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unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Monday, July 4th, 2011 12:29 pm

The BATF's "Fast and Furious" program, now better known as Operation Gunwalker, involved large numbers of gun stores being ordered by BATF to make illegal straw-purchaser sales, in violation of existing gun laws, and in many cases the illegally-purchased weapons were "walked" across the border with ATF assistance.  BATF claims this was to see where they ended up.  There is wide speculation that the real reason was a scam to try to build a body of false evidence to pretend that the existing laws (which, I point out again, they directly ordered stores not to follow) weren't working, presumably in the hopes of finding some sufficiently stupid Congressman to call for stricter gun laws.

Well, it appears they found their sucker...

unixronin: Lion facepalm (Facepalm)
Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 07:33 pm

C|Net has a pictorial on the Paris Airshow.  Cast your eyes upon the caption to the 12th photo in the article, captured below:

That aircraft in the rear is, indeed, an Airbus A380.  The grey aircraft next to it is not, however, the Lockheed C-130 that the caption declares it to be.

It is, in fact, an Airbus A400M, a very logical aircraft to be parked next to an Airbus A380.

Well, anyone can make a mistake, right?  So what makes this such a failure of identification?

Well, you see, it's the fact that the same writer has correctly identified the same A400M, in front of the same A380, eight photos earlier in this shot.  And then correctly identified it again in the next shot.  Both of these right after correctly identifying an actual Lockheed C-130 in this shot.

That's ... quite the blunder. Even without the "A400M" in black letters several feet high on the side of the fuselage, visible even in this doubtless-reduced-for-publication photo.


unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 10:35 am

"Disproving" atheism using [something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike] science.

Words fail me.

(Update:  It has been suggested to me that the original source for this particular piece of headdeskery may have been Landover Baptist Church, which those familiar with the name will recognize as satire.  I do not at this time have proof either way of this assertion.)

unixronin: Lion facepalm (Facepalm)
Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 09:51 am

Yeah, it's just a fail-y day today.

If you go to sign up for GTE Federal Credit Union online, you will find that the first thing it does is have you create a site login.  Then it goes on to the actual application form.  Currently, you can't get past the first page, because (here comes fail #1) the "Job Title" field is a text field, but the page verification logic thinks it's a drop-down list, and will reject the page forever because you haven't selected a job title from the drop-down list.  Which you can't, because it doesn't exist.

So, suppose you think they'll surely notice an error like that and fix it soon, and you decide to come back in a couple of days and try it again.  Well, the next thing you discover is that when you come back, you now need to create a new login identity.  Because, even though the site failed and wouldn't let you complete the application, it saved your login data.  So the login identity you created has been consumed (fail #2).¹

"Well," you figure, "maybe I can log in with that ID and resume or retry my application."  Nope. That produces a site error.  In fact, customer service confirms that there is no way to log in with that identity and resume or restart your application.  (Fail #3.)  But the identity will expire after ... some time.  They don't know how long.

I really wonder sometimes at the stupidities committed by supposedly professional web application designers.  If online shopping worked this badly, online vendors would charge your credit card before determining whether the item you wanted was actually in stock or even available.

[1]  A malicious individual could probably figure out a way to use this as a denial of service, by robotically completing just that first page with throwaway data and consuming all available user identities, since nothing on the first page except for the username is verified to be valid or unique.  Fail #4.

unixronin: Lion facepalm (Facepalm)
Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 08:58 am

I am now officially amused at our trash collection service (Waste Management Inc).

You see... our weekly trash pickup is on Tuesdays.  Many holidays do not affect this, but very occasionally, some do.  So, whenever there is a holiday that might affect the schedule of our trash pickup, but isn't actually going to, Waste Management calls us to let us know that our trash pickup will not be delayed.

However, if our trash pickup IS going to be delayed ... they don't call us.  (Yes, you can see this coming, can't you?)  They also don't call us in the event of a holiday that does not have the potential to affect our trash pickup.  And, of course, they don't call us when there's no holiday to affect the schedule.

So, basically, if we get a call from Waste Management, we know that our trash pickup is going to be on the normal schedule and they didn't need to call us.  On the other hand, if they DON'T call us, they we know that either our trash delivery is going to be on normal schedule, or it isn't.  In other words, not getting the call conveys no reliable new information, while getting the call provides no useful new information.

Somebody really didn't think this through....

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 08:20 pm

It appears Fujitsu ran a "future design" contest.  And C|Net ran a pictorial on the winners.

This is the first winner.

