Lottery Post Journal

Congratulations Rutgers!

For the first time in school history, Rutgers won a bowl game last night!

To put that in perspective, it's the first time in 137 years.

For a school that has wallowed at the bottom of the rankings for what seems like eternity, this has been one of the most amazing football seasons ever -- in college sports for that matter.  Nobody in the world would have predicted Rutgers would finish 11-2, let alone having a shot at finishing in the top 10.

Rutgers' season-ending game last night in the Texas Bowl put an exclamation point on their Cinderella story with a resounding 37-10 victory over Kansas State.

A big congratulations to Rutgers and its die-hard fans!

When did all software become "bits"?

I saw a blog entry I could really identify with today:

Did I miss a meeting of the "inappropriate computer terminology usage club" or something? Someone at work keeps referring to software as "bits" as in "the bits are on the server."

I thought it was strange, but now other people at work are also saying it. According to these folks, my archives, disk images, or Tarballs are no longer meaningful descriptors...

They are now BITS.

And the really funny thing about this is these people consider "bits" to be software, NOT data (which leads me to wonder what they believe those little 1's and 0's that make up our corporate data are called?)

Who started this? Was it some vendor sales rep or something? WHO, in the name of Dennis Ritchie, Alan Kay, Marc Blank came up with such a misuse of the term? I haven't seen such a mangling of computer terminology since the first day of my CS 101 class, many many years ago, where the instructor stated that data was a "raw collection of information".

Check out the full blog entry here

I too have noticed this stupid terminology.  The first time I saw it was when someone was posting an updated version of software, something like this:

Replace all of your May, 2006 bits with the latest bits.

How stupid is that?

I don't care if the person is talking about a snippet of code, or something small.  If it's a snippet, then call it a snippet.

I will never, ever call software "bits".  That terminology would work best in a gender-neutral kind of society, if you catch my drift.

New Jackpot Alerts

Those who are subscribed to Mega Millions and/or Powerball Jackpot Alerts at USA Mega surely have noticed the new graphical alert e-mails.  It was a fun mini-project for me to give the Jackpot Alerts a complete makeover — something I've been meaning to do for a while.

One of the nice delivery features is that I have created the e-mails such that the one e-mail will work perfectly for both plain text e-mail readers and those who can display the graphics.  Both versions of the e-mail are enclosed every time.

The other nice thing is that it will display the nice graphics even in those e-mail software applications that block external graphics.  (Such as Outlook Express.)

That was actually a learning experience for me, as I worked to create an e-mail that would display correctly in any e-mail program.  It is VERY difficult, because they are all so different from each other.

The way it accomplishes the task is that instead of including links back to a web server to show images, it encodes the graphics and stores them inside the e-mail itself, so once the e-mail is downloaded, it already includes a plain text version, a graphical version, and all the graphics necessary to display.

I even tested the e-mail in Microsoft's new Outlook 2007, which is not available to the general public yet.  From my experience with it now, that e-mail software (Outlook 2007) is going to be a real challenge for web sites that deliver graphical e-mails, as it completely changes the way they are rendered [displayed].  It took a while, but I eventually figured it out, and the Jackpot alerts now look good on that software as well.

If you are receiving the Jackpot Alerts and would prefer to see just the plain text version, most e-mail software programs have an option to just show the plain text version.  For example, in Outlook Express, you would open the Options window, then go to the Read tab, and then find the checkbox for switching to the plain text view.

If there is anyone who is having trouble viewing the Jackpot Alerts in their e-mail software (I obviously could not test every software package out there!) please send me a PM and let me know what the problem is, what e-mail software you're using, and what version of Windows or Mac OS you're using.

Article published today

I had my first article published this morning at DotNetSlackers, an excellent community site for Microsoft .NET developers.

As I go through the very long process of re-programming this entire site using Microsoft's ASP.NET 2.0 technology (and other .NET technologies), there are lots of unique challenges created, just by the nature of the enormous size of this web site.

After creating a number of really cool solutions for some of those challenges, I thought that it would be nice to tell the development community about them, rather than burying them in a mass of web code.

