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My three daughters were born in China, so this story of gross incompetence and arrogance strikes close to home:
Sandi Sheldon and her husband traveled to China to adopt their daughter Hannah. After finalizing the adoption, her husband was hospitalized, and then died of complications related to his diabetes. This is a horrible situation, to be sure, but is made even worse by the fact that the US consulate in Guangzhou is now refusing to issue her daughter an entry visa for the US. The consulate insists that she must submit new visa paperwork, and says that they cannot make any guarantees that the visa for her new daughter (which was already approved once) will actually be approved again.
More details available here.
The family is asking for assistance in the matter - a call to Sandi's representatives in the House and Senate. Many times, in situations like this, the only thing that results in any real activity to resolve the issue is pressure from an elected official. If your a US citizen, and you have the time to read up on the story, please take a few minutes more to contact Sandi's representatives and your own representatives to let them know you expect to see this issue resolved quickly.
Via the Geek Etiquette blog, I came across a link to a request for donations of "gently pre-loved technical books" to help the he local IT users group of Vanuatu build a lending library. The island nation of Vanuatu is, as the request states, "a bloody long way from anywhere", and technical books are hard to find.
Over the past few months, I've been eying my shelves, and thinking that it was time to cull the herd anyways. I usually end up taking a box or two down to the local library; in that case, one or two books may make it onto the shelves, while the rest end up occupying space until the next used-book sale fund raiser. While I don't begrudge the library my modest contribution, this time around I think I'll ship my "pre-loved" technical books off to someone who will really appreciate them.
Update: More detailed information can be found on the Technical Books For Vanuatu wiki page at Infotrope.
The Laws of Slashdot #21 - proposal of Timster's Law:
In every argument about the iPod, someone will eventually resort to bringing up a product that is not available, either because it was discontinued or hasn't been released.
I was thinking about non-technical interview questions for software developers this morning, and came up with the above. I'll freely admit that, in and of itself, it's a useless question. So someone says, "I'm a tinker!" - great. Why would you say that you're a tinker, a tailor, a soldier, or a spy? How would you map these arbitrary labels onto software development? What does your choice say about your thought processes, development persona and perceptions?
Is a tinker a one-shot, McGyver-type developer, or the mecahnic that can patch together a solution to just about any problem? Is a tailor someone who crafts elegant, personalized solutions, or someone who takes off-the-shelf components and cuts them to fit? When you think of soldier, do you think of someone doing their job and following orders, or a scout sent to search out the enemy and find a path for others to follow? Is a spy someone who examines competing products, or who researches upcoming technologies that might impact your development team?
What are you - tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy?
Are there any other interview questions of this sort that you've encountered or that you like to ask when you're on the other side of the table?
After adding yet another bookmark to my "Once a Day" reading list, I realized that my daily online reading list was getting long. Adding it up, there are 82 sites a day that I hit regularly to check out for news on various topics.
Granted, about half of those sites are webcomic-related. Others are sites that I may check on a daily basis, but which generally don't have daily updates. Still... that's an awful lot of information to peruse throughout the course of the day. Especially when you consider that a lot of the blogs I read are aggregators (reddit,
So, here's my question: how much online reading do you do each day? Am I a typical web-geek, bopping from blog to blog during the course of the day, or am I a budding info-junkie?
The very first patch I ever submitted to an open source project was in August of 1998. It was a patch to Apache to allow execution of extensionless CGI executables under Windows. It was initially accepted, but then backed out rather quickly because it was horribly broken... but it was accepted, if ever so briefly. It was a really kind of cool.
The overall experience was a good one for me, despite the eventual rejection of the patch. It was obviously enough of an encouragement to keep me going. In the intervening years, I've had submitted patches to a bunch of different projects, with varying degrees of success. Most of them have been relatively minor; but I've tried to (and in most cases, succeeded in) making improvements to things like buildroot, CDT, cygwin, Eclipse, e2fsprogs, and even (once) glibc. Some were minor, some were more significant. All were, effectively, fueled by that first good patch submission experience with the Apache folks.
