March 31, 2002
Look!! It's an Enquirer Type Magazine Online!

Ok, this one is for my southern Mama. I hope you and the other nurses at your work get a kick out of this one.


Posted by Ellen at 08:23 PM | Comments (1)
Exorcisms At It's Best!

I found this on

Now that I think of it. Aren't crucifixes supposed to STAY on the wall unless you tote around a Rosary set????

Mar 31 1996 During a homebrew exorcism in Rhode Island, a man accidentally punctured the esophagus of his mother in law when he jammed two pointy steel crucifixes down her throat, causing a large amount of blood to gush out. Mario Garcia was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

This really makes me wonder what sect of Chrisitananity this is. I'm still totally scarred for life when I drove through these itty bitty Arkansas towns with populations of 50 and having 12 churches. X-FILES!!! Lock the doors and keep on driving.

Posted by Ellen at 08:11 PM | Comments (1)
When Plastic Surgery Gets A Bit Too Bizarre

Ok, I will FULLY admit I want plastic surgery. I want a nice set of 36c's that wont budge when I move. This one article was just way too bizarre and I think this WILL be then next FAD in say, piercing/tattoos ect.. NO Mama! I'm NOT done with my tattoos yet! :)


All I have to say about this is, OUCH! Plus where the fuck would you find clothing that fits?

Posted by Ellen at 08:03 PM | Comments (1)
Sex In Your Sleep

Ok...when this shit happens, its OK to WANT to sleep on the couch!

Sleep Sex

More Sleep Sex

Posted by Ellen at 07:56 PM | Comments (2)
Sifl N Olly

Remember these guys on MTV?? Unfortunatly, like ANY good show, the network butchered this one too.

The Sifl N Olly show

Posted by Ellen at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)
March 29, 2002
New Belly Dance Stuff

Possibly the BEST belly dance site to get goodies from! I placed an order this wednesday to this site...and got it TODAY! I was told I would get my goodies sometime next week. How awsome is that!????

A wonderful lady runs this site and is too nice for words. Once you mention who your teacher is, she is more than willing to get you what you need right away.

THANKS Chandra!

Chandra's Dance Extravaganza

Posted by Ellen at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)
Gaming the System

If you play a computer game long enough, you'll eventually find "seams" in the programming of the AI (artificial intelligence) of the bad guys. In strategy games, they'll always respond a certain way to a certain situation, so once you figure out how to beat that one situation you'll always win. This just a simple example. Good games take a long time to figure out, but you always do. And after that the game is easy, not because you're good at it but because you've figured out ways to exploit the weaknesses inherent in the system.

Is it cheating? Depends on your point of view.

Real-life is a lot like this. Most people will play by the rules and through hard work and smarts get what they want. And by "rules" I don't mean "becoming part of The System". Hippies have rules (make love not war, fight the establishment, pot is good) just like businessmen have rules. I mean that in any society there are certain rules that, when followed, will guarantee success by the standards of that society, without being destructive to it.

But, as with computer games, if the society gets big enough or complicated enough, there are always seams that can be exploited. And wherever there are seams, there are always people, "gamers", willing to "game the system" to take advantage of them. And from this propensity in human nature, basically all evil flows.

This tendency pretty much dictates that we are, as a species, incapable of "good government". The best any of us can hope for, anywhere in the world, is "least-worst government". Money attracts gamers like horsesh*t attracts flies, and for six thousand years nothing has proven to generate more money faster than government.

Really smart, really vicious gamers are dangerous to a society, and historically societies are incapable of stopping them. An efficient government will by definition have very few seams to exploit, and therefore when someone does figure out how to exploit them (and they will always figure out how to exploit them), they can take over an entire country with relative ease. And once it's done the first time it is actually easier to do it again, so these gamers always completely destroy the carefully set up "efficient" government. Doing this creates chaos, which ensures nobody else can get at the seams they used to get where they are. It also means the rest of us starve or get shot, and the whole thing comes crashing down.

That's why all the really successful societies have insanely complex and inefficient forms of government. Complexity creates lots of seams, which gives gamers lots of different avenues to power. Gamers are by definition almost self-destructively competitive, so they tend to not only exploit the seams they find but also try to destroy everyone else's seams by exposing or limiting them in any way possible. This creates a kind of self-balancing effect, as one set of gamers works desperately to undermine all the other sets, while all the other sets are working desperately to undermine them. When set up well, it's basically impossible for any one gamer or group of gamers to "get traction" long enough to do anything really destructive.

A free press, which is another hallmark of all the really powerful long lived societies, is also vital. Sometimes someone will expose a seam in a society that basically sprays money like water from a sluice gate in a dam. These seams are so rich big groups of the gamers will suddenly work together behind the scenes to make sure nobody else knows about it. The press will tend to be composed of non-gamers, who always get this irritating and completely wrongheaded notion that this is cheating and should be stopped. Secrets of that magnitude are pretty much impossible to keep, so it's only a matter of time before some press monkey is shouting from the towers what is going on.

At that point you get to see just how good a society is at self-correction. It's easiest to watch in a democracy. Most of us aren't gamers, and we do think it's cheating, and we hate cheaters who cruise into what we worked our asses off to get. One short trip to the ballot box later and you have a new gamer (non-gamers are generally too busy living life to bother with government of this complexity) who rode the seam of "I'm going to make sure that seam is destroyed" into power. Non-democracies have to hope that the gamers who weren't let in on the secret are powerful enough to take down the ones that were. If you're lucky, they either are or they aren't. If you're unlucky, both sides are evenly matched, and a civil war will erupt. And there are never any innocents in a civil war.

Of course, nothing comes without a price. All this machiavellian backstabbing going on constantly means that it's really hard to get anything important done. The press tends to ignore most of little stuff, because there's always so much of it. And when you get right down to it, in a 5 trillion dollar economy nobody cares much if Congressmen John Doe skimmed $60,000 for his cousin's pig farm.

So you end up with this leaky, creaky, wobbly boat of a society that is run by a bunch of bickering incompetents that are too busy fighting with each other to actually steer. Really good ideas that come from the crew are generally ignored or twisted beyond recognition in one power struggle or another. Your boat may get passed in the race by one run by just a few really smart people.

The test comes when the rocks hove into view. The boat that passed you will get smashed because the smart people are asleep or have convinced themselves there are no rocks, and everyone will drown. But when all the passengers of your huge, soggy, seasick-inducing patchwork of a barge start shouting Hey! Morons! LOOK OUT FOR THE ROCK! the crew listen up fast and will always steer you clear.

Of course, they'll promptly start arguing with each other over who saw the rock first, but at least you're not fish food.

And at the end of the day, which boat do you think throws the better party?

Posted by scott at 11:55 AM | Comments (1)
Another Good Fight

Here's a really good article about the current state of the entertainment industry's attempt to turn everything they produce into pay-per-view. Remember when they tried to make it illegal to fast foward over commercials with your VCR? They're sneakier this time, and it's working.

Posted by scott at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)
March 28, 2002
More JK II News

Here's some new Jedi Knight II news. Shaping up to be a pretty cool game. You do not want Scott to clean the house... you want him to play his star wars game... move along, move along

Update: I should always read the whole thing before posting. It's shipping out right now. Coming to a best buy near you. If you do online gaming with this one day, look for Silver Spider (me) or (probably) Firesilver (jeff). Watch out for Firesilver, he's a good shot. I move around too much and am hard to hit. :)

Posted by scott at 02:13 PM | Comments (4)
Fun With Bunnies

The show was kinda lame, but these clips are pretty good. :)

Posted by scott at 01:26 PM | Comments (1)
But What About Tom Servo and Crow?

Here's a pretty cool article on cambots filming the deep. Neat.

Posted by scott at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)
Stupid Hornet Tricks

Boeing F/A-18C Hornet? $18 million dollars. AIM-9M Sidewinder? $40,000. Watching all the guys on the flight deck scatter? Priceless.

Attached to an email message originating from "a navy captain":

From the Theodore Roosevelt:

Here's why the "gang on the roof", i.e. sailors on the flight deck, get flight deck pay!

Look closely at both pictures. For friends and family not in the Navy, that's a heat seeking "Sidewinder" missile sliding down the flight deck off that F-18 "Hornet". The aircraft just "trapped" (carrier landing with an arresting wire) back aboard "Teddy," the aircraft carrier. I'm sure that missile caused a tremendous amount of excitement!

