The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Presidential address unintentional laugh lines

"Many of you may ask why this strategy will work when previous strategies have not."

"The majority of Iraqi Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace."

"We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to solve problems along their border." (Like, for example, the million or so Kurds who are fed up with both.)

"Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned..."

"There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship." (Well, sure; I mean, how would Terrorism sign a treaty?)

"Acting on the good advice of Sen. Joe Lieberman and other key legislators..."

Not so much a laugh-line, but: what's all this about Al-Queda "still" being in Iraq? They didn't move in until after we invaded.

Did anyone else notice all the books behind him?

Did anyone else notice that he's not taking questions?

The economics of gift cards

Anne forwarded a Times article (reg.req.) about how gift cards are bad for everyone except the retailers:

The financial-services research firm TowerGroup estimates that of the $80 billion spent on gift cards in 2006, roughly $8 billion will never be redeemed—a bigger impact on consumers," [financial-services research firm TowerGroup] notes, "than the combined total of both debit- and credit-card fraud." A survey by Marketing Workshop Inc. found that only 30 percent of recipients use a gift card within a month of receiving it, while Consumer Reports estimates that 19 percent of the people who received a gift card in 2005 never used it.

So I should start selling gift cards: $20 redeemable in puppy-petting time. I'd make a mint, and Parker would get lots of belly-rubs.

Old photos: New York 1984

I'm still scanning all my old photos, now up to slide #964 of 3,828 (not including the 176 rolls of negatives). In addition to the embarrassing photos of me as a gangly teenager, and embarrassing photos of my family (complete with 1980s hair and clothes), I've also found some of general interest, like these two of New York in July 1984:

In the bottom picture you can just make out that the Statue of Liberty is covered in a scaffold. This was during the centennial renovation project that ended with the statue's re-opening to the public on 4 July 1986. Also, you can see the World Financial Center under construction just to the right (West) of the World Trade Center.

Today's Daily Parker

We got back from Miami late Friday. Parker, happy to have us home, wanted to keep us as close as possible Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday, for example, he kept close to Anne even while Anne was off doing other things:

Also, my project start got pushed to either Thursday or next Monday (I'll find out later today). That means Parker came to the office with me this morning, and will probably come back again on Wednesday. He loves coming to the office. Of course, he seems to love just about everything in life, which I think is an attitude worth emulating.

Botnets go mainstream

The New York Times picked up the ongoing story of botnets, networks of computers that spammers and other miscreants have taken over:

According to the annual intelligence report of MessageLabs, a New York-based computer security firm, more than 80 percent of all spam now originates from botnets. Last month, for the first time ever, a single Internet service provider generated more than one billion spam e-mail messages in a 24-hour period, according to a ranking system maintained by Trend Micro, the computer security firm. That indicated that machines of the service providers' customers had been woven into a giant network, with a single control point using them to pump out spam.

Users, ISPs, users, software vendors, and users contribute to the problem:

Serry Winkler, a sales representative in Denver, said that she had turned off the network-security software provided by her Internet service provider because it slowed performance to a crawl on her PC, which was running Windows 98. A few months ago four sheriff’s deputies pounded on her apartment door to confiscate the PC, which they said was being used to order goods from Sears with a stolen credit card. The computer, it turned out, had been commandeered by an intruder who was using it remotely.

Note that Winkler's computer probably ran slowly because it had already gotten infected, and the ISP's security software had a lot of work to do because of this.

At least with the Times picking up the story, perhaps more people will notice.

Wal-Mart and the abuses of software

Wal-Mart will soon start scheduling employees based on predicted customer loads, requiring the employees to be more "flexible:"

The move promises more productivity and consumer satisfaction, but could demand more flexibility and availability from workers in place of reliable shifts and predictable pay checks, the Journal reported.
Wal-Mart started using the system for some workers, including cashiers and accounting-office personnel, last year, the paper also reported.

This is an example of software developers forgetting their work sometimes has human consequences. The idea of micro-managing employees through software didn't occur to Wal-Mart just recently; in fact, I worked on a system that would have scheduled call-center employees' potty breaks down to 6-second increments almost 10 years ago. I quit, because I thought the software, however profitable, was immoral.

Perhaps I have an extreme view, but really, I think a company has to believe its employees are no more than cattle to treat them like this. Absolutely companies need software to predict customer loads and marketing approaches, and I'm happy to assist. Scheduling employees to this level of precision just goes too far.

The thing is, the people writing the software, like the people paying for it, would never tolerate that kind of control over their own lives. Tell the CEO of a company that he has to take a potty break between 10:15:06 and 10:15:42 and he might clock you (no pun intended). Make his salary dependent on that kind of intrusion and she'll simply go to another company.

The people affected by this kind of scheduling don't have as many options; that's why they work for Wal-Mart. Once Wal-Mart has crushed all the other businesses in the area, the only thing between the employees and indentured servitude might be the state's anemic minimum-wage laws.

What Wal-Mart is doing is legal, but only possible because twenty years of Republican legislatures and right-wing propaganda have stripped workers of the power they accumulated in the 20th Century. It's the early industrial revolution again, with working people getting shafted in new, high-tech ways.

The huddled masses yearning to breathe free live here now.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Today's Chicago Tribune asks, "Who needs Florida?":

Balmier days are forecast to continue in Illinois over the next few days, a result of warmer air masses flowing in from the west and southwest and the effects of an El Nino year.
While no records are being broken—back in 1876 it was 65°F (18°C) on Jan. 2—temperatures in coming days are expected to remain mercifully above the historic average high of about 30°F (-1°C).

I find this funny because I'm sitting in shorts and a polo shirt by a pool surrounded by palm trees, a light 24°C (75°F) breeze cooling my sandal-clad feet, looking at Chicago's weather report, which tells me it's 1°C (33°F) back home—with a wind chill of -4°C (25°F).

I really can't answer the question "who needs Florida," but I can say the weather's a lot better here than in Chicago.