The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

You are Number Six

The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan, dead at 80.

Yesterday, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) died at 88.

Imagine the conversation:

"Where am I?"

"You didn't expect to find thought this was a dead planet. Tell me: why are you here?"

"Whose side are you on?"

(Come to think of it, that gets too silly, too quickly...never mind.)

Security comes down to people

Two examples of totally ineffective security responses in today's news. First, in suburban Chicago, a commuter-rail ticket agent called police about a man with a gun boarding a train, causing a two-hour delay as heavily-armed cops evacuated and searched the train. They found the man with the gun when the man in question saw the commotion and identified himself as a Secret Service agent, not realizing he was himself the target of the search:

Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said the incident began when a plainclothes Secret Service agent asked a Naperville ticket agent whether there were metal detectors aboard the BNSF Line train and indicated he was carrying a gun.

Kristina Schmidt of the Secret Service office in Chicago said a preliminary review showed the agent had acted properly and identified himself to the ticketing staff.

Schmidt said the agent noticed the Metra employees eyes go to his waist and look at his service weapon as he was taking out his wallet to buy a ticket.

"He verbally identified himself as law enforcement and said that he was armed," Schmidt said. "That was pretty much the extent of their conversation."

Assuming all was fine, the agent boarded the train, she said.

It was a few minutes later that police boarded the train. The agent again identified himself, Schmidt said, not realizing his interaction with the Metra employee had led to the train being stopped.

The ticket agent had told police a suspicious man was asking "unusual questions that were security-based" at the Naperville Metra station, Naperville Police Cmdr. Dave Hoffman had said. Officers were unsure if the man got on the train so authorities decided to stop it near Lisle to search for him, he said.

Farther afield, in the U.K., a official for a prision lost an encrypted memory stick containing personal health information about prisoners. The problem? The password was taped to the stick (via Bruce Schneier):

Health bosses have apologised after a memory stick containing patient information was lost at Preston Prison.

An urgent investigation was launched after the USB data stick – with the password attached to it on a memo note – went missing on Tuesday, December 30.

The stick may have contained information of up to 6,360 patients.

Kudos to everyone involved for using your heads and keeping us all safe!

Annoying software design (professional edition)

Developers generally don't like third-party UI controls because they're generally frustrating to use. Case in point: in the Infragistics Windows Forms controls package, the UltraGridColumn has sucked a substantial portion of my day away.

If you don't write software, you still appreciate it when it works simply and intuitively. You want to search for something, you go to Google and type in a search term. Brilliant. When you go to some company's website because you want to call the company, you look for something called "contact us" and click it. If you don't get the address and phone number of the company after clicking that link, you get irritated: the simple, intuitive thing didn't work. Jakob Nielsen is all over that stuff.

So. I have a simple problem, which is how to make a column in a grid grey out so my users don't inadvertently edit something they shouldn't. What I expect to write is something like this—or I would, if the member existed:

theReadOnlyColumn.Enabled = false;

Sadly, there is no "Enabled" member. So how about using a member that actually does exist?

theReadOnlyColumn.IsReadOnly = true;

Interesting. That member doesn't allow you to change its value. In fairness, the particle "Is" suggested it was a read-only member (ironic, that), but still, it looked like the right thing to do.

But no, here's the intuitive, simple, gosh-how-didn't-I-see-that-right-away thing to do:

theReadOnlyColumn.CellActivation = Activation.Disabled;


This sort of thing happens when developers create software based on how it works, rather than what it does. It's sloppy, it reflects an inability to think like the person using the product, and it's compounded by a criminal lack of clear "how-to" documentation. (The Infragistics documentation site appears to have no way to search for concepts, requiring you to figure out how Infragistics developers organize things on your own.) This really, really annoys me, and is why I avoid using their products.


Roland like a stone

It's official: Roland Burris will sit his ass in the U.S. Senate seat previously occupied by Barack Obama's ass tomorrow, restoring the Illinois tradition Obama interrupted of having seriously flawed junior senators. Seriously. The seat was previously sat in by Peter Fitzgerald, Carol Moseley-Braun, Alan Dixon...despite Adlai Stevenson III being in the seat as well, you kind of have to go back to Everett Dirksen to find another person we can actually be proud of in there. I recommed a quick perusal of Wikipedia's list for a chuckle.

Forgot to mention: today the only governor we have will swear in the Senate whose first order of business is holding his impeachment trial. Fun times, fun times.