That, my friends, is what you call a serious oh-sh*t moment.

Posted by scott at 11:28 AM | Comments (1)
March 27, 2002
Its Coconut's Birthday!!!!

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday my little COCONUT!!!!! Happy Birthday to you!

Coconut is 4 years old today!!!! WOOOOO WOOOOO!!!!

Click on the right hand side of the pictures to see Coconut

COCONUT - aka- 1.Buddah Princess 2.Buddah Belly 3.Belly 4.Princess

Pick 2 out of that group and mix the names together! The mixes are endless!!!!

Posted by Ellen at 07:46 PM | Comments (2)
Welcome to My World

Wanna know what it's really like to run a help desk? Try listening to these genuine tech support calls. I've only gotten through a few of them, but so far I've had to face a similar situation at least once, usually several times.

I'm nicer than this guy (which will shock some people who know me), but I know how he feels.

I will never, ever understand why grown ups can suddenly act like six year olds. It's just disgusting how quickly people can degenerate into talking chimps. Don't you realize how stupid you sound? That we're all laughing at you?

Posted by scott at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)
March 26, 2002
A Cat's Prayer

-A CAT'S PRAYER: Lead me down all the right paths Keep me from fleas, bees and baths. Let me in should it storm, Keep me safe fed and warm. Let the sun shine where I lay, Keep me young so I may play. And most of all....... Bless the people I adore, And guard me from the dog next door.

- Lisa Malone

Posted by Ellen at 09:37 PM | Comments (6)
A Cat Poem

--THIS OLD CAT: I'm getting on in years, My coat is turning gray. My eyes have lost their luster, My hearing's just okay.

I spend my day dreaming Of conquests in my past, Lying near a sunny window Waiting for its warm repast.

I remember our first visit, I was coming to you free, Hoping you would take me in And keep me company.

I wasn't young or handsome, Two years I'd roamed the street. There were scars upon my face, I hobbled on my feet.

I could sense your disappointment As I left my prison cage. Oh, I hoped you would accept me And look beyond my age.

You took me out of pity, I accepted without shame. Then you grew to love me, And I admit the same.

I have shared with you your laughter, You have wet my fur with tears. We've come to know each other Throughout these many years.

Just one more hug this morning Before you drive away, And know I'll think about you Throughout your busy day.

The time we've left together Is a treasured time at that. My heart is yours forever. I Promise - This old cat.

- Author Unknown

Posted by Ellen at 09:35 PM | Comments (2)
Playing Catch in Space

Here's a pretty cool article about playing catch in space. Your tax dollars at work. Except, unlike farm subsidies, this is cool.

Posted by scott at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)
Another Goofy "SPOOKY" Picture

Look very, very closely at this picture. If you look carefully enough, you'll eventually spot what is wrong.

Yes, it's silly.

Posted by scott at 10:46 AM | Comments (3)
The Chinese Are Next

China keeps beavering away at its own manned space program. According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the program is based on an improved Soyuz system aquired from the Russians and then improved on by the Chinese. Details are very murky (anyone with more information? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?), so it could be a clone of Soyuz or it could be a big improvement. Nobody knows. I'll try to find a pic of their VAB. It looks exactly like a 3/5ths scale model of NASA's.

And don't make fun of them for gassing it up and lighting it off empty to test it. As related in a previous story on this web site, that's how NASA did it until the shuttle. And the only reason they didn't do it with the shuttle was because that system is so complex it couldn't be completely automated.

Soyuz was the manned part of the Russian's moon program, the part that actually worked. They've been using it with various improvements since the mid-60s. Makes you wonder, if NASA hadn't sold Nixon on the shuttle (New Tech! New Jobs!), would we still be flinging people into orbit using Apollo capsules and Saturn IB variants today?

Whatever happened to the Saturn IB anyway? The Saturn V was a gargantuan booster, so big we still don't need that kind of lift capability if we just want to get into orbit. But the IB was a different bird, and I imagine it would be quite useful in today's aerospace environment.

Posted by scott at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)
March 25, 2002
New Belly Dance Link

New link!~ Of COURSE it's a Belly Dance Link- DUH!

Dreaming Of Jeannie

Posted by Ellen at 03:09 PM | Comments (0)
March 24, 2002
Testicle Anyone??

Some people are just fucking odd!

Testicle Recipes

Ever wonder what to do with those pesky testicles? Apparently these people like to eat them in various ways. I'm sure you will all enjoy this site :) *evil grin*

Posted by Ellen at 08:51 PM | Comments (2)
This Week In Sex!~

This Week in SEX!~

People STILL try to do the "Bobbit" thing ya know... cept some people DON'T use knives.

Posted by Ellen at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)
For all you Medical Geeks!

Hey Mama!!! I KNOW you will want to check this out. Let me know if you have EVER seen somthing as interesting as THIS!

For all of you that do not know, my southern Mama is a RN in a veteran's hospital. She tends to her vegtable garden during the graveyard shift and sleeps during the day. She may be a vampire for all I know.

:) EnJoY.~ Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Posted by Ellen at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)
Cat Scan

WOW~~~ you CAN scan your cats ass and people will go look at it!!!!

ALL CAT ASSES UNITE!! ~crusty ones, clean ones, pink ones, and grey ones, ect! Scoot those asses across the floor!!! Let your mark be heard!

Cat Scan

Posted by Ellen at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)
How Do You Keep Kitty from Dragging in Gross Stuff? Science.

Sometimes, even geeks like cats, but not what they drag in. I swear if one of ours drug something half dead in Ellen would praise the kitty and give the poor little critter either a) a home or b) a humane exit to reincarnation-land.

A slashdot comment from An Onerous Coward:
I'm surprised that the readership of Slashdot so easily accepts this encroachment on our personal freedoms. It starts out innocently enough, with a limited rollout of these privacy invasion systems in specific problem areas. But if we don't stand up now and demand an end to it, the freedom of cats everywhere to carry animals that they legally procured will soon be taken away.

Am I paranoid to imagine that this technology may someday be used in airports to keep cats from boarding flights while carrying small animals? Then what about bus stations? Churches? Restaurants? Hotels? Doesn't this amount to an illegal search by feline authorities? Where is the army of angry geeks to protest this behavior? Ahh, too busy bitching about Morpheus. I see where your priorities lie. Our founding fathers must be turning over in their graves.

Posted by scott at 07:17 PM | Comments (0)
Go See the Comet!

Wanted to let everyone know about this one. Living near downtown DC means that we won't be able to see it, but maybe my brother will finally get to put that monster (10", I think) telescope he has to good use.

Posted by scott at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)
March 23, 2002
Dinner and a Show

I went out to dinner last night. I took Scott and invited several people from my work to go out and eat *moroccan* food at the Casablanca, in Old Town, Alexandria. PLUS! my Belly Dance teacher *Bonita* performed.

The Casablanca was a very *ethnic* resturant. I guess it would have to if you were to eat moroccan food in a moroccan homestyle resturant vs somthing that looks like a mom and pop joint. It had very intimate lighting, and the walls were all done up in green and red. You even get to sit at a couch to eat.

First of all, I have NEVER eaten moroccan food. Apparently they don't use untensils. This was a very new expericence and quite fun at the same time. You get to eat off a giant GONG! *well it looked like a gong*, only about knee high. As I said earlier, you sit at a couch with LOTS of pillows on it and if you wanted a chair, there was a chair to sit at. This gives you, the viewer a good view of the dance floor.

I think the people that run the Casablanca got a kick out of our group. NONE of us knew what to pick off the menu, how to eat it ect. Our waiter was most amused and actually liked telling us how to eat our dinner. First of all, they make you wash your hands before you eat. They pour warm/hot water over your hands in a brass basin and give you a white towel for your hands to dry on and to use as your napkin.

THE FOOD: Appetizer-cold cucumber/potato/carrot/eggplant salad. They also served a filo dough filled with lamb/cinnamon and other spices. It was sweet, almost like a dessert.* I gave this filo dough stuff a thumbs up!* Main course- *really spicy* chicken and beef kabobs. Dessert was mint tea! They pour it in a very elaborate style too. *about a foot above the glass-yes glass, no mug!* Overall, the food was really good. I'd go there again to eat*cept that I don't think I have ever eaten so much damn bread in my life!! Flat bread too!*. BUT, its not for people that are in a time crunch. It took 3 hours to eat the dinner. The time between courses was great, and you did not get rushed about eating ect...

