Monthly Archives: March 2005

Why do people root against Duke?

While aimlessly surfing [blogdex]: , I happened upon this brief editorial:
[Down With Duke (]:

A lot of people I know are anti-Duke when it comes to basketball, but their sentiments are mostly based on a desire to root “for the underdog” or a some irrational idea that “they win too much.” This Washington Post editorial is, perhaps, a tongue-in-cheek realization of these sentiments. _sigh_

I have to admit that when the Lakers had their all-star lineup, I rooted against them. There was just something about how one team should *not* have such a high concentration of star power. Was this reasoning equally irrational? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Duke often gets criticized because, well, “it’s no wonder” that it does so well when it has so many McDonald’s All-Americans under its wing. Still, it’s really not that easy. There’s more to winning than good recruiting class, though I won’t argue that it doesn’t hurt. One might point out that UNC gets some pretty decent recruiting results, yet they seem much less targeted than Duke.

Are Dukies arrogant? There’s probably a little bit of that sentiment among them, but I don’t think it’s any more prevalent there than at any other top school. I suppose it’s just that other top schools don’t tend to have good basketball teams. 😉

Coack K is also completely unassailable. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t respect him. He really is one of those coaches who brings out the best in his players. His turning down the offer to coach the Lakers was, I believe, a very strong message to the world (and his team) that there are really more important things than money. It would’ve been no shame to accept that offer from the perspective of prestige, profit, or level of play. You gotta love the guy. He doesn’t let success go to his head– I remember a story where some Duke students noticed him at a local Durham eatery, and he invited them to join him.

Anyway, may all your Marches be filled with madness.

My, how I’ve grown… to be a spam target

Up until this point, I’ve considered my blog to have low enough traffic so as not to be very visible to spammers. As such, I’ve been content with being sent emails for each comment added, and manually deleting the spam comments and closing comments for old articles.

This has now changed. Perhaps it’s a sign of my blog’s maturity. This blog has become a spam target, garnering several spam comments per day from a single spammer ( feel free to send spam to that address, haha ).

So I went ahead and installed [MT-Blacklist]: . If you’re a MovableType user, you should seriously consider this nifty plugin. I was surprised how *ridiculously easy* it was to install, and the sheer power it afforded with such minimal effort. If you’re using version 2.x or feel that TypeKey is too restrictive on your audience, give MT-Blacklist a go. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before you get inundated with spam.

Let Governments build Free WiFi

I think most people will agree that free wireless access is a *good thing*. When is it not a good thing? Honestly.

Have a look at [Lawrence Lessig’s]: article on Wired: [Why Your Broadband Sucks]:

Lessig talks about how the ramifications of Pennsylvania Governer Rendell’s passing of a law that prohibits government from building free wireless in communities, exempting [Philadelphia’s free wireless]: , since of course Philadelphia is the only place that likes free wireless.


I might be being a little reactionary, but how does free wireless stifle competition? You can argue that people won’t be using the paid hotspots when free wireless is available, so… does this mean that we shouldn’t have public bathrooms? I mean, hey, a private company might want to build pay-per-use bathrooms at the park, and the government would be unfairly competing there, wouldn’t it? Oh, and darn it all, libraries compete unfairly with bookstores, don’t they? How dare they provide free access to books and newspapers!

Would government really be unfairly competing? I think Lessig is right on target with the idea that government should be able to compete to provide public services. Private enterprise is always free to compete with government (Lessig’s example: FedEx, UPS, DHL, Airborne Express vs. USPS), in order to provide better product or better prices. Isn’t this a good thing?

On a side note, I think free wireless would increase commerce and put more dollars into the economy than paid wireless. I buy a lot of stuff online, and I definitely buy more when access is a given. Online access makes me a much more efficient consumer. Whether increased spending is good for me or not is another issue entirely, but I think the quality of life definitely goes up, even if my savings account grows slower.

Plastic Wrap and Dioxin

I thought the plastic/dioxin thing died down a while ago. Apparently not. Perhaps you’ve seen the email forwarded to you, or maybe you’ve passed it on as well.
The one I got most recently had stuff like this:

*No plastics in micro
*No water bottles in freezer.
*No plastic wrap in micro

It purports to be from Johns Hopkins, and claims to be distributed to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Also cited in the email is a Dr. Edward Fujimoto from Castle hospital. It’s even says scary stuff like “drips poisonous toxins into the food”.

I love it.

But it’s a hoax. There’s some modicum of truth, but the noise is far greater than the signal. Still, as internet chain letters go, it’s reasonably interesting. The take-home message is that things that it’s not really something to worry about.

