Microsoft/Zune never – duh – noticed we had a Leap Year

As early as yesterday evening, reports of 30GB Zunes crashing began to surface on Microsoft support forums and gadget blogs. Microsoft updated the Zune support Web site with the following acknowledgement: “Customers with 30GB Zune devices may experience issues when booting their Zune hardware. We’re aware of the problem and are working to correct it. Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience!”

Microsoft says: “Early this morning we were alerted by our customers that there was a widespread issue affecting our 2006 model Zune 30GB devices (a large number of which are still actively being used). The technical team jumped on the problem immediately and isolated the issue: a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year.

“That being the case, the issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009. We expect the internal clock on the Zune 30GB devices will automatically reset tomorrow (noon, GMT). By tomorrow you should allow the battery to fully run out of power before the unit can restart successfully then simply ensure that your device is recharged, then turn it back on.

If you’re a Zune Pass subscriber, you may need to sync your device with your PC to refresh the rights to the subscription content you have downloaded to your device.

How long has Microsoft been in business? How many Leap Years have passed since they started writing software?

U.S. vacates Baghdad palace ahead of handover

U.S. Soldiers pose for souvenir photos beneath the Crossed Sabres in Baghdad
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

U.S. officials have withdrawn from the Saddam Hussein-era palace they have occupied in Baghdad since 2003, a sign of the change of power when their troops come under Iraqi authority.

The U.S. force in Iraq, now more than 140,000 strong, has operated since 2003 under a U.N. Security Council resolution which expires at midnight on New Year’s Eve. From January 1, U.S. troops will operate with authority granted by the Iraqi government under a pact agreed by Washington and Baghdad…

U.S. and Iraqi officials are planning a ceremony for the morning of New Year’s Day to formally hand over control of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified central sector of the capital that houses Western diplomats and Iraqi government offices.

In recent weeks U.S. diplomats have gradually moved into a newly-built compound, the world’s largest U.S. embassy, leaving behind a sprawling yellow marble palace of ousted dictator Saddam, which looms over the Tigris River.

U.S. officials ruled Iraq directly from the palace for more than a year after toppling Saddam in 2003, and it has remained a symbol of what many Iraqis consider a military occupation even as their nascent elected government has gained confidence.

Some 15,000 prisoners held at U.S. military detention camps must either be charged with crimes under Iraqi law or set free, although the procedure for doing so may take many months.

Contractors working for U.S. troops will be subject to Iraqi criminal law, and U.S. soldiers can be tried in Iraqi courts in narrow circumstances for serious crimes committed off duty.

All the delights of phony independence while Big Oil sorts out the last of their own treaties.

Sell your eggs for cash – and I don’t mean start a chicken farm!

Nope! The article is about women who sell their own eggs.
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

As the economy continues to tumble towards depths not seen since in decades, some women are turning to a new source to help increase their income by donating their eggs.

Courtney Smith, 26, is a wine steward at a high-end restaurant. She explained that with the economy hurting her business, she volunteered to donate her eggs, which she did about two years ago when money was very tight.

“I was paid $7,000,” Smith said. “It felt good. I mean, it feels good to have money, and I paid off a student loan”.

Smith was chosen to donate her eggs after submitting information about herself. After she was picked, she took a round of hormones for two weeks to stimulate ovulation. Several weeks later, her eggs were taken out, and she was eventually compensated; in turn, a couple received her eggs…

The agency where Smith registered said they’ve seen the number of women wanting to donate double, and they think it’s wonderful to give someone a child if they can’t produce on their own.

Kathy Benardo, runs an egg donor agency, said, ‘I don’t want people to lose sight that it is a treatment for infertility. Infertility is a disease and this is one of the most effective treatments there are.”

Smith said she has no emotional connection with her eggs. Recently, she was matched with another couple, and may be paid $8,000. She’s just one of many women who may take advantage of such a program to raise money.

It’s her own property, right? Women may sell their hair for cash. In many cultures it’s not even illegal to sell pleasure. Should society interfere with selling eggs?

Katrina victims must leave FEMA cottages

Daylife/Getty Images

Thousands of cottages housing hurricane victims on the Mississippi Gulf Coast will be vacated next month, even though many of their occupants aren’t ready to move and may have no place to go if forced out.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency distributed the one-, two- and three-bedroom structures to temporarily house displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There are still 2,300 occupied cottages in Mississippi, said Mike Womack, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Many of the cottages sit on residents’ lots while they rebuild wrecked homes, he said.

According to agreements between the state agency and cities, the cottages will need to be emptied by the end of January and removed by March, Womack said. Uh, is there some terrific beancounter reason why the residents aren’t part of the agreement?

Housing advocates, residents and some local officials worry that forcing out residents, many of whom are trying to rebuild their homes, will aggravate an already dire housing situation.

