Saturday, February 21, 2009

Leading scientists still reject God

"You clearly can be a scientist and have religious beliefs. But I don't think you can be a real scientist in the deepest sense of the word because they are such alien categories of knowledge."

Eventually we must stop the stupid blabber about how religion and science are compatible, and just admit that they are not.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bleak outlook for press accuracy

This is among today's headlines in NYTimes:

I was wondering if "unusually gradual and prolonged period of recovery" is new Fedspeak for a "big, terrible depression". So I searched the speech, which was helpfully linked off the same headline:

The speech contains no words "unusually", "gradual", or "prolonged". It does contain the word "and".

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meet the new boss, part II

"Hertz's statement mirrors a statement from Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig published Saturday.

"The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened," Craig told The Washington Post. "But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So, for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle.""

(Emphasis mine)

I thought we elected this guy because we wanted a president, not an emperor? Actually, hold this thought. We elected him because we were scared - again. Except this time we were not afraid of the terrorists, but for our money.

America, the land of the brave...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Recession as an effective garbage collector

"The diminishment has not, God knows, been quantitative. Never has there been so much product. Never has the American art world functioned so efficiently as a full-service marketing industry on the corporate model.

Every year art schools across the country spit out thousands of groomed-for-success graduates, whose job it is to supply galleries and auction houses with desirable retail. They are backed up by cadres of public relations specialists — otherwise known as critics, curators, editors, publishers and career theorists — who provide timely updates on what desirable means."

I hate HTML


Especially the table layout. This thing was conceived by total morons. I would build a memorial to the authors of this abomination with inscription: "Spit here!"

Consider this:

table-layout: fixed;
width: 750px;
border: solid black 1 px;

width: 150px;
width: 600px;
<table class = "CssTable">
<tr><td class = "CssCell1">Cell 1</td>>td class="CssCell2">Cell 2</td></tr>

It does the right thing: the table is 750 pixels, the first column is 150 and the second one is 600. All is well. Now insert this line right after the table tag (as the first row):

<tr><td colspan=2>Long line</td></tr>

...and all the alignemnt just goes to hell. The columns become equally sized. Why?!

There is a solution - it is to create table header and set its sizes to what the desired sizes of columns are. Still, WTF?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The biggest experiment in compensation rules

Now that hundreds of banks had the compensation for their highest paid people severely limited, we will see how would that translate into financial performance of these institutions.

My bet - they will do either the same or better for shareholders.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Everything you know about diffing files in TFS

MSDN support for TFS is ridiculous - it is essentially an automated dump of class structure with no information whatsoever. Shame on you TFS PMs/management for releasing a product with no documentation. I thought we were a developer-oriented company!

EDIT 3/12/09 This is no longer true - MSDN has pushed the new round of TFS docs and they are great. Excellent job!

Buck Hodges has a couple of great posts, however, that saved the day for me:

We're so lucky to live in these enlightened times... an enlightened country!

For example, they used to burn you at the stake for witchcraft. Now - you just get expelled from college...

Happy 1234567890!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


"As someone who appeared numerous times on the 700 Club with Pat Robertson, as someone for whom Jerry Falwell used to send his private jet to bring me to speak at his college, as an author who had James Dobson giveaway 150,000 copies of my one of my fundamentalist "books" allow me to explain something: the Republican Party is controlled by two ideological groups. First, is the Religious Right. Second, are the neoconservatives. Both groups share one thing in common: they are driven by fear and paranoia. Between them there is no Republican "center" for you to appeal to, just two versions of hate-filled extremes."

(Emphasis mine.)

Incidentally, below is a screen shot of commentary that appeared on a right-wing talk show's website following the news that an "anti-racist activist" (sic) was attacked by a black man. Check it out - is is enlightening.

So if you do consider youself a "moderate" Republican, think about who are the people that you rely on to get your agenda passed. Just like in the early thirties in Germany, these forces might turn out to be bigger than you...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Meet the new boss...

"the new administration -- the new DOJ -- had actively reviewed this case and vetted the Bush positions and decisively opted to embrace the same positions."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How much does a poor investment banker need to just get by?

