Saturday, June 19, 2004

Blogging ain't easy, yo

Well, today I decided to look on the lighter side and not get all heavy and serious like. So here's a quick movie review-

Went to see The Terminal with the wife last night. We both enjoyed it a lot. I thought Stanley Tucci did a great job as the uptight stickler-for-the-rules bureaucrat, and I liked Tom Hanks performance - I thought he really brought a lot of heart to the character. But the show, she was stolen by one of the supporting characters - by Kumar Pallana, who plays Gupta, a janitor at the airport. He's also been in Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums. Gupta loves to mop an area of the floor, surround it with "Wet Floor" signs, and sit back and watch as harried travelers in a hurry ignore the signs and end up slipping on the wet spot. Like this time, when he got Catherine Zeta Jones -

He also has some great bits during the dinner between Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones (hee - plate-spinning!!). Here's a pic of him juggling rings -

Overall a good movie, I thought. Definitely worth the price of admission.

In other news - check this Slashdot article about Gmail. I might have to try some of those utilities...

Friday, June 18, 2004

9/11 Commission report - communication failures and chaotic decision-making

I don't really have anything witty to say about this, but I'm sure you've all heard the findings released yesterday by the bi-partisan commission investigating 9/11. Here's an article summing it up. It's shocking, it's disturbing, and it's troublesome to hear that so many things went wrong. But - with just a bit of perspective - it's not impossible to understand. I remember hearing of the initial crash into the north tower, and thinking "That's horrible, a plane accidentally crashed into the World Trade Center". Of course, that supposition was very quickly dashed - the terrible images captured of the second plane flying purposely into the south tower made it all too apparent what was really happening. I know I wasn't alone in my initial thought, because when the attack began I was in a doctor's office - everyone around me was talking about the "accident". Yet it's still troubling, understandably so, to hear of the problems our government and others were having during the crisis. Even President Bush had communications difficulties - he had trouble reaching top officials in Washington from the elementary school in Florida he was at - he couldn't get a secure line, and had to use a cell phone! The hijackers (at least once that I've heard of) pressed the wrong button, and instead of addressing the passengers in the plane - they transmitted to air traffic control the message "We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you'll be OK." followed seconds later with "Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane." Some reports are attributing these statements to Mohammed Atta, the hijacker of American Airlines Flight 11, the plane which crashed into the north tower. Once the controller who heard this contacted his supervisor, the Boston air traffic center contacted the Northeast unit of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), with a frantic message: "We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something". The response from NORAD was - "Is this real-world or exercise?". Fighters were scrambled from Otis Air Force base (153 miles from New York City) at 8:53am - 7 minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the north tower. This all happened within 29 minutes - the hijackers transmission was at 8:24am, the call to NORAD at 8:37am, the crash at 8:46am, and finally the F-16's scrambled from Otis AFB at 8:53am. Even if the fighters had scrambled a little earlier, it would not have prevented that crash. But what of United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the south tower, and American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon? Could they have been stopped? Doubtful, at best they would have been shot down over populated areas - not a option I think the military would have taken. Besides - pilots didn't have a clear authority to shoot down civilian aircraft, even though VP Cheney did issue the order with approval of the president. So it's impossible to tell.

Is any one person/agency/administration to blame? No. Too much went wrong, too many people didn't have the right info at the right time. I'm sure we will be debating this for years to come, and we actually don't have the final commission report yet, so there will be much more discussion very shortly. The only hope we have is that all the discussion and investigation leads to lasting changes that, we can only hope, prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.

Sorry for such a downer post - I just needed to get that out there, I suppose.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


This just seems like a bad idea to me - Microsoft plans to offer anti-virus software. I guess when your OS is the number one target of every virus writer out there, it seems to make sense. And I suppose as long as it isn't bundled in with the OS it won't be perceived as the de facto standard. I guess the worrisome part for me is that I don't know if people will actually ever properly use anti-virus software - I talk to people all the time who think that they have no virus problem, and yet they are running a 4 year old copy of Norton Anti-Virus that was never updated. Or the swear that they do anti-virus scans "every day" - and when you ask some more questions you find that means that the scanner does a quick boot-sector scan at startup, and they think that is good enough. Well, one can hope that at the very least Micro$oft maybe will train people to use anti-virus software.

WTF??? Panda Porn??

And, in news very close to my heart (because I just LOVE The Vegas...) - the MGM Mirage Group's offer to purchase the Mandalay Resort Group was approved by the Mandalay board. MGM is assuming $2.5 BILLION in debt from Mandalay. Damn, that's a lot of debt!! The deal is expected to close sometime first quarter of 2005.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Random acts of blogitude

So, the new release of Mozilla Firefox (version 0.9) is now the current preview release. You can download it here, but beware - if you use version 0.8 now you will need to uninstall it BEFORE you install 0.9. Your current Firefox profile SHOULD be imported into 0.9 automatically - but any Extensions or Themes you had for version 0.8 will be gone. There are new versions of most of the useful Extensions available, hopefully more will be coming soon.

The first virus that infects cell phones has been discovered - it's called Cabir. It infects phones using the Symbian operating system, and propagates via bluetooth. Fun!

In other news - my wife and I went to the BIA Parade of Homes, which is a yearly event where local home builders all build homes in a new development and totally trick them out - landscaping, decks and patios, decorating - the whole nine yards. I always see at least one home theatre system in these homes that I want to install in my house. It was a lot of fun, the weather wasn't great - but at least it wasn't pouring down rain on us whenever we were outside. We must have walked up and down 9,000 staircases though - quite the workout. There were a few very nice houses though. Here is a picture where you can kinda see the house I liked the best - it's on the left -

I know it's hard to really see anything in the picture - but it's the best I've got since I didn't have my camera with me. I found this pic on the Parade of Homes website. You've got to do the best you can with what you've got, or something. I don't know - I've got nothing.