Katrina in Indiana, Part 2

Over $3 per gallon

Photo taken this morning at 7 am, JD Marathon, Dover, Indiana by your humble blogger

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Sinners in the hands of an angry fetus

The headline is as much of a teaser as you're going to get from me: you simply have to see this firsthand to believe it.

I do not make this shit up! This is the text of an actual email I received on Monday...

(link) [Eve's Apple]

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Hidden-code flaw in Windows renews worries over stealthy malware

And what do Mr. Bill and crew have to say on this?

"Our early analysis indicates that this attempt to bypass these features is not a software security vulnerability, but a function within the operating system that could be misused," the company said in a statement. "Microsoft is reviewing the report to determine further details and whether there is any potential impact for customers and will provide appropriate customer guidance if necessary."

Maybe it's just me, but I always thought that one way to look at a security vulnerability was as an operating system function that was abused ... and that part of the idea of security itself was preventing system abuse.

Last week, the Internet Storm Center, a group of security professionals that track threats on the Net, flagged a flaw in how a common Microsoft Windows utility and several anti-spyware utilities detect system changes made by malicious software. By using long names for registry keys, spyware programs could, in a simple way, hide from such utilities yet still force the system to run the malicious program every time the compromised computer starts up.

(link) [The Register]

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PowerPoint: Killer App?

PowerPoint presentations are not knowledge: they're refined and filtered information. Unfortunately, many people get the two confused, which reminds me of a favorite quote from computer scientist David Guaspari:

Comparing information and knowledge is like asking whether the fatness of a pig is more or less green than the designated hitter rule.

The article makes reference to the Gettysburg Address done as a PowerPoint slide show: if you've never seen it, it's here.

Did PowerPoint make the space shuttle crash? Could it doom another mission? Preposterous as this may sound, the ubiquitous Microsoft "presentation software" has twice been singled out for special criticism by task forces reviewing the space shuttle disaster.

(link) [Washington Post]

via MyAppleMenu

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Most published research findings may be false

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you! You mean to tell me that better than half of published studies are bullshit? No way! Sudies in Stupidity, indeed!

Published research findings are sometimes refuted by subsequent evidence, says Ioannidis in a paper published in the open access journal PLoS Medicine, with ensuing confusion and disappointment.

(link) [EurekAlert! - Breaking News]

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Katrina in Indiana

It's hard to grasp the size of this storm - we're better than 850 miles north of New Orleans, and we got nearly 5 inches of rain today. At the same time, it was spawning tornadoes in the western Carolinas, about 600 miles east of here. We didn't get a lot of wind, but the interstates going out of Indiana are closed in three directions (you can still go north, if you'd like) due to flooding.

Upstate New York, better than 1500 miles from the Gulf of Mexico (and about 600 miles northeast of here), is getting a serious soaking tonight.

Size does matter.

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Java Joy in Coffee Study

Well, at better than a pot a day, on average, I should never rust!

It'll warm the hearts of coffee drinkers who fend off advice to give it up for their health: a new report says the caffeinated beverage delivers more antioxidants than anything else in the American diet.

(link) [Wired News]

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Anti-Gay Church Protests at GI Funerals

I think the Rev. Phelps is working on a new book, to replace the Dale Carnegie classic. He'll call it "How Not to Win Friends & Influence People".

AP - Members of a church say God is punishing American soldiers for defending a country that harbors gays, and they brought their anti-gay message to the funerals Saturday of two Tennessee soldiers killed in Iraq.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

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What Are We Really After?

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we are really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the delight of being alive.
-- Joseph Campbell

00:00 /Asatru | 0 comments | permanent link

Not Quite Totally Wow

I've been blogging a lot lately on the subject of the upcoming rise in minimum payments on Americans credit card debt. I was initially more concerned over my personal situation vis-a-vis this issue than I was with the overall effect - now that concern has been reversed.

I finally managed to get a hold of some upper level people at the card companies with which I have business dealings, and have discovered that they're all planning to implement these regulations in a rather creative way. Rather than going to the exact limit - from 2% of the outstanding balance to 4% - they're going to "interest and fees plus 1% of the outstanding balance, or 2% of the outstanding balance, whichever is greater."

This is good for me, personally, as it means my minimums will not be rising by much, if at all, due to my excellent credit rating and history, and hence my relatively low interest rates on these loans. But ...

This formula is utterly dependent on interest rates: get a higher rate on a given card and you're screwed. And getting higher rates on your existing loans isn't tough: just be a day late on a single payment!

Given that many credit card companies have recently raised fees and rates, and that the Fed shows no interest (pun intended) in lowering rates out of a (misguided, I believe) fear of inflation, the impact on the economy still promises to be something rather severe. Probably not a repeat of the Great Depression (which it could've been if the companies had stuck exactly to the intended meaning of the regulation, rather than to the letter) but certainly a recession, and possibly a rather deep one.

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The Drone Ranger

Some of my friends just can't understand why I swear I'll never return to the corporate cubicle wars - I'd rather live in a homeless shelter than put up with one more "beach party" in a warehouse, where "participation is not mandatory, but attendance will be taken". Beatings will continue until morale improves ...

They tell me I must be worried sick over where the money's gonna come from to pay the bills next week, but in truth, I'm a lot less worried now than I was when I was slaving over a hot terminal for Da Man. Nobody's gonna ship my chickens to India next week and hand me a pink slip.

