Tuesday, December 02, 2008

One thing that can help bring the economy back is a payroll tax holiday. Eliminate all payroll taxes on families earning less than $500,000. For at least a year. When the tax holiday would end is something that needs to be examined on a weekly basis and the reintroduction of the payroll tax has to be phased in at a rate of 10% rate per week at best, it could be at 10% per month.

But we have to put lots of money into people's hands so they have money available to spend. President Bush had his failed $600 one time shots that did little to help the economy. Others say we should have tax cuts but those cuts will be marginal at best and not put enough extra cash into people's hands to spend.

Lets give everyone a big boost reason to spend money, let them have money to spend.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Invest in America's future - Education

The US lags the rest of the world in educating scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer experts, etc.  The easiest way to resolve this is to make tuition free who goes into one of the math, engineering or science disciplines.  What about the psych and English lit majors?  What about them?  We have plenty of those.  If we're going to get our country going in this economy then we need to educate the people in the fields that will get our economy on the right track. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sametime wouldn't start for me

I'm recovering from my hard drive failures.  Sametime wouldn't start today.  The splash screen came up and that was it.  I found the following information:

Sametime shows the splash screen but does not start

Delete the file: C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\IBM\RCP\Sametime\.metadata\plugins\com.ibm.collaboration.realtime.imhub\shelfmemento.xml and then start Sametime again.

Which solved my problem!

I don't always get a title line when I go to post new posts to this blog. Weird.

If you have trouble getting ATT Network Client to connect into your corporate network and you use a cellular GSM ATT pcmcia card to connect to the network DISABLE optimization. I was not able to log in recently with a new hard disk build and turns out the new version of the ATT communications manager software optimization is somehow interfering with the VPN login.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Master Inventor

On Oct 1, 2008 IBM recognized me as a master inventor. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I don't read a lot of blogs

But this is one of my favorite ones.

Stevey's Blog Rants

If you're a touch-typist, you know the profile I'm talking about. It's dirty. People don't talk about dirty secrets in polite company. Illtyperacy is the bastard incest child hiding in the industry's basement. I swear, people get really uncomfortable talking about it. We programmers act all enlightened on Reddit, but we can't face our own biggest socio-cultural dirty secret.

Interesting stuff!

A very interesting story. 

Are the F.B.I.s Probabilities About DNA Matches Crazy? - Freakonomics - Opinion - New York Times Blog
The men matched at 9 of the 13 locations on chromosomes, or loci, commonly used to distinguish people.

The [Federal Bureau of Investigation] estimated the odds of unrelated people sharing those genetic markers to be as remote as 1 in 113 billion. But the mug shots of the two felons suggested that they were not related: One was black, the other white.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Alex doesn't think pending home sales is a good metric to follow

In my opinion this metric is a useless metric to follow.  Pending home sales are not a forecast because they are so easily bloated by ineligible home buyers.  So any down turn can look dramatic but means nothing.  This number could have dropped 90% and it would have as little meaning.

July pending home sales down 3.2% - Sep. 9, 2008
The Pending Home Sales Index fell to 86.5, after gaining 5.8% in June, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). It now stands 6.7% below July 2007's reading of 92.8.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Finally we're getting somewhere

I think this is fabulous news. If we can finally prove there are dimensions outside of the 3rd then the next problem will be to figure out how to communicate with whatever it is over on the other side. Assuming there is anything over there to communicate with. Arguably there is because what is the point of having another dimension if nothing is in it? Although it could all just be inert but I'd argue the fact that we exist lends credibility that something alive is in the 4th or 5th dimension.

Although time itself is going to be a problem to get anything done. You see, though we live through multiple decades, centuries and millennium our existence in the other dimension is just a fleeting moment. By the time we get a communication out there we will have ceased to exist as our time will have passed. In fact, out time is so brief over there they may have not realize we existed before we are gone.

But at least we are starting to look.

Super-smasher targets massive mystery - LHC- msnbc.com
For years, string theorists have noted that their equations come out better if they assume that the universe has nine or 10 spatial dimensions instead of the three we can perceive. The LHC could provide the first evidence of those extra dimensions: Some theorists say the collisions could produce anomalously heavy particles, suggesting that part of their momentum was going into the extradimensional realm. Harvard physicist Lisa Randall estimates that the LHC could nail down the evidence for extra dimensions in five years.

Monday, August 25, 2008

No need for speed

An interesting article that points to statistics (and we know how statistics lie) that show that red light cameras do not work. Comments at Bruce's blog (and I have great respect for Bruce) brings up a bunch of people complaining of "hidden taxes" because they can't stay within the stated traffic limits or follow the law at intersections.

