Child welfare agency can’t get FBI data

I was reading the online Indianapolis Star newspaper when I ran across a disturbing article.
Child welfare agency can’t get FBI data

I can’t believe that people just keep messing with the Child Welfare. It is getting to be where we need to rename that group to Government Cattle herding or something.

Child Welfare seems to try to do its job, but always gets messed up when the government wants to play a heavy hand.

In the above article it is making it much harder to place children in relatives homes when needed. They usually can get easier backgrounds on strangers, so as long as these strangers have not been CAUGHT doing anything bad then they can have children come live with them and not with the child’s relatives.

2005 Dodge Grand Caravan SE lacks alot

We currently drive a 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan SE. When we bought it we thought it was great. There is still alot to love about this paid off van of ours. It is very roomy for me being over 6 foot and Jeff being about 6 foot. We also have 2 kids in grade school and usually 1/2 a pack of boy or girl scouts that we occasionally carry around.

I recently had a chance to see and sit in a brand new 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan SE. You know the one they advertise that has the seats that fold down into the floor to give you more room. Well I hate it! First of all I have to do acrobatics to even get in the dang car. The head and foot room in the front have decreased by what seems like 6 inches to me. That does not seem like alot to a normal 5 foot something person, but imagine adding another foot and half to your size. Well to get in the door with the seat all the way back, I must tilt my head and shoulders to the side so much that I look as I might be doing some kind of 90’s break dancing. Not very graceful for a mom of 2. I then tried to sit in what they call the captain chairs in the second row. Captain who? Are these seats built for some captain in the Sponge Bob cartoon. (Don’t even get me started on that show). Well anyway, I sit in these and I am thinking these must be a built in car seat. The back of the seats head rest hit me right between my shoulder blades. I am a pretty skinny person and I look down and the seat has disappeared under my legs. Where did it go? I can’t believe that the seat that is about as long as my mid length shorts for the seat part is not even visible. I don’t know how a person would ever be able to put a full size car seat on that seat. I am afraid it just would not hold it. Oh, and for all the moms that like to go through the front middle seats to walk back to the middle or back seats to get something for the kids while someone else is driving, forget about it. They put in a 2 foot console that is good for nothing but a few cds. They blocked the path to get back to the back.

Why I am going on and on about this van, is that we own the 97 version of this van. I thought the 2005 would have the same room and some pretty cool features. Nope they have made a mistake with this van. Not that we would even buy a Chrysler again. Here is a list of reviews that we totally agree with about needing to fix the brakes all the time, power anything is ify at most, and the list of repairs that are usually needed for this model go on and on.
1997 Dodge Grand Caravan SE review

I just hope we don’t crash our van anytime soon, and that we can make enough money each month to cover the mortgage and the repair bills for this van.

The National Marfan Foundation

As most of our family and friends know, I Tami have Marfan Syndrome. I am over 6 foot tall and have the longer features in my hands and feet like most other Marfan’s do. One is born with this condition and can have mild or very severe symptoms. Most all have one if not more heart problems. The most popular amongst us is an enlarged aorta. This causes us to need to stay out of most physical sports. The sad thing is that being very tall and very agile are great features to have sports, but very fatal for the athelete that has Marfan. Many of these atheletes do not know they have Marfan Syndrome until they drop dead on the court. A simple e.k.g. done on the heart would let them know. Please look over the link below to the National Marfan Foundation and see if you or a loved one might have this syndrome.
The National Marfan Foundation


National Geographic News, 1500 year old Marfan Syndrome tombs.

As most of you know that I Tami have a rare syndrome called Marfan Syndrome. It is thought that Abraham Lincoln had this also. Now I have found a site where people think they have found tombs with 1500 year old Marfan Syndrome skeletons in it. This is exciting to think they might be able to trace this back so far. Here is the site

National Geographic News @

Internet Explorer Considered Harmful

The number one piece of advice I give everyone who asks me to fix their computer, or whom I care about (family, close friends) is this: Switch from Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox, even if you haven’t noticed any problems yet. Following my own advice, I don’t allow the use of IE within my own home except when absolutely necessary.

Some people who hear this think I’m going a little too far. Sure, non-techies should switch, but those people who know how to lock down their system should be OK, right? Surely I have the technical know-how to make Internet Explorer safe, right?


