Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Vacation's Over

Some time yesterday my accrued vacation ran out. I am now officially unemployed (although still waiting for my final accounting from my former employer). In the last week my resume has doubled in size and my cover letter has become a lot more polished, now I just need someone to read them!

I also applied for unemployment benefits so that I could help boost Bush's numbers, but got denied for reasons that I can't figure out. Actually I got denied twice for different reasons -- first when Pennsylvania didn't notice that I worked in Texas, the second time because I lacked sufficient weeks of eligibility. I'm damned if I can figure out what they mean by that, however. After nearly 7 years at the same job, I would expect to have sufficient weeks. The whole issue is probably tied up in my relocation a year ago -- although I seem to be not being credited with any work in PA in the first quarter of this year. I'm not sure I want to think about the implications of that yet, but they aren't good.

In the mean time I am busy finding ways to stay busy, and am trying to apply for one job a day. I just can't get into the "resume blaster" mode of spamming every employer in Pittsburgh with a large Word document. I know that when I was on the receiving end of those things, they got deleted immediately if we didn't have a job listing. I am a little dismayed, however, at the lack of response from companies that are listing jobs, but don't even respond to submitted resumes. While I realize that they are probably getting a lot of response to listings, particularly ones that are put on job boards, at a minimum they should use an automatic response to acknowledge receipt.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The Crossing

Every so often I like to header over to Dr. PollKatz and take a look at the current administration poll numbers. For the first time I am happy to see that the President's approval and disapproval lines have merged, and (dare I say it?) look ready to cross any time now:

Poll numbers

Since the two divergences in history were 9/11 and the Iraq Attack, and I don't think that Bush would orchestrate a new massive attack on the US, if I were Iran or Syria, I'd be sweating right now.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Yeast Propagation

One of the side-benefits of moving to Pennsylvania that I hadn't considered is that apples grow easily here (unlike Texas, where it doesn't get cold enough). Suddenly right now apples and apple juice are abundant. And I have a lot of time on my hands, so it seems that this is the perfect opportunity to limber up my brewing equipment, replace those bits and pieces which are lost, and brew up a couple of batches of cider for the long cold months ahead. To this end I have 5 gallons of unpasteurized cider in our third fridge(why do we have three fridges? Damned if I know), along with a pitchable Saison yeast.

Cider is a good place to re-enter brewing since it doesn't require quite the work of beer. There is no hour-long boil along with timed additions of small amounts of hops and a rapid chill (one of the lost items is my counterflow chiller). This frees me up to concentrate on sanitation & bottling and not get distracted. It also lets me explore the best way to make gravity work for me in siphoning in this hilly country. Texas & Florida both rather lacked useful slopes, making siphoning more challenging.

Update:Made and pitched. It looks like the apple juice has a specific gravity of 1042. Should make a nice mild cider!

California Dreamin'

Brad DeLong has a
list of some of the lesser candidate statments in the upcoming California election. It appears to demonstrate the perils of setting the bar too low in a "general" election.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Trivial Annoyances

Normally Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column (formerly of Slate, now at ESPN.com) is a dense but very readable summary of the weekend's NFL games, the week's world events, and plenty of cheesecake (with a little beefsteak thrown in for good measure). OK, I was going to complain about the short & pure cheesecake nature of this week's column, but I just found the real one here. Instead, I'll combine two complaints about ESPN.com instead.

First, they hid the link to the real TMQ column and only showed the link to the replacement column instead. What's with that? It seems to be the goal of most media organizations now to piss off their regular vistors in some bizarre attempt to get a new audience. The result seems guaranteed to drive away the existing audience to little benefit (See, e.g., Rush Limbaugh on NFL Today. Hmm ESPN again, I'm starting to detect a pattern). I always thought that one of the rules of marketing was that the customer you have is more valuable than the potential customer because the costs of acquiring the new customer are so high.

Second, that AllState collapsing banner ad at the top of the page. Having the links move after the page loads is just STUPID. In fact by the time I realised why the links were moving, the ad was sufficiently obscured that I didn't even see its message, just the residual banner.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Blog Problems

When I started blogging, I went with enetation to provide a comments server for my blog. A couple of weeks ago they announced a system upgrade, and since then I've had no comments at all. I guess that means I'm looking for a new comments server, preferably US-based to cut down on transoceanic bandwidth (think globablly, act locally, y'know?) I'd invite people to make suggestions in my comments, but, well, by the time you make suggestions, I'll have solved the problem!

