Fark linked up this story about wayward cars and a lake that happens to be nearby my old stomping grounds of Fayetteville, AR:
In less than a month, eight vehicles have plunged into Beaver Lake at the end of Arkansas 94 in Monte Ne. No one has been hurt -- yet.
(Beaver lake and Rogers AR are within 30 minute's drive of Fayetteville.)
The thing is, I just wonder how accidental these "accidental" lake encounters are. I distinctly remember a book I read years ago about a murder investigation. The cops eventually decided the victim was stuffed into a trunk and driven off a boat landing, but the investigation was stymied because when they drug the lake around the boat landing they found nearly a dozen (body-free) cars. You see, when you want to claim a car as stolen, it doesn't do to have efficient police or a plucky private detective dredge the thing up two weeks later. Turned out a lake made a darned nice place to "steal" the car to.
This sounds an awful lot like that. The fact nobody's gotten hurt makes me doubly suspicious.
Ok, now, I'm all for people finding "the one". Happy for you if you manage to actually hook up with a soul mate. However, certain people should, like, not put roses on their keisters as a way of advertisement.
Bah. French Canadians. They're capable of anything. ;)
Slashdot linked up someone building a giant, flyable scale model of a B-52. Built, actually, since by the pictures it would seem to be flying. Looks to have a wingspan of at least 12, maybe 15 feet, and reportedly weighs in at over 300 lbs. Apparently powered by eight very tiny turbojets, it's probably the most amazing flying scale model I've ever seen. Don't miss the videos... the thing even sounds right.
The collective noted the fuel consumption of eight turbines, even tiny ones, is probably impressive. The speculation is that the thing is mostly gas tank. Very, very cool.
“Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”
One of the problems with being (even an armchair) historian, especially one of the biblical periods, is the parallels you see in everyday life. A tragic moment has you whispering, “Gesthemene”... a triumph has you quoting psalms. Being a Buddhist just makes it worse... now you're weird and incomprehensible. But I couldn't help it, as I watched it.
“Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”
We weren't in a Catholic church, we weren't on the banks of the Jordan. We weren't even in one of those sad plastic built-in bathtubs you find in small protestant churches all over middle America. We were in a “Lasik+” eye surgery clinic. My wife had just experienced a miracle so fundamental it appears no fewer than seven times in the synoptic gospels.
My wife was blind, but now she could see. We had, in a matter of minutes, just been baptized into the Church of Humanistic Science.
“I'm sorry, what?!?”
Ok, the thing with Ellen is, she loves drama. The people who say that's an Italian stereotype have never actually lived with an Italian, even one three generations removed from mama Italia. In this particular case, all I really knew was she had contacted our mortgage lender to ask if we could perhaps get our monthly payments reduced. Now I knew, as I watched her on the phone, that something had happened. I just wasn't sure what.
And you don't ask. If you ask, it goes like this:
Me: “What do you mean, what... what's going on?!?”
Ellen: [throwing hands down, like she's slapping an annoying toddler. The look in her eye says the toddler is, of course, me.]
Me: “No, really... what's going on?!?”
Ellen: [rolls eyes, puts phone on shoulder], “what the fuck is your problem?!? Can't you see I'm on the phone?!?”
So, like the well-trained spouse of an Italian American Yankee that I am, I wait patiently. Peasants do not demand information from Their Empress. Their Empress will bequeath knowledge to them as it is required, and not before.
The phone is hung up. This being opera, we can't just start talking, we must wait until the overture is done, the applause faded to the background.
Ellen: “You remember when I asked about lowering our mortgage payment?”
Scott: [like I said, you can almost hear the aria] “um... yes?”
Ellen: “Not only are we getting a lower mortgage, we're getting all our credit card debt paid off. But that's not the best part...”
Swear to God, we really do talk like this. It's like living inside a TV drama. Me, knowing better than to interrupt the aria with a B sharp: “What's the best part?”
Ellen: “We're going to get ten thousand dollars!”
A different time, a different place, a woman sitting beside me in the car only known as “she who shall remain nameless” in my current household. We cash our Pizza Inn paychecks at the Safeway because we can't afford a bank account. We drive two blocks down the street and pull to the side of the road in a convertible more rust than metal, the summer sun beating down on a quiet residential street. Out of the fistfull of cash I've been carrying in one hand, I start handing greenbacks over. “Now, that's one-two-three hundreds for the rent, one-two hundreds for the car, one-two-three twenties for the power and gas... what's left?”
You've come a long way, baby... I couldn't help but think as Ellen and I walked through the door of the clinic. Plain, garden variety office, except along one wall was nothing but glass, behind it a cross between a dentist's office and a hair salon. Except everyone here would lie down.
He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.
No lab coat here, the doctor wore a simple button-down shirt and slacks. The balding head made him all too human, his two angels done up weirdly in the baggy purple cotton scrubs so familiar to me in my own life with another sort of nurse.
Ellen wasn't first. That honor went to what seemed to be an Indian or Pakistani man accompanied by a very elegant lady who turned out to be his sister.
”I just got this done Wednesday”, she whispered to me, behind the Terminator sunglasses that marked those who didn't wish to harm the miracle they'd been gifted. Whispered from the chair beside me, even though we were separated from the doctor by perhaps two inches of tempered glass, “he wouldn't have done it if I hadn't... I had to drive him here myself!”
And what an amazing thing it was. Not only did you have a student's view of the operating theater, but mounted on the far wall was a television set that allowed you to see exactly what the surgeon was seeing. Two eyelid clamps was all it took to turn a human eye into an abstract thing, more fried egg than visual organ.
An incomprehensibly large piece of hardware, probably in real life no more than finger-sized, was set over the eye, and only as you saw two hands very carefully twisting a knurled knob sideways did you realize what it was for. Sure enough, once the device was removed a tiny clamp delicately moved a piece of the eye aside, like you pull the wrap off a microwave dinner. A few disco-lights later, and it was done. A repeat of the procedure, and all was finished.
”Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”
I wasn't sure I caught it the first time. The only thing I really knew was someone who had probably worn glasses their whole life walked out with a slightly sheepish look, holding in their own hands, gingerly, the glasses that were once a vital part of their lives, now cradled by an adult like they'd discovered a stuffed animal in the attic of their childhood home, after their parents had passed away.
And then it was Ellen's turn. Because of a quirk of biology, she had to utilize a different, older procedure that would preserve more of her cornea, but at the cost of considerably more discomfort. This time, there would be no peeling back of a cellophane cover. Instead, a saline wash pushed aside a light pudding scum fried off by a miracle of science. Repeated exactly once, and it was done. This time, though, I was watching for it.
”Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”
I have never worn glasses in my whole life. I really have no concept of how important such devices can become if they, and they alone, enable the basic human need to see. Living with this onerous burden of a powerful but at the same time fragile construct for three quarters of a lifetime is something I can't even begin to understand.
Or so I thought, until I witnessed two different people, one of whom I knew intimately, suddenly freed of this burden. In the time it takes you to eat a meal, they were transformed from a limping cripple to someone free to run down the sunset. Someone who could wake up and see their child smile without bits of glass in the way. It was, almost literally, beyond my ken.
”Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”
As Westerners, particularly as Americans, we're taught to envy the savage. In a world ruled by cold machines and cold logic and cold, cold fate, we all too often mindlessly put on a pedestal those who have more faith than knowledge, live closer to nature than to science, who worship “no God but God.”
To them I can only say I witnessed, first hand, a primary miracle. Not the miracle of talking to someone on the other side of the world in an instant, not the miracle of traveling faster than the fastest horse, but of the miracle most basic to the human condition. I witnessed a blind person suddenly able to see.
And, unlike so many other sorts of miracles, this one was hard-won by human hands, human minds, human hearts. Tested and tested and re-tested until all the miracle was bled out of it, and people simply wondered how they could save the money for it, instead of wondering at the miracle it was.
I long ago ceased being impressed by the power of a single book, the power of a school, the power of a midrasa, to teach a human being how to be. That God died when I saw His power used for destruction, to slay innocents in the name of a simple, vengeful, powerless being so weak only the death of thousands could attempt to resurrect Him.
Today I saw instead God's real face. The face of humans who stopped long ago trusting what old men insisted was right and instead chose to use the faculties bequeathed to them by a deity, a power, a universe, that wanted nothing more than to build something that could, under its own steam, comprehend it. As grandiose as that seems, it was manifest to me in that simple waiting room, watching someone who feared life without glasses suddenly freed from their shackles.
”Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”
Jeff gets another no-prize for bringing us photographic proof of why some airport guys are about to lose their jobs:
A cargo plane being unloaded at Los Angeles International Airport tipped backward Thursday, stranding seven workers 40 feet in the air for about an hour.
WIth pic! Nearly every tricycle-gear plastic model you build is too tail-heavy (the originals have big heavy engines and flight gear to balance things), so they nearly all do this. I had no idea the real deal had this tendency too.
Jeff gets a no-prize with a (now illegal) big wing on the back for bringing us this worrying report about a Canadian insurance development:
As with muscle cars of yore, which faded away as much because of jacked-up insurance rates as the triple whammy of high gas prices, government emissions rules and safety regulations, insurance companies are embarking on a collision course with the booming population of drivers who insist on tuning their sport compact rides
I've seen insurance companies do this twice now, once to the original muscle cars in the early 70s, and again in the mid 90s when the pony cars and "serious" Japanese stuff got really fast. They're not all ricers, and dammit it's my car let me do what I want to it. This is definitely a trend to keep an eye one.
Instead of apologizing [for accusing the UN of using its ambulances as Pali transports], the IDF and Channel 10 have proof of the use of UN ambulances by armed Palestinians, and they were driven around willingly by UN ambulance drivers.
And these are the people certain members of the peanut gallery are upset about us not getting approval from?
BBCnews does its best to summarize brain-crunching astrophysics with this report on new developments in cosmological theory. Turns out that recent observations of the cosmological background radiation (the leftover heat signature of the Big Bang) indicate the universe is much larger than it would appear by looking at. Involves the distance a light year travels getting longer as the universe expanded. If I'm reading it right, it provides a nice explanation for why the sky is dark, as well as why it wouldn't be possible (assuming you had a large enough telescope) to see the back of your own head from space.
Told you it was confusing.
Seen at the wheel of what I swear to God is not her future prom ride, my Alfa Spider
It's not this picture I'm worried about... it's the one I'll take in 15 years...
And you just keep yer nasty mean Alfa comments to yerself, ya hear?
This "Nuclear Weapon Design 101" article is really nifty as long as you don't think too much about it. Especially startling is it's matter-of-fact discussions of countries the mainstream media just think might have or have had (or have tried to build) nukes (North Korea, South Africa, Iraq). Also provides confirmation of something that's been hinted at in several books and documentaries I've read/seen over the years... there is essentially no upper limit to the destructive power of an H-bomb. Once a country figures out how to make one (the article implies only a few have, the usual suspects), a planet buster is as possible as a bunker buster.
Which is why I personally think the underground facilities Iran is beavering away at have a clock ticking on them somewhere. I'm hoping it's in a B-2 hangar, but at this point I'd be nearly as happy if it were an Israeli squadron of F-15s. At least they don't even pretend to care if they piss off Arabs.
Oh come on. Do you really think it's an accident we've been working on deep-penetration precision weapons for the past ten years? What, you think we want to just root out guys in caves with these things?
Fark linked up this Wired article detailing a new theory about the extinction of the dinosaurs. By examining new geological evidence, a group of scientists believes most of the dinosaurs were probably killed off in a matter of hours, not months or years as previously though:
Using estimates based on existing research, the five researchers calculated that the energy released by the asteroid strike was equivalent to that in 100 million megatons of TNT. The force of the impact would have thrown debris high into the air, much of it burning up while still in the atmosphere, the report said. This, in turn, would have turned the Earth into a giant broiler oven.
Yup, 100 million megatons. In computerspeak, assuming I didn't drop a decimal, that's 100 tera tons (as in terabytes). For comparison, the largest open-air nuclear device ever detonated was 60 megatons.
So, assuming further observations back up these predictions, it would seem the difference between survival and extinction was mostly determined by how well you could duck.
Ok, so I'm working on a new time tracking system for work. We're paid bi-weekly, and this time instead of having the system enter the pay periods into the database "on the fly", I'm going to just enter 30 years worth of them all at once. Makes things simpler.
But in doing this I stumbled onto something probably most math majors know about, but which I had never encountered before:
26 pay periods x 14 days = 364 days
So where does that damned extra day go? Are we all getting gypped somehow? This is such a common thing I can't help but think it must be in a computer programming textbook somewhere. Anyone ever come across this? What's the answer?
