Grand Lux Cafe (Chicago)

If you like the Cheesecake Factory, you’ll like this place.

I hate the Cheesecake Factory.

From their website:

The idea for Grand Lux Cafe came to life when The Venetian Resort, Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas asked David Overton, Founder of The Cheesecake Factory Restaurants, to create an upscale casual restaurant concept for their property.

Excited by the proposal and the opulent “Venetian” theme, Mr. Overton traveled to Europe to study Italian trattorias, French bistros, and the grand cafes and pastry shops of Vienna. This culinary tour through Europe, focused on food, architecture, décor and design, provided the inspiration for what the restaurant was destined to become.

Blending the grandeur and luxury of European cafes with the sensibilities and spirit of an all-American restaurant, “Grand Lux Cafe” was born. Today, with locations in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Houston, Grand Lux Cafe is proud to offer our guests unique, casual global cuisine in an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere.

I’ve eaten in Venice, I’ve eaten in Italian trattorias and tons of French bistros. Beyond the hordes of loud tourists, I don’t see any other similarities. At least it isn’t expensive, which its’ only redeeming quality.

Grand Lux Cafe in Chicago

Hey business traveller!

The next time you spend the entire flight standing in the fucking aisle next to me having an impromptu business meeting with three of your colleagues spread over multiple rows, surrounded by other folk, I’m going to record your entire conversation and then transcribe it so that your competitors can get every piece of information. I mean I now know your entire strategy of getting Boeing to buy your crappy parts. Real genius move talking about that loudly on a flight between Seattle and Chicago. No chance some salesmen from some other parts company might be on that flight.

This also goes for you people who have loud personal conversations on their cellphones next to me when I am stuck waiting for people to deplane so I can get away from you.

What does this say about us as Americans? That we are so egotistic and self-centered that we either don’t notice the other people around us or that we just don’t care because the other people around us are just ants? I used to ask politely for people to not shout their personal details or business plans into my ears, but mostly I would get a impolite response amounting to a “I don’t care if I’m annoying you, that is your problem, not mine.”

Well, from now on: I won’t get mad, I’ll get even.

go go gadget Harry Reid

Reid thwarts recess appointments (

Reid employed a rarely used parliamentary tactic of scheduling “pro forma” sessions twice a week until early December, when Congress returns for three weeks. Under that plan, a few senators, perhaps one Democrat and one Republican, will briefly open the chamber for debate on any topic during the next two weeks.

The move blocks Bush’s ability to make so-called recess appointments, which would allow the appointees to serve out the remainder of Bush’s term.

Under law, a president can use a recess appointment if the Senate is adjourned more than three days without reconvening on the fourth day. The interim appointments last through the current and next sessions of Congress.

AT&T gave feds access to all Web, phone traffic, ex-tech says

Story in the Seattle Times

In an interview this week, he alleged that the NSA set up a system that vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the help of AT&T and without obtaining a court order. Contrary to the government’s depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists, Klein said, much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic. Klein said he thinks the NSA was analyzing the records for usage patterns and for content.

He said the NSA built a special room in San Francisco to receive data streamed through an AT&T Internet room containing “peering links,” or major connections to other telecom providers. Other so-called secret rooms reportedly were constructed at AT&T sites in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, Calif.

In summer 2002, Klein was working in an office responsible for Internet equipment when an NSA representative arrived to interview a management-level technician for a special, secret job.

The job entailed building a “secret room” in another AT&T office 10 blocks away, he said. By coincidence, in October 2003, Klein was transferred to that office. He asked a technician about the secret room on the sixth floor, and the technician told him it was connected to the Internet room a floor above. The technician handed him wiring diagrams.

“That was my ‘aha’ moment,” Klein said. “They’re sending the entire Internet to the secret room.”

The diagram showed splitters glass prisms that split signals from each network into two identical copies. One copy fed into the secret room. The other proceeded to its destination, he said.

“This splitter was sweeping up everything, vacuum-cleaner-style,” he said. “The NSA is getting everything. These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T’s customers but everybody’s.”