Security researchers warned Web surfers on Thursday to be on guard after uncovering evidence that widespread Web server compromises have turned corporate home pages into points of digital infection.

The researchers believe that online organized crime groups are breaking into Web servers and surreptitiously inserting code that takes advantage of two flaws in Internet Explorer that Microsoft has not yet fixed. Those flaws allow the Web server to install a program that takes control of the user’s computer.


Meanwhile, the average Internet surfer is left with few options. Windows users could download an alternate browser, such as Mozilla or Opera, and Mac users are not in danger.

By the way, number two is: don’t use Microsoft E-mail clients for mail. Why? Well, they rely on Internet Explorer for too much of their functionality, and at least one client (Outlook) is famous for its own porous security protections on top of IE’s. You’re a lot better off using Mozilla Thunderbird, Eudora, Pegasus Mail, or some other mail client not made by Microsoft.


Check out 30 days to a more accessible weblog, by Mark Pilgrim.

So how do I (or, more accurately, WordPress) do? Here’s where I fail:

Not bad. I was impressed that certain things seem to be done right. Nevertheless, there’s still room for improvement.

If anyone notices anything I missed, post a comment.

First Private Space Launch Successful

MSNBC – Private rocket ship breaks space barrier

This is one of the teams pursuing the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million bounty to the first private organization that can launch a vehicle into orbit with passengers twice in two weeks. This trip had no passengers, and thus did not qualify as a first run for the X Prize; it is a significant milestone nonetheless.

UPDATE: Oops! The X Prize doesn’t require orbital flight, but suborbital space flight (62 miles or higher). I knew that, but must have committed a thinko when writing it up.

“Microsoft Cares” (IE Team Reorganizes)

Robert Scoble gets defensive in response to an offhand comment by a member of the Mozilla team in an Ars Technica interview. In the process, he lets leak the revelation that the Microsoft Internet Explorer team is getting back together. This is later confirmed by a once-and-future team member, and a Wiki feedback page for IE feature requests is also getting a bit of attention.

So far, though, I haven’t seen anything to suggest that any of this will be available for current Windows versions, something they’ve said in the past. If this remains true, anyone wanting the new, better IE will have to upgrade to the next version of Windows to get it.

Apparently, the “doesn’t care” comment in Ars Technica has stung several people at Microsoft. While quite a few employees may care about the quality of IE, they need to recognize that the official position at Microsoft until now has been indifference, as evidenced by the IE release history in recent years. If they really cared, we’d have IE7 by now, and possibly IE8.

What’s more, the IE team has an uphill battle to convince us that they’re for real. It was an article of faith during the old browser wars that MS would let IE stagnate once Netscape was killed off. That’s no longer an article of faith; it’s a fact of history. Now Mozilla is ascending again, and surprise! Microsoft gets the IE team back together. Will they try to kill off Mozilla and then submerge again?

I doubt it, but only because they’ll have to succeed at killing Mozilla first, and I can’t see a DFSG-free Internet Explorer for Linux coming anytime soon. Thus, Mozilla will always have a safe haven, something Microsoft cannot provide as long as it allows independent development on Windows.

(Seen via Slashdot.)

UPDATE (June 21): For an idea of what Microsoft has to overcome, read this.

Being Dave Winer

Dave Winer, the founder of UserLand, got in over his head when trying to deal with, the weblog hosting service he’s offered for free for several years now. So, he administered the coup de grace, without warning. As can be expected, this generated a lot of responses, not all of them nice.

In my opinion, James Grimmelmann gets it right:

But this isn’t entirely personal. Dave isn’t just a guy doing a favor for the world. He’s a self-proclaimed weblog authority. And he’s a guy with a plan: to build out the Semantic Web with SOAP, RPC, XML, and above all, with RSS. He wants RSS to be universal; he’s out there stumping for his design, and trying to convince us all that he should be calling the shots, that his baby should be the standard. He sounds off on RSS all the time; he tells us how RSS ought to be; he blusters about public use of his words; he suggests the elimination of rival formats. At stake in all of these is his professional credibility.