3:45 pm, Update: Solved it. The trick was not to look at the pay periods, but to look at the fiscal years to which they belonged. To wit:
So, the solution is to keep an eye out on the pay period dates. When the start and end date of the first pay period of a new fiscal year are completely inside the second quarter, then assign that pay period to the previous year and assign the next pay period to the "new" one.
Effectively, every 14 years a fiscal year will come along with 27 pay periods in it instead of 26. A google search reveals this to in fact be the case. Sort of like an old mechanical typewriter whose bell "rings" after fourteen key presses.
Sometimes this job seems to be nothing more than the computer helpdesk equivalent of wiping grownup's bottoms (true, it doesn't smell as bad, but it's a lot more frustrating). But, every once in awhile, it's really cool.
We had one of these things, mom would try anything to get us to spell and do math. The problem, of course, was not that we couldn't learn, it was that we were smarter than the teachers and didn't think learning from stupid people was productive*. Still, it was the closest we got to a computer until well into college/the Army, so we wore the batteries out anyway. 4 C cell batteries too as I recall.
* Yes, it was arrogant, and no, we weren't smarter than they were, at least in some important ways. We just knew more about things we thought were important. Yes, I know this bodes ill for all of us when Olivia enters school. That's why I'm never moving back into the sticks... at least in this area there's a decent chance of a school that will challenge her.
Liberal media? What Liberal media? Don't you watch Fox news?
Oh, that liberal media:
Journalists at national media outlets are more liberal and less conservative than nine years ago, and while in 1995 they were upset that the media were too critical of President Clinton, they are now disturbed that the media are going too easy on President Bush, a just-released survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found.
Surprising? Not really. A nice sock full of wet sand I can bop the peanut gallery with? Absolutely.
In the "just-when-you-thought-it-didn't-get-any-weirder" category, we have The Case of the Blood Spattered House:
Police called in bloodstain experts and specially trained dogs when they arrived at the Stacys' home Tuesday to find gore splattered in the kitchen and several other rooms, mostly on the floors and low on the walls.
Thing is, both of these people were home the whole time, and they apparently heard and saw nothing. Of course, they're in their 90s, so anything is possible. However, both are completely fine, with no obvious injuries. The blood is human, so it's not like a wounded possum was wandering around or anything.
Still, something's very fishy (as it were) here. Houses don't normally bleed human blood. Well, most houses don't anyway. Maybe the Amityville Horror has decided to go into retirement?
Scientific American is carrying this brief article summarizing new work in the field of quasar research. Quasars are hyper-energetic objects found in very distant parts of our universe. Because they're so distant, they also give us an idea of what the universe was like much earlier in its life. They were once thought to be formed from a combination of supermassive black holes and giant galaxies. However, this research seems to indicate much smaller galaxies are capable of hosting them. This has strong implications for quasar theory, and therefore cosmological theory has a whole.
Slashdot linked up this BBCnews article detailing the successful efforts of a Nepalese man to connect the most remote parts of Nepal to the internet, and thereby to the world. By using wireless technologies, he was able to bypass inconveniences like horrific weather, a mostly vertical landscape, and the occasional rebel faction. Far from being suspicious, the villagers seem to be embracing the technology, using it to communicate with nearby villages, buy and sell livestock, and even exchange veterinary tips.
First the UK, now Malaysia:
A Malaysian medicine man claims to have trapped a shape-changing vampire in a jar ... It is reported to be the size of two tennis balls and resembles a big wad of cotton with a small face.
Somehow I don't think this one will be seducing young innocents walking through the graveyard. Well, maybe an innocent tennis ball or two.
My mom sent an email that many of you may already have seen, that starts like this:
My husband was called on Wednesday from "VISA" and I was called in Thursday from "MasterCard". It worked like this: Person calling says, "This is Carl Patterson and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud department at VISA...
As with most really amazing/frightening/incredible e-mail I get periodically, this one has made the rounds for quite some time:
There's no way to verify whether this anonymous, first-person account is authentic, but the type of fraud it warns against is real enough, so the message is worth heeding even if it is slightly misleading.
It's misleading in that it gives the impression that this type of scam is brand new and only pertains to the three-digit security code now found on the backs of most credit cards.
It seems the only real difference between internet fraud and any other sort of fraud is that the theives can steal stuff from you faster. Or, in too many cases, you get bamboozled into providing the wrong information faster.
Space.com is carrying this story summarizing recent findings about epilepsy and the full moon. By analyzing more than 700 siezures recorded at the Tampa, FL General Hospital, doctors were able to conclusively rule out any gravitational influence from lunar phases.
Werewolves, on the other hand...
Slashdot linked up this SecurityFocus tale of two Area 51 "watchers". It seems a few years ago two guys discovered the Air Force (or whoever it is that really controls the place) had planted motion detectors well out into the unrestricted public land that surrounds the test facility. By using radio receivers and GPS units, they were able to map a good portion of this network, which apparently is quite extensive.
Unfortunately to do this they needed to dig up and disassemble each detector to figure out its identifying number. The feds apparently turned a blind eye to it all until the men started inviting local journalists along to report on the gizmos. The reaction was quick, decisive, and typically under-handed; the FBI came knocking, a sensor "went missing", property was seized, the works. One of the men was actually charged with obstruction (later dropped after negotiations).
The sensors themselves are still out there, but have been tinkered with so they're a lot harder to find. Gotta love big brother!
Note: Also worth a look is Dreamland Resort, a gathering place for all sorts of "gleaned" information and photographs of the famous test facility.
Christian Science Monitor is carrying this tidbit that notes after 12 years ultra-uptight Singapore is finally lifting its ban on chewing gum. Of course, it's never as simple as that:
Before Singaporeans even think about unwrapping a pack, however, they must submit their names and ID card numbers. If they don't, pharmacists who sell them gum could be jailed up to two years and fined $2,940.
No surprise that the primary motivator for lifting the ban was a congressman in whose district Wrigley Co. makes its home. Well, hey, that's how it's supposed to work.
Remember that Rumsfeld story that ripped across the blogosphere last week, the one about him banning cell phone cameras? "Doesn't-he-have-anything-better-to-do?", "don't-you-have-some-prisoners-you-need-to-stack?", "Sadr-is-waving-his-ass-at-us-get-busy-you" sorts of things were everywhere. Well, guess what:
it was not actually a mainstream news source which first reported [the camera ban story]. That ... was actually a satirical story from The Daily Farce.
Over the weekend, several news items appeared, which seem to quote Rumsfeld, but actually use the phrase from The Daily Farce word for word.
The story goes on to report that, far from being banned, digital cameras are everywhere in the US military. Even stranger, there would appear to be no formal mechanism in place for reviewing or even setting standards about cameras and photography.
Which kinda puts a significant dent into all the dark conspiracies and accusations of outright atrocity the radical peace fringe bleats about. It's easy to censor reporters whose idea of a sneaky expose is re-arranging Sadr's press releases and quoting satirical sites as gospel. But if there's a camera in every foot locker, a lens with every private, how can we not eventually know about injustice and atrocity?
Unless, of course, it's just not happening, at least not on the scale so many claim it to be.
There are a new series of paypal scam e-mails making the rounds. I almost got snagged by the first one; it was just dumb luck that those thieves didn't make their "home" site look enough like paypal's. The second one I got I had fun with, telling them all sorts of hokey stuff.
At any rate, if you receive any e-mail notices about paypal irregularities, strange activity, security confirmation, etc., no matter how legitimate it looks just discard them. If you're a little worried (I was), go visit paypal directly (type in the URL by hand) and check your account.
Under no circumstances should you ever give your account info out because of an e-mail notice of any kind, no matter how legitimate it may look
This public service announcement brought to you by AMCGLTD. You will now be returned to your regularly scheduled fragfest.
My brother is an inveterate golf nut, but I think even he may have some qualms about the Kabul Golf Club:
The first hole, a 371-yard (340-meter) par 4, drops sharply then flattens out across a barren, rocky stretch crossed by a gravel road.
Caddies are sent ahead to spot balls that otherwise easily disappear in the glaring sun on parched, near-white earth.
Supposedly they've cleared all the mines, but something tells me an out-of-bounds shot would probably be better left where it lands.
Always read the coments, wherein on FARK we found this... um... well, this. Not to be missed: brake "vents" made out of home-depot HVAC vent covers, colored contact paper interior decoration, and a screwed-on home-made "body kit".
Look, I'm all for customizing a car, but a rivet gun and some matching spraypaint does not a custom 'rod make.
Christian Science Monitor is carrying this report detailing new developments in the study of evolutionary biology:
Mounting evidence suggests that by harvesting only the biggest fish - or biggest mammals, for that matter - mankind is unwittingly forcing many species to evolve rapidly. This process, called "contemporary evolution," isn't taking place over centuries. It's on a fast track that can happen within a few decades.
They cite such diverse examples as cod and sheep. Further, unlike simple overfishing or over-hunting, this sort of thing has much longer-term effects. You don't just grow populations back if their genes have altered how they grow.
The findings suggest new, alternative ways of wildlife management, such as making efforts to more naturally mimic "regular" predation. While this is comparatively simple to do with land animals (and seems to be working in Europe already), fisheries face more challenges to reach a balance.
Don't like the "gummint"? Think it's all sliding into a cesspit of uncontrolled dancing and guys kissing each other on TV? Decided the government isn't part of the problem, it's the only problem? Boy, have we got a solution for you:
Christians must now draw a line in the sand and unite in a sovereign state to dissolve our bond with the current union comprised as the United States of America.
Those of you in the peanut gallery shouldn't laugh too hard. After all, radical lefties want to move us all into enclaves so Bambi & Thumper can roam free once more.
First site via Reflections in D Minor.
Medical professionals may be interested in this study by an Israeli med student:
Among 42 male surgical clinicians surveyed at the New York Hospital, Queens, nearly half were toting infection-causing pathogens on their ties.
See! I told you the damned things were dangerous!
BBCnews is carrying this article detailing a new discovery in genetic research. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have identified a gene called, I kid you not, "frizzle 6", that seems to control hair patterns in mice. While this at first seems to fall under the, "still no cure for cancer" category, these genes are also implicated in things like spinal neuron growth and blood vessel development. Just because it starts out obscure doesn't mean it'll stay that way.
Taken as a whole, the Guardian account paints the picture of a raid on the Syrian border on an identified target at which civilian casualties were also inflicted. That is probably what happened.
Of course, this conclusion is reached not only by reading what the accounts say, but also by inferring what they do not.
Update: More analisys is here:
If it is true that [according to Iraqi tribal custom] the women and children sleep in one place and men in another, then the bomb hit the tent with the men. The women and children may have been killed in or as they emerged from the villa which was the subject of an infantry assault.
Trust me, much better dissection than you'll ever get out of CNN.
Most of the time it's a bee, but this morning's "moron drivinig into scenery" story is brought to you by a cicada:
A Montgomery County woman said a cicada caused her to crash her car into a fire hydrant on Sunday.
Normally I'd laugh a lot harder, but Ellen yells every time one thunks into the windshield. Which of course does me no end of good. Of course, if one actually flew in the car, well, there'd be some frantic braking for sure. Which is not great on the highways around DC, where the "2 second rule" has grown a decimal and become the ".2 second rule". Damned tailgaters.
Damion gets a button-pushing no-prize for bringing us BUSHGAME!, a damned elaborate flash game that'll remind you of any number of NES side-scrollers. Only, like, with porn and poorly-thought-out liberal politics. What's not to love?
It took me awhile to get through the Ultimate War Game, but enough other people linked it I eventually gave it a shot. I'm glad I did, because otherwise I would've missed these bon mots:
I want that "Public Support" meter to rise and fall according to Troops Lost, Length of Conflict, Innocents Killed and Whether or Not There is Anything Else On TV That Week.
I want to have to choose between 40 dead troops or 400 dead children, and be damned to Hell by chubby pundits from the safety of their studios regardless of which way I go.
I want fat, left-wing documentarians carefully editing the only the most incriminating footage, countered only by low-IQ country music singers crooning my praises while in American Flag-colored cowboy hats.
I want a big-name hero unit who rallies the troops with his Magical Sword of Slaying, only to be killed when an ammo crate falls off a loading dock.
Spaceflightnow is carrying this detailed article describing a new theory about the formation of the Solar System. It suggests that the Sun was not formed inside a quiet corner of a nondescript nebula, but instead was formed as the result of a violent chain of events involving supermassive stars and their inevitable supernovas. If proven out by further predictions and evidence, it could profoundly change ideas about cosmological and even biological evolution.
