Saturday, December 04, 2010

...and now it's December

Winter must be here. I wore a long-sleeved t-shirt with my shorts this morning, and we had to get our summer blanket out of storage because it was getting a bit cool with just the sheet. Next week, the highs will only be in the upper 50's. I don't know if we'll survive. In the event we get snowed in, we (along with about 7.3 million other people) hit Walmart to stock up on staples (chips, Snickers bars, Lucky Charms, and a ham). We were mildly disappointed that we only saw one guy who should be featured at People of Walmart; the cold weather seems to have forced everyone else to cover up. A Saturday trip to Wally World normally serves up at least a half-dozen candidates.

Other than that, not much happened this week. I thought I had a temp assignment for the next few weeks, but given that it starts Monday morning and no one has called me with such minor details like who I'm supposed to be working for, where they are located or what time I'm supposed to be there, I guess I didn't get the job. Ah well; gives me more time to work on my last tax test. I made an attempt yesterday, but was foiled by Sec. 179 recapture rules, filing requirements for J2 visa holders and what tax credits you can claim for your non-working, live-in girlfriend's bastard child. I'll take another shot at it Monday morning when I have a four-hour block of time to work on it.

This weekend's big project is Christmas letters. Given that we hardly did anything in the last year (other than move again) it's a short one. One of these years, we'll stay in one place for two whole years so we can just send out cards instead of relocation notifications. Probably won't be next Christmas; if I manage to land any sort of job between now and next August, we're outta this ghetto apartment even if we just move a block up the road to where we wanted to live in the first place, but couldn't afford.

I did have an interesting little computer glitch when I went to print envelopes. Our printer has a bypass feed for printing directly onto envelopes, so I had the bright idea to save 75 cents in labels by hand-feeding 120+ envelopes, one at a time, through the printer. (It seemed like a good plan at the time....) I typed in the return address and mailing address, fed the first envelope and voila!! It worked! Changed the address to whomever was next in the Rolodex, fed the envelope and.... Crap! Everything is shifted like it thinks it's printing on letter-size paper. I messed with some settings, did it again and voila!! I fixed it! Changed the address to whomever was next in the Rolodex, fed the envelope and.... Crap! Shifted again. Long story short, nothing I did would fix the problem; one would print correctly, the next one shifted. Then correct. Then shifted. I spent a couple hours poking around on the web and I couldn't even determine if Open Office or the printer was the problem. I finally gave up and bought some labels while we were already at Walmart. Why fix a problem when you can ignore it? I remember a time when I would have dug around until I found an answer. Now? Meh.

Nobody will admit anything, but someone wrote a nice bit of malware that targets frequency converter drives used in uranium enrichment:

Frequency-converter drives are used to control the speed of a device. Although it’s not known what device Stuxnet aimed to control, it was designed to vary the speed of the device wildly but intermittently over a span of weeks, suggesting the aim was subtle sabotage meant to ruin a process over time but not in a way that would attract suspicion.

Iran is finally admitting what everyone suspected all along; the virus borked their entire uranium enrichment program. My guess is Israel as the source; if anyone at Langley had written it, they would have been arrested for DMCA violations.

Apple recently banned a magazine app because it primarily discussed the Android. Granted, this incident is in one sense, trivial given that 99.9% of people who would pay to read about the Android probably are not going to do so on an iPhone. But this does raise an interesting question: how is Apple's end-to-end control of the hardware, software and even the subject matter one is allowed to view, any different from Standard Oil in 1911 or Ma Bell in 1974? I have to admit to some serious gadget-lust whenever I see a MacBook or an iPad, but I'm not sure I'm ready to be borged by Steve Jobs.

Another sob-story about absurd amounts of college debt:

Kelli Space, 23, graduated from Northeastern University in 2009 with a bachelor's in sociology — and a whopping $200,000 in student loan debt. Space, who lives with her parents and works full-time, put up a Web site called soliciting donations to help meet her debt obligation, which is $891 a month. That number jumps to $1,600 next November.

Poor Kelli. Went to one of the most expensive universities in the country where she racked up $200,000 in debt getting a useless degree, and now is reduced to the web equivalent of begging on a street corner because the big, bad, meany bank expects her to pay back the money she borrowed. My take-away is simple: Any bank stupid enough to loan $200,000 to a clueless teenage rich girl for a degree in sociology deserves to lose their money, and any clueless teenage rich girl who would go $200,000 in debt for a sociology degree deserves to live in Mommy and Daddy's basement for the next 20 years while she digs herself out.

Breitbart is breathlessly reporting that out of 70 million people with credit cards a year ago, 8 million have gotten rid of them (or more likely, had them forcibly taken away by the issuing bank). Personally, I call that a weak start. I would have thought that number would be much higher by now. At least things are moving in the right direction.

I'll end with this:

Take a few minutes and check out some other storm photos by Sean Heavey.

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