Public Speaking on Privacy

Every time I give a talk, I find I enjoy it more. This is scary.

I prepared for the talk by spending almost the entire day working on my Python program, stopping only when I noticed it was time to drive up to the Center. That was much more relaxing than honing my presentation would have been. And I even made good progress on the program; I hope to actually start using it tomorrow.

Command Performance

I didn’t expect to be updating my ‘blog today; I thought I’d be too busy working on my privacy presentation for tomorrow, or maybe hacking my Python program. But I got the presentation done early this afternoon, or as done as it’s going to be until I decide to revise it ten minutes before showtime, and I find that if I program late in the evening, I have a hard time getting out of that mode so I can go to sleep. So here I am.

Besides, Diane is in a class this week and asked me to write something in my ‘blog so she’d have something to read during the dull parts. To be honest, I’m not sure that this particular entry is going to be much more interesting than the class, but how can I say no to such a charming requestor?

But really, today was a quiet day; I concentrated on doing work at work — I even managed to submit an expense account that’s been on my queue for a week, so perhaps American Express will not be unhappy with me.

Hormel throws in the pig.

Still looking at broadband alternatives for the house; people on DSL Reports have some good things to say about Earthlink and LinkLine and Raw Bandwidth. Nobody seems to talk much about the cable alternative, at least not on this site — anyone using @Home in Los Gatos?

They claim that it’s going to be cooler tomorrow evening. I hope so; it’s amazing how fast it got hot. On Monday evening, I was joking that we might have to turn on the furnace; tonight, I thought we might need the A/C, but the house peaked at 75 degrees, and now we have a cooling breeze coming through the windows.

And on that note, I end tonight’s command performance of Defenestration Corner. Good evening!

Power's back; I am too, sort of

Almaden survived the weekend powerdown just fine, though the climate control in my office seems to have been a bit weird today. And I survived a weekend without Net access — but I’m starting to look for a DSL or Cable ISP that serves my area and does a decent job. Any hints?

It’s going to be a busy week at work. I’m mentoring a new professional hire; on Thursday, I’ll be giving a presentation on privacy at the Silicon Valley World Internet Center Pub (y’all come…drinks are free!); and I’ve gotten started on a small Python programming project to help me deal with NNTP-based services.

And it’s also a busy week at home. This Friday is one of the two opportunities a year we get to throw away more than one can’s worth of junk in a week, and I have a lot of sorting to do. I don’t really have to worry about paper stuff, since they’ll always take an unlimited quantity of recyclables — but this is my chance to get rid of some of the other stuff which I tend to accumulate.

So I don’t expect to be posting much for the next few days.

Opting Out

Speaking of privacy, here are two handy links.

If you want to opt-out of the tracking that advertising networks like DoubleClick and AvenueA do to your browser, go to, then click each checkbox and hit the “Submit” button.

And if you don’t like the X-10 pop-under ads which are suddenly all over the Web, go to and you’ll be opted out of them for 30 days (it looks like the window still appears, but then it disappears all by itself). [Link courtesy of Dan Gillmor.]

The last of the 5-1/4 inch diskettes

I was doing some housecleaning last night and realized that I had a shelf full of 5-1/4 inch diskettes, but I haven’t had a computer in the house that could read them for about a year. So I tossed them out (I couldn’t think of any way to recycle them).

Out, 1981 taxes!

Out, PC-File!

Out, Word Perfect!

Out, TapCIS!

But I couldn’t bring myself to discard absolutely everything — when we ordered our original IBM PC in 1981 (we got such an early enough machine that it only had 64KB on the motherboard and one-sided diskette drives), we bought three pieces of software to go with it. MS-DOS 1.0, Microsoft Adventure, and VisiCalc. The first two programs are long gone, but I found the VisiCalc diskettes last night and decided to hang on to them for no good reason — after all, I have nothing which can read them! But maybe they’ll be collectables someday.

Offline till Tuesday

I get my Net connectivity through work — my home system is behind the firewall, right on the building LAN. It’s very convenient. But this weekend, Almaden is having its twice-yearly site powerdown and major maintenance — and so my connectivity will vanish when they flip the big switch.

I expect to cope just fine, and hope my silence doesn’t distress any of you.

Have a great weekend, and Shabbat Shalom!

Party time!

If the US were a parliamentary democracy, Dubya would be facing a vote of no confidence now, thanks to Senator Jeffords. Of course, I haven’t had any confidence in Dubya since the first time I heard he was running for President!

After a fun and exciting two-and-a-half hours in the dentist’s chair this afternoon, I drove to the
Silicon Valley World Internet Center in Palo Alto to see what their Thursday Pubs were like. I’ll be speaking there next Thursday on Internet privacy (my title: “Privacy isn’t just the law, it’s a good idea!”) and I wanted to get an idea of the way the audience interacted with the speaker. I learned one important lesson from my trip — I need to be brief. People are there to network and partake of the refreshments; the speaker is there to provide a focus, but not to take too much time away from the real reason people come. That information alone made the trip worthwhile — and the beer wasn’t half bad, either.

A weight off my hip

We’re having one of our periodic “please look at what you’re spending” go-arounds at work this week; I realized that I’d been carrying my pager around for years and years, but that I hadn’t actually gotten any important messages on it for at least the last three months. So I decided I could save the company a few bucks every month by giving it up, and popped it into the mail this morning.

Even though the pager hasn’t done much for me for a long time, I feel almost naked without it — but I’m sure I’ll adapt.