Currently we are fine with our neighbors. They are quiet, polite, and nice people. Of course, we've had our share of not-so-nice-neighbors, like the family of nine illegals in a single-bedroom apartment, the guy who would dump our laundry out of the machine and then take them over for the next six hours, and of course the Rasta with an amazing Marijuana habit (although Ellen tended to stand next to the wall and sniff a lot when he lived next door).
But they were nothing, nothing, like what these people discovered about their neighbor. Now, when we've moved, we've tended to leave things cluttered and certainly quite a bit smellier than normal (5 cats will do that), but our fridge and bathrooms were spotless compared to this horror. I'm sure the landlords were oh-so-happy when they did their post-moveout inspection.
Update: Mom will probably not be surprised to learn the guy was a Veteran who's next stop was a VA hospital (third-from-last question).
NewScientist is carrying this summary of a new theory on bird evolution. A group of scientists is now putting forward the hypothesis that birds actually started out with four wings for gliding, which later developed into the two-wing flapping model we're all familiar with today. The description made my eyes cross trying to imagine a bi-planed bird, but in actuality they're thinking the "extra" wings covered the rear legs. They've got some fossil evidence, but not a lot, as bird fossils are quite rare. More will need to be discovered for confirmation, but it is definitely an interesting idea.
This super traffic crunch is funny only because nobody got hurt. Well, actually I'm not sure I'd have minded if the perps got bashed around a bit, but waddayagonnado? Includes very impressive after-accident pictures.
It's called persistent sexual arousal syndrome, and it seems to be the female analog of whatever it is that cause guys to have stiffies for days at a time:
Ten victims of the rare condition have been documented by Boston University's Institute of Sexual Medicine.
Of course, unlike permanent woodies, this doesn't seem to cause injury in the long term.
The Washington Post today carried this interesting article about new genetic research into the history of dog breeds. Turns out a lot of breeds thought to be ancient are really very new, while others you wouldn't think to be all that old go back very far indeed.
The seducer of the night. You are the Faerie of
Darkness. You do things your own way. People
are toys to you, and you like to mold them to
do what you want. You have a lot of friends, or
a lot of people who consider you a friend(or a
lover). People are drawn to that wild smile of
yours, and your promise to allow them to enjoy
life. Ignoring the consequences... You live for
risks. Even if the risk is breaking someones
What's your inner Faerie?
brought to you by Quizilla
What do YOU think?
American businessman Nicholas Berg's body was found on May 8 near a Baghdad overpass; a video of his supposed decapitation death by knife appeared on an alleged al-Qaeda-linked website (www.al-ansar.biz) on May 11. But according to what both a leading surgical authority and a noted forensic death expert separately told Asia Times Online, the video depicting the decapitation appears to have been staged.Read entire article here.
Questions of when the video's footage was taken, and the time elapsed between the shooting of the video's segments, were raised by both experts, reflecting a portion of the broader and ongoing video controversy. Nordby, speaking to Asia Times Online from Washington state, noted: "We don't know how much time wasn't filmed," adding that "there's no way of knowing whether ... footage is contemporaneous with the footage that follows".
And Berg is seen on the beheading videotape in what appears to be US military prison-issue clothing, sitting in what appears to be a US military-type white chair, virtually identical to those photographed as used at Abu Ghraib prison. However, the taking of hostages has occurred in the region, and beheadings are not unheard of.
I guess that's a minor proof that if enough monkeys type on enough keyboards Shakespear just might come out. Or at least Robin Williams.
Slashdot linked up the ultimate in real-world "action figures" ... geek man! Get yours today!
And I'll have you know I don't wear glasses or a pocket protector. Anymore.
Slashdot linked up this amusing article about a journalist doing something useful for a change, by drinking (in two separate one hour sessions) thirteen "energy" driniks like Red Bull and its competitors:
Stacker2 Stinger, with a vicious-looking bee on the can, came in two flavors, Pounding Punch and Sinful Citrus. Pounding Punch tastes like a nonalcoholic version of the Pagan Pink Ripple, a budget wine with tropical flavors that was a landmark beverage for me. Its distinctive hangover, a sneak preview of a cheap and tawdry death, made me realize while still in college why it is very important to drink in moderation. Sinful Citrus combines an insipid, vaguely lemon flavor with a shocking blue-green color. It looks like a product intended to be poured in the toilet. That's where it went in my house, at any rate. I chased it with the Tang-like KMX and a bullet-shaped can of Bottle Rocket.
I've never touched the stuff, don't plan on it. Our inveterate "try anything once" fitness junky Ellen, however, is often caught eyeing those skinny silver cans. Trust me, she's hyper enough already.
Very very cool.
Pat gets a no-prize for bringing us this NY TImes report on new developments with the 9/11 commission. One of their "leading theories" about what went so badly wrong at ground zero was that a piece of radio equipment, called a "repeater", was malfunctioning somehow. Now the person in charge has come forward and stated that the system worked.
Personally, I stopped taking the commission seriously after they found fault with the emergency response in New York. This was an event that was quite simply unprecedented, and the fact that the emergency systems worked at all was in my opinion the real achievement. Nothing, nobody, and nowhere were the people, mechanisms, places, and procedures designed to deal with two widebodys slamming into the tallest buildings in Manhatten.
The commission should be used as a foward-looking mechanism... what can we do to respond better, train better, and have better equipment? That all they're really doing is digging around hunting for people to blame is predictable, but that they pointed the finger of blame at people who gave up their lives to rescue others is inexcusable.
Suse 9.1, thank you very much
And this is what I do for fun.
* Athlon 64 FX-53, ATI Radeon 9800 XP, Asus SK8N w/ Nvidia nforce2, 2 80 GB SATA 7200 RPM 8 MB cache (ridiculously cheap for the performance) in Promise RAID-0 array, 512 MB ECC Registered High Performance memory (not cheap... will be 1 GB soon). Fast enough for ya?
Scientific American has this interesting article explaining just what, exactly, "shin splints" are. When Ellen and I were walking to get exercise, I'd get shin pain so bad it would affect the way I walked. It would seem I was actually suffering from "exertional compartment syndrome". Now I bike, so it doesn't much matter.
Scrappleface hits a solid one with this latest development in the war of words and the oil crisis:
"It's time for George W. Bush to release the strategic cash reserves by repealing tax cuts, and instituting an immediate rebate to the government of monies which taxpayers would have paid under a Democrat administration," [Kerry] said. "That money rightfully belongs to the government, but Bush has squandered it by leaving it in the hands of the proletarians."
Reminds me a lot of some folks in the peanut gallery who think tax cuts take money from the government and give it to the people. Hint: It's your money to begin with. They're just taking less of it.
Truth in Advertising, a look through reality-colored-glasses at what really goes on in a standard office environment. Note: Movie link, but quicktime so mac users can see it.
Actually, our office was only like this for the three year tenure of our previous Director. On either side of that time I've been very fortunate in that the people in charge were (and now are) generally competent and where they should be. But it was bumpy for a very long time. Never trust a male executive who's under 5'4".
Space.com is carrying this nifty article about "Iridium flares". Seems the satellites that make up the Iridium communications system have a quirk in their design that can briefly turn their solar arrays into mirrors, causing them to shine several times brighter than Venus for very brief moments. To spot one on purpose, you have to know exactly where you are and what time zone you're in. The article links to several sites that can take that information and predict when you'll be able to see the next flare.
Fark linked up news that pringles is going to start printing stuff on their chips:
The questions will be printed with red or blue food coloring. Someday there could be ads printed on the chips, too. But Egasti says no decision has been made yet on the edible advertising.
I can't wait until they figure out how to put videos on them.
One falls from the ceiling of your hermetically sealed office, that's not even anywhere near a window, and bounces around on your desk. So that's what cardiac arrest feels like!
Ok, look, I know there are mac users out in the world that aren't complete incompetents. I happen to be good friends with two. Out of the two mac users in the office, one seems very solid. But I swear to God, as someone who's worked with PCs of all sorts all his professional life, the ratio of morons to competents is noticeably higher in the mac world than in that of the PC. Case in point:
The Scenario: A "corporate" sexual harassment seminar (Evil Scott: "what? Are they gonna teach us how?" Good Scott: "Shaddup you").
The instructor has one of those nifty new Mac laptops (silver, looks like it could stop a bullet). I'd been told about this, and said, "no problem! Our LCD projector will work with it." Which, a few years ago, was true. Back then Macs used the universal DIN-9 VGA connector that everyone else in the civilized world uses. Every projector or monitor in the world can connect to that. So the next day she shows up, I get out the projector, and pull everything out in the conference room.
Me: "Great, we'll hook you right up."
Instructor: [proudly shows off shiny, sleek, connector-less Mac laptop]
Me: "umm... does it have ports?" Far as I could tell it didn't even have a damned power cord.
Instructor: [PAUSE] (I swear I could hear the claxons this time... *graunk* *graunk* *graunk* "All hamsters to battle stations! Prepare for maximum wheel RPM!" *graunk* *graunK* *graunk*)
Me: "Ports? ... Connectors?"
Instructor: [audible CRUNCH as the wheels engage the gears] "Oh! Sure!" and down flips an even sleeker cover to open the "port bay". I'll give them this, Apple laptops are to PC laptops what Queen Noor is to Margaret Thatcher.
Of course, what I'd forgotten was that Mr. Jobs, in his infinite "do-you-want-to-sell-sugar-water-or-change-the-world" design wisdom, decided to equip all the new macs with very avant-guard (and I'm sure quite superior) digital connectors. Which of course nobody else uses on their display hardware.
The mac people in the audience will be nodding their heads and thinking, "yeah, so what? That's what the adapter is for." Well dealing with a genuine Mac on my network for the past year has taught me a few things. I knew all about that adapter.
But I also knew all about typical social-work-major computer skills.
Me: "Ah! You have one of the new ones. We'll need your adapter." Watch this... 3... 2... 1...
Instructor: [spoken with the same "had-a-rock-shoved-in-their-mouth" way that, say, a Trobriand Islander would trying to pronounce "Inglebert Humperdink"] "Ah-dap-ter?"
Me: [inside my head, Evil Scott looks over at Good Scott and says, "told ya. Pay up asshole."] "Yeah, there was an adapter that came with your computer."
Instructor: [*blink* *blink*]
Me: [inside my head, Evil Scott looks over at Good Scott and says, "HA! I love double or nothing. Pay me."] "Small thing, white, connectors on both ends, thin wire between them?"
Instructor: "Oh yeah! I remember that!"
Me: [waiting expectantly]
Instructor: "Yeah, no, I don't have that with me."
Me: [inside my head, Good Scott looks over at Evil Scott and says, "what? Did you think I was going to fall for it twice?"]
Now, let's savor this one for a bit. A laptop is meant to be carried all over the place. That's the point. Without this adapter, 75%, hell probably 90% of the world's displays are not going to work. Why would you need to carry around something that important? Damn thing'll probably just get lost.
Me: [inside my head, a wrestling match ensues as Good Scott struggles to keep Evil Scott from pushing the "SPEAK: 'such a shame when cousins marry'" button] "Be right back."
So off on a quest I go. First stop, the actual Mac in the office. This has an adapter. Unfortunately it also has an employee sitting in front of it. Next stop, the guy who has our "loaner" laptop. "Him? He's gone for a presentation." So now we're down to the parts bin.
After some rummaging I managed to dredge up an old Toshiba laptop. I'm greeted with a "Windows 95" screen, the first one I've seen in perhaps six years (probably the last time this was turned on). But by God it has power point on it. Surprising how little laptops have changed, this one has the big green eraser in the center of the keyboard for a mouse, just like the ones today.
Instructor: "What, exactly, should I use for a mouse on this thing?"
[inside my head, Evil Scott says to Good Scott, "This is just too easy..."]
Wanted to introduce everyone to Call for Backup, an extremely interesting blog written by a police officer and his wife. Excellent point-of-view from the other side of the "thin blue line". To get you started, don't miss Cuffing Ducks:
When you’re a Cop wife, you get to know the Officers. One of them got in an accident on Charlie’s day off, so both of us raced to the hospital ... the injured Officer is taped to a board to hold his neck and back steady. He can’t move even to get his ID out for the nurse. “Damn ducks,” he says.The disposition of a wayward Subway sandwich was worth the price of admission alone.
“What?” He looks like he’s got whiplash, but he sounds like he’s hallucinating.
