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Geekerati brace for Unix timestamp milestone

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 20:45 by John Sinteur in category: Software


In an event that’s sure to bring a burst of adrenalin to computer geeks everywhere, the official Unix calender is about to pass a milestone: exactly 1234567890 seconds since the clock first started ticking.

POSIX is the official a widely used time-keeping method for Unix and is measured in the number of seconds that have passed since January 1, 1970 at midnight UTC (not counting leap seconds). It has since been adopted by many other computer systems.


Then there’s the date of the transition: Friday the 13th. Click here for a countdown to the event, which will hit at exactly 11:31:30pm UTC.

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  1. Seems rather odd to attach special meaning to a decimal translation of a binary quantity. Why not wait for 0xDEADBEEF?

  2. Any reason for a party, I guess..

A 10-Year-Old Divorcée Takes Paris

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 17:41 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ



In a dimly lit corner of a Paris bar a delighted young divorcée describes in a soft voice how she spent the day throwing snowballs for the first time in her life. That is not remarkable. This is: Nujood Ali is just 10 years old — and was, until recently, the youngest known divorced person in the world.

Slender with thick hair and a shy smile, Ali made headlines in Yemen last April when she walked out on a man more than three times her age, to whom her father had married her off. It was an act driven by terror and despair.

Nujood’s ordeal began last February, when the family gathered to celebrate her wedding to a motorcycle deliveryman in his 30s. She first set eyes on the groom when she took her marriage vows. After spending her wedding night with her parents and 15 brothers and sisters, Nujood was taken by her new husband to his family village, where, she says, he beat and raped her every night. After two nightmarish months he allowed her to visit her parents, who rebuffed her pleas to end the marriage.

Nujood finally found her moment to escape one day, when her mother gave her a few pennies and sent her out to buy bread. Instead she took a bus to the center of the capital, Sanaa — a city of 3 million people — where she hailed a taxi and asked to be taken to the courthouse. She had never been inside a courtroom but had once seen one on television, she says, and knew it was a place where people went for help. There she sat silently on a bench, uncertain as to what to do, while crowds of people scurried past, scarcely glancing at the quiet child. It was only once the courthouse emptied during the lunch recess that the judge noticed her and asked why she was there. “I came for a divorce,” she told him. Horrified, he took her to his house to play with his 8-year-old daughter, and granted the divorce two days later.


Minoui, who has spent considerable time with Nujood, says the girl still risks attacks from male relatives who believe she has sullied the family’s reputation.

Effect of marrying a 10-year-old off to abusive 30-year-old rapist on Ali family reputation: None.

Effect of 10-year-old earning worldwide attention by divorcing husband on Ali family reputation: Harm, perhaps irreparably, thus deserving violent retaliation by other family members.

There’s your problem right there.

More pictures of Nujood on google

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Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 17:35 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon

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Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 15:35 by John Sinteur in category: Funny!


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IBM Offers to Move Laid-off Workers to India

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 15:27 by John Sinteur in category: News


See, I’m a little confused. Because for years, big companies like IBM have insisted there were so few talented IT workers in the U.S., they had to import them from India. And yet now we have so many, we can send them to India! Isn’t that funny?

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Joe the Plumber advises GOP-ers

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 14:47 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ


Fresh off his stint as a war correspondent in Gaza, Joe the Plumber is now doing political strategy with Republicans.

When GOP congressional aides gather Tuesday morning for a meeting of the Conservative Working Group, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher – more commonly known as Joe the Plumber — will be their featured guest. This group is an organization of conservative Capitol Hill staffers who meet regularly to chart GOP strategy for the week.


If nothing else, GOP aides are using the appearance to get staffers to attend the 9 a.m meeting.

“In case you weren’t planning to attend CWG tomorrow morning, you might want to reconsider because Joe the Plumber will be joining us!” Kimberly Wallner, an aide to South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, wrote in a message to her e-mail list this afternoon.