THE SHOW!!!! My teacher, Bonita, was the first to perform. She did turkish/egyptian style dance. She wore a turksish style turquoise dress with LOTS of fringe! PLUS, she wore shoes. *from what I have read from a belly dance FAQ, turkish dancers always wear shoes* It was a really neat costume. Her first dance was a routine she has been teaching us in class. Dancing to SUERTE , by Shakira. *VERY COOL* Other music was an arabic (might have been persian) version of Tequila (!), and other egyptian and turkish music. Linda, one of my friends at work, recognized one of the songs from Quebec since it was in french. Bonita also did routines with canes, veil and sword. The sword dance was really really impressive. She balaced a scimitar on head and proceeded to bend backwards with it still on her head, not moving once. *COOL!* Her performance lasted a good 1/2 hour of basically non stop dancing. Everyone was impressed by all the shimmying, stomach fluttering. Everyone in my group gave Bonita a double thumbs up!!

There was also another dancer that did not dance with any props. She did wear a green and gold glitsy outfit that had 2 cutouts on the side to show some skin. It was a one piece dress. She was also barefoot. Everyone in my group kept commenting that you must have to have a large head of curly hair to be a belly dancer. Both Bonita and this other dancer have LOTS of hair, and it is very curly.

Did I tell you my teacher spotted me? She also came out after her routine to say hello to the 4 students *out of 20 somthing* that showed up. Sat down next to me and asked why I did not get up and dance. "So my little bambina, how come you did not get up to dance with me"? *blank look on face, afraid to talk- "um...I dunno, I'm not very good at this. -I even have a hard time looking at my teacher in the face, and she is nice! GAK!! there must be somthing wrong with me* Small chit chat* did I get my new flyer in the mail from the City to sign up for the next beginner advanced class- NO, fucking city has not sent them out yet and they won't let you register by mail!* Hopefully they will be in this week. That was it. She also said I was a good student, and was ready to go to the beginner advanced *woowoo!*

Other than that, that was the night in a nutshell. Everyone had a great time. I'd go again..

ps.. In May, there is a dance recitle for the beginner advanced class...I'll keep ya posted.

Posted by Ellen at 08:44 PM | Comments (2)
A Geek with Way Too Much Time On His Hands

What happens when a geek takes SEAL training? Well, it's funny but it ain't real pretty. I bet it gives Jeff flashbacks. Ellen would love it 'cos she's the only person I know that's as mean as a SEAL seargant.

Posted by scott at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)
Wierd Do-It-Yourself Science

Scare the kids, freak the neighbors. I never got to do anything near this cool for my science project. Ah, the wonders of the net. And no, it's not a hoax

Posted by scott at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)
March 22, 2002
A Good Guy. Buy His Stuff

A really good guy, Joe Connolly, who until recently was a complete stranger, sent me this in appreciation of my half-baked NASA stories. I just wanted to say that the print finally came in and it looks great. Thank you very, very much!

Now I just have to wheedle Ellen into hanging it somewhere. There's cats everywhere right now.

Posted by scott at 03:23 PM | Comments (2)
My Brother Would Starve In Space

Here's a tasty one about the possible future of space food. Fetal bovine serum is what is used to grow it. Yummy. *gak*

Posted by scott at 03:18 PM | Comments (2)
Bred For It

One of the things that infuriates me more than anything else is racism. This is one of the last vestiges of our chimpanzee past, and it seems to hang on the longest. I'm more elitist than I am racist... I hate stupid people far, far more than I've ever even mildly disliked someone who happened to be darker than me, have different shaped eyes than me, or got circumcised by a rabbi instead of a doctor. It's stupid people that cause problems, not blacks, asians, jews, arabs, or any other group of people that look different than you do. Jerk knows no color people, learn it and get over it.

One example of how stupid this is comes from sports. A staggeringly large number of what would otherwise seem like intelligent people believe the reason black people are good at basketball is that they were somehow bred for athletics while their ancestors were slaves. This is such a patently ridiculous and breathtakingly ignorant claim that, as with the fundie's belief that the world is only 3,500 years old, it's surprisingly difficult to argue against at first. Here's how you do it:

Russians dominate professional hockey. This is of course because they were bred for it.

Sounds pretty stupid, yes? Want to know why Russians dominate hockey? I've never skated in my life, but I imagine that if I was learning to skate before I was learning to walk, playing a sport 4 to 8 hours a day seven days a week for twelve or fifteen years, and growing up surrounded by people that'd been practicing that much for two or three decades, I'd get pretty goddamned good at hockey. And when you add the cultural incentives of moving out of desperate poverty and crime and moving into millions of dollars and a life of luxury playing a game, it all comes together in a hurry. Because Russians don't dominate hockey. Anyone that has lots of natural athletic ability and the dedication to spend most of the first twenty years of their life learning and practicing hockey dominates the sport. There just happen to be more Russians doing this than, say, Trobriand Islanders.

It works that way everywhere, and with every sport. South Americans and Europeans seem to be born with either a steering wheel or a soccer (foot)ball in their hands, so it's no surprise that they are a force to be reckoned with in F-1 racing and soccer (football). The infrastructure in rural parts of savannah Africa are so poor, and the countryside so dangerous, that you have to run to get anywhere and like going without water for days at a time. So it should be no surprise that Kenyans and other Africans dominate long-distance running. It's common in some Asian countries to teach boys as young as three the beginnings of martial arts, so it shouldn't amaze anyone that they are always in the top rungs of the sports they're based on. Were all these people bred for all these sports? Are you really that stupid?

It's also moronic to think that 250 years of at best spotty attempts at eugenics on a certain segment of dark-skinned humans would have any affect at all on the two-and-a-half million year evolution of the species as a whole. And people that are so stupid as to think such a program might actually work are always too stupid to actually pull it off.

I don't expect to change anybody's mind. All of us got here because our ancient (2.5 million-years-ago) ancestors killed off any of the other strange tribes that got in their way. Hate is deeply ingrained within the chimpanzee that lives inside us all. We're good at it. I've heard some of this ridiculous crap come out of the mouths of preachers and scientists, people that are supposed to be trained to know better.

But I'd like to think that at least one person out there is going to read this and at least think before they say this kind of moronic crap out loud to anyone else. It might be me that's listening, and I have to deal with enough stupid people in my life.

Posted by scott at 12:18 PM | Comments (11)
March 21, 2002
Send Money to These People Fast

As usual, they figure out that women have sneaky ways of attracting men but no way for it to work in reverse. Still, looks like they're working in that direction. :)

Posted by scott at 03:40 PM | Comments (2)
Fight the Good Fight

I'm linking to this story on slashdot primarily because is slashdotted right now and you can't reach it. I'll make a permenant link soon. I want to see if I can get Scientology to send me some threatening mail. Should be fun :)

Posted by scott at 01:38 PM | Comments (1)
The Power of Slash

One cheesy plug in a comment + 2.5 million geeks = 130 people visiting our site in a day. God I love you guys! We'll keep trying to bring you the finest, strangest rants on the web, so keep telling folks about us.

New NASA story should be coming along in a few days.

Now if I could just get you bastards to talk a little more...

(except for mom & mellie. They write) ;)

Posted by scott at 12:28 PM | Comments (3)
Buy Your Own WWII Fighter Pt 2.

Here's a place that seems to be selling german WWII fighters. No cheap Russians here. The kit for a 190 will set you back more than $500,000. Flyaway price could be half again that much. Time to start buying lottery tickets. I want one. :)

I think it's very strange, all of this. The last of the original warbirds got expensive at the end of the 70s. Before that they were still all pretty much just sitting out in the desert at Chino Lake and other places, rotting waiting for a buyer to pay salvage prices. Incredibly, some still are. Nowadays they're multi-million dollar rich people toys and museum pieces, but incredibly you actually have more to choose from. Which is counter to common sense.

Of course, now that they're building the damned things new, we may never run out of them.

Posted by scott at 12:14 PM | Comments (0)
Way Cool Clock

Here's a pretty neat way to look at your PC's clock. I wonder if you can upgrade to a pen version? :)

Sent to me by Frieda, my favorite technologically-challenged person (that isn't my mother).

