Saturday, December 31, 2005

and Geoff gets Upset When I Say Things About Kwanzaa

But acording to his favorite conservative hottie:

(Sing to "Jingle Bells")
Kwanzaa bells, dashikis sell
Whitey has to pay;
Burning, shooting, oh what fun
On this made-up holiday!

Coincidentally, the seven principles of Kwanzaa are the very same seven principles of the Symbionese Liberation Army, another charming invention of the Least-Great Generation. In 1974, Patricia Hearst, kidnap victim-cum-SLA revolutionary, posed next to the banner of her alleged captors, a seven-headed cobra. Each snake head stood for one of the SLA's revolutionary principles: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba and Imani -- the same seven "principles" of Kwanzaa.

And, FTR, I happen to LIKE Kwanzaa.

However I wash my hands of Robannukah

"the most arrogant company in the world"

The plot stays the same, but the characters change in a decade long cycle.

Jerry Weinberger, chief executive of Rates Technology Inc. (RTI), said he was the inventor of software programming that allows telephone calls to be placed over the Internet.
He said 120 companies, including Lucent, Cisco, IBM, Yahoo and Microsoft, have paid RTI to use the technology for "Voice over Internet Protocol" (VoIP) calls.
RTI filed suit in a Long Island federal court against Google two months ago because the search engine was using the technology without authorisation, Weinberger said after the New York Post reported the lawsuit Friday.
"They told us to go to hell," the RTI boss told AFP. "They are the most arrogant company in the world."

ATT, IBM, and Microsoft so far in my conscience lifetime. Google seems next.

So Were You Just Making Stuff About About Writing A Book?

asks a reader.

No. I have been making progress, just slowly. Events have overtaken some of it and I'm working out late 21st century plot elements. Unlike Ray Kurzweil, I'm not confident I know how things are going to pan out.

For example, I destroyed Miami in 2013 by a Cat 5 hurricane, then Katrina rendered the whole thing moot.

However, to prove my good intent, here is a sample from the outline.

Bill Gates Retires: Steve Ballmer to remain until end of 2012. MSFT stock slides 20% on news.

Koreans Clone Chimp: Telomere Dog still healthy.

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise returns to rehab after assaulting nuns

Harry Potter
Despite Deaths, Final Harry Potter Movie in November

American space
Hubble snaps last photo. 1 working shuttle remains in fleet: Atlantis

Red States
Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas model anti-contraception legislation on Utah. Scott v. Utah appeal to reach SC next term.
Scott v. Utah challenge to Utah Anti-contraception law

Pittsburgh joins NY/Boston/LA/Austin as free internet cities

Hillary decides against running for president
Warner leads

McCain Challenges Romney for nom.

Benedict XIV
Pope dies of stroke while shitting
The Catholic Schism

New Anglicans
New Anglicans popular with Americans, 1st worlders. GM, contraception, euthanasia cited.
Evolution of Church

Pope Nicholas VI
Wilfrid Fox Napier, 71, named Pope Nicholas VI. Seen as hard right turn, growing strength of African Church
Isolation of the US/Euro churches increases

Blue States
Washington, Oregon adopt Gay Marriage by Refferendum.

Blue States
Mass, Vermont, Washington legalize medical MJ.

Brian Schweitzer (G-MT) takes DNC nom. Offers Wes Clark VP.

Romney/McCain ticket

Red States
Kansas passes anti-contraception

Blue States
California passes statute forbidding religion in classroom except for religion or philosophy classes

Pope N VI
Pope instructs priest to deny communion, confession to politicians supporting gay rights, abortion. Stops just short of excommunication

American Cardinal Brams, NY, hints that American Church may have a hard time following these orders.

New Anglicans
New Anglicans denounce Pope

Southern Baptists
Southern Baptists, Falwell, Robertson support Pope’s idea but not Pope

Few American, Europe Churches refusing communion, Pope furious. Calls conclave to Rome and screams for 16 hours.

A Few New Links

I've updated the links list on the right a little. Long over due.

Media Training 641: Advanced Studies

There is a defacto Professor of Media Training at Syracuse University, Robert Thompson (the p is silent, like in swimming). I am in awe. He does everything I was ever trained to do and so much more.

Aluminium Webbed armchairs?? My hat is off to you Professor!

The key to Thompson’s savvy is staying ahead of the game. “You hope that by the time a journalist calls you’ve already been thinking about it,” he says. The 60th anniversary of the webbed aluminum lawn chair, he offers as a nontelevision, pop-culture example, is approaching, so he read up. The chair is fascinating, he says, “because you had all this extra aluminum after the war,” and some enterprising folks thought to “take this surplus of aluminum and match it with the explosion of the suburbs, which was helped with the GI Bill.” It’s his favorite type of topic. “It’s fun to learn the contextual history of things you take for granted. The stuff is so totally a part of who you are and you fail to see the significance.”

Friday, December 30, 2005

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Enemy of my Enemy

In a message dated 12/29/2005 10:40:22 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, writes:
Nov 8- San Francisco passes a law that "prohibits the manufacture and sale of all firearms and ammunition in the city, and makes it illegal for residents to keep handguns in their homes or businesses." (Washington Post).I've searched on the ACLU site for any kind of call to action re: this, but found nothing. Nothing urging support for or against this, which is a huge Second Amendment concern. My question is, are they strictly hands-off with guns, or just picky about the civil liberties they defend?

I thought you wanted to get rid of the ACLU, now you want their help?

... okaaaaaay

Well, first of all, the ACLU is a private organization, so they are free to pick and choose whatever they want or don't want to defend. They don't have an obligation to take cases like this, or any cases in fact. I happily support them with a check now and again so I can keep burning flags with pictures of Jesus giving George Bush a blow job on them. If a majority of the membership thinks this is worth doing, then they will do it.

So it's not the ACLU you have to convince, it's people paying their bills.

Like me.

Second, there isn't a case here. In order for the courts to get involves, there has to be a case. None has been offered yet.

Finally, the ACLU stand on the second amendment is right on their website:

Update: I wanted to add: I was very "pro gun control" for a long time until I read the Federalist Papers. Understanding the context of the 2nd Amendment moved me to the ACLUs "neutral" position. I'm pleased (and a little surprised) that the ACLU and I agree on this view.

I happen to think they have it about right.
Maybe I should write them another check.... grabbing check book... looking for pen...

Gun Control (3/4/2002)
Gun Control
"Why doesn't the ACLU support an individual'sunlimited right to keep and bear arms?"

BACKGROUND The ACLU has often been criticized for "ignoring the Second Amendment" and refusing to fight for the individual's right to own a gun or other weapons. This issue, however, has not been ignored by the ACLU. The national board has in fact debated and discussed the civil liberties aspects of the Second Amendment many times.
We believe that the constitutional right to bear arms is primarily a collective one, intended mainly to protect the right of the states to maintain militias to assure their own freedom and security against the central government. In today's world, that idea is somewhat anachronistic and in any case would require weapons much more powerful than handguns or hunting rifles. The ACLU therefore believes that the Second Amendment does not confer an unlimited right upon individuals to own guns or other weapons nor does it prohibit reasonable regulation of gun ownership, such as licensing and registration.

IN BRIEF The national ACLU is neutral on the issue of gun control. We believe that the Constitution contains no barriers to reasonable regulations of gun ownership. If we can license and register cars, we can license and register guns.

Most opponents of gun control concede that the Second Amendment certainly does not guarantee an individual's right to own bazookas, missiles or nuclear warheads. Yet these, like rifles, pistols and even submachine guns, are arms.

The question therefore is not whether to restrict arms ownership, but how much to restrict it. If that is a question left open by the Constitution, then it is a question for Congress to decide.

ACLU POLICY "The ACLU agrees with the Supreme Court's long-standing interpretation of the Second Amendment [as set forth in the 1939 case, U.S. v. Miller] that the individual's right to bear arms applies only to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia. Except for lawful police and military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is not constitutionally protected. Therefore, there is no constitutional impediment to the regulation of firearms." --Policy #47

Washington Post Article: my personal feelings:

What is it?


I don't know, but it's a very cool picture.

Zell Miller Syndrome

There must be something in the water in Georgia. First Zell Miller goes batshit, the President throws a collar on him and parades him around on stage, then he disappears. Truthfully, I really did think Zell had some kind of neurological problem, the change was so drastic and sudden.

But now, former congressman Bob Barr has it as well! Bob is the meanest, reddest republican who ever came from Georgia. He loves the War on Drugs, the FMA and was the leading congressman in the impeachment of Clinton. When asked why he and fellow republicans was pushing so hard for investigation after investigation until they found something , anything which would allow impeachment he notably responded, "because we can". He went as far as having Clinton's cat investigated.