“Those damn ducks. A woman was stopped in a forty mile an hour zone. A forth mile an hour zone on a blind hill. She’s stopped because there are ducks in the road. They’re just in the road, taking a break. I barely stopped in time. Obviously, not everyone did.“
New Scientist is carrying this report summarizing new findings regarding a biological construct I'd never heard of... "nanobacteria". Smaller than most viruses, they were first described by a Finnish group in 1998. The evidence was heavily criticised and then largely discredited on later examinations, and the consensus for a long time was that the particles didn't exist, or were perhaps some form of bizzare chemical crystallization not seen before.
However, a new group of scientists from the Mayo clinic have come back to the subject, and not only have they replicated the Finnish results, they've also produced more experimental evidence that seems to imply nanobacteria does in fact exist. However, this would appear to be a very hotly debated issue in microbiology, and it would seem the Mayo people have a lot of convincing to do.
Slashdot linked up this Eurogamer article that analyzes a recent interview with a Microsoft executive concerning their new XNA initiative:
Far from being the suspected re-marketing and re-branding of the DirectX set of middleware tools for PC, Mobile and Xbox ... It wants to own the entire standard of gaming across every platform.
However, one of the rabble posted this insightful counterpoint:
The whole point of XNA is provide a solid common library, which focuses on common game development tasks. This allows different platforms to very easily interoperate, but does not make it significantly easier to port games to other platforms.
Sony seems to be tap dancing quite fast enough to stay ahead of Microsoft. For now. They're also far more diversified, so an eventual (inevitable?) defeat will absolutely not sink the company. However, I have a strong feeling this will all be very, very bad for Nintendo. I can already see the signs. "Available for PS2 and Xbox" accompanies most games, while "Available for Game Cube" appears to be getting rarer and rarer.
True, Nintendo produces its own line of unique, quirky games, and what is available for it tends to be available nowhere else. But a console company only thrives when outside developers embrace it. Microsoft wants developers, and is extremely good at attracting them*. Nintendo, to this day, seems to expect developers, and that is not a good strategy when the Borg is knocking on your door.
* The most unremarked aspect of the success of Windows, hell all of Microsoft's business, is Microsoft's superb, first-in-class development tools. The power of MS's "one ring" lies not in shady business deals or back-room connivance, it lies in Visual Studio and the thousands of programmers that enjoy using it.
Sony's path to success was, as I understand it, tread on the same ground. But nobody's better at this than Microsoft. It's going to be a very interesting time for console fans in the coming years.
~"AWwww it's a wheeled... HOUSE"~
Ellen likes the VW bugs, but not so much she'd move into a house shaped like one. The funniest thing is at $1600-ish a month, it costs about as much as our old single bedroom apartment.
Fark (of all places) linked up this business report on how speculative money has entered the oil market, driving up prices perhaps as much as $10 per barrel more than demand would otherwise cause. Some analysts are thinking $50 per barrel is not out of the question this year. Right now it's very, very good to be an oil producer. What I think everyone has forgotten is that when this bubble bursts, it's going to be very bad to be an oil producer.
The whole reason OPEC got its act together in the late 90s was because uncontrolled production had glutted the market and nearly gutted the economies of oil producing states. The idea was to keep oil prices in a "sustainable" $25-$28 per barrel range, enough to make money but not enough to force corpulent westerners to sell their gas-guzzling SUVs.
Well, something certainly went wrong. People involved in oil production, which includes the governments in states like Texas and Alaska, are making money hand-over-fist at the moment, but nobody expects these prices to last forever. Collapsing oil prices forcing sheiks into the street may sound appealing, but it's more complicated than that. When it snaps, and it will, it won't just blanch the Saudi economy, it'll probably pop the wheels off Russia's as well. The difference is, of course, the Russians still have nukes.
OPEC seems to have forgotten the lesson it was taught in the late 70s and early 80s: the US may piss and moan about high oil prices, but if they stay high enough long enough we will change our consumption habits, and that will have a profound, very long term effect on oil prices. Western economies can survive high, even very high, oil prices because they're rich and very diversified. It's a lot harder for oil producing nations to survive low, especially very low, oil prices, because that's all they've got.
You see, with this much money sloshing (as it were) around, there are very heavy pressures for increasing production capacity at any cost. Oil companies and oil producers have for the past ten years been pretty good at balancing production and refinery increases with price goals, but with prices this high it'll be very hard not to let it all get out of control. Building "pipeline-and-truck" capacity is slower and less flexible than the lunatic swings a commodity market can take. Like office space, there's a very real risk of a production glut as capacity oversteps demand.
The last long-term sag in prices nearly skewered the entire Middle East and a big chunk of South America. The prices are much higher, and have been that way much longer, this time around. If the oil market crashes to scale, it will be very, very bad for our "friends" with the turbans. The only real problem is it'll be very bad for a whole bunch of other people we don't necessarily want to be put out on the streets.
A lot of politicians will get blamed for the bad stuff that happens, and a lot of other ones (perhaps the same ones, depending on who wins the next election) will take credit for all the good stuff that happens, but the bottom line is oil is a market-driven commodity. Conventional wisdom and foil-hat conspiracies notwithstanding, governments have very little control over the market price of oil*. You can throw rocks at Bush now and then flowers at him (or Kerry) later, but as with Clinton a decade ago they'll just happen to be the ones standing at the station as the train goes by. The engine is bigger than any of them and is driven by forces nobody completely understands, let alone controls.
Buckle your seatbelts folks... it's going to get a lot bumpier soon.
* That's market price of crude oil, not the pump price of fuel. Pump prices are quite heavily influenced by governments, because fuel is one of the most productive commodities to tax. In the US, something like 40% of what you ultimately pay for fuel ends up in some beauracrat's coffer. In Europe it's much worse. But governments all over the world went on spending binges in the '90s, and nobody's going to cut those taxes just to help something as abstract as a taxpayer.
AviationNow is carrying this report summarizing the latest gizmology to be studied by the army:
The Army plans to deploy a hand-held intelligence gathering and communication device that would allow each soldier to receive situational awareness information as well as transmit battlefield reports, Iwicki told NetDefense in an April 19 interview. "This would bridge the [information] gap ... Information goes directly to the soldier and the soldier's information goes directly to the enterprise."
Every day, in every way, we get closer and closer to a tricorder. If the damned things start to whistle when you turn them on I'm outta here.
FYI, just in case you didn't know, gargantuan human remains have been found in the south-east region of Saudi Arabia. Complete with to-scale "no-we-didn't-photoshop-it" picture. I wonder if we could get these guys to hook up with the Landover Baptist Church people?
I've seen computer cases made out of wood, metal, PVC pipe, even plexiglass. I bet you have too (well, Damion has anyway). But I've never seen a computer case made out of a life-sized anime sculpture before. Props to the guy's skills, but all that styrofoam... I wonder if it overheats?
BBCnews is carrying this summary of recent findings concerning Sima de los Huesos (the pit of bones), in Atapuerca, near the town of Burgos Spain. The find contained the remains of 23 individuals, considered to be Homo heidlebergensis (what used to be called late Homo erectus), about 350,000 years old. So far the demographics of just who's in the pit seem to indicate a massacre, or perhaps a plague of some sort.
Weirdlinks led us to De Sanguine Christi, a holy relic celebration in Bruges (Belgium, I think) that goes back to at least the thirteenth century. Seven hundred years of celebration ain't nothing to sneeze at folks. The relic itself is supposed to contain a cloth that was used to wipe Jesus's wounds (or something like that), and appears to have been looted from Constantinople when it was sacked by Crusaders early in the 13th century.
Blood, theft, peasants, knights, sacked cities and looted relics. God I love the middle ages!
Washington Post is carrying this summary of new developments in the search for "dark energy", a force that seems to allow the universe to expand faster than it otherwise would. New observations using the Chandra X-ray telescope seem to confirm current predictions about this phenomenon. However, a lot is still very unclear, like whether it really is constant, or varies over distance or time, whether the universe will collapse, etc.
The time frame is around 10 billion years, so it's not like they're under a deadline or anything.
Now, as someone who is "skeered" of motorcycles in general (thanks mom!), I've always thought the guys who drive crotch rockets (super bikes) were, well, a little cracked. Who would want do go 200 mph on what is essentialy (to me) a glorified bar stool with handlebars?
Well, after Robert H. sent us this Quicktime video of some European dude actually going 200 mph, on the highway, in the dark, well, I still think crotch-rocketeers are a little cracked. But I can also see the appeal. I think the tach had a 10k RPM redline. Impressive. Most impressive.
This is half a test to see if the vampire folk actually read the rest of the site ;).
At any rate, I have received word from our hosting provider that a) our favorite bishop has been in contact with them and b) they told him to, essentially, "bugger off". However, in the process, the term "net.kook" got bandied about. Turned out Ellen had never heard of it, no idea what it meant. So I did a little digging, and found a superb definition (usenet oldtimers need not apply, we all know this by heart):
[Usenet; originally and more formally, `net.kook'] Term used to describe a regular poster who continually posts messages with no apparent grounding in reality. Different from a troll, which implies a sort of sly wink on the part of a poster who knows better, kooks really believe what they write, to the extent that they believe anything.
Of course, as far as I'm concerned, both sides of our "vampire chronicles" fall under this definition. But then again, I'm an old, bitter skeptic prone to throwing rocks at children who stray too close to my lawn*. I'm not to be trusted.
* It's a literary reference mom. I don't throw rocks at children. Well, I don't hit them, anyway.
Well, we missed them when they went by, but SaveFarscape has transcripts of recent on-line chats with Farscape cast & crew.
Those who want a general update on the status of the upcoming miniseries will want to read Brian Henson's chat, while fans of the show will not want to miss Ben and Claudia's channeling of Laurel and Hardy that happened a few days before. Maybe now we'll finally watch the last episode... it's been sitting on our TiVo for over a year now!
Industry watchers say it's no longer a question of whether Internet grocery can be successful, but rather of how big it will become.
Our friends Kris & Damion (Kramion?) have been using Peapod for a long time, and they love it. Considering the fee on a $65 or greater purchase is $5.00, we might give this thing another look.
Via The Speculist
Instapundit linked up this perceptive essay that asks, "Why are the architects of Kosovo so down on Gulf War II?"
Like Gulf War II, the 78-day NATO air campaign in Kosovo was waged without the explicit authorization of the United Nations. (Of the two, the Iraq war had much more of a U.N. mandate, through Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq a "final opportunity" -- one it did not take -- to comply fully with all previous Security Council resolutions or else face "serious consequences.") Like Iraq, Yugoslavia was a sovereign country that was bombed into submission for essentially internal infractions. Both wars were expressions of American exasperation at European impotence in the face of dictatorial slaughter. Slobodan Milosevic, like Saddam Hussein, was described as a modern-day Adolf Hitler, eager to practice genocide against minority tribes while scrambling for horrible weapons to menace peaceful neighbors. Supporters of both wars frequently invoked the Munich Agreement of 1938, in which the West appeased Hitler rather than defend allied Czechoslovakia. Opponents of both wars warned that the target countries were colonially conceived multi-ethnic basket cases not conducive to postwar democratization. And the United States led the fight against both dictators despite urgent warnings from antiwar activists and multilateralism enthusiasts that each new bomb would lower the threshold for waging modern war. Kosovo made Iraq possible.
Especially recommended for those in the peanut gallery who draw distinctions between Kosovo and Iraq. Interesting to think that the former perhaps made the latter possible.
Remember AIM'ers, never click links people send you:
This is a website that allows you to set other peoples' away messages on AOL Instant Messenger™. Yes, you read that correctly. I am fully aware that unleashing this will fuel a surge of guys setting their friend's away messages to gay-themed messages in purple type. Who can blame them?
Anarchic fun for college-age morons. At least until AOL catches up with him. Users of non-AOL chat clients are not affected.
Duke University is reporting Lemurs are a lot smarter than they were originally given credit for:
Until now, primatologists believed lemurs to be primitive, ancient offshoots of the primate family tree, with far less intelligence than their more sophisticated cousins, monkeys, apes and humans. But at the Duke University Primate Center, with the gentle touch of his nose to a computer screen, the ringtail lemur called Aristides is teaching psychologist Elizabeth Brannon a startling scientific lesson -- that lemurs are, indeed, intelligent creatures.
However, unlike Monkeys or other "higher" primates, Lemurs need motivation. "Will work for food" is apparently their motto.
Also highly instructive in a "meta" sort of way is this Reuters report, which is essentially a rehash taken directly from the press release. Which is, of course, how something like 80% of all news is "reported".