FEMA distributed the cottages, free of charge, as an alternative to the temporary trailers that first housed hurricane victims. The program was applauded as Mississippi officials acquired and distributed thousands of the cottages; neighboring Louisiana lagged behind.

The cottages were always meant to be temporary, not a permanent housing solution, Womack said. The structures may not withstand another powerful storm and many violate zoning rules, he said.

“We just can’t allow these cottages to stay in place where they’re unsafe or degrading the property values of homes around them,” Womack said.

Ah-hah! There’s the rub. Can’t have property values degraded by hurricane survivors continuing in temporary housing while they sort out their lives, can we?

Get a head start on 2009 – Sydney, Australia


I admit it. I love fireworks.

The very first fireworks display I went to was during the very first Barnum Festival in Bridgeport, Connecticut. WW2 was 3 years over. There had been no such displays in town during the war.

And no one was around who had put on large-scale fireworks displays from before the war. So, when everything went off – especially the mass display at the very end – the thousands of watchers who had gathered at Seaside Park to watch the fireworks launched from the beach became the targets of the falling embers and hot debris blown inland by the onshore breezes.

Pretty scary.

Later, many decades later, I learned how much Boston loves their fireworks – during many First Night celebrations in Beantown. I’d stash my car on the top of a parking garage near the harbor. The midnight display celebrating the New Year always was fabulous – and the traffic horrendous. Boston’s street system is nothing more than 17th-Century cowpaths paved over.

After wandering through First Night displays, exhibits and events, my friends and I would rendezvous at my car. Revel in the fireworks display. Then, tuck into an enormous potluck picnic – outside if it was a temperate evening – inside a couple of cars parked side-by-side if it was freezing. We wouldn’t try to drive home till the streets had mostly emptied out.

I love fireworks.

‘Green Bible’ controversial. Well, for “fundies”.

[T]he recently published Green Bible … is causing a stir in the religious community.

Supporters of the book, which highlights verses related to what believers call “God’s creation” and his desire for humans to protect it, say they hope it will encourage more Christians, particularly evangelicals, to embrace environmentalism.

“In every book of the Bible, there are references to the world and how we should take care of it,” said Rusty Pritchard, editor of Creation Care Magazine, an eco-friendly publication for evangelicals. “When you look at it through that lens, it really jumps out at you . . . that God is calling us to care for the world around us.”

But others fear the new Bible, which has been endorsed by secular groups such as the Sierra Club and the Humane Society, will mislead Christians.

“I am concerned that many who call themselves Christians, or intend to speak for Christianity, don’t interpret the Bible literally,” said James Taylor, a founding elder and Sunday-school teacher at Living Water Christian Fellowship in Palmetto, Fla. “These groups don’t have a religious focus; they have a desire to spread their environmental message.”

Taylor, who is also a senior fellow of environmental policy at the Heartland Institute, a conservative Chicago-based think tank, said there is a healthy amount of “skepticism” among mainstream evangelicals toward the new Bible….

The effort has received strong support from such prominent theologians as the Rev. Richard Cizik, former head of the National Association of Evangelicals, who has said that Christians had a Biblical mandate to take care of the Earth and that climate change was a crisis that needed to be addressed immediately.

In my dreams, people will get interested in causes based solely on the merits of each cause. In practice, I know that many and probably most people need some source of inspiration as a catalyst for reflection. With that in mind, I don’t have a problem with the concept of a ‘Green Bible.’ Since I haven’t seen it, I cannot comment on it specifically. But if as a result of a ‘green bible,’ some people take an interest in the welfare of animals and the earth, who otherwise would not have, then print me up a million copies.

As for the imbeciles who “intend to speak for Christianity” in asserting that a Christian must “interpret the bible literally,” they of course contribute little to the discussion. I don’t have a problem with myth. I do have a problem with religious fanaticism.

Sign of the times: Kim’s Video heads to … Sicily

East Village residents can say “Arrivederci!” to another neighborhood institution. The beloved movie shop Kim’s Video will soon shut down its rental service on St. Marks Place and ship the store’s 55,000-title film collection to a new far-flung home – in Italy.

And it’s been given away for free.

For owner Yongman Kim, losing his video collection marks the end of an era. “I think my passion in loving film to share and introduce to New Yorkers is no longer valid,”he told the Daily News via e-mail. Kim cited the “so-called Internet revolution”as one cause of the store’s demise. Online rental services like Netflix hurt business, and Kim also blames digital distractions like e-mail and YouTube – activities he says occupy the time people once spent watching movies at home.

Kim made a public offer in early September to donate his film collection for free, as long as the new owner kept the library intact and had 3,000 square feet to house the thousands of films.

