Monday, January 25, 2010

Some words of inspiration

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. (No, those aren't the words). I can't believe it's been over 2 weeks already! Today I put a recurring bi-weekly reminder on my calendar at work to remind me to be sure and put a post up at least every two weeks. It won't happen again!


A couple of days ago, I got the best fortune cookie. It reads:

Engage in group activities that further transformation.

It's so...fortune cookie.

And yet, isn't that something we'd all like to do? Work with other people to change the world?

I wonder if this one goes with the other fortune cookie I got recently:

Solid gains are possible today. With a headache.

I hung that one outside of my cube. So far, no one around me has complained of a headache.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Can't get something for nothing

So the latest dangerous-product-from-China scandal is kiddie jewelry.

Seems that in an effort to cut prices while following US regulations, the jewelry producers have cooperatively removed the lead, but substituted it with cadmium, another nasty heavy metal, carcinogen, brain-stunting, all that. It seems that there's no rules against cadmium in kid's jewelry.


When will we, as a nation, realize that there is a hidden cost in cheap stuff?

Cheap products are made of cheap stuff. And sometimes that stuff is cheap because it's less desirable (for example, less healthy). Think melamine. Think heparin. If something looks too cheap to be true, it is. The company is going to cut corners to make a profit.

Is buying more cheap stuff for our kids really worth it, at the expense of their health? At the expense of the jewelry workers' health? At the expense of the jewelry workers' living wage?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Out with the old, In with the new!'s been a while, but I think that's going to change. About a month ago, I made a deal with Sharney that starting with the new year I would update my blog at least once every two weeks, if she would do the same. So Sharney, we're on! Let's go, girl! Here's to the expression of new thoughts and insights for the new year!

From most points of view, I can't say goodbye to 2009 (and for that matter the aughts or the naughts or whatever you'd like to call that abysmal decade) fast enough. (Annapurna pretended to be offended by my lack of respect for the decade, and then she pretended to be mollified when I told her that there were some silver linings.) But really, from the "surge" in Afghanistan to the huge giveaway to the health insurance industry we're on the brink of, let's just say I'm less than enthusiastic about our prospects for the future. But hope springs eternal, and maybe better things will turn up in 2010.

I was going to bore you with a trivial review of many of the books I read last year (and I may yet become sadistic or desperate enough to go through with that plan), but instead, I think I'll open the year with a very apt cartoon I just saw, courtesy of Bruce Schneier.

As a once-upon-a-time student of pattern recognition/machine learning/data mining techniques, this cartoon appeals to me -- real data often looks rather like this. As a security nut, I can assure you, this is a serious issue in (IT) security. There is a rather large industry devoted to developing tools and techniques for distinguishing between real intrusions and false alarms, and still the majority of alarms do turn out to be false.

This country has a tendency to want to assign blame to someone whenever anything goes wrong. Sometimes that's useful, and sometimes we do learn to fix mistakes. Just to be clear, in the case of the underwear bomber, I think the pattern looked more like

But, in general, I think there's too much of a tendency to demand action, where there is really no good basis for action. The net result is that as a society, we look for patterns and find those we wish to see rather than spending our efforts on activities that may actually help us make things better.