I'll contiunue creating new solutions, and hopefully continue writing new articles.  Many thanks to DotNetSlackers for providing the space to share my ideas.

http://dotnetslackers.com/articles/aspnet/A_Better_BulletedList.aspx

Democrats' new Intelligence Chairman doesn't know what Hezbollah is

It is hard to believe that someone with so little knowledge about our enemies is being put in charge of the intelligence committee. 

In an interview with CNN, Jeff Stein [author of the article below] said he was "amazed" by Reyes' lack of what he considers basic information about two of the major terrorists organizations.

"If you're the baseball commissioner and you don't know the difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox, you don't know baseball," Stein said. "You're not going to have the respect of the people you work with."

While Stein said Reyes is "not a stupid guy," his lack of knowledge said it could hamper Reyes' ability to provide effective oversight of the intelligence community, Stein believes.

"If you don't have the basics, how do you effectively question the administration?" he asked. "You don't know who is on first."

Democrats' New Intelligence Chairman Needs a Crash Course on al Qaeda

By Jeff Stein, CQ National Security Editor

Forty years ago, Sgt. Silvestre Reyes was a helicopter crew chief flying dangerous combat missions in South Vietnam from the top of a soaring rocky outcrop near the sea called Marble Mountain.

After the war, it turned out that the communist Viet Cong had tunneled into the hill and built a combat hospital right beneath the skids of Reyes' UH-1 Huey gunship.

Now the five-term Texas Democrat, 62, is facing similar unpleasant surprises about the enemy, this time as the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

That's because, like a number of his colleagues and top counterterrorism officials that I've interviewed over the past several months, Reyes can't answer some fundamental questions about the powerful forces arrayed against us in the Middle East.

It begs the question, of course: How can the Intelligence Committee do effective oversight of U.S. spy agencies when its leaders don't know basics about the battlefield?

To his credit, Reyes, a kindly, thoughtful man who also sits on the Armed Service Committee, does see the undertows drawing the region into chaos.

For example, he knows that the 1,400- year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

That's more than two key Republicans on the Intelligence Committee knew when I interviewed them last summer. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI.

I thought it only right now to pose the same questions to a Democrat, especially one who will take charge of the Intelligence panel come January. The former border patrol agent also sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.

We warmed up with a long discussion about intelligence issues and Iraq. And then we veered into terrorism's major players.

To me, it's like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who's on what side?

The dialogue went like this:

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

"Al Qaeda, they have both," Reyes said. "You're talking about predominately?"

"Sure," I said, not knowing what else to say.

"Predominantly — probably Shiite," he ventured.

He couldn't have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they'd slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.

That's because the extremist Sunnis who make up al Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Al Qaeda's Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi Royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

It's been five years since these Muslim extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center.

Is it too much to ask that our intelligence overseers know who they are?

Civil War

And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?

"Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah..."

He laughed again, shifting in his seat.

"Why do you ask me these questions at five o'clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?"

"Poquito," I said — a little.

"Poquito?! " He laughed again.

"Go ahead," I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.

Reyes: "Well, I, uh...."

I apologized for putting him "on the spot a little." But I reminded him that the people who have killed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil and in the Middle East have been front page news for a long time now.

It's been 23 years since a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed over 200 U.S. military personnel in Beirut, mostly Marines.

Hezbollah, a creature of Iran, is close to taking over in Lebanon. Reports say they are helping train Iraqi Shiites to kill Sunnis in the spiralling civil war.

"Yeah," Reyes said, rightly observing, "but ... it's not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It's a heck of a lot more complex.

"And I agree with you — we ought to expend some effort into understanding them. But speaking only for myself, it's hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories."

Reyes is not alone.

The best argument for needing to understand who's what in the Middle East is probably the mistaken invasion itself, despite the preponderance of expert opinion that it was a terrible idea — including that of Bush's father and his advisers. On the day in 2003 when Iraqi mobs toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Bush was said to be unaware of the possibility that a Sunni-Shia civil war could fill the power vacuum, according to a reliable source with good White House connections.