In all the debates I’ve seen Dave get involved in, I haven’t come away with a good impression. I watched the RSS 2.0 standardization effort devolve into a flamefest, with everyone trying to figure out what the hell was going through Dave’s mind, and being chastised when they guessed wrong. Atom was the final, frustrated response; in fine open-source tradition, the community forked when it became clear that the current maintainer for an important technology was screwing up. Since then, Dave has mostly alternated between slamming Atom and arguing for a merger with RSS, not getting that his own inept communication was the main barrier between the Atom and RSS groups.

His current problems with illustrate his attitude perfectly. Having provided free hosting for all this time, he could easily have traded some goodwill for a little technical help. Even now, he has received a ton of unsolicited free advice, pleas to reconsider, and offers of help. Barring that, he claims that the very act of trying to keep the service up just enough for people to retrieve their data was too much for him. Warnings would have been ineffective, he claims. Worse, his first announcement was made by hijacking all the hosted blog pages, and his second was made by posting an audio clip on an unrelated site; Doc Searls was forced to do the real explaining. Finally, the comment page where people were to ask for their data back, a threat: any negative posts will be deleted. You can guess the tone on that thread: very respectful, very considerate, and very fearful. Does Dave enjoy being feared?

All in all, this vindicates my general distaste of technology that’s too strongly controlled by one person or group, especially when that person or group is not trustworthy. I don’t wish Dave Winer ill; neither do I consider him a bad person for having shut down I simply see this as another example of his prime failings: pride in his achievments, disdain for anyone who challenges him, and an uncooperative nature. Let us hope that he learns from his mistakes, or at least fades into an obscure retirement.

Camping and Sickness

Well, this was going to be my notice of a several-day hiatus while Jon and I went camping with the Cub Scouts. Unfortunately, Jon caught something, and is now running a pretty good fever. The doctor says it’s viral, and that there’s nothing really to do except wait it out. The Scouts are being cool; if he gets better, we can check in late and enjoy what’s left of the trip.

UPDATE (June 20): Well, we’re in Champaign, Illinois, visiting grandparents. Jon eventually was diagnosed with strep, and after starting antibiotics, is doing fine.

Owning Slaves?

Steven Den Beste has a fascinating article on the ethics of owning slaves programmed/brainwashed to desire slavery, motivated in part by musings on the ethics of owning sentient computers in the future.

(Personally, I’m not sure that day will ever come, and I’ll be more inclined to worry about it when it actually happens or looks close to happening. Let’s talk after someone produces a computer with the sentience of a chimpanzee.)

He is slightly off, though, when he says:

And it is hard to see how the eventual owner of such a voluntary slave could avoid carrying any of the ethical stain. I think it would also be immoral to own such a slave.

On the contrary, in a society with a permanent slave class, it is entirely possible to own a slave honorably. As an ethical slaveowner, you will treat your slaves better than the slaveowner down the block will, and since the poor slaves can’t escape their condition in any meaningful way, the best the slaves can hope for is for you to keep them. Such rationales were used by many antebellum Southerners who kept slaves, on the theory that free blacks were very likely to be kidnapped and re-sold into slavery (something that did happen far too often).

Of course, such an ethical slaveholder would also work like mad to abolish such a horrid institution as a permanent slave underclass.

Similarly, here’s how you could keep a sentient slave programmed to want subservience in an ethical manner:

Write a contract freeing the slave, but make the contract conditional on the slave’s acceptance of the deal. Sign the contract, and give the paper to the slave, complete with space for him/her/it to sign. From that point on, treat the slave as a full-time, live-in employee. This improves the slave’s conditions to nearly perfectly mirror those of voluntary employment, and give the slave the power to confront his/her/its tendencies towards subservience at his/her/its own pace.

We don’t need any such gyrations in current society because slavery of any kind is currently illegal and/or impossible, which is clearly the optimal ethical case. For suboptimal cases, though, there are often hard problems and trade-offs; failing to respect those can create new injustices.

Joining Planet Debian

Planet is a nifty little aggregator; it takes the posts to various Web sites and puts them all on a single site, with links to the original stories.

One of the Planet developers also runs an aggregator for Debian stuff. So, the other day, I inquired about joining. As they say, the rest is history, and I am now feeding to Planet Debian.

I have been kind enough to only feed Debian-relevant stuff. From the political posts I’ve seen so far, I’m not convinced that the rest of my stuff wouldn’t generate more heat than light, though everyone is invited to prove me wrong. I will highlight one of my more recent posts that may be of interest to Debian folk: Why Discover, a defense of discover’s relevance.

