of the people some of the time, but you can always fool all of the fools all of the time.
-- Jeff MacNelly, "Shoe" --


I guess I don't understand what the problem is with the health act's requiring people to have health insurance. Not sure how it can be "unconstitutional". If the Supreme Court decides it's unconstitutional, then please explain to me how the states have the authority to require that I register my vehicles, and that I must have automobile insurance to drive them.

Yeah, it's a good thing, but so is health insurance. Being a good thing is not necessarily enough to make it constitutional. How can requiring health insurance be less constitutional than requiring contribution to social security? Or selective service ("the draft")? Or a load of other stuff?

I don't understand.


Daughter, Nugget, and I went for a walk yesterday and we passed several houses down by the water that had signs in the window stating that the premises had been winterized, and listing the dangers posed by antifreeze in the water pipes. Summer homes, I guess. Daughter says the signs are legally required, and must be visible from the street.

Huh? The township is worried that trespassers, thieves, and vandals might be poisoned?

I don't get it.

Nothin' like advertising to casual passersby that the house is empty and unlikely to be checked on before spring. "Break in here! Have a party! Redecorate the walls! Compliments of the township!"

3389 Opportunity to knock

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The most startling new ideas always sound trivial, even obvious, once expounded.
A week later, no one will remember who said it.
Two weeks later, everyone will claim they had always known it.
-- Silk --


I guess that big test of the national alert system is tomorrow? You know, if I wanted to wreak some major havoc somewhere, I'd do it then. Nobody would believe the alert to take cover until it was too late. Reverse "War of the Worlds".

Sunday, November 06, 2011

3388 Natural art, garbage art

Sunday, November 6, 2011

“…those who wrestle with something and come out on top
tend to have a better understanding of that something
than those who merely submit to it.”


My body is falling apart. My skin no longer fits, drapes in folds above my knees, on my neck, my jowls. I can't trust my knees anymore. I who used to sit on the floor by preference, and could rise straight up without using my hands or knees, now find it difficult to get my behind off the floor.

But I'm not dead yet. I am very proud of the fact that I can carry an 18-pound Nugget in a backpack carrier for at least a mile with no effort or effect. (I say at least a mile because that's the most I've done. I'm sure I could go farther.) Uphill is a bit difficult, but even without her on my back uphill has always been more difficult.

Very proud and happy.


This is amazing. A murmuration of starlings, recorded in Ireland. It starts out with a few stills, then goes to video. It raised my spirits.

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.


There's a story going around about a cleaning woman who damaged a 1.1 million dollar artwork by, uh, cleaning it. I got curious about what a one million dollar artwork looked like, and sniffed around until I found this story,, which has a photo of the full installation, and also mentions several other artworks over the years that had been ruined by cleaning and janitorial staff.

The murmuration video above raised my spirits. The linked artwork story cast me down again. So many people want to ignore or destroy natural art, and exalt crap art. I don't understand.

I flat-out do not understand modern art. Frankly, I agree with the cleaning staff. Most of it is crap. The only art involved is the art of convincing someone that a) it's art, and b) is worth anything. Apparently if you have that talent, you can dump a bag of household garbage on the floor and convince someone it's "art".

(In fact, according to the story, someone did exactly that. The cleaner ruined that one by throwing the garbage out.)

Bull poopy. What's that old saying about fooling fools?