I asked this question yesterday, and - lo and behold - today's New York Times has an answer! I am generally not a big fan of long quotes, but this is so surreal, that I see no way around.

The whole story is here:

So these are the basic expenses:

"Barbara Corcoran, a real estate executive, said that most well-to-do families take at least two vacations a year, a winter trip to the sun and a spring trip to the ski slopes.

Total minimum cost: $16,000.

A modest three-bedroom apartment, she said, which was purchased for $1.5 million, not the top of the market at all, carries a monthly mortgage of about $8,000 and a co-op maintenance fee of $8,000 a month. Total cost: $192,000. A summer house in Southampton that cost $4 million, again not the top of the market, carries annual mortgage payments of $240,000.

Many top executives have cars and drivers. A chauffeur’s pay is between $75,000 and $125,000 a year, the higher end for former police officers who can double as bodyguards, said a limousine driver who spoke anonymously because he does not want to alienate his society customers.

“Some of them want their drivers to have guns,” the driver said. “You get a cop and you have a driver.” To garage that car is about $700 a month.

A personal trainer at $80 an hour three times a week comes to about $12,000 a year.

The work in the gym pays off when one must don a formal gown for a charity gala. “Going to those parties,” said David Patrick Columbia, who is the editor of the New York Social Diary (, “a woman can spend $10,000 or $15,000 on a dress. If she goes to three or four of those a year, she’s not going to wear the same dress.”

Total cost for three gowns: about $35,000.

Not every bank executive has school-age children, but for those who do, offspring can be expensive. In addition to paying tuition, “You’re not going to get through private school without tutoring a kid,” said Sandy Bass, the editor of Private School Insider, a newsletter that covers private schools in the New York City area. One hour of tutoring once a week is $125. “That’s the low end,” she said. “The higher end is 150, 175.” SAT tutors are about $250 an hour. Total cost for 30 weeks of regular tutoring: $3,750.

Two children in private school: $64,000.

Nanny: $45,000.

Ms. Bass, whose husband is an accountant with many high-end clients, said she spends about $425 every 10 days on groceries for her family. Annual cost: about $15,000.

More? Restaurants. Dry cleaning. Each Brooks Brothers suit costs about $1,000. If you run a bank, you can’t look like a slob.

The total costs here, which do not include a lot of things, like kennels for the dog when the family is away, summer camp, spas and other grooming for the human members of the family, donations to charity, and frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity, are $790,750, which would require about a $1.6-million salary to compensate for taxes. Give or take a few score thousand of dollars."

See how much it takes in living expenses just to gamble your money away? I think I start to understand how it came to be that so many heads were chopped off during French Revolution...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Compensation and job performance

The opinion page at WSJ was always a steaming heap of crap, but it looks like under Murdoch the rest of the - once very respectable - paper is moving fast to close the gap. Here's the recent "gem":

It starts with a tearful personal story of a former investment banker.

"I was a 35-year-old, nonpartner investment banker then and was horrified to learn that my annual take-home pay would be limited to my small salary, which accounted for about a quarter of my previous year's income. Fortunately the partners decided to pay a small bonus out of their capital that year to help employees like me get by. The next year was no better. Several colleagues with good prospects left the firm and the industry for good. We learned that strong pay-for-performance compensation incentives could cut both ways."

Which actually begs an outright question - how much was this "small salary" anyway? What does it take for an investment banker to "get by"? $200k? $300k? $1m?

This idiotic idea that once you start paying less, the smart people will either leave or automatically become dumber was somehow sold to our populace, but it is belied by an every day experience.

When a person comes to a job interview and his/her answer to the question "why are you in this industry" is "because it pays a lot", the interview ends right there, right? How many companies did you see where this would not be true?

Studies upon studies show that there is NO direct correlation between job performance and the salary. There is a lot of correlation between overall level of happiness, and a dollar spent on benefits achieves far more towards that end than a dollar spent on salary.