But now, out of congress, Barr has changed his tune significantly. Once an author of the PATRIOT ACT, he is now one of it's most vocal critics, calling for scrapping it. He's joined the dreaded American Civil Liberties Union, the garlic and wooden spike of big daddy government. Very strange. Now this:

Two of the most powerful moments of political déjà vu I have ever experienced took place recently in the context of the Bush administration's defense of presidentially ordered electronic spying on American citizens.
First, in the best tradition of former President Bill Clinton's classic, "it-all-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is" defense, President Bush responded to a question at a White House news conference about what now appears to be a clear violation of federal electronic monitoring laws by trying to argue that he had not ordered the National Security Agency to "monitor" phone and e-mail communications of American citizens without court order; he had merely ordered them to "detect" improper communications.

This example of presidential phrase parsing was followed quickly by the president's press secretary, Scott McLellan, dead-panning to reporters that when Bush said a couple of years ago that he would never allow the NSA to monitor Americans without a court order, what he really meant was something different than what he actually said. If McLellan's last name had been McCurry, and the topic an illicit relationship with a White House intern rather than illegal spying on American citizens, I could have easily been listening to a White House news conference at the height of the Clinton impeachment scandal.

Weird. Not quite a call for impeachment, but definately a clearer eyed evaluation than I would expect from someone with Barr's background.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Finally, What I Wanted for Christmas

A shred, just the smallest shred of integrity from someone on the Right. Looks like I got it, no matter how short lived it will prove to be.

From the Wall Street Journal owned Barrons (Subscription only)

AS THE YEAR WAS DRAWING TO A CLOSE, we picked up our New York Times and learned that the Bush administration has been fighting terrorism by intercepting communications in America without warrants. It was worrisome on its face, but in justifying their actions, officials have made a bad situation much worse: Administration lawyers and the president himself have tortured the Constitution and extracted a suspension of the separation of powers.

. . .

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.
It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law.

. . .

Published reports quote sources saying that 14 members of Congress were notified of the wiretapping. If some had misgivings, apparently they were scared of being called names, as the president did last week when he said: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

Wrong. If we don't discuss the program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror.

It won't last of course, but it is a sign that the current administration has gone too far even for it's allies. No one (except Cheney) wants a return to the days of Nixon when the president could wiretap the competition.

To my republican friends out there who think I am making too much of this, answer me one question. Is this the kind of power in the presidency you want to leave to President Hillary Clinton?

Barrons quote via

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Interesting Blog

Here with a hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

The Democrats have problems too. While things have been looking up for them recently, their ideological coalition has been losing strength for decades, leaving them in danger of long term minority status.The obvious solution to both sets of problems is for the Democrats to try to pull the libertarian faction out of the Republican party. How large that faction is is hard to judge, but it is clearly a lot larger than the vote of the Libertarian Party would suggest. The current administration's use of pro-market rhetoric suggests that it, at least, believes that a significant fraction of its base cares about such things. The conversion of a mere ten percent of current Republicans into Democrats would strikingly alter the current political balance.

Innumerable arguments with the Strawberry Woman years ago ended my blind faith in the DNC and pushed me to a Goldwater-esque republicanism which eventually ripened into a form of pragmatic libertarianism. Not the crazy anarcho-capitalist version which I file in the same folder as communism (both have a wildly unrealistic view of what motivates people, even if they are at polar extremes as to what those forces are), nor the wacky LaRouche kind where people in orange saffron robes try to sell flowers in the airport... wait... ... anyway, a more pragmatic, get the government out of my business but keep them for infrastrucutre purposes type of philosophy.

So I am looking forward to watching this blog.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Enough Bricks to Build the Pyramids

Thats how many GOP lawmakers must be shitting over this:

Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said.

One participant in the case said the deal could be made final as early as next week.
The terms of the plea deal have not been completed, and the negotiations are especially complicated because they involve prosecutors both in Miami and in Washington, where Mr. Abramoff is being investigated in a separate influence-peddling inquiry, participants said. Details of what he feels comfortable pleading guilty to are "probably largely worked out," the participant said, while the details of the prison sentence are less resolved.

Yes, the DNC will have it's problems too, but as I understand it, Abramoff's "gifts" to DNC members were more of an insurance policy that anything else. In case this kindof theing ever happened, GOP folks would be able to defend themselves with the "they did it too" strategy.

And, FTR, if the DNC folks really did "do it too", hang 'um!

Was Dover about Science or Religion?

A number of friends have asked me about the Dover decision, and I am moderately positive about the whole thing. The judge is an educated man and cleanly saw through the bullshit to the core issue, that ID is religion not science.

I'm just gravely dissapointed that we've come to a point in the history of the country where sceintifc literacy is so low, we need to debate what is and is not science in courts. That is a clear shot across the bow for those who want to see it. We're (one of) the most scienifically advanced civilizations in the most technological times and yet we still want to run back into the caves and have the chief tell us scary stories of the ghost in the woods.

So while I am heartened that the judge was a clear, sober guy, I think the fact that we are here at all is pretty sad.

And, least you think the ID case was really a legitimate one of new, cutting edge science vs the heirarchy, this post-trial comment sums it all up for me:

In his opinion, Judge Jones traced the history of the intelligent design movement to what he said were its roots in Christian fundamentalism. He seemed especially convinced by the testimony of Barbara Forrest, a historian of science, that the authors of the "Pandas" textbook had removed the word "creationism" from an earlier draft and substituted it with "intelligent design" after the Supreme Court's ruling in 1987

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Entertainment I Will still Enjoy Long After I Am in the Bad Home

I could only enjoy it more if it were Pope Benedict XVI.


Domestic Spying Against a Credible Threat

FTR, I don't have a beef against the domestic surveillance of credible threats to national security when overseen by a court (even a ridiculous mockup like FISA).

I don't think this quite qualifies and now I have genuine questions about what the president was trying to accomplish with his off the books 'sneak and peek'

I mean... Quakers? Fucking Quakers?

A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.
A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.
“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.
“This is incredible,” adds group member Rich Hersh. “It's an example of paranoia by our government,” he says. “We're not doing anything illegal.”

Jesus McFuck.


Change for a $1

Speaking of Microsoft, this is pretty funny.

Also, We Share Your Pain

As Google Turn into the Microsoft of the 21st Century

Can the anti-trust suits be far behind?

But since its debut last summer, Google Earth has received attention of an unexpected sort. Officials of several nations have expressed alarm over its detailed display of government buildings, military installations and other important sites within their borders.

India, whose laws sharply restrict satellite and aerial photography, has been particularly outspoken. "It could severely compromise a country's security," V. S. Ramamurthy, secretary in India's federal Department of Science and Technology, said of Google Earth. And India's surveyor general, Maj. Gen. M. Gopal Rao, said, "They ought to have asked us."

I will particularly relish the plight of my (emotionally) Anti-Microsoft (but philospophicall) Libertarian friends who while strictly anti-regulation quietly root for the fall of my company. All of them are big Google fans.

Terrorist Groups?

The FBI has been watching a lot of folks with no seeming ties to Al Queda or other islamofacist groups. Who? Well, according to the NYT:

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.

Violent groups like:
the Vegan Community Project
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur )

and, my personal favorite:
Catholic Workers (for, now get this, "semi-communistic ideology.")

While I'm no fan of the catholics and I have actually made the argument that they are communists, I have to object to the FBI investingating them, even though I disagree.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Fact or Fiction? You be the Judge

Is this real, or fake?

THOUGH he did not know it at the time, the idea came to Howard Stapleton when he was 12 and visiting a London factory with his father.
He could not bear the noise from high-frequency welding equipment, but the workers didn't hear a thing.

Now 39, Mr Stapleton has taken the lesson he learned that day — that children can hear sounds at higher frequencies than adults can — to make a device that he hopes will solve the problem of obstreperous teenagers who hang around outside shops and cause trouble.

The device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying," Mr Stapleton said), emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that he claims can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they cannot stand it and go away.

So far, the Mosquito has been road-tested in only one place, at the entrance to a convenience store in the town of Barry, South Wales. Surly teenagers used to plant themselves just outside the door, smoking, drinking, swearing at customers and making disruptive forays inside.

Robert Gough, who owns the store with his parents, said the youths would sometimes fight, steal and assault staff. Last month, Mr Stapleton gave him a Mosquito for a free trial. The results were almost instant. It was as if someone had used anti-teenager spray around the entrance. Where youths used to congregate, now there is no one.

At first, members of the usual crowd repeatedly went inside the store with their fingers in their ears and "begging me to turn it off", Mr Gough said. But he held firm and avoided possible confrontations: "I told them it was to keep birds away because of the bird flu epidemic."