Posted by scott at 12:06 PM | Comments (1)
Buy Your Own WWII Fighter

Only $350,000! WHATABARGAIN!

This actually ties in a bit with my last essay. When was the last time they made Allison engines? 40s? 50s? And you can still get new ones in crates. Mass production has its advantages.

Posted by scott at 12:04 PM | Comments (1)
Dead Trees

As we move further into the digital age, one of the things that really seems to be tying digital info academics' panties into a knot is the "persistence of media". In a nutshell, they're worried that since more and more information is never put on paper, and requires some sort of machine to read it, that information could be lost forever simply due to a lack of the right sort of software or hardware.

While this sounds like a legitimate concern on the face of it, it's ultimately crap. Just because it isn't printed on dead trees, and just because you personally can't understand it with your own eyes, doesn't mean it'll one day get lost forever just because you don't happen to have a copy of Wordstar 2.1 for DOS handy.

There is only one reason knowledge gets well and truly lost: the media it is stored on is completely destroyed. The books in the library of Alexandria were lost because an earthquake leveled the building (Christians just burned what was left a few decades later), and books were so rare that this single event destroyed every copy of many books known to the ancient world. Entire libraries were erased in the late Roman empire because nose-picking barbarians warmed their feet with book fires after mounting the librarians' heads on sticks.

Neither situation holds true for today's "digital age". We've replaced paper and glue with plastics and metals. Media lifetimes are measured in centuries instead of decades. Digital media is so easy and cheap to copy that millions and millions of copies of single works are routinely created and distributed. What's really remarkable is that nobody thinks that this is remarkable in any real way. Except for Hollywood, which is only freaked out because they aren't getting their pound of flesh for each copy, not because the copies exist in and of themselves.

And saying that the persistence of digital media is made worthless by the transient nature of digital media readers is just so much horse-hockey. All they're really complaining about is that it's not going to be easy or cheap to read digital media as time goes by. There's at least one working example of just about every computer ever made in existence to this day. Really old, really huge computers can be restored or reconstructed. Modern digital media readers (i.e. computers) are so incredibly powerful that it is quite possible to create simulations of entire old computers within them, "tricking" old software into believing it is running on original hardware.

The specifications for all manner of media readers are available in any number of formats (paper included), so if you can't find a CD-ROM reader three hundred years from now you could build one from scratch. Or, much more likely, you'll be able to reconfigure an existing device in such a way that it will read the thing for you.

Nobody makes cylinder phonographs any more, yet you can still hear Caruso today. Nobody makes 16-frame-per-second film projectors, yet you can still watch Charlie Chaplin today. Nobody makes 2" ampex video tape players, yet you can still watch the Honeymooners today. All it takes, and all it will ever take, is the original media and the dedication of clever people to understand it.

Anyone who tells you differently is shopping for a government grant.

Posted by scott at 09:30 AM | Comments (0)
March 20, 2002
The Soviet Saturn V

Here's an interesting story about the N-1, the rocket the soviets tried to go to the moon with.

Until the 1990s I'm not sure anyone had ever seen pictures of it at all. The Air & Space museum has some nice scale models of it, and there are a few documentaries floating around that have some film footage. They all blew up, at least one on the pad devastating the area.

Posted by scott at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)
March 19, 2002
You Know You're From the DC Area

Here's another one from my brother, who sometimes has even less to do than I do while waiting for the next staff person to blow their computer up.

Posted by scott at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)
I Wonder if My Mom's Bought Anything from Him

Gotta love wierd auction thieves. Unfortunately this guy positively reeks of mental illness. Hopefully he'll get some help while in jail.

Posted by scott at 02:11 PM | Comments (1)
Robots R Us

First Aibo, now this human- shaped robot. The Japanese are obsessed with robots. Their entertainment industry is filled with images of them, entire TV series are wrapped around them, and of course there's always Mechagodzilla. It doesn't surprise me they're leading in this field.

Any of our readers have an Aibo? Know anyone that does? What're your impressions? It may not be the cuddliest of things, but at least it doesn't yak on your carpet.

Posted by scott at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)
March 18, 2002
More Belly Dance Links!

I get to go to a 90 min ZILLS class *finger cymbols* at my teachers studio on the 26th of this month. HOPEFULLY one day I'll actually be good at this. I mean, I suck at this...well not SUCK SUCK, but I'm not wonderful either. Anyway.. I wanted to share some more links with you all. Have fun.

The Joy of Belly Dancing

Belly Dance Shoppe

Aleena's Belly Dance Gallery *PICCIES!!* This is what the majority of costuming looks like.

Magical Motion Belly Dance

Enjoy!! I reallly like these sites.

PS. I'll keep you posted on the classes

Posted by Ellen at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)
March 17, 2002
The Power of Chocolate

As a man, the hormone and mood shifts of women mystify me. Of course, as a Man I am forbidden from attempting to comprehend such things, especially in the presence of an Enlightened Empress such as my wife. I am merely to accept these things and acknowledge that I am at fault whenever and however the she wishes me to be. However, last weekend I was to observe something that had only been hinted at by Enlightened Empresses all over the world-- the Power of Chocolate.

This had actually been a relatively moderate week. I'd gotten yelled at for no reason for only a few days. Ellen hadn't resorted to yelling at cats, fish, plants, or rocks. These are good things. However, this was going to be a bad day for all involved. We had to go get the car serviced, which meant Ellen would have to sit still in a quiet place for several hours. This is Not Good. So I watched with trepidation as the forces started to build up. Eventually she was vibrating like a guitar string.

However, on that day we happened by a Girl Scout troop selling cookies. Ellen picked up a box of thin mints so fast I'm not sure the girls realized they'd been paid. I was more worried that they might have lost fingers.

Now at other times I've watched her consume nearly an entire box between the grocery store and the house (about 5 minutes). But, because we were shopping (which apparently takes the edge off), the cookies were eventually forgotten in her purse.

Later that night it got bad again, because... well, because it's none of my damned business why it got bad, and if you haven't figured that out yet you've got to be male and stupid. Anyway, just as the death rays were about to lock on to me, I remembered... THIN MINTS! I'm saved!

So, with the polite deference of a properly frightened servant, I suggested that maybe she could get us something special we had in the kitchen. She hopped up happily and got some ice cream out of the freezer. I shook my head... "no, I meant the other special something... the one we got this morning." I was greeted with a suspicous look. No time to argue, got to act fast! "Cookies! Remember the cookies!"

Her eyes got big and she let out a gasp... THIN MINTS! There was a semi-frantic pawing with all sorts of things flung out of the purse as the treasure was unearthed. The box lid was open in a flash and out came one whole stack. She'd had three of them before she sat down.

It was only after the stack had been nearly consumed that I noticed something-- there was nothing to notice! Ellen was sitting calmly, slowing picking out the last two cookies from the stack, watching TV and typing quietly on the computer. No anger. No buzzing. No clenching hands because of what someone else was typing to her. Everything was at peace... passive.

It was then, and only then, that I realized I had actually witnessed first hand one of the miracles of being female.

The. Power. Of. Chocolate.

Posted by scott at 12:58 PM | Comments (2)
March 16, 2002
When OSCARS Attack

I've told you all I have an oscar. I have an oscar that thinks it's a friggin pirahnah. I am scared of this fish. I shouldn't be, but I am.

Don't get me wrong, I like the fish plenty. I just think he is blood thirsty. All it EVER wants to do is eat. It has a bottemless pit for a stomach. I do not enjoy feeding time for this fish. *which is about 3-5 times a day* It grabs my fingers on a regular basis. Now before you go "uh..dumb shit, don't stick your fingers in the water." I do NOT stick my fingers in the water. They are about 3-5 inches above the water surface.

I was getting ready for work on thursday doing my usual rounds, then I looked at the tank and realized I have not fed that fish yet. *OH DREAD!* So, I go over to the tank, and the fish greets me like he normally does by comming out and starting to pick at the water surface. I open the lid, and bend over to feed the fish, when the fucker JUMPS OUT of the water, bounces off my chin and falls to the carpet. *This is when I let out a shriek of terror and start jumping up and down like an idiot. * This is over a fish that is only 2 inches long mind you. The entire time, Scott is thinking I'm yelling at him for no reason.