I think I can say with complete confidence that whoever designed this "cane" has never needed to use one.  Not only is this thing almost completely useless as a cane, it looks like a repetitive-stress injury (probably to the carpal tunnel) waiting to happen.  It's comparable to all these design-school motorcycle "concepts" designed by people who have never ridden a motorcycle and don't understand the first thing about how one works, and which it's usually obvious at the first glance would be completely unrideable.

I don't care how high-tech and sexy your "design" looks.  Make some effort to learn a little about whatever it is you're trying to come up with a new design for, before you whip out your copy of Illustrator and just start making shit up.  This is not a mobility aid for a disabled person; it's a bloody fashion accessory.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Monday, March 21st, 2011 07:23 am

Speaking of fail, here's the Washington Examiner again on the GM bailout.

One huge problem – and a crystalline visual aide of all that is wrong with TARP and government ownership - is GM Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chairman of the Board Dan Akerson.

Akerson is not – and never has been – a car guy. He himself said so. What is he? He is a DC-connected, Wall Street hedge fund big coin guy.


Hedge fund guys are very fond of taking massive risks in pursuit of short-term profits.  And that’s fine - when they’re doing it with their funds.


You’re seeing myriad examples of this fake-it short-term policy from the company – and from its Washington, D.C. masters.

Begin with President Barack Obama’s chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Austin Goolsbee, announcing in late February that the government will seek to sell its GM shares as quickly as possible.  Which – to no one’s surprise – caused a dip in GM’s share price.

Which currently sits - below its Initial Public Offering [IPO] price - at $33.  For We the Taxpayers/Shareholders to break even, it has to get above $54.

Which ain’t happening anytime soon - putting the lie to all this talk of We the Taxpayers/Shareholders making money on TARP.

To try to artificially pump up short-term sales, GM has been repeatedly slashing car prices and handing out purchase discounts well above the industry average.

As we saw with another government car giveaway, Cash for Clunkers, this only moves up car purchases that would have been made anyway.  Again – short-term vs. long-term.

Akerson, the article points out, has presided over two large-scale bankruptcies already, Hawaii Telecom and XO Communications.  So hey, what's a third?  We shouldn't count it against him.  After all, it's not like it's actually in a business he knows anything about.  Right?

unixronin: Lion facepalm (Facepalm)
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 09:03 am

If you develop code, you're gonna love this.

I have a multi-threaded Perl ICB client that I wrote.  I've always had an occasional problem with a race condition between different threads trying to write simultaneously to the screen.  I thought I had it solved at one point, but all hell broke loose after I built a new babylon5 with a six-core processor.  I tried various approaches to solve it, including meticulous use of Thread::Semaphore.

Well, I think I've finally solved the problem this time, by using a simple shared scalar as a semaphore and using lock($sem) instead of using a Thread::Semaphore object and $sem->down()/$sem->up() calls.  But, the ironic, yet inescapable conclusion from this...?

Thread::Semaphore isn't thread-safe.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Friday, March 11th, 2011 08:13 am

Pop quiz:

About how many terrorist bombings occur on airliners in any given year?

OK.  Remember that answer.

Now:  About how many rapid depressurization events occur on airliners in any given year?

You don't know?  It's between 40 and 50 per year.

Which makes it completely brainstampingly stupid that the FAA has ordered — quietly, behind the scenes, and without public notice or discussion — that emergency oxygen masks and their oxygen generators be removed from airliner bathrooms, lest terrorists figure out a way to use one to blow up the plane.

Yes, just when you thought they couldn't possibly overreact any further, the bureaucrats who squander our tax dollars for a living have come up with something new to wet their pants over while running around in circles screaming that the sky is falling.  Any time now.  Honest!  Would we lie to you?  It's for the chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiildren!

But don't worry.  They assure us that "Rapid decompression events on commercial aircraft are extremely rare".

Yeah, well, terrorist bombings on aircraft are at least 40 to 50 times rarer.  This is the same kind of "logic" that leads zealots of the Church of Offensively Loud Motorcycle Exhausts to assert that "Them helmet things will kill ya!", because they heard a story once about a rider in Tennessee, or maybe it was Oklahoma, no, wait, Montana, or perhaps Iowa, who [insert freakishly improbable series of events here] and died, because, you know, he was wearing a helmet when the Peterbilt crushed him.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 07:25 am

Well ... maybe.  According to this University of Michigan report, the authors reviewed 41 reports and studies on the effectiveness of state motor-vehicle inspection programs and found that not one was able to provide definitive evidence that the program showed a positive cost-benefit analysis.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 05:12 pm

But it appears, according to Pharyngula, that the State of Kentucky is giving the Creation Museum $37 million in tax breaks to build a Creationist amusement park featuring a "life size" Ark ... well, actually, several times life size, if the artist's rendering shown is even approximately to scale, and if historians and archaeologists are even in the ballpark on the actual length of a cubit.  Holy crap, that thing's gotta be over a thousand feet long, easy.