Mr Stapleton, a security consultant, used his children as guinea pigs, trying different noise and frequency levels before settling on a pulsating tone he said was more unbearable, and which can be broadcast at 75 decibels, within government safety limits.

"I didn't want to make it hurt. It just has to nag at them," he said.

"It's very difficult to shoplift when you have your fingers in your ears."

Answer in the comments

New Computer Security Virus: Humans

This is also pretty good (yes, I am reading Cryptogram today).

H1.3 How to determine if you are at risk-
Ask yourself the question, "Who am I?" If answered, the system is at risk.

How to Avoid a Wiretap

Excellent piece of analysis:

In the most serious countermeasures we discovered, a wiretap subject superimposes a continuous low-amplitude "C-tone" audio signal over normal call audio on the monitored line. The tone is misinterpreted by the wiretap system as an "on-hook" signal, which mutes monitored call audio and suspends audio recording. Most loop extender systems, as well as at least some CALEA systems, appear to be vulnerable to this countermeasure. Audio examples (in MP3 format) of this countermeasure can be found below.

Loop extender systems are susceptible to other countermeasures as well. In particular, a subject can employ a simple computer-aided dialing procedure (which we call "confusion/evasion dialing") that prevents the dialed outgoing telephone numbers from being recorded accurately by the tap. Wiretap subjects can also falsely indicate the ending times for calls they make and receive and can inject false records of outgoing and incoming calls (appearing to be to or from any numbers they choose) into pen register logs.

Bill O'Reilly

Has lost his nuts. If you find them, please send them to FOX News where, in fact, all nuts should be sent.

And finally, it seems that the closer we get to Christmas, the closer Bill O'Reilly gets to a nervous breakdown. The Falafel Master was back in the news again last week after claiming that "In Plano, Texas, a school told students they couldn't wear red and green because they are Christmas colors."

Oh really? Turns out that's not quite true. In fact, it's not even remotely true. In fact, the school district's attorneys subsequently sent Bill a
letter requesting that "in the future, he ask his fact checkers to do a more thorough job of confirming the facts before he airs them." Oops.

But apparently Plano isn't the only town featured in O'Reilly's bizarre no-red-or-green-colors-for-you fantasy. Here's what he had to say about Saginaw, Michigan:

In Saginaw, Michigan, the township opposes red and green clothing on anyone. In Saginaw Township, they basically said, anybody, we don't want you to wear red or green. I would dress up head to toe in red to green if I were in Saginaw, Michigan.

According to "Mid-Michigan's News Leader" WNEM-TV5, "O'Reilly's comments are flat-out not true. [Township supervisor Tim] Braun goes on to say the township hall has red and green Christmas lights adorning the building at night."
Off his meds, I tell ya.

So I have an idea. I'm so sick of FOX news, idiots like O'Reilly, factfree commentary etc.
I'm going to send a bag of nuts to Bill and encourage you to do the same. I'm going to send out an email chain-letter kind of thing, please forward it as much as possible.

The Address for FOX News is:
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York City, New York, United States, 10036-8795

I'm ordering them from here.

Nuts to you Bill O'Reilly!

Friday, December 16, 2005

"Write something funny"

A reader enjoins me to "write something funny", and comments on my light blogging of late. Sorry all, I've been busy at work this week (Santa is a facist and we of the Elves Union have been contemplating a strike, along with the Brotherhood of Flying Raindeer and the Light and Tinslers Union Local 24. Lots of voting, alcohol and declaritive statements since Sunday).

Also, I must admit, loggin has been light because, in part, I'm having a lot of trouble typing. Don't know why, probably becuase I have put in a number of late nights and early mornings.

I'll try to write something amusing tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Coveted Victim Status

or (CVS). Usually something I associate with majorities who use CVS to advocate for more benefits to cement their majority (e.g. Catholics, Republicans, Creationists, the Mentally Retarted). However, it seems folks don't much like athesits.

50% of Americans have an unfavorable view of people whose great sin, as best I can tell, is that they refuse to take on faith what others are willing to take on faith. I'm pleased that hostility to Jews and Catholics seems to be much less than what it used to be in the past. I hope the same will soon happen as to Muslim Americans and Evangelical Christians; that one may disagree with some Evangelical Christians' political agenda, for instance, is surely no reason to view them unfavorably as people (just as one's disagreement with most American Jews' liberalism is no reason for viewing them unfavorably). Yet the high level of disapproval of atheists should make us worry about American religious harmony and tolerance more broadly.

This does not surprise me in the least. No one likes a smart ass, especially ones who quietly believe your belief in the invisible is some kind of mental disorder. Even if it's not said, that's what most people think atheists think about them. And they resent it.

Yet, fundamentally, there is no way around the problem. Except for this blog, I am generally not evangelical about my unchurchedness (and the exception is here because no one is forcing you read this stuff. You can tune in for just the funny bits). Atheists are almost always perceived by believers as being judgmental about their choices. The irony in this is extraordinary and inconsistent, but it's definitely true.

Hence, the one group who least values CVS, has a better claim than most MSRs.


The new RX-7 replacement from Mazda??
I know now what I'll be squandering the boy's tuition on instead of Drexel next year...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


This is a description of Stephen Bing, first in the LA Times and now (allegedly) in an RNC memo on

Bing, Who Enjoys Strip Clubs And Las Vegas Casinos, Lives In Two-Bedroom Bel-Air Home But Bought Seven Adjoining Houses With Plan Of Demolishing Them To Create “Palatial Grounds.” “A determined bachelor, he lives in a small two-bedroom home in Bel-Air but has bought the seven adjoining houses with the intention of knocking them down and creating palatial grounds. He’s a fan of strip clubs, has been a high roller in Las Vegas for years, and yet he can discuss the dense Robert Caro biography of Lyndon Johnson.â

OMG! He can discuss a book!

An actual book!

The horror!

NOW I want to meet this guy.


An interesting short essay on why the price of gold is currently through the roof.

Alan Greenspan knows all this. Before he became an integral part of the nanny state's machine, he wrote the following in a 1966 essay titled "Gold and Economic Freedom":

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.

This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists' tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists' antagonism toward the gold standard.

Essentially, Greenspan's point is that gold enforces consequences. That's why Nixon officially decoupled the dollar from gold in the early 1970's; as the U.S. printed excess money to pay the debts from the Vietnam War, it sought to disguise the consequences. Greenspan refers above to the government making the holding of gold illegal. In 1933, Roosevelt outlawed the ownership of gold by U.S. citizens as the government tried to remove any constraint on its ability to reflate during the Great Depression (history buffs can view a copy of FDR's executive order

The essay also contains a truism I've heard from a number of traders:

"All of economic history is one lie and deceit after another. Your job as a speculator is to get on when the lie is being propagated and then get off before it is discovered."

Monday, December 12, 2005


Oh yes, this is that future all right.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Not Quite Responsible Disclosure

Microsoft puts a lot of effort into advocating and rewarding the process of Responsible Disclosure. RD allows folks who discover software vulnerabilities to share the information with the manufacturer and others in a way which maximizes the appropriate countermeasures are available before an exploit and minimizes risks to the community at large. When done correctly, the process allows everyone to benefit by coordinating the availability of a patch, fix or workaround, with the disclosure of the vulnerability. The discoverer is always fully credited with the effort, which is almost always the goal for security researchers.

One way not to do RD is to email, post or blog the details of the vulnerability before a fix has been established, as it puts everyone at risk.

Another way not to do it is to post the vulnerability on eBay.


Incompetent Design

Frankly, I've been wondering about why no one has said this for so long, I've thought about writing it myself.

Don Wise, professor emeritus of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is the nation's foremost proponent of ID. No, Wise isn't getting ready to testify on behalf of the school board in Dover, PA. Rather, he advocates for a different version of the acronym: "incompetent design."
Wise cites serious flaws in the systems of the human body as evidence that design in the universe exhibits not an obvious source of, but a sore lack of, intelligence. Seed asked him to chat about his theory, reactions he's received to it, and the anthem he penned to rally people to his cause.

The thing that perhaps is closest to all of us is our own skeleton, and there are certainly all kinds of stupidity in our design. No self-respecting engineering student would make the kinds of dumb mistakes that are built into us. All of our pelvises slope forward for convenient knuckle-dragging, like all the other great apes. And the only reason you stand erect is because of this incredible sharp bend at the base of your spine, which is either evolution's way of modifying something or else it's just a design that would flunk a first-year engineering student.