My Position on Global Warming

An old post by Jane Galt (linked by her more recent post here) basically sums up my position on global warming.

Executive summary: The shrillness of the debate and distortion on both sides make it impossible for non-experts (which make up nearly all of us) to know either if there’s a problem or if there’s a viable solution.

UPDATE: This is also a thought-provoking page, though I don’t necessarily claim it’s correct.

Teacher Fired For Teaching

Hit & Run: No Facts in the Classroom, Please

Matt Welch’s comment is actually scarier. Firing a teacher for teaching the source of a Shakespearean allegory is stupid, and chills teachers who want their subject matter to be interesting. Firing a teacher for explaining the causes of the Holocaust is dangerous as well as stupid, since ignorance is the best weapon of demagogues against a decent people.

Why Discover?

(This post was originally an E-mail, sent to explain the reason why discover deserved to be supported in some software. By popular demand [Ian], it is now posted here, slightly edited.)

Discover has three basic design criteria:

  • Arbitrary data. Strictly speaking, discover has no concept of a “Linux kernel module” or “XFree86 driver”. It simply associates data with hardware, and can return that data when the hardware is found. It’s up to add-on utilities to make sense of the data.
  • Versioned data. Version specifications can be attached to data, and can be used to choose between alternatives.
  • Cascading data. That is, newer data can be loaded and override old data.

Thus, it’s easy for us to do things like the following:

  • Pull down data updates from a central source at runtime.
  • Support userspace hardware configuration for utilities such as SANE, CUPS, UPS daemons, CD burn utilities, etc. Adding support for a new utility does not require code changes to discover; often, this can be done with a new data file and a shell script.
  • Support multiple versions and multiple software types. For example, right now we have XFree86 3.x and 4.x driver information in our database, and could easily add and X server driver info when needed without losing the earlier data. (Or someone else could provide that information and hook it in themselves.)
  • Cross-platform compatibility. We are developing sysdeps that make discover work with FreeBSD, for example. While Linux kernel information wouldn’t likely be useful, userspace configuration would likely be the same everywhere.
  • Driver alternatives. We already do ALSA sound drivers with 2.6 and OSS with 2.4, but we have had several requests to allow ALSA drivers with 2.4 as well. We will support this in our next data release by providing override data that can easily be added to discover’s configuration. You could handle, say, David Hind’s PCMCIA drivers vs. kernel PCMCIA drivers or open-source vs. proprietary NVidia XFree86 drivers the same way.
  • Alternative purpose drivers. We could, for example, specify framebuffer kernel modules and DRI kernel modules for video hardware separately, and load either or both as we see fit.
  • Fine-grained versioning. If a new driver is introduced in Linux 2.6.6, our data can reflect that, so 2.6.5 users aren’t confronted with module load failures.
  • Data annotation. We mark data with dates and IDs currently to show when data was last reviewed (or not, in their absence). We will be adding a “important to debian-installer” tag so that d-i can strip out unnecessary data to save space. We’re also thinking about a rating system that would allow users to vote on, say, whether e100 or eepro100 works better for their particular Intel network card.
  • Packaging. We have already written a spec for associating package data with hardware. So, for example, a utility could offer to install SANE for you if you plug in a scanner, or the installer could notice that you’re installing on a Toshiba laptop and add toshutils. Long-term, we’d like to write a utility that will be able to download kernel module source and build it for the running kernel automatically; this, along with a data update, could allow for field updates of hardware support without requiring new kernels.

Other hardware utilities, such as kudzu or hotplug, suffer from the same deficiency: they are inflexible and difficult to update. As an example, I was recently made aware that the version of kudzu in Debian is too old to support Linux 2.6 kernels; the maintainer is concerned about updating it because of other potential problems he had observed. By contrast, we have made code enhancements to discover recently, some of which make it work better with 2.6, but none of them were required for us to provide good 2.6 support.

None of this is intended to be harsh or confrontational. I don’t think other hardware utilities suck. It may be that discover has fatal defects in its design, and kudzu or hotplug becomes “the way forward” in Linux hardware detection. But we certainly think our ideas about hardware configuration deserve attention, and we’d really like to make them available for others to use.