Kim went with a bid from Salemi Mayor Vittorio Sgarbi – a former TV talk show host described as “one of the oddest and most colorful figures in contemporary Italy, by the British newspaper, The Independent – who’s trying to revitalize his poverty-stricken town.

“I now do not want to fight against the new stream,”Kim said. “I just want to disappear calmly.”

The collection is valuable for a number of reasons. I am surprised no one in NYC had the smarts or civic concern to reach out and acquire the collection for posterity. The city is, after all, one of the world-class centers for the development of cinema production.

Crooks impersonate cops. Caught by OnStar.

Nicholas Papaleo and Constantino Christo, both of Brooklyn, were tooling around in Whitestone, dressed as cops and bent on robbing a drug deal on the night before Christmas, police said. When they saw Robert Kapovic outside his well-kept home, they figured he might offer just as much bounty and a lot less resistance.

Wearing knockoff police gear, including bullet-proof vests and badges and sporting handcuffs and real-looking guns, the men grabbed Kapovic and pushed their way into his home, where Kapovic’s wife, Deidre Capone, was waiting…

When Kapovic tried to break free, they pistol whipped him and then threatened his wife, ominously asking, “Do you ever want to see your kids?” police said.

Capone wriggled free from her cuffs but lay still until, after 3-1/2 hours, the crooks finally left her home in the early hours of Christmas Eve.

As soon as the duo left, Capone untied her husband and called the cops as Kapovic jumped in his car and followed the crooks. Police tracked Kapovic’s car via OnStar, the security system in his car, as he tailed the crooks. Cops captured the thieves and recovered the stolen goods.

The two crooks were charged with burglary, robbery, assault, impersonation and endangering the welfare of a child. Papaleo was held without bail and Christo held on $1 million bail.

OnStar is a great example of the economies of production as a hi-tech product gains acceptance. When I sold OnStar systems as an after-market device for the biggest security company in the world – a dozen years ago – basic cost and installation ran about $3K. Now, it’s just another almost affordable option.

As for the thugs? Throw away the key!

Protesters against Israeli bombing at Obama’s Hawaii compound

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

A small group of placard-waving pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered near U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s vacation retreat in Hawaii to protest against the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

Obama has made no public comment on the strikes, which Israel launched on Saturday. Aides have repeatedly said he is monitoring the situation and continues to receive intelligence briefings but that there is only one U.S. president at a time.

But with outgoing Republican President George W. Bush already viewed as a lame-duck, many people, particularly in the Middle East, are looking past him to Obama, who is due to be sworn in on January 20, for leadership.

Obama did speak out after the attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in November in which gunmen killed nearly 180 people, condemning them as acts of terrorism…

“He is talking about how many jobs he is going to create but he is refusing to speak about this,” said one of the protesters, Carolyn Hadfield, 66.

She was one of eight protesters standing with placards reading “No U.S. support for Israel” and “Gazans need food and medicine, not war” near Obama’s rented vacation home in Kailua, an upmarket suburb on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where he is in the second week of a vacation with his family…

In Washington, several hundred pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the State Department, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans such as “free Palestine” while police looked on but took no action.

Of course, that last sentence is a baldfaced lie. Anyone who thinks you can avail yourself of your constitutional rights to protest the policies of the government of the United States without being photographed, recorded on video, having your phone tapped and your employment verified – is an ignorant and self-deluded fool.

Reuters knows it. Ross Colvin knows it. It’s a journalistic convention to keep your mouth shut about it.

“It’s not part of the story!” But – it is.

Catholic school teacher fired for marrying outside the rules

Less than a week before Marquis LaFortune was supposed to marry her fiance, the principal of the downtown Catholic high school where she worked as an English teacher called her into his office to warn that a “scandal” was looming.

The scandal, the deacon informed the bride-to-be, was her coming marriage.

LaFortune married anyway, but now she’s the one who feels scandalized. Fired from Central Catholic High School for the Nov. 22 wedding, the 25-year-old has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and wants to sue the school.

The reason for her termination turns on a theological tenet. According to Catholic doctrine, participants in a marriage must be an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. LaFortune told the principal that her fiance had been divorced — a proceeding not recognized by the Catholic Church.

The deacon was concerned with whether the first marriage of LaFortune’s fiance, Benjamin Stakes, had been declared invalid by a Catholic tribunal and thereby annulled. His concern, however, did not sit well with LaFortune, who refused to resign from her job or seek an annulment — a process that could reach to Rome and take more than a year.

“I would have resigned if I’d felt like I’d done something wrong,” LaFortune said last week, adding that the conflict put a strain on her wedding preparations.

“As a general matter, religious institutions are free to engage in religious discrimination in employment,” said Ira C. Lupu, a professor of law at the George Washington University Law School. “The question is, are they applying the policy consistently? I think the point about consistency is very important.”

Theocracy sucks under the best of circumstances.