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May 2007

Roscoe’s Adventure

A few hours ago Brandy and I went out to eat. Amy was going to stay home working on a school project and we were going to bring her back food. As we were leaving, Amy waved goodbye to us while hanging on the back fence.

When we got back with the food almost two hours later, and we came in, Brandy noticed that the dog did not come running. She quickly discovered that when Amy had been hanging on the back fence, she had accidentally unlatched the back gate. Roscoe often spends a few hours each afternoon and evening freely coming in and out of the house to the fully fenced back yard. This time he of course at some point noticed the open gate, and decided to take himself for a walk.

As soon as we realized what had happened, Brandy and I immediately split up, first walking the usual routes where we walk him, calling his name. Amy stayed home with the door open in case he came home. She was a wreck, crying and blaming herself for letting him out.

When there was no sign of him we gave up walking and instead we each drove slowly around practically every street within a one mile radius of the house, looking for any signs of him and fearing for the worst, as Roscoe is not necessarily aware of the dangers of streets and cars.

After about an hour, I had parked the car at home again and was walking various bike paths and looping around our usual routes again. Brandy was driving a few more loops on a few more streets before returning to do more by foot again. Around the 90 minute mark I got a call from Brandy. She had him.

About a third of a mile from our house, off our residential road, then onto the main road through the neighborhood, down a few streets, Roscoe had made a left at a fork in the road and was walking slowly down the sidewalk. Brandy stopped her car. She got out. They looked at each other for a moment, neither one moving. Then she called him and he ran to her as fast as he could and jumped into her arms. He then happily hopped straight into the car and curled up on the seat. He was done with his adventure.

A few minutes later he was home and eagerly drinking water from his dish. We were all very relieved. This could have ended very badly.

Of course this means Amy has not yet finished her school project which is due in the morning. But it is very late, and she has headed to bed, exhausted from both the hour and the emotional toll of the last few hours. Her clock is set for earlier than usual in the morning. Hopefully enough to get he project completed before school.

Or course, that is of lesser significance right now. Roscoe is home and Roscoe is safe. We are very very glad.


And here I thought Apple would get something big out using this technology first… but nope. Microsoft beat them to it.

Microsoft Surface

Product Overview: Surface is the first commercially available surface computing platform from Microsoft Corporation. It turns an ordinary tabletop into a vibrant, interactive surface. The product provides effortless interaction with digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects. In essence, it’s a surface that comes to life for exploring, learning, sharing, creating, buying and much more. Soon to be available in restaurants, hotels, retail and public entertainment venues, this experience will transform the way people shop, dine, entertain and live.

Description: Surface is a 30-inch display in a table-like form factor that’s easy for individuals or small groups to interact with in a way that feels familiar, just like in the real world. Surface can simultaneously recognize dozens and dozens of movements such as touch, gestures and will be able to recognize actual unique objects that have identification tags similar to bar codes.

Surface will ship to partners with a portfolio of basic applications, including photos, music, virtual concierge and games, which can be customized to provide their customers with unique experiences.

(via Gizmodo)

Of course, it has a pretty hefty price tag and is intended to be used in a kiosk kind of form at hotels, malls and other public places like that. But it won’t be all that long until this sort of thing is in other stuff…. including of course the iPhone next month, although it won’t do quite the same things as this table thing.

But I bet you I see my first iPhone in person before I see my first Surface in person.

Ecosystem Update

For the first time since 2004, I’ve added a data point to the graph comparing the TTLB Ecosystem rankings of myself and a few of my friends with blogs. I only updated the lines for blogs that were already there in my chart in 2004. I’ll see if I can add more people next time I update this graph. Probably in 2010 or something.

Anyway, it can easily be seen that Reb’s blog is actually actively linked to and read by real people. In comparison my blog and Al’s are way down there, indicating that both our blogs are really only read and linked to by a handful of friends. But we knew that I think. :-)

Click on the graph above for a larger version.

Amy at Sea

I just noticed that this picture made it into the May issue of the school newsletter. This is from Amy’s week long school sailing trip at the end of April. Amy is the one near the front with the kid with the hat in front of her. They seemed to have a great time on that trip.

Card Girl

Cheney Stuff

Sorry to do a politics one two days in a row. Yesterday I saw posts about this in several places and it just seemed interesting…

Cheney Attempting to Constrain Bush’s Choices on Iran Conflict: Staff Engaged in Insubordination Against President Bush
(Steve Clemons, The Washington Note)

There is a race currently underway between different flanks of the administration to determine the future course of US-Iran policy.