Actually, I had hoped to replace the pager with a RIM Blackberry, but I found that it didn’t fit my work style very well — I saw too much mail twice (once on the Blackberry and then again to dispose of permanently on my computer), and the temptation to look at e-mail for “just a minute” when it was sitting on my nightstand was awfully hard to resist. After the second time that “just a minute” turned into an actual session on my computer, I realized that instant access to my e-mail was probably a stronger lure than was safe for me.

Listening to static

When I was in high school, I did a lot of short-wave listening (and broadcast band DXing, too), and my Mom always called it “listening to static”. I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to master the code enough to get a ham radio license when I was young (I didn’t think I’d be able to put together a station), but in 1989, I fell in with a Bad Crowd here at work and learned enough code to pass a Novice test and got my license — I even convinced Diane to get her license, too.

It was a good thing that we were both licensed when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, because we were able to talk to each other and find out that we were both OK. Working emergency communications for the next few days was good, too, because it kept me from thinking about aftershocks (of which I’m sure there were plenty, but I was too busy to notice).

And having my ham license got me interested in TCP/IP (running TCP applications at 1200-baud half-duplex is interesting — and it makes watching paint dry seem to be a study in rapid activity in comparision). That led to my playing with Gopher, which then took me to the Web, which led to my current job (and at least two promotions).

Not bad for a hobby. But today’s high schoolers are probably less likely to get into shortwave listening as a starting point — at least here in North America. According to Ham Radio Online, the BBC is about to discontinue its World Service broadcasts to North America, relying instead on streaming audio on the Internet.

Listen, Ma — no static!

Culture Alert!

I tried to buy our seats over the Web, but couldn’t get the system to give me a choice, so I called the friendly (but obviously not happy with her job) person at the call center who was far more flexible in providing information; now I’m waiting for the envelope to arrive with tickets for second-row balcony seats.

I haven’t seen the Karamazovs for many years; I still have one of their T-shirts from the show we saw sometime in the 80s, but I’m afraid either it’s gotten smaller or I’ve grown. Maybe Jeffrey will be able to wear it.

With apologies to Erich Segal…

What can you say about a
19-year-old girl who
That she was beautiful, and wrote well, that she loved
basketball and the ocean. And that

she didn’t exist

I picked an interesting weekend to spend offline — when I turned off
the machine on Friday, I’d heard nothing about Kaycee’s non-existence;
when I turned it on today and read the

waiting for me in my
mail, the truth was out there.

I don’t know how I would have reacted if I’d been watching the story
develop, or if I’d been participating in the
discussions; since I came in at the end, I have the luxury of instant
hindsight, and a bit of disconnection to give me perspective. And of course, I never saw anything from “Kaycee” that wasn’t on the weblog, so I wasn’t as drawn in as Al or the BWG were.

Even though Kaycee was a hoax,
I learned some things about myself and about the value of getting the
most from every day by reading “her” story; for those, I am grateful.
I probably wouldn’t have paid any attention to a similar story if I’d
known it was fiction — I don’t watch disease-of-the-week stories on TV,

I haven’t read anyone else’s comments on this topic yet, other than the
first couple of postings on the MetaFilter thread and the pointers from
Dan Gillmor’s page.
Now it’s time to go see what you’ve said already.

What I did with my weekend

We actually had an unusual weekend — we made two visits to the local
temple of commerce (Valley Fair Mall), more than we usually make in a
season. Saturday, after spending the morning at Torah Study and
services at Shir Hadash, we couldn’t decide what to have for lunch, so
we decided to try out the new and improved food court at Valley Fair so
we wouldn’t have to agree on one type of food (it’s hard to use the word
“cuisine” on food-court food). Then on Sunday, we went back to buy
Jeffrey some shoes and look for a curtain rod to replace the one in our
bedroom. We succeeded in the first mission, but curtain rods are too
mundane for Valley Fair, and I wound up going to Orchard Supply Hardware

Saturday, we also saw
at San Jose Rep; it was an excellent
performance (especially by John Hansen as Cyrano). The ending made me
think of Kaycee, in fact — but that, of course, was before I knew the

Sunday afternoon, we installed the new curtain rod. Boy, I love home

Catching up on missed links

Shabbat. Lo Shalom.

I’m home from Toronto after two uneventful flights. I’m also out of Canadian money, which I guess means I managed my expenses well.

Have a good weekend; I plan to be offline.

Shabbat Shalom.

Energy crisis report

I’ve had CNN on the TV in my hotel room in Toronto most of the time I’ve been here, and it’s been talking about the energy crisis almost all the time; it’s depressing.

There doesn’t appear to be any energy crisis here, but gasoline is as expensive as at home — if I did my arithmetic correctly, $2.01/gallon (80 cents Canadian/liter). I remember when gas in Canada was cheap! Of course, I also remember when Dixie Vim gas station in Richmond had a sign saying “gas is cheap; it’s the taxes that are expensive” and had a breakdown to prove it; well more than half of price (19.9 cents/gallon) went to pay taxes.

I did get one potentially useful pointer from watching CNN:, which lets you search for and tell others about local gas prices.

My meeting today featured full and frank discussions; I think we may actually have gotten somewhere in solving our problems, too. At any rate, there seems to be better comprehension of the issues, and that’s a step forward — it’s so much easier to make progress on disagreements in person compared to teleconferences or e-mails!

Then I went to dinner at Wildfire Grille with some of my friends from Almaden; the meal was delicious (I had salmon, which was excellent), but a bit more pricey than I’d expected. Worth it, though.

Tomorrow, I get an early start so I can get an early flight home. And then I have no travel scheduled for the forseeable future. Right.