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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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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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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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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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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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

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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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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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This is vital economic news - read this now.

Checking over the blogroll tonight I happened across this: Dating the Next Recession over at Moore's Lore. I was appalled - maybe I've been living under a rock, but I had not heard anything about this. Nothing. Zero. Zilch.

On October 1st,2005 the Comptroller of the Currency has mandated that minimum credit card payments go to a 10 year payoff as opposed to the current 20 year payoff. The net effect of this is that it doubles the minimum payment due on any card for which you carry a balance.

As if this weren't obnoxious enough, how about that date, October 1? Coincidence? Here's what About.com has to say about it:

The new bankruptcy law will be in affect October 2005 and the credit industry is keeping the rise of minimum credit card payments as quiet as possible.

And why has it been so "unannounced"? First of all it is very unpopular with the industry's "best customers"... those are the ones so deep into credit card debt that they cannot see the top. Secondly, bottom line profit loss is at stake if these "best customers" can more easily declare bankruptcy and have this debt written off before the new law takes affect.

After nearly two years of unemployment, and starting up a business, I carry large balances on credit cards. I've been making my payments, usually more than the minimum, but certainly not double the minimum. I will be unable to make even the minimum payment if it essentially doubles. And if I hadn't found out about this until October, it would've been much more difficult for me to declare bankruptcy.

But think of the effect this is going to have on the economy! It's estimated that up to 39% of us make minimum payments - and those are going to double. Even if bankruptcy is unavailable as an option, there's going to be a lot of bad debt writeoff's by the banks - a lot. Enough to burst the housing bubble, for sure. And given the fragile state of the economy as a whole, I wonder if "recession" is the right word for what's about to hit us.

Additionally, it's just in time for the Christmas shopping season! American retailers live and die by the 4th quarter of each year - and with payments doubled, how much excess cash is going to be floating around for Santa? This should lead to some really spectacular sales around the holidays, though ... but in this case, that's probably not a good thing.

This cannot be popular with the banks - they've got to know what's coming. How and why this mandate is coming into effect I've not been able to ascertain - but I'm feeling as though I've been sucker punched.

Update: Here's a direct link to the dairy at DailyKos that Dana used: it has much more background.

Update: Apparently this was passed in 2003 by the Comptroller of the Currency - link from Conspiracy Nation. And here's the article Conspiracy Nation cites from Business Week.

Update: I changed the bold banner across the top of this post, deleting the part about being an American and carrying a credit card, as it was a bit misleading. This news will effect everyone irrespective of their card-carrying status or geographic position in the global economy.

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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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