Questions I have (pt I)

With a lot of time on my hands now, I am starting to ask questions.

How many US Postal Service delivery trucks are there in the US? Taking a WAG, I'd say that there are somewhere on the order of 100,000,000 US delivery addresses (say population of 280E6, 4/houshold average, yields 70E6 homes, plus half as many businesses). Now each of those addresses should be visited by a mail carrier once per postal day. If we generously assume even distribution of addresses, and that each truck can visit 1000 addresses, then there should be 100,000 USPS trucks on the road each day.

Now, each of those trucks follows a fixed route that is, at least in urban areas, relatively short -- maybe 20-30 miles. They spend each night at a central depot, behind a fence (at least they do at the post office near me).

So the real question is Why isn't the post office leading the charge to develop electric vehicles? These vehicles are ideal candidates for the current generation of ZEVs. They never travel long distance, they always spend the night at a charging station. There could be a large enough volume order that economies of scale could persuade the manufacturer to eat the development costs in return for a reasonably long-term contract (5 years?). And as a quasi-government agency, they should have some kind of social responsibility to address growing environmental concerns, especially in Urban regions. All talk of global warming aside, is there an urban area in the country that doesn't experience multiple air quality alerts over the course of the summer? While the mail delivery trucks may not be a significant contributor to ground-level pollution, they seem like an obvious place to start.

Update: According to this document the USPS has about 200,000 vehicles (so I was conservative by a factor of two which puts me in the ballpark) of which 30,000 (15%) are Alternative Fuel Vehicles. However only about 500 are electric vehicles, so there is definitely room for improvement.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Dubya's Victims

There's a lot of traffic today abou the new jobless report -- here, or here f'rinstance -- but that's all last month's news. I am proud to announce that I'm doing my bit to undermine the President by contributing to next month's layoff numbers. Well, I suppose you might instead suggest that my former employer is doing their bit, but either way I got laid off at 5:00 Texas time yesterday.

So if anyone has leads on tech jobs in the Pittsburgh area, I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

ER Rules

I read in the paper this morning (and have just noticed over on Eschaton) that the Bush administration isn't just feeding its partners in the energy industry. The big donations that I'm sure the large health care networks made to his campaign have resulted in the relaxation of the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act that requires hospitals that accept Medicare money to treat anyone who shows up in the Emergency Room with a complaint.

Now remind me again how the compassionate part of Compassionate Conservatism works?

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

FIA Imitates NASCAR

To accomodate the summer holidays, Grands Prix are spread out to every three weeks at this time of year, instead of the fortnightly schedule that they follow the rest of the time. As a consequence, the FIA needs to do something to generate news during the middle week. This time they've come up with a fascinating proposal regarding tires.

As a quick primer -- there are two tire suppliers in F1, Bridgestone and Michelin. Bridgestone supplies tires to Ferrari and minor teams, Michelin to Williams and McLaren and minor teams. Lately Ferrari has been doing poorly after dominating last season and they blame their tires (if not in so many words).

There are persistent rumors that the FIA really really like Ferrari and don't want to see them do badly -- rumors that are frequently denied. Those in the tinfoil hat crowd, however, can certainly point to rulings that seem explicitly designed to favor the team from Maranello, however.

That being said, the FIA has just announced a new level of tire scrutineering that seems likely to disqualify anyone running on Michelin tires by making them too wide. This kind of moving the goalposts during the season is common in certain popular forms of American motorsport, but has not been the norm in Formula One. Michelin have announced that they don't care and have no intention of changing their tires before the next race.

This is all presumably a tempest in a teacup, since the FIA are unlikely to disqualify half the field, but it will certainly fuel the conspiracy theorists among us.

Instant Sports

For some time I've been watching large parts of races (particularly NASCAR) on TiVo's double speed function. This has serveral benefits -- the long slow bits where cars drive in circles but not much happens are shorter, the double-speed has really good picture quality, so you can spot the events (good passes, pit stops, "racing incidents") and slow down to watch them carefully, and the sound is turned off thus blocking the announcers. Now I read that Gizmodo does the same thing with World Cup Soccer.

But at the same time he talks about new software that analyzes sports events and only records the interesting bits. Now that could be a time saver. Combining it with NFL Sunday ticket, you could watch an entire weekend of football (all 16 games) in about 2 hours, and probably see all the action!