Only certain plastics can release dioxin. From the [dioxin homepage]: , “Dioxin is formed by burning chlorine-based chemical compounds with hydrocarbons.” Most household plastic wraps or plastic food containers do not contain chlorinated hydrocarbons. For example, polyethylene, polystyrene, and polypropylene, do not contain chlorine atoms. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), on the other hand, does contain chlorine. Still, all these polymers are reasonably stable. Unless they burn, they probabaly won’t be releasing anything. Still, if you want to be extra extra careful, don’t heat polystyrene (because free styrene is toxic) or PVC (free chlorine is bad too).

It’s worth noting that most plastic wraps use non-chlorinated polymers (i.e. impossible to make dioxin). Saran wrap *used* to use PVC, but has since switched to something nonchlorinated. I read that Reynolds plastic wrap uses PVC, but I couldn’t get dig up any info for sure. Plastic wrap used by supermarkets or restaurants might be chlorinated. If you’re paranoid, avoid those, even though research hasn’t shown any dioxins ever getting to the food. The moral of the story is: don’t worry about plastic wrap, or just don’t microwave Reynolds or restaurant/deli wrap.

If there’s any danger, it might be from the plasticizers that are added to the plastics to make them more flexible. These are in PVC and polystyrene. They *probably* not be good for you, but at the levels you might get from them, it’s not really a concern unless you habitually incinerate them.

The frozen water bottle thing really has no basis in fact. There. Plastic people say that dioxins only form at temperatures above 700 Fahrenheit.

Have a look at these sites if you need more info.

[Microwave Ovens, Plastic wrap, and Dioxin]:’s take on plastic wraps and microwaves.

[American Plastics Council]: has some good info on [plastic food wrap safety]: and [plastics in microwaves]: and [freezing water bottles]: , but you should note that these pages are from the perspective of an industry group trying to allay public fears and worries, as well as preventing meltdown in their constituent companies.

[Which Plastics Are Safe for Lunchbox use]: has some good summary info on types of plastics and safety, but it’s somewhat paranoid.

For a discussion by concerned parents, you might check [Berkeley Parents Network: Advice about Microwaving]: . It’s really a good source of info, but the presentation is a little difficult to navigate since it’s discussion format.

[Glad]: and [Ziploc]: have both put up FAQs about how their products are safe, and their info seems less politically motivated and more sensical than the Plastics Council info.

I have a question. This is a psychological question. Is the email more credible because of the quote from Dr. Edward Fujimoto? How do you know he’s a medical doctor? Maybe he has a Ph.D. in English. If I told you I’m Dr. Hans Messermeister and I have degrees from Harvard and Yale, how does that make me a food expert, a health expert, or a chemistry expert? Maybe I got a degrees in English. Some quick digging shows that there *is* a Dr. Edward Fujimoto, but he’s a Ph.D, not a medical doctor, and he works at Castle medical center, not hospital, in Hawaii. Here’s a thought. Are people with Japanese names considered more credible than those with, say, more “local” sounding names?

Anyway, feel free to add comments or trackback to this if you have new/different info.


Some of you who know me know that I’m terribly amused with “hacker”-speak. Or ‘leet-speak, or 1337 5p34k. I have to confess that I myself dabbled in such language, employing a relatively mild form of alternate-capitalization as my handle for online games at one point. Have I grown out of it? I don’t know. I look down on it whenever people use it to really communicate, but it’s great for making jokes and stuff like that. “I Pwn3d j00” hahaha…

Anyway, this sort of language has reached the stage where everyone knows (or should know) *something* about it. So… anyway, have a look at this Microsoft article about it. I have to say it doesn’t seem terribly precise, but it’s very well written. At least it has some sort of structure. Its structure and grammar would probably get an A in, I don’t know, high school sometime.

Here it is: [Microsoft: A parent’s primer to computer slang]: .

Honestly, they’ve tried very hard to be all correct and precise– an effort which should be undoubtedly applauded. Yet I still take exception to defining “woot” as “we own the other team”. Does it really mean that? It’s certainly not used that way too often. I usually see it as some “cool” way of saying “woohoo!” or “yipee!” And I’m pretty darn sure that \o/ doesn’t mean the same thing.

Of course, some people will never get this. They’re probably the same people who don’t get “all your base are belong to us”. But hey, if you happen to be one of them, fear not. Take this opportunity to be exposed to it, and don’t feel bad that you had better things to do than make up a silly language to make you and your pals feel more cool.

(Real hackers, of course, probably look very, very, strongly downward upon this “hackerspeak” as a means of communication, since real hackers don’t really care about perceived “coolness”– they just like finding interesting solutions to problems.)