Look at the teeth in your mouth. Basically, most of us have too many teeth for the size of our mouth. Well, is this evolution flattening a mammalian muzzle and jamming it into a face or is it a design that couldn't count accurately above 20? Look at the bones in your face. They're the same as the other mammals' but they're just squashed and contorted by jamming the jaw into a face with your brain expanding over it, so the potential drainage system in there is so convoluted that no plumber would admit to having done it!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the
time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He
also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet,
he suffered from bad breath. This made him .(Oh, man, this is so bad,
it's good).... A super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Okay, frist of all, this was sent TO me, I did not make it up.
Second, well, ummm.. well... pound for pound puns are your best entertainment value.

The Problem with Science

Nicholas Kristof has an excellent column today on the NYT page about the culture of humanities and problem that most people aren't familiar enough with science to understand what it's doing in and to the world.

But put aside the evolution debate for a moment. It's only a symptom of something much deeper and more serious: a profound illiteracy about science and math as a whole.
One-fifth of Americans still believe that the Sun goes around the Earth, instead of the other way around. And only about half know that humans did not live at the same time as dinosaurs.
The problem isn't just inadequate science (and math) teaching in the schools, however. A larger problem is the arrogance of the liberal arts, the cultural snootiness of, of ... well, of people like me - and probably you.

What do I mean by that? In the U.S. and most of the Western world, it's considered barbaric in educated circles to be unfamiliar with Plato or Monet or Dickens, but quite natural to be oblivious of quarks and chi-squares. A century ago, Einstein published his first paper on relativity - making 1905 as important a milestone for world history as 1066 or 1789 - but relativity has yet to filter into the consciousness of otherwise educated people.

"The great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the Western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had," C. P. Snow wrote in his classic essay, "The Two Cultures."

The counterargument is that we can always hire technicians in Bangalore, while it's Shakespeare and Goethe who teach us the values we need to harness science for humanity. There's something to that. If President Bush were about to attack Iraq all over again, he would be better off reading Sophocles - to appreciate the dangers of hubris - than studying the science of explosives.


"A new study suggests that middle-aged adults who go on periodic drinking binges may face a heightened risk of dementia later on in life. The study is entitled, 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.'" ---Tina Fey


Monday, December 05, 2005

Stewie Live

This has been a lot of fun

Stewie live

shoot gun
take over world

are a few amusing ones

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Swap Your Bible For ... (wait for it) ...


I love the Wonkette, I really do.

An atheist student group in Texas has set up shop on their campus offering to exchange porn for Bibles. A religious type was predictably offended: "In my opinion, there are no atheists. There are fools."And you shall know them by hair on their palms. Except the real fools are folks not LINING UP for this great offer. So far, they've only given away five skin mags. We think the reaction would be different in D.C. Though, it's true, Clarence Thomas would argue that shouldn't have to choose.

Porno for Bibles [Atheist Agenda via Boing Boing]Group Collects Bibles, Passes Out Porn [WOAI]

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Decent Comment About Economics

I was reading about a particularly egregious abuse of statistics and followed a thread to here, which had an interesting comment:

I know a guy in my dorm, a pro-PATRIOT Act "classical liberal" who used to want to be an economics major. He was turned off by the fact that it involved a bunch of min/maxing, rather than waxing on eloquently about the perfection and beauty of the free market. And really, who doesn't get sick, on occasion, of undergrad econ courses with their endless Lagrangian multipliers and simple partial derivatives? I think what angered him more, though, was that it treats economics as an empirically falsifiable science (Not well, some might claim (is John Emerson around?), with perhaps excessively high standards for falsification of favored models, but at least in theory). This guy didn't want there to be any chinks in the armor of the free market. To him, this isn't an empirical issue at all: it's a moral one. I respect that, actually, but the problem is when these people demand that economics the empirical social science meet free market libertarianism the moral position. When the two clash, the strategy is to take "the free market is perfect" as a null hypothesis, and then set a standard for falsification above whatever evidence supports an alternative hypothesis.

Two comments:
1) I've had this particular conversation.
2) Lagrangian multipliers huh? I may have underestimated parts of modern economics.

Dr. Doctor

I'm being sent to a neurologist at the University of Washington who is also "the best diagnositican in the state", Phil Swanson, M.D., Ph.D.

Hopefully I will be "boring".

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What's the Difference Between an Astronomer and an Astrophysicst?

Given the below rant, I know someone is going to ask because I tend to use the terms interchangeably.

Technically there isn't much of a real difference, it just tends to be how you self-identify. Is it Radio Astronomy, Radio Astrophysics or Gas-Phase Quantum Chemistry? It depends on how you went through your career. A loose rule of thumb tends to be, if you're looking at it, it's astronomy, if it involves a lot of math and not many observations, it's astrophysics. However, I can't think of an example where this comes down one way more than the other. This may be my lack of imagination.

Here's a better way of demonstrating the difference:

If you walk into a bar and you feel cranky and want to be left alone while someone is trying to chat you up, tell them you are an "astrophysicist". The conversation sill stop, you will get a look like you just might be an escaped mental patient (maybe a violent one) and you will be left alone. If you do it right, you may not even be served any more.

However, if you are in a cheerful mood and feeling gregarious, tell people you are an "astronomer". People will ask you all sorts of questions, talk to you, buy you drinks and occasionally, beautiful members of the opposite sex will come up and start kissing you at random (this has happened twice to me, and yes there are witnesses).

That's the difference.

How to Be An Astronomer

I was asked the following question this afternoon by a reader (edited):

My niece is a junior in high school. She gets all A's, is an athlete, member of NHS, has a job, great citizen, etc. She wants to study astrophysics and work for NASA and thinks that going into the Air Force is a great way to get into NASA. Would you lend her some insight about avenues to NASA, whether it is the best place to be, the best schools to shoot for, etc.?

Truthfully? Going into the Air Force will all but exclude her from a career in astrophysics, especially if she goes in now. While she’s in the AF not learning to fly jets (almost no one gets to fly jets, but everyone wants to), others are in college getting a science education and getting ready for grad school. While it's true that a lot astronauts are from the military right now, they are generally on the pilot side or are "mission specialists" who started their careers as astronomers and later joined the military. All other considerations aside (and I have become relatively neutral on the question of joining the military since Geoff is so insistent on it), that really isn't a good way to become an astrophysicist. Even with service delayed until after college, there are too many competing pressures and, physics is hard. Very hard. Lots of Sci-Fi lovers think they know some physics. Very very few of them make it to the level of astrophysicist. You're going to need all your concentration even if you are exceptionally gifted. Stargate SG-1 aside, focus on the science. The Air Force doesn't really have a program directed toward cranking out astronomers. Heck, most universities don't have astronomy programs, and it's a tough slog.

How to become an astrophysicist:
1) Go to a university and take every math and physics course that comes your way. Take astronomy if they offer it, but if they don’t, then don’t worry too much. They are going to judge you on your physics abilities. You'll need all of them. Astronomers are science generalists, especially in the beginning. The good news, you don’t have to get *all* As. It helps, but basically you want to get good grades and do some undergrad research with a professor your junior and senior years. The prof is the one who is going to write your letters of recommendation for grad school, and the whole point is to go to grad school.
At the end of university you need:
A GPA >= pi
2 or more letters of recommendation from professors
If possible an undergrad thesis
A Physics GRE >= 50%
If nothing else, if you go to a hippie school and make MDMA for 4 years and have no grades, you must slam the GRE. Your Physics GRE score is approximately equal to your % chance of being accepted for grad school at a decent place. The University of Toledo is not a decent place (although they accepted me *over the phone* when they got my GRE score). The letters from the profs and the GPA are your backups in case you pull a 40%. If you get in the 20s… well.. chances are you won’t *want* grad school.
2) Pick your grad school with care. Use the Guide to Physics and Astronomy Graduate Schools to pick yours. By the end of my senior year I had mine memorized. You need to pick a school that has a specialty you are interested in. High Energy Astrophysics? Penn State. Radio Astronomy? UMass, Uof Arizona. GR and gravity? John Hopkins or USC or CalTech. Picking the wrong grad school will mean a high likelihood of washing out second year. The drop rate of 2nd years is 50%
3) Pass your PhD quals and pick a thesis. The washout rate for this step if 50% of those that survived step 2
4) Write your thesis, defend it, get it published. The washout rate from here is also 50% of the remainder.
5) Pay your graduation fees or people will get cranky with you. :)
6) Pick a postdoctoral job. You will have a specialty now and are ready to work. It’s hard to get a postdoc but somehow there always seems to be exactly 1 for each new graduate. It’s a little weird but it works.
7) If you have made it this far, you are in a rare strata of life. There is exactly one astronomer for every 1,000,000 people on the planet. Congrats. By this point you know the other 5,999 astronomers and they know you. Too much about you!
8) Shut up Spitzak
Now you are ready to join the Air Force. You’ve got something to really contribute and, if you’re in good shape, you have a decent shot a shuttle mission if you want one. By decent shot I mean 1:950 or so. Given that you are already 1:1,000,000 that should be a walk in the park. J You are ready to be a mission specialist.