I wonder what’s worse: The fact that Joe is going to this meeting, or the fact that some staffers wouldn’t show up otherwise…

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Bank Rescue Would Entail Triage for Troubled Assets

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 14:03 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


The Obama administration’s emerging rescue plan for the banking system would amount to financial triage, with the Treasury Department playing the delicate role of deciding which of the trillions of dollars in troubled assets plaguing the economy to buy, guarantee or leave in the hands of banks, sources said.


The basic problem confronting the government is that banks hold large quantities of assets that they value on their books for much more than investors are willing to pay. Banks cannot sell these assets without recording massive losses. But holding the assets is tying up vast amounts of money, choking the financial system.

Way back when I was getting basic economy lessons at school, it was explained that the “invisible hand of the market” decided how high prices should be – based on what people were willing to pay. If, as the article states, the value on the books is higher than investors are willing to pay, then they simple are valued wrong. The only way out is to take the loss. Propping up dud asset values is a form of forbearance. Japan had a different way of going about it, but the philosophy was similar, and the last 15 year illustrates how well that worked.

Oh, and about the word “triage”:

Instead of taking a single approach, the Obama administration plans to divide assets and other loans into three categories, each with its own solution, according to sources familiar with the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity because the details are not finalized.

Those who remember the origin know that triage means focusing on the middle third of the wounded on the battlefield : leaving the goners to die, leaving those wounded but stable to fend for themselves for the moment (they were in good enough shape to wait to be transported or hold on to be treated later). The middle third, those in immediate danger but who might nevertheless be salvaged, got top priority. Obama appears to attempt to help everybody. That won’t work when resources are limited. Perhaps somebody needs to give Obama a copy a study by the IMF of 124 banking crises. Their conclusion:

Existing empirical research has shown that providing assistance to banks and their borrowers can be counterproductive, resulting in increased losses to banks, which often abuse forbearance to take unproductive risks at government expense. The typical result of forbearance is a deeper hole in the net worth of banks, crippling tax burdens to finance bank bailouts, and even more severe credit supply contraction and economic decline than would have occurred in the absence of forbearance.

And something from a different source:


In closing, consider a Black Swan of the future.  Governments globally nationalize financial institutions, run huge deficits and borrow a lot of money to do so.  They “stimulate” the economy through targeted spending, and ignore the future consequences of the debts incurred.  They do it in the face of the coming demographic bust for the developed nations plus China.  My expectation is that these “solutions” will not do much to deal with the economic weakness induced by the debt overhang.

As Walter Wriston famously said, “A country does not go bankrupt.”  Perhaps what he should have said was the country remains in place, only the creditors get stiffed.  Short of war, it is tough to reorganize or liquidate a country.  But I’lltake the sentiment a different way and say that most people believe “A developed country does not go bankrupt.”  That is the black swan that will be displayed here, and Iceland is the harbinger of what might be a future trend of developed country sovereign defaults, or their close cousin, high inflation.

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Apparently patience is a partisan virtue

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 13:03 by John Sinteur in category: News


Via The Hill, this past Friday:

GOP losing patience with Obama, Dem leaders

By Molly Hooper

Posted: 01/30/09

Republicans wrapped up their retreat Friday by signaling they are losing patience with President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress.

Got that?

Ten days.

Barack Obama, president less than two weeks, has the Republicans “signaling they are losing patience.”