Sorry folks. You can complain till the cows come home. Traffic accidents is one of the biggest killers in the USA. Bigger than HIV or breast cancer. Yet you drive on any highway in Illinois and see people speeding in construction zones even though it is well marked that speed cameras may be in use. This is nothing more than complete disregard not only for the construction zone workers but also other people driving in the construction zone. An accident in the construction zone is a big problem because there is often uneven pavement, narrow lanes denoted with cement pillars which means trying to avoid an accident being caused by someone else much more difficult. So even if there isn't any construction going on while you're driving in the construction zone there are reasons you need to keep your speed in check.

People don't stop at stop signs so accidents happen. Speeding gets children run over in the streets. I've seen both problems within one block of my home in the last 12 months alone.

I for one will be glad to see automated traffic enforcement rolled out en masse. I won't have problems because I drive as we're supposed to, within the law. For those that lose their house because they choose to gamble and lose money then so be it.

Schneier on Security: Red Light Cameras Don't Work
Red Light Cameras Don't Work

Friday, August 22, 2008

More news on the American Eagle fiasco at ORD

Pilots on numerous boards say that airplane doors do not lock because they are supposed to be openable in an emergency. That makes more sense. So even if the aircraft door was closed the inspector could have opened the door. Logic is missing here.

Likewise, I'm not sure what difference it makes if the jet bridge is connected to an aircraft or not. At ORD one requires both a swipe card AND a PIN they have to punch in at the door to gain access to the jet bridge. If anyone who is authorized to be on the jet bridge is there then what difference does it make door open or not? Now if someone unauthorized gained access to the jet bridge then that is a different problem and still does not matter whether or not the jet bridge is connected to the plane or not. Because, as the TSA has proven, they could enter the plane using the TAT probes as unauthorized hand grips which they then broke thus rendering the aircraft dangerous to the flying public.

Notice that this articles makes no mention of the fact that the TSA inspector rendered the aircraft unflyable when he damaged the TAT probes.

American Eagle lags on safety, TSA says -- chicagotribune.com

"In at least one photo I saw, the jet bridge was connected to the aircraft and the aircraft door was left open," Montenegro said. "The inspector simply walked inside."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

TSA damages 14 American Eagle airplanes?

This one really takes the cake. Affected 40 regional commuter flights. Boy, am I glad I wasn't flying this week!

ABC News: TSA Snafu Grounds Nine Planes at O'Hare Field
TSA agents, "are now doing things to our aircraft that may put our lives, and the lives of our passengers at risk."

Monday, August 18, 2008

NYU professor of economics and the upcoming US recession

While overall this guy might have a point it is hard to tell. His blog reads too much like Cold Reading (see this site) where people remember the "hits" or successful predictions and don't remember the ones that missed. He also uses a number of confusion points (i.e. acronyms that have no meaning) so without extensive analysis the layperson can't confirm his statements or not.

I'm an NYU alumni so this isn't like I don't like the guy. I just think it is more FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) until he can write in such a way that it makes sense to all of us and not just a bunch of academics. Or we can wait for his predictions to come true but I'm not convinced. Europe and the UK have long endured considerably higher petrol prices and their economies have adjusted accordingly. While the credit crisis is a crisis how real are all the numbers?

RGE - New York Times Article on Nouriel Roubini as “Dr. Doom”
The article is a very friendly and sympathetic portrait of my views. I would take issue only with the characterization of myself as being a “perma-bear” or “perpetual pessimist”. For one thing I ended up a realist rather than a pessimist about the current economic and financial crisis; things are turning out even worse than I initially predicted.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

iPhone & WEP = no DHCP?

Once again I'm home and frustrated that the iPhone isn't connecting to my WiFi network which uses a WEP password. While several have suggested running with security turned off (sorry, ain't happening) or switching to WPA (too many devices would need reconfiguration) neither option was my preferred route.

I decided to search the Apple forums and sure enough it seems the ONLY way to get this working is setting up a static address. So I did that. I think I only have 3 computers/devices using static addresses and plenty of room in the address space for the iPhone.

Now to find Hamachi and VNC for the iPhone! ;-)

Apple - Support - Discussions - Iphone 3g home wireless with password ...
set IP Address to "static".

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hilton Garden Inn, Albany - Medical Center.

I just had what had to be the best bowl of oatmeal outside of my home. The consistency wasn't mush or paste, the oats were whole and chunky. Though the chef here sweetened the oatmeal that was fine by me as I sweeten my oatmeal. No cinnamon but then again when you're getting real oats, and they haven't been overcooked...