I'm not sure if I believe this story about the ultimate in sexual ignorance:
A German couple who went to a fertility clinic after eight years of marriage have found out why they are still childless - they weren't having sex ... A clinic spokesman said ... "We are not talking retarded people here, but a couple who ... were simply unaware, after eight years of marriage, of the physical requirements necessary to procreate."
Yeah, religion is involved. Good to see not all of Europe's Christian wackos were stuffed on boats and shipped over here two hundred plus years ago. But sex is essentially instinctive. There's something else going on here I'll wager.
BBCnews is carrying this article summarizing a new expidition exploring a pyramid at Mexico's Teotihuacan. By using, get this, muon particle detection gear, it is hoped scientists can determine if there are any large, undiscovered voids inside. These voids would, if large enough, be a strong indication that the kings that built the pyramid are still buried somewhere inside.
I always find it amazing we use extreme high tech to explore the remains of people who didn't even know about the wheel. Historical bookends, if you will.
Sure, the numbers are IDF's, but while that may make the "foiled" number higher than it should be, the drop in the "successful" column cannot be papered over. In history, walls of this sort have not been very effective (c.f. China's Great Wall and our own southern border). However, like Morocco, Israel may have gotten lucky (for once) with a geography that naturally allows this sort of thing to work.
In the "people will steal any damned thing" category, we have this theft of two-and-a-half tons of used cooking oil and grease:
Police in Edmond, north of Oklahoma City, said on Thursday the grease bandits have hit an area of Mexican, Chinese and steak restaurants over the past three months.
I used to work at restaraunts, and I can tell you this stuff reeks. While it's worth money (about $380), one can't help but point out that if the thieves put this much effort into a real job, they'd be a lot better off. Further proof people turn to a life of crime because they're too stupid to do anything else.
While a little heavy on the weight-gain puns, this SPACE.com article still manages to convey a great celestial mystery... how large stars get, well, large. Current models nicely account for the formation of smallish stars like the sun, but anything over 8 solar masses can't be accounted for. However, since such "heavy" stars are common, scientists have some 'splainin to do.
Robert H. gets a stylishly fast no-prize for bringing us news of the latest Italian police car:
The latest addition to their fleet of cars is a Lamborghini sports car with a top speed of 192mph.
Not much room for holding 'perps, but in a car like that who cares?
Who needs a SnakeCharmer Whistleblatt 2000 (or whatever it is they're selling nowadays) when you can have the TrunkMonkey Theft Retrieval Systemtm instead? I especially like the meaty "thud" of the patented Perpetrator Neutralization Device.
Note: WMV video link. Mac users will need to jump through hoops to see it.
Let's all take a moment out of the busy, grim world to consider the wikipedia history of ABBA, everyone's 70's guilty pleasure. We had several ABBA recordings on 8-track when I was a kid, and to this day "Money Money Money" reminds me of deep woods off, little league baseball, and swimming pools. I'm sure most readers will go, "ABBA?!?... EEWwww!!!" but I defy you to resist humming the melody to "Chiquitita" if I put on the "Greatest Hits" CD.
Yeah, yeah, whatever, and I'm sure you never ever listen to pop music either.
Except when nobody's around.
Teens and twenty-somethings around the world take note: it's not cool to burst into flames just because your cell phone rings:
Flames shot up around a 21-year-old college student whose cell phone rang while he was pumping gas.
Sorta poetic revenge, in a way. As long as the kid wasn't seriously injured anyway. Now if I can just figure out how to make that happen in a restaraunt...
Ebay'ers (mom) will probably get a chuckle at the story of the p-p-p-p-powerbook, assuming they can finish it. For those who can't: A gentleman bought an Apple Powerbook but decided he didn't really need it. However, he waited too long to return it, so he decided to sell it on ebay.
At first there was no interest, but he was eventually contacted by a buyer. This buyer wanted to use a previously unknown escrow service for payment. Sensing a scam, he got his internet buddies to help him with some research. Sure enough, convincing evidence surfaced to show this was indeed a scam.
However, instead of just telling the guy to piss off, the seller strung him on long enough to get an actual shipping address. Because he wanted to send something, he created the "p-p-p-p-powerbook" out of a ring binder, some plastic keyboard keys, and some glue. This was sent to the UK shipping address. In the meantime a UK internet buddy actually scoped out the place, and it was decided to catch the scammer in the act.
Unfortunately customs problems prevented the original delivery, but apparently the package was eventually delivered. As of the writing of the "adventure", they were still waiting for a response.
Mohammed of Iraq the Model took a trip "down south" in Iraq, and does he have some stories to tell:
On the road to the residents’ house we passed near the coalition base in Samawa; the striking and ugly feature of this base, like any other one is, the concrete wall that surrounds it ... The coalition forces here invited all the kids-and their parents-in the neighborhood for a special festival, the kids were given paints and brushes and a definite area of the wall was assigned for each kid to paint on whatever he likes and to sign his painting with his/her name. I leave it for you to imagine how this hateful wall looked like after this festival.
Why is it when young people volunteer for the peace corps to go out and do good work in dangerous places we call it "humanitarian", and encourage it; but when soldiers do the same thing, the exact same thing, only with more money and guns to keep the bad guys away we protest it? Why is one seen as noble and the other seen by so many as a national disgrace, an unnecessary waste?
Vietnam did many things to this country. Some good, some bad, all painful. Most of all, it destroyed respect for soldiering as a profession. Conventional wisdom now says you join the military for an exciting job, for an easier way into college, for direction and discipline in your life. Today we never seem to even consider people would join because they want to be a soldier. A warrior. Someone who wants to be on the front line, who wants to serve their country by dancing on the knife edge of history.
Are all soldiers like that? Hardly. But there are many more than you'd think. It makes far too many effete intellectuals uncomfortable to think that there are people who would enjoy soldiering for its own sake. That's why Nightline made heroic national headlines with its Vietnam-retread "roll call of the dead", but accounts of living soldier's heroic deeds must languish in obscurity.
Maybe it's better this way. Maybe we should follow the liberal idea of war as nothing more than institutional, legalized murder. Maybe we should puzzle over, discount, fear (and fear for) those who would want to participate. Certainly, glorification has gotten far more nations in trouble. But I think perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, when the only real way a soldier can become famous is as a flag-draped box, a single forlorn picture in a paper, a name read off by a sobbing commentator. Why not read off a list of soldiers who did their duty with honor, who survived amazing acts of bravery?
Why must we only feel comfortable honoring soldiers when they're dead?
Well, maybe not dead, but a phone call from this accident scene was certainly extremely strange:
Someone called Ron Burth on Friday afternoon to tell him that his wife, Linda, had been killed minutes before in a traffic crash on Interstate 4.
The female caller's identity isn't known ... But [police] don't know how she learned Burth's name and cell phone number.
First thing I thought was, "hey, probably just grabbed the purse", but the accident description basically says the lady crossed the median and was run completely over by an 18-wheeler. Can't reach into a car that's squashed flat. Of course, now that I think about it, her ID may have been tossed out of the car. That would explain it. Still, definitely weird & creepy.
Fark brings us a very heebie-jeeby-worthy entry with this cicada-related emergency room visit:
A man who cooked and ate nearly 30 cicadas sought medical treatment after suffering a strong allergic reaction to the sauteed insects.
And, in what must be a qualifier in the World's Biggest Understatement contest, we have this:
"He said they didn't taste too bad, but his wife didn't care for the aroma," said Dr. Al Ripani, the doctor who treated the man at Promptcare East.
Ellen, my Yankee sweetie, has acquired an unhealthy fascination with these weird bugs. Growing up in the South, they were just part of nature's summer jukebox to me, so it took a long time for me to understand that not only had she not ever seen one, she'd never heard one either. In building the development we live in, it would seem all the cicada larva got, well, moved out, so (at this point) we don't have any at all, so she still hasn't heard them. I expect that to change, but in the meantime I'm left with, "hear that high pitched thing, coming from the air conditioner? It's like that, only louder."
But if I find one in the freezer, well, we're gonna have a talk.
Pat gets a well-hidden no-prize for bringing us this joke about a boss, a child, and a helicopter. She thinks it's funny because my brother and I did something vaguely like this when we were little, and were only given away by our giggles. Sometimes hide-and-seek is not funny!
BBCnews is carrying this article detailing a recent archeological dig that is now thought to be the Library of Alexandria. No books of course (the main library was destroyed by fire, not Christians), but several very large lecture halls. Sites like this are typically huge, so who knows, they may yet find some scrolls after all.
Frank has his fifteenth "Our Military" post up, and as always it's very entertaining. For the more human side of it all, be sure to take a look.
Don't remember if we linked this before or not, but what the hell. You'll like this new version of the "letter song" by the time it gets to "C". If you're a guy. And not Damion. Note: One or two of the letters are not safe for work. Also amusing: British kids singing "zed".
Fark was the first place I saw that SpaceShipOne had another successful test flight recently. This time within nine miles of the desired altitude.
Of course, the article is dated a week ago. I'm glad I finally updated my AvWeek subscription. Now I'll be back in the loop!
Update: A week ago? What, am I in a time warp? No, my computer is. Stupid MS date function. Gah.
Updated with picture!!
There is one exhibit in the museum which makes Knyazkin be especially proud of. This is the 30-centimeter preserved penis of Grigory Rasputin. “Having this exhibit, we can stop envying America, where Napoleon Bonaparte’s penis is now kept. … Napoleon’s penis is but a small ”pod“ it cannot stand comparison to our organ of 30 centimeters…” the head of the museum said.
See pix of dix here.
Just about every guy has thought about becoming a Porn Star at one time or another… and the majority of girls have, too. For some it’s a fleeting thought, for others it’s a fantasy, and some just wonder if they’d be good enough. And then there are those who really want to get into Porn, but they don’t have a clue about how to get into “Porn City”.
Find out how!
When I go to the bathroom, I usually expect it to be a non-event. After so many years, there are few surprises left for me sitting on a toilet. Yet that's where I first discovered an uninvited entity that called me home.
Read entire funny story here.
No, it didn't happen to me!
Slashdot linked up the site for the next Pixar movie, called The Incredibles. Includes trailers. The teasers look very nifty, so let's hope this one lands squarely in the "definitely does not suck" box that pretty much all the other pixar stuff has gone in so far. Coming in November!
Mac users may already know this, but those who don't should find the story of how their computer nearly ended up being called the Apple Bycicle interesting. I wonder if by now they would have wheels of some sort if the name had stuck?
Space.com is carrying this article summarizing a new development in nanotube technology. By using new techniques, scientists are able to create nano "test tubes" able to hold an extremely small (on the order of atoms) amount of material. The scientists were also able to alter the makeup of the tubes themselves, allowing them to do all sorts of weird semi-magical things.
Remember those British Daily Mirror photographs? The ones that showed British soldiers abusing Iraqis in all sorts of dastardly ways? The ones the Daily Mirror absolutely, unequivocally insisted were genuine, with such sincerity you had to give them some credence? Well, guess what?
The editor of the Daily Mirror has been sacked after admitting its alleged Iraqi abuse pictures had been "a hoax".
Of course, the newspaper itself is now the "subject of a calculated and malicious hoax." Oh no sir, we're not at fault, not us! Was someone else! That's it! That's the ticket! Why would anyone believe retired army officers? Why would the government ever tell the truth?
Good to know there's weasels enough on both sides of the pond. Now if we could just yank a knot in Al-Jazeera's tail.
Fark linked up this NY Daily News article that shows Nick Berg had actually been connected with Al Qaeda well before his murder, in an extremely weird way:
In a bizarre coincidence, Nick Berg crossed paths with Al Qaeda years before its henchmen beheaded him, when his E-mail and password wound up in the hands of 9/11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui.
Exactly how it ended up with Moussaoui, nobody seems to know, although the FBI cleared him well before the later incident. Also goes into some detail about how occupation bureaucratic bungling may have contributed to Mr. Berg's murder.
Ok, so we saw what happens when teenagers have too much spare time on their hands. Guess what happens when grown men get bored? Hey, if his wife can tolerate a giant hole being dug in her back yard, more power to him!
Today the Washington Post is carrying this article providing more details about the discovery of an impact crater that may have caused the great Permian extenction event approximately 2.5 billion years ago:
The researchers said that geological evidence suggests that an object about six miles in diameter crashed at the shoreline of what is now Australia's northwestern coast, creating climate changes and other natural catastrophes that wiped out 90 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species.
