I spoke to scientists David Grinspoon and Geoff Landis about Venus exploration: why, when and how.
I have to say, Skype conferences are not great for podcasting.
The Wow! Signal podcast finally covers the August 1977 event it is named after, with guest Bob Dixon, who was instrumental in bringing the Ohio State Big Ear radio telescope to bear on SETI. We also learn about Argus, which if built full scale could potentially detect many such signals.
I don't think I've written this down anywhere before, so here's my story about the first time I had a face-to-face conversation with Steve Jobs.
I was working for Richard Kerris in Apple Worldwide Developer Relations, on a group called the SWAT team. I was the Cocoa expert on that team, and I had colleagues who had expertise in UNIX internals, Windows development, and the Metrowerks tools.
Our role was to help third-party developers bring their products to Mac OS X, whether they were coming from Windows, Solaris, Mac OS 9, etc. We would look over their code, and consult with them on how to go about porting and/or rewriting their products for the new platform.
I went to Fred Anderson's retirement party which was held at Cafe Macs in Building four of the Infinite Loop campus. I saw Steve there, and I went over to introduce myself. I said "Hi Steve, I'm John Randolph. You may or may not recognize my name, but I used to flame you from time to time before I worked here." He asked me "Why did you stop?" I told him "Well, I work here now, and I respect the chain of command."
At the time we had this conversation, there was a big fight going on between the foot-dragging laggards who wanted to keep using the old Mac Toolbox API (which had been cleaned up considerably and put into a framework we called "Carbon"), and those of us who wanted to get everyone using the NeXTStep-derived "Cocoa" frameworks,
At the previous WWDC, Steve had started the keynote with a bit of theater: a coffin had risen up through a trap door on the stage, in the midst of a cloud of dry ice fog. Steve had opened the coffin to show a big Mac OS 9 box, and he praised OS 9 in a eulogy, to make the point that Apple developers should consider it dead and gone.
So getting back to our conversation.. I told Steve what I was doing on Richard's team, and I said "I know that you can't do this politically, but I wish you could have another coffin on the stage at the next WWDC...." and he said: "With Carbon in it?"
He was grinning. At that point, I realized that I could quit worrying about where Apple's development environment was heading. Steve knew what we needed to do, and in the years that followed, Apple has kept the best of NeXT's technology, and let go of what we didn't need.
We miss you Steve, but we're doing fine. Thanks for the things you made happen.
BTW, I know the website's not pretty, but the guy who volunteered to be the webmaster has not been on it.
Earlier today, I read an account of a little girl getting a severe sunburn while on a school field trip, because of an unconscionable policy prohibiting children from possessing sunscreen while at school or on school activities. I looked up the name of the spokesman who had the nerve to try to defend this policy to the press, and wrote her the following e-mail:
Miss Chancellor, you and the pinheads you serve in the Northeast Indecent School District are a tragic example of the kind of abject incompetence that pervades American public schools in the past several decades.
I would urge you to resign and pursue employment in the janitorial services industry, but youâ(TM)re obviously too goddamned stupid to be trusted with cleaning supplies.
Well, it would appear that Miss Chancellor was offended by my criticism, and she replied thusly:
Your comments do not warrant an intelligent response. Clearly - you do not have all the facts.
Now, it's rather unusual for an apparatchik in a shitstorm to bother to respond to any of the angry e-mails they get, so naturally I have replied:
On Jun 6, 2014, at 10:26 AM, Chancellor, Aubrey wrote:
>Your comments do not warrant an intelligent response.
Since youâ(TM)re entirely incapable of an intelligent response, that just works out fine and dandy now, doesnâ(TM)t it?
>Clearly - you do not have all the facts.
The fact is that when you screw up like this, the thing to do is apologize and promise the parents, the child, and the rest of the community that it will never happen again. You donâ(TM)t double down on your idiotic policy of depriving children of sunscreen.
When children are entrusted to you by their parents, your paramount duty is to ensure their safety and well being. it is NOT to sacrifice their welfare to your psychotic need for obedience.
More on this as it develops. Start the popcorn.
Last post to FB:
In the time since I created this Facebook account in 2006, I found a bunch of old friends, met many new ones, wasted a whole lot of time, had some arguments that never would have happened in real life, and been frequently annoyed by the business decisions FB has made.