So if you ever get the chance to come to Albany book this hotel and enjoy the oatmeal. Caveat... on Monday it was sweet grits which I didn't care much for. But the oatmeal is to die for (if you travel for a living).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Who is broken? iPhone or ATT 3G network?

Unlike a lot of people discussing their problems I have the luxury of personally carrying 3 separate ATT devices; (a) Nokia S75 for work (b) iPhone 3G and (c) Optimax 3G PCMCIA card. Here have been my experiences:

USA: I travel alot so my coverage has literally been coast to coast SFO to LGA and many places in between.

Spotty 3G coverage. Often the Optimax 3G PCMCIA card has varying signal strength from 3-bar 3G to "No Signal." This is sitting still in one place working on my laptop. Very frustrating. At least at my hotel tonight I have solid 4-bar 3G service and have not seen it sway at all. But at the office I'm working at the signal tops out at 3-bars 3G and then goes to "No Signal." Can't get a lot of work done like that. Most 3G service in the US seems to have 2-bars or less so I'm surprised at the good signal here in Albany. I had similar good signal in Chicago a couple of weeks ago.

I have seen the same problems with the varying signal strength on my Nokia & iPhone. I think the problem has to be ATT 3G service but as a Amateur Radio guy I can't understand the violent swings in signal strength unless it is some kind of an equipment problem at the tower (i.e. bad ground on the antenna, faulty transponders, etc).

The Nokia often lets me hear people on calls but they can't always hear me. I have to shut the phone off and turn it on again and then call them back. Then they can hear me. I think this has happened once with the iPhone since I got it last month. I know I have had problems calling other people with the frequent "call back" button displayed after the call was not established.

Europe/Middle East
The 3G signal is dead strong everywhere. I've have been utterly amazed at how strong the 3G signal was. Hardly any dead spots anywhere and didn't see the Nokia exhibiting any issues it had in the US.

Certainly seems like a network issue to me. I guess it is hard to deploy 3G nationwide reliably.

Apple - Support - Discussions - Dropped Calls on the iPhone 3G ...
When I bought the iPhone 3G, I knew that 3G coverage would not be perfect, and I can accept that. The coverage will only get better with time.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Alex's favorite iPhone applications for August

Koi Pond. Run, don't walk, and download this $0.99 application. A koi pond in your iPhone along with lilly pads. While it won't replace the real thing I look forward to the next version. Touch the water and see the fish react.

Stanza is another good one. You can also download books to the iPhone ala Kindle. Granted you can't get the latest books but it is time I've read some of the older ones.

Facebook. Granted it isn't everything I want it to be but it beats SMS'ing my status. Quick and responsive.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sad story

It is sad that Greyhound actually predicted "bus rage"

Greyhound scraps ad campaign after Canada bus beheading - USATODAY.com
The ad's tag line was "There's a reason you've never heard of 'bus rage.'"

Monday, July 28, 2008


I'm sitting here at BMI (Bloomington, IL Central Illionois Regional Airport AKA CIRA) airport and recalled a conversation I overheard last time I flew through here. I don't often travel through BMI because I sometimes can get better travel times through CMI or simply ORD. But this week I am and thought I'd post this little bit of gossip I fell into.

I'll give some background here so you the reader can understand how BMI is setup. All shops are prior to entering security. Once you pass through TSA there are no shops. Quite frankly, I don't understand this because it is a fairly new airport and most people will spend their time behind security but this is the way it is.

There is one feature on the upper floor where some vending machines live. So we can at least buy liquids once through. However, there is also a coffee machine supplied by one of the local companies. It is on the honor system. Take a cup, pay $1. Get a refill for $0.50. Not a bad deal for a hot drink once through.

Now comes the juicy bit. The conversation I overheard was between two guys. One was (I assume) some one who worked for the airport. I saw him overseeing some maintenance work that was being performed on the building. The other man was only someone associated with the honor coffee. Both were well dressed (i.e. business casual). The coffee man was complaining to the airport guy that their company had noticed they seem to be selling more coffee than they are collecting in the money box. The coffee man had a camera put up and tied to a VCR in their office. They recorded people and it turns out it isn't the passengers stiffing the coffee company it is the airport workers (yes, apparently also including TSA agents). Juicy news, eh?! It is a shame we can't get a copy of the video. Technically it is in a public area (I'm pretty sure public money was used to build the airport) so it should be releasable.