As with the Cretaceous event, the other leading cause is a sudden, massive, increase in volcanism at about the same time. I guess geologists just haven't come up with a mechanism for how impacts can actually cause massive eruptions, but the ocurrance of two similar events seems more than just a coincidence to me.
A woman rescued what was described as a "funky-looking house cat" after the animal was hit by a car near Santa Cruz, California.
What do you get when you combine too much spare time, unsupervised teenage boys, and fireworks? Well, something like this. Looks like something Damion would've tried in his younger days. On Joshua.
Not satisified with stale old "who's really behind 9-11" and "connecting the dots between Waco, Oklahoma City, and the New World Order" conspiracies, the manic right has manufactured all sorts of pipin' fresh "inconsistencies" on the Berg tradgedy.
It's getting to the point that I have to be really careful which direction I think the moonbats are leaning. They're really starting to all look alike now.
Having just jumped off my latest stint on the upgrade treadmill, I can't help but roll my eyes at the latest development in game tech. This time: hooking two PCI-Express graphics cards together and running them parallel. PC game old-timers will remember a similar solution from Voodoo at the dawn of 3D gaming (what, 1998?) It was expensive then, no doubt it will be expensive today. The potential for inspiring computer-geek-penis-envy is as yet unknown.
Spaceflightnow is carrying this Astronomy update about the "Red Rectangle", easily the weirdest looking nebula found to date. Astronomers are still not completely sure how it was created, but new images from Hubble have helped build up some interesting theories. Includes a really nifty picture of the thing.
Fark linked up this story about a new effort from the venerable Bletchly Park. For those who don't know, Bletchly Park was where a bunch of brilliant mathemeticians and engineers gathered to create the machines that broke Enigma, the encryption scheme the Nazis thought impregnable. The article's a little unclear, but it would appear the curators of the now popular tourist attraction will be using the same machines to try and crack a coded message on a private monument that supposedly contains directions to the Holy Grail.
Personally, I'm hoping it says something like, "Welcome to Castle AAAaaaaggg..."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first cicada of the season sat on the doorstep like a mutant bumblebee, with red eyes and yellow legs.
But, apparently alarmed by the appearance of a human, it tumbled off the shallow step, landing helplessly on its back. Its yellow legs wiggled frantically to no effect.
"Brood X is likely to be the largest insect emergence on Earth," said Keith Clay, a cicada expert at Indiana University at Bloomington.
Starting this week, across much of the eastern United States, from Georgia north to southern New York and as far west as Illinois, the cicadas will emerge from their 17 years of sucking on tree roots underground to engage in a two-week orgy of calling, mating, laying eggs and then dying.
And things that eat cicadas, from fish and birds to dogs, will gorge on them in a mad frenzy.
Read entire article here.
I'm really surprised this didn't happen in the US first, but it would appear the UK has beaten us to the punch with the ultimate driving school:
Imagine the thrill of driving a 56 ton tank over a car, trying to beat the SAS woodland patrol challenge, firing a 18th century musket and mortar, or "swimming" an amphibious truck? Thats just a few of the activities offered by corporate action activity specialists TANKS-A-LOT.
Ellen's a complete road rage nutcase, so bad I won't let her drive the morning commute any more. If she actually got to crush cars in a tank, I'm not sure she'd ever be the same again!
Instapundit updates, so do we, with another letter from a soldier, this time in Fallujah itself:
I'm going to discuss a subject that I know does not apply to most of you...We're reading that everyone back home is starting to lose faith in our efforts in Iraq [...] I know that doesn't mean a loss in support for the troops, but supporting "the troops" while not supporting the mission doesn't do much for us. If we're over here for nothing then vague "support the troops" statements carry little weight.
Have we really become so addled and weak-willed that we can't stick something out through a little rough patch?
I have faith that we'll get the backing we need to finish our work in Iraq.
Please have that faith with me and support our mission as much as you support our Marines.
Something to chew on for those who never once supported the mission.
Also interesting is the 180 degree turn-around of soldier and media attitudes in respect to Vietnam. Then, the media were cheerleaders (until about 1968) and the soldiers were the pessimists. Now, well, who do you believe... an untrained Arts & Sciences journalism major only there for two weeks, or a soldier who's been there more than two months or (in the previous case) more than a year?
New Scientist is carrying this summary of one scientist's hypothesis that at least some changes toward "handsomeness" in hominids were driven by females choosing better-looking mates over time.
While this may well be true, the evidence she seems to rely on, the size of canines and width of facial features, are heavily influenced by dietary factors as well as any purported sexual competition. It's equally possible that females chose mates who would help them raise increasingly more dependant children instead of fighting with other males for reproductive rights. There is such a strong correlation between sexual dimorphism (the size difference between the sexes of any primate) and male competition that it's one of the few anatomical indicators of behavior. The more males fight over females, the larger they become, and visa-versa.
Ever get the feeling, wandering along a map in a computer game, that it all seems a little too familiar? Sherri gets a no-prize for showing us sometimes there's a reason for that feeling.
Those of you who don't play computer games... wtf is wrong with you?!? :)
Instapundit leads us to another soldier's letter giving an unsurprisingly different view of what the occupation looks like to someone who's actually participating in it:
The pessimists would have you believe this is a disaster. Don't listen to them. I think some of them feel that their reputations require our failure because they have been so negative all along, so they are jumping at every opportunity to sensationalize what is happening here as a disaster.
From my own very personal experience I can say the pessimists don't just live in Big Media. Read the whole thing while I go grab my pom-poms.
Ali over at Iraq the model has this admittedly rambling post that talks about something nobody else seems to talk about... Iraq's economy seems to be stabilizing (the Dinar has held steady at approximately 1450 to the dollar for the past year). Of course, this has little effect on his young nephew's outlook, until the nephew's father walks him through the logic:
"What do you think of the Americans?" His son answered, "They are occupiers". "So you think we should fight them?" his father asked. Ibrahim said "No, but I don’t like them". My uncle said, pretending to change the subject "Do you like your new computer that no one shares with you?" "Yes of course dad". "Ok, are you satisfied with the satellite dish receiver we have or do you need a better one?" "This one is fine but I heard there’s a better one that gets more channels" "ok I’ll get you that next week". Then he said, "Is there anything else you’d like to have son?" "No dad I have all that I need". "Ok but how about a car?" Ibrahim was astounded and said "Really? a..a CAR.. for me!?". "Of course for you! I’m too old to drive now and my eyes are not that well and you are the older son. So whom else would it be for!?" "Oh, dad that will be great! When will that happen?" "Just finish you’re exams and you’ll have it". "I will dad". "Are you happy now son?" "Yes dad, sure I am!" "Then why do you hate the Americans you son of a b***h!?"
They're not all animals. Lord help us to tell the difference.
Fark linked up another journalist's tale of going on his own "McDiet". Because he was sane in his menu choices (the other guy ordered the biggest meals he could find and was on a 5000 calorie per day diet), not only did he not get sick, he actually lost weight. The reaction of his female co-workers was telling:
[The revelation I lost weight] prompted the majority of women I told to issue the following statement, separately but in a clearly coordinated campaign: "I hate you." My reminders that they live longer and are better equipped to survive the famine that Americans appear to be stocking up for didn't earn me any points.
As one who has just been indirectly put on the South Beach (Long Beach? Malibu Beach? Life's a Beach?) diet, I can definitely sympathise.
The URL says it all:
Looks like it's going to be another "you suck... ok you suck... you suck too... hmm..." sort of election.
Instapundit lead us to this "Iraq the Model" interview of an Iraqi doctor who actually did a stint through Abu Gharib during the period when all the abuses took place. His point of view is quite interesting:
[ItM]: But couldn’t it be true that there were abusive actions at those times that the prisoners were afraid to tell you about?
[Doctor:] -Are you serious!? These criminals, and I mean both types [political and criminal] tell me all about there [sic] 'adventures and bravery'. Some of them told me how they killed an American soldier or burned a humvee, and in their circumstances this equals a confession! Do you think they would’ve been abused and remained silent and not tell me at least!? No, I don’t think any of this happened during the time I was there. It seemed that this happened to a very small group of whom I met no one during that month.
It's too easy to think the prisoners deserved what they got. But it's also all too easy to think every one of those guys was an angel. The answer, as always, is somewhere in between.
For the computer deli freak in your life, we have webdeli, a collection of, well, deli meat wallpaper.
Funny only because nobody got hurt, this story about a 102-year-old woman surviving a 4 story fall has a great ending:
A hospital spokesman said: "It's a miracle she wasn't killed, yet alone had no broken bones. All that good Mediterranean food and olive oil has kept her strong."
Sad truth is we mostly use our x-box as a DVD and CD player nowadays. I expect that to change quickly when Halo 2 comes out, currently scheduled for November. In the meantime, slashdot lead us to this multiplayer preview of the game. Dual-weilding, "elites" as well as grunts, and that lovely, lovely plasma sword. What's not to love?
Yahoo is carrying this summary of a recent archeological find in Ireland:
Archaeologists are dancing with delight after discovering a set of musical pipes believed to have been used 4,000 years ago by pre-historic man in Ireland -- likely making them the world's oldest wooden instruments according to experts.
Ellen would make a crack about bagpipes, but those are Scottish.
Let's see, this girl seems to have it all... pretty, rich, famous, slutty...
Movie starlet Scarlett Johansson has confessed to having sex with actor Benicio Del Toro — in a hotel [elevator].
Considering how long most elevator rides last, this guy must've been quick
Those of you (*cough* mom *cough*) who complained about Olivia's pictures disappearing during the move will be happy to know we've finally got them all back. I'd saved them to the hard drive of the "old" computer, and only just now got them back. Enjoy!
Humanity's love for social stability is matched only by the capacity for self-delusion that is required to perceive it. Worse still, like infants who think the pain never ends we wail and cry of apocalypse and collapse whenever some event tears through our colorful curtain of lies. Naked prisoners, unemployed workers, corrupt politicians, scandalous corporations, all and more are too often seen as the buboes of a diseased culture, the stench of a body politic struck dead on the highway of history.
The truth, as with most axioms of "conventional wisdom", is quite the opposite. These are not symptoms of corruption and decay heralding end times. They are instead indications of a living, breathing, healthy culture. But why does it so often seem the opposite?
Corruption, graft, thievery, rape, murder, and mayhem are not exceptions in our societies. They are the rule in the ever-more-complex cultures humanity has created for itself. Throughout history, one after another would stumble upon some new improvement in warfare, production, or organization, set up a society of plenty and prosperity, only to have it crumble from within due to the rot nobody wanted to talk about. Time and again glittering monuments to humanity's progress would become vine-choked dragon's teeth rotting in the noonday sun. This tragic cycle would repeat over and again for perhaps fifteen thousand years.
The first innovation that helped break the cycle was English... a rule of laws to which even kings of divine right must pay heed. A century later a group of English colonists took the next logical step, one that had been advocated for centuries but which no one ever had the nerve to implement. Essentially, with their written "Constitution" they institutionalized free inquiry, making it possible for any unreasonable crank who didn't care about the stability of a society to turn it all upside down, or at least try to, any time they pleased.
What resulted was not an elegant powerhouse that smoothly exploited its way to world dominance. Instead, a bickering, poorly educated, surly mob was handed the reigns of power, and the resulting chaotic mess became a scandal of the civilized world. "Old" Europe quietly laughed into its collective handkerchiefs as a group of trailer trash, slaves, untouchables, and lunatics lurched from one ridiculous crisis to the next.
There were, of course, just as many hoodlums, thieves, cranks, and lunatics in the world as there were in the United States. The difference was we kept ours where we could see them, and by exposing them were able to stop them before they could do too much damage.
The rest of the world continued to yearn for quiet and stability at the expense of all else, with utterly predictable results. Europe unleashed apocalypse, surviving only to suddenly find itself prostrate before, and then rebuilt by, the rabble from across the sea they made such sport of a century before. Asia fossilized under the weight of its own narcissism, ultimately to be consumed by Western barbarians, then destroyed by wars of its own making. Today Arabia toys with its own annihilation by playing spectacular stunts on the only culture capable of wiping it from the planet with the press of a button.
All in the name of stability, of a smooth culture, of something clean and quiet, something that's admired, something that doesn't make noise. I learn about Enron and Tycho and feel depressed, but I also take heart because, in the name of quiet, the next logical steps result in apparatchiks, plush dachas for a few, and empty shelves for the rest. I read about Watergate and Iran-Contra and what the definition of "Is" is and I'm disgusted, but I'm also pleased, because, in the name of stability, to ignore them would slide us down a slippery slope that ends in red armbands and thunderous, mindless chants. I look at the pictures of naked prisoners and I'm repulsed, but I'm also relieved because without them, in the name of quiet, mothers crawl in a pit on knees cut by bone looking for the doll their child was carrying when they disappeared one night.