This post will be my last. I will delete this account 48 hours from now. Those of you who want to keep in touch can reach me as always at firstname.lastname@example.org, which I've had for at least a decade.
All's well that ends. I wish you all peace, love and happiness.
It feels like leaving high school. There are people there that I will always care about, some that I love, some that I barely know, some that I have no idea how I met in the first place or why they're in my FB friends list.
A very smart friend of mine is working on changing social media from a site and a vendor that sells the users' info to advertisers, into a protocol that would operate on a peer-to-peer basis, with strong security to ensure that what we write goes to those we wish, and no one else. I hope he succeeds, and I look forward to making a fair bit of cash shorting FB when the writing appears on the wall.
I will thank my friends who worked on FB, and every user there who ever shared a heartwarming, interesting, inspiring, or even outrageous bit of information that I wouldn't have found otherwise. Congrats to all the FB millionaires and worker bees, I wish them all the best.
I'll still be NSResponder here on
I've not been posting on Slashdot much this week, because I've been trying out Soylent News, which is using (and old version of) Slashcode (with some improvements) and lacks corporate overlords. It seems to have captured most of what I like about discussions in Slashdot, although is suffering slightly from not having nearly as many active users (50 or so comments is still the norm and it probably needs 100+ to be sustainable).
If you've not visited yet, I'd recommend giving it a go.
I'm TheRaven over there.
Some people don't know that Obama lied. But it's obvious fact based on the evidence. In another discussion some apparent trolls were complaining about the claim, but I am uninterested in discussing it, but for those who are interested, the basic summary is this:
* The administration said, for weeks, that the video and the unrest around it was a cause of the attack on the embassy in Benghazi.
* They claimed that the evidence led them to say so.
* They have never provided any such evidence. Some of what they claimed happened -- such as protests existing at the embassy in Benghazi -- was false, and there was never any evidence it was true (maybe in the first hours, but not after the first days).
* There was much evidence, even in the first days, that the attack was preplanned, but it was ignored in favor of the nonexistent evidence of spontaneity.
* The documentary evidence shows that, from the beginning, they had evidence that it was preplanned, and the only "evidence" of spontaneity cited was that it happened soon after protests in Cairo.
Draw your own conclusions, but I do not believe that the President would say it was a spontaneous reaction to the video without some evidence of it, and he had none. He said it because he thought it was believable and wanted to win an election, and if it were preplanned then it is a failure of his administration.
If you want more, check out last week's 60 Minutes report by Lara Logan. Most of it has to do with showing that we a. knew the attack was coming and b. didn't take reasonable steps to prevent it.
E-mail to Neal Martin, E-trade's vice president of customer service:
I doubt that this message will actually get to you personally, but what the hell.
After the fracas over the last few weeks in which e-trade failed to issue me a second ATM card, I finally got around to transferring the bulk of my shares to a competent broker.
The automatic mail from e-trade notifying me of the transfer included this paragraph:
E*TRADE strives to achieve best in class service and is focused on meeting all of your financial needs. We would like to understand your reason for your transfer out and see if there are any improvements we can make to serve you better in the future. If you have the time to discuss, please call us at 1-800-ETRADE -1 (1-800-387-2331).
The fact is, after going around with your underlings a few times on my requirement for a second card, and having told each of them several times that this was a deal breaker, I know that the claim that youâ(TM)re âoestriving to achieve best in class serviceâ is nothing but marketing drivel. Indeed, my direct, personal experience has shown me that my business isnâ(TM)t important enough to get on the radar of anyone who would actually solve the problem.
I had already planned to find another broker, but the thing that made me hurry up and do so was receiving your oh-so-thoughtful gift of an e-trade gym bag. So, after refusing my very simple request, you apparently assumed that Iâ(TM)d be satisfied if I just got a bag to advertise an incompetent financial institution to my friends.
Looking at the transaction log, I see that e-trade has charged me $25 for the privilege of taking my property elsewhere. Now, Iâ(TM)m sure you have something in your fine print that allows you to do that, but itâ(TM)s still kind of shitty on your part. Given that youâ(TM)re not even capable of issuing two cards on one account (as you had done for the previous decade or so), waiving that fee is probably entirely beyond the capabilities of the fifth-rate keyboard monkeys in your so-called âoeIT departmentâ, so you can go ahead and keep it. Iâ(TM)m getting a nice welcome gift from your competition, which I didnâ(TM)t even ask for.