On one flank are the diplomats, and on the other is Vice President Cheney’s team and acolytes — who populate quite a wide swath throughout the American national security bureaucracy.

The Pentagon and the intelligence establishment are providing support to add muscle and nuance to the diplomatic effort led by Condi Rice, her deputy John Negroponte, Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, and Legal Adviser John Bellinger. The support that Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and CIA Director Michael Hayden are providing Rice’s efforts are a complete, 180 degree contrast to the dysfunction that characterized relations between these institutions before the recent reshuffle of top personnel.

However, the Department of Defense and national intelligence sector are also preparing for hot conflict. They believe that they need to in order to convince Iran’s various power centers that the military option does exist.

But this is worrisome. The person in the Bush administration who most wants a hot conflict with Iran is Vice President Cheney. The person in Iran who most wants a conflict is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force would be big winners in a conflict as well — as the political support that both have inside Iran has been flagging.

Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney’s national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush’s tack towards Condoleezza Rice’s diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.

This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an “end run strategy” around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.

(via The Daily Dish)

There is also an interesting followup:

Cheney’s Iran Fantasy
(Joe Klein, Time)

Last December, as Rumsfeld was leaving, President Bush met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in “The Tank,” the secure room in the Pentagon where the Joint Chiefs discuss classified matters of national security. Bush asked the Chiefs about the wisdom of a troop “surge” in Iraq. They were unanimously opposed. Then Bush asked about the possibility of a successful attack on Iran’s nuclear capability. He was told that the U.S. could launch a devastating air attack on Iran’s government and military, wiping out the Iranian air force, the command and control structure and some of the more obvious nuclear facilities. But the Chiefs were–once again–unanimously opposed to taking that course of action.

Why? Because our intelligence inside Iran is very sketchy. There was no way to be sure that we could take out all of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Furthermore, the Chiefs warned, the Iranian response in Iraq and, quite possibly, in terrorist attacks on the U.S. could be devastating. Bush apparently took this advice to heart and went to Plan B–a covert destabilization campaign reported earlier this week by ABC News. If Clemons is right, and I’m pretty sure he is, Cheney is still pushing Plan A.

(via The Daily Dish)

It is interesting to speculate how different the last few years would have been if back at the beginning W would have been paying attention to Powell and company rather than Cheney and Rumsfeld. I suspect things would have been radically different. Even now, a little too late and not quite enough, you can start to see the difference with Rumsfeld out and Cheney in eclipse. It will be interesting to see however how much trouble Cheney will still be able to create, and if anything at all comes of it over the last year and a half of the administration.

Sullivan on Obama

For the last few months, although I haven’t yet added it to the links on the left of my blog, I’ve found myself checking out Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish at least daily, sometimes more often. I seem to frequently find myself on a very similar page to him. At least when he isn’t talking about religion.

He recently went to see Obama speak in person and this is the beginning of what he had to say:

The Reagan of the Left?
(Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish, The Atlantic Online)

I went to see Obama last night. He had a fundraiser at H20, a yuppie disco/restaurant in Southwest DC. I was curious about how he is in person. I’m still absorbing the many impressions I got. But one thing stays in my head. This guy is a liberal. Make no mistake about that. He may, in fact, be the most effective liberal advocate I’ve heard in my lifetime. As a conservative, I think he could be absolutely lethal to what’s left of the tradition of individualism, self-reliance, and small government that I find myself quixotically attached to. And as a simple observer, I really don’t see what’s stopping him from becoming the next president. The overwhelming first impression that you get – from the exhausted but vibrant stump speech, the diverse nature of the crowd, the swell of the various applause lines – is that this is the candidate for real change. He has what Reagan had in 1980 and Clinton had in 1992: the wind at his back. Sometimes, elections really do come down to a simple choice: change or more of the same?

The rest of his impressions are interesting as well. Read the whole thing.

The Snows of May

All day yesterday (got it right this time!) at work when I looked out the window it looked like it was snowing. Snowing pretty heavily too. But of course it wasn’t snow. It was pollen. Lots and lots of flying pollen. When I left work early today, it was piling up in drifts a couple of inches deep, like the above. Yum!

Pizza Pi

Posted to a mailing list at work today:

A pizza of radius z and thickness a has a volume of pi z z a

I know it isn’t new or anything, but I was amused.

Nomenclature of Time

In the past on this blog, I have always been very self conscious when I have talked about when things have happened. This is because while the blog’s clock is on UTC, my computer’s clock is on UTC, and I keep every clock I have that has a 24 hour mode on UTC I know people who read this blog are in all sorts of time zones, relatively few of which (OK, none on a regular basis) are in places where UTC is the local time that everybody uses. And of course depending on the time of year, the local time zone where I live is 7 or 8 hours from UTC.