The Creation Museum claims this is going to create 400 jobs.  Even assuming that number is correct, I'll bet very few of those jobs are going to pay anywhere close to the almost $100,000 in tax credits that each one of them is going to cost the state.

Hell of a jobs program, Kentucky.  Way to go.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Thursday, November 4th, 2010 02:00 pm

Yesterday, after the midterm election results, some Republican spokesman or another whose name escapes me at the moment made an observation very like unto the paraphrased-from-memory following:

"We must remember that this is a condemnation of the policies of Obama and the Democrat Party.  It is not a mandate for us."

Somewhat later,

And I thought, "Great, finally the Reublicans are starting to get it."

Somewhat later yesterday, I saw this quote, from a comedian whose name also presently escapes me:

"President Obama listed his accomplishments in office on Urban Radio Tuesday.  No one gives him enough credit.  Barack Obama took something that was in terrible shape and brought it back from the brink of disaster ... and that something was the Republican Party."

This morning, I read this STRATFOR report on how the world looks at Barack Obama after the US midterm election, and reflected that the rest of the world has about as poor a view of Obama as many of us here in the US do.  And then came the link to the Obama inflatable love doll on sale in China, and I figured it for a pretty clear sign of the failure of the Obama presidency.  (Did you know the Chinese call him Maobama?)

And then, just a few minutes ago, I saw this Rasmussen poll, which found that when "likely GOP Primary voters" were asked who they would vote for if the Republican primary were held today, the three leading contenders were Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin.

Yeah, you read that right.  Romney, Huckabee, and Palin.

This is when I realized that there is one power left on Earth that has both the apparent will and the clear ability to save Barack Obama's failed Presidency and give him a second term in the White House.  And that power is the Republican Party.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Friday, October 29th, 2010 01:27 pm

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has told the BBC the US should do more to reduce the demand for drugs that is fuelling violence in Mexico.


Meanwhile, President Calderon and other regional leaders have urged Californian voters to reject moves to legalise marijuana in their state.

...Because legalizing drugs might, you know, actually reduce demand for the illegal drug trade that Calderon is complaining about.  And that'd be one less thing he could blame the US for.

[Calderon also] told the HARDtalk programme that more should also be done to stem the flow of illegal weapons from the US.¹

Frankly, I don't give a rat's ass what Calderon says the US should do.  More than 90% of the weapons the Federales have managed to seize from Mexican drug cartels are not coming from the US; they're coming from South and Central America, from Russia, from China, and out of Mexican Army arsenals.

The majority of guns confiscated by Mexico and submitted to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for tracing do originate in the US.

However, a large number of seized weapons are not sent for tracing.

Exactly.  Starting with all the ones bearing only markings in Russian or Chinese.  They only ask the BATF to trace firearms carrying US-required markings.  It's no big surprise most of those turn out to have passed through the US.  In fact, it would be a bigger surprise if they hadn't.  However, over at least the last three years, those US-marked firearms have accounted for less than 10% of Mexican seizures.  (What's more, it wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that a significant number of those are weapons we sold to Mexico for their military.  The Mexican drug cartels get a significant percentage of their "soldiers" from Mexican Army deserters attracted by better pay, and they often take their issue weapons with them.  See the comment above about Mexican Army arsenals...)

President Calderon launched his crackdown on the drug cartels after taking office in December 2006, deploying thousands of troops and police.

Since then more than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence.

Mr Calderon insisted that the war against the traffickers would be won.

Felipe Calderon can insist whatever he pleases.  But it looks to me like this is a war Mexico is losing, rapidly.

[1]  Yes, I'm quoting out of sequence.  So sue me.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Monday, September 27th, 2010 06:32 am

Has anyone else noticed lately that IMDB seems to be working on committing suicide?

...At least, I don't THINK this is just me.  If you visit IMDB directly, all fine and dandy.  But it seems IMDB has decided they don't like people linking to them, so if you follow a link to IMDB that has a non-IMDB site as a referrer, you just get a PNG image with instructions to click in the title bar, then hit enter, then click reload, and then maybe we'll deign to ...