It's always a nice thing to see a patch accepted, particularly if it means that the problem it addresses will go away in the next release
Yep - the big kahoona.
The linux kernel
OK, so the patch I submitted really isn't a kernel patch. It's a patch to the kernel build files.
OK, OK - it's not even a patch to the kernel build files. It's a patch to the kernel configuration utility build files. An itty-bitty little one, at that. Hardly worth noticing, really. Fixes a corner case that only one person in a million will ever encounter.
Except Andrew Morton has picked it up for his -mm tree.
I'm older and wiser than I was in 1998. I like to think that I've learned from my past mistakes. I tested this patch in more ways than one, so I'm fairly sure it won't break things at all, let alone horribly. Still, you can never be sure. Even if it does get backed out for some weird reason... I'll still know that I was good enough to identify the problem, come up with a fix, put together a patch and explain that patch well enough to get it into the pipeline for someone to look at.
Yah, I realize I'm not a real kernel hacker. I work with guys who are, and I know I'm not even in the ballpark on this one compared to some of the things they deal with every day. But I'm a step closer than I was yesterday, and who knows what I'll be doing in a couple of years?
Maybe by then, I really will be able to say "I am a kernel hacker." Now that would be kind of cool.
The Laws of Slashdot #20 - first sighting of fm6's Law Of Information Costs:
One of the primary advantages of computer technology is that it reduces the cost to access information. Originally stated as, "technology delivers information cheaper."
The Laws of Slashdot #19 - first sighting of ZoneGray's Proposed Corrolary to Godwin's Law:
If somebody writes an "Open Letter," it constitutes proof that nobody wants to listen to them.
The Laws of Slashdot #18 - first sighting of Johnson's Postulate on Documentation:
Read the source code.
I was just reading through this story, and while I'm normally not a grammar Nazi, I felt the overwhelming need to explain the following over and over again as I read the comments about the article. Rather than make two dozen individual posts, I decided to vent my annoyance here...
There is a standard
I'll stop now. If I don't, I'll be back to lambasting people for using "rediculous" instead of "ridiculous"...
I'm departing from my usual criteria for recording a
The Laws of Slashdot #17: Yahoo's Law of Financial Scalability
Oracle may scale well technologically, but it doesn't scale financially.
Or, as the original poster put it:
I guess cost does matter as you scale up.
I've been reading SF for as long as I can remember. Since early childhood, certainly. My dad is a big SF fan, and I grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Simak, collections of Nebula Award winners and other short stories anthologies. I've always enjoyed good SF, whatever the genre. The only thing I've steered clear of was... well, you know... those titles. The "property" books. The ones based on some TV show, or some movie, or meant to tie into the Amazing Launch (TM) of some Game Company's (C) Big New Thing (C)(TM)(Patent Pending).
Which is where my guilty secret comes in.
A while back, I picked up a book by Sandy Mitchell, "For the Emperor". Looked like a good ol' book, really. Military SF, which was cool - just what I was in the mood for. It was even in the normal SF section, with the real authors, not stuck at the end of the shelves in the regular "property" series ghetto.
Then I realized I was holding a Warhammer 40K book. One of those books.
I put it back with its brethren. It must have been misfiled, right? It was in with the real books, after all. Instead, I picked up something else that day. But, for whatever reason, I kept on seeing that title whenever I was in the bookstore over the next couple of weeks, and, well, one thing led to another, and, um...
... I bought it.
I figured even if it had cruddy writing, cardboard characters and a lousy plot, it would still be more enjoyable than doing something like real work. Right?
OK, so I admit it - I was a snob. I was embarassed to buy it. I wanted to stop and explain to the cashier that this wasn't something I'd normally buy, but to do that, I would have had to make eye contact, so I didn't. I mean, here I am, I go to the bookstore, I come out with an armload of graphic novels, comic strip collections and SF/Fantasy without batting an eye - I like it, I know it's good stuff, even if I get an odd look from the older cashier every once in a while (particularly when buying a couple of graphic novels with an embedded systems book and a theology text. That raises eyebrows in an amusing way.)
