July 24, 2003

Microsoft Quality Software

Microsoft's Slate is supposed to dump a nicely-formatted text email of its "Today's Papers" column into my email box sometime around 4:00 AM Pacific Time each morning.

The email message below appears to have started its odyssey at 2:46 AM PT. But it showed up in my email inbox at 9:15 PM PT--having thus spent 18 1/2 hours in transit. And the formatting! No line breaks that make sense. Every single quote escaped with a backslash.

I'm still trying to figure out what possible combination of software issues could have produced this...

To: jbdelong@uclink.berkeley.edu
From: "Today's Papers" <MSN_Newsletters@hotmail.com>
Subject: Today's Papers: Total Eclipse of the So
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 25 Jul 2003 04:15:57.0589 (UTC)
Date: 24 Jul 2003 21:15:57 -0700
today\'s papers Total Eclipse of the Sons By Eric Umansky Posted Thursday, July 24, 2003, at 2:46 AM PT
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The Washington Post and USA Today\'s leads follow up on the demise of Saddam\'s sons, with both papers emphasizing President Bush\'s comments that "now more than ever, all Iraqis can know that the former regime is gone." The New York Times leads with the House\'s near unanimous vote to roll back one of the FCC\'s new rules easing media ownership restrictions. The White House had threatened to veto such a vote, but backed off yesterday in what the NYT says is the hope that the returned restrictions will be stripped during a House-Senate conference committee. The Senate is expected to vote on a similar measure in September. The Los Angeles Times banners California state officials\' confirmation that the petition effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis has enough signatures to go to an election. State Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who himself is considered a candidate to replace Davis, will today announce the date of the election, which could be as soon as Sept. 23. Davis said he will remain in office and "fight like a Bengali tiger." Everybody notes that two GIs were killed yesterday and eight wounded in two separate attacks, one near Mosul, scene of Tuesday\'s shootout. And as the LAT and USAT catch, three more GIs were killed early this morning in another attack near Mosul. As USAT notes up high, SecDef Rumsfeld said the military will soon release photos of Oday and Qusay--the later of which military officials said appears to have shot himself. Meanwhile, in a piece and headline that may have been fin!
ished to
o early, the NYT goes above-the-fold with comments by the U.S.\'s top general in Iraq that he\'s hesitant to release the photos of the dead brothers: "ARMY IS RELUCTANT TO FLAUNT PHOTOS OF HUSSEIN\'S SONS." In a parenthetical--the kind typically inserted after a story is essentially finished--the piece notes Rumsfeld\'s statements about the impending release of the photos. An Associated Press piece on USAT\'s Web site notices that the military said it\'s flying the brothers\' bodies out of the country: "Officials would not say why the bodies were being taken out of Iraq or to where." The LAT and WP both front pieces detailing yesterday\'s siege. As U.S. troops surrounded the house, the building\'s owner--and likely tattle-tale--reportedly told a neighbor, "I\'ve got Oday, Qusay and big, big problems." A piece inside the NYT headlines, "U.S. DEFENDS MOVE TO STORM HOUSE WHERE HUSSEIN BROTHERS WERE HIDING." Which is an interesting formulation, since the story itself never cites anybody questioning the operation. Yesterday\'s LAT confidently asserted, "SONS\' DEATHS A TURNING POINT IN CAMPAIGN." Seems a bit hard to really know that, doesn\'t it? Of course, there\'s always the possibility that the paper\'s editors attended a supposedly non-existent guerrilla coordinating committee meeting. Today\'s Wall Street Journal has a more distanced take, "U.S. officials portrayed the deaths of Hussein\'s sons as a turning point in the effort to rebuild Iraq." The papers go inside with the Pentagon\'s announcement of a rotation plan for troops in Iraq. While the 3rd Infantry Division is supposed to head back in September, other units will be replaced in the fall and in the spring. But the timetable seems less than iron-clad: According to a chart in USAT, the Army\'s 101st division, slated to leave by March, will be replaced by "unspecified international forces." A frontpage WP piece suggests the administration ignored advice from intel officials and others during the run-up to the war that the occupat!
ion woul
d be harder than White House was estimating. According to the piece, part of the blame lies with the secretive Pentagon office that oversaw post-war preparations and was led by political appointees who shut out other agencies (and not just the State Dept.). First Iraq boss Jay Garner apparently didn\'t know about the office until a month after he was appointed. The piece is deeply reported, but it\'s easy to miss that since the article\'s headline is narrowly focused on a top Pentagon official\'s admission that mistakes were made: "WOLFOWITZ CONCEDES IRAQ ERRORS." Everybody fronts and the NYT off-leads yesterday\'s shooting at New York\'s City Hall in which a gunman killed a city councilman before he himself was shot and killed by a police officer. The attacker had recently said he planned to run against the councilman in the next elections. City Hall is obviously heavily protected, but the shooter got inside because he arrived with the councilman who as a top official was exempt from having to go through metal detectors. The papers continue to preview the about-to-be-released Senate report investigating 9/11. The NYT highlights the report\'s conclusions that the attacks might have been prevented if the CIA and FBI had simply communicated with each other. The paper headlines, "9/11 STUDY FAULTS F.B.I.-C.I.A. LAPSES." Yesterday\'s LAT had a slightly different take: "9/11 REPORT: NO EVIDENCE OF CRITICAL MISTAKES." The WSJ focuses on assertions that the administration has classified portions of the report not for national security reasons but to cover up embarrassing facts. Meanwhile, wire service UPI suggests another angle that--given the administration\'s previous assertions--just might make the biggest stink: "9/11 REPORT: NO SADDAM ? AQ LINK." Eric Umansky writes Today\'s Papers for Slate. You can e-mail him at todayspapers@hotmail.com.
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*********** Also in today\'s Slate: http://g.msn.com/0NL62004/5019 in other magazines: Dark days in California. http://g.msn.com/0NL62004/5044 ballot box: The agenda of John Kerry. http://g.msn.com/0NL62004/5045 dispatches: Longing for the lost traditions of the Tour de France. http://g.msn.com/0NL62004/5046 Copyright 2002 Microsoft and/or its suppliers.
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Posted by DeLong at July 24, 2003 10:15 PM | TrackBack