So I’m always thinking when I use a word like “yesterday” just what it should refer to. For instance, right now, if I were to mention something that happened the last time I had breakfast, it would be “Yesterday” if I were using UTC as my base… and as of a few moments ago it would also be be “Yesterday” on the US East Coast. But on the West Coast, where I am physically located, it would still be “Today”. Or also, regardless of time zones, if I divided things by when I slept, it would still be “today” and might still be “today” even after the local time passed midnight. But then what if I took a nap?

I have used UTC ever since sometime in college when I stopped using the Julian Date which I had used for the last half of high school and first half of college for all my timestamps. (Before that, I used something which my High School Physics teacher had coined “SFT” which was a modification of UTC where I subtracted 1 from the year, month and day so that they would be a measurement of elapsed time like the hours minutes and seconds rather than a 1st, 2nd, 3rd sort of ordinal… I hated that inconsistency.)

Now from all this it should be clear to anyone who didn’t already know that I hate the idea of timezones and local time and think they should be relegated to the dustbin of history. They might have been appropriate in an era before instantaneous global communication, but in the modern age, the idea of restricting our notion of time to try to make it so that certain numbers coincide with solar cycles in the place you happen to be physically located at the time is just plain stupid. And don’t even get me started on Daylight Savings Time. What a crock.

Anyway, in an ideal world, everybody would be using something like the Julian date, thus also getting rid of the horrible irregular calendar we have inherited. And believe me, if I could click a setting on my computer and my phone and all my devices, and easily use that as my primary date mode I would seriously consider it. The only thing that would stop me would be the fact that converting from Julian to the dates and times everybody else uses is a bit too difficult to do in my head. So Julian is unfortunately out.

Luckily, almost all devices let you define the time zone to UTC and when I need to convert to local time it is fairly easy as long as I can remember where in the world I am at the moment and what time of year it is. So UTC it has been for years, and UTC it shall remain.

But in the past when posting I have been careful… so if right now I were to talk about something that happened around the last time I had breakfast, instead of saying “Yesterday” I would say “Monday” because the event happened Monday in all the time zones where I know I have regular readers as well as in UTC. If I was talking about something that happened during those hours where UTC, the US East Coast and the US West Coast were in different days, then I usually say something like “a few hours ago” or even say a day, but specify explicitly that it is UTC. Or other such verbal gymnastics.

Well, no more! From now on, it is all UTC and without apologies! If I give a date something happened, I mean the date UTC. If I say a day of week, I mean UTC. If I say yesterday, today or tomorrow, I mean all of those as bound by 00:00:00 UTC. If I say “Early in the Day” I mean approximately 00:00 UTC to 08:00 UTC. “Middle of the day” would run from about 08:00 UTC to 16:00 UTC, and End of the Day from about 16:00 UTC back to the next 00:00 UTC.

Now, having said all of the above… there *are* terms that when I use them will be about the local solar cycle. For instance, Noon is not 12:00 UTC, or even 12:00 of what ever local time I happen to be in… it is the time when the sun is highest in the sky. “Morning” is from sunrise to noon. “Afternoon” is from noon to sunset. “Nighttime” is when the sun is not in the sky. Midnight is not 00:00 UTC or local 00:00, it is half way between sunset and sunrise. All based on the sun relative to my current location.

For instance, where I am now today morning will be from approximately 12:24 UTC to 20:06 UTC (noon) and afternoon will be from about 20:06 UTC today to about 03:49 UTC tomorrow.

I will tend to use those terms less often though, as they are meaningless unless I also provide my location, which will it generally will be close to my home at N 47°54.833′, W 122°17.382′, certainly might not always be that. And of course those terms vary based on time of year as well. So, as I said, I’ll use them less frequently.

Generally, I’ll just give a day, and it will be a UTC day. If I need to give a general time of day, I’ll usually either say something like “Around 18:00 Yesterday” or something like that. But I won’t feel bad if I don’t say UTC. Although I may say “18 UTC” if I am giving an actual time… cause after all, it is good to provide units… and that is sort of like providing units. But if I say “Monday” or “Yesterday” I won’t bother trying to think about how that might be interpreted in various time zones… it will just be UTC. Cause that is how it should be. Everybody should use UTC for everything. (Well, at least if they aren’t going to use the Julian Date.)

OK, whew. I’ve been meaning to say all that for a couple months now. Finally got around to it.