Good thing I had a washcloth nearby that I use to dust the top of the tank off. All this time the fish is STILL flopping on the carpet, and now has cat hair all over it. So I slap the washcloth down on the fish and chuck it back in the tank. *The fish was not happy. He was pissed off, and hung out at the back of his tank for quite a while wondering WHY there was NO WATER on the outside of his tank*.

At this point, it did not look like a fish. It was a big dust ball hanging out at the back of the tank. I just closed the lid and headed out for work. Damn fish, if he wants to die like a kamikaze pilot so be it.

I come home and he is alive, no longer looking like some water logged dust bunny. It wants to eat.

Posted by Ellen at 02:07 PM | Comments (8)
March 15, 2002
Timex Should Only Be So Reliable

How about A pocket watch more than 200 years old? Well, it looks like a pocket watch anyway. Very important moment in science history. Don't the Britsh throw away anything?

Posted by scott at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)
War and Peace

Male human beings between the ages of 13 and 25 are dangerous. Deadly dangerous. Before that age they're too small to be much of a problem, and after that age they usually have something to lose and know not to cause trouble. But the teens-to-twenties are a hard time for all of them, and because of that it's a hard time for all of us.

A significant number of teenage men (of any race, color, creed, religion, country, or culture) are little more that very bright chimpanzees. They murder, steal, lie, cheat, and destroy things with such alarming regularity that large sections of them are simply abandoned by American society. And it's not just urban poor or minorities. The richest white boys in my school were every bit as dangerous as the poorest blacks, perhaps even more so since the white kids' parents would cause even more trouble, convinced that their little angel couldn't have been the one to, say, drive a dozen golf carts into a swimming pool or shoot their fiance with a shotgun. Once abandoned, they complete the transition to bright-chimpdom and form that time-tested bugaboo of urban society, the youth gang.

Why does this happen? In no small part because we no longer can afford wars. Cultures going back to Paleolithic days have understood that a large predator with a powerful brain and no real stake in society is an extremely dangerous thing to have wandering loose in a village. So rather than have them making trouble in the local area, elders would gather them up and point them at somebody else's village. This had many positives: it kept the boys busy, got rid of the ones that were too stupid or slow, let them vent their urges in a way that was safe to the village, and sometimes the boys would return with loot and new women.

Of course, it wasn't a perfect solution. You didn't live in a vacuum. Other villages got the same idea and sometimes their boys would come your way and wreck your place and steal your women. Sometimes the other village was a lot tougher than you expected and nobody came back. And other times one particularly bright, strong, or dangerous kid would decide he could run the place better than you and use the boys to kill you instead.

But, overall, it worked. And from the Stone Age on down this practice became the normal way to ensure teenage males didn't cause too much trouble. In the past there certainly were bumps in the road. The earliest discoverers of agriculture found that using the boys to work instead of fight brought bigger harvests and kept them nearly as busy. Unfortunately there were lots of other societies that didn't do this, and the only thing that's worse than having an army you can't control very well is having no army at all. These societies got replaced pretty quickly with ones that knew a smaller harvest you get to keep is worth not using every strong male hand for farming.

Innovations and refinements occurred throughout the agricultural era. Organization, discipline, conscription, tactics, strategy, and constant improvements in weapons turned what started out as a rabble of screeching naked chimps into what we would now recognize as a standing army.

Unfortunately for society as a whole, industrialization changed all the rules. Weaponry got really destructive, and really complicated, really fast. Attempts at forcing the old ways using the new weapons resulted in global apocalypses.

A professional army of volunteers, an idea once thought to be self-evidently absurd, has proven to be the only way to effectively manage the complexities of the modern battlefield. A sullen teenager that doesn't want to fight isn't much of a problem when someone is howling and running at him with a spear. He fights or he dies. And it doesn't take a genius to learn how to use a sword. But a sullen teenager is a problem sitting behind a computer screen miles away from a battlefield, and it does take a genius to, say, fly a modern combat aircraft and actually hit anything with it.

These new rules have only been in effect for the past century or two, so we still haven't found any really good answers. Some societies continue to conscript, but all that does is give you a huge army of infantry. Others require civil service, but working for the government doesn't control the really violent ones, and is also expensive and prone to corruption. Other societies are lucky enough, and homogenous enough, that everyone agrees ahead of time what must be done with the young men, and have the social cohesion to make it stick.

Of course, none of that does the US much good, and it shows. We were one of the first to give up on conscription, and it almost requires a PhD to run some of the weapon systems we use. It's also no coincidence that we have the most powerful, best controlled, military in the world. We also have a strong tradition of not using government jobs as a form of unemployment insurance. It's no coincidence either that we have the most powerful, most efficient economy in the world. We're so heterogeneous we have heated arguments about the color of the sky. And it's no coincidence that we are the most innovative society on the planet.

So we're kind of stuck. The methods that work for most of the rest of the world don't work for us, and for good reasons. But that leaves us with all these naked chimps running around causing trouble and breaking stuff. And because of that, we're all in danger of something as simple as walking down the street wearing, or simply being, the wrong color.

Posted by scott at 01:10 PM | Comments (1)
We All Got a Ticket to Ride

Russia has announced plans for a tourist-only space shuttle. $100,000 per head for 3 minutes of weightlessness. Means it's sub-orbital.

In the computer business, we tend to call this stuff "vaporware".

Posted by scott at 08:55 AM | Comments (1)
March 14, 2002
If I Catch Ellen Trying This, She's Dead Meat

Sometimes if you drop a digital camera in a lake, it can be good. Do not try this at home (ELLEN!)

Posted by scott at 03:54 PM | Comments (1)
Heroinware for Scott & Jeff

JK II seems way ahead of schedule, thought it was only supposed to be out by X-mas. Means I gotta finish Serious Sam in a hurry.

Posted by scott at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)
Heroinware for Ellen

The latest expansion pack for the Sims is nearly done! More naked dancing sim people!

Posted by scott at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)
BOFH -- Again

This Bastard Operator [system admin] from Hell entry isn't anywhere near as technical as the last one, promise. Kudos to Jeff, who sent it to me originally.

Posted by scott at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)
Digital Rights

Did you know Hollywood has mandated that you can't skip past advertisements on DVDS? That entertainment companies are trying to legislate away your ability to watch whatever you want, whenever you want? That it's already illegal to try and figure out ways to do this when the entertainment companies decide you shouldn't? Here's an excellent summary of what the entertainment industry is doing behind your backs.

Posted by scott at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)
Now that's what I call a hobby

No amusment park nearby? Build one yourself!

Posted by scott at 08:21 AM | Comments (2)
March 13, 2002
Talking Trash

One of the things you learn getting an anthropology degree (2nd most useless degree on the planet, by the way) is just how trashy humanity is.

A real common misconception is that previous generations were somehow neater, respected the environment more, or used up fewer resources. Absolutely none of it is true. One reason for the perception that we are trashier than our ancestors is that their trash biodegraded, and ours doesn't. The other is that there are just a whole lot more of us than there ever were of them. Something like 20% of all the people that ever lived are alive today. More folks, more trash.

And don't give me this crap about how Native Americans were more careful with the environment than the awful invading white guys. Entire cultures in Mesoamerica broke down because they used up all their resources and didn't have anywhere to put the trash. We don't find ancient American Indian sites because they have giant "WE WERE HERE ->" signs sticking out of them. We find them because the trash piles got so huge they end up being the most prominent part of what's left. Even tiny overnight camps are easy to spot because the hunters would stop to make and sharpen stone points. Do you really think they cleaned up after themselves?

The trash heaps outside the walls of ancient Jerusalem were so famous and so foul they became a synonym for hell. The streets of Roman cities were so covered in filth that they put raised crosswalks across them, with cuts through them to allow carts to pass. In medieval England it was dangerous to walk on the sidewalks because people thought nothing of emptying full chamber pots from the top windows. Out the front of the house. Dead bodies would pile up, not just of animals but of people as well.

Africans and Arabs got so good at "preserving" the environment that the Sahara desert expanded from a sandy spot in the center of Africa to a continent-spanning wasteland.

And don't give me all this crap about "the US consumes 1/3rd of all the energy produced by the world so it should be making the most strenuous efforts at keeping the environment clean." Guess what chief; we're the largest economy in the world. We produce stuff with all that energy. More stuff than anybody in the world. And do you really think that all these countries that have been tearing their shirts about Bush dumping the Kyoto treaty have been hugging trees all this time? The truth is, in the 1960s and 1970s, when the US was putting the screws to all heavy industry, the rest of the world was merrily polluting along its own way.