Would you like the gym bag back?
Got this from some minion at E-trade, since the VP I wrote to was apparently too busy to answer a customer personally:
Good Morning Mr. Randolph,
We received your email inquiry to our VP of Customer Service, Neal Martin on 8/5/13. We regret that we are unable to accommodate your request for two ATM cards for your account. We appreciate your feedback and it has been shared with management and our product teams for review. If you have any additional questions or concerns feel free to contact me at [phone number deleted]
Corporate Support Manager
E*TRADE Securities LLC
[phone number redacted]
Manager? Yeah, right. In a functioning company, a manager is someone who takes the initiative to solve a problem.
I left the VP's name because he fully deserves to have this come up when someone googles him in the future.
You might mention to Neal Martin that when a customer responds to an email message that has his name on it, itâ(TM)s rather poor form to pass the buck to someone else unless that other person is capable of solving the problem.
I was a more-or-less satisfied customer of E-trade for over a decade. I will be transferring my assets to another broker in the near future, as soon as I determine which of your competitors can demonstrate the competence that E-trade has abandoned.
I've been a customer of theirs for over a decade, and I've had two ATM cards for the same account for many years. Recently, I needed to cancel one of the cards and instead of just replacing that card, they cancelled both of my cards. I just sent the following message to Neal Martin, VP of customer service at E-trade.
I got a call from one of your employees this morning, Meagan something, who told me that after looking into it she wasnâ(TM)t able to find a way to issue a second card for my account. Her suggested workaround was that I should open another account, and get an ATM card for that account.
So, because of your IT departmentâ(TM)s refusal to fulfill a very simple request, E-tradeâ(TM)s âoesolutionâ is that I should give you MORE of my business, and incur whatever additional costs are associated with having a second account. Not to mention that using a second account means that if I lose a card while traveling, Iâ(TM)ll either be dead in the water for a day while funds get transferred to that second account, or Iâ(TM)d have to have money parked in that second account already.
Now, Iâ(TM)m a software engineer myself with a fair bit of experience in financial systems. In my Wall Street days, I worked at JP Morgan, Salomon Brothers, and UBS/Warburg. I know that there is indeed a way to solve the problem at hand, even if it requires manually editing a database to make it happen. If my business is important enough to you, youâ(TM)ll direct your IT department to do so.
In the meantime, I suggest your inform all of your employees in customer-facing roles that âoesecurity policy" is not an excuse for incompetence.
The message above was a follow-up to this one:
I have been an E-Trade customer since 2002 or thereabouts, and I currently have about [redacted] in assets on deposit with e-trade.
Iâ(TM)ve got to say, Iâ(TM)m on the verge of taking my business elsewhere and itâ(TM)s because of something that should be trivial for you to solve.
Iâ(TM)ve had two debit cards for my account for a decade or more, and Iâ(TM)ve just been told that I can only have one now. This doesnâ(TM)t work for me, because I travel quite a bit, and I like to keep one card in the safe in my hotel room, and have the other one on me. If I lose a card while traveling, I do not want to be stranded without a way to access my funds.
Yesterday, I spoke with a representative who told me that he had figured it out and was sending me an additional card, but this morning he called me back and told me that he couldnâ(TM)t do it after all. Just now, I spoke with another representative from your âoeCorporate Relationship Managementâ team, and heâ(TM)s looking into it.
Iâ(TM)ve generally been happy with E-trade up to this point, but if you canâ(TM)t issue me two cards as before, itâ(TM)s a deal breaker. I hope you get this figured out.
Also, donâ(TM)t put your name on an e-mail address that doesnâ(TM)t go to you directly. Itâ(TM)s insulting.
The upshot is I did some shopping around and found that Scottrade's fees are lower than E-trade's. The first brokerage company I find that can issue two cards on one account will get my business.
For the last two years (almost), I was back at Apple working on the UI frameworks that the ProApps and the iApps use to give them their distinctive look. Interesting work, nice people to work with, and now I can say that there's some of my code in most of Apple's Pro and consumer apps on the Mac.
To everyone in PhotoApps, ProApps, Frameworks, and Dev Tools, thanks much! I enjoyed working with you.
Placeholder, post is being edited right now.