Friday, January 30, 2004 - Culture clash underlines woes

Looks like the union didn't help the company at all.

Benefiting from its non-union status, Dofasco was also able to impose a radical compensation scheme on employees, who earn pay increases of as much as 20 per cent if their unit shows big improvements in efficiency.

Add in a profit-sharing plan that ties workers' fortunes to the company's, and the result is Dofasco's 50 per cent jump in productivity in the past 10 years.

Until now, Stelco has met most crises with complacency bordering on indifference.

As recently as 2002, Stelco consented to a 44 per cent increase over four years in pension payouts in order to avoid a shutdown at its Hilton works in Hamilton. This at a time when it was recovering from seven consecutive quarters of red ink, caused in large degree by its lack of cost-competitiveness.

Employees at Dofasco "are in a culture that says what is good for the company is good for me," a former Stelco employee told National Post Business magazine last fall. "The same guy at Stelco grows up with the attitude, `What is good for the union is good for me — not the company, the union.' - Dwarf-date show sparks controversy - Jan. 30, 2004

How could Fox stoop so low?

  Washington Post: Calling Iraq's Bluff (

First, and most trumpeted, he did not find "large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction." He did find, as he reported last October, WMD-related activities, from a very active illegal missile program to research and development ("right up until the end") on weaponizing the deadly poison ricin (the stuff London police found on terrorists last year). He discovered "hundreds of cases" of U.N.-prohibited and illegally concealed activities.

Significant findings, but still a far cry from what the administration had claimed last March. Kay has now offered the most novel and convincing explanation for why U.S. intelligence -- and, for that matter, U.N. inspectors and the intelligence agencies of every country that mattered -- misjudged what Iraq possessed.

Until Bush got serious, threatened war and massed troops in Kuwait, the U.N. was headed toward loosening and ultimately lifting sanctions, which would have given Hussein carte blanche to regroup and rebuild his WMDs.

Bush reversed that slide with his threat to go to war. But that kind of aggressive posture is impossible to maintain indefinitely. A regime of inspections, embargo, sanctions, no-fly zones and thousands of combat troops in Kuwait was an unstable equilibrium. The United States could have either retreated and allowed Hussein free rein -- or gone to war and removed him. Those were the only two ways to go.

  Silicon Valley - Dan Gillmor's eJournal - Spammers May Kill Comments Here

Dan's story about spammers filling up his blog's Comments section and Dylan Greene's blog entry on why RSS sucks are almost a mirror of the problems that Usenet faced/faces. In Mr. Green's article, replace 'RSS' with 'Usenet' and most of the downsides for RSS also apply to Usenet...

Blogs are currently better than Usenet because the signal to noise ratio is much higher. usually only one person can post and those people are usually sane or at least stay on topic. When you start letting anyone comment as often as they want, things start going downhill.

  Wired News | Lawmaker Says U.S. Must Do More to Catch Bin Laden

U.S. officials say they have made much progress in their war on terror and have killed or arrested more than two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership. President Bush said this month a manhunt continued for the remaining militants, who would be brought to justice "one by one."

Kirk said bin Laden continued to have broad public support, but said a belief that his followers were primarily religious zealots motivated by hopes of heavenly rewards was "outdated." He said bin Laden was using drug money to pay recruits from Pakistan and other states to carry out attacks.

He believed bin Laden's income from the drug trade now dwarfed his income from religious donations.

Thursday, January 29, 2004
  NY Times: A Drug Used for Cattle Is Said to Be Killing Vultures

Studies in Pakistan showed that the drug, diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory commonly prescribed for arthritis and pain in people, caused acute kidney failure in vultures when they ate the carcasses of animals that had recently been treated with it. The findings, which followed a two-year investigation by an international team of 13 scientists, were published online by the journal Nature.

  Joel on Software - Please Sir May I Have a Linker?

Joel is stupid. Sorry. Mr. Spolsky is stupid. Plain and simple.

A linker only helps with statically-linked libraries. When was the last time that MS produced statically-linked OS-level libs for developers, excluding the C-runtime? Darned if I can recall. So he'd have to deal with DLLs. But a linker wouldn't help with DLLs. Mr. Spolsky was a PM in the MS Office division, not a developer in the Systems or Developer divisions.

