An item that you may have missed

[REVISED] This got almost no coverage. In Lancaster Online (the web edition of the Lancaster, PA Intelligencer Journal; minimal registration required), there’s an account of President Bush meeting with a group of Old Order Amish. At the end of the meeting, Bush said, I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.
“God speaks through me”?! Good grief. What un-Christian hubris. Even though I’m an atheist, I prefer what John Kerry said to the DNC: I don’t want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side.


"No, but God, we'd love to!"

While surfing a random* blog, I came across a quotation that captures exactly what I want Sun to be. Jonathan, are you listening?
But there’s no reason why you can’t create a service organisation of people who all just “Get it.” Virgin do this brilliantly. I recently had to travel to Mumbai. I called Virgin and asked if they flew there. “No,” said the booking woman, “but God, we’d love to!”
In those few words you realise that this person (who can supposedly be replaced by a few lines of online shopping code) was actually party to the kind of decisions happen in Virgin boardrooms. Of course Mumbai fits their brand perfectly – a hip, glamorous town with the world’s biggest movie industry. She understood that as well as anybody on their board.

I’m not saying we should get all reactive, chase off in all directions and become defocussed. But there are many challenging and exciting problems out there, and we should WANT to try to solve them even if we pragmatically choose not to go there. Like the Elephant’s Child in Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, I want us to have “satiable curtiosity”.

* Well, not exactly random. This is the blog of Brian Millar, the guy who created the brilliant Powerpoint Hamlet, as well as other masterpieces such as the ultimate Father’s Day card.


CD of the week: "The Best of Both Worlds" by Marillion

I’m going to be brief on this one, because it doesn’t need much explanation. I’ve been a Marillion fan since the late 1980s: I think it was my son, Chris, who introduced me to Script for a Jester’s Tear and Misplaced Childhood. Like many others, I found an echo of an earlier love in this music: it harkened back to the original Genesis* and albums such as Trespass and Nursery Cryme. (For me, Invisible Touch is the nadir, not the apotheosis of Genesis’ work. But I digress.) CD art for The Best of Both Worlds
Part of the magic of the first incarnation of Marillion (from 1982 to 1988) was the slightly-manic presence of Fish, the lead vocalist. When he left, many wondered if the band would survive, and the first new release with Steve Hogarth, Season’s End seemed to confirm our fears: it was closer to pop than prog. But gradually the new band forged a new identity, and albums such as Brave and Afraid of Sunlight were eagerly snapped up. The two most recent albums, Anoraknophobia and Marbles, were self-produced by the band, financed by advanced orders from tens of thousands of fans (including me).
This album is a double CD of their work on EMI. The first CD covers the Fish era, including classics like Assassing, Kayleigh, and Warm Wet Circles. The second covers the Steve Hogarth (“H”) period up to 1997, including The Univited Guest, Waiting to Happen, and Afraid of Sunlight. (It also includes the execrable Hooks in You, but that’s what the SKIP button is for.)
If you want to understand Marillion past and present, this is a great collection. If you just want to plunge in and experience today’s Marillion, I’d recommend the 2002 release Anorak in the UK Live instead.

* The Genesis line-up with Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett, and Phil Collins


Speech, speech! (But where are the DVDs?)

Just watched the final evening of the Democratic Convention (on C-SPAN, of course). I thought Kerry’s speech was excellent, capping a week of wonderful speeches from Clinton, Gore, Carter, Edwards, Cleland, and Obama. And Kerry’s daughters were fantastic, more than making up for Lieberman’s embarrassing performance.
Naturally enough, I want to share some of these moments with folks that I know missed the Convention. So why isn’t the DNC selling DVDs of the Convention Highlights on their website? Doesn’t this seem like an obvious fundraising opportunity?
And yes, I have emailed the DNC to suggest this.

Violent world

The uncounted casualties of Iraq

As I write this, the official number of US military dead in Iraq is 906. But many soldiers die without being added to the casualty list. Over at Democracy Now! you’ll find a gut-wrenching interview with the parents of a 23 year old Marine Reservist, Jeffrey Lucey. (It’s also mirrored here, at John Fabiani’s blog.) The Hermit summarised it on Terry’s blog like this:
[This is] the story of a family whose son went to Iraq at 18 [actually 21] and came back and hung himself. He had two sets of Iraqi dogtags that he wore to honour the two men (prisoners) that he had been ordered to shoot, close range, unarmed. He told his sister he was a murderer and could no longer live with himself. The VA committed him at his father’s insisting and released him after 3 days despite his telling them of four ways he was considering using to die. He got told he was weak, to suck it up, and get on with his life. His father found him hanging in the cellar.


A political junkie's dream site

The Current Electoral Vote Predictor integrates recent polling data to create a map of Electoral College votes. As with most successful sites, it concentrates on doing just one thing, and doing it extremely well. (Only omission is that there’s no RSS feed to alert me on updates.) Thanks to Tim for the link.


Community action on viruses

A number of my colleagues at Sun have been blogging about the number of MyDoom-generated emails in their inboxes today. Compared with most companies, Sun is barely touched by these infestations, but in a company which generates tens of thousands of emails a day, even “barely touched” means a lot of effluent. The incidence should be even lower, because (with a few exceptions) running Microsoft Outlook within Sun is a violation of IT policies, and the penalties can be severe. (In fact, even running Windows is prohibited unless the system has been “neutered” in various ways.) But people still do it.
My approach, which I recommend, is social pressure. In my email client, I’ve set up a rule that says “if this message originated from within Sun, and if it was created using Outlook or Outlook Express, flag it in red”. Then whenever I see a red message in my inbox, I drop a brief note to the sender asking if they realize that they’re violating IT policy.
If enough of us do this….
[Updated: In response to Dan’s comment: I have never had a false positive. My filter checks for “” in both the “From:” and the “Message-id:”, and for “Microsoft Outlook” (and variants) in “X-Mailer:”; it also checks that the message was NOT processed by any of Sun’s external gateways.]
[Updated: Here’s a representative rule. You will have to add “X-Mailer”, “Received” and “Message-id” to the list of headers that understands. I actually use a number of rules to let me identify particular versions of Outlook, but I don’t expect others to be so obsessive-compulsive about it….
Snapshot of rule


Is emigration to the USA out of control?

I just spent a fruitless half-hour on the United Airlines frequent flier website, checking availability of round-trip award flights from BOS to LHR.
Is everybody leaving Europe for the USA? Permanently????
How else can I explain the fact that for every date pair that I tested in August and September, I found one or two eastbound flights with available award seats, but zero (none, nada, zilch) westbound returns?
Of course there is an alternative explanation to “mass emigration”, but I’d prefer not to go to bed in a cynical frame of mind…

US vs.UK

Phone frustration

Frustration is…

  1. Calling a hospital ward in the UK
  2. Being given a phone number so that I can call a patient directly
  3. Discovering that since it’s an “07” number I can’t dial it from the USA…..

Things that make no sense (ongoing series, apparently endless)

Per Terry, it seems that while the U.S.Army is so shortstaffed that they are recalling a 67 year old retired Colonel,
the Air Force and the Navy are doing fine. They are offering early outs (as much as 12 months) with no penalties to first term enlistees because they have (sit down, it’s a deusy†) 50,000 too many people.
(Of course it might help if those being reactivated could actually count on getting paid for their services.)
† Transcribed from the (correct) original: no sic is required.