Dysmey Post Archive > Pages for 2002 > Early December Edition

Early December Edition

cold and dry

The days have become very cold.

Heat from the furnace hardly reaches the bedroom, so it gets very cold. If not for the heated water bed, it would be unbearable at night. I'm considering a space header for that room, and plastic to seal off the two windows to keep in the heat.

The pipes in the house are too close to the uninsulated walls. Thus I have to keep a trickle of water running in the kitchen to keep the pipes from freezing. Worse, the main pipe supplies both the sink and the outdoor faucet. This led to a crisis last week.


On the last Friday of November I went to the kitchen to feed the cats. I noticed the carpet was somewhat wet. I then noticed that the utility alcove was very wet!

I cleaned up the mess while Madre swept up the water with a carpet cleaner. We found the hose faucet in the back was the culprit: When we ran the water there, another flood occurred. So, we cleaned that up, too.

Even with the carpet cleaner, the carpet was still wet, but the dryness of the cold air assured the carpet was dry within two days. I removed the handle from the back faucet and stored the hose to prevent further use this winter.

Last night I removed the last vestige of the flood from the utility alcove, where the cats do their business.

We are not sure how the first flood occurred. Some say the neighborhood brats did it, but why bother taking the path of most resistance just to turn on a hose?


mainframes live!

I bet you thought mainframes were extinct. Nope. In fact, IBM builds big black machines, descended from the original System/360 of the mid-1960's, designed with hardware redundancy to run continuously for years without a single hitch. Here is a good introduction to these massive modern mainframes.


My boss' boss has brought back an old favorite during my first years here. InfoWorld introduced me to the Cringely dude before he became what the magazine now calls The Evil Twin. (He now has a PBS-sponsered column called I, Cringely). It also introduced me to Windows 95 when it first came out.

The current version of InfoWorld is a lot thinner (50-odd pages), and most of its feature columnists (including Robert Metcalfe) are gone. But the Cringelyesque "Notes From The Field"™ is still there, and it helped me make the decision not to get another credit card.

AmEx and H-1B

I was thinking of getting one of those American Express Blue cards…until I read the Cringley articlette about how AmEx runs its IT operations. Now I'm not sure I should bother.

AmEx uses dirt-cheap H-1B visa workers to run its IT operations. Knowing how ephemeral they are, such workers will not accept responsibility or work to fix such problems as Web app crashes when they occur. This has gotten so serious that it compelled AmEx to set up a shadow IT staff to do the jobs of the H-1B folk to keep business running.

This is what happens when business tries to do IT on the cheap. Native hackers and sysadmins are well-trained, self-motivated and hard-working. They are also expensive, hard to find, and tend to ignore the stimuli (money, social status) that motivates managers. H-1B visa workers from overseas are cheap and just as well-trained and hard-working. However, as AmEx found, they are unreliable and impossible to motivate. Also, using H-1B workers when native workers are available alienates the realm of hackers, engineers and sysadmins. This, in turn, makes the search for future IT workers more difficult.

So, it is not a good idea for me to get an AmEx card: Not if my records or information is lost or (worse) is exposed to the Internet by a careless IT worker on an H-1B visa: Not until AmEx comes to its collective senses and reforms its IT department.

Copyright © 2003 by Andy West. All rights reserved. Last updated 30 November 2003.