If President Bush and some of his closest associates, not to mention top counterterrorism officials, have demonstrated their own ignorance about who the players are in the Middle East, why should we expect the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee to get it right?

Trent Lott, the veteran Republican senator from Mississippi, said only last September that "It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people."

"Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion?" wondered Lott, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a meeting with Bush.

"Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference?

"They all look the same to me," Lott said.

Haunting

The administration's disinterest in the Arab world has rattled down the chain of command.

Only six people in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are fluent in Arabic, according to last week's report of the Iraq Study Group. Only about two dozen of the embassy's thousand employees have some familiarity with the language, the report said.

The Iraq Study Group was amazed to find that, despite spending $2 billion on Iraq in 2006, more wasn't being done to try "to understand the people who fabricate, plant and explode roadside bombs."

Rare is the military unit with an American soldier who can read a captured document or interrogate a prisoner, my own sources tell me.

It was that way in Vietnam, too, Reyes says, which "haunts us."

"If you substitute Arabization for Vietnamization, if you substitute . . . our guys going in and taking over a place then leaving it and the bad guys come back in. . . ."

He trails off, despairing.

"I could draw many more analogies."

Yet Reyes says he favors sending more troops there.

"If it's going to target the militias and eliminate them, I think that's a worthwhile investment," he said.

It's hard to find anybody in Iraq who thinks the U.S. can do that.

On "a temporary basis, I'm willing to ramp them up by twenty or thirty thousand . . . for, I don't know, two months, four months, six months — but certainly that would be an exception," Reyes said.

Meanwhile, the killing is going on below decks, too, within Sunni and Shiite groups and factions.

Anybody who pays serious attention to Iraq knows that.

Reyes says his first hearings come January will focus on how U.S. intelligence can do a better job helping the troops in Iraq.

It may be way too late for that.

"Stop giving me tests!" Reyes exclaimed, half kidding.

"I'm not going to talk to you any more!"

http://public.cq.com/public/20061211_homeland.html

If Congress Is Serious About Reform, Here's What It Looks Like

The latest Dick Morris newsletter, which arrived this afternoon. Dick Morris ran Bill Clinton's successful presidential campaign, and is an excellent political analyst.

If Congress Is Serious About Reform, Here's What It Looks Like

By DICK MORRIS

December 7, 2006 -- Just in case the incoming Democratic majority is serious about real ethics reform, here are a few ideas for its members to consider:

Ban spousal and family employment by campaign committees and PACs.

This is not a new phenomenon. Sen. Harry Truman hired his wife, Bess, to work on his public payroll at a $2,500 salary (this when senators were paid $10,000). Worried about media criticism, he urged her to "only just drop in and do some signing of letters. It helps all concerned." Truman was right to be concerned. It was wrong then and it's wrong now.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) opened the floodgates to the latest version of this abuse when he secured a ruling from the FEC allowing him to hire his wife as a fundraiser on his campaign payroll. In his case, his wife was an experienced campaign aide. But now 30 members have employed their wives or other family members on their campaign or PAC payrolls.

Whether these people are competent or not is beside the point. Campaign contributions are not bribes because they are not personal income. But when the campaign money flows to a spouse, the contributions become income for the member. This thinly veiled way to launder campaign contributions so that they add to the family income should be banned. Hiring of other family members should also be prohibited.

Those who have hired spouses and family members include: Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), wife and two brothers; Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), husband's law firm; Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wife and step-daughter; John Doolittle (R-Calif.), wife; Ralph Hall (R-Texas), daughter-in-law; Pete Stark (D-Calif.), wife; Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), wife; Ron Lewis (R-Ky.), wife; Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), wife; Jim Costa (D-Calif.), cousin; Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), wife; Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), nephew; Chris Cannon (R-Utah), three daughters; Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), sister-in-law and daughter; Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), wife; Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), daughter; Bob Filner (D-Calif.), wife; J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), wife; Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), wife; Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), wife; Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), wife; John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), wife; Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), wife; Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), nephew; John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), son; and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), brother Michael's political consulting firm; Sens . Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), son; and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), son and daughter during vice presidential race; and ex-Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), wife; and Tom DeLay (R-Texas), wife and daughter.