Win98 is dead. The .Net framework wasn't meant to be bundled with an app and downloaded. Neither was the Java runtime. Yes, a 22MB download is bad. There's always pain when switching to a new programming API. But Win9X is on its deathbed. Win2K is hitting middle age. You are asking for support headaches galore if you throw Win9X into the mix. Mr. Spolsky whines about a new runtime coming out every six to twelve months and the ensuing growth of the test matrix for any products. Yet his company will support Win9X, Win2K, and WinXP? The only reason CityDesk is so small (9MB?!) is that the user has already installed the necessary Win32 runtime on his machine. And a linker wouldn't help him with the Win32 runtime either. Nitwit.

If he wants to make it easier for himself, then he can work on improving Win32 programming for his programmers internally. It's doable. He just doesn't want to do it. And MS isn't going to sign up for his suggestion. I'd put money on it.

  MSNBC - Thar she blows! Dead whale explodes

Yowza. But here's the disturbing part...

Once moved to a nearby nature preserve, the male specimen -- the largest whale ever recorded in Taiwan -- drew the attention of locals because of its large penis, measured at some five feet, the Taipei Times reported.

"More than 100 Tainan city residents, mostly men, have reportedly gone to see the corpse to 'experience' the size of its penis," the newspaper reported.

  The Age: James Brown, 70, arrested on domestic violence charge -

One scary picture of the King of Soul.

  Bank Notes - Bank of Canada - Counterfeit Detection - New $100 Key security features

Cool. I wonder how the counterfeiters will handle the watermark and holograph features?

  Cincinnati Enquirer: Pettus-Brown done in by savvy date, Google

The woman was probably pissed off that the guy wanted to take her to an Applebee's for their date. :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
  Spaceflight Now | Destination Mars | Reconstructing Spirit's hopeful road to recovery

  Spaceflight Now | The Challenger Accident | Timeline

I remember clearly where I was when it happened. Stunning...

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
  NY Times: E-Mail Worm Snarls Computers Around Globe

This only shows that people are still stupid when it comes to email usage - even when news about an email virus is blaring over the media, people are still opening and running the infected email.

None of these people have rate-limited email servers nor do they protect their outgoing SMTP ports. That'd be the quickest way to stop this crap. The best way to prevent this would be less gullible, more intelligent email users, but I don't see that happening soon. Anti-virus software is crap in these cases. They wouldn't have prevented this situation. They can only close the barn door once they know that someone is going around trying to open them.

  The Globe and Mail - Salmon: To eat it or not

The crux of their disagreement was not in the PCB amounts themselves but in two different scales used to measure their numbers' significance. The United States Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, the European Union have one scale that indicates that you can eat up to 2,000 parts per billion of PCBs in fish without any appreciable risk of cancer.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency says you can consume only 50-parts-per-billion — a 40-fold difference — safely.

You would think that this is a debate that would almost immediately dissolve in the face of what you might call objective evidence. If there were new health studies indicating that the previous FDA standard was 40 times too high, then this should be immediately changed and the EPA scale adopted. If there had not been any changes, then what was an environmental agency doing straying outside its domain and capriciously setting too-strict food safety standards?

In its explanation of its rationale, the EPA differentiates the U.S. population into two distinct groups.

One is what it calls in politically correct language "the general population." They buy fish products in supermarkets and fish stores that "are harvested over a wide geographic area."

But "the FDA methodology was never intended to be protective of recreational, tribal, ethnic and subsistence fishers who typically consume larger quantities of fish than the general population and often harvest the fish and shellfish they consume from the same local water bodies repeatedly over many years," the EPA writes in explaining its regulations.

Larger quantities is a very relative term. Sport fishermen are cited, but they eat on average only a quarter of a pound of fish a week — one-half or one-third of what the American Heart Association say all people should consume.

  The Globe and Mail: Black v. everyone

It's a soap opera.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Gee, looks like Conrad Black's company isn't going to last even one generation.

Hollinger International and its investment bank, Lazard, began a formal auction process for its major properties yesterday — a move to block ousted CEO Conrad Black from selling his controlling stake in the company, The Post has learned.

"The reasoning is that if you can sell the crown jewel out from under [the Barclays] then maybe they'll go away," said one source close to the process.

Potential buyers for the assets — especially for the Telegraph — include the Washington Post, Lord Rothemere's Daily Mail and U.K newspaper baron Richard Desmond, who owns the Express Newspapers, according to reports.

According to published reports, the Telegraph could sell for as high as $900 million, while the entire company could be worth more than $1.8 billion.


