|The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)|
Friday, September 20, 2002
Yesterday I turned on my computer and it would not boot; instead there was a weird error message. I rebooted a couple of times to give it a chance to fix itself. (Maybe I should have slapped it on its back.) Second verse same as the first, so I broke out of the config.sys script and tried to edit it:
I called my friend Dave who is a high-powered sysadmin at WebTV. He claimed to know little about Win98. His first suggestion was to scandisk the disk:
Dave then basically said to take off and nuke the site from orbit, by which I mean to reinstall the OS (which wipes out all data on the hard disk).
He said I could try to use the Win98 CD's repair function to replace the missing files that confused the setup scripts.
Dave had helped me figure out that my built-in Zip drive was on B: in MS-DOS (it's D: in Windows), so my plan was to write all my recent data to Zip disks and then muck around with the Win98 CD. I started navigating about in MS-DOS. I was going to say "it's the Windows equivalent of being a quadriplegic" but then I realized that I was healthy and it's a beautiful day out and I'm going hiking, and felt ashamed of myself when I thought of what real quadriplegics have to go through. Still it was difficult. My plan was declared moot for two reasons:
Dave thought that the fact that this pointed to a FAT corruption.
That afternoon I decided to seek professional help, and called a tech who had helped my wife and her boss when their office computer had had hard drive problems. He said more or less the same thing Dave did, which was that my hard drive was probably fried and that fixing the FAT table would not solve the underlying problem. I had thought that hard drives occasionally wrote or contained the wrong data, and that outside agents like cosmic rays could corrupt hard disks. (The attraction of this belief being that if nothing was fundamentally wrong with my hard disk, I could fix the FAT and be on my way.) Now I am a brave man -- you can tell because after losing my Civilization III saves I am gamely typing on my weblog at a computer in Kinko's instead of being curled up in a ball -- but I'm not brave enough to ask Bo the tech if the problem could be cosmic rays.
After I get done here I am off to Fry's to get a new hard drive and some more memory. Tomorrow Bo will install the new drive, then mount the old drive and attempt to recover my data. Wish me luck, but feel free to focus on someone who has real problems.
Thursday, September 19, 2002
Should the result of turning on my computer be a black screen with white text?
I decided that it should not.
Should the aforementioned text say "Error in config.sys line 14. RTF.CLK not found"
I decided that it should not.
Should I run screaming for a pair of asbestos gloves and some safety goggles?
I decided that I should.
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
The Truth about Telephone Polls: Why They Fail to Represent the American People
This article, first published last April, is truer now - and the findings more critical for Americans to know - than ever.
"In short, polls do not represent: the very poor, people in armed services, people on Indian reservations,
in hospitals, in nursing homes,
in group homes, drug rehab centers,
most roommates in a roommate situation,
people with unlisted numbers, those with caller ID who do not accept unknown calls,
people with telemarketer/survey fatigue (a growing percentage),
people who live alone (especially women),
urban young people (a growing percentage of whom have cell phones).
So basically, what we have even on a good day in telephone poll land, is a tendency for results to be weighted toward white, higher income conservatives and away from low income groups, especially urban minorities.
But even if everyone possible could be reached, the way questions are worded helps skew polls away from true public opinion.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
VodkaPundit, neť Stephen Green, posted a snarky takedown of Congressman Ron Paul's "35 Questions on Iraq". This provoked furious responses from Charles Oliver and RiShawn Biddle.
I have my own doubts as to the wisdom of an Iraq campaign, but I wasn't impressed with what Paul had to say. Here are some of his objections:
and in an op-ed quoted by Biddle:
Willis and Biddle claim that Green is wrong to dismiss Paul as possessing a "knee-jerk anti-Washington stance, devoid of any consistency or logic", because these paragraphs contain nothing about government. The problem is that the paragraphs are not coherent arguments; they are content-free objections.
Where did Paul's $1E+11 price tag come from? I didn't see a list of war and occupation costs, and 100 billion being a round number is kind of suspicious, no? Why would it take 30 years to occupy Iraq? Why not 20 years or 50 or 100?
Where did the estimate of 200,000 soldiers come from? (The estimates I have seen range from 50,000 to 150,000.) Why is it necessary to worry about the defense of our own shores? Will Mexico or Canada mount an invasion? Are there other enemies who have the ability to mount amphibious assaults? Does Paul really think it would be impossible to move any soldiers from overseas to deal with an invasion of the US?