In spite of what we'd like to believe, the United States is not composed of saints, is not without bandits, is not free of people who enjoy base violence and humiliation. We are not immune to failure. The difference is we have mechanisms to stop these people, expose them, and remove them from the commanding heights that they have so woefully abused. We are able to correct our failures. It's not quick, it's not clean, it's not always even very fair, but it does work. It fails safe.
Personally, overall, I'm quite happy with my ugly, messy, noisy, inefficient, and embarrassing country. Anyone who isn't simply hasn't considered the real alternatives.
Fark linked up this story about a "vicious" guard cat:
[Postmen] say their hands are being ripped to shreds by ginger tom Bat as they shove post through the cat flap.
Includes a picture of the little miscreant. Ellen would probably coo and say it was cute!!!
Now that I've got a system that can run the latest flight sims at max settings, I'm starting to get back into it all. Take a look at this thing. A 6-stick throttle quadrant should be enough to keep everyone happy. My problem is finding a place to put it all (well, that and the cash required). Maybe Damion and I can cook up "the ultimate gaming table".
Washington Post today carried this tidbit about a scientist who tried to determine if we really do resemble our pets, and if so why:
The researchers photographed 45 dogs and their owners at three dog parks and gathered information about the breeds and how long owners and pets had been together. They then asked 28 students to try to match the people to the pooches.
The results suggest not that we grow to look like each other, but rather humans on some subconscious level choose animals that resemble themselves.
Bah. I have cats. As long as it doesn't puke, pee, or crap on something I own, I'm happy with it.
Sometimes a cop pulls someone over and they're enraged. Sometimes a cop pulls someone over and they're repentant. Sometimes, they want to party:
Deputy John Ross and deputy Kyle Cabness, were apparently mistaken for male strippers when they pulled over a limousine containing a mobile bachelorette party.
"No ma'am, that really is a gun in my pocket."
The Earth is degenerating these days.
Bribery and corruption abound.
Children no longer mind their parents, every man wants to write a book, and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching.
from an Assyrian stone tablet, c. 2800 B.C.
Probably apocrypal. As I recall, Assyria was founded fully a thousand years after this quote is attributed. Still, if I had my entire library upacked (coming soon!), I could come up with nearly the exact quote from Greek, Roman, Medieval, and modern times. My mom says something similar a few times per month.
Damned kids. Always screwing things up.
I bought this toy today for 99 cents (store was going out of buisness). Needless to say, it kept Olivia occupied for over an hour and the cats could not figure out what it was!
Either Ajax is attempting some form of camouflage OR he is getting ready to suffocate himself...again.
Everyone's favorite "truth teller" Michael Moore seems to have got caught with his controversy hanging out:
Less than 24 hours after accusing the Walt Disney Company of pulling the plug on his latest documentary in a blatant attempt at political censorship, the rabble-rousing film-maker Michael Moore has admitted he knew a year ago that Disney had no intention of distributing it.
The admission ... lent credence to a growing suspicion that Moore was manufacturing a controversy to help publicise the film.
Of course, just because he lies to get publicity doesn't mean he'd lie in the film itself.
8-Month-Old Cat Survived Monthlong Journey In Cargo Container
TAMPA, Fla. -- A cat that survived a monthlong journey from China to Tampa in a cargo container received a much more luxurious ride to its new home Friday in a limousine.
Ultra Pet Co. of South Carolina arranged the limousine ride and donated a year's supply of kitty litter to the cat and her adoptive family, said Hillsborough County spokeswoman Donna Olmstead.
Read entire article here.
Pat gets a no-prize for bringing us this in-depth piece from the NYT on the Iraqi prisoner debacle. It tracks dead-on with something I've been thinking from the start: this was a failure in leadership and training, and was not the result of some "bad apples" or a "few poor men".
The Americans in those pictures are almost as much a victim as the prisoners themselves. They were put in an untenable situation without the strong leadership, discipline, and training required to succeed. Worse still, since it's their faces in those pictures, they will inevitably take the lion's share of the blame.
The people we should be blaming are the generals who oversaw this mess, the colonels who managed it, the majors who didn't keep an eye on their captains and lieutenants and the lieutenants who didn't rely enough on their sergeants. But the non-coms share the blame too. Where were the sergeants? Non-commissioned officers make up the backbone of any western military body, they are the real secret weapon that makes our soldiers the deadliest fighting force in history. They are the ones who keep teenagers and twenty-somethings, basically kids, on the straight-and-narrow. Where were they?
The reflex action is to point up instead of down. It's Rumsfeld's fault. Leadership starts at the top, and he's it. Bullshit. This is just the reflexive propaganda of a Pentagon and its perfumed princes who never take the blame for anything they can push off on someone else. The chief civilian's job is to make sure civilian control is maintained over the military and to ensure the President's wishes are carried out. It's the general's job to make sure the military runs well and correctly. In this particular case, they quite patently failed.
What we're seeing now is damage control on their behalf. Blame everyone else! We didn't know! They knew and didn't tell us! We didn't have enough people! The people we had were stupid and unworkable! It's someone else's fault!!!
The soldiers who perpetrated these acts should have known better, and they should be punished. But their leadership, the people who were supposed to help them succeed but did not, should be punished too. America should not be satisfied again by the prosecution of a single lieutenant. There are generals, colonels, and majors who are shaking in their boots right now, not worried about Iraq or "the job" or fixing it, but instead worried what this will do to their careers.
We have to make sure the right thing happens... it ruins them.
Apropos of nothing, I'd just like to say the Athlon FX-53 64 bit processor rocks. My shambling mound of a computer finally broke something important, leading me to buy the "best and brightest" guts to create a new one. One processor, motherboard, display card, memory, and HD set later, and it's a screamer once again. Same skany-a** case though, complete with rust and dried cat pee. The lord seems to love the ATX form factor.
Now to get Linux on it... anyone got any tips on installing linux on a promise RAID array? So far I've only found "doesn't work". Very strange, considering these things seem to be growing in popularity.
BBCnews has this nifty report on the discovery of the very first fossil arthropod caught in mid-molt. Found in the famous Burgess Shale (in NW Canada), the 505 million year old fossil provides the first direct proof that molting has been a growth strategy for these creatures almost since they evolved. Arthropods are represented today by crustaceans, spiders, and insects.
Frank J has a new Our Military story up. This one includes a very nice letter about the civillian morale in the Green Zone, as well as a tale about how to get German kids to fetch you beer, and how to kill a Tiger tank.
Scientific American is carrying this article summarizing new findings in the history of hummingbirds. Turns out there were species inhabiting Europe some 30 million years ago. Why they died out there is still unclear.
A link on a different site reminded me of Disturbing Auctions, your one-stop-shop for every bizzare thing on E-bay. We featured it last year, and it's every bit as weird now as it was then. People will save, and then try to sell, the weirdest crap.
Sara G. gets a well-armored no-prize for bringing us news that the world-famous Ursus bear suits are on the market. Anyone watching Discovery, TLC, and/or National Geographic specials will quickly remember these things. For those who don't, they're the concotion of a Canadian who wanted to build the ultimate in bear protection. I can't recall if he ever managed to get a bear to attack one of them. It'd probably be pretty challenging... bears have a reputation for cutting and running if they think something fishy's going on.
Everyone hears it today... politics is more and more partisan, far worse than anyone has ever seen it before. Viciousness and libel, petty bickering and political meltdowns, backstabbing and throat-slashing, all and more seem to be bubbling up faster and faster, like a fetid scum-covered gyser getting ready to erupt. But is it really that bad? Is it really that different? Has it in fact gotten worse over time?
Hardly. In the very first contested election in the United States, that of 1796, Thomas Jefferson was portrayed as a bloodthirsty atheist and a puppet of the French, who represented only "cut-throats who walk in rags and sleep amidst filth and vermin." John Adams was referred to as, at best, "His Rotundity", was accused publicly of planning to cancel the Constitution and have himself crowned king, and of having two English mistresses secretly imported to keep him comfortable on the campaign trail.
Twenty years later, newspapers supporting Andrew Jackson referred to his incumbent opponent John Quincy Adams as "The Pimp" because he introduced the Tsar of Russia to a young woman whom the Tsar later had an affair with. Dark insinuations of "gambling furniture" being installed in the White House turned out to be a pool table purchase. Not to be outdone, newspapers in support of Adams ran this piquant rejoinder:
"General Jackson's mother was a COMMON PROSTITUTE brought to this country by British soldiers! She afterward married a MULATTO MAN, with whom she had several children, of which number General Jackson IS ONE!!"
By the time Abraham Lincoln was running for president, things had not gotten much better. Democratic newspapers referred to him as "Honest Ape" and ran cartoons of him so racist they would get a modern newspaper shut down and its editors lynched. In 1876 the choices, according to the newspapers of the time, were between an alcoholic syphilitic grifter (Samuel Tilden) and a battlefield corpse robber who once shot at his own mother (Rutherford B. Hayes).
More modern presidential elections were no better. Republican "hatchet men" attacked Democrats as corrupt, incompetent, and even Communist in the 1952 presidential campaign. In 1960 candidate Kennedy accused his opponent of being "experienced in the policies of retreat, defeat, and weakness." In 1964 LBJ, with the willing assistance of a sympathetic media, portrayed his opponent Barry Goldwater as a reckless warmonger who would press "the button" on a whim.
This all culminated of course with the Nixon administration, whose paranoia and willingness to use any lever of power institutionalized the "dirty trick" machine and gave us The Plumbers and Watergate. But even that spectacular debacle failed to drive the nastiness underground. Carter was a religious wacko, Reagan both criminally stupid and criminally diabolic, Bush a liar, Clinton a spineless philanderer, and GW Bush a criminally stupid and criminally diabolic thief.
It has always been nasty, it always will be nasty, and in fact if anything has gotten less nasty over time. As children we don't pay attention to how nasty it is, and look up from our Big Wheels to a man who is an institutional father figure. Teenagers and twenty-somethings, facing the blow-torch intensity of a professional candidate's charisma for the first time, see "their" candidate as the good guy being attacked in shocking and deeply unfair ways by "the bad guys" on the other side. We don't do that, no sir. Well, we wouldn't have to if they didn't make us.
It doesn't help that the media, who's gnat-like attention span is matched only by their utter lack of historic perspective, wail and rend their shirts at the first sign a campaign is "going negative." In the worrisome event a candidate obstinately refuses to actually "betray" the issues and go "on the attack", reporters are of course not opposed to giving the campaign a shove or two by dredging up a bimbo, drug deal, or service gap on their own. After all, we don't want the campaign to be boring, do we?
It's ok to wish it weren't so, but in the wishing we are simply pulling the covers over our heads hoping the monsters stay hidden in the dark. It's also ok to revel in the chaos of it all, sitting in the bleachers roaring with the rest of the plebes as one erstwhile gladiator guts his opponent in our own queer Coliseum. More importantly, we should all learn to look past it, see it for the contrived irrelevance that it truly is, and hold all of their feet to the fire until they start producing facts and positions instead of hyperbole and distraction.
But don't forget to bring the popcorn. I hear Kerry's latest attack ad is really something to see!
While the text of they Mysterious Miniature Castle of New Jersey certainly sounds spooky enough, what I think is wierd is that someone would go to all that trouble just to fake a photograph. But then again, this is New Jersey, hell anything is possible there (it's a joke people, laugh).
Photographers out there may find this nifty collection of "smoke" pictures interesting. I think at times it looks like candy, at others blown glass.
Ron gets a sqishy no-prize for bringing us the latest news on Ellen's favorite sea-beastie, the Giant Squid:
The giant squid is not especially choosy when it comes to sex and will mate blindly without checking if the object of its affections is male or female, a German researcher said Tuesday.
And they haven't even ruled out giant Giant Squid orgies yet! I wonder what Ron Jermey's porno CD would sound like at 3000 feet?
New Scientist is carrying this article summarizing what appears to be the very first bipedal nano-technology robot:
A microscopic biped with legs just 10 nanometres long and fashioned from fragments of DNA has taken its first steps.
The details of how they do it and how it works are amazing. Biochemistry is cool.
Show cars are lovely, lovely things, which of course we can't have. Or can we? This'll probably give Damion ideas about TVRs and welding equipment.