It wasn't until the late 1980s that Europe started taking all this stuff seriously, and really only the last ten years that it's made a difference. The only reason they want treaties now is that they were able to guilt the previous administration into agreeing to the US taking on a much higher share of the antipollution efforts. And of course you know that they would make absolutely sure that none of their industries took advantage of any competitive advantage this might give them! How dare you suggest such a thing! We're all just looking out for the environment here! Pay no attention to the French run factories in India, the unregulated Korean industries in Malaysia, or the Brazilian smokestacks belching poison. Nothing to see here, move along.

Do we need to conserve more? Of course we do, don't be stupid. There's six times as many of us on this planet, and our garbage doesn't rot anymore. But lets just everyone take care of our own houses, yes? After all, if we all made sure our air was cleaner than the next place's, the world would take care of itself.

Posted by scott at 04:43 PM | Comments (1)

Congratulations go out to my favorite crazy celebrity couple!. I'm sure Ellen will have some choice words.

Posted by scott at 12:44 PM | Comments (2)
March 12, 2002

Ted likes chocolate. I like, no make that LOVE chocolate.

Ted likes icecream, but not more than me.

Ted has chocolate chips on his belly and will show them to you if you ask him. "Mr Ssipps, can I see your chocolate chips?" *Flops over and rolls*

*ok....Mr Ssipps is Ted's nickname. He really likes this Cat Ssips milk drink. thats why I call him Ssipps. Ok, you are prolly wondering WHY we spell is SS and PP? Well duh! It's how he would say it! SHEESH! Didn't you know he talks to me?*

~o/ Mr Ssipps ssipps ssipps, his name is Mr Ssipps!!! Oh yes it issssss, oh yes it issssss!!!!! Ssipps, ssipps, ssipps hi name is Mr Ssipps oh yes it is oh yes it is oh yes it isssssss!!!! /o~

Yes, I KNOW I am a bit too involved with this cat. Who isn't? Everyone LOOOOVVVES Ted. He rolls over and shows you his chocolate chips, he sits up when you ask him to *Thanks to Ted and Scott(who should not be me anything and has learned his lesson) I got a camera out of his tricks he has learned. Ted even jumps through a red hoop. What can I say, smart cat. *FOOD MOTIVATED!*

Did I mention Ted gives hugs? But only in the bathroom right after a shower or a bath. PLUS you have to wear the special bath robe for the hug too. I don't mean he just wants you to pick him and and give him a quick sqeeze. This is a genuine HUG! He puts his arms around your neck and rubs his face against yours *~10 minutes of this* and won't leave you alone after.

Ted is my schweeeeetie pie!!!! I LUV IT!!!!! YES I DO!!!!!!!!

Everyday is a challange for Ted. He has a heart condition called Tetrology of Fallot and PDA. Ted is on 5 different medications twice a day. Ted's frequent cardiology workups cost me $250.00 every time I walk in the door. His medicine alone costs me nearly $300.00 per year. I woulnd't change a thing. He is too special to me. Ted has surpased everyone's expectaions on life. Ted was only given a few weeks to months to live with his first cardiology visit. He was 6 week old when he got his diagnosis. Ted is now 2. I think he has done quite well.

Posted by Ellen at 08:08 PM | Comments (1)
Begging the question

Here's an interesting article about formal arguments and the term "begging the question". Fun when arguing with fundies. :)

Posted by scott at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)
March 09, 2002

H.G. Wells, having invented the time machine, decides to visit the United States in 1849. Eventually he ends up in San Francisco, California.

While walking to the saloon, he is suddenly dragged into an alley by several strong men. Surprised and terrified, he doesn't even have time to yell. He is even more surprised when one of the men exclaims, "Here! Take this! We don't want no part of this!", and shoves something large and heavy into his hands. The men then run away. He is even more surprised when he looks into his hands and sees the largest gold nugget he has ever encountered. It is as big as his fist, and worth several thousand dollars.

After pocketing the gold, he starts toward the saloon, but then has an idea. Instead of continuing, he turns around and heads for the basement of the barn where he has hidden his time machine.

He gets into the time machine and sets it for two weeks prior to his arrival. Through careful observation, he finds the three men that accosted him in the alley. After donning a fearsome disguise (a "Friday the 13th" outfit he aquired on a trip to the 20th century), he appears to them in his time machine late at night, when they are heading back to their prospecting camp after a night of drinking and gambling.

The men are, of course stunned speechless. He gets out and gives one of the men the giant gold nugget that they had given him previously. He gives them a picture of himself (without the disguise) and tells them that at noon tomorrow the man in the picture will be walking past that (points) alley. They are to give this man this piece of gold. If they fail to give it to this man, terrible things will happen to them. Terrified beyond belief, they can only nod their assent.

Wells gets into his time machine and disappears, but only a few hours into the future. He carefully observes the men to ensure they do in fact give this nugget to the Wells walking down to the saloon the next day. Satisfied, he sets his time machine to his own era and returns home to London.

The real question is, of course, where exactly did the gold come from?

Posted by scott at 08:01 PM | Comments (0)
Tub Cat

You all KNOW im bonkers over cats. Even the fat ones!!!! Check out this site for its piccies. It's still under some construction, but you'll get the idea.

Tub Cat


ps. sign the guestbook:)

Also be sure to check out all the DUMB FUCK WITS that LIKE to destroy other people's sites by being total ASSES! I say FUCK EM!!! If you are asinine to post shit on someone's website for just the sake of being mean then you have no FUCKING LIFE!!! Go buy one at Kmart for $9.95 and leave other people the FUCK ALONE! The world would be a much more socialized place without the DUMB FUCKS.

*Calming, calming calming* VISIT TUB CAT!!! THE FATTEST CAT EVER!!!!

Posted by Ellen at 06:29 PM | Comments (13)
Pulp Phantom

This is damned clever. If you feel like wasting some time lauging, go see the Pulp Phantom parody.

Posted by scott at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)
March 08, 2002
The Mind of a 15 Year Old

My sister Nina, or Neenah (how she spells it now) is 15. Very smart, bright girl. She is a total punk ass. She is also quite clever and amusing at times.

This small incident happened in October of 2001, at a pizza parlor in Washingtonville, NY.

NO, I'm not going to tell it like some elaborate story! It was just an amusing moment that had everyone laughing outloud.

My sister, as usual, was bitching and moaning on when the food was going to get to the table. Billy, our dad was also being a total smart ass right back at her. So she sits there and looks at him, and says back, "Dad, shut up, you don't know what your talking about!". "I don't?", he says. " NO! you never pay attention!" *This is the amuzing part* "You are either A. DRUNK!, B.TIRED! or C. BOTH! " she slumps back down in her chair as everyone at the table starts to howl with laughter. Our dad's jaw hit the table.

Billy is not a drunk * I mean, he drinks BUD for christ's sake!* Yes, he is tired. he works the dorky graveyard shifts. But the way she put it was too funny. Guess you had to be there. Scott and I still smile and laugh about the whole thing.

Posted by Ellen at 06:33 PM | Comments (0)
Beige: It's Not Just Your Computer's Color

Turns out the universe is actually beige, not blue. Of course, nowadays computers are coming in all sorts of different colors. But I like my beige box, dammit.

Posted by scott at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

Things I am grateful for:

  • A wife that challenges and loves and deals with me.
  • A brother that compliments me.
  • A mother that taught me to see poetry in things.
  • A father that taught me to take people as they are, not as I want them to be.
  • A job that lets me play with things I want and make a difference at the same time.
  • A country that protects me and tries (however badly) to protect the world.
  • A world that, no matter how slowly or painfully, gets better as time goes by.

