Monday, February 28, 2005

Overflowing hangover

My Chicago hangover has overflowed into a bad cold/flu in a seemless fashion. Snot, headache, lowgrade fever etc. Went to visit the patrons at the orifice today and maybe two or three of them will share my virus. Must remember to take notes over the next two weeks to see how this thing spreads around the castle.

I'd like to download the new version of Ubuntu linux (Hoary Hedgehog) when it comes out. Subject M will stitch my gills for trying this but flok dekoke cannot resist tampering again with the old pc.

Hopefully fdk will be in better mood and spirits soon to try and get this hapless blog back on track.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Kingston Mines

A most excellent evening was spent by fdk and Mr. Sumo listening to the blues live in Chicago's Kingston Mines. Mr. Sumo has been going there since 1991, when the neighbourhood was seedier and few tourists would venture there. One of best blues clubs on the face of the planet, the place is well worth a visit if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in Chicago. Only down side is the pricey cover ($15) and fairly pricey drinks but still worth the trip.

It will have to be a short entry today as flok dekoke's liver, lungs and brain are slowly recovering from the self inflicted punishment last night. Be sure to click on the Kingston Mines link to hear some blues and see the place.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Keystone Cops at Choicepoint

Flok dekoke will blow a gasket if we get a letter from Choicepoint in the coming days. Choicepoint is, in their own words, a "...leading provider of decision-making information that helps reduce fraud and mitigate risk." For those of you unfamiliar with this jewel of corporate America, Choicepoint handed over detailed information on 145,000 people including their social security numbers, addresses, telephone numbers etc. to criminal outsiders as they put it. I guess that truly makes them a leading provider of decision making information.

The jackasses at Choicepoint, and this is the kindest term one can use, have put out a statement on their website regarding the incident (http://www.choicepoint.com/news/statement_0205_1.html). They start off saying they are bending over backwards to help those affected by offering one year of free credit checking and a customer service telephone line. To understand how pathetic and disgraceful this offer is, you need to know that anyone can get a free credit check from any of the three credit rating agencies in the US each year. You can also buy one for less than $15 in most cases. What they don't tell you is the amount of work and vigilance that every person on that list will have to go through over the next several YEARS to make sure their good name is not being used by someone else wanting to go on a shopping spree.

The next paragraph goes on to say Choicepoint were not the victims of hackers, no one compromised their system. Presumably this means their services are intact and corporate clients need not take their business elsewhere. Phew, we were very concerned about this.

But this is not the first time Choicepoint is in the news. Two or three years ago, Choicepoint made the headlines in several countries by unethically obtaining identity records of almost every citizen in ten Latin American countries. This information was obtained without the authorization of anyone on the database and, as I recall reading, some juicy commisions may have been paid to government officials to get the information. See (http://www.cpa.org.au/garchve03/1138data.html) for more on that. The databases were then sold off to various US government agencies.

Every single keystone cop/officer at Checkpoint ought to be filing unemployment forms by now. Heck, they deserve the mother of all class action lawsuits! At the very least their own names and files should be added to those they so generously sold out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Free Arash and Mojtaba

Flok dekoke was going to post a rant on the vulgarity of Carly Fiorina's $21 million severance pay after her mediocre performance at HP. Before I got to that, however, I was reminded by the Woolamaloo Gazzette that today is the international blogger's day of action. Ms. Fiorina and her fancypants Stanford MBA degree will just have to wait their turn.

The Committee to Protect Bloggers has launched their first campaign to free two fellow bloggers imprisoned in Iran. Their stories are described on CPB's site. The idea is that people focus their blogs today on this particular campaign so here is fdk's drop in the blogospheric ocean.

Freedom of speech is an important cause in flok dekoke world and we have posted several rants on the topic previously. Mostly stuff concerning individual bloggers who get trampled by nasty corporate types. But the CPB reminds us that in other parts of the world, in this case Iran, people are rotting in prison for expressing an opinion. This is clearly wrong even if the opinions are distasteful. It is also yet another reminder for us in our cushy little homeland of how bad things can get when narrow minded dunces take over.