One of Klein’s documents listed links to 16 entities, including Global Crossing, a large provider of voice and data services in the United States and abroad; UUNet, a large Internet provider now owned by Verizon; Level 3 Communications, which provides local, long-distance and data transmission in the United States and overseas; and more familiar names, such as Sprint and Qwest. It also included data exchanges MAE-West and PAIX, or Palo Alto Internet Exchange, facilities where telecom carriers hand off Internet traffic to each other.

“I flipped out,” he said. “They’re copying the whole Internet. There’s no selection going on here. Maybe they select out later, but at the point of handoff to the government, they get everything.”

wow, Apple you tricked me again

There are three rules that everyone knows.

  1. Never Get Out of the Boat
  2. Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia
  3. Never upgrade your Apple OS if things are working fine.

I’d been on 10.4.8 on my main get-work-done machine for a while. There was no reason to upgrade. It was solid. I had no problems. Also, 10.4.9 was a piece of crap.

Then I had a problem. An iTunes problem which was also several dot releases behind. iTunes hung for some reason. After Effects hung at the same time, so it probably wasn’t an iTunes problem, but I’d been meaning to upgrade anyway so that I could get the un-DRM’d files from the iTunes store. So, I upgraded iTunes. The new iTunes hung immediately when I tried to download or play a file.

After trying a bunch of stuff, for some stupid reason, I decided to try installing 10.4.10. Mostly, it works except when external drives just go away for some reason. Which is a serious feaking problem, especially when you consider that one of the big “fixes” in 10.4.10 was around external drives. What happens to iTunes when the external drive where your files live goes away? It hangs hard. Like, you can’t reboot hard. Like you have to power cycle the machine hard.

Since trying to upgrade iTunes on Saturday morning, I’ve had to power cycle my most important machine about a dozen times.

the lesson: Never get out of the boat.

comparing PHP RSS parsers

For a little project I’m working on, I needed to do some RSS parsing. I quickly found lastRSS, magpie and the Pear XML Feed Parsing Library. I wasn’t sure which was the best, so I decided to do a little apples to apples to apples comparison. I created the PHP RSS Comparator to help me figure out which library worked on the most feeds and had the best performance.

My findings so far? Magpie is rock solid, seems to handle nearly every feed I throw at it. When LastRSS handles a feed, it handles it the fastest. The Pear XML Feed Parsing library trips up on the same feeds that break LastRSS, but it is also a lot slower than LastRSS. The cache in LastRSS is effective and a very good idea.

It’s possible that I’m mis-using the Pear or Last RSS libraries, but I basically did the same thing with all three libraries which is to start from their own sample code and then make minimal changes so that they all showed the same results.

I can definitely see why they use magpie for wordpress. It isn’t as fast as LastRSS, but it is close and it handles a lot of feeds that lastRSS does not. The Pear XML Feed Parsing library may be powerful, but it doesn’t work well enough on real-world feeds to make it worthwhile for me.

why do republicans hate air traffic controllers so much?

Far more veteran air traffic controllers than the government expected have retired since the Bush administration imposed a contract on their union on Labor Day 2006, new data show.While veteran controllers bail out in unprecedented numbers and air travelers experience record delays, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a series of all-is-well pronouncements about its work force.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, by contrast, has produced a stream of warnings about safety risks to the public from overworked controllers in major air-control centers it says are understaffed.

During September 2006 — the month before fiscal 2007 — 97 controllers retired, compared with the 39 the FAA predicted, according to the Transportation Department inspector general, who said the jump “was a result of the breakdown in contract talks.”

That month began with the FAA ending an impasse in negotiations by imposing a contract with new work rules, including staffing cuts, a dress code and a 30 percent cut in the pay of starting controllers. The agency tossed out staffing levels negotiated in the 1998 contract and targeted all 314 control facilities for staff cuts ranging from 9 to 26 percent.

From the Seattle Times

Apple announces iPhone/iPod Touch SDK coming in February

Apple – Hot News
Third Party Applications on the iPhone

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones—this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.

Some companies are already taking action. Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than “totally open,” we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone’s amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.

We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones.


P.S.: The SDK will also allow developers to create applications for iPod touch. [Oct 17, 2007]