Google is an ideal case in point. It employs some of the top engineers, but it pays slightly below the industry average. Almost everyone who works at Google could get more money elsewhere. The same is true for Microsoft.

When I interviewed at Google, I had a competing offer from Wall Street. Between the much higher cash and bonus, it was twice as much as what I'd be making at Google - and 50% more than what I was making at Microsoft. I chose Google, because while the salary was important, job satisfaction was even more so.

When I went back to Microsoft, I could have gone to Wall Street instead, and, again, get more money. I am sure that my original offer was still standing. But I went back to Microsoft, not to Wall Street.

Now, to hell with us mortals. Here's what correlates best with the CEO salary, and it's not the company performance. It's the golf scores:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Yes... Yes! Yes!!!

We should reflect on how broken our system of government is when more and more people start saying - please, take our money!

And this is what Warren Buffett had to say about this a bit earlier.

Malevich stats

Malevich is a code review system that I wrote initially for our team because I was missing Monrian - a Google tool that I learned to love when I was there.

We've been using it quite successfully for a month and a half now. Here are a few stats, as of right now, just from my team (a few other teams at Microsoft started using it as well):
Change lists reviewed: 217
Review iterations: 706
Files reviewed: 2386
Comments made: 2968

You can read more about the project here:, or get the code and documentation here:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Customizing TouchFlo 3d on HTC Fuze device

Fuze comes with a nice shell from HTC which replaces standard Windows Mobile Today screen. It functions as a collection of shortcuts to a bunch of applications and functions of the phone. Unfortunately, it is also used by AT&T (and/or other network operators) to push a bunch of usual OEM "extensions" on an unsuspecting customer - usually, solicitations to buy more services and software.

Luckily, there is a nice customization program that helps remove this crap. It is called Diamond TF3D Config, and is available from here:

Despite the fact that it is called "Diamond", it does appear to work - at least as far as removing the tab with AT&T stuff on it - on the Fuze device as well.

Next step - I need to figure out how to configure the Internet tab in TouchFlo so it does not go to their page...

Reprogramming push-to-talk (PTT) button on HTC Fuze

This will probably work on most other HTC devices (daimond, etc).

The PTT button is I think one of the stupidest creations in Windows CE world. It allows one to program a list of people who - at an extra cost - one would be able to phone with a single button.

Without passing the judgement on the usefulness of this service, the chief annoyance of it is that it has a specially dedicated button which is often very easy to push accidentally (on the Cingular 85xx device, for example, it is right next to the power button), and - the worst part - is not remappable. Unlike all other feature-related buttons.

This last one I completely fail to understand, and I really, really, really hope that we (Microsoft) didn't make it so. Because if we did, it would probably be - for me at least - the one of the most embarrassing features to ever come out of the Redmond campus, right there with Microsoft Bob.

Anyway, this is what one needs to do make the PTT button do something useful.
(1) Disable PTT service. To do this, modify device registry value "Dll" in HKLM\Services\PTT by appending ".sav" to the value of the registry ("PTTService.dll.sav"). This will prevent the PTT service from getting loaded - and will make it easy to restore should you ever want it back (just remove the ".sav").

If you have Visual Studio, you can use Remote Registry Editor in Visual Studio Remote Tools to edit the registry. Otherwise, google for "Windows CE Registry Editor". There are plenty of tools in existence.

(2) Open File Explorer on the device. Go to \Windows directory. Click-and-hold on voicecommand (you will have to scroll down a long, long list of files). Select "Copy" from the context menu. Then scroll down to the very bottom of the screen, and click-and-hold on the empty space. Select "Paste" from the context menu. Rename the resultant shortcut to "Short_PTT".

Note: this works only because voicecommand is already a shortcut. If you want to map an application (executable file) to the button, the instructions are as follows. Click-and-hold on the name of the application. Select "Copy". Then scroll down to the very bottom of the screen, and click-and-hold on the empty space. Select "Paste shortcut" from the context menu. Rename the resultant shortcut to "Short_PTT".

(3) Reboot the device to eradicate the PTT service. You are done.