That's not the point of this, though. Buying a book - even one of "those" books? That's not my guilty secret.
My guilty secret is that I liked it. It was a good book. Well, no. That's not quite right. It was a freakin' great book. Oh, not in the sense of "The Fool's War" or "A Deepness in the Sky" or anything else like that. It wasn't an earth-shaking, mind-altering experience. It was just a well-written, entertaining military SF book. Decent plot, great characters, interesting scenario.
So I went out looking for, and found another book by Mitchell - "Caves of Ice". Antother novel about Commisar Caiphas Cain, the protagonist from "For the Emperor". Bought it, read it in one sitting. Started looking for other novels by Mitchell - Warhammer 40K or otherwise. He was a pretty good writer, after all - not his fault that he was writing those kind of books. He still spun out a pretty good story.
My problem at this point, see, was that I was starting to browse the bookstore shelves where they kept those books. I was just looking for something else by Mitchell, really. No interest at all in any of the other junk down there - I mean, I got lucky with Mitchell, but how likely is it that I... would find... something... else...
What I found was the omnibus collection of three books by Dan Abnet, titled "Eisenhorn". Also set in the Warhammer 40K universe, they tell a good part of the story of Gregor Eisenhorn, Imperial Inquisitor, servant of the Eternal Emperor of Terra. These books weren't as good as Mitchell's; if anything, they were better. After reading "Eisenhorn", I went out and picked up a couple of other Abnet books - "Ravenor" and "Ravenor Returned", stories about Gregor Eisenhorn's protege, the Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor. Each book is better than the last, with deeeper characterization and more intricate plotting, so Abnet is obviously improving as a writer. He's managing to turn out some awesome tales.
"Ravenor Returned" is the second of a trilogy, so it looks like I'm going to have to fill in the time waiting for the third book with some additional reading. By "additional reading", of course, I mean more Warhammer 40K books. I'm absolutely hooked. I'll probably start with Abnet's series about the Tannith First and Only. After I get through those, well, there are a number of other authors writing stories set in the same universe. Maybe I'll stick with tales of the Inqusition, or branch out and read some of the stories about the the Deathwatch capters of the Adeptus Astartes, or pick up one of the novels about the Adeptus Mechanicus. There are quite a few options available, and I'm feeling lucky - I'm batting a thousand so far, after all. I still suspect that there are some real stinkers in the bunch - there always are - but at least for now, Sturgeon's law seems to be temporarily held in abeyance, and I'm really, really, really enjoying the reading.
It's nice to be able to make eye contact with the cashiers at the bookstore again, too.
The Laws of Slashdot #16 - first sighting of Cytlid's Law of the Internet:
For every Good Thing, there are at least 100 different ways to abuse it.
Two entries in one day. Wow. I'm almost blogging.
Words have different meanings to different types of people. Mention "dossier" to a 60's-era activist, and they probably have images of a dusty manila folder being studied by The Man. Mention "dossier" to me, on the other hand, and I immediately think of baby girls.
That's part and parcel of having adopted children. My two girls - who are, by the way, the two most absolutely beautiful and wonderful girls in the whole world (of course) - were born in China, and each was adopted at the age of about 9 months.
Why mention this now? Well... yesterday, our dossier was shipped out to the PRC by our adoption agency. This is the packet of paperwork that goes to China in order to start their end of the adoption process. Putting it together this third time around was a bit easier, but it's still an amazingly annoying, slow, and frustrating process to assemble all the paperwork.
Making sure all the i's are dotted, all the t's are crossed, getting everything notarized thrice over, getting it translated. You end up putting three copies of everything in your dossier in three seperate physcial locations (including a safe-deposit box!) because of the way the timing works out. See, by the time you've got your dossier assembled and ready to send to the adoption agency for translation, your daughter-to-be is probably about to be born, or has just been born... and by the grace of God and all that is holy and good, you will not miss going to get your daughter because someone managed to loose or misplace even a single scrap of paper.