I think it is kind of cool. (Of course, it didn't land in my inbox.) It reminds me of the old party game where people sit in a circle, the first person something into the next person's ear, which is then supposed to be repeated around the circle, and you see how far you end up from the original.

Posted by: William Sjostrom on July 25, 2003 04:06 AM

"It reminds me of the old party game where people sit in a circle, the first person something into the next person's ear, which is then supposed to be repeated around the circle, and you see how far you end up from the original."

Chinese whispers

Posted by: Pooh on July 25, 2003 05:39 AM

looks like a misquoted Perl script, actually.

Posted by: sky on July 25, 2003 06:51 AM

When I was in hungary for a semester 10 years ago, I sent email messages back to my parents. One of them got to them over 3 months (!) after I sent it.

Posted by: dfinberg on July 25, 2003 06:59 AM

"When I was in hungary for a semester 10 years ago, I sent email messages back to my parents. One of them got to them over 3 months (!) after I sent it."

That reminds me of those postcards that arrive many decades after they are posted.

What about the following, addressed to Buck House some 70 years ago, and just received by the current inhabitants?

Dear Mater and Pater,

Everything's tickety-boo and we are having a simply splendid time in Cannes. You simply must not worry. Everyone adores Wallis and I'm sure you will too. What could possibly go wrong? We are just good companions and I can assure you that nothing will ever come of it.

Your loving and faithful son,


Posted by: Pooh on July 25, 2003 08:32 AM

Forget it Jake, its Microsoft.

Posted by: Tom Strong on July 25, 2003 09:20 AM


I sure this is entirely your fault and not Microsoft's. The quality of our software is the standard of the industry. I'm sure some non-MS system in the middle mangled your message. MS software would never perform that poorly.

If you would like, you can call our toll-free support line for help at 1-800-MAKE MS $ and we would be happy to help you diagnose your issue for the nominal charge of $75 per hour.

Uncle Bill

Posted by: section321 on July 25, 2003 03:00 PM

would that be from Exchange2K running on Linux (alpha)? Perhaps Perl? Naw, just another outstanding example of MS consumer-friendly software gone nuts...kind of like the Fox of software: We Decide You Use.

Posted by: Jo Fish on July 25, 2003 08:53 PM
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