Don’t want a shuttle mission? At this point NASA is calling *you*. More or less. It depends a little on what you did in step 3) but even the Galactic Photometrists get funding from NASA or NSF, so you’re in a good spot. Don’t want to work for NASA? Well, you can teach, go into research, sell out and work in financial services. Pretty much anything you want. You’ve mastered some of the hardest knowledge mankind has (unless you picked Galactic Photometry back in step 3. Maybe it’s best you don’t pick that.) Want you own satellite? It’s likely at this point that’s what you are doing. In my graduate class of 6 people, 2 have their own satellites. (2 of us work in non-astronomy and 2 are in research).

I’m not down on the Air Force, BTW. It’s possible I will get some blog comments here from astronomers who came up through the AF and I invite their stories. I don’t know any of you and I’ve never heard of anyone doing that successfully, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It just hasn’t been my experience. I think there are a lot of great careers to be had coming in through the AF, I just haven't heard of anyone becoming an astronomer that way.

Toy Presidents


Some of the faces made me laugh rather loudly at work. And by some I mean
Clinton: He looks emaciated (2nd ed) and muppet-ish (1st ed)
HW Bush: He looks kind of like Dole...
Eisenhower: I had to click on it to make sure he wasnt wearing a robe over his suit. He wasnt, but the idea is still funny.
FDR: Looks more like the guy who played the President in Clear and Present Danger
Wilson: Need I say more
Hillary Clinton, more like Hilarity Clinton
The head of that Pope John Paul II will haunt my dreams and nightmares for eternity

I think they did a good job of hiding Nixon's horns.

Although you can still see the 666 birthmark on his left ear.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fractal Self-Parody

I'm not even sure where to begin with this one. So many choices. Nothing I can say will add to the obvious. Even the study group is hilarious:

Nettle and his colleague Helen Clegg questioned 425 British men and women, including professional artists, poets and schizophrenic patients, about their creative activity, sexual encounters and mental health characteristics.

Creativity Linked to Sexual Promiscuity

Something Geoff Said

Sometime back, in a discussion about military service, Geoff pointed out that he and I have different ideas about what a soldiers primary duty is supposed to be:

Mark: to obey
Geoff: to help

Since then, I've liked his idea better (although I still think I am, unfortunately, correct). Andrew Sullivan and others reported this exchange, which to me neatly illustrated the two points of view and highlights the moral superiority of Geofferey's position.

Q: And General Pace, what guidance do you have for your military commanders over there as to what to do if -- like when General Horst found this Interior Ministry jail [where evidenceof toeture was widespread]?

GEN. PACE: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don't see it happening but you're told about it is exactly what happened a couple weeks ago. There's a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it. So they did exactly what they should have done.

SEC. RUMSFELD: But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it.

GEN. PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

"reporting it" without an obligation to stop it is a) just ass-covering, b) tacit approval and c) wrong.

At least in my godless moral framework.

Tropical Storm Epsilon

Jesus McFuck.

At 11 a.m., the center of Tropical Storm Epsilon was about 650 miles east of Bermuda and moving closer at a rate of 9 miles per hour. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect it to stay well off the coast, though it will continue sending heavy surf and rough waves around the island as it rakes the ocean with tropical-storm-force winds 225 miles from its center.

Priceless Memorandum

Halfway through a very boring memo, someone stuck in this one, just to see if anyone read this far into it:

"Would you rather not hear more rhetorical questions?"

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I this link over at National Review, but it's not more apologia, its a patent on an ... unusual method of propulsion.

A space vehicle propelled by the pressure of inflationary vacuum state is provided comprising a hollow superconductive shield, an inner shield, a power source, a support structure, upper and lower means for generating an electromagnetic field, and a flux modulation controller. A cooled hollow superconductive shield is energized by an electromagnetic field resulting in the quantized vortices of lattice ions projecting a gravitomagnetic field that forms a spacetime curvature anomaly outside the space vehicle. The spacetime curvature imbalance, the spacetime curvature being the same as gravity, provides for the space vehicle's propulsion. The space vehicle, surrounded by the spacetime anomaly, may move at a speed approaching the light-speed characteristic for the modified locale.

Now I've seem all kinds of crazy patents. When I was in charge of CertCo's protfolio of crypto patents, I had full access to the US Patent office and a staff of Steptoe and Johnson lawyers to bounce ideas off of. One of my favorites was a "device" that provided instantaneous communication by using the "extradimensional properties" of a hot magnet.

and it got a patent!

This one is a little harder to debunk. One link I expected to see in the references was one to something called the Tademaru-Harrison Effect, which causes neutron stars to propel themselves out of hte galaxy via an asymmetric magnetic dipole moment. It's not dissimilar to what this guy is proposing.

(I know it well because I had both Tademaru and Harrison as professors at UMass. Harrison is the same Harrison whom I often quote about democracy. Also Tademaru asked a question on the qualifying exam about it. I got a 2/10 on that problem which, ironically, was the highest score on that problem in almost 2 decades.)

He uses a lot unproven assumptions in his explaination (e.g. the cosmological constant) which, while not science, is fine for a patent. Patents don't care that much how it works or even that it works. It's the fundemental difference between science and technology. Patents are all about technology.
I need to spend some time thinking about this one.

Venture Brothers Update

Some good news for fans of the Venture Brothers:

We're currently finishing up the tenth script of the season

Ben Edlund is supposed to turn in the eleventh script of the season in this coming week

Ben Edlund is the creator of The Tick! one of my all-time favorite comics/shows/mental-breakdowns.

The color department kicked into gear about a month and a half ago and are blowing me away. They're currently working on the third episode...

ut-oh! 3rd episode??? I was hoping for some eps by Christmas! oh well, looks like the Spring.

For anyone who is new and doesn't know what I'm talking about, the Venture Brothers is the funniest show ever made. At least if you're an aging, 70's cartoon watching person of dry wit and a sense of the absurd.

Otherwise it's probably just ... strange.

Here is a test, read the following line out loud in your best villian voice:

"While you were castrating that priceless antiquity, I was feeding babies to hungry mutated puppies! Bwaaahahahahahahaha"

Did you laugh? If so, watch the show if not...

I just did this and have been asked to close the door to my office by my neighbor across the hall. She was not laughing.

She probably has a baboon's uterus.

A Confession

I'm embarassed to admit this, but I feel I have no choice.


This is hard to type.

ok, here goes.

I've been reading Arianna Huffington's blog.
Worse, I'm starting to enjoy it.

Oh, it started off innocently enough, just following the occasional link from Andrew Sullivan or occasionally from Kos. Sometimes interesting things would be written there, but I could never escape the feeling that Arianna was behind it all and I would get the guilty feeling like I had just bought something in a plain, brown wrapper like Playboy, Oui or the Village Voice.

Today I jumped over there just to see what was doing on. Arianna made a point about Bob Woodward I had been thinking for 10 years now and I realized with horror that we agree on a lot.

I am scared!

Anyway, back to Bob Woodward:

I found myself thinking about Woodward and his barrel-searching as I read Frank Rich's latest takedown of the administration's cover up of "wrongdoing in the executive branch between 9/11 and shock and awe":

Each day brings slam-dunk evidence that the doomsday threats marshaled by the administration to sell the war weren't, in Cheney-speak, just dishonest and reprehensible but also corrupt and shameless... The web of half-truths and falsehoods used to sell the war did not happen by accident; it was woven by design and then foisted on the public by a P.R. operation built expressly for that purpose in the White House.

During this time, Woodward was writing two books on the administration -- Bush at War and Plan of Attack -- and enjoyed unparalleled access to many of those guiding the aforementioned P.R. operation, including head shills Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, and Andy Card.

So how come Woodward, supposedly the preeminent investigative reporter of our time, missed the biggest story of our time -- a story that was taking place right under his nose?
Some would say it's because he's carrying water for the Bushies. I disagree. I think it's because he's the dumb blonde of American journalism, so awed by his proximity to power that he buys whatever he's being sold.

Happy Birthday Geoff

The Boy turns 20 today. His mother calls him at the time of his birth every year, 6:13am and reminds him, in detail, about the 29 hours of labor she had.

I'm content merely to publish his email address on my blog. That would be
Write to him and say Happy Birthday, even if you don't know him well.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What happened at the MS clinic?

Thanks all for the notes. I guess going offline for a few days afterward left an information hole becuase I have received a lot of very generous notes the last few days. I wrote the following in response to one, once I got my head together. It covers the bases, and so I'm going to post it here. Again, thanks for your overwhelming support, I really do appreciate it.