That's what we've done already. Get this notarized; check that for spelling errors; call the agency about the home study update. With all that completed... now the waiting starts. We've been praying for our new daughter every night for the last 6 months, but at least there was always something we had to do, something we could do. Now it's entirely out of our hands. It's frustrating, nerve wrackingly so at times. When the waiting gets bad, all I can do is look at my two daughters and remember how hard it was to wait for them; how perfect everything was when I first held them in my arms; and how every delay and hiccup that occured while we were waiting for them was instrumental in making sure that the children God intended for us ended up in our care.
All we can do now is wait, and pray. God bless you, mei-mei. May He keep you from being cold, or hungry, or lonely. May He keep you safe, and warm, and give you someone to care for you and cuddle you, until your forever Mama and Dada can come to China to make you part of our family.
Just got off the phone with the customer support at Speakeasy. I didn't call them about a technical problem - I've only had two trouble tickets with them in almost three years of service. No, I just called to check on their current options and see if they had anything a little more cost-effective than my current plan.
You would not believe how polite and helpful these folks were. Five minutes time, and they knocked $30/month off my bill.
I've always recommended Speakeasy because I've been impressed with their technical service and support. (I'm sure that there are some folks who aren't, but my personal experience with them has been outstanding.) Now, on top of that, they were willing to help me figure out how to pay them less money for the same service I've been getting over the past couple of years.
Wow. My only regret is that I didn't call them about this sooner.
The Laws of Slashdot #15 - first sighting of Blakey Rat's Law:
Anybody who brings up Microsoft Bob in a Linux vs. Windows discussion not only instantly ends the discussion, but loses whatever their point of view is.
The Laws of Slashdot #14 - first sighting of ConceptJunkie's Law of Political Procurement:
The government will never choose a simple, cheap and effective solution when it is in competition with a complex, expensive and flawed solution.
[This is part of a comment posted earlier today... I have been thinking about this for a bit, and finally took the time to pull some of my thoughts together to explain exactly why I just don't care what Kerry has to say.]
I was once a registered Democrat; I'm now a registered Republican, and I doubt that I'll ever go back to the Democratic ticket. Why? While I was a Democrat, I never had a Republican call me stupid. I never saw conservative think tanks come out with a study showing that my political affiliation implied that I was disconnected from reality. I never had a member of the "other party" refer to me as if I were less than human because my opinions differed from theirs.
As a known conservative, particularly in this election season, I have been on the receiving end of enough hatred, bigotry, and invective directed at me to last a lifetime. Most of it has come from strangers who know nothing about me other than that I'm a registered Republican, which makes me an instant candidate for their own personal two-minute hate. The only "fact" that matters to them is my party affiliation, which they apparently believes gives them the right to be abusive, insulting, and treat me as if I were some sort of sub-human.
So... even if I were convinced that Kerry was a better candidate than Bush, I would be voting against him, purely becuase of his association with such an arrogant, hateful, spiteful, and all-around viscious politcal party.
Mind you, not all Democrats subscribe to this philosophy - thank God for that. So long as that's true, there's still some hope for the party. However, the party in general - and the leadership in particular - has gotten progressively more hateful and viscious over the last 20 years. For me, at least, they have finally reached the point where their actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what they say. Their "facts", opinions, and interpretations are useless to me, becuase before I can even enter into a debate with them, I have to at least implicitly agree to their negative characterization of me and my opinions - because unless I do, they are unwilling to consider my "ignorant" and "uninformed" point of view.
Until the actions of the Democratic party leadership and the rank and file show me that they've lost their penchant for assuming their own inherent superiority, and their relyiance on hate speech and ad homenin attacks instead of rational argument... well, I'm going to be ignoring them. I just don't care what they have to say, because the only way I can hear it is to put up with an earful of hatred and hostility. No thank you.