Not even Ms. Fiorina deserves to be treated that way.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The French Connection

Flok dekoke world is back! I flew back from Paris yesterday afternoon after a solid good week in France. We conducted three experiments and they were successful! The first case in Rennes went well and monsieur B requested a second case for the next day. This was providential as the case scheduled originally in Paris for the next day was cancelled at the last minute. All three human subjects are doing OK and fdk set the stage for more cases at three other labs.

The trip over was a last minute mad rush. Everything, the airline and train tickets, the hotel reservations, the devices, the coordinates, everything was only ready on Saturday morning and I barely made it to airport. I flew over on Virgin Atlantic via London Heathrow. It was the best deal fdk could get to Paris (US$680).

Flok dekoke wonders if the lady at the Virgin check in counter is an fdk world fan. The flight was completely full except for one row of three seats which was assigned to none other than yours truly. This meant fdk could lie his carcass in a horizontal position much like the heavy breathers in Upper Class.

There was, however, one dilemma, to sleep or to watch movies. Normally not an issue on United or American Airlines, but Virgin is deploying a new entertainment system on their flights with large color screens on every seat and with over 300 movies, and countless TV programs, games and documentaries to choose from. Designed to meet the needs of the most demanding couch potato, this system is highly recommended, very niiiice...

France was good to flok dekoke. My three readers may recall I had no budget and no expense account for this expedition. Despite this, I ate well and was invited to spend the last two days at monsieur Le Schof's cozy place right smack in the heart of the Marais district in Paris. No room for francophobes in fdk world.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Labor pains

The airline tickets finally arrived today, less than 48 hours before departure. Still waiting for the TGV tickets for the three hour train ride from the airport to Rennes. It's going to be stressful if those tickets don't get here on time. Unrefundable and all that crap. Not to mention it is virtually impossible to get to Rennes on a Sunday evening without a reservation and changing trains three times!

All this after 15+ hours of flights via London. To spice things up, flok dekoke has to be in the operating room first thing Monday morning and the devices are not ready at this writing...

Time to head back to the lab for more punishment.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The coffee is killing me

The espresso machine has been failing for several months. The gasket is hardened and leaks hot water into the cup when you use it. Krups, of course, is not interested in making it easy to get a replacement so the rootin tootin machine is just taking up valuable real estate in flok dekoke world's tiny kitchen counter. I bought a cheap stove top espresso maker on my last expedition to Madrid and subject M likes the taste but I feel nauseous after I drink the coffee. We only use 100% colombian in flok dekoke world and I don't think it's a brand thing. It's likely some chemical reaction thingy. Fdk is addicted to the smoothest coffee in the world and can feel his blood pressure gently rising with each gulp. Mood improves in minutes and then the nausea sets in for a while. Aneurism developing, not good...

I read that men that have smoked more than 100 cigarrettes in their life should get an ultrasound exam to see if they have an aortic aneurism. 100 cigarettes over 50 years is not a heck of a lot so practically every guy surviving beyond 60 is going to need an exam. The thing is, according to the article, when an aortic aneurism bursts, you can die within minutes. A real bummer if you can't make one last post on the old blog and say goodbye to everyone but maybe not a bad way to go compared to other diseases.

flok de koke should write a will, or maybe not. Let them fight over the scraps. Make that a triple espresso.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bloated tripe and rejection letters

Subject M returns tonight from her second interview out east. Not her top choice apparently. Not that we have many choices in any case. Now we wait, and we wait, until a skinny white envelope shows up in the mail or the telephone rings unexpectedly. The tears will follow if it's an envelope and the anxiety will rise to new heights if it's an offer. Of course, nobody has a clue whether to accept or not to accept. So we will agonize over this and there will likely be some heated discussions until a decision is made and flok dekoke world changes for ever.

In the mean time, flok dekoke returns to France on Saturday for our first human experiments over there. It will be nice to get out of my beloved california republic for a few days. No expense account on this trip so the tripe will be subjected to eurotrash food and prolonged periods of abstinence. The fungi will flourish again on my feet and every pitiful devalued dollar fdk spends will hurt like a like a kick in the shin. Fdk needs to hustle some money soon so we make do these trips with some class.

Monday, February 07, 2005

So you think you have problems?