No, you know what?  Fuck that shit.  I don't need that badly to know about the movie.  You want me to jump through pointless hoops to give you page views and use your site?  "You go to hell, kemo sabe."  I've followed my last link to IMDB.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Sunday, September 26th, 2010 09:23 pm

There are good ideas, and there are bad ideas; and then there are ...

Well, and then there is this.

"This is the original Barrel Button.  It can be attached to any shoe or boot that has laces (snap closure).  It allows you to securely rest the muzzle of your unloaded shotgun.  [...]"

This is such an unspeakably awful idea that I really have no words to express the massive fail here.  Much though I'm opposed to frivolous liability suits, I have to agree with [personal profile] robhansen's comments:

If I were on a jury, I have to admit, I'd be torn about whether to hold the Barrel Button liable for someone losing their foot.

On the one hand, your own damn fault for letting the muzzle cross your foot.

On the other hand, given there is literally no safe way to use the product

For those of you among my readers who are not initiates of the proper ways of safe gun-handling, allow me to cite the first two of the four firearms safety laws propounded by the late, lamented Col. Jeff Cooper (USMC, Ret.):

  1. All guns are always loaded.  (Or, to clarify his intention, always treat all firearms as though loaded at all times.)
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are unwilling to destroy.

Which makes a device intentionally designed to rest the muzzle of a firearm (that you were CERTAIN was unloaded) securely upon a part of your body ... yeah.  It's that stupid.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Thursday, September 9th, 2010 11:23 am

So, the US Mint has redesigned the reverse of the one-cent coin for 2010.

"The 13 vertical stripes of the shield represent the states joined in one compact union to support the federal government, represented by the horizontal bar above.  [...]"

NO.  WRONG.  It is not the purpose of the States to support either the Union, or the Federal government.  It is the purpose of the Federal government to support the union of the States.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Thursday, September 9th, 2010 08:16 am

Officials in West Vancouver, Canada, apparently aren't satisfied with the driver-slowing properties of traditional speed bumps.  On Tuesday, the town unveiled a new way to persuade motorists to ease off the gas pedal in the vicinity of the École Pauline Johnson Elementary School:  a 2-D image of a child playing, creating the illusion that the approaching driver will soon blast into a child.

(Original Discover magazine article here)

I don't know about anyone else, but this sounds to me like a really, REALLY BAD idea.  I can imagine the mental dialog already after drivers get used to these "speed bumps":

<hindbrain>  Oh, it's just another optical speed bump...

<forebrain, a second or two later>  OH SHIT, NO IT ISN'T!!!      [THUD]

I can see this basically conditioning drivers that the visual image of a kid in the middle of the street is NOT a hazard, and delaying realization that this time it's a real kid for just long enough that the driver no longer has time to stop.  I have severe concerns that this experiment is going to result in dead kids.  Apparently Yahoo's Michael Dykes shares this concern:

You have to wonder if the designers of the "speed bump of the future" considered that drivers might become conditioned to disregard Pavement Patty and her imaginary cohorts, creating something similar to a "boy who cried wolf" effect.  Couldn't such conditioning reduce drivers' caution if a real child should cross their path?

"I have a really bad feeling about this."

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 07:21 pm

It's been a quiet week on tha anti-terror front?  Ah, what the heck:  Blow up My Little Pony.

Don't miss comment #16 on that article, either, from one Rachel Brown.  The TSA made her check her suitcase because she had a jar of raspberry jam in it, stole her underwear while they were at it, and completely overlooked the straight razor in her purse.

Do we have enough security theater yet?

unixronin: Sun Ultrasparc III CPU (Ultrasparc III)
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 07:19 am

... And the saga of the Hanns-G 28" monitor continues.  When I shut it down last night, it was fine.  When powered on this morning, there is a bright red vertical line the entire height of the screen at about 30% screen width from the left side.  It won't go away.

Fortunately, this monitor came with a three-year warranty, because not long after it turned two years old it's begun throwing one fault after another.  I am becoming less and less impressed with Hanns-G with each iteration of this, and at this point I am virtually certain never to buy another Hannspree product.

It's still under warranty.  I suppose I have to deal with YET ANOTHER return for repair under warranty...  this will be its third trip back to Hannspree.

Granted, it's still very inexpensive for a monitor this size.  But at this rate, shipping for warranty returns is going to eat up the difference fast.