Monthly Archives: July 2002

What’s Going on Here?

I’m still in the process of converting all of my old entries to Moveable Type. It seems that I left myself considerably more work to do by hand than I had planned. In any case, I expect the project to be finished soon, after which I’ll focus my efforts on getting my vacation story up. (Note to self: Any future attempt to move old content to a new content management system better be completely automated.)

I’ve seen lots of great stuff to post lately, but until I get caught up to the present, you’ll have to live with bits and pieces.

Cooking the Books

Warren Buffett has an op-ed contribution in the New York Times this morning about all of the scandles that have been sweeping the business world. I respect Warren Buffett probably more than almost any other businessman in America, and I think he hits the nail on the head in this editorial. While Congress can pass laws that close accounting loopholes, real integrity in business has to come from only one place — from the individuals who lead America’s businesses.

A collection of Buffett’s annual letters to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders could be bound together and sold as an investment textbook. I think his letter last year, after the events of September 11 shook the insurance industry to the core, was particularly revealing of Buffett’s character. In the letter, Buffett spells out the golden rules of insurance, shows how they were violated in the months and years leading up to September 11 and then takes responsability for what happened and promises to do better for his shareholders in the future.

Buffett says that he recognized the dangers facing the insurance industry before September 11, but didn’t act. He classifies this as a violation of Noah’s rule: “Predicting rain doesn’t count, building arks does.”

Rebuilding New York

There is a good article in the New York Times this morning about the redevelopment in Manhattan. I’ve been following the issue pretty closely from the beginning, and the early reports seemed to suggest that the six plans presented last week were uniformly discarded. This report makes clear that reality is more complicated. It sounds like the public saw lots of good ideas in the designs of last week, they just felt that some things were lacking. In my opinion, this is the way urban design should be — participatory.

Wireless Networks Blackpaper

There’s a good article up on Ars Technica today about wireless network security. It provides a simple introduction to the IEEE 802.11 standards, describes the security problems which have been associated with them, and gives a relatively complete overview of the “fixes” and security enhancements that are now available. [via Slashdot]

Budget? No Thanks.

I was planning to write about this later, when I could devote more time and energy to it, but after reading similar stories from Doc and Glenn, I decided to go ahead and share.

Last February, I went to Orlando for a single night to visit MeshNetworks. I got in to the Orlando airport at 11:15 p.m. I figured I’d pick up the rental car and be to the hotel by 12:30 or 1 a.m. at the latest. After claiming my luggage, I went to the budget counter, where there were 22 people in line ahead of me, but there were only 2 attendants working. It took more than an hour to get to the front of the line. At first I thought maybe I was unlucky, but by the time we got to the front of the line it was at least 12:30 a.m., and there were still more than 20 people in line behind us. This was more than bad luck — Budget was grossly understaffed. None of the other rental companies had lines, and the one next to Budget had 4 agents working!

The woman at the Budget counter was extremely kind and apologetic. She waived my Under 25 driver fee, gave me a discount, and promised me a free tank of gas. She wrote “EMPTY” in large letters next to the area where it tells how much gas the car has when you check it out. She told me to just bring it back with however much gas was left and we wouldn’t be charged.

When I returned the car the next day, we were in a hurry to catch our flight. Only after we had gotten through security did I realize that I had been charged for gas; it wasn’t cheap, either. When I got home, I wrote Budget a letter. I explained what an inconvenience the wait had been, and I also requested a refund for the gas.

I received a letter back from Budget calling me a liar. While the customer service representative didn’t use the word liar, she told me that they never give out free gasoline. As I recall, she also said that the reason that none of the other companies had long lines was that they were all out of cars. (First of all, I think this was a lie. Second of all, I reserved a car. It’s not my fault if other people show up without a reservation. Third, I talked to many of the people in line, and I know that most of them had reservations — so Budget should have known how many people to expect.) She indicated that my discount was plenty of compensation for my wasted time (it wasn’t).