Wow. A whistle-blower who isn't a woman.

Lloyd Silverstein, 48, of Dix Hills, L.I., admitted that he was well aware of the company's "widespread practice" of cooking the books to inflate quarterly revenue and prop up stock prices from 1998 to 2000.

"While I believed the practice was wrong, I chose to follow it. I should not have done that," said Silverstein — who has secretly been working with federal investigators for more than seven months, sources told The Post.

But he is now considered a key whistle-blower in the ongoing investigation into the beleaguered company, which also faces SEC charges.

"Lloyd made the decision to cooperate some time ago, before being charged or even accused. He has courageously decided to accept responsibility for his actions," defense attorney James Walden said outside the court.

Computer Associates followed a practice known as the "35-day month," in which sales personnel were trained to back-date business agreements finalized in the days immediately following the end of fiscal quarters, the feds have alleged.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
  WinCVS is user-crappy

Bloody hell, is this pile of crap used by open source developers?

I'd understand why people stick to the command line versions of CVS. The initial user experience is terrible, the help file mentions MacCVS instead of WinCVS etc. It doesn't cost that much to generate a help file that mentions the correct program.

I'm not sure the devs have spent much time making it easier to use.

Even after uninstalling the load of crap, it left turds in the registry. Thanks.

  MSNBC - Consumers deluged as fake e-mails multiply

Hmmm. I haven't noticed any increase in SPAM.

  Seattle PI: FDA finds animal proteins in feed grain

Tuesday, January 20, 2004
  X-bit labs - Articles - January 2004 Hardware News Overview

Cool look at what happened in 2003 and what may come in 2004.

  Globetechnology: How police crack open criminal minds

"About half of all crimes are committed by 10 per cent of offenders, and with sex crimes one study found that 5 per cent of the offenders committed 70 per cent of the crimes," Prof. Rossmo said. "So there are a lot of serial offenders out there; the difficulty is linking the crimes together."

Dr. Rossmo understands many officers feel burdened with paperwork, but he argues ViCLAS should be their first, not last, priority. He cites studies that show 95 per cent of all police paperwork is inaccessible to other officers, whereas everything entered on ViCLAS is immediately available to investigators across the country. Although recent statistics show ViCLAS reporting rates have risen to about 80 per cent, specialists argue every province should follow Ontario's lead and make reporting mandatory.

When a crime qualifies as a ViCLAS case, an investigator completes a booklet of 262 questions covering all aspects of an incident, including victimology, modus operandi, forensics and behaviour. They are designed to eliminate as many open-ended questions as possible.

The booklet is then sent to the appropriate ViCLAS centre, where the information undergoes a quality-assurance review. If it does not pass, the investigator needs to clarify the information.

There is some reluctance to release key facts or pieces of evidence to ViCLAS for fear the specifics of an investigation could become widely known. Police are also concerned that if the questions asked by the ViCLAS booklet are ever made ublic, that could alert criminals to change certain aspects of their behaviour.

Monday, January 19, 2004 - Hiker braves ice to walk to T.O. Islands
Earlier this afternoon, police were inundated with 911 calls about a lone ice-walker pushing his or her bike across the frozen harbour towards Toronto Islands.

"When I saw him, I called 911 and they said they're getting tons of calls. They said the marine unit was on the way," said Antonella DeBenedictis, an Internet producer for, who watched the incredible scene along with a gaggle of other awestruck employees gathered on the seventh floor at 1 Yonge, which overlooks the lake.

"The person was wearing a red parka. I saw him jump down onto the ice and I said, 'This guy is crazy,'" said David Darnell, general manager of Electronic Publishing, who spotted him first.

"He started off to the left and then angled off to his right (on a meandering path)," added Darnell. At 2:45, police scrambled an airboat out to "give him a talking to," said Constable George Dee of the marine unit.

"We're trying to get him. We've got the ice boat out there, but it's having difficulty getting through the ice," Dee said. "What happens is that the islanders sometimes think they're invincible and decide well, we can walk across."

This fearless ice-peddler wasn't breaking the law, however.

"It's not illegal," Dee said. "Just more stupidity than anything."

They had planned to give him or her a stern talking-to.

Friday, January 16, 2004
  The Seattle Times: Local News: Gates quietly spends $14 million buying homes near Medina estate

  Sudhian Media: Dual Channel Memory Performance Myth

Thursday, January 15, 2004
  Cold? It's cold outside?