Green's contention that Paul objects to the war because of anti-government beliefs is an inference. But it's a reasonable inference based on Paul's refusal to make coherent arguments and his professed beliefs. So when Green responds to question 18 with
Bully for him. As counter-argument Green's statement would be fatuous -- but he is responding to the lack of argument, and is making a statement that he's not interested in being snowballed.
Monday, September 16, 2002
Colby Cosh found a picture of Tony Iommi posing as Jethro Tull's guitarist for the movie Rock and Roll Circus. Colby called it "the "what might have been" lineup of Jethro Tull."
What would Paranoid sound like with a flute solo?
a Usenet post by Doug Haxton in sci.space.policy that made my eyebrows go up. Some charming folks at democrats.com object to private development of the moon -- and their reasons, are, well, very special:
Worrying about the pollution or contamination of a lifeless vaccuum is weird enough -- a classic case of environmentalism as religion. But what about this "adding mass/removing mass" nonsense? Does democrats.com have any idea how much mass can be launched into space by a rocket, and how small that amount is compared to planetary mass?
"A liberal is someone who is mathematically illiterate, and proud of it." -- Robert Heinlein.
anarchist position on the war on terrorism, courtesy of James Donald:.
Sunday, September 15, 2002
an editorial decrying the "problems" faced by America's Muslims since 9/11. I present an excerpt, which also serves as a justification for the scare quotes:
Slurs are a major problem? Have de Da or Bazeley ever been to a high school? A sporting event where the visiting team is razzed?
Sean Rawlings did an admirable job of putting the issue in perspective with his letter to the editor:
Eddy L. Harris travelled in Africa around 1990 and wrote a wonderful book about his experiences called Native Stranger. A more recent book in this vein was Keith Richburg's Out of America. The pattern of the books is the same: A black American goes to Africa to find his roots, to find companionship with his race, and instead discovers poverty, disease, and mass murder. While Richburg was shocked, angry, and betrayed, the prevalent tone in Harris' work is sympathy and angst.
Harris travelled down the west coast of Africa. He went from Mauretania to Senegal at a time when the two countries were hostile to each other, though not at open war. Immediately after he arrived in Senegal, violence exploded:
Remember this the next time you hear someone whine that America is intolerant and racist.
Now in astounding Hand-o-Vision!
Friday night Sherry and I played bridge at the Palo Alto club. This is the best of all the local club games; it is a barometer, which means that everyone plays the same hands and gets their scores at the end of the round. This game also attracts a lot of good players; there were 16 tables.
The most interesting hand was board 9:
North dealer, E-W vulnerable.
Sitting North I passed. East passed, Sherry opened 1. West overcalled 1.
I bid 1, which shows 4 or more spades. (We do not play negative doubles.) East bid 1N. Now what should Sherry do? If she passes, we may miss a good spade fit. If she raises, we could be in a bad 4-3 spade fit. At the table she bid 2 and all passed.
East led the ace of hearts and switched to a trump. I considered playing low but that might prove awkward if West had the ten. East was more likely to have the king than the ten, so I played the queen and it held.
I liked the idea of pulling trumps because it meant that I could enjoy my clubs. So I crossed to the king of clubs and led a spade up. East ducked and I won the jack. Now I cashed the king of hearts, played a club to the queen and led a heart. East pitched a club and I ruffed with dummy's last trump. At this point I had taken six tricks.
Now it was time to play clubs. On the third round of clubs East ruffed with his small trump. Now he played a diamond to his partner, who played a heart. I could ruff small and get overruffed; then I could ruff back in with the spade ace and cash my club. At the table I ruffed high and put my last club on the table. East could ruff this with the king, making my 8 good, or let me score the club. +110 was worth 25 on a 30 top.
Hands like this are why I am a firm believer in raising on three trumps. Note that there is no defense to 2. The diamond position appears unfortunate for the defense but that really has nothing to do with it. Switch the Q and 2 of diamonds so that N-S cannot set up a diamond trick.
Suppose E-W start with a tap:
East gets a small trump at the end.
If East leads a trump and continues trump thereafter, North can pull trumps and score all four clubs, three trumps, and the heart king.
There are other variations, but they all add up to eight tricks for N-S.