A quick search on Google News today turned up surprisingly little on Darfur and the horrific, ongoing genocidal conflict in Sudan. We have forgotten about Darfur. It was shoved off flok dekoke's radar screen with all the coverage about the tsunami disaster, the superbowl, George II's coronation, sponge bob's amoral inclinations, apple computers overhyped expo, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, Social Security reform, Michael Jackson, etc, etc.

Amid all the bland aspects of our little flok dekoke world, we have managed to move the victims of Sudan's conflicts out of sight and out of mind. We don't see it, we don't hear about it, so it's not there.

Want to donate some money for the refugees in Sudan and Chad? You can do it at the American Red Cross website but even they have managed to make it hard to find in their site so that you have to slog through several paragraphs to figure out the money has to go through their International Response Fund.

In all fairness, the Red Cross does an astonishing amount of good work. Their site reminds us of important needs like donating blood, vaccination campaigns, refugee support, hurricane and flood relief programs, tissue donation, and the list goes on and on. They even report they have fully met their fund raising needs for tsunami victims and suggest other ways of helping. It just seems they could make it a little easier on their webpage to help with Darfur and any other programs they us to support.

Flok dekoke suggests raising awareness on Sudan and other nasty ongoing wars in Africa. You can learn more about Darfur and other conflicts at Human Rights Watch.

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Sour Note and a Happy Ending at the Woolamaloo Gazzette

Two quick things on the life and times of Joe Gordon, the guy who got fired from his job at a well known bookstore chain in the UK.

The first is a post on Plasticbag complaining about the whole affair, but missing the point on how corporations can intrude maliciously in our personal lives and why it is important to push back on this trend regardless of the details of this particular case.

The second, is that Mr. Gordon has landed a nice position in the book trade with Forbidden Planet, purveyors of science fiction and comic books among other things. So this adventure seems to end with fame and glory for him and a higher paying job doing what he likes.

As one astute observer posted in today's Woolamaloo Gazzette, "Well done on the new job. Don't twat it up like the last one."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

There's a worm in that apple

Several days have passed since flok dekoke world has read anything on Apple's lawsuit against Thinksecret. You may recall that Apple recently filed a lawsuit to "shutter the reporting efforts of a Web site that since 1998 has been the Internet's top source for news scoops about Apple and the Mac" as Thinksecret puts it.

The lawsuit was a bit surprising considering how positive and Apple friendly the Thinksecret site generally is. In the days before the Macworld expo a few weeks ago, Thinksecret was instrumental in building up the hype around Apple's new products as they speculated on what new toys would be unveiled at the show. Thinksecret is often cited in the press and has undeniably helped build the Apple mystique.

In flok dekoke's small mind, Apple is getting off too easy with this lawsuit. A few days before Apple announced the lawsuit, a bookchain in Scotland fired an employee for comments on his personal blog (The Wolamaloo Gazette). What followed in that case is an ongoing uproar around the world that the book chain will surely regret for many moons to come. See today's Guardian for more on that story.

Apple could use a little of this medicine too. They are often treated with kid gloves by the press because we see them as the underdog in a windows dominated world but methinks they have gone too far this time. As much as fdk likes apple computers, we own two, some heavy duty blogospheric slamming is in order unless you think it's OK for cocky corporations to trample over our right to free speech!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Warning: The FCC and FDA have determined the speech you are about to watch contains harmful...

A good day at the lab with human specimens today. After a few hiccups cranking up the old steam generators we got going nicely with a borrowed diesel version. Unlike the old temperamental unit that would randomly stop working at the most inconvenient moments, usually with a human subject on the table, this new one seems to work too fast at times so that we actually found ourselves slowing things down to avoid charring the tissue. The foundation was pleased.

Subject M just returned from her travels East. Reports liking the setting and doing reasonably well in the interviews. Rejection, or an offer, to come by the end of February. Another interview is to follow next week at another site east. Flok dekoke is not ready for this.

Did any one follow fdk's advice to watch a free download movie from Cinequest instead of the state of the union address tonight? Give yourself extra pints and points if you did. I'll bet a lab session without anesthesia that the movie was gentler on the brain cells. Fdk was too busy to catch the speech and would be grateful if one of my three readers can update me. Did we declare war on any one new? Did we declare victory? Shouldn't the FCC and the FDA post a warning before these speeches to prevent bursted aneurisms and chest pains in anyone with more than an inch of forehead?