Just went for a run. According to CBC Weather for Toronto, it's -21.2C outside, -37.8C with the windchill. I'd have to say the first twenty minutes were a slight hardship, but other than the slick, well-packed snow on the roads, it was just another run. Canadians are getting too wimpy.

  CNet: Domain registrars sued over URL patent | CNET

The PTO has truly lost their way. This doesn't sound like a kosher patent. It's more like a naming convention. How about patenting red lights in computer software to mean 'stop'?

  NY Times: Vaccine Is Said to Fail to Protect Against Flu Strain

The study seems to have a few flaws.

  NY Times: Hockey's Gap-Toothed Grin Fades Into the Past

They're getting too soft...

Martin Brodeur, the Devils' goalie, recalls vividly what happened next. "He just spit out like three or four teeth," Brodeur said. "And he was so mad, he just threw his teeth on the ice and skated away. And the blood started down. And I'm like: `Wow! It's amazing.' "

About 60 percent of N.H.L. players wear mouth guards, compared with 48 percent only two years ago, according to the N.H.L.'s Injury Analysis Panel, whose chairman is the former goalie Dave Dryden.

Why do players often have their teeth fixed quickly now? "Our wives don't want us to look like idiots for that long," Barnaby said.

Some people even theorize that the loss of teeth in a hockey game affected the course of scientific history. Seventeen years before Wilbur and Orville Wright flew their first airplane, Wilbur lost a few teeth in a game of shinny on ice in his hometown, Dayton, Ohio.

According to several biographers, Wright's mouth was clipped by another player's stick. During his recovery, he encountered physical and psychological complications and chose to stay at home instead of attending Yale. His reading included scientific books and journals.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
  Seattle PI: The game is over for Xbox's Ed Fries Larry Ellison's most important merger / Oracle CEO ties knot with novelist at Woodside estate; Steve Jobs takes wedding photos

Wow. The blonde Stanford co-eds lost a sugar-daddy.

Ellison referred a question about whether they had signed a prenuptial agreement to Craft, who declined to answer, saying the matter was private.

Craft's third novel, "Man Trouble,'' is scheduled for release in May. The plot revolves around a college professor and romance novelist who goes undercover to seduce a playboy billionaire and turn him into a family man.

Craft said the novel was not directly autobiographical but was inspired by a New York newspaper story that alleged she had been invented by Ellison's public relations department to soften his image.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
  CNet: Canadian MP3 player tax challenged

So the MP3 player manufacturers and big retailers (Walmart, Best BUy) don't like the C$25 tax on MP3 players, and the CRIA don't like the fact that the board said downloading songs was legal. Lose-lose.

  AskTog: Panther: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mostly a lok at Panther's UI, not much about the inner workings of OS X. But that is Tog's area of expertise.

  The Globe and Mail - Eid sacrifice ritual latest casualty of BSE

Demand for Canada's live goats normally surges in the weeks before Eid, an Islamic festival in which the faithful cut an animal's neck and divide its meat among family, friends and the poor.

That export business halted along with the sale of other ruminants after a case of mad-cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was discovered in Alberta last May.

Farmers of bison, goats, sheep and other banned animals have been devastated and largely uncompensated, Mr. Klein said, along with exporters of embryos and semen.

But the cost of mad-cow disease outside the beef industry might total something like $2-billion or $3-billion in 2003, he suggested. "All these numbers are so big and unknown right now," Mr. Oleson said. "But you'll get a stream of direct and indirect impacts, right down to the people who give haircuts to farmers."

Friday, January 09, 2004
  NY Times: Parmalat Worker Was Listed as a Chief

On Thursday, Parmalat's former Italian auditor, Grant Thornton S.p.A., was expelled from Grant Thornton International, the network of accounting firms.

''Grant Thornton S.p.A. has been unable to provide sufficient assurances or access to the appropriate information and people in an acceptable time frame,'' David McDonnell, chief executive of Grant Thornton International, said Thursday. "We have lost confidence in Grant Thornton S.p.A. and are therefore acting clearly and decisively to protect our clients and the reputation of all of the other independent firms in the international network.''

Nan Williams, a spokeswoman for Grant Thornton International, said that the move was not made out of concern about potential liability to Parmalat creditors or investors but to protect the reputation of the international network.

