Archive for August, 2007

are you my mommy?

you are my mommy

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Three or four weeks ago, K received a call about a baby possum. It seemed that the mother had died and the finders could only locate this one baby. They brought it to the house and K’s been raising it ever since. Apparently, she’s doing a good job. She (the possum, not K) started off at 23g and is now around 80g. The picture above is her clinging to K while sleeping. Note, this is not good rehab practice, but an individual baby possum is a lonely animal.  🙁  Fortunately, the possum should “re-wild” as it grows up.

In her more active times, she’s crawling around all over the place, including the top of her aquarium:

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I’ll take a doll, some jacks and a dose of lead poisoning, please

In the wake of the most recent recall of toys from China due to lead paint, we find that the administration has been fighting the regulation of lead in imports.  According to McClatchy,

Consumer advocates say the Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.

The basic approach has been that the “market” will ensure that the products people want (and are willing to pay for) are available.  This implies that we have lead in children’s toys because people won’t spend money on higher quality toys.

I certainly don’t believe that markets are panaceas, but it is foolish to deny that they have the potential to adequately capture information regarding supply and demand.   In fact, some of the work that I’m doing right now involves the use of markets to capture information.

However, there are a few key factors in ensuring effective markets.  One of the most important is information.  A market can only be efficient if the participants are making informed decisions.

So, here’s my proposal.  Allow importers to bring in as many lead painted toys as they want.  The only requirement is that the amount of lead as compared to a recommended amount be printed in large print on the box.  The penalty for making false statements is for the manufacturer to be barred from the country and the importer’s/reseller’s CEO to be jailed for 5 years.  Ensure that themarket participants have adequate information and, like the disappearing trans fats in processed foods, you’ll see lead paint go away.

Okay, removing my tongue from my cheek, I do think that there needs to be limits/regulations on lead paint in toys.  But expecting a miraculous market to solve all of the problems, in absence of adequate information is just silly.

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power management and Linux

From skvidal.

If you haven’t seen powertop yet, you’ve got to look into it.  Arjan van de Ven, one of the linux kernel hackers and an employee of Intel, released powertop back in May.  What is powertop?  Think of the Unix “top,” but monitoring power, not CPU, usage.  It tells you how long you are spending in different CPU states, how long at different CPU frequencies, what is waking up the CPU most frequently, and best of all, it makes recommendations for saving power.

Powertop has already identified a number of issues in various software packages and these problems are now being addressed.  In my personal case, I found that powertop didn’t help much since I was running an old kernel on an old distribution (FC4 – I know, I know).  So I upgraded my laptop to FC7.  Before the upgrade, I got about 2 – 2.5 hours on battery.  With the upgrade and following the recommendations, I can now get 3.5 hours!

very cool.

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notes from a transition

It’s been a bit strange changing jobs.  My former responsibilities as the security officer for a university are so different from what I’m doing now.  A few idle thoughts:

  • Life at the university, particularly for management, is entirely interrupt driven.  Between the phone calls, urgent emails and meetings, I seldom had time to stop and think.  Unfortunately, that meant that a lot of work was done at home.  At the new place, work is nowhere near as disruptive.  I’m in the office for eight hours and I get eight hours worth of work done.  No meetings.  No phone calls.  Few emails – none urgent.  The change has been a little jarring.  The biggest advantage is that I’m not trying to actually do all of my work at the end of the day, so I’m leaving and getting home at a reasonable time.
  • The university structures its benefits to the advantage of the highest paid.  Everyone has to pay for a share of their health insurance.  The 403b, which is incredible, pays progressively more for people at the high end of the pay scale.  IIRC, if you put in 3%, they put in ~8% for the first $50k of salary and then ~13% for anything above that – assuming that you are in the better paid category of staff.  Hourly employees receive less contribution and have a 5 year vesting period.  At the new place, they cap at 4% of your salary, so it’s nowhere near as much in retirement.  However, they also pay full health and dental.  The upshot is that everyone receives health benefits, regardless of income.  Retirement benefits which are typically only used by people at the high end of the income scale are less generous.  Overall, a far more equitable system.
  • I’m finding that I’m much more relaxed.  I am responsible for the implementation of a decent sized project, but because it’s only one project, there is much less stress and I’m not working in the evenings.  Which gives me time to find great things online.  Like the following from Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s:  “via ovicipitum dura est”  or “the way of the eggheads is hard.”

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fini

Done. Finished. That’s all she wrote. Yesterday was my last day at the university.

Sometime before I left, I started thinking about what, if anything, I wanted to leave on my whiteboard. The obvious came to mind: “So long and thanks for all the fish.” But that’s a little too obvious. My next thought was to crib a few lines from Jonathan Coulton:

I fear nothing

Anymore

See you all in hell

But I figured that wouldn’t be appreciated. Instead, I focused on finishing up some last minute projects and before I knew it, I had to leave to run an errand before the farewell party. I left the hard drive wipers erasing my laptop and desktop, grabbed my keys, procurement card, parking pass, prox card and id card.  All of which I left with the finance and administrative folks. When the door closed behind me, I knew that I couldn’t get back in the building and that the lightness I felt came from more than the lack of a laptop in my bag.

It really didn’t matter what I put on the whiteboard – I’m done.

p.s. to everyone that could make it to the party, Thanks! it was great. to those that couldn’t, i’m sorry i missed you. folks can email me at <my last name> (at) fenris (dot) org or at <first>.<last> (at) gmail (dot) com.

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