When I have children I will tell them that I can remember when:

  • there was no such thing as a computer you could buy yourself.
  • we all went to bed at night worrying whether the missiles would fall on us.
  • cancer was thought of as a big single disease and nearly always killed you.
  • I had a dog named BJ, and a cat named Panda.
  • people actually dressed like that.
  • I actually dressed like that.
  • there were only four channels on TV and everyone watched Walter Kronkite.
  • everyone knew who Walter Kronkite was.
  • spam was something you ate.
  • there were two Germanies, and you could get yourself shot trying to cross a street in Berlin.
  • Russians were Soviets and Soviets were bad.
  • their great grandmother stopped being a legend and started being a person.
  • their grandmother stopped being a nutball and started to be a grandmother.
  • their mother didn't know how to drive a car.
  • the only people that got into space were Russians.
  • everyone thought Poison was cool.
  • everyone knew Poison was a rock band.
  • people were actually dumb enough to trust the government.
  • people were actually dumb enough to hate the government.
  • their aunt was a little punk-ass kid that ran around with her fingers shaped like an "L" on her forehead.
  • the iron curtain was something people feared.
  • rubick's cubes drove everyone crazy.
  • pop-rocks were dangerous.
  • a Saturn V took off.
  • a shuttle exploded.
  • a web site was where a spider lived.
  • Ronald Regan wasn't just the name of an airport.
  • SALT didn't mean something you put on your food.
  • Henry Kissinger mattered.
  • we all thought it was a big deal when Russians and Americans met in space and didn't have weapons.
  • I waited in line for hours to watch The Empire Strikes Back premiere.
  • Bill Clinton was just the governor of Arkansas.
  • Bill Clinton wasn't the governor of Arkansas.
  • people thought it was bad that black folks and white folks would love each other.
  • Barry Manilow was king.
  • Donny and Marie was on Television.
  • Evil Kenevil tried to jump the Snake River canyon.
  • a turntable wasn't a musical instrument.
  • they were called albums, were black, and more than a foot across.
  • everyone used rotary phones.
  • everyone drank from tin cans.
  • if you loved a guy instead of a girl other people would try to kill you.
  • I couldn't believe my parents couldn't remember what time their 2nd grade math class was when they were little.
  • video games only cost a quarter.
  • a 19 inch television was a piece of furniture.
  • you recorded things on video tape.
  • you had to sit through all the commercials.
  • you had to get up to change the channel.
  • a lady married a prince.
  • that princess died.
  • we thought that mosquito repellent was just something you always brought to little league games.
  • their mother said "I love you" for the first time.
Posted by scott at 11:54 AM | Comments (3)
March 07, 2002
Feng Shui Rulz

When God created the United States, he lifted the east coast once and gave it a good shake. All the loose marbles rolled down to California.

Posted by scott at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)
Blogs of the stars

First Wil Wheaton and now William Shatner. Diaries of the stars. Anybody else know about star blogs (aside from Asia's)?

Posted by scott at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)
March 06, 2002

I don't think anyone will deny that quantum physics is one of the weirdest fields of science. Describing the very, very, very small can cause some serious strangeness.

One of the classic experiments that I saw all the time in high school textbooks involved a gizmo called an electron gun and two plates of metal. One plate of metal had two slots, side-by-side ( || || ) in it, the other was coated with a special material that was sensitive to electrons. The slotted plate was put in front of the coated plate, and the electron gun was put in front of the slotted plate. The electron gun was designed to "shoot" electrons one at a time toward the coated plate, thereby making them go through the slotted plate.

Easy enough. The electron must travel through a slot on its way to the coated plate. The weird part was what happens when the experiment is performed. The electron has a random chance of going through one slot or the other. If you use instruments to record which slot each electron goes through, then at the end your coated plate looks like a gun target... lots of dots. However, if you don't watch to see which slot the electron goes through, you don't get any dots on your coated plate. Instead you get a wave pattern, as if blurry light were being shone through.

Why is it doing that? Well, according to quantum mechanics, in the second experiment the electron is going through both slots at the same time. You know it's a single particle, because that's the way the machine is designed. It doesn't shoot more than one. Yet you get a pattern like waves of light rather than single particles.

The wave forms represent probabilities. Imagine one racehorse in one race on one day. A huge number of factors can affect the performance of the horse... the condition of the track, the weather, the jockey, what the horse ate, etc. By taking all these factors together, bookies make an educated guess as to where the horse will finish in the race. These guesses are stated as odds. 50:1, 20:1, 5:1, and so on. Well, the patterns on the coated plate represent the odds that each electron had going through one or the other slot. A subatomic horse race, with only one horse. A horse that has the ability to win, place, show, and come in dead last all at the same time.

Calculating the odds for these sorts of particle interactions is extremely complex. So complex that there are only a handful of physicists that can describe the formulas needed to figure it out.

And yet, strangely, it has been discovered that those calculations are nearly identical to certain kinds of calculations needed to distinguish sound from noise. The same calculations that you and I do every day when we hear our names called in a crowded room.

Posted by scott at 09:23 PM | Comments (1)
March 04, 2002
Saturn Follies

My dad used to work on the Apollo space program. He has any number of stories, all of them funny. Some of them may actually be true. Here's one of them:

The Saturn V rocket was, and perhaps still is, the largest space vehicle ever built to be launched from earth. 330 feet (110 meters) tall, 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter. It could lift 259,000 lbs (118,000 kg) into low earth orbit. For comparison, the space shuttle, our current heavy lift champ, is 184 feet (56.14 meters) tall, 78 feet (23.8 meters) across at the wings, and can lift a maximum of 63,500 lbs (28,800 kg) into low earth orbit. The Saturn V was a giant among giants, and we shall not soon see its like again.

But the problem was that in 1967, nobody had ever seen anything like it. How do you test a rocket that, if something went really really wrong, could flatten everything in a five or six mile radius, and shatter the windows in Miami?

Well, if you're 1960s-era NASA (a place only rivaled by the old west in its "hell with the book, let's just get it done" attitude), you gas one up, trundle it out, and light the fuse. Don't bother with a cargo, since atomizing astronauts tends to generate bad publicity, just load a couple thousand pounds of concrete into the nose for ballast. Let's see what happens.

The Saturn V was, to say the least, quite a complex beast, even by today's standards. It had three "stages", sections that were optimized for the different conditions experienced in the course of the launch. Each section had its own set of engines and its own fuel supply. Three different companies were responsible for the construction: in order from bottom to top, Boeing, North American, and Douglas Aircraft. Boeing's reputation amongst the Canaveral crew was stellar... their stuff was reliable, well designed, and they were damned careful with it (perhaps a later story). Douglas's stuff wasn't as good as Boeings', but it was pretty good and again the crew's opinion, according to my dad at least, was that nobody needed to worry about Douglas.

That left North American. Conventional wisdom said the problem with North American's stuff, according to my dad at least, was that, when new, it always blew up. Not just quit, not just fizzled, but exploded in a right proper fireball. It was rumored that other engineers would bring weenies for roasting to the first launch of any new North American product just to annoy them.

North American was in charge of the second stage of the Saturn V, which put them in charge of the second-largest part of the largest rocket in the world. And of course at that point in the launch the third largest part of that rocket would be sitting right next to the second part, full of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The fireball, it was figured, would be impressive to say the least. And everyone knew that without question the thing would blow up.

Now, again, it must be said that nobody'd ever fired a rocket this big in history. They really didn't have any idea what it would do. So they did what they could to ensure proper safety, and, well, pushed the button.

The best way to experience this first launch from this distance in history is to listen to Walter Cronkite's broadcast of the event. Mr. Cronkite (who, for those of you too young to remember, was the best known TV newscaster in the country, and a huge supporter of the space program) managed to get his transmission trailer closer than anyone else's so he could have the best view of the show. In retrospect, this proved to be a not-so-good idea. NASA put the press folks a little too close to the action, and the pressure waves from the launch sucked the windows out of Cronkite's truck with a BANG. To say he was surprised and concerned was an understatement, but he was so damned excited it didn't scare him. His voice just got a little higher pitched as he described the event. I think it also peeled the roof off the vehicle, but I have not confirmed that.

That first stage, which again nobody was really too worried about, was so powerful it not only damaged Mr. Cronkite's trailer, which was miles away, it also completely vaporized the solid-gauge guard rails around the launch platform itself, as well as all the cameras meant to record the event up close. Zip. Gone. Vanished without a trace. These were big cameras! They were big enough they may not have actually vaporized, but are instead still sitting at the bottom of the swampy marshes that surround the cape, flung miles away from the launch site. The rocket is perched on the top of a concrete pad (which is still used by shuttles to this day), and the heat was so intense it turned a good two inches of the solid-concrete flame trench into glass. The launch was registered on seismometers as far north as New York City, and could be seen in Miami.

