Archive for November, 2010

Emergency Preparedness in an Age of Technology

This past Friday night, it started snowing here – the first snow of the season, in fact. It kept snowing through early Sunday, depositing around a foot in total.

Saturday morning, we lost power, which wasn’t restored until late that night.

We were pretty much unaffected by the power outage, truth be told. Not because we’re any sort of neo-Luddites, or Amish, but because we had some basic emergency preparations in place. Here’s a basic recount of what we did, what worked, and what didn’t.
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 15th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

The DIA Tries to Tackle the FOIA, A Decade Too Late

Among researchers who use the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is notorious for the glacial slowness with which they process requests. Very few large agencies manage to consistently hit the laughable twenty-business-day deadline laid down in the law, but most other busy agencies – such as the FBI – at least manage to occasionally process something with some semblance of speed.

Not so the fine men and women at DIA. They, I have it on good authority, sometimes take three years just to forward requests to the correct – hell, any! – internal division. (Lest you think this is hyperbole, you beautiful and innocent child, I recently recieved a phone call from someone at DIA, saying they had just received a FOIA request of mine that was dated forty-nine months prior, and wanting to know if that was really the correct date. Yes, I told him – and added that his agency had at least one older request of mine still pending.) This makes attempting to do any sort of meaningful research via the FOIA there extremely difficult. You see something in the news, you file a FOIA request, and four or five or six or maybe seven years later you get a response, by which time nobody cares anymore, more often than not.

Anyway, there are faint signs that Mount Diafoipa may be experiencing some quiet seismic activity these days. Does this suggest the more timely ejection of released records might be forthcoming? I wouldn’t hold my breath. But, still…
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 12th, 2010 | No Comments »

The ‘Hmong Village’ in Saint Paul

Last week, something called the ‘Hmong Village’ opened here in Saint Paul, to a moderate amount of local fanfare. The name may evoke images of either an ethnic ghetto, or a subsidized housing project, but both are quite far from the truth. It’s actually a market – bazaar might be a more appropriate term – that’s very, very heavily targeted towards the Hmong population here. Being an unemployed slacker, I wandered by on two recent days to have a look, have a bite to eat, and broaden my cultural horizons a bit.

End result? It’s a mighty interesting place indeed, let down slightly by a bit of bad planning.
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Published in: General | on November 11th, 2010 | No Comments »

How To Start A Relatively Responsible Hosting Business For $250 Per Year

While discussing how to evaluate webhosts with some friends, we discussed a couple of things that I didn’t mention in that post. One – a subject for another day – is how to analyze pricing information to determine both how badly a host is overselling resources, and how healthy a profit margin (if any!) they’re attempting to maintain.

Another, though, was how to run a hosting business with minimal outlay – which it’s very evident is a prime concern for a lot of wannabe hosts – while still offering a responsible, quality, standards-compliant service.

It turns out you can start a pretty decent sideline in the hosting business for less than 250 USD per year.
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 9th, 2010 | No Comments »

The Modern Opiate of the Masses

I am not one such that blindly embraces Progress, or adopts Change for its own sake. My cellphone screen is green-and-white; my home phones are rotary. My cameras use film, my bicycles are steel, I wear a pocket watch, and I still write – on paper – with a fountain pen. To a very great extent, the toys and trappings of the modern era hold little attraction; they are a collective source of apathy and indifference for me.

Some days, though, I’d really like a fast internet connection that worked with some degree of regularity.

Don’t worry, this isn’t another long rant about the institutional incompetence of Qwest, the monopolistic local telecommunications provider…
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Published in: Geekiness, General, History | on November 9th, 2010 | No Comments »