Ban immediate family members of senators or congressmen from lobbying Congress.

An only slightly more removed form of family enrichment is the increasingly frequent hiring of the wives or children of congressmen or senators as lobbyists. House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) son, for example, closed his music business in Illinois and moved to Washington where he was eventually hired to lobby for Google. Incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) son and son-in-law are lobbyists. The wife of House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is a lobbyist who hawks for tobacco companies, one of the congressman's biggest contributors. While legislators piously maintain that family members do not lobby them and some even bar them from communicating with their offices, their status as family members of key legislators is well known to their colleagues, who cannot avoid feeling pressure to give them special advantage.

Restore presidential power to line-item veto earmarks in appropriations bills and reverse the anti-impoundment legislation passed during the Nixon administration.

It is only by letting the administration police appropriations bills that the massive conflicts of interest inherent in the earmarking-for-campaign-contributions scam can be stopped.

Proposals to require public reporting of who has inserted what earmark will not be effective since most members are quite proud of their earmarks and would not only not mind public disclosure, but would actually likely welcome it.

And finally:

  • Require lobbyists to disclose the specific bills that they are lobbying for or against on the lobbying registration forms.
  • Ban all privately paid travel by members, including use of corporate jets.
  • Require electronic filing of all travel disclosures for private and government travel.
  • Require both chambers to work a full week, instead of the two- to three-day schedule they've had for the past few years.

Don't hold your breath waiting for these reforms, but they do represent what Congress should do if it wants to come clean.

"The Public Has Been Vastly Misinformed"

Media Shows Irrational Hysteria on Global Warming

"The Public Has Been Vastly Misinformed," NCPA's Deming Tells Senate Committee

12/6/2006 5:57:00 PM


WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 /U.S. Newswire/ -- David Deming, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma and an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), testified this morning at a special hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The hearing examined climate change and the media. Bellow are excerpts from his prepared remarks.

"In 1995, I published a short paper in the academic journal Science. In that study, I reviewed how borehole temperature data recorded a warming of about one degree Celsius in North America over the last 100 to 150 years. The week the article appeared, I was contacted by a reporter for National Public Radio. He offered to interview me, but only if I would state that the warming was due to human activity. When I refused to do so, he hung up on me.

"I had another interesting experience around the time my paper in Science was published. I received an astonishing email from a major researcher in the area of climate change. He said, "We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period." "The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of unusually warm weather that began around 1000 AD and persisted until a cold period known as the "Little Ice Age" took hold in the 14th century. ... The existence of the MWP had been recognized in the scientific literature for decades. But now it was a major embarrassment to those maintaining that the 20th century warming was truly anomalous. It had to be "gotten rid of."

"In 1999, Michael Mann and his colleagues published a reconstruction of past temperature in which the MWP simply vanished. This unique estimate became known as the "hockey stick," because of the shape of the temperature graph. "Normally in science, when you have a novel result that appears to overturn previous work, you have to demonstrate why the earlier work was wrong. But the work of Mann and his colleagues was initially accepted uncritically, even though it contradicted the results of more than 100 previous studies. Other researchers have since reaffirmed that the Medieval Warm Period was both warm and global in its extent.

"There is an overwhelming bias today in the media regarding the issue of global warming. In the past two years, this bias has bloomed into an irrational hysteria. Every natural disaster that occurs is now linked with global warming, no matter how tenuous or impossible the connection. As a result, the public has become vastly misinformed."

---

The NCPA is an internationally known nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute with offices in Dallas and Washington, D. C. that advocates private solutions to public policy problems. NCPA depends on the contributions of individuals, corporations and foundations that share our mission. The NCPA accepts no government grants.

http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=77195

Bipartisan Bumper Sticker

A bumper sticker for both parties.

FINALLY, someone has come out with a 100% bipartisan political bumper sticker.

 
The hottest selling bumper sticker comes from New York state:

"RUN  HILLARY  RUN"

Democrats put it on the rear bumper.

Republicans put it on the front bumper.