Perhaps someone with some journalistic sense can get the tape from the coffee company. It would certainly be interesting to watch.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

iPhone 3G & WEP hex password

I have not been able to get my iPhone 3G to connect to my Linksys router. I have lots of other computers hooked up to the router using WEP and can not be changing my security settings on the router. If anyone knows how to get this to work let me know.

Apple - Support - Discussions - 3G IPhone won't connect to WI-FI ...
I just got a 3G iPhone and am having trouble connecting to my Linksys router. It finds the connection fine, and prompts me for a password, but won't accept the password. My old iPod Touch was able to connect using the same settings without a problem... am I doing something wrong?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Elastic laces for your running shoes

One of my colleagues, Julia Weatherby, pointed me at these elastic laces for my running shoes. I got mine this morning and laced up my running shoes and what a difference they make! Shoes feel snug and I know when they start expanding the laces will expand with them. Way kewlness!

:::::::: Yankz! - Sure Lace System ::::::::::

Monday, July 21, 2008

Travel a lot?

As an AA Executive Platinum I spend a lot of time on airplanes. I found this set of forums one of the few where other frequent fliers hang out. You can get some good tips on here.

FlyerTalk Forums

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ugh, nothing more frustrating than yesterday. All of the sudden when I plugged my iPhone 3G into the laptop it wasn't popping up the option to select which app to use to transfer the photos. Then, in Scanners and Cameras Windows XP didn't seen the iPhone! Double UGH!

With the iPhone 3G plugged in to the laptop I went into Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Device Manager and saw under the USB entries one for "Apple iPhone" which I deleted. Immediately XP found new hardware and installed a different driver called "Apple Mobile Device USB driver" ?? Dunno what is going on but now the iPhone 3G is getting recognized and I can transfer the photos over.

This has to be some weird interaction with iTunes as I installed iTunes AFTER I had been plugging the iPhone into the laptop.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

iPhone 3G

I haven't owned anything from Apple since the Mac IIci. Though I did get my wife the iPod I ended up using my own MP3 player to play music. But now that the iPhone 3G is out I figured it was time to move up off my Nokia N75 which is a great quad band phone but on the IBM Corporate Managed Program is next to useless otherwise. So I am once again carrying two cell phones... sigh.

I'll say one thing, the iPhone 3G is impressive. At least here in San Francisco where I'm working this week. We'll see how it goes next week back home in Bloomington & then Chicago, IL.

Can I Resist the iPhone 3G? - By Reihan Salam - Slate Magazine
Ever since the Apple IIe, I've thought of Apple computers as the pinnacle of design excellence.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Road warriors with skin conditions are the exception

Sorry, but being able to travel with only carry on luggage with the current liquid restrictions is impossible for those of us with psoriasis. Medicine like Chlobetasol which I carry in gel form because it lasts, well, forever doesn't come in 3 oz sizes and even if it did I wouldn't risk travelling with that little. I can be gone 3-4 weeks at a time (especially when I travel internationally) away from home so no matter what I need to check a bag. Besides the Chlobetasol I have t-gel shampoo which contains coal tar that helps relieve psoriasis outbreaks. There again since I may need to apply it to my body having only 3 oz (or 100 ml) of it is not safe for me.

I am a road warrior. American Airlines Executive Platinum with 1 million miles so I am also life time Gold and I'm working my way to 2 million miles and life time Platinum.

At least for me I don't have to pay the checked luggage fees, yet. American Airlines is not charging us with status on the frequent flier program with this fee.

I did at one point manage to get everything including all my liquids into a regular sized carry on bag. That was the same week that the liquid ban was instituted so I had to check my bag on the way home that week. I have not been able to travel since without checking a bag.

Practical Traveler - Air Travel - Checking Baggage? Not at These Prices - NYTimes.com
True road warriors never check a bag if they can help it, bragging about their ability to go more than a week with just three pairs of underwear and four pairs of socks.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I have to say that as a mobile employee one of the things I've missed is the camaraderie I see at the companies I visit. They recognize birthdays, special events and people always seem to know what everyone is up to. But as I'm on the road I have yet to have anyone at my company even wish me happy birthday much less know about any other milestones I've achieved. My 5 year anniversary came and went without anyone knowing.

And now there is Facebook. I know when my colleagues' birthdays happen and I get a chance to write "Happy Birthday" on their facebook wall. How nice is that? I think I can appreciate the social network aspect of these sites. It is also interesting to see everyone trying to aggregate their data on disparate sites. That is one area I'm interested in because, quite frankly, there are too many social networks. Even internally at my company we have social networks and while it is all interesting I don't have time to participate on multiple networks. For now I do keep up on facebook.

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