I'm a human being, not a human resource.

You just want to come in and do your job? Too bad. Before you can get down to business—and that is the reason for work, isn't it? — you have to wade through nonsense, miles of it and hip-deep. Pep rallies, team-building exercises, politics, line-toeing, tribute-paying, office cliques and nepotism and hoop-jumping. And it's all the bullshit that's really important. If you don't buy into all that, it doesn't matter how well you do your job.

(link) [Washington City Paper]

via MyAppleMenu

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Bird flu 'will spread to the UK'

Now there's a scary word: inevitable.

Veterinary leaders warn that avian flu will inevitably be spread to the UK by migratory birds.

(link) [BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition]

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More Wow!

I received a most welcome and insightful comment to this post from the author of the original piece that inspired the whole thing. Since many don't click through to read the writebacks, and since this is such an important issue, I've taken the liberty of moving the whole comment to here:

Thanks for getting the word out ...

also I am very glad to see the value of realtime peer review in action. I intend on putting out a second heads-up -- more a call to action than a warning shout (which, I think, has been done).

So, what can people do? Getting the word out just might be enough.

That the increase in minimum payments is tied to a ruling by the Executive Branch, rather than an Act of Congress, means that public awareness in this instance has a very strong chance of producing a positive result.

I have a feeling that the Bush Administration will be more than happy to do the right thing, once it is made aware of just how many voters (many of them in states that remain very appreciative of his leadership) will be impaired by what I am sure was a well-meaning ruling.

"For whom?" remains the question.

I mean, a lot of the circa 3 million people (est. 3% of roughly 100MM consumer cardholders in the USA today) are going to be shoved off the financial cliff with no warning.

I am of the opinion that the more conscientious (in this instance, self-interested rational-acting) creditors are giving their consumers the heads-up by raising the minimums now -- while bankruptcies are soaring before the October 17 deadline, it is nothing compared to the number of consumers that early warning will save from such a fate -- and retain as debtors in good standing.

What's the self-interested angle? Why, rolling persons with large balances and good credit (but, alas, tight cash flow) over to secured debt -- home equity lines for example, which will retain longer (as long as 30-yr) terms of payment (ergo, lower minimums!)..and the banks will be thanked for giving customers what they had before, albeit with a transactions fee, of course. And since such debt is secured, well, the shareholders are going to like it.

This is why the big commercial banks have been gobbling up the companies that sell only credit cards..because (a) they can and (b) they can make a lot of money for doing so and (c) be thanked for 'saving' debtors for doing so.

Oops. Forgot to mention. If you go this route but retain an adjustable-rate line of credit, you are only delaying the inevitable, and since the debt will be secured by your home or other assets...guess what? It's a goner, if you fold.

As for the scope of troubles -- interest rates are going up, which means even more folks are going to go under as a result of carrying adjustable-rate debt of all sorts -- cards, home loans, you name it.

It's not a question of if, but of how many. Just fudging around with some numbers, I come up with something on the order of several hundred thousand more bankruptcies for every 1-point increase in the prime rate.

In the long run, in a rising-rate environment, everyone's a marginal debtor.


I must say this is a very interesting take on who benefits, and why. It explains why the recent rash of mergers in the industry, despite the apparent cliff that this move represents for the banks.

There's a lot to think about here. So far, I've mentioned this to some fifty people personally, and gods know how many more by email and blogging, and have only found a handful (4 or five) who were aware of it. My accountant was in the dark, as were the staffers at the congressional offices I've spoken with.

If I were still a dyed in the wool Republican, I be worried for the future of the party - this could be the precursor to the kind of massive swing to the left that was last seen in American politics in 1932. Just wait until all these Red State suburbanites get their November credit card bills ... some things in politics last a remarkably short time, but recessions seem to stretch on forever.

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Targeted guinea pig farm closes

Lest anyone doubt that the "animal rights" movement is infested by evil loonies, just read this sad tale ... it reminds me of an attempted upbraiding (I say "attempted" here because in a real upbraiding, the target must recognize at least some miscreance on his part, and some understanding of the situation on the part of his attacker) I once received from a "PETA-person":

"Why do you put those big tags right through the animals ears?", says she. To which I replied "Well, they're identification to start with...". At which point the stream of obscenities began, accusing me of horrid cruelty to my cattle and sheep, as placing the ear tags must cause the animal unbearable pain...

The woman railing at me had ear spools, a pierced nose, a pierced lower lip, a pierced belly button and (I suspect) more piercings in places I couldn't (and wouldn't have wanted to) see....

I just had to shake my head at the stupidity.

A farm, at the centre of an animal rights campaign during which a relative's body was dug up, stops breeding guineas pigs for research.

(link) [BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition]

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China's Lenovo wants North Carolina to pay to keep jobs

The Chinese are certainly quick studies: American companies have been gaming this system for a long, long time. It never ceases to amaze me that many of the same folks promoting this kind of giveaway are the same ones who are so against "welfare cheats". Apparently, welfare is only OK if it's given to large corporations or sports team owners...

Chinese PC maker Lenovo wants to empty the pocketbooks of North Carolina taxpayers and pump their minds full of Asian culture, if the state hopes to keep the company's business.

(link) [The Register]

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