What happened at the MS clinic? Below is a (very slight) paraphrase, but it reflects the conversation.

Short version (after the 90 minute exam):
Doc: While it's certainly possible you have MS, that's not my first impression. Also several signs argue against it.
Mark: like what?
Doc: You have no reflexes. Not diminished ones, just none. I can't raise a reflex at all, anywhere. It's weird.
Mark: It's that because of diabetes?
Doc: That's possible, but usually MS patients have exaggerated reflexes. The shorts in the spine cause hypersensitivty. You're the opposite, even with diabetes. Also, you NCV are not normal. Not nearly.
Mark: The Nerve conduction speeds? They told be 30 m/s was normal, if just barely.
Doc: No. 50 is normal. 30 is clearly compromised. It's also consistent with why you can't walk. The peripheral nerves are clearly damaged.
Mark: So it's not MS?
Doc: I didn't say that. It's defiantly a movement disorder though. We need another round of MRIs. BTW, your Wilson's hypothesis was clever. We should run the test. Let me check you for the Kayser-Fleischer ring. . Nope, but that's not conclusive.
Mark: Wait, I thought they ran that already.
Doc: No, but they did note you requested it. As I said, that was clever.
Mark: Thanks. I make a living being clever. What about Huntington's.
Doc: Also clever. And something we have to talk about.
Mark: Why?
Doc: I don't do Huntington's tests. I'm going to send you over to University of Washington for that. Dr. Ramii specializes in movement disorders and HD. He can handle it, but it will take several appointments and we won't get results until February.
Mark: I thought it was just as blood test. Is it as painful as the spinal tap?
Doc: No, it's a blood test. very simple. It's just that we handle them very sensitively. You'll need consoling no matter how it comes out.
Mark: why? Can't you just run it?
Doc: No.
Mark: Why not?
Doc: ... Because there is a significant suicide risk. Almost 6% of patients commit suicide within a year of getting a diagnosis.
Mark: Really???
Doc: Yes. Which reminds me. I'm also going to sign you up for a set of neuropsych evals.
Mark: I am NOT suicidal.
Doc: No, but you are having trouble remembering faces and names, get confused, have trouble concentrating, right?
Mark: Yes.
Doc: Neuropsych will figure out if it's real or if you're just getting old
Mark: or both!

Mark: So, looks like February until all this is done. What should I do in the meantime.
Doc: No meds until we know. I suggest a cane for now to help with your balance. Are you sure it's a balance problem and not just weakness?
Mark: It feels like I'm going to fall over, which seems like balance to me.
Doc:ok. Then yes, February.

Very short version:

One quick Postscript, the doctor called me about an hour after I left his office:
Doc: I looked up Protonix in the PDR. You said you were taking that to supress the chocking fits right?
Mark: Yes. And it works! I'm not all that concer...
Doc: Ok. It turns out Protonix supresses reflexes.
Mark: oh!
Doc: We should run them again in 2 weeks once that stuff washes out of your system.
Mark: But I'll start choking again in a few days if I go off it. I've run the experiment accidently once or twice while traveling.
Doc: I'm going to prescribe Zanex. It should give the same effect but without neurological side effects.
Mark: cool!

Things That Are Not Physics

I was thrown off by the address. OTOH it's still, an interesting fairy tail.

The Book of Mormon makes the bold statement that Jesus Christ, shortly following His resurrection, visited people in the New World and invited them to "feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am...the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. ... Ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice..." (3 Nephi 11:14, 15:21). The Bible states that Jesus "showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days" and that this witness of Christ would be "unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:3-8) and that Jesus would indeed visit "other sheep" (John 10:16).

Okay, well maybe that's not his strong suit. Maybe it's Physics. Let's see.

Look, instructions on how to make a solar power mirror!

At 40 degrees latitude on a clear afternoon, water can boil in 1.5 hours. Also you can point the solar funnel towards the stars on a cloudless night to freeze your pot overnight!

"point the solar funnel toward the stars ... to freeze your pot..."

while I *think* he means the funnel to act as a radiator (but it still wouldn't get any colder than the surrounding air with or without the funnel) ... it's not clear from the text ... well, let's just say "it's not clear from the text"

ooooookaaay. Maybe physics isn't his strongest suit either...

Update: I don't know how I missed this. It sort of, kinda, nearly toches on physics.
It certainly doesn't touch on engineering.


The fourth horseman of the Seattle Apocalypse is loose. Snow! The weather forecasters say we might actually get 2 or more inches.

Now, being from New England and Detroit, 2 inches isn't even an annoyance, it's what happens when the wind blows. Here though, schools will close, roads will lock up, people will horde food, water and sensible woolen vests. Given that it will snow tonight, I am guessing almost no one shows up on campus tomorrow.

This, believe it or not, makes sense.

It makes sense because, and I mean no disrespect, these people do not know how to drive in the snow. Rain? Oh they have that down cold. Snow? No. They are still in the lowest snow-driving category along with Hawaiians, Arizonians, Haitians, Puerto Ricans and Texans. ... Well... maybe not Texans. They still have trouble with cold rain. However, Seattle folk have not developed snow driving skills through practice and so they simply make the basic mistakes no Midwesterner would make after the age of 16. Generally, they drive one of two ways. Most of them act as though snow was an odd form of rain (which is somewhat true) and don't change at all. The result? Extremely polite driving behavior at 75mph on a frictionless surface. They spin, and wave to their neighbors. They skid, and wave to let you cut in. They flip off to the side of the road but use turn signals. And, very occasionally, they slide down Pike Street into the bay at alarming velocity, worried that they’ve cut off a pedestrian.

For example, today there was NO SNOW, but a little bit of ice. Result? The 520 bridge is closed due to crashes, the 90 Bridge is now a 3 hour drive (or bay tour, take your pick). These are not well developed skilz.

But those are the A students. The real D- folks take another approach entirely. They drive on snow as though it were a rain of broken glass or perhaps rare, endangered spotted-owl eggs. They drive S L O W L Y. As they listen to the sound their tires make, a worried sweat breaks out on their foreheads. Crunch! Crunch! Every mph over 3 means more dead baby owls. And, if their wheels spin, you can actually see the panic on their faces as they realize they are driving TOO FAST!

"Jesus Christ Harry! Slow the fuck down! You're spinning the wheels!"
"I'm only doing 2mph! What should I put it in reverse?"
" ... .... Yes!"

Why the problems? Because they don't salt the roads (bad for the roads and the spotted-owl eggs) and they don't really plow. There is no budget for it. I was here once during a storm in late February. The town of Kirkland, having exhausted it's entire snow removal budget on new ice trays for the Mayor's office fridge, instead of plowing chose to, get this, "drive garbage trucks around town to compact the snow. For better traction!" I'm not making that up. They succeeded in turning almost every major road into an ice rink, with resulting hilarity! No fewer than 3 garbage trucks had to be towed out of yards (and one swimming pool) after the "compacted snow" or as we used to call it on the New England Ski trails, "packed powder", or more simply "death ice", caused major accidents all over town.

It's going to snow tomorrow and I am going to "work from home". No way I’m getting on the road with these folks.

Weeeeeeee! Snow Day!

Working on New Art

I did manage to get a little art started this weekend, although nothing far enough along to post drafts. Maybe another week. The piece is a still life that contains another image (also of my creation), so it's a picture in a picture thing.

The inspiration for this is the unparalleled Tomasz Rut.


My Alpha drive crashed this weekend. Alpha was the first 233Gig USB 2.0 drive I got for the home server and is the oldest with, of course, most of the most interesting files.

I got it repaired, but lost about 20% of the file structure, including all my downloads of the Dave Chappelle show. Not good. So I went out and bought a new Maxtor 300Gig drive and backed up all the remaining files to it. Welcome drive Delta!

Alpha has been reformatted and put back into service, albiet only as backup storage and not online at all times.


I was walking down 5th Ave in Seattle this weekend when something I thought pretty cool happened. As I was walking into the city center, the monorail train passed overhead. 'I live in a city where a monorail is commonplace, cool'. The cherry on the sundae occured when I looked at the ads on the side, "Windows Cluster Server". Not only was the monorail commonplace, but it was advertising my company. Outstanding! Very 20th century Sci-Fi.

Then, later in the day, the 21st century stepped in.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Sorry for the gap in blogging. It's been kind of quiet around here. Jim has been in Seattle the last few days and, well, things did not go as well as I had hoped on Wednesday with the MS clinic (more later), so I have taken a few days off from the world.

I should be back with some items over the weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sony Rootkit

A really outstanding walkthrough of the Sony Rootkit story by Mark Russinovick, the analyst who discovered it. Added bonus; he links to all the tools.

