Archive for March, 2005

Too many players winning Powerball, lottery says

One proposed solution: decrease the odds of winning. That’s just what the Multi-State Lottery Association did in October, 2002. The odds went from 1 in 80 million to 1 in 121 million.

When more players win the jackpot, ticket sales go down. Ticket sales are highest when the jackpot is over $100 million. Decreasing the odds of winning increases the likelihood of larger jackpot accumulation.

This plan sounds not unlike the plan to [save mass transit][1] by increasing fares and decreasing routes.

[1]: http://bretshroyer.org/?p=8

But wait, the plan has its detractors:

>Gail Howard, a lottery expert from Las Vegas, said higher jackpots may not be the answer.

>”The people, they’re getting used to having these $200 million, $300 million jackpots,” Howard said. ”Pretty soon it will take a half-billion-dollar jackpot to get even a welfare recipient out of the house to buy a ticket.”

This is wrong on so many levels, I just don’t know what else to say.


Read Full Post »

Antivirus Software

Using Mac OS X? Do you have antivirus software? Perhaps you should. [Symantec warns][1] that malware is on the rise for OS X. Note that Symantec also has a deep interest in getting OS X users worried about spyware.

I’ve been using [ClamWin][2] for a while now on Windows. It’s free and open. I just learned that there’s an OS X GUI available: [ClamXav][3]. Have to check that out. Not that I’m worried about virii per se — It would be nice to catch any PC virii lingering on the system, so as not to be an unwitting carrier…

[1]: http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/03/22/0055237&tid=172&tid=3
[2]: http://www.clamwin.com
[3]: http://www.clamxav.com

Read Full Post »

Minnesota recently passed a law restricting our ability to purchase cold medicines. The war on drugs has just broken out in our Midwest backyard. My wife, an embedded journalist, has filed this report:

>I just returned from what should have been a quick trip to the store.
My entire family has colds and I needed to restock our medicine
cabinet. After carefully selecting different medicines for Child #1
who has a cough and sore throat, Child #2 who has a stuffy head and
Child #3 who has a runny nose (because we wouldn’t want to overmedicate
the darlings!), I grabbed adult medicines, to alternately keep us awake
during the day and asleep at night, for my husband and I and went to
check out. There I was informed that in the STATE WHERE NOTHING IS
ALLOWED, I am now allowed only one bottle of cold medication containing
pseudoephedrine a day! Have you ever tried to buy cold medication
without THE INGREDIENT in it?

>What to do? Medicate my husband so he can go out and earn a living?
Medicate my kids to ease their suffering? Nope, I chose to medicate
myself so that I could spend the next 45 minutes driving around to all
the pharmacies in our area to stock up. Is it possible that Walgreens
had advance warning of THE INGREDIENT ban when it planned its stores,
which have popped up like dandelions in suburban Minnesota? Luckily,
there are three very close to my house! The irony of this situation
is, now that I know of the ban, I will make a point of buying a bottle
of medicine with THE INGREDIENT in it each time I go to the store so I
can stock pile it! (hee hee) I will likely now have more of thse
medications in my home than ever before!

>Now, call me crazy, but if I, a sick mother with a sick preschooler in
tow, can travel to all of these pharmacies in an hour, couldn’t a
tripped out druggie looking for a fix do the same? Who is suffering
here? What is going on with this state? Is the government trying to
drive us out? If we can’t fish the lakes like we used to be able to,
can’t run our recreational vehicles like we used to and don’t even get
snow in the winter anymore, WHY DO WE LIVE HERE? To suffer in the cold
and get sick so we can’t get medicine. THIS IS THE CRAZIEST, MOST

>Ok, I’m calming down now, must have been the buzz from THE INGREDIENT
in the medicine I took.

>For those of you with colds: GOOD LUCK!

Read Full Post »

I’m feeling particularly punchy today. Let’s dissect a StarTribune editorial, shall we?

>[Editorial: Cut transit? Not the way to ease traffic][a]
>March 17, 2005
[a]: http://www.startribune.com/stories/1519/5296996.html

>Let’s see if we can get this straight. The biggest problem in the metropolitan area is traffic congestion. That’s what the surveys say. The best way to fix the problem is more transit and better transit. Again, that’s what the surveys say, and, indeed, the success of the Hiawatha light-rail line has helped people to see how a larger, higher-quality transit system would benefit the entire region.

The Twin Cities Metro Area might have a few problems bigger than traffic congestion. I’ll throw out a couple to start the discussion: high taxes, dismal school funding, and restrictions on suburban development. I’ll also take offense to “the best way to fix the problem” — and I’ll make a counter-proposal: build more roads.