Time for a stroll down memory lane:

June 2003: Bush Urges Patience in Search for WMD

June 2004: Bush Urges Patience with Iraqi Plans at G8 Summit

Jan 2005: Bush Urges Patience on Iraq as Election Nears

June 2005: Bush Urges Patience, Long View on Iraq War

Aug 2005: Bush Calls for Patience on Iraq Mission

Nov 2005: Bush Urges Patience with Iraq Training

March 2006: Bush Calls on Americans to Show Patience with Iraq

June 2006: After Iraq Visit, Bush Urges Patience

Aug 2006: Bush Urges Patience on Iraq, Speed in Lebanon

Oct 2006: Conceding Missteps, Bush Urges Patience on Iraq

Nov 2006: Bush Urges Patience on Winning Iraq War

March 2007: Bush Pleads for Patience in Iraq War

May 2007: Bush Urges Patience on Iraq

June 2007: Bush Urges Patience on Iraq

July 2007: War In Year 5; Bush Requests Patience

Aug 2007: Bush Pleads for More Patience for Iraq War Efforts

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Passport RFIDs cloned wholesale by $250 eBay auction spree

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 12:03 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy, Security


Using inexpensive off-the-shelf components, an information security expert has built a mobile platform that can clone large numbers of the unique electronic identifiers used in US passport cards and next generation drivers licenses.

The $250 proof-of-concept device – which researcher Chris Paget built in his spare time – operates out of his vehicle and contains everything needed to sniff and then clone RFID, or radio frequency identification, tags. During a recent 20-minute drive in downtown San Francisco, it successfully copied the RFID tags of two passport cards without the knowledge of their owners.


Perhaps the only way to draw interesting attention to this is to have some kind of “art installation” at airports and other places with a reasonable percentage of international traffic. Whenever the installation (perhaps a 4-faced Big Ben with monitors instead of clockfaces) detects a password, it grabs the JPEG2000 image of the person who owns the passport, puts it on all four “faces,” then bellows out a reasonable approximation of their name.

The remaining message could be something as innocuous as “Welcome to Our Country!” (or, alternately, if the installation detects that you’re a local) “Bon Voyage!” And for every one in roughly 365 travelers, it says “Happy Birthday!” in their language of choice.

Throw some of these puppies up at museums with a little placard explaining that the information was pulled from their passports; it should take no more than fifty of them to cause a prompt freakout.

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Judges Sentenced

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 11:15 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ


Two of Luzerne County’s most senior judges on Monday were accused of sending children to jail in return for kickbacks.

The judges, Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., 58, and his predecessor, Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56, will serve seven years in jail under a plea agreement.

They’re alleged to have pocketed $2.6 million in payments from juvenile detention center operators.

When a federal judge reviews their plea, though, the question ought to be whether the punishment is adequate – along with the judges being bounced from the bench, disbarred, and losing their pensions.

If the allegations are true, Ciavarella and Conahan were involved in a disgraceful cabal far worse than one that merely lined their pockets.

First, the judges helped the detention centers land a county contract worth $58 million. Then their alleged scheme was to guarantee the operators a steady income by detaining juveniles, often on petty stuff.

Many of the kids were railroaded, according to allegations lodged with the state Supreme Court last year by the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, an advocacy group.

In asking the court to intervene in April, the law center cited hundreds of examples where teens accused of minor mischief were pressured to waive their right to lawyers, and then shipped to a detention center.

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U.S. Plans to Curb Executive Pay for Bailout Recipients

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 10:57 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


The Obama administration is expected to impose a cap of $500,000 for top executives at companies that receive large amounts of bailout money, according to people familiar with the plan.

Executives would also be prohibited from receiving any bonuses above their base pay, except for normal stock dividends.

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Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 10:55 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture


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How refreshing – a President that admits mistakes without waiting to become an unpopular lame duck first.

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 10:50 by John Sinteur in category: News


President Barack Obama on Tuesday admitted he made a mistake in handling the nomination of Tom Daschle as his Health and Human Services secretary, saying Daschle’s tax problems sent a message that the politically powerful are treated differently than average people.

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Don’t Work for Assholes

Posted on February 4th, 2009 at 6:53 by John Sinteur in category: News


But the biggest lesson I learned? Don’t work for assholes.

Nine times out of ten, the first impression someone gives you is exactly who they are. We choose not to see it because we need the money, or we want the situation to be different. But if someone rubs you the wrong way at the first meeting, chances are, it’s only going to get worse.

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