Alaska warms up

The frigid weather in Alaska (ten consecutive days below -40°C) has apparently broken. Yesterday, for the first time since December 27th, Fairbanks got above -20°C. Right now it's a balmy -17°C, in fact, which is out of the realm of truly-dangerous cold and into just-plain-annoying cold.

Change we can believe in

MSNBC reports President-Elect Obama will order our detention facility at Guantánamo Bay closed next week. However, "[i]t's still unlikely the prison would be closed any time soon. Obama last weekend said it would be 'a challenge' to close it even within the first 100 days of his administration," MSNBC reports.

In related news, outgoing President Bush still can't fathom how he damaged our standing in the world: "I disagree with this assessment that, you know, that people view America in a dim light," he said. "It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom."

Only 188½ hours remain in the worst administration we've ever had.

Tribune columnist Rice on racial politics

Dawn Turner Rice, like a lot of people, found the 1960s-style race-baiting of Roland Burris' supporters disturbing:

Perhaps the real architect of this fiasco is Blagojevich who, although ham-fisted in almost every other regard, handled this skillfully. He knows his way around racial politics. He was the one who gave Rush the platform at the news conference announcing Burris' appointment. Blagojevich knew he couldn't, with any great effect, warn reporters not to "hang" or "lynch" his appointee.

In related news, the only governor we have (for the next three weeks, anyway) released nine reasons why he's great, which Eric Kleefeld summarizes: "He is a proud and strong progressive...and a complete megalomaniac."

Why you want lawyers who can read

On a flight this evening I read the actual Illinois Supreme Court opinion in the matter of Burris v. White, and found, at the end, this helpful bit of advice for His Royal Ego the Appointee:

The registration of the appointment of Mr. Burris made by the Secretary of State is a "record of paper" within the meaning of [15 ILCS 305/5(4)]. A copy of it is available from the Secretary of State to anyone who requests it. For payment of the normal fee...Petitioners could obtain a certified copy bearing the State's seal.

This is about as close as possible the Court can get to actually calling him dumb as a post. And he's our new U.S. Senator. Woo-hoo!

Dillweed in a pickle

The Illinois Supreme Court denied Roland Burris' motion to compel Secretary of State Jesse White to sign Burris' appointment to the U.S. Senate. The court said, in essence, we can't compel him to perform a ceremonial function:

"Because the secretary of state had no duty ... to sign and affix the state seal to the document issued by the governor appointing Roland Burris to the United States Senate, petitioners are not entitled to an order from this court requiring the secretary to perform those acts," the high court wrote in its opinion. "Under the secretary of state act, the secretary's sole responsibility was to register the appointment, which he did."

Now, this presents a problem. Under the 200-year-old case of Marbury v. Madison, it's possible that the U.S. Courts can't compel the Senate to seat Burris, even though the Illinois Court says the appointment is legal under state law. I'm not a Constitutional scholar by any stretch. The President-Elect is, however, so it will be interesting to hear his opinion on where Burris stands (or sits) now that his state-level appeals are finished.

First time for everything

Despite Illinois' remarkable record of political corruption, today is the first time we've actually impeached the governor:

The vote by the House was 114-1.... Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeachment.

A spokesman for the governor said he won't resign.

(I assume the spokesman meant the governor won't resign and the reporter was just being sloppy.)

The GOP once again fails to grasp the magnitude of impeachment as a last resort, and also the limitations of the legislature's power:

While the debate was free of partisanship, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna was quick to criticize Democrats following the impeachment vote.

"After six years of enabling and endorsing Rod Blagojevich, the Democrats who run this state waited until Illinois faced national embarrassment to act and are now voting to impeach a governor they worked to re-elect only two years ago," McKenna said in a statement. "To make matters worse, these same Democrats have fed this crisis by refusing to strip the governor of his appointment powers, and are helping to seat Blagojevich's hand-picked and tainted choice for United States Senator."

And for those keeping score at home, here is Illinois Constitution Article IV, Section 14 ("Impeachment"):

The House of Representatives has the sole power to conduct legislative investigations to determine the existence of cause for impeachment and, by the vote of a majority of the members elected, to impeach Executive and Judicial officers. Impeachments shall be tried by the Senate. When sitting for that purpose, Senators shall be upon oath, or affirmation, to do justice according to law. If the Governor is tried, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senators elected. Judgment shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold any public office of this State. An impeached officer, whether convicted or acquitted, shall be liable to prosecution, trial, judgment and punishment according to law.

Interesting times, interesting times.