Slashdot linked up this NY Times article summarizing the latest in footwear technology... electronic sneakers. Adidas has embedded microchips, motors, and a battery supply into its latest running shoe. The idea is for the computer to subtly alter the characteristics of the sole in response to running conditions.
I seem to recall a few years ago they did a study on which shoe was the most efficient for running. No surprise bare feet beat them all by a wide margin.
A round-about trail started by Instapundit lead me to this insightful critique of the CPA's handling of the "business side" (as apposed to the military side) of the occupation in Iraq:
It was Bremer, his deputy Clay McManaway, and Crocker — not the Pentagon — who cast aside the "Transition to Democracy" report. The Future of Iraq program report states, for example, that "abuse of power by one regime after another since 1958 has resulted in the practice of 'legislation through decree', the tendency to subvert constitutionalism by way of a flurry of proclamations, decrees and laws which ultimately serve the purpose of strengthening autocratic politics." This is exactly what Bremer began to do, as the decrees listed on the CPA website demonstrate.
This is the kind of report we need to see. Some of it can (will) be chalked up to partisan turf battles, but such a detailed critique is difficult to discount completely. It is also the second or third report I've seen in the past six months roundly criticising the monument to bureaucratic bungling the Green Zone seems to have become.
One of the root causes of failure in Vietnam was the inability of US organizations in that country to react to changing circumstances and failed policies. Stragetic hamlets, free fire zones, "Vietamization", and dozens of other concepts and programs were tried and failed, but instead of learning from those failures and moving on they were renamed and tried again and again, with tragic, even deadly, results.
Debacles such as the recent prison scandal are important in that they expose destructive policies and incompetent leaders to public scrutiny. But the inability of various government agencies to free themselves of turf wars and pissing contests to get the job of reconstruction done is every bit as big a story. I find it disheartening, albeit not surprising, that the press does not give equal time to both.
Ron Jeremy, Inc. scores another one with Pornosonic, a CD collection of all your favorite "bow-chikka-bow-bow" porno movie music. Note: Movie link, but completely safe for work.
Space.com is carrying this Mars rover update that includes a nifty panorama taken by Opportunity as it perched on the rim of Endurance crater. The plan is to drive completely around the rim, taking pictures and measurements as it goes. Then the big decision: whether or not to drive down into the thing, and if so attempting to drive back out.
The following is for computer geeks and/or Apple wonks.
Slashdot ran a story noting that Mono, the open-source project dedicated to creating a .Net framwork for Linux, just opened up its first beta release. What's even more interesting is Mono works with OSX (question 117).
So what? Well, if Mono succeeds in creating a code-portable implementation of .Net, then programs written for that architecture will function no matter what OS happens to be running. Microsoft is busily re-writing all sorts of code for the C#/CIT environment, and most ISVs have already swallowed the "blue pill" of .Net. In short, by adopting a Unix core Apple may have just hit a bank-shot that gaurantees itself "free" windows compatability on a scale undreamed of before.
Of course, all this will be happening in spite of Microsoft, not because of it. It all could easily be as much of a pipe dream as Java portability was back in '96. But still, fun to think about.
And no Damion, I'm still not buying a Mac. I just enjoy seeing cool technology getting a back-door advantage.
Instapundit lead us to this dry but no less harrowing account of a convoy running into a co-ordinated ambush in Iraq:
Within minutes of the ambush, one of the [tank transports] was disabled, and the Lieutenant realized he would have to stand and fight to ensure he had everyone. The [tanks] "broke chains" as they described it, by essentially driving off the back of the [transports] under fire to engage the enemy.
Something that was remarked on a lot when it happened but is hardly mentioned today was the lack of main battle tanks (MBTs) in Somalia. As I recall, it was revealed that M1A1s (our MBT) were not sent to avoid political fallout. This resulted in political fallout that caused the DOD chief to resign. At any rate, it would appear that toting around Bradleys and MBTs is pretty useful, as otherwise the report seems to indicate it could very well have turned into another "Blackhawk Down".
I just wish they weren't so damned heavy and expensive to operate. Of course, what price is the life of a soldier?
Washington Post today carried this more elaborate description of recent discoveries concerning the Mayan civilization:
Archaeologists working in a remote stretch of Guatemala's northeastern Peten wilderness said yesterday they have unearthed evidence that the ancient Maya may have developed sophisticated rituals and institutions hundreds of years earlier than previously thought.
New satellite imaging, more stable governments, and the increased availability of helicopters have all combined to discover and explore these ancient sites that have sat hidden by jungle for hundreds, even thousands of years.
BBCnews is carrying this report summarizing new findings regarding the rate at which Neandertals matured. By examining the way various hominid teeth were formed, a group of scientists have come to the conclusion that Neandertals reached maturity faster than any other group of hominids before or since. They think it was related to high infant mortality, but many anthropologists think more work needs to be done to firm up this conclusion.
Oh dear, this just won't do:
Smaller-than-expected tax refunds and rising individual tax receipts will pare back federal borrowing significantly for the first half of this year and could reduce the $521 billion deficit projected for the fiscal year by as much as $100 billion, Treasury and congressional budget officials said yesterday.
I have always believed federal deficits were linked to overall economic health, not any particular presidential policy. Bill Clinton's tax hikes helped the government, at first, but it was the booming economy and the concomittant rise in tax receipts that gave us the surpluses. George Bush's tax cuts certainly increased the deficit, but it was the boom going bust that really ran the government into the red.
Of course, this is nothing more than cheerleading from a partisan wacko brainwashed years ago by the Great Right Wing Conspiracy. But you have to ask yourself... if the score keeps rising on games people care about, who's going to pay attention to the other side's "rah-rah's"?
"AMCGLTD," we hear you ask, "I'm sick of these nosebleeds. My bed has nearly shaken apart from all the times it's been levitated into the mothership. And every time the Grays show up it takes a week to coax the cat out of the closet. What can I do?!?"
Fear not, gentle reader! AMCGLTD is here to help! The Alien Implant Removal and Deactivation Method will free you from those embarassing nosebleeds, startling encounters with beings who have "huge, dark, watery-looking, almond-shaped eyes and wrinkled, gray skin", and those annoying Reptilian rapists. You'll also learn the answers to questions that have been bothering you for years, such as:
Don't delay! Act now! Supplies are limited! You cannot afford to miss this spectacular offer! Your family and your butt will thank you.
For the fetishist who has everything, we're disturbed to present The Fetish Empire's "Electrosex Shop" (Warning: contains some not safe for work pictures). I'm especially skeeved out by the electrified speculum.
Always read the comments. On a slashdot story about "what do you want to happen to your data when you die?" (they're geeks, and this is important to geeks), I found this comment all about how fireproof safes and data vaults work:
Document containers consist of two thin layers of steel, which have a hydrated compound stored between them; ... Upon heating, the hydrate gives up its water, flooding the inside of the container with water vapor.
Media containers should follow the same general rules (be careful where you put it, etc.), but work on a different principle. Last I checked (it could have changed), media containers use wood as insulation.
Lots of good advice too!
Mondays are Ellen's dance days. She tends not to come home until 9 pm, and even then is tired and a little distracted. Sometimes too distracted.
Ellen, from the kitchen: "Oops."
Me: "Did you give the wrong cat the wrong medication again?"
An aside: two of our cats have heart disease. One of them should've been dead about four years ago. He takes more pills than my mom. So there are three... three pill cases that have to be picked through every night to medicate two cats. I never have gotten it right. Most people don't. Ellen usually treats us all like retards because we can't keep up with the pills for these cats. But sometimes...
Ellen: "Umm... no?"
Ellen: "Well, it's OK... Ajax'll be fine."
Ellen: "No! Really!"
Ellen, after a long pause, very quietly: "He'll just pee a lot tonight."
Well, I guess it could be worse. She could've pilled me
A toy for my FAVORITE Reverend Heathen.
For all of you bible thumpers out there. Religiously correct action figures.
Collect all 3!!!
Jennifer C gets a "busy" no-prize for bringing us news that BMW drivers really do seem to have it better:
BMW drivers have more sex than owners of any other cars and are much more active than Porsche drivers, a new German car magazine has found.
Of course, it might be said the rest of us are busier driving our cars around, but I'm not sure that's much of a compliment.
Not sure how I stumbled onto this nifty X-B70 site, but I'm glad I did. Lots of little-known information on the wackiest of the airforce's wacky cold war-era projects. Spectacular and spectacularly expensive engineering in search of a mission, thy name is USAF!
I saw the X-B70 at Dayton, and to say it is impressive is an understatement. Actually, I pretty much stumbled over it... it was so huge and blended into the white-on-white of the museum's ceiling so well that at first it was just part of the scenery. I literally fell over the front gear tires, looked up, and I think I may have said "holy sh*t" out loud.
Space.com is carrying this interesting tidbit about a company trying an innovative way to build space stations:
[Bigelow Aerospace] is keen on spurring private ownership and use of space stations by making habitable space modules affordable for corporate communities. Under several agreements with NASA, Bigelow is drawing upon NASA's TransHab inflatable structures program, although the private company is pioneering its own design.
If it gets us one step closer to an orbital Hilton, I'm all for it!
In the "I-knew-they-were-big-but-not-that-big" category, we have this story about an eagle's choice of "take-out" dinner:
Wildlife experts were stunned this week to see an eagle attack and carry off a bear cub in view of its mother. The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research said it had not been able to find any other such attack documented anywhere.
Not for the faint of heart, especially if you have a soft spot for teddy bears.
NewScientist is carrying this article detailing a new procedure that could eventually be used to cure certain forms of blindness. By adding light-absorbing pigments found in spinach to nerve cells in the retina, neural impulses can be trasmitted through the optic nerves to the brain. The procedure is not without controversy, and is still only a lab experiment.
Witnesses told authorities all the people on the boat moved to one side as it approached a lakeside park called Hippie Hollow. It has the only public nude beach in Texas.
The sad thing is that, contrary to reality TV shows, nude beaches are not filled with buxom 20-somethings and buff lifeguards with washboard abs. The vast majority of attendees are just like you and me... i.e. people you would not really want to see naked.
Well, so I've been told anyway.
From one of my car digests comes One laptop, "professionally" crushed. See, old cars are good for lots of things!
Remember Bill the singing wall bass? Now you can get a singing dong.
Fun for the entire family of 18 and over!
A trio of active volcanoes in the center of New Zealand's North Island -- Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu and Tongariro -- form the southern tip of the "Rim of Fire," an arc of active volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean.Read entire article here.
A simmering acidic crater lake on Mount Ruapehu, belching steam and gas that smells like rotten eggs, has been the site of more eruptions than any other crater lake in the world.
Scientists studying the lake say higher levels signal a greater chance of a mudflow, and warn that a disastrous mudslide could flow down the mountain some time between November this year and next March.
*eViL GrIn* I wonder if these people are going to hell? *eViL GrIn*
Sometimes Sunday afternoons are simple times, watching saved up TiVo shows, doing laundry, and gaming. Sometimes, though, reality tosses a boomerang through the screen:
"Hey Scott... you know those two guys who directed those dumb movies you like so much?"
"Ellen, the next time you make fun of the Matrix..."
"Look, I know all you did was drool over the chick in the leather, and you know all you did was drool over the chick in the leather."
"I'll have you know I was paying more attention to the metaphy--"
"Wach-- Wok-- Watch--"
"Yeah, well, says here Larry's becoming Lana"
And then she got evil: "Kinda makes you wonder just who Trinity was supposed to really be, eh?"
This reeks of urban legend to me, but it's Hollywood... anything's possible. Just when you thought life couldn't get any weirder.
One of the few pictures of Ted being beaten by Ajax.
Sarah G. gets an over-curious no-prize for bringing us this story of a cat, a disposal, and a whole lot of trouble:
This is the story of the night my ten-year-old cat, Rudy, got his head stuck in the garbage disposal. I knew at the time that the experience would be funny if the cat survived, so let me tell you right up front that he's fine. Getting him out wasn't easy, though, and the process included numerous home remedies, a plumber, two cops, an emergency overnight veterinary clinic, a case of mistaken identity, five hours of panic, and fifteen minutes of fame.
In all honesty, I'm really surprised one of ours hasn't tried a stunt like this. Ellen would be a complete and utter basket case. Amber would probably have a sympathetic heart attack.
Fark linked up this nifty image from NASA's Terra satellite showing dozens of aircraft contrails. Looks like the side of my couch actually.
Oh. MY. God.
Remember Kirk Cameron? Well he is still out there. He went from T.V. to being a bible thumping nut job.
All you 'non christians' out there need to check out this site.
Are you good enough to go to heaven? Wait a second, do I care?