The DRM reference made me recall having purchased a CD recently that can only be played using the media player that ships on the CD itself and that limits you to at most 3 copies. I scrounged through my CD’s and found it, Sony BMG’s Get Right with the Man (the name is ironic under the circumstances) CD by the Van Zant brothers.

Excellent quote from Sony President Thomas Hesse

Nanotech Update

The Chinese are *way* ahead of us in nanobiotechnology.

Also, there is this news out of New Zealand

Monday, November 21, 2005

On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets

An Empirical Study

I *KNEW* it!

When tin-foil hats are outlawed, only outlaws will have tin-foil hats.

UPDATE: What kind of scientist would I be if I didn't publish the rebuttle?

Printing Your Resume At Work

Think no one can track your paper documents?

Think again.

Decypher Dog

Muppet Babies meet the National Security Agency as seen by the marketing department.

I wish I could make this shit up.

On The Way Up

MSFT stock has been lanquishing at $24.50 +/- $1 for months and has been a drag on my portfolio. Last week I finally had enough and set an auto-sell order if it got to $27. It did last week. On it's way to $29+


Some Physics I Don't Quite Get

From the APOD:

Alternatively, surface particles may become electrically charged by the Sun, levitate in the microgravity field, and move to fill in craters.

I understand the Poynting-Robertson effect (applied here to asteroid dust instead of free particles but it's the relavent physics), and the whole suspended dust thing. The two-part question I don't know the answer to is a) if the gravity is that weak, why don't the particles just fly off all together and b) why don't we see this anywhere else?

It's a mystery.

Penn Jillette

I heard Penn on NPR's "This I Believe" this morning and thought he did a fantastic job expressing my view on religion. When I got in, I was going to post a link.

Ironically, I got some email this morning from Tara, linking me to the same piece. :) 20 years later and I am still the same.

Penn talks about an important part of atheism that a lot of sober, serious religious minded folk neglect, the basis for making moral choices. A lot of arguments I have had start with the naive view that "without god, men would all do evil", sort of the reverse of the Marxist-Leninist assumption. I've never bought into either extreme. If folks want to do bad, religion will give them an excuse to do what they want (like flying planes into buildings), similar to doing good (like running into a burning building to save folks). People's gods look an awful lot like themselves. My point is, dispense with the middleman and be more honest about morals. Folks will do what they think is right, god or no god.

Penn does a good job summarizing the economics of atheism:

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. [...] So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

It's a good article and, while there is some moralizing and making fun of the other side, there is no more of it here than I've received in a decent catholic mass. It's just directed toward the folks who aren't used to being mocked.

Supporting the Troops

I don't think this is what people have in mind exactly:

Here's how it works: non-military members sign up to adopt a soldier on Rush's website, while current military members sign up to be adopted. Once an adopter and an adoptee are matched up, the adopted soldier receives a free subscription to "The Limbaugh Letter" and to the premium content on Rush's website.

Fabulous! And all at the low, low cost of $50, which goes directly into Rush's pocket.

Oh, I'm sorry - you didn't think he was doing this out of charity did you? Nope, despite the fact that Rush's site claims to be offering "complimentary RUSH 24/7 subscriptions," if you want to be able to say you've adopted a soldier through Rush's program then you have to
cough up the cash. Because someone's got to pay for those "complimentary subscriptions," and it sure as hell ain't gonna be Limbaugh.



Friday, November 18, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Richard Scarry's Worst Fucking Acid Trip Ever

From Something Awful.

That said, it's a Really GOOD Tack!

Ill Advised Products from the 99 cent store.

Now THIS is a Grudge!

The goons at Something Awful have had a long running feud with Eric Bauman, owner of I've got a membership at SA, but was largely unaware of the feud until recently when Geoff found this parody of Eric’s (alleged) content-stealing ways.

2 things. 1) It's damn catchy (I might use the bit about male prostitutes someday in an argument and 2) it's a great use of parody.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Everyone, quick! Swap seats!

An interesting justaposition of Condi and Hillary in Isreal this week, especially in the visuals.

It's terrifying to me that either of those two has even a remote shot at being president. I can't stand either one.

Slowly Getting Back Up to Speed

I've received a number of emails and phone calls this week asking how I am doing. Thanks all, I'm doing fine. After I got out of the hospital on Thursday, the movers came nad packed up the apartment on Friday. I spent the weekend in Maine, and now I'm going stop-to-stop on my way back to Redmond. I managed to spend a good chunk of yesterday with Geoff which was also overdue.

I should be back to Seattle tomorrow and probably back to my cranky, skeptical self again shortly after that. It's been a busy couple of months.

In Astronomy News

Lori Allen, one of the 6 members of my graduate class as UMass, made the NYT Science section this week with images from her telescope, Spitzer.

The astronomers, led by Lori E. Allen of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, say the towering mountains of the new image probably represent the densest, most fecund remnants of a larger, cloud. It is being eroded by radiation and winds of particles from a ferociously bright star just out of the top of the picture.

Nestled within the dusty pillars are hundreds of embryonic stars. But Spitzer's detectors are designed to see infrared, or "heat," radiation right through the dust, allowing astronomers to study the cloaked stars, which Dr. Allen described as "offspring" of the big star.

"The Sun could have formed in such a cluster, since many stars form in clusters," Dr. Allen said in an e-mail message, explaining that pressure created by the star could compress gas in the cloud, bringing about the formation of new stars.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Looking all... well... Mature...

notice I said Mature instead of the word I was really thinking...

I suppose I'll have to eventually stop calling him "the boy"

He is, Literally, THE Man

unless he is a woman.
Copied verbatim from a diner placemat I received at Little Peter's Seafood Restaurant in Enfield Maine:

Howland was incorporated in 1826, and was named after Mayflower passenger John Howland. It's population is 1,362 is 47.2% male and 52.8% female. 98.1% are white, 1% two or more races and 0.9% American Indian. The median resident age is 39.8 years. Median household income is $29,213. Howland's elevation above sea level is 170 feet.

Enfield was incorporated in 1835. 1,616 people call Enfield home. 98.76% of them are white, 0.06% African American, 0.93% two or more races and 0.19% American Indian. The median age is 38 years. Median household income is $36,458

So, during my BLT I recognized that 1616 * 0.0006 was about... 1. !

Saturday, November 12, 2005

My Best Friend from Junior High...

... writes me the best note I have recieved in months. Tara and I were inseperable friends at the Charles E Brake Junior High in Taylor Michigan 28 years ago. Tara introduced me to Steve Martin, Saturday Night Live and a host of other life-shaping things. I moved to PA in 1978 and haven't really heard from here since about 1980.

Yesterday, I receved this note on my AOL account:

Dear Mr. Horvath,
Little did I know that my search for "Evil Genius" on Google this morning would lead me to you. Again.

How I Got My Diagnosis

It's last Wednesday. I have been sitting in the epilepsy ward of the Lahey Clinic. A couple dozen multicolored wires have been super glued to my head, I am being monitored and video taped 24/7 and have a long tether which connects the probes to the wall. My laptop and cell phone have been taken away. Apparently use of the latter two objects cause the EEG probes to read them as seizures. After the first time the crash cart arrived in my room and found me reading Kos, they took them away from me.

They are used to patients who have large dramatic seizures, are old or cannot take care of themselves. They have twice threatened me with restraints if I get up and go to the bathroom on my own. They are trying to take charge of my insulin regime and had, at that point, managed to make a has of it. I threatened to walk out and sue of they didn't let me do my insulin myself. They relented and I give myself all my injections (even apart from insulin). The staff and I have a fragile détente. AFAIK there has been no progress on my diagnosis except to rule out metal poisoning.

I get a call on my plastic, wired room phone which has so far, only range once:
Me: hello?
MS Person: Hi this is Mrs. X from MS Benefits! We just got your diagnosis and wanted to let you know that I'll be your case worker. I work for Premera and will help you steer through all the paperwork, appointments and therapy. I need to get some information from you is that okay?
Me: Well, I'm in the hospital, and I don't have anything else to do ...
MSP: Great. You're Mark Horvath.
Me: Yes.
MSP: You're currently in the Lahey Clinic Room 7W30?
Me: Yes
MSP: You're employee Number is XXXXXX. Your Birthday is 8/2/64?
Me: Yes.
[After more info exchange]
MSP: Terrific, thanks Mark. Now I'd like to get you set up with a doctor here who specializes in your condition, unless you have someone you're already seeing.
Me: No. No one in Seattle. What do you have down as my diagnosis?
MSP: Oh, Multiple Sclerosis. Why?
Me: ... oh. They hadn't told me that.
MSP: (Oh SHIT Silence) ..... .... ....
Me: So who would you recommend I see out there?
MSP: I'm sorry, I thought they told you. I'm not supposed to give diagnosis to patients.
Me: No problem, I'm seeing the doctors this afternoon anyway. Are there specialists in Seattle.
MSP: oh Yes! Overlake has a whole facility. Would you like me to schedule you an appointment with the head of neurology?
Me: yes please....

and so, in violation of HIPAA, GLB and a variety of other laws, MS Benefits and their cost-controlling eager-beaverism gave me my diagnosis of MS. I talked to my doctors later and went through a bunch of things with them. MS is their current working hypothesis, although after reviewing the tapes they *strongly* recommended I go get a test for Huntington's. They wouldn't run it there because, by federal law, there needs to be "genetic counseling" with a Huntington's test and, since I was moving to Seattle, they felt they could not provide this. They did give me some print outs of where I could get this done and re-emphasized that I should do this sooner rather than later, "just in case".

and there it is.