Mr. Ugolotti was not aware of his connection to the more than 25 companies to which he had been appointed chief executive, investigators said. He was asked to sign documents without understanding that he was signing as ''chief executive,'' they said.

  Slashdot: Photoshop CS Adds Banknote Image Detection, Blocking? -How it works

The comment has a description of what the colour copiers look for when rejecting images as currency. Here's the PDF:

Thursday, January 08, 2004
  MSNBC - Exotic around-the-world jet unveiled

GlobalFlyer has a turbofan engine atop its single-seat, pressurized cockpit and will fly at speeds greater than 287 mph (460 kilometers per hour) and at altitudes up to 52,000 feet, where it will seek the jetstream's push to give it the range to fly around the world in just over three days.

The attempt to fly around the world will be made after numerous test flights, probably sometime between November and March when the jetstream will be favorable.

The flight will originate from somewhere in the central United States to allow the plane to remain over land while it gains altitude and to ensure that it will be over land at the end of the flight, when there is a risk of it running out of fuel.

  NY Post: Palm Beach Bum

Conrad Black has supposedly put his $36M Palm Beach house on the block. Also his $25M London townhouse is up for grabs as well.

Black bought the Palm Beach mansion - located at 1930 S. Ocean Blvd. - in 1997, for a reported $10 million. He tried to sell it in 1999, but pulled it off the market, according to published reports.

The advertisement in the Palm Beach Daily News describes the property as a "gorgeous 17,000 + square foot home with ceramic tiled tunnel under So. Ocean Blvd., opening to 300 ft. of beachfront." The home also has a "dramatic stairwell," as well as a library, exercise room, two-story guest house, movie theater and pool with cabanas.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004
  Globe and Mail: Nortel stock jumps

Looks like a short squeeze to me - 89M shares shorted provides a lot of hurt. From NYSE Short Interest for Dec 2003:

Symbol Stock_Description Curr_Short_Pos Prev_Short_Pos Avg_Daily_Vol

LU LUCENT TECHNOLOGIES 259,576,717 290,851,518 40,594,471

NT NORTEL NETWORKS CORP 89,002,709 94,899,594 15,677,914

PCS SPRINT CORP(PCS GRP) 86,627,973 83,867,703 8,319,348

F FORD MOTOR COMPANY 71,482,078 89,701,691 11,749,105

Tuesday, January 06, 2004
  NY Times: Before Baby Talk, Signs and Signals

They found that second graders who had been encouraged to use their signing system during the second year of life had an advantage of 12 I.Q. points over children who did not use any such system.

Also intriguing has been the work of Joseph Garcia, the author of the best-selling book and video series "Sign With Your Baby: How to Communicate With Infants Before They Can Speak."

Mr. Garcia, an American Sign Language and early child development researcher, noticed that the hearing babies of deaf parents could communicate their needs and desires at a much earlier age than children of hearing parents.

His research found that through signs, parent-infant communication could begin at 8 months, rather than waiting for comprehensible speech to develop at 16 to 18 months. Microsoft abandons Smart Display effort | CNET

Another failed consumer device from MS.

  The Globe and Mail - Coffee could be key to avoiding diabetes

Nothing like conflicting studies to confuse people.

Compared to non-coffee drinkers, men who drank more than six eight-ounce cups of caffeinated coffee a day lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by about half, and women reduced their risk by nearly 30 per cent, according to the study in Tuesday's issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

Sunday, January 04, 2004
  LSU and USC == national champs???

Unless Oklahoma gets its act together real soon with slightly more than one quarter to go, then LSU is gonna win the Sugar Bowl and the BCS. Then USC and LSU will share the national championshop.

Friday, January 02, 2004
  National Post: Bureaucrats scoff at job rules

Managers in the federal public service continue to hire people they know -- including spouses, siblings and cousins -- rather than comply with rules to ensure all Canadians have a fair chance at government jobs, according to a report from the Public Service Commission.

In a review of hiring across the public service, the commission found that in 51% of placements it was unable to conclude competency and fairness were respected, because key documents were missing. They were missing even though the commission requested the documents "well in advance" of its on-site visits.

"In many cases, the files had no evidence at all. Attempts made to locate the missing information were unsuccessful," the internal report says.

The commission also found many examples in which managers avoided hiring employees through an open competition. In 115 cases where individuals were referred by name for a job, 110 were listed as if they had been hired through a public competition.

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