Of course, everyone that was involved in the program knew that, in spite of how impressive this all was, it was only a prelude to the real fireworks that would be brought courtesy of the North American guys. The first stage burned only for a few minutes, about the same amount of time the solid boosters on the shuttle burn, and then, empty and useless, it would be discarded. At that point, according to the press release anyway, the second stage would ignite and continue the rocket's trip to orbit.

The announcer counted down the time to this event: "three, two, one... first stage cutoff. [long pause] first stage separation [long pause]" and at this point everyone who worked on the thing closed their eyes, said prayers, and put their fingers in their ears ... "second stage ignition! We have second stage ignition!" Swear to god you can hear the surprise in the announcer's voice.

It didn't blow up. Two of its five engines didn't work, but by god it didn't blow up.

And it never did, not once in the entire program did it ever even cause trouble. The North American boys finally got it right.

Posted by scott at 07:55 PM | Comments (10)
March 03, 2002
It's Cool. Wonder

NASA managed to contact the farthest distanced, longest-lived probe we've ever sent out. Takes 22 hours to reach it.

Posted by scott at 08:52 PM | Comments (4)
What Geeks do in college

Swear to god, this is funny. Connect your cable modem through a teddy bear and cheat them blind.

Even if you don't understand it, trust me it's funny.

"Bother," said the Borg. "We've assimilated Pooh."

Posted by scott at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

Ever bathe a cat?

1. Step one, fill the tub up 1/4 way with warm water.

2. Step two, find the cat. He may be hiding under the bed, behind a plant or in a cuboard. Usually, a tail sticking out from the area of search indicated there is a cat at the other end.

3. Step 3, capture cat. Try not to lose an eye in the process. Be sure to close the bathroom door also. Remember, a wet and soapy cat running through the house is not a good thing.

4. Step 4, stick cat in tub. Hang on to cat!!! *this is where a small container comes in handy to douse cat with water* Remeber this is warm water, we are not trying to scald the cat. This makes them mad.

5. Step 5, shampoo cat. Now use a pet shampoo people! Cats are not concerned about frizz or making curls bounce. Prefeably, somthing that makes them smell like mangos and lemons is pleasing.

6. Step 6, Rinse. Get towel to wipe up your blood. Keeping a belt nearby makes a nice homemade tournequit.

7. Step 7, Dry cat. NO NO... not with the blowdryer! Do you HAVE a death wish? Air dry!! Air dry!

8. Step 8, Let cat gather its dignity while you have a stiff drink. *After all you have deserved it*

9. Step 9, Attempt to bribe cat to like you again. This may take several days to weeks. You will eventually get over it.

10. Step 10, Never attempt bathing your cat again.

Posted by Ellen at 08:09 PM | Comments (3)
March 01, 2002
Doctor Strangelove

In spite of recent history and current perceptions, modern weaponry, epitomized by the gun and the nuclear weapon, are in fact ultimately agents of stability and peace.

Before the invention of workable firearms, around the fifteenth century, the technology of war had actually changed very little in more than five thousand years. Swords, bows, shields, horses, catapults, and fortresses were as familiar to the Babylonians as they were to the Hospitalier knights five thousand years later. Because everyone made and used the same weapons, war ended up being more about how badly you wanted to win. This lead to tremendous instability across the world.

No sooner would a group of people finally manage to get it together with running water and toilets than a group of nomads would come sweeping out of the steppes of Asia and wreck it all. This happened time and time again throughout history. The nomads would win because surviving on the steppes of Asia made you one mean, tough sonofabitch; you had to already own your own horse, sword, and bow, and be damned good with them, otherwise you'd starve; and the people you were looking to give an ass-whupping to weren't any better equipped than you were.

Hundreds, somtimes thousands of years of cultural effort would inevitably end up padding the ass of some hairy goatherd who'd managed to convince his buddies a holiday sweeping through Europe and the Middle East would be a lot more fun than drinking fermented horse milk. And the people left behind would have to start all over again with less than nothing, because the nomads would've made damned sure anyone who even looked smarter than they were, i.e. all the elders and anyone who knew how anything worked, would have their heads used as polo balls on the way home. Progress smashed and forgotten is no progress at all.

The invention of the firearm changed this equation in a hurry. Unlike swords and bows, you don't have to practice all day, every day, to be good with a gun. This made it easier, faster, and cheaper to form an effective fighting force. Cannons are only loaded with cannonballs when you want to knock down a building. Fill the same cannon with chain, glass, and rocks and you have one helluva lawnmower at your disposal. As the saying goes, bringing a knife to a gunfight is usually not the way to get what you want.

It wasn't just that having a gun made it harder for a nomad to separate your head from your shoulders. A gun isn't that much more complicated than a sword, especially if you already know how they're made. But it took a lot of infrastructure to make a lot of guns in a hurry. You've got to have forges, mills, chemical factories, and the kind of people that know how to run them, to do it. None of that stuff is anything you can pack on a horse, and so the balance swung in the favor of cities and civilizations capable of maintaining these things. Getting those capabilities changed you into one of the civilized peoples, and suddenly it was a lot more fun to make money and war was something that would only break your hard-won stuff.

Of course the civilzed world found it had traded one kind of instability for another. The requirements of modern weaponry caused an unprecedented amount of power to be coalesced into the hands of just a few people. Nations flow from guns as cities flow from plows. A knight can afford to make his own swords, but only a king can get enough cash to make a cannon. It was all too easy for an individual, or a few individuals, to use this power to try and take over the world. As firearms became more effective by orders of magnitude, the world would be a much more dangerous place every time some maniac managed to claw his way to the top of one of these nations.

The way you win wars is you kill people and break stuff until the other guy can't fight any more. But industrialization made it possible to build stuff faster and faster. Each leap in technology meant it took fewer and fewer people to actually fight the war. You had the problem of simply not being able to kill enough people and break enough stuff fast enough to make these maniacs think twice about rolling into your country with tanks. It was a risk they always felt they could take.

Enter the nuclear weapon. What is not widely known is thermonuclear devices (hydrogen bombs) have basically unlimited destructive power. Once you learn how to make one, it's as easy to come up with a planet buster as it is to come up with a city buster. Now not only can you wipe out the factories that drive the maniac's war machine, you can wipe out the city that contains it with a single weapon. Mount a few dozen on missles and you have the capability of destroying an entire country and there's nothing the other guy can do to stop you. All the tanks in the world don't do your fevered dreams of world conquest any good if the decadent, soft, patronizing peoples you are out to bring order and justice to can wipe you, your army, and your nation off the face of the earth in a matter of seconds.

Of course, now instead of maniac nomads trying to get guns we have maniac national leaders trying to get H-bombs. On the face of it, we've traded the sort of instability that wipes out nations for the sort of instability that wipes out the planet. Not much of a trade. But, as with firearms, there are some natural brakes that keep this from happening.

Building an H-bomb is hard. It's not something you can figure out just by going to a library. Because they're so destructive, nations that do know how to make them keep the secret very well. And the kind of government that puts a maniac in charge and keeps him there is not the kind of government that fosters the scientists and engineers you need to figure it out on your own. You need independent minds to do physics and engineering, and people that have independent thoughts are to dictators what guns are to drunk rednecks.

And even if you can find people greedy, vain, or shortsighted enough to tell you how to do it, it's still really f'ing hard to put the thing together. Entire industries have to be created. Big factories have to be built. Exotic materials have to be aquired. None of this can be done with any secrecy. And, as with guns before them, getting the stuff together to actually build these bombs has an annoying tendency to turn you into the kind of society which won't use them. Countries are made up of people. All these factories give people jobs, and jobs give them money, and money wants to be spent. Enough stuff is aquired that now the entire people have something to lose. From there it's just a short hop to revolution and democracy. And democracies don't start wars.

It's still dangerous, very dangerous. There are something like thirty thousand nuclear bombs in the Us and Russian arsenals, so a maniac has an alarmingly good chance of just buying a prebuilt bomb and sailing it up someone's harbor. Or they can save a step and simply fly airplanes into buildings.

The nomads are still out there, circling in the night. To deny we still need a strong, sophisticated military is to sleep while they throw ladders against the walls.

Posted by scott at 03:49 PM | Comments (1)