I doubt the Huntington's hypothesis just because AFAIK, my father doesn't have it. This assumes my father is actually my biological father which I have not has cause to doubt until this week.

OTOH, it would explain a few things....

Anyway, that's the story. All other things being equal, I have MS, just like my sister.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Possible Downtime

I'm off to Lahey this morning. While it's possible they have a wireless connection I can ride, I'm not counting on it. Updates, in theory Friday.


I bought City of Heros this weekend (possibly for use at Lahey if there is an internet connection there, although my hopes are low) and it was fantastic. This is the first on-line RPG I've ever played and it was not as intimidating as I thought it would be. I figured everyone would be better at everything than me (kind of like gym class), but there were lots of low level folks to help me along and plenty of things to do on my own. Once or twice though I got stuck in an area of the city where I was so overmatched by level 20 street thugs it took me several lives to get out.

I put together a "science hero" with broad based electrical powers and good all over stats (a blaster), complete with blue spandex tights. I'm sure everyone else recognized it as a first avatar, but it wasn't too bad. I decided to name him Bremsstrahlung after a type of astrophysical radiation common in the interstellar medium. Much to my total surprise, it was taken! I was totally floored! It was like naming your baby Chlamydia and finding out that someone else took it. I ended up naming him AXAF after the satellite of the same name, however, I have started thinking about some names:

Captain Physics
Blue Screen of Death
Colonel Panic
Major Trouble
Chlamydia the Hilarious Clown

I am happily taking suggestions (with suggestions for powers)

Guantanamo Bay Diet

Posted without comment:

It hasn't received much coverage in the mainstream media - at least not in America anyway - but it's currently reckoned that about 200 of the inmates at Guantanamo Bay are taking part in a hunger strike which is eliciting concern from the International Red Cross.
Why are they doing this? Because they want to be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions. Best of luck with that one.

Of course the military have put their own spin on the situation, calling the hunger strike a "voluntary fast," with a mere 26 participants. 21 of those participants have apparently been hospitalized for "assisted feedings" via a tube placed up the nose and down the throat. According to The Nation:

...someone committed to self-starvation could easily remove such a tube, if he had any freedom of movement. So we can surmise that there is a line of twenty-one hospital beds, each with a prisoner held tight in four-point restraints. His head must be strapped down, immobile, and forcible sedation seems probable. Hardly the image evoked by the term "assisted feeding."

Thank goodness Donald Rumsfeld is here to explain the situation more clearly. Last week he told reporters, "There are a number of people who go on a diet where they don't eat for a period and then go off of it at some point. And then they rotate and other people do that."

So let me get this straight... down at Six Flags Guantanamo Bay the inmates have "never been treated better;" in fact we're feeding them so much honey-glazed chicken and lemon-baked fish that every so often they decide to go on a diet!

George Orwell must be vomiting in his grave.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

2 Tons

"Books: 4000+ lbs"

Item from the inventory of Grabel movers on our apartment.
Holy Shit!

I would never have guessed we had that many books. OTOH, all the closets are full, every corner is piled with them etc. We have pieces of furniture which are effectively 90% book by weight. If you've never been inside the apartment, this is the reason why. It's usually a mess with books all over the place. But two tons?? I would never have guessed that.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The First Lady's Possessions

Well, she looks possessed to ME.

Wonkette is hilarious today. (Especially the bit about Scott)

A Complex Quote

I'm not sure what to make of this quote from Bill Frist:

''It was, of course, a heinous and dishonest thing to do. And I was totally schizoid about the entire matter. By day, I was little Billy Frist, the boy who lived on Bowling Avenue in Nashville and had decided to become a doctor because of his gentle father and a dog named Scratchy. By night, I was Dr. William Harrison Frist, future cardiothoracic surgeon, who was not going to let a few sentiments about cute, furry little creatures stand in the way of his career. In short, I was going a little crazy.''
--From Bill Frist's 1989 memoir concerning his capturing, killing and dissecting of cats

I'm not sure of the context of "capturing, killing and dissecting of cats". If he means he caught them himself and dissected them, it seems a little weird. I don't know that much about med school, so if anyone has any idea, I'd appreciate enlightenment.

He certainly seems to have a conflicted tone here, arrogant, ambitious and yet uncomfortable about his moral limits. And, to his credit, self-aware enough to know he's uncomfortable. In general I am slightly more reassured by this than if he had no qualms about (I'm presuming) hunting and killing cats. OTOH, he clearly went past some outer moral lighthouse on this and kept going. Maybe that's a strength, maybe it's sociopathic ambition, I can't tell.

It's an interesting quote though, even if I can't quite parse it.

There is more, even more amaturish psychobable here. I think the writer read too much into it.

A Risk I Am Willing to Take

I had a dream as a kid where I died in the Middle East in my 40's. It was very strong and for a long time (until the date in question finally passed) I superstitiously gave it a wide berth.

Geoff brings this into the conversation below:

Toast171: You know, in the dream where I get shot coming off the plane in the middle east, you are standing next to me.
Toast171: Maybe you do come with me after all
Thaurloteion: see? so i have to come
Thaurloteion: otherwise it disrupts the timeline
Toast171: and it would cause a cascade of quantum collapse across all the realities. You are a nexus.
Toast171: {I heard that on Dr. Who}
Thaurloteion: well see then i have to go
Toast171: actually, according to temporal physics, you already went.
Toast171: You go because you always go
Toast171: nothing I decide can change it
Thaurloteion: so book me a ticket
Toast171: oh, you have to pay for it yourself
Toast171: but you do, because you always do
Toast171: in a sense, you already paid for it
Thaurloteion: how do you know i dont always have my ticket purchased for me?
Toast171: it's a possible disruption to the fabric of all reality I am willing to risk

Thaurloteion: but think of all those alternate realities you could wipe out
Toast171: Every decision wipes out alternate realities.
Toast171: Chicken or Fish? Poof! Millions of worlds gone
Toast171: Coke or Pepsi
Toast171: smooth or ribbed
Toast171: it's all the same

I Blog, You Decide

I have an opportunity to perhaps go to Iraq and help them set up some infrastrucutre for a Central Bank. Working with third world countries and getting them into the payments area has become an accidental speciality at MSFT and we are considering going in and setting up a good portion of the central systems.

I made the mistake of mentioning this to Geoff.

Thaurloteion: when are you supposed to go to iraq?
Toast171: dunno
Thaurloteion: where in iraq are you supposed to go?
Toast171: Baghdad, in theory
Thaurloteion: can i come too?
Toast171: I'm thinking... no
Thaurloteion: you said next time you got a security detail i could come
Toast171: ...
Toast171: I didn't mean go "into a war zone"
Thaurloteion: I don’t eat much and I don’t know right from wrong
Toast171: neither of those things are true
Toast171: I am not taking you to Iraq
Thaurloteion: maybe it'll scare me away from thinking about enlisting
Toast171: like scared straight?
Thaurloteion: yes
Toast171: ... but with bullets instead of anal rape
Thaurloteion: right
Toast171: No!
Thaurloteion: please?
Toast171: I don't think this is a "please" situation
Thaurloteion: what kind of situation is it?
Toast171: a Kevlar pajamas kind
Thaurloteion: that wouldn’t be an issue if you would have bought me that kevlar i wanted in high school
Toast171: The past is full of regrets for all of us
Thaurloteion: travel abroad is always a plus on a resume
Thaurloteion: especially a resume for the letter soups
Toast171: so is "being alive"
Thaurloteion: that’s what the security detail is for
Thaurloteion: plus itd be a good networking opportunity
Thaurloteion: i could talk with the civilian contractors and see who's hiring and such
Toast171: networking with Al Queda?
Thaurloteion: no, places like kbr
Thaurloteion: it'd be a nice thing to do
Toast171: How about if I blog this and let the responses decide?
Thaurloteion: ok
Thaurloteion: if there’s one thing we republicans are good at, its rigging elections

Comment below please