>But now comes a recommendation that what’s needed are higher fares and drastic service cuts in order to make trains and buses less popular and less dependable. What must be done, really, is to discourage ridership. That way, more commuters will be enticed back into their cars so that they can drive more, pollute more, burn more gasoline, waste more time in traffic and add more to the congestion problem.

>Does that make sense? No. Is it good public policy? Doubtful. Is it the best foundation on which to build the bigger, better transit system that most people want? Absolutely not.

>Yet that’s the Metropolitan Council’s proposed solution to cover a $60 million gap in Metro Transit’s operating budget. It’s the solution dictated by a no-new-taxes pledge designed to enhance a governor’s national ambition at the expense of his state’s well-being. It’s the solution celebrated by an ideological movement that wants to force “self-reliant” individuals back into their cars at triple the overall cost.

Hold it right there. It may be triple the cost for me to drive my own car, but that’s only when compared to the subsidized fare. Here in Minneapolis, a five-mile trip on the Hiawatha line may sell for the bargain-basement cost of $2.25, but the [true cost][1] is $19.
[1]: http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110006428

>Commuters, both drivers and riders, should rise up against the proposed 15 percent fare increase and 10 percent service reduction for one fundamental reason: Just as you can’t build a new house on a crumbling foundation, you can’t build a modern transit system by severely damaging the current structure. Reducing or eliminating 106 bus routes won’t make the foundation stronger. Driving away transit riders can’t be the answer to the metro area’s traffic problems.

But it just might be the answer to the Metro Area taxpayers’ problems.

>Granted, the Met Council operates under severe budget constraints. There are four main reasons for the current shortfall: higher medical insurance costs for transit workers; rising fuel prices; a big decline in revenues from the motor vehicle sales tax on which transit depends, and chronic underfunding by a Legislature that has imposed five budget cuts on Metro Transit in the last four years.

Hat tip to Joe Soucheray for correctly identifying the unnamed, fifth reason: There aren’t any riders! It’s so obvious, that failure by the editorialist to include it indicates a deep-rooted desire on his part to mislead the audience.

>Peter Bell, who has done an admirable job chairing the Met Council, argues that transit has done quite well given the state’s fiscal condition, and that it must endure cuts along with other agencies.

>Our view is that those cuts are largely a matter of political choice dictated by Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s no-tax pledge. Other governors have found better solutions to similar shortfalls in transit budgets. Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, for example, avoided similar fare hikes and service cuts in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh by diverting some flexible federal highway money to fill the gap. “I’m not going to stand aside and let mass transit go down,” Rendell said. Minnesota might investigate a similar approach.

Perfect. Let’s take money away from road maintenance, and divert it to mass transit. How about this, I’ve got the perfect solution: Maintain only one lane on all freeways. Call this the “Mass Transit Lane.” Don’t allow any of the selfish, polluting, car-owning polluters to use it. Let the remaining roads fall into disrepair. Commuters will then be forced to use Mass Transit. Ridership will skyrocket! (The obvious problem with this plan, of course, is that each additional rider only increases Mass Transit’s fiscal loss, as each fare is still subsidized. As more riders appear, and more routes are added, the total subsidy will have to increase.)

>These are the best and worst of times for transit. The funding crisis arises just as momentum is building for a comprehensive plan to expand and sustain the system. A half-dozen meaningful initiatives are now before the Legislature. Never before has the lobbying effort been so strong and broadly based, with environmental, business and human service agencies singing in rough harmony — and with legislators from both parties actually listening.

>With progress nearly at hand it’s perverse now to pretend that the best policy solution for Metro Transit is to make buses and trains more expensive and less dependable — and to force more transit riders back onto the already clogged freeways.

Does anybody remember the transit strike of last year? Those six glorious weeks when all of the buses were forced off the roads and into their garages? Commuting was a dream. The freeways weren’t clogged. Now that the buses are running again, they’re all quarter-full, and taking up too much space on the roadways.

Mass Transit works great in the Twin Cities – as long as you don’t need to use it to get to your job.

The most recent move, cutting back on routes, and increasing fares, is a step in the right direction. If the routes arent’ being used, eliminate them. Start removing buses on the more heavily-traveled routes to increase the number of paying fares per trip. Increase fares to keep pace with inflation in fuel prices and drivers’ benefits.

And, whatever you do, stop taking money away from maintenance for my roads.

Read Full Post »

macosxhints – Customize log message routing with syslog.conf

I’ve always wondered how to take all of the cruft out of my logfiles. Now I know. I’m giddy.

Read Full Post »

Slashdot | Paul Graham Explains How to Start a Startup

It’s no secret – I’m a slashdot junkie. This article had a ton of insights, but a lot of it was geared toward tech.

Read Full Post »

movabletype.org : TrackBack Explanation

I wondered what TrackBack was about. This entry is a test.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »