June 30, 2004

Set picture = 1000 words;

Posted by scott at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)
O and Her Grampy
Posted by Ellen at 03:07 PM | Comments (4)
Toby M. and His-Not-So-Little Friend

Now that "S2" is hitting the theaters, a picture depicting Mr. Maguire sitting with an open robe displaying some very impressive... rrmm... "equipment" is making the rounds again. No, I won't link it, but it shouldn't be too hard for you to find if you really want to see. Instead, I figured you'd want to see the original photo that the photoshop was created from. Nothing like proof to rain on a gal's (or, if you're into that sort of thing, guy's) parade.

Posted by scott at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)
Rember Kids, Smokey Says

"make sure not to leave food cooking before stepping out.":

Firefighters in a Dallas suburb returned to their station to find a fire started by potatoes they left cooking on a stove, officials said Friday.

~ Isn't it ironic/doncha think? ~

Posted by scott at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)
Test Time

Can you pass this 8th grade final exam from an 1895 Kansas school? I might pass it, but the math section alone would probably relegate me to "short bus" classes the next year. What I found most notable:

  1. A complete lack of any nods toward "cultural sensitivity".
  2. An unapologetic concentration on basics.
  3. Multiple choice? What's multiple choice?
  4. A five hour test! For 14 year-olds!
  5. A total lack of religious references. Dings the conventional wisdom of 19th century America as a land of religious wacks.
  6. A simple, direct, and business-like tone.

It's been, God, more than twenty years since I got out of the 8th grade, but the tests I remember were nothing like this, and if they had been:

  • Significant numbers of teachers wouldn't have been able to understand the questions, let alone grade the answers (thanks NEA!)
  • The black leadership in town would've run picket lines, and drawn national media attention, protesting such a "racist" test.
  • The white leadership in town would've crushed the entire administration because their pampered princes and princesses, unable to copy from the nerds, would've flunked in droves.
  • The working classes of both races would've flipped because their cherished champion high school football and basketball teams would've started the next year with perhaps one freshman recruit. Between them.

As I left the 8th grade Arkansas was instituting standardized tests (for students and teachers), and as I recall things like this did in fact happen. Nothing defines bloodsport more effectively than the politics surrounding schools, and the gladiatorial contests these initiatives created spattered impressive amounts of gore across the local papers. The sad thing is I'm not sure any of it did much good.

It's the fact that the century-old test has changed but the two-decade old experience might not that makes me seriously consider private schooling for Olivia.

Posted by scott at 10:28 AM | Comments (4)
Fact Check! Get Yer Fresh Hot Fact Check Here!

Instapundit linked up this Blackfive article that explains the reality behind the media's "Bush administration recalling old soldiers" spin:

The military is not calling back discharged and retired individual soldiers. They are dipping into the Individual Ready Reserve. There is a big difference between calling up IRR soldiers and recalling retired or discharged soldiers.

When you sign a contract to enlist or get a commission, it is generally for EIGHT years. You perform four years of Active Duy, then you have four left in the Reserves or National Guard.

The media getting something wrong to make a conservative administration look bad. How shocking.

Update: Also of note, the AP's instant rehabilitation of Saddam's personal portrait artist as a "man-on-the-street" representative of Iraqis who think the recent handover is bogus. It might be, but using a quote from someone with an obvious tie to the previous administration and not mentioning it is, well, let's say just a little sneaky, don't you think?

Is it a lie, or is it simply a means that will be justified by the end? Depends on who you're voting for I guess.

Posted by scott at 09:09 AM | Comments (2)
You Damned Sneaky Ape

New Scientist is carrying this article detailing recent findings about the relationship between large brains and certain types of primate behavior. Turns out, larger brains confer the ability to be a sneaky bastard, which is advantageous in a complex social network such as the ones that nearly all primates live in. Includes this amusing example:

Byrne [one of the authors of the study] has himself observed a young baboon dodging a reprimand from its mother by suddenly standing to attention and scanning the horizon, conning the entire troop into panicking about a possible rival group nearby. "We were rather shocked that baboons could do anything quite as subtle as that," he says.

Seems like primate children are alike no matter what species they belong to, no?

Posted by scott at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)
June 29, 2004
Political? Reactionary? Juvenile? Us?!?

Frank over at IMAO hits a triple with this nifty "in my world" bit:

They soon came to the main room where a number of celebrities were partying and saying how much they hated Bush. At the end of the room was a large platform on which the corpulent Michael Moore rested his bulk. Seated on the platform near his feet was a deranged looking Al Franken laughing hysterically. Moore reached into a bowl near him and pulled out a creature that looked like a frog and swallowed it whole, slime trailing down his mouth.

Mandrake will be so disappointed in us...

Posted by scott at 08:11 PM | Comments (1)
Grillmaster S

Ellen, pushing a red target shopping cart down the aisles: "We need a grill."

Scott: "Our yard is 10ft x 10ft. The garage is full of spare parts and gardening stuff. The association Gestapo will take our child if we get a grill and leave it outside. I have it on good authority it's not a good idea to grill inside."

"We need a grill. This grill."

"We'll have to sit on the ground with that! We'll look like extras in a cross between The Brady Bunch and Dances with Wolves."

"We need a grill."

Olivia: "BAH!"

Ellen: *blink* *blink*

So a grill we got, a Thermos brand table-top grill, about 18 inches per side, 2.25 square feet of flame-broiling goodness. The learning curve was steep but short, with a small bag of "match lite" briquettes (which have the advantage of smelling like a fireworks factory while being only marginally safer) being replaced by "regular" charcoal and lighter fluid (OOK! THAG MAKE FIRE!), and then, after Ellen saw how I worked with that, a chimney starter that didn't require lighter fluid.

Scott: "But! But!"

Ellen: "Listen sparky, I didn't spend all this time, effort and money buying a house just so you could play Willie the mad match thrower around it. My house, my rules."

"Your house?!?"

"Look! Grill tools!"

"Oooo... tools..."

Actually, it all worked pretty well, at least in small batches. The chimney starter would fire up just enough coals to cook four burgers, two steaks, or a pound of chicken with enough heat to do the job quickly while leaving cool sear marks. Of course the operative word here was small.

Scott: "How many people did you invite to Olivia's birthday party?"

Ellen: "Umm... lemme count... looks like... sixteen. No. Seventeen. Since we have a grill now, we can have a barbecue!"

Scott: "I thought this was supposed to be a really small get together?"

Ellen: *blink* *blink*

So there I was, trying to figure out how to feed more than a dozen people with a grill the size of a briefcase. The biggest problem, I thought, would be getting enough heat. No way the chimney starter will work this time, doesn’t light enough coals. So I filled the grill up with charcoal, maybe two layers deep and corner-to-corner, doused it with lighter fluid, and hit it with the grill lighter.

What I was expecting was a nice, even, hot grill. What I got would compare favorably to the ass-end of an F/A-18 on full afterburner. The frozen pre-made hamburger patties we'd gotten specially for this occasion started to sear six inches from the grate, and hot dog wieners turned a crusty black in seconds. Dripping grease from the patties caused flare-ups that would take the eyebrows off the unwary (well, they would have if anyone could have gotten that close to the Kilauea-in-a-can I'd created). What went on as patties and dogs came back as roof shingles and dried rat turds.

Eventually a real grilling expert, in the form of my father-in-law Billy, coolly stepped in to save me from the miniature forge-of-Hades I'd created in my driveway. A few strategic water-hose blasts here, a few vents closed there, and (after about fifteen minutes) hot dogs started taking minutes to sear instead of seconds. Burger patties no longer charred in arching hellfire flare-ups, instead cooking nicely, if rather quickly. Most glorious of all, both wife and mother-in-law were far too busy hosting the estrogen-fest upstairs (twelve of the seventeen attendees were female) to make it down for a critique.

Because the only thing worse than screwing up a party in front of your wife is, of course, screwing it up in front of your wife and her mother.

Posted by scott at 02:03 PM | Comments (1)
Is Is Is...

Yeah, it's a little like that. Actually, it's a lot like that.

Posted by scott at 12:18 PM | Comments (1)

Translation: 32 ways to open a beer. Especially liked granny opening one with her teeth. You go girl!

Posted by scott at 10:58 AM | Comments (0)

Kathy over at "On the Third Hand" has this nice roundup of Iraqi blogger reactions to the surprise handover yesterday. Includes a nice (albeit written in somewhat mangled "arablish") account of how the Arab media in particular seems to have been caught flat-footed by the schedule shift.

Big media is also spinning this positively, which is a big surprise to me. And, truth be told, I have a much more emotional reaction to it than I would otherwise have thought. Oh, no tears or anything (I save those for Toy Story movies), but a definite feeling of relief. That it sucked the air out of Farenheit's hype baloon with a big ol' bang was just a nice cherry on top.

It's your country now folks, use it well.

Posted by scott at 08:53 AM | Comments (1)
Pre-Baby Pictures

BBCnews has this story discussing a new book out that for the first time uses the new 3-D ultrasound to examine the behavior of very early foetuses (that's how they spelled it) in the womb. The pictures taken show complex behaviors developing much earlier than previously thought. Includes several very interesting pictures.

Posted by scott at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)
June 28, 2004
Belly Dancing with Snakes

OK, I'm totally bummed there is NO belly dancing class for 6 weeks! There is NO summer session. What the hell am I going to do with myself?

For now, enjoy a belly dance article.

I am Neferteri and the cute guy wrap around me is Seiti. He is an Albino Green Burmese Python, approximately 5 years old and about 5.5’ long. Seiti is my baby and he loves the camera.

Seiti is one of 33 snakes that I presently own. Why in the Goddess’s name would make anyone want that many snakes? I need one for each costume I have! Just kidding.

Read entire article here.

See more of Neferteri and check out the rest of her articles!

Posted by Ellen at 08:18 PM | Comments (0)

In doing some research for an upcoming encounter (working title: "How to Turn your Tabletop Grill into an F-16 Exhaust Pipe"), I stumbled onto this extremely helpful tip from our government:

CPSC Warns -- Never Use Charcoal Grills Indoors

I'm not sure what's worse... the warning itself, or that it was issued for a reason.

Here's your sign...

Posted by scott at 03:40 PM | Comments (2)
Bang! Whoosh! Zoom!

Lots of people who watch CNN/MSNBC/Fox News, etc. more than we do will probably have seen it by now, but those who don't should know that Scaled Composites has video up of SpaceShipOne's first space flight. No sound, but extremely cool pictures. And M&M's... mmmmm... M&Ms...

Posted by scott at 03:23 PM | Comments (2)
It's all Those Damned TVs, I tell Ya, all Those Damned TVs

Scientific American is carrying this summary of a new study conducted on the center of the Milky Way using the Chandra X-ray telescope. Seems there is a "diffuse" source of x-rays in there somewhere, one that can't be accounted for with supernova, big horking black holes, or other exotic stellar critters. The Chandra telescope revealed them to be coming from two plasma formations, one at 10 million degrees C and the other at 100 million degrees C. While interesting, it just pushes the problem one step backward, since astronomers have no idea what could be generating the plasmas.

Posted by scott at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)
Who Made Who?

Those in the peanut gallery who have always thought our target was Saudi Arabia and not Iraq (there's at least one out there I know of), and think the 9-11 commission's report backs this up need to actually read the report:

Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al Qaeda funding, but we found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior officials within the Saudi government funded al Qaeda.

Now, since I've thought all along that the comission was nothing but a political stroke-fest, I get to have it both ways... doubting the comission's assertion about Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Those who actually believed what they said about Iraq... well, consistency's a bitch, ain't it?

Posted by scott at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)
Takin' a Wiz in Style

Fark linked up this account of a Yankee in Emperor Tokugawa's court:

One thing most foreigners are surprised to see when they come to Japan is men urinating in public. Taxi drivers, salarymen and just plain drunks can be seen standing against a wall, a hedge or over a grid in public streets any time of day or night, peeing. I call it the Grand Pee.

Includes a review of a gizmo we featured awhile back, the "My Sweet Pee", a simple device that allows women to urinate standing up. Apparently in Japan it's considered an innovative demonstration of equal rights!

Posted by scott at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)
Workin' it Out

Those of you considering "work" may find GoodPlasticSurgery.com an interesting site. In the early 20th century the middle classes displayed their wealth by emulating old-money Europe, only on a smaller scale (door knockers, furniture, etc.) After the war, they did it by purchasing common items made with high-quality materials and/or exclusive designers (designer jeans, al-clad pots, etc.) Now it seems modifying our bodies will be the hallmark of 21st-century conspicuous consumption. And it's not just boobs... I lump piercings and tatoos (which can be damned pricey) in there as well.

Posted by scott at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)
Dog Day Afternoon

Peter B. gets a blue frizbee-shaped no-prize for bringing us this follow-up to that story we ran last week about the maniac who decides not to go on a killing spree because of a nice dog he met in a park. Apparently, the Canadian press are in sort of a frenzy to find out just who's dog it was, and have landed on Elvis, who turns out to be the B's family dog. He also says the following:

Another dog named Cisco was involved but our media seemed to only want to give credit to Elvis? The National Post was the only media that seemed to care about the truth. All the others tried to get my wife to lie about the time and also the courtroom sketch.

Nice to know that the US doens't have a corner on fork-tounged lizard reporters. Also tres cool to be contacted by the primary source! Thanks!

Posted by scott at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)
Dillution Lesson

We've got quite a few (well, ok, "most but not all") dollars in mutual funds, so I tend to at least pay a little attention to the market as things go by*. One of the most confusing terms I've come across is "earnings per dilluted share." I mean, what, do they stick them in a barrel of water or something? Well, turns out, not surprisingly, it doesn't work that way. Actually the concept is pretty simple, once someone explains it: stock options and things like them are not "real" shares, but could be. A statement including "dilluted" shares is simply figuring things as if all the "not-quite" shares were real shares. See? Simple!

* Since most of our savings is going into the stock market, I have desperately tried to get interested in finance. Unfortunately, once I get into the nuts-and-bolts, I find it all eye-crossingly dull. This from a guy who has read Pliny the Elder's Natural History! Occasionally I'll stumble across a book that's written well enough to be interesting to me (I'm currently working on Sowell's Basic Economics at the moment, and I'm finding it very enjoyable and informative), but I just don't bother with the magazines. Unless I can't sleep.

Posted by scott at 09:04 AM | Comments (1)
One Thing or the Other

Well, which is it, Dog Toy, or "Marital Aid"?

I did OK with the first round, but the second round's a b*tch!

Posted by scott at 08:29 AM | Comments (1)
June 27, 2004
Master Blaster

Fark linked up this story on an interesting new method of enrichment (no, I don't live with a former primate vet tech... why do you ask?) for one zoo's chimpanzees:

At the zoo's new Regenstein Center for African Apes, chimpanzees can touch a panel hidden from public view that will shoot harmless bursts of air at unsuspecting visitors.

Hours of fun for apes of all ages!

Posted by scott at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)
A Letter from the Front

The National Center Blog is carrying this letter from the front written by Joe Roche, a combat engineer with the 16th Engineer Battalion in Iraq. Again, it was letters from soldiers that first started to unravel the debacle that Vietnam really was. If it's going terribly, it will show up here first. Needless to say, it's not.

The paralells between this and Will the Real Tet Offensive... are quite interesting.

Posted by scott at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)
June 26, 2004
I's more Stronger Dan Darf Fader!

And winning the award for most bizzare music video, we have Beint af toppnum í Albaníu (I think... can't quite find a title). In spite of the title, it's in English, sort of. Long live space race!

Posted by scott at 02:06 PM | Comments (2)
Going Up, Pt 2

Slashdot linked up this AP story about new developments with the space elevator project. This time it's an interview with the head of the project, which has already been given $500,000 for basic research. His take: 15 years from start to finish, 10 billion dollars. Sounds like a lot until you compare it to the cost of the ISS.

Posted by scott at 07:36 AM | Comments (2)
June 25, 2004
Baby's Diaper Absorbs Snake Venom

The 12-month-old baby, who had been playing in the backyard, was rushed to a hospital only after his parents noticed fang marks on the diaper and swelling on his bottom while giving him a bath in the evening.

Doctors said there was no need to administer an antidote but the baby would remain in the hospital for observation.

Read entire article here.

Posted by Ellen at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)
Quack U!

The annual duck celebration in Stuttgart, Ark., was winding down — the Queen Mallard beauty pageant was over and the world's best duck dog had been determined. Then Daniel Duke stepped onto the Main Street stage.

"I knew I had a shot at it," the 19-year-old said of the $1,500 award, which he hopes to use to attend the University of Arkansas. "And I think it's pretty great you can get a scholarship for calling ducks."

Read entire article here.
Posted by Ellen at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)
Indian Giving

Fark linked up this ABCnews article detailing the story of a rancher who kept an ancient Indian settlement both secret and perfectly preserved for the past 50 years. Archeologists didn't even realize the importance of the find until two years ago, and now they're so busy cataloging what's in the open to actually do any digging. The rancher, now 74, forced a promise out of the state that they would take steps to protect the property before he took a buyout and retired.

It's just possible they'll be able to pull it off, but pot hunters, the bane of all amerind archeology, are a resourceful bunch. Like the old man, now that they're public I have a sinking feeling the finds won't stay "un-looted" much longer.

Posted by scott at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)
Will the Real Tet Offensive Please Stand Up?

For the past eighteen months every time a group of pissed-off Iraqis gets together and decides to blow themselves up some Americans every talking head around the world will say the same word at once: Tet. This is Tet, that is Tet, here comes the Tet again, over and over again, culminating in the greatest Tet revival of them all, the Fallujah offensive in April. At that point, you couldn't swing a baseball bat without cracking open the skull of some commentator saying "Tet".

All it really showed was how poorly understood Tet is among journalistic circles. This is not surprising, since the Tet offensive is probably the most poorly understood event in a very poorly understood war. Worse still, by calling the game too soon the media are now incapable of admitting that the recent country-wide bombings and insurgencies in Iraq are at least as "Tet-like" as anything they reported in Fallujah. The media are therefore ignoring valuable parallels and insights between Tet and current events, ones that could provide perspective, and help avoid repeating profoundly damaging mistakes.

It is, of course, useful to understand what, exactly, happened at Tet before moving forward. After some fifteen years of more or less continuous conflict and three years of direct American involvement, the North Vietnamese leadership decided only a bold move could quickly end the civil war in Vietnam. To that end, a surprise offensive was planned for the 1968 Tet holiday (January 31st), Vietnam's New Year celebration and up to that time traditionally a period of truce.

The plan was for the North Vietnamese army to stage a diversionary attack on a remote US base in Khe Sahn near the North-South border. While US forces were thus distracted, southern guerrilla Viet Cong (VC) cadres along with smuggled-in North Vietnamese regular army soldiers would attack most major cities in the South simultaneously. The people of the South, it was assumed, would see how the corrupt Southern regime was incapable of defending them, rise up, and join the insurrection, quickly ending the entire conflict with a single stroke.

At first the plan worked brilliantly. US leadership, which had always been looking for the "one big fight" required to smash the North, went after the bait of Khe Sahn like a starving marlin. The VC uprisings caught all remaining US and Southern forces completely by surprise, allowing the VC to rapidly gain control of several cities, even allowing them to blow a hole in the wall of the US embassy in Saigon during a direct assault.

Unfortunately the offensive began to unravel nearly as quickly as it had started. The key failure was the South's inability to see "the light of truth and liberation" their Northern brethren offered and their consequent refusal to join in the revolt. Through a bit of luck and a bit of skill, a lower-ranking US Army general had held back a few battalions of US forces for protection in Saigon, and these, combined with the Southern Vietnamese army (ARVN), were then able to annihilate the VC forces after a few weeks of admittedly bitter fighting. The Viet Cong would never again be a real factor in the Vietnamese conflict.

Someone completely unfamiliar with the story of Vietnam might be surprised to find out that not only was Tet a disaster for the Viet Cong, it was also a disaster for the United States military. Tet marked the point where public opinion started its decisive swing from supporting an eventual victory to wishing simply to get out. The US's military presence ceased growing and started shrinking almost overnight. Protests of the war would grow larger and increasingly violent. It is no exaggeration to say the chain of events that directly led to the fall of Saigon had its first link forged at Tet.

Conventional wisdom among many military history buffs is this is the direct result of the negative media portrayals both during and after the event. Certainly at the time the events of Tet were portrayed in a negative light and the general perception for perhaps the next fifteen years would be that Tet was a resounding defeat for Southern and US forces.

However, while this is now demonstrably untrue, to lay the blame for the loss of Vietnam on the media's portrayal of a single event is to completely ignore the greater context of the war itself. Vietnam was a debacle from end to end not because of the top brass's inability to control a hostile media, but because of its complete and utter incompetence in the handling of the conflict itself.

Equipped and trained to fight a gigantic force-on-force conventional war with the Soviet Union, like a toddler with a hammer the upper echelons of military leadership kept trying to bang the square peg of Vietnam into the round hole of mechanized warfare. Lower echelon officers who could see what was wrong and attempted to make a difference were prevented from and sometimes even punished for developing new tactics and strategies to fight and win. The dissonance between an army that knew how to win (or at least how not to lose) and a leadership that refused to let them slowly began to tear the military apart from within.

Uncomfortable media reports, worrisome losses, and incessant protests could be dismissed as long as our leaders assured America they were winning. As hard as it is to imagine now, the government's say-so was all that most of the "greatest generation" ever needed to feel confident. But Tet ripped away the curtain of deception the military and political leadership had drawn over the truth. Contrary to what they had been told by their leaders, at times almost daily, the enemy was not growing weaker, was not demoralized or bankrupt, and was not going anywhere any time soon. That Tet itself ultimately ended in victory was of little import. The evidence of their strength, their resolve, and their skill was as bright and clear as the TV screens that transmitted it. It was a fundamental breach of trust between the American people and its political and military leadership that ultimately doomed the effort in Vietnam. The ultimate significance of Tet is that it was here the breach first fissured open.

The parallels between Tet and the three guerrilla insurrections in Iraq (Ba'athist, al-Sadrist, and the current Zarqawist) are many, but they are subtle and too often incorrectly drawn by the media. Then, as now, Guerrilla forces are fighting a US-run occupation to discredit and destroy a US-backed regime. Then, as now, the battle is timed to maximize its effect on an upcoming presidential election. Then, as now, victory will be measured more by a swing in opinion polls than any loss of blood, land, or treasure.

The differences between Tet and the various insurrections are at least as important, and almost never discussed in the media. Iraq is not split in two, with large numbers of its citizens fighting each other. There is no huge regular army standing behind the guerrillas, waiting to pounce. There are no superpowers writing blank checks to the opposition. The government of Iraq is not a military junta of Christian outsiders, emplaced by a violent coup and empowered by US force. Most importantly, America today blindly trusts no one with the lives of its children. We are quite ready, perhaps at times too ready, to believe reports that our political and military leaders are dropping the ball, and are quick to call them on it.

While the political lessons of Tet, that no one with a huge amount of power should ever be trusted blindly, and (much later) that journalists can be trusted to report what they see, but not what they think it means, can be said to have been well and truly learned by modern America. However, the military lesson of Tet seems to have been learned by hardly anyone at all.

When reduced to a narrow military lesson, Tet teaches us that it is profoundly dangerous for an irregular guerrilla force, no matter how well organized or equipped, to take on a more powerful conventional military force in any sort of sustained offensive. Such offensives frequently start out with the advantage of surprise and spectacular success, but with time, especially without the support of the people, merely serve to expend carefully hoarded materiel and expose carefully trained cadre and commanders to the overwhelming firepower of a superior force.

In 1968, with a force trained in the wrong tactics using the wrong gear supported by locals who clearly wished to be somewhere else, the US military utterly destroyed a guerrilla force that had defeated a previous Western foe (the French) fifteen years earlier and seemed undefeatable just weeks before. Thirty-five years of technology, training, strategy, and tactics have made our military orders of magnitude more effective at fighting insurgents dumb enough to try and take them on.

Tet should not teach us an organized uprising is a sign of immenent defeat, but instead is an opportunity. Like a column of enemy tanks moving without air cover, we should see these guerrillas for what they really are.


Posted by scott at 04:29 PM | Comments (2)

Just wanted to take a moment to congratulate Nina, Ellen's sister, on her graduation from High School today! Enjoy your summer while you can, college starts soon enough!

Posted by scott at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)
Overstock Gold

Fark linked up this Wired story about how an unlikely company has become the number one employer in Afghanistan:

[A] confluence of factors culminated this week in a confirmation by the Afghan Ministry of Commerce that [Overstock.com, a site specializing in product liquidations,] is currently the largest provider of private employment in Afghanistan. According to Mariam Nawabi, commercial attaché for the Afghan Embassy in the United States, Overstock is currently believed to provide employment, directly or indirectly, for about 1,700 people living in Afghanistan.

I fully expect someone out on the idiotarian fringe to start saying this is a bad thing because the workers are being "exploited". To this I can only point out that no one is forcing these people to work. If at any point they feel these buyers are cheating them, they can always just stop working or sell their wares at a local market. There is no wage slavery here.

Posted by scott at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)
Judges say-- Technique: 7.5, Creativity: 10

You know it's a busy world indeed when even the perverts start time shifting:

Boulder, Colo., police want to find a man who gained access to rooms at the Broker Inn during a recent cheerleader camp and used cameras belonging to some participants to take photos of his genitals resting on the girls' personal items.

No word yet if he was dumb enough to have a picture of his face on the roll, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Posted by scott at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)
Genghis Kahn: Barbarian, Emperor, Grandfather

Discovery Channel online is carrying this summary of research that claims to have made a remarkable discovery:

Genghis Khan left a legacy shared by 16 million people alive today, according to a book by a Oxford geneticist who identified the Mongol emperor as the most successful alpha male in human history.

They did this by tracing an unusual Y chromosomal "fingerprint" discovered during a generalized genetic survey of Central Asia. Eventually the trail of evidence lead right back to the only Mongol village in existence with a heavy preponderance of this trait and an oral tradition of being the birthplace of the Great Kahn.

Circumstantial, but still very interesting.

Posted by scott at 09:21 AM | Comments (0)
Man's Best Friend

Sometimes dogs are annoying, sometimes they can save lives, in the most unexpected ways:

A Canadian man, driving a car packed with weapons and ammunition, was intent on killing as many people as possible in a Toronto neighbourhood but gave up the plan at the last minute when he encountered a friendly dog, police say.
Posted by scott at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)
June 24, 2004
Anime Dreams

Slashdot linked up Ghost in the Shell 2, which is due in theaters later this summer. We really enjoyed the first one, might try to figure out a way to see this one. Ms. Tiny Toes makes it a little challenging, but them's the breaks. :)

Posted by scott at 07:53 PM | Comments (1)
Phoebe News

Space.com is carrying this summary of a more comprehensive look at the data provided by Cassini during the recent Phoebe flyby:

"All our evidence leads us to conclude, Phoebe's surface is made of water ice, water-bearing minerals, carbon dioxide, possible clays and primitive organic chemicals in patches at different locations on the surface," said Roger N. Clark, team member for the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, U.S. Geological Survey in Denver. "We also see spectral signatures of materials we have not yet identified."

Big dirty slushball, in other words. Kind of weird to think this thing is probably what a comet turns into when it's not near the sun.

Posted by scott at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)
Popeye's Child?

Lots of people are linking up this NY Times piece detailing the case of a German boy with a peculiar genetic mutation:

The baby, it turned out in the first such documented case in a human, had a double dose of a genetic mutation that causes immense strength in mice and cattle. Drugs are under development that, investigators hope, will use the same principle to help people whose muscles are wasting from muscular dystrophy or other illnesses. Experts say the little boy, now 4½ and still very strong, offers human evidence for the theory behind such drug

The scientists seem to think treatments based on this finding may be available in as little as five to ten years.

Posted by scott at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)
Reductio ad absurdum

Not content with the now undeniable progress of blacks in America, academics have now decided the problem is America isn't helping the right blacks:

While about 8 percent, or about 530, of Harvard's undergraduates were black, Lani Guinier, a Harvard law professor, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of Harvard's African and African-American studies department, pointed out that the majority of them — perhaps as many as two-thirds — were West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples.

They said that only about a third of the students were from families in which all four grandparents were born in this country, descendants of slaves.

What would have been far more useful would be a survey of the entire student body to see just how many of all the students have grandparents who were born in this country. Harvard being Harvard, I don't doubt a significant number of whites would, but I imagine a significant number would not.

I'm currently working through Someone Else's House, an excellent and shocking chronicle of the struggle to integrate the US. So far, one of the main lessons of this history seems to be meddling, no matter how well intentioned, is still meddling, and often leads to disaster. Make sure the laws don't allow discrimination to be legal, and then let people sort it out themselves seems to be the only long-term road to success.

True, it does mean it's taken 40 years to make even this inadequate progress. But it is progress, and we are still moving forward, even if the steps are shuffling and painful. It's only the arrogance, bloody-mindedness, and willful naivete of academics and radicals that allows them to think the only reason they can't wipe out some three hundred years of slavery and discrimination with the wave of a legislative, regulatory, or rebellious magic wand is that they simply haven't found the right one.

I guess that's one definite difference I can see between radical conservatives and radical liberals. Radical conservatives want to change what you do. Radical liberals want to change what you think.

Posted by scott at 10:18 AM | Comments (1)
Brings a Whole New Meaning to "Party Boat"

Just to prove the US isn't the only country with busybody morals police, we have this breathless article about a "funtastic" cruise off the coast of Cyprus:

An urgent inquiry was launched in Cyprus last night after an undercover police operation exposed a group of up to 100 tourists, including Britons, taking part in what was described a mass orgy aboard a cruise ship off the island.

There were no minors, no children, international waters, everyone knew what it was going in, and it was miles off shore so nobody else could "accidentally" see it. Is it for me? No, not really. Is it for you? Well, the operative word there is why should I care? And why should these police? Let's hope Interpol turns them down flat and the operators of the ship either lie low for awhile or move to a different port. Damned shame moralists could come in and ruin everyone's (adult) good time. To think all this time I thought that only happened in America.

In the comments on FARK I did find the world's most appropriate image for this post:


For sure!

Posted by scott at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)
Happy Birthday Olivia!

At around 11:30 am (Ellen knows the exact time of course) June 24, Olivia Rachel Johnson was welcomed into this world. In a year, we've gone from this:

To this:


We have indeed come a long way, baby!

Posted by scott at 07:22 AM | Comments (6)
June 23, 2004
More Hair Raisers

Damion gets a fashionable no-prize for bringing us MulletJunky.com, your one-stop-shop for everything related to everyone's favorite short-in-the-front, long-in-the-back hairstyle.

Scary thing is, if trends hold, these things will be in fashion just as my daughter is entering junior high. *shudder*

Posted by scott at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)
Saudis who Don't Want to Blow You Up

Just before he goes on vacation, The Religious Policeman decided to do a little cat-blogging of his own:

I'm not an expert on cat breeds, but I rather think that our local cats have thinner faces, longer ears, and rougher fur, than the typical Western breed.

Probably right, although the many pictures (including some insanely cute kittens) look about the same as the ones who come through Ellen's clinic all the time. No longhaired ones though, for obvious reasons.

I often wondered what, if any, sort of cat inhabited Saudi Arabia. Now I know!

Posted by scott at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)
Beetle Bailey's Japanese Fetish

Bigwig over at Silflay discovered a nifty homage to a Japanese artist in a recent Beetle Bailey strip. I'd seen it, even smirked at it a bit, and never even noted the artistic difference.

Posted by scott at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)
Neolithic Captain Crunch

Scientific American is carrying this article detailing new findings about man's use of grains as a staple food source. By studying a site in Israel called Ohalo II, archeologists have determined humans were using grains as a significant part of their diet about 25,000 years ago, nearly twice the age as was previously thought.

Posted by scott at 11:59 AM | Comments (1)
Richie's Next T-Shirt?

Nunchucks don't kill people, Ninjas do.

Posted by scott at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)
Iraqi Gospel

Instapundit led me to this extremely interesting summary of good things happening in Iraq. For once I didn't detect a whiff of Vietnam-style sunshine-blowing in any of these reports, a very nice feeling indeed. Recommended.

Posted by scott at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)
Lurid is as Lurid Does

Praise the Lord that The Smoking Gun exists, without which you would not be able to read the actual text of the Ryan divorce case. Jeri Ryan's divorce case. Yes, that Jeri Ryan.

I find reading court documents damned near as informative as watching COPS. Nothing like getting the first-hand accounts, unfiltered and without gossipy media wonks spinning it back and forth. Without TSG and their published transcripts, I'd still think Roman Polanski and Michael Jackson were victims.

Posted by scott at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)
Super Dollar, Super Scam

Want to know why US currency, after being so stable in appearance, has changed so frequently of late? How about this:

Millions of dollars of the fake cash have been passed into circulation since [the superdollar's] existence was first noticed over a decade ago.

The money, officially known as Note Family - C14342, is thought to originate from communist North Korea.

Guess it's a good thing North Korea sits on some of the most worthless real-estate on the planet. Imagine what they'd be like if they had natural resources.

Posted by scott at 08:17 AM | Comments (1)
Well, I Didn't Know

Sarah G. gets a clucking no-prize for bringing us how a chicken lays an egg. Ellen did several stints on a research farm as part of her VT degree, so I'm sure this is all old hat to her, but hell I didn't know how it worked. I'm not sure I wanted to though.

Posted by scott at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)
June 22, 2004
The Persistence of Memory

iTunes just played What About Me?, a song from what I must guess is a one-hit-wonder by the name of Moving Pictures. Probably around 1982, but that's just a guess. Hadn't heard the thing since then, but when it came on just now I instantly recognized the melody. I remember being deeply moved by it when I was 14, but 35 36*-year-old-me thinks it's stoopid. Just bad. We're talking "oh-my-god-my-eyes-are-dripping-sugar" awful. And yet I remembered every single lyric, could sing along with it no less.

I get yelled at because I can't remember where I put my keys from one day to the next, yet I could instantly recall the lyrics to an idiotic song I haven't heard in twenty years. How many more brain cells are being wasted storing the lyrics to various Wham! and Billy Ocean songs? Someone please tell me, how can I get them back?!?

~ Carribean Queen... ~

* I quit counting after I hit 25, and now usually have to ask Ellen how old I am. Pretty sad when such a common question has me standing there concentrating and counting on my fingers.

Posted by scott at 08:04 PM | Comments (2)
A "Doom" Ship

Navy buffs will enjoy this article about the upcoming DD(x) super-high-tech destroyer. Innovations include flexible gas-turbine power, electric motors driving the screws (propellers), and provisions for direct energy (laser) and high-energy electromagnetic-kenetic weapons (aka "railguns"). Includes this most excellent quote: Our bottom line is that if we can put millions of joules of energy onto a target, something will happen.


Posted by scott at 06:37 PM | Comments (0)
Letter from the Front

Anyone who thinks the occupation is an unmitigated, unrelieved disaster should read this:

My platoon and I were on a security patrol in the countryside on the outskirts of the town when one of our vehicles became stuck on a narrow road bordered by a canal. It was in danger of rolling into the water. We had to stop our vehicles which can be very dangerous.

A family that lived nearby came out of their house and began to move toward our patrol. They were smiling and waving. There were children playing everywhere. The women prepared food and the eldest males met with us. Our vehicle was badly stuck and we needed chains to remove it. At this point, the surrounding families joined us and showed us tremendous hospitality. This is remarkable because often times, local terrorists will sometimes intimidate those who help us or show us kindness.

In the heart of one of the more dangerous areas of Iraq, no less.

Poorly run? Probably. Badly planned? Definitely. Without redemption? Never.

Posted by scott at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)
Musical Manuscripts

Nature recently featured this article detailing a new set of studies that claim musical notes in a song are statistically very similar to words in a book. The article mentions this helps explain why most people have such a hard time understanding atonal music. However, I also think this could provide some insight as to why prodigies seem to always concentrate in language, music, and mathematics.

Posted by scott at 02:15 PM | Comments (4)
Testing Trials

Turns out the SpaceShipOne test wasn't all peaches and cream, with problems in stability, attitude control, and composite faring failure making themselves evident. The system is grounded for now until they can sort it all out, but this is a delay, not a retreat. Considering how far ahead they were of all the other teams, I just think it makes it more interesting.

Yes, NASA launches have historically gone perfectly or they haven't gone at all. But that's where most if not all of the 20 times more you pay for NASA launches is going.

Update This informative slashdot comment goes into greater detail about what went wrong with the control system.

Posted by scott at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)
Shot of the Century

After gathering dust for most of the past ninety years, the gun that kicked into motion the events that would lead to WWI is scheduled to be put on display. Been sitting in a Jesuit community house the whole time. Damned monks, never up to any good.

It's a joke people, a joke.

Posted by scott at 12:51 PM | Comments (0)
Without Who?

What do you get when you cross Eminem with Saddam Hussein?

Ok, I'm pretty sure I don't want to know either, but this song parody is funny anyway!

Via Daffodil Lane

Posted by scott at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)
Train Train Go Away

Instapundit led us to this Telegraph piece that summarizes new research on the efficiency of trains as a form of mass transit. Turns out their nowhere near as friendly to the environment as we think.

While this is for the UK, the US will probably be even worse, as our ancient regulations require far heavier trains and cars, especially for passenger service. However, considering Amtrak only stays in business with massive government subsidies, don't expect any changes soon.

I expect enviroweenies roaring disapproval at a scientific attack on one of their pet beliefs within a day at most.

Posted by scott at 09:33 AM | Comments (1)
What... is Your Name?

Remember Mr. Hiibel? Everyone's favorite unreasonable Nevada Cowboy, who refused to even give a police officer his name? Well from now on he has to provide it.

I personally don't have a problem with this. It's not like we live in some sort of Tolkeinish reality where "true names" give you some sort of evil power over people. The Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and self-incrimination. Your name constitutes neither of these, IMO.

Posted by scott at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)
Hair-Raising Record

Pleased we are to be welcoming Tran Van Hay, a Vietnamese national looking to set a Guiness world record for the longest hair. Mr. Hay hasn't been to a barber in more than 30 years, and his hair now has reached a claimed 20 feet in length. Includes freaky-weird picture!

Posted by scott at 07:12 AM | Comments (1)
June 21, 2004
Rrmm... Wha???

First Christian rock, then Christian theme parks, now Christian debt relief. Where does it all end?

Sometimes being the guy who cleans out the spam bin for a 60-user network has its uses.

Posted by scott at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)
Mi Amore

Let's all take a moment out of our all-too-busy lives to consider what an exotic super car was like in a different age:

  • Dual overhead cam 8-cylinder, aluminum head and block, 225 bhp.
  • Supercharged
  • All independent suspension
  • 4 speed gearbox integral with differential at rear
  • 19 inch wheels
  • Aluminum sports body
When, sixty-four years, 6 wars, and 12 U.S. Presidents ago, Alfa Romeo created the ultimate 8C2900, the above specifications were obviously pretty wild. Only the Grand Prix cars of the era could offer more in terms of high tech, speed and acceleration. Perhaps the only comparison worth mentioning today is the McLaren F1.

Like the guy on TV says, "do you need a car like this? No, you don't really need a car like this. Do you want a car like this? Oh yeah, you want a car like this."

Posted by scott at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)
Oh no She Didn't!

Oh yes she did:

The woman [who went to the gynecologist complaining of a malodorous discharge], upon questioning, finally confessed that her husband was a hunter. He had recently brought home a deer and gutted and dressed it in their garage. She saw the tongue, admired its length, and had snuck off with it to use as a masturbatory aid.

Although we can't confirm all the details of the item quoted above (it may have become embellished through multiple retellings, or it may derive from a source other than the one we located), we can verify that the basics of the incident related are true.

Ok, all those times the women in my life sighed and rolled their eyes at how disgusting men are? [Nelson voice]HA-ha![/Nelson voice]

Posted by scott at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)
Eye in the Sky

New Scientist is carrying this article that provides a very graphic illustration that the Mad Mullahs in Iran are most definitely up to something:

Nuclear inspectors are expected to visit a site in the Iranian capital, Tehran, following evidence from satellite photographs that it was scraped clean earlier in 2004.

With, of course, nifty pictures to show that the camera doesn't lie.

Only the media are dense enough to believe an oil-rich, sparsely populated country needs nuclear power for its energy needs. They're working on a bomb, people, and working on it as hard and as fast as their desperate little sandal-clad feet and sand-scratched hands will let them.

We barely trust ourselves with this technology, and anyone who thinks an unelected brutalizing theocracy with a proven track record of terrorism has some sort of right to one of these things needs to have their head examined. We're a little busy right now with their neighbors, so I can only hope Israel steps up to the plate again to ensure they remain the only nuclear power in the region.

Because, after all, America won't be the first target of an Arab bomb. We'll be the second. And if you doubt that for one second you're either dangerously naive or working for the other side.

Posted by scott at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)
To Infinity, and Beyond!

It's all over the place, but just in case you missed it, SpaceShip One just became the first privately-financed vehicle to fly into space. While the chattering classes obsess over how to keep the plebes from giving the penultimate plebe another four years, and bin Laden et. al. are sitting in rocky caves trying figure out how to blow it all up, some of us are busy building functioning spacecraft in our garages. With our own goddamned money.

If that's not a nail in the coffin of big government, I don't know what is.

Posted by scott at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)
A Pet of the Week You Can Show Your Mother

TBIFOC linked up this innovative way of advertising pets for adoption. Anything that gets people to consider adopting a pet is fine by me.

Posted by scott at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)
More News We Can Use

Finally, an education initiative everyone can support:

Standing in front of the Los Angeles Times building on Spring Street and surrounded by aides, President Bush put forth a new and long-overdue proposal today, to the cheers of thousands of long-suffering readers of that paper, to start to repair the tragic situation with the American journalism system. He called it "No Reporter Left Behind."

Laugh-out-loud satire from a pleasantly unexpected source.

Via Site-Essential

Posted by scott at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)
Liar of the Month?

Neo-dems who have trouble sleeping because "Farenheit 9-11" hasn't opened yet may find this Clinton story interesting:

Clinton, who was interviewed Thursday, said he did not believe that Bush went to war in Iraq over oil or for imperialist reasons but out of a genuine belief that large quantities of weapons of mass destruction remained unaccounted for.

Noting that Bush had to be "reeling" in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Clinton said Bush's first priority was to keep al Qaeda and other terrorist networks from obtaining "chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material."

"That's why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for," Clinton said in reference to Iraq and the fact that U.N. weapons inspectors left the country in 1998.

This must've had the media machine in a Nomad-worthy meltdown:

Media is good. Media is perfect. Media is incapable of error. Bush is Republican. Bush is evil. Bush must be stopped. Iraq war started by Bush. Iraq war is evil. Iraq war is wrong. Clinton is Democrat. Clinton is good. Clinton created prosperity. Clinton says Iraq war is right. Clinton says Bush is right. Clinton agrees with Bush. Media is therefore in error. Media is incapable of error. Clinton says Bush is right. Media is therefore in error. Media is incapable of error. Clinton says Bush is right. Media is therefore in error. Media is incapable of error. Clinton sa^&@$ *$%## !@#44 $#@ @#% #$@


Unfortunately we can't beam them all into deep space so they can explode harmlessly. More's the pity.

Via Instapundit and Captain's Quarters

Posted by scott at 09:06 AM | Comments (1)
No! Dear God No!!!

First, they brought back that bug-spray-in-a-bottle pachouli and every other damned thing hippies thought was cool, and we did nothing. Then, they convinced kids leisure suits and the Sunshine Band were it, and we stood by. Now they're trying to bring back polo shirts and penny loafers! Not again! The line must be drawn here -- this far, no further! And I will make them pay for what they've done!

I will. Oh yes, I will.

Posted by scott at 08:24 AM | Comments (1)
Holy Cow... rrr... Spiderman?

Shiva H. Vishnu! Spiderman's been off-shored!

Spider-Man India interweaves the local customs, culture and mystery of modern India, with an eye to making Spider-Man’s mythology more relevant to this particular audience. Readers of this series will not see the familiar Peter Parker of Queens under the classic Spider-Man mask, but rather a new hero – a young, Indian boy named Pavitr Prabhakar. As Spider-Man, Pavitr leaps around rickshaws and scooters in Indian streets, while swinging from monuments such as the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal.

Feh, why not?

Posted by scott at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)
June 20, 2004
Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day Daddy!!!

Posted by Ellen at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)
Tossing the Chlorine Mermaid




Tossing a 26 pound wet baby is good upper body exercise.

Posted by Ellen at 07:17 PM | Comments (2)

Slashdot linked up this Detroit News article that details how the auto industry is adapting nanotechnologies to build better cars. Turns out GM is already using nanotech in a limited way for pedestrian things like bed liners, but this is only the beginning. Windshields that don't crack, paints that won't scratch, suspensions that adapt themselves to the road, all and more are within reach.

I still think that my great-grandchildren will build their dream homes by picking a pattern out of a book, buying a 55-gallon drum of liquid, a 10-pound sack of "dust", and a dumpster full of specially-formulated dirt. Dump the sack in the drum, stir for ten minutes, then dump the drum on the dirt. A week later, and there's your house, ready to move in. All that's left is to clean up the dust, mummified corpses of a million machines.

Posted by scott at 07:03 PM | Comments (0)
Secret Mission: Car Salesman

Fark linked up this interview of a journalist who went "under cover" as a used car salesman for three months. In it, he describes the things he found both good and awful about the business. Bottom line: not all car salesman are sleazes, but their business model makes them seem so.

I've only purchased one new car in my life so far, and we got lucky because my sister-in-law was (is?) a member of some club that guaranteed a car at exactly $200 over the dealer's cost. No muss, no fuss. The salesman was still greasy as an oiled gangster, but at least we didn't have to talk price with him.

Posted by scott at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)
June 19, 2004
Twin Sisters In Spirit

Alexis and Olivia FINALLY got to meet!

Go check out the pictures!

FYI- O and Lex were born on the same day.

Posted by Ellen at 09:58 PM | Comments (2)
Just When You Thought it was Safe to Go Outside

Well, we're done dodging the red-eyed devil bugs, but looks like now we need a pied piper:

Health officials in [Washington DC suburbs] are recording an unusual increase in complaints about rats, which are feasting on the carcasses of cicadas.

Somehow I don't think K&D will find these guys as cuddly. Or they might. Never can tell sometimes. :)

Posted by scott at 04:42 PM | Comments (1)
Survival of the Fastest

New Scientist is carrying this article summarizing a new and innovative idea about using evolutionary science to make F-1 cars go faster:

The team started with a population of randomly chosen tuning configurations, each of which was tested on two virtual tracks.

Recombination and mutation of the best 40 per cent were then used to come up with the next generation, some of which were faster still around the track. Eventually their system evolved configurations that consistently broke track records.

They had to use a game/sim, but considering the high fidelity of those the results should translate. Some of the back markers don't have much to lose, so I wouldn't be surprised if this tech ended up at, say, Sauber or Toyota.

Posted by scott at 08:55 AM | Comments (1)
June 18, 2004
The Chlorine Mermaid




Olivia's first day at the pool. We have a chlorine mermaid on our hands!

Posted by Ellen at 09:49 PM | Comments (6)
Dillon from Scatter The Ashes interviewed so read up!

Guest author: Nina(my sister)

Nina from punkbands.com got a chance to talk with Dillon from newly Epitaph signed Scatter The Ashes. Topics covered were their new album, signing to Epitpah instead of Island and about being compared to The Cure and Refused.

Read entire interview here.

Posted by Ellen at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)
Everything Old is New Again

Monroe County NY Democrats are dusting off one of the oldest political tricks on the books:

Monroe County Democrats have teamed up with High Falls Brewery to offer two free 2-ounce beers to those who register to vote at the festival.

Lots of tut-tutting from the usual suspects, who want to make fun illegal. Personally I have no trouble with it. After all, during the actual election liquor stores are closed to prevent larger units of alcohol from garnering more concrete results.

And two ounces isn't always two ounces. Ellen and I once went to a beer festival in downtown DC. The way the system worked, you got a stack of 10 "pogues" (wooden poker chips basically) with your admission. Each pogue was good for 2 ounces of beer.

Which is what I got when I went up to any of the dozens of beer booths, which were typically manned by big grinning guys who looked like they spent their days lifting kegs onto trucks. What Ellen got in her daisy-dukes, tight half-shirt, and sandals was, well, whatever she wanted. Ellen quickly became the "beer girl", and eventually we ended up sitting in a corner trying to sober up so we could drive home.

To this day she thinks they just weren't paying attention when they filled her glass.

Posted by scott at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)
As the Pendulum Swings

Bias? We don't see no stinkin' bias:

Really? No, not really:

The celebration [by opponents of the Iraq war] is premature. The commission's cursory treatment of so salient a national question as whether al Qaeda and Iraq confederated is puzzling [...] More to the point, though, the staff statements released Wednesday — which seemed to be contradicted by testimony at the public hearing within minutes of their publication — raise more questions than they answer, about both matters the staff chose to address and some it strangely opted to omit.

"Wow," I can hear the Peanut Gallery thinking, "couldn't you do any better than the obviously far-right National Review?"

Well, seeing as how I cited three far-left sources first, I figured I'd need to put in a little balance.

Posted by scott at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)
Give Her a Hand, Folks!

Freaky-weird photoshop goof, anyone?

So my friend ... was home one night, probably on his computer, when he heard a shreak coming from downstairs. It was Emily, his younger sister. Upon running down to see what had happened, he found a very traumatized Emily to be reading the latest Victoria's Secret catalog.

Via Red Sugar Muse

Posted by scott at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)
Spirit Report

Jim Hake from Spirit of America just got back from Iraq, and sent out a nicely detailed e-mail summarizing his recent trip there. Unfortunately it's not posted on their website yet, so I'll "republish" it below.

An aside: The parallels, and contrasts, to the trips made by peace activists thirty years ago to Vietnam are striking. Then, as now, citizen groups went "under their own steam" to see what was going on in a faraway place and what they could do to help. Private groups would tour both North and South Vietnam and try to meet with all parties to see what could be done to achieve peace.

The results of the two missions couldn't be more different. Then, almost without exception, groups traveling to Vietnam would come back transformed. Even the idealistic ones, with bright ideas and shining faces, when confronted with the debacle that Vietnam had become, would change their message and mission radically. Once they'd seen first-hand the incompetence of leadership in all areas, the hopelessness and war-weariness of the people involved, they would suddenly stop talking about what could be done to win and start talking about what could be done to get out.

Now, it seems even missions to Iraq with a strongly negative spin (which lately seems to include anyone carrying a press pass), when pressed, will admit the situation is not in fact completely hopeless. People with less of an "anyone-but-Bush" agenda, who are more interested in succeeding in the mission at hand than placing blame on whoever or whatever got them there, are of course far more optimistic, although no less guarded.

It's time to let the dead bury the dead, and get on with what needs to be done to finish this successfully.


I'm back from my trip to Iraq. This message provides observations, conclusions, implications for Spirit of America moving forward, a few photographs and an interesting story or two.

This is a long message so if you read no further please understand three things: (1) there is hope for Iraq, (2) the support of the American people can make a critical difference to the Iraqi people and their future, and (3) our job at Spirit of America is to help the American people make that difference.

My goals for the trip were to:
1. Validate - or not - the key assumptions behind our plan to increase the scope and scale of Spirit of America's activities in Iraq.
2. Define the support most needed by Americans serving in Iraq for improving the lives of, and relationships with, the Iraqi people.
3. Determine the best approach for having SoA personnel in country to support our expanded activities.
4. Identify the ideas, people and programs with the greatest potential to effect an immediate and lasting improvement in the lives of Iraqi citizens at the grass roots level.

The trip was invaluable. The goals above were largely but not entirely achieved. On #3and #4 we made good progress but more work is needed.

The situation in Iraq is difficult and dangerous. The bad news we see, read and hear does happen even though it isn't nearly the whole story. But my most important conclusion was an encouraging one. There is hope for a positive, free and peaceful future for Iraq. A key part of the hope is the American people can engage and help the Iraqi people build a postive future. That opportunity is based much more on the involvement of the American private sector and citizens . much more person to person/people to people than government to government.

With the inevitable ups and downs in Iraq, it will be challenging to remember that there is hope. It is only hopeless if we give up. I know that may sound simplistic or na=EFve but it is true.

Those serving in Iraq - military and civilian - face a very tough situation. They deserve our full support. So do the Iraqi people, especially those who are working hard at great risk to build a better future for their country.

My trip was from May 28 to June 4. I spent 1-=BD days in Baghdad, 4 days in Ramadi and 1 day in Fallujah. These are three of the most difficult areas in Iraq today. Ramadi is approx. 60 miles west of Baghdad. Fallujah is 30 miles west. While in Ramadi and Fallujah I was a guest of the 1st Marine Division. I stayed and traveled with them. I was in Baghdad as an "unattached" civilian but took the necessary steps to move about safely. I was also in Amman, Jordan coming and going.

I was accompanied by LtCol David Couvillon (the first Marine that SoA supported last summer) and two retired members of U.S. Special Forces. All have had extensive experience in Iraq. They were along to provide insight and analysis on our next steps. LtCol Couvillon was a Battalion Commander during the war last spring and after war served for 5 months as the Governor of Wassit Province. There are 11 provinces in Iraq and his position was akin to a Governor of one of our states. Couv has a great connection to and fondness for the Iraqi people. He also has a great understanding of how to make progress at the grass roots level.

During the trip I was able to spend time with and talk to Iraqis (from the Ministerial level to local leaders to "ordinary" people - mainly men, boys and girls), civilians working in Iraq, CPA personnel and, of course, the US Marines at all levels (Commanding General to Private First Class).

With the Marines in Ramadi we visited a neighborhood where the Marines were helping to build a mosque and a health clinic. We traveled in a Humvee convoy. There were about 25 Marines, an interpreter and us (four civilians). The Marines were led by an exceptional young officer: Capt. Egan. We spent time with the local Imam as well as boys and girls of all ages. We distributed school supplies, soccer balls and Frisbees that had been donated by Spirit of America and our supporters earlier this year.

Here's a photo of us playing Frisbee and me throwing one. Given my performance in windy conditions I don't think I'll be coaching Frisbee teams in Ramadi any time soon.

bWith the group of boys below I was talking about soccer (with the help of our interpreter). Two of the guys were boasting that they are excellent goalies. I told them my son had scored four goals in his game the week before. They seemed doubtful until I pointed out I was sure that goalie wasn't as good as they were. We all had a good laugh.

The adults and children were happy to see us, happy to talk and play. And, like children anywhere (at least mine!) happy to get gifts. The women of the community made flatbread for us during the visit. Fresh and hot it was excellent. Clearly, not every visit to a neighborhood in Iraq would be like that one but it was one of those nice human moments. It was also instructive to see how the Marines operate and relate to local communities. Very impressive.

After we returned to Camp Blue Diamond we videotaped a few of the young Marines talking about their experiences in Iraq. We'll get these up on the Web soon. Just before we left a Staff Sergeant Delgado approached me and said, "Sir, if you could get sandals for the kids around here, it would be a big help. Lots of kids didn't come out today because they don't have anything to wear on their feet and the streets are too hot." THAT is one great example why it's important to spend time in the field and with the men and women who are in it every day.

We're getting on this and you'll soon be getting a message about SSgt. Delgado's sandal request.

In Fallujah we spent time at a center where Iraqi civilians meet with the Marines to work on civil affairs and rebuilding projects. The center also serves as a training site for the Iraq Civil Defense Corps (ICDC). There I had a chance to discuss with the son of a local sheikh ideas for a neighborhood sports program that Spirit of America is considering supporting. He was positive on the idea and asked that we come back to meet with other local leaders to explore it further.

Also in Fallujah we visited a village on the outskirts of the city where the Marines were rebuilding a road. It was a rural village of about 20 homes. People largely live off the land - crops, goats and sheep. The Marines came to talk about the road project. We also passed out Frisbees, toys and school supplies to the local kids. Here are some children from the village with Spirit of America school supply kits.

Back at Camp Blue Diamond we met with the two officers (Maj. Chandler and Maj. Dunham) responsible for providing the TV equipment donated by Spirit of America to the 7 Iraqi stations in Al Anbar. When we met about =BD of the equipment had been delivered to the stations and technical training was being planned. With the new equipment Iraqi personnel at one of the stations took to the streets with camcorders to do "man in the street" interviews. When they broadcast the interviews the received numerous calls with positive feedback. Things like that associated with a free press that we take for granted are entirely new inmost of Iraq. We'll be getting a more detailed update on the TV gear and stations in the next few days and will email you as soon as we have it.

Also back at Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi we met with the Director of Economic Development for Al Anbar Province. He is spearheading the creation of women's sewing centers in the Ramadi-Fallujah region. These centers will provide women with a chance to make money, some for the first time, and improve their lives and their families'.

Marines' Commanding General Jim Mattis is very enthusiastic about the project- both for its economic impact and because it will provide women a place to discuss women's issues (day care is provided). He has asked if we can help by providing the sewing machines. For starters we are looking for people to buy the first 50 sewing machines costing $475 each. You can support that request by clicking here: . http://w= ww.spiritofamerica.net/requests/1086384717.html . If t
hings go well with those, we'll do our best to provide 950 more, thus helping 1000 women.

The Marines are in frequent-enough danger in the Ramadi and Fallujah areas such that safety is never taken for granted. Each time we left base to visit a local village or community we were briefed on recent threats to Marines convoys (usually from IEDs - Improvised Explosive Devices). The base at Ramadi (Camp Blue Diamond) was mortared while we were there. After they were launched it was a nervous 45 seconds before they landed uneventfully about 400 yards away from our trailer. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Attacks are not constant but occur often enough to restrict the military's freedom of movement and action. To get around requires traveling in armed Humvee convoys or helicopters. We owe a great debt to the men and women that risk their lives every day over there.

As odd as this may sound, it is good news that things are not worse. It is a small, small percentage of the people that are fighting the coalition, our troops and the new Iraqi government. If that weren't the case we would hear much more bad news. It is easy to attack, easy to terrorize. That things are not worse evidences, in my view, that there is more hope than one might think and that the vast majority of Iraqis are not aligned with the future the terrorists and coalition fighters represent.

Conclusions and Implications for SoA
* There is hope for a relatively free, peaceful and prosperous society in Iraq even though the situation is very difficult and the challenges are enormous,

* The support and assistance of the American people (as distinct from the US Government) is essential to the progress of the Iraqi people. The best hope of Iraq turning out well in large part lies in the support and commitment of the American people.

* We will continue to support requests from and needs identified by Americans serving in Iraq. These projects currently support Marines, Army, Air Force and SeaBees and we're the things providing range from sandals, soccer balls and school supplies to sewing machines and TV and radio equipment.

* It is essential that we also support those Iraqis that are champions of a new Iraq and who are taking the initiative to improve the country in ways small and large. These people represent the future of the country and, in many ways, of the Middle East. By standing for freedom and a better life they are risking their lives

* There is an opportunity to increase the scope and scale of Spirit of America to positive effect in Iraq with the potential to "be the difference that makes the difference" in key areas. In the face of enormous needs and an infinite number of good things to do, accomplishing this requires a focused strategy.

* There are 3 areas of strategic focus for Spirit of America that deserve our greatest attention. They are the areas about which both the US Military and Iraqis are most enthusiastic.
1. Economic development programs - such as job training and microfinance. Our providing tools and sewing machines fits in this category. Housing and construction related projects emerged as high impact because of the jobs and visible signs of progress they create in addition to needed housing stock.
2. Youth programs, especially sports programs and support for education.
3. Media and information projects - such as training and equipment for Iraqi-owned and operated television and radio stations.

* In cases it will be better to conduct some of our projects as the American people without a direct or apparent link to the military or US Government. This approach will make it easier to establish the person-to-person, people-to-people links that we seek. In some cases it will increase the results we are able to produce - both in the eyes of the military and the Iraqi people.

* It will be essential to have a Spirit of America in country presence.

* There is no way to operate in Iraq without physical risk; i.e., SoA in country personnel includinng Iraqis, will be at risk of attack. Anyone who visibly works for progress in the country is an enemy of terrorists who seek chaos and a potential target for criminals who see financial opportunity in murder or kidnapping. We are still assessing the best way to structure our in country presence. In any scenario much of our work will be managed and executed by Iraqis (and, we are developing good contacts in that regard).

Next Steps
In the coming weeks you will hear more from us about:
* Status of projects you've already supported in Iraq and Afghanistan including the television station equipment and tools for Iraq and the soccer gear and
* New requests from Americans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
* Our plans for increasing the scope of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and providing focus to the desire of the American people to help

Lastly, I want to thank the men and women of the Marines who put themselves in harms way to host us and ensure that we were able to move about safely. LtCol John Lutkenhouse went to great lengths to arrange meetings, trips and travel so that our visit achieved its goals. In fact, our "dance card" was so full that one of our team fell asleep standing up during one meeting. Fortunately, he caught himself before hitting the ground. I was doing the same sitting down.

As always, thank you for your support - whether that involves donating your time or money or simply reading these messages and considering if there are ways you can help.

All the best,
Jim Hake


Posted by scott at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)
Celestial Hamburger?

Washington Post is carrying this nice summary of new findings from the recent Stardust comet probe. Turns out the comet was a lot more, well, solid than they'd predicted, and was surrounded by more debris. Includes freaky "look-like-it-came-from-a-video-game" picture.

Posted by scott at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)
Blow-up Plastic Church

Reverend Heathen, we have found your church. I was hoping you'd have to take your shoes off and jump around inside, but alas it does not seem to come with an inflatable floor. Damned kids get to have all the fun.

I coulda sworn we'd featured this before, but I searched and couldn't find it.

Posted by scott at 10:08 AM | Comments (3)
Giant Under Glass

Slashdot linked up this Reuters piece that details efforts to preserve the last remaining Saturn V rock on "open air" display. Good to see this final vehicle will at last be protected from the elements.

And how's this for a heartbreaking comment:

I worked at the Johnson Space Center for two years, back in 1976-1978, and I was there when they brought in the Saturn V.

This was actual flight hardware that was supposed to have gone to the moon for the Apollo 18 mission. When they brought it in, it still had red "Remove before flight" tags hanging from various places.

I am ... really annoyed, saddened, and angry that NASA has let this vehicle rot away.

Me too, bud, me too.

Posted by scott at 08:34 AM | Comments (0)
June 17, 2004
I Shall Weep My Wee-Wen-Gay!

You know, living as I do with someone who lacks only the mask and a wheezy breath to be mistaken for a shorter, meaner, version of Darth Vader, I can only say I really don't find this too surprising:

Among children aged 8 through 14 injured in fights, girls are more likely than boys to get into a brawl in retaliation for previous grievances, new research reports.

Like my friend Damion says, "Chicks are the devil!"

Via Daffodil Lane

Posted by scott at 07:53 PM | Comments (0)
F-1 Tech

Slashdot linked up this New York Times article detailing how technology has affected Formula-1 racing. In a nutshell: this sh*t is expensive, but it works.

However, the article gives short shrift to the drivers, who play a larger role than a casual observer would imagine. Ferrari are dominant, especially this season, not just because they have a fast car, but because they have arguably the best driver who's ever lived on their team. When the other teams are on the ball, Schumacher's teammate Rubens Barrichello has his hands full holding them off, while Schumacher simply walks away. When he drove for Benneton I watched him dominate a race so thoroughly that even driving a car stuck in 4th gear for half the race he managed to come in 3rd.

F-1 is Top Gun. NASCAR may be fun, and IRL may look the same, but there's nothing quite like the very best drivers pushing the very best engineering to the absolute edge of what either can do. There really is no substitute.

Posted by scott at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)
They're BAAAAaack

Yeah, I know we featured 'em before, but I just can't get over square watermelons.

Posted by scott at 01:05 PM | Comments (2)
On Freedom, and Camels

The Religious Policeman (who is, it should be remembered, actually neither) has a couple of good posts. First, we have a nice breakdown of Saudi Arabia's religious policies, and their idiosyncratic consequences:

No non-Muslim may enter the cities of Makkah and Madinah. (However there is one unpublicized exception. Our national bus company, SAPTCO, runs Mercedes buses. Naturally, being a nation of managers and civil servants, we haven't learnt to maintain them ourselves. So we import German mechanics. What happens when a bus breaks down in one of those cities? We send in an infidel German mechanic to fix it, under cover of darkness.)

And, on the lighter side of being a Saudi, we have this picture-filled commentary on the Saudi national pet, the camel:

I once suggested to Mrs A that I liked the idea of keeping a camel out at the Souk. She said "That's alright, if you'd rather spend your spare time out there with your camel and other men, rather than here at home with me and your family."

Like I said, if you dig deep enough, most people are all too alike in many scary ways. Substitute "camel" with "Alfa Romeo" and you'd have an eerily familiar conversation heard occasionally in our house.

Posted by scott at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

There are people in this world who:

  • think permissiveness and personal freedom are what make America great, while also strongly supporting smoking bans and crushing cigarette taxes.
  • think evolution is just a theory, and a wrong one at that, while at the same time taking a rainbow of pills to keep themselves alive.
  • will passionately declare, in no uncertain terms, that America has become a Fascist-like police state. In public. At a rally. In a park. Owned by the government.
  • believe those with strong religious convictions are dangerous and should not be allowed positions in government, who also think Paul Ehrlich, Stephen Schneider, and others like them are above reproach.
  • think abortion should be made illegal, while at the same time opposing all forms of social welfare.
  • participate in pro choice rallies one day and visit a friend who had to go to China to adopt a child the next.
  • worry about air quality for their child while driving them to daycare in an automobile.
  • oppose any sort of amnesty for illegal aliens, while at the same time being careful to step aside as the brown guy with the leaf blower on his back walks by.
  • think the federal government should do more to help people, just before they go spend their latest tax refund check.
  • believe Michael Moore is a crusader, and Ann Coulter is a maniac.
  • believe Ann Coulter is a crusader, and Michael Moore is a maniac.
  • think our government is dangerously interventionist, while at the same time decrying free trade and job outsourcing.
  • think first amendment rights are the most important rights we have, while at the same keeping their name on the federal "do-not-call" list.
  • think the failure of biblical prophecies of apocalypse prove that book completely invalid, but the failure of environmental predictions of the same is simply due to a lack of data.
  • believe at least one of the items on this list is not a contradiction at all.

Posted by scott at 10:45 AM | Comments (6)
Lost and Found

Ok people, if you're going to use Kazaa and other p2p file sharing programs, be careful where you put your digital pictures mmkay?

Actually, a pretty surreal experience. Sort of like going through an old dresser drawer in someone else's house.

Posted by scott at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)
But Will it Play Halo 2?

Slashdot linked up this article detailing new developments in the effort to create a "quantum computer". By using the deeply weird effects quantum mechanics makes possible, scientists believe one day CPUs can become hundreds of times more powerful while at the same time getting smaller and using less power.

Right now they're still in the "can it be done?" stage, but progress is most definitely being made.

Posted by scott at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)
June 16, 2004
When Candidates Attack

Please welcome Jim Giles, running for Mississippi's 3rd congressional district:

I’m running for Mississippi’s third congressional district as an Independent ... I want to bring ALL our troops home from Iraq NOW ... This election year is different than most. This year you vote for the Iraqi War or against the Iraqi War ... Jim Giles opposes the Iraqi War and would bring all troops home NOW!

"Waitaminute..." I can hear the peanut gallery thinking, "Scott's a reactionary neocon bent on world domination. There's gotta be a catch."

Drat. You figured it out:

White Christian-Republican Whore Chip Pickering the incumbent represents rich whites and negroes. Jim Giles will represent working and middle class whites ... You ain't smart if you believe what them jews tell you!

Ain't politics grand?

Posted by scott at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)
Fly Famine, Fly Feast

Sara G. gets a hungry no-prize for bringing us this discussion of what happens when the "dietary dingus" is removed from a fly, causing it to never feel full:

Such a fly began to eat in the normal fashion, but did it stop? Never. It ate and ate and ate. It grew larger and larger. Its abdomen became so stretched that all the organs were flattened against the sides. It became so big and round and transparent that it could almost be used as a miniature hand lens.

Only gets better from there. Also mentions a book, "To Know a Fly", which the blog author highly recommends. I may pass, but I wonder if Ellen will?

Posted by scott at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)
It's My Life


Oh no, the dreaded bong of doom. Chrysler must have had a bad spot in the past where people just forgot to check the gas gauges of their cars, so the efficient Krauts Stormtroopers Ubermench ... engineers ... who created our vehicle helpfully designed in a little bell to ring when you hit a quarter tank. Scares the hell out of me every time when I'm driving, which gives Ellen a good chuckle.

When it gets especially low, it bongs an extra-helpful three times. Which it did just now, just as we exited I-66 and were pulling onto the "connector" heading toward the toll road and home. It was a beautiful day, sun shining in a clear blue sky, crayon-green trees merrily belching nose-clenching pollen, all accompanied by the meaty thunk-splat of cicadas as they caromed off our windshield at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light.

Ellen: "We need gas."(thunk-splat)

Scott: "Yeah. I meant to fill up before we left work, but I forgot. I'm not even sure where a gas station is on this end of the toll road. We'll be fine."

Of course we would, I said to myself as I drove along, if we even have one gallon of gas in the tank, that'll carry us 35 miles. It's no more than about 30 miles to home. Plenty of juice to get (thunk-splat) home, pick up the kid, and hit a gas--

"I know what you're thinking," Ellen suddenly said, in an uncanny imitation of a certain steely-eyed Clint Eastwood character, "you're wondering if you've got enough gas to make it home. Well, I tell you, I've lost track myself in all this excitement. But seeing as daycare charges $20 every 5 minutes if we're late, and a tow truck would take at least an hour to even get here, an hour you'd spend with me standing on the side of the road telling the world what a stupid f---- you are, you've gotta ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky?

Well... do ya, punk?"

Finding a gas station turned out to be surprisingly easy.

Posted by scott at 10:01 AM | Comments (2)
News We Can Use

Scrappleface hits another one out of the park:

Kerry to Expand Middle Class by Taxing Wealthy

(2004-06-15) -- Democrat presidential hopeful John Forbes Kerry, who is also a U.S. Senator, today laid out his blueprint for increasing the size of the middle class by boosting taxes on the wealthy.

In a speech to union members in New Jersey, Mr. Kerry answered critics who claim he has offered no coherent vision for America, and he slammed President Bush for "squeezing the middle class."

"I believe in building up our great middle class--expanding it," said Mr. Kerry. "Now, to increase the size of the middle class you can do one of two things--either help poor people escape from poverty and dependency on government programs, or take some money away from rich people so that they become middle class. Now, which one of those sounds easier to you? It's a no brainer."

Mr. Kerry said that the Bush administration "doesn't want you to be middle class. They want you to be like their rich cronies from Halliburton. But they don't tell you the dirty little secret...if you become wealthy, most of your money will go to pay taxes. Where's the compassion in their conservatism?"

Posted by scott at 08:55 AM | Comments (1)
True Crime, True Death, Truly Weird

Let's all take a moment to meet Mr. Glenn Taylor Helzer:

A lapsed Mormon accused of bludgeoning and dismembering five people in an elaborate extortion racket intended to hasten the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Whose band of merry "men" included:

his younger brother, a former girlfriend turned Playboy centrefold model, and a self-described "good witch" who once offered to raise money for Armageddon by appearing in porn films.

What they did was almost as sick as that German guy who ran an ad in the paper so he could find someone to volunteer as his dinner. Ok, no, that's a lot sicker. Anyway, looks like a standard (if lurid) case of a charismatic guy with a severe and unmedicated mental illness managing to lure yet another bunch of soft-headed losers into a death cult with him. Manson family, anyone?

Posted by scott at 08:14 AM | Comments (0)
June 15, 2004
One More Pix!


Mid floor spin.

Posted by Ellen at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)
Belly Dance Recital Pixes

Here are a few pixes from my solo at my recital last night. All went well. I got 4 applauses during my performance. I was the only one that got applauded during their performance too. Enjoy!


Sword balancing


Belly flutters and rolls with sword.

I danced to Godsmack's VOODOO. Made it through several sound problems, never dropped the sword, had bitchin' makeup and costume. I just have BLURRY pixes!

Posted by Ellen at 08:32 PM | Comments (7)
The Papa Principle

Four out of five Iraqis report holding a negative view of the U.S. occupation authority and of coalition forces. -- (Washington Post, May 13, 2004).

Only a third of the Iraqi people now believe that the American-led occupation of their country is doing more good than harm. (USA Today, April 28, 2004)

Few Iraqis mourn the fall of Saddam but there is a growing, at times almost visceral, hatred of the occupation. (Independent/UK, June 22, 2003)

The signs seem to be everywhere... we're failing to rebuild Iraq, we're screwing up the occupation, the Iraqis hate us and want us gone gone gone. It would seem that saying the occupation is not working out is like saying George Bush tends to stumble over words or Michael Moore looks a little chunky. The whole thing feels like it's coming apart faster than an zombie extra in "The Dawn of the Dead."

What I find surprising is that everyone thinks this is a bad thing. As far as I'm concerned, the absolute worst thing that could have happened would have been for us to have gone in with a marvelous master plan that quickly and efficiently rebuilt Iraq into a gleaming, well-scrubbed nation, sorta like those IKEA commercials, only with tanks. You see, nation building is simply not something I think we should be all that good at.

"You two want to go outside? You better clean up this goddamned room first, because if I come back and this place still looks like a train wreck, I'm going to clean it up for you."

"I'm going to clean it up for you." No eight words were heard with more dread in our house, especially coming from my dad. The first time he gave us an "or else", we didn't take him all that seriously. When we came home our room was spotless... pristine, like something you'd see in a Home and Garden magazine. It was fantastic, until we realized it got that way because dad had been the one deciding what was junk and what was important. For a brief time we thought he'd even thrown out the dog. It was, in essence, an apocalypse for two boys who thought putting stuff up was what a maid (or mom) did.

From that point on we took our dad's warnings with deathly seriousness. "Clean up your goddamned room!" motivated us with the same alacrity as Greek peasants hearing Zeus's own voice from on high.

This makes us sound like two selfish spoiled brats, which we were, but really we were just being human. Throughout time and space, giving something valuable to a human being in the hope they'll start working to get more is disastrous. Eventually, and with surprising swiftness, they start expecting that something. Taking it away results not in a buckling down to get it themselves, but instead brings tantrums wailing for a replacement or outright rebellion in order to take it.

Only providing humans with the opportunity to get it themselves, and then having the patience and discipline to let them, will lead to long term success. Oh, there will still be wailing and rebellion aplenty, with maddening attempts to cheat, lie, or steal their way to success, but it will be the background noise of a system building itself up instead of the chaotic roar of a system crashing down.

In this, nations are not much different from the people who make them up. South Vietnam had billions of dollars poured into it, and the protection of the most powerful military machine in the world to protect it, and the result was not a vibrant society of capitalists but instead a sad, sick, twisted culture of dependants and sycophants who simultaneously loathed the presence of the rich Yankee and bewailed any mention of his imminent departure. The Yankee would never depart, so why should they even try to figure it out themselves? The resulting collapse when we did leave may have been demoralizing for Americans, but it was Armageddon for the South Vietnamese, who endured nearly two decades of violent "re-education" at that hands of their northern brethren.

That today we are disheartened or surprised at the chaos and confusion, inefficiencies and graft, abuses and even death in Iraq merely shows the world is right in one respect... most Americans are hopelessly naive about the world around them. What other country would be disappointed that a people ground under the boot heel of a madman for the past thirty five years, with not one year of self-rule in the past five thousand, were unable to "see the light" and form their own working democracy in less than eighteen months? What other country in the world would contain a significant number of people who think this failure could have been avoided with better planning?

Fixing a broken nation isn't like fixing a broken car. This is not "Pimp My Ride" with a guy named Achmed and a really sad truck. A nation is an organic thing, capable of healing itself if given the time and space to do so. A surgeon who cuts and sews on a patient and then does it some more when they don't leap out of bed the next day isn't a healer, they're a butcher. So it is with a beuracracy, polity, or chattering elite who search for program after program to "fix" a nation's problems and then blame the first white face they see when it all fails, all the while ignoring and even impeding the progress of the people on the ground, who are after all the only ones with any real hope of solving it at all.

So pardon me if I'm not disappointed when an Iraqi says we're screwing it all up, or when a reporter breathlessly announces "they hate us", or that they'll be happy to see us all go. I don't want them to be happy with us. I don't want them to think they owe it all to us. I don't want them to think they owe any of it to us. Arab cultures are the last great honor-driven societies in the world. Can you imagine the guilt trip an entire nation of them would undergo if they thought they owed it all to a bunch of clumsy grinning Yankees who just walked up and handed it to them? Do you really think they would be grateful? Do you really think they'd keep it running after we left?

I want the rest of the world to know we're serious when we say "clean it up or we'll clean it up for you", and that the consequences of ignoring this warning will not be a non-stop jet ride to modernity. I want the mice to understand that roaring will like as not get them stepped on before they're handed any cheese. But I don't want us as a nation to think we're good at it, or that it's a simple way to solve a problem. It's said that when you hold a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and I would fear for a world containing a nation that thought such carpentry was cheap or quick or easy.

But I would equally fear for a world that contained no nation, no society, no people, willing and able to stand up and take down fascists and fanatics when they see the need. I'm proud to be a citizen of a nation that's willing to sacrifice its own grown children to ensure at least the hope of freedom for those only now being born in a place almost as far away and alien as a crater on Mars. I want desperately for them to succeed, and to believe they succeeded not because but in spite of our help.

I can think of no greater tribute to the sacrifice of our soldiers and citizens than a free, prosperous, safe, argumentative, unreasonable, and ungrateful Iraq. If the price we must pay for the first three is putting up with the last three, so be it. After all, rebuilding something in your own image means always having to look at yourself in the mirror.

Posted by scott at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)
Vile Woman, Thou Hast Cut Me to the Quick

Just when I think I've lost all faith in humanity's common bonds, I stumble across something like this:

A Malaysian salesman complained to the main ethnic Chinese political party after his wife confiscated the TV remote control and satellite card for watching Sunday night's England-France Euro 2004 soccer match.

Substitute "soccer" with "basketball" and you'd have a convincing story for any Lakers fan (poor bastards). There's not a man in America who can't sympathise with this guy's plight. Looks like, when it comes to the important things in life, we're not that different after all.

Posted by scott at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)
Across the Minor Divide

It's a culture war! You're either with us, or against us! If your side wins, it's all over! If your side stays in power, the country's going to fall apart!

Polarized rhetoric reflecting a polarized nation, right? Wrong:

"The two big surprises in our research," Professor DiMaggio [a sociologist at Princeton who has studied this issue] said, "were the increasing agreement between churchgoing evangelicals and mainline Protestants, even on abortion, and the lack of increasing polarization between African-Americans and whites. Evangelicals have become less doctrinaire and more liberal on issues like gender roles. African-Americans are showing more diversity in straying from the liberal line on issues like government programs that assist minorities."

Of course, this is a journalist reporting on something that undercuts most of what his career is built on, so the article later sort of comes off the rails as he counter-quotes people who say "are too! Are too! Are too!"

My own experience and reading tracks well with the initial idea... that Americans are actually coming together rather than flying apart. It only feels chaotic because the period from 1965-1975, when there were real differences that resulted in a genuine culture war, one that included guns and bullets, is now nearly two generations behind us. When you've never been to a KISS concert, even Yani will sound pretty loud.

Via Cobb

Posted by scott at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)
Rover Update

Space.com is carrying this summary of the latest Mars rover activities. In a nutshell: Opportunity has gone down inside the crater, but mission controllers are very optimistic about it being able to climb back out again. Spirit has completed a nearly 2 mile trek from its landing site to a line of hills that hold lots of potential for geologic research.

Pretty good for things that don't travel much more than a hundred feet a day, no?

Posted by scott at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)
Ocean Bottom Museum

Jeff gets a no-prize "under the sea" for bringing us news of the latest Discovery Channel project:

Texas A&M University researchers have found the wreckage of a fleet of Japanese submarines that terrorized U.S. ships throughout World War II.

The vessels were sunk by the US Navy in 1946, and the location was classified for nearly sixty years. Now that information is declassified, and that's how researchers were able to find them. Apparently preservation is quite good, making it a sort of Japanese submarine museum down there. Look for the show this fall!

Posted by scott at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)
June 14, 2004
Dumbest Email Message of the Day

It started out predictably enough:

Dear Scott,

My name is [Mr. UK Spammer], and I'm the owner of [some limey company]. I wanted to let you know that I've just placed a link to amcgltd.com.

But as I scrolled down what to my wondering eyes did appear:

[This is just an example. You'll get much better results if you write your own messages. Tips can be found in the [spamware] beginner's guide. Select the beginner's guide in the [spamware] help menu.]

Ok, tip to all the rest of you erstewhile spammers... please be sure to at least delete the "REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT" boilerplate before you push the SEND button. Or don't. This was good for a chuckle, after all.

Posted by scott at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)
The Shape of (Corvette) Things to Come?

Jeff gets an all-new no-prize for bringing us the official "C6" Corvette preview site. 6L 400 hp V8 means lots of scoot, but unfortunately the website doesn't provide much more on the real specs.

I like it better than the C5, but I think those side vents make it look unfinished. Maybe it'll look better in person. At least this one doesn't "have back" like the C5. Every time I saw one of those go by I'd say to myself, "that car has a big ass."

Posted by scott at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)
Serial ATA RAID Revealed

PC hobbyists (and even the occasional mac nut) should find this extremely comprehensive SATA RAID chipset test of interest. The conclusion: chipset RAID 0 will definitely give you a performance boost, but not the gigantic one people (like me) thought it did.

However, super-large hard drives are so cheap now (I paid $130 for 2 ultra-fast 40 giggers), it's not like the boost comes dearly. I'm still glad I did it, even though it played hell with my Linux install.

Posted by scott at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)
Universal Sound

New Scientist is carrying this report summarizing a new way of thinking about the Big Bang. Instead of using visuals, one scientist has found that using sound conveys what happened more accurately. Anything that can make the early universe more comprehensible is fine by me.

Also includes the interesting revelation that sounds could be heard in the early universe. The cosmos was small enough and dense enough to allow sound wave to propagate, apparently at an appreciable percentage of the speed of light. Of course, it's my understanding that at that moment, the universe was so hot it still glowed completely white, so it's very doubtful that anything was around to hear the noise.

Posted by scott at 01:04 PM | Comments (1)
When You Don't Want to Know Why the Driver is Smiling

Ok, nearly an XXX item. The name should say it all: The Auto-Suck. With, of course, cigarette lighter adapter. Well, it's one way to make sure your truck driver husband stays awake on the road I guess.

Posted by scott at 12:03 PM | Comments (1)
Brain Cruncher

Here's another nifty IQ-like test for you, this time on vocabulary alone. I got a 160, which puts me just barely outside the 25th percentile of (pre-2002) participants. Since our readership is demonstrably smarter than we are, I expect you all to do far better.

The vocabulary test is particularly appropriate for English, which has by far the largest number of words of any European language.

Via Silflay.

Posted by scott at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)
All Your Games are Belong to Us

Slashdot linked up what must be the ultimate video game collection auction. Dozens of consoles and video games, some of which I've never heard of (pioneer made a console?), even developer guides and a few bottles of celebratory wine! If someone actually wins this stuff, they'll need to get it shipped on a palette. Buyer says to expect "more than 100kg" in shipping charges.

Posted by scott at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)
All the Common Sense of a Ring Tailed Lemur on Meth

Just in case anyone out there was starting to think Hollywood had any sort of moral compass, or more scruples than a junkie looking for their next fix, we have this:

Nicole Kidman has sparked outrage with her new film in which she gets passionate in the bath with a ten-year-old boy.

This is just too weird for words. Kidman seems a bit flakey, anyone who plays pretend for a living and gets paid millions of dollars to do it generally is, but this sounds a bit twisted even for her.

Oh yeah, I know, "it's just skin, God you Americans are so uptight we're surprised you can even walk straight, you can't even spell art let alone understand it..." etc., etc. However, the situation as described in the article is not just nudity, but nudity in a clearly sexual context, with a real-life minor no less. Where were the parents? Where were the lawyers? Is everyone in Hollywood insane?

I'm just as outraged at the utter "bone-headedness" of the entire project. 99.9% of parents out there, in every English speaking country that I can think of, will flip when they hear about this. You might not have kids, you might not care, but a whole bunch of the movie-going public does, and will. To be this disconnected with the market, to commit PR suicide in such a spectacular manner... it's just staggering.

Because they could have been a lot more clever about this. The whole point of a visual medium is it allows you to explore metaphors and abstracts in creative ways. Hell, even I can think of ways of keeping the "creep factor" high without involving a minor in the shooting. Just have the kid step into the tub, cut to the apposite actor looking away, looking back, being shocked, cut back to the tub, big grown man standing there now, talking with kid's voice. Have lots of scrub-a-dub-is-that-a-bar-of-soap-you-have-there? action, then have the last shot be of the kid standing there in a towel. Done. Moral outrage, skeevy feelings, gets across the character is an utter loon, all without giving the fundies a free shot.

I hate it when I can out-think people who get paid millions of dollars to be creative.

Posted by scott at 08:59 AM | Comments (6)
Cat Tub

Ron gets a no-prize in a wooden tub for bringing us this bit of Engrish, whose theme fits in well with this site.

Posted by scott at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)
June 13, 2004
It's My Damned Money, I'll Spend it As I Please

Ok, The Smoking Gun is pitching Seinfeld's Manhatten Porsche heaven as, at best, a boondoggle. Lots of other people will be too I'm sure. But, as a fellow car nut (and Jerry likes the classics too), let me be one of the first to say, "hooray!" There hasn't been a time I've been in Old Town (Alexandria VA) where I haven't thought, "wow! what a great house! Shame it doesn't have a garage."

If I had the money, you'd be damned sure I'd find some spot nearby with an abandoned lot or ratty building and turn that into my garage. Fancy one too. Jerry doesn't strike me as the type to work on his own cars, which if true is a strike against him, but at least he's not spending his cash on cocaine and bimbos.

I'm jealous as hell, but it's a jealousy born out of admiration, not contempt. I'm going to have to move out into the middle of nowhere to have my paradise garage/shop (someday). It's good to see someone who realizes they don't have to.

It's a dream, people. The whole point is to live it.

Posted by scott at 07:33 PM | Comments (1)
But Does it Know the Words to "Smelly Cat?"

Space.com is featuring this article detailing some of the results of the first Cassini flyby of Phoebe, one of Saturn's most-distant (from Saturn anyway) moon. Because of it's unusual composition and strange orbit, the object is most likely a capture from the Kuiper Belt, a region of icy bodies outside the orbit of Neptune. Nobody's actually seen an object from the Kuiper belt up close before, so it's hoped these images will provide a lot of new information. With pictures!

Posted by scott at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)
A Geek's Dream Come True

Fark linked up this Mail and Gaurdian article detailing the ultimate fantasy garment made real... a cloak of invisibility.

Well, not quite, but apparently damned close. By using special tiny reflective beads, cameras, and projectors that form an image on the front of the material that mimics whatever is behind it. The concept itself has been around since at least the early 80s (I remember reading about it in Omni), but it would seem only now has technology caught up with concept.

Still a long way from making every junior high school girl's locker room unsafe, but it does prove the concept is valid.

Posted by scott at 03:06 PM | Comments (1)
June 11, 2004
They Call them Pipe Dreams Because They Usually Go Down the Tubes

Ok all you "oh-my-God-Bush-is-making-me-vote-for-Lurch" indicrats... there's nothing going to salve your conscience now:

Republican Sen. John McCain has personally rejected John Kerry overtures to join the Democratic presidential ticket and forge a bipartisan alliance against President Bush, The Associated Press has learned.

The fact that this idea was popular at all just shows to me the unbelievable naivete of the anti-Bush* crowd. The vice president has exactly as much power as the president is willing to give him. In older times, when the country was easier to run, the office was so weak nomination was considered the simplest way to end the career of a political troublemaker (c.f. Roosevelt, Teddy).

There is not a doubt in my mind Kerry, if elected, would fill his cabinet with a rerun of "The Best and the Brightest"**, all of whom would want absolutely nothing to do with a crusty say-it-like-it-is loose cannon from the other side. Had he been foolish enough to try and salvage Kerry's candidacy, McCain would eventually be grateful for the giant chandelier in the Vice President's office. Like his 19th century predecessors, its tinkling would be the only thing keeping him awake.

At least a "dream-team" Bush-Giuliani ticket has the advantage of actually being possible.

* As apposed to the pro-Kerry or pro-Democrat bunch, who have their own problems.

** Read the book. This is not a compliment.

Posted by scott at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)
~ Bit by Bit/Putting it Together ~

Never underestimate the power of a do-it-yourselfer. A guy, an Alfa, and a garage can be fun if you have the tools and the talent. I have neither, which is why I'm saving my pennies to pay someone who does. Not this year, probably not next, but watch out '07. 36 may be a very good year for my Spider! :)

Posted by scott at 03:57 PM | Comments (5)
Bowflex for the Ancients

New Scientist is carrying this article summarizing the potential discovery of "compound machine" use by humans far earlier than previously thought, in China:

Distinctive spiral patterns carved into a small jade ring show that China was using complex machines more than 2500 years ago, says a Harvard graduate student in physics
"I said I bet you could do it with a modified bow drill, and she [Jenny So, an art historian at the Chinese University of Hong Kong] looked at me as if I had two heads," [Peter] Lu told New Scientist.

The evidence is circumstantial, but still very interesting.

Posted by scott at 01:58 PM | Comments (1)

Took long enough, but now Valve is reporting several people have been arrested for stealing the code to their game, Halflife 2:

According to Valve, suspects in several countries had been taken into custody in relation to charges stemming from the theft of the Half-Life 2 code, the distribution of the code, and the break-in into Valve's network.

Bastards delayed my game. Toss 'em under the wheels!

Well, ok, maybe that is a bit severe... toss 'em under a tarp?

Posted by scott at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)
Oh Career, Where Art Thou?

Remeber that little kid who played Anakin in the "first" Star Wars movie? As part of a photoshop contest FARK linked up what he looks like today. Kinda reminds me of Ricky Schroder.

Posted by scott at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)
Four Legged Thinker

Washington Post this morning carried this article on a new study on just how much language, exactly, a dog can pick up:

A series of careful studies concluded that the energetic German house dog has a stunningly large vocabulary of about 200 words and can even do something scientists thought only humans could do: figure out by the process of elimination that a sound he has never heard before must be the name of a toy he has never seen before.

Right now they're not sure if all dogs can do this, or if they've stumbled across some sort of doggy Einstein. What the paper based on the study does mostly is establish protocols and procedures that could allow behaviorists elsewhere to try and repeat their results.

Cats still just ignore us.

Posted by scott at 07:29 AM | Comments (4)
June 10, 2004
Armed Forces Follies

Doing a bit of background I stumbled across this nice collection of military humor. Some I'd heard of, some I hadn't, but I haven't seen any of it all in one place like this before. Includes a Tasteless Joketm my mom just sent me:

A Mexican drinks his Tequila and suddenly throws his glass in the air, pulls out a pistol and shoots the glass to pieces. He says "In Mexico our glasses are so cheap that we don't need to drink from the same one twice."

An Iraqi obviously impressed by this, drinks his camel beer, throws his glass into the air, pulls out his AK 47 and shoots the glass to pieces. He says "In Iraq we have so much sand to make the glasses that we don't need to drink out of the same glass twice either."

A US Marine, cool as a cucumber, picks up his Miller Lite and drinks it, throws his glass into the air, pulls out his M-9 Beretta and shoots the Mexican and the Iraqi.

He says "In America we have so many Mexicans and Arabs that we don't need to drink with the same ones twice."

Which is a variant on what is probably an Iraqi-developed joke. No-prize to the first person who finds it.

Posted by scott at 06:39 PM | Comments (1)
Out! Out Damned Spam!

Mahmood has been getting a new sort of spam on his blog, and unlike many weblogs instead of tearing his shirt and bleating about how unfair it all is, he's done something about it:

There are things that you can do to stop these asswipes from filling in your referer logs. Here's some information which might help you if you are a webmaster, it is painful and time-consuming, but it is worth it.

I haven't noticed us getting this sort of spam, but it may just be I haven't known to look for it. Regardless, decided we'd be pro-active (for once) and just implement it anyway. A lot of people think this is all such a pain they give up on the whole idea of comments or even blogging. Me, I think it's just part of the price you pay for your hobby.

Posted by scott at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)
The Fembot Mystique

I'm not sure which is scarier: the metal undewear or the 80s hair of the chick modeling it. Well, at least it won't give you a wedgie. But I bet pinching would really suck.

Posted by scott at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)
When Brides Attack

I've been involved in not quite a dozen weddings over the years, and there's one thing that's consistent: brides gradually go insane as the wedding approaches. Don't believe me? Check this out:

Here comes the bride, and there goes her veil - all 1.7 miles of it. Eva Hofbauer went to her wedding on Wednesday claiming to be wearing the longest bridal veil in the world, the Austria Press Agency reported.

2 km of wedding veil is a difference in degree of craziness, not kind. Of course, women are bonkers anyway*, but trust me, there's a difference.

* Every time I say this around women, there's always at least one that will immediately take a deep breath to "educate" me that not all women are alike I'm not crazy you must be some sort of sexist pig you're just an ignorant man why do I even bother, that sort of thing. Just as they reach the top I say this:

"Women are crazy, men are stupid."

And pow! out goes the breath. General nods all around.

Which, of course, doesn't make me any less of a pig. But it also doesn't mean women are any less crazy.

Posted by scott at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)
The Tiger Cannot Change its Stripes

Pat gets a no-prize for bringing us news that when they're not trying to blow us up, Arabs merrily try it on each other:

While the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, was renouncing terrorism and negotiating the lifting of sanctions last year, his intelligence chiefs ordered a covert operation to assassinate the ruler of Saudi Arabia and destabilize the oil-rich kingdom, according to statements by two participants in the conspiracy.

No wonder we're getting on so well with Qaddafi. "Enemy of my enemy...", etc.

Boy now there's some grist for the foil hat mill... secret CIA negotiations with a state everyone knows the US doesn't like to take out the leadership of a country everyone knows is a primary sponsor of terrorism, in exchange for international recognition and removal of sanctions.

Of course, this would require original thinking and basic competence from our main intelligence arm. Something they haven't shown much of for, oh, the past eight years or so. Don't hold your breath.

Posted by scott at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)
Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together

Actually, I'm surprised it's taken me this long to find it, but I'm glad I did... Monty Python: Fellowship of the Ring is one helluva funny combination of two of the greatest fantasy films of all time. Don't believe me?

Frodo: Hello! Where am I?!
Zoot: Welcome, gentle hafling. Welcome to the Barrow Anthrax.
Frodo: The Barrow Anthrax?
Zoot: Yes. Oh, it's not a very good name, is it? Oh, but we are nice and we will attend to your every, every need!
Frodo: You are an underground colony of elves?
Zoot: We're a what?
Frodo: Elves. One led me here.
Zoot: Oh, but you are tired and you must rest awhile. Midget! Crapper!
Midget and Crapper: (appearing as if out of thin air) Yes, O Zoot?
Zoot: Prepare a pyre for our guest.
Midget and Crapper: Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!...
Zoot: Away! Away, varletesses. The beds here are cold and hard and very, very lonely, I'm afraid.
Frodo: Well, look, I-- I, uh--
Zoot: What is your name, handsome sir?
Frodo: 'Frodo Baggins... of the Shire.'
Zoot: Mine is 'Zoot.' Just 'Zoot.' No other names are necessary anymore... Oh, but come.
Frodo: Look, please! In all seriousness, where is the elf who led me here?
Zoot: Oh, you have suffered much. You are delirious.
Frodo: No, look. I saw her! She is here in this--
Zoot: Mr. Frodo! You would not be so ungallant as to refuse our hospitality.
Frodo: Well, I-- I, uh--
Zoot: Oh, I am afraid our existence must seem very dull and dead compared to yours. We were but eight score young blondes and brunettes, all between sixteen and twentynine-and-a-half...

Highly recommended.

Via Spreegirl

Posted by scott at 09:00 AM | Comments (1)
Core Time

Fark linked up this BBCnews article detailing the latest findings from the longest ice core yet retrieved. Coming from an area called "Dome C" in east Antartica, it traces climate changes back nearly 800,000 years. Among the more interesting findings are that the Earth has been mostly a cold place, with interglacial "warming" periods lasting approximately 10,000 years. The current warming phase we're in right now is about that old, but scientists note that does not necessarily mean we're heading into an ice age. It has been discovered conditions now are very similar to an interglacial period 400,000 years ago, and that one lasted nearly thirty thousand years.

It's hoped that further data will help create more accurate climate models, which can then be used to more accurately predict long-term weather trends, like the effects of global warming.

Posted by scott at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)
June 09, 2004
Graduation Present

In just a few short weeks our very own Nina, sister-in-law extraordinaire, will graduate High School. While my first memory of her is a three-and-half-foot-tall ten-year-old punk rushing down the stairs, shouting as she went by, "you're the one dating my sister?!?" [fingers in an L shape slapped to her forehead] "LOSER!!!", I must say that, first impressions notwithstanding, she's turned out pretty decent after all.

However, she, like thousands of other 17 and 18-year-olds, is now staring over the precipice of adolescence and into the chasm of adulthood. If my experience is any indication, lots and lots of people are now emphasizing to all these kids how important it is to move on to college and graduate, but not a one is providing them with any real practical advice as to how to go about it. Which is where we come in...

AMCGLTD's Guide to Getting out of College with a Degree

  • First and foremost, understand one thing: this is the way you're going to live the rest of your life. Once you walk out that door, you will not be coming back. If this doesn't make you feel a little queasy (hell it's nearly 20 years later and it still makes me queasy), you're not paying attention. Get used to it now while you still can.
  • Choose a major, any major, and stick with it. As Joseph Campbell once said, "follow your bliss", parents and peers bedamned. College teaches you how to learn, not get a job. Learn about something that interests you now, and the tools you gain in the doing will help you get whatever job you want.
  • Go to class. No, really, just go. This sounds stupid and easy... after all, that's what you do now, right? Wrong. Nobody makes you go to class in college, and dragging your ass out of bed for classes you don't understand and professors you hate will be the hardest thing you've ever done. But there are real advantages.

    Showing up every damned day will get your face noticed by the professor, who might actually start to care a little (see below) and bail your butt out of a jam if you need it. Showing up every damned day will mean you can get by without some of the massive amounts of homework college buries you under. Showing up every damned day for four years in a row, and paying at least a little bit of attention, doing a little bit of homework, taking just a few notes, will almost guarantee your graduation.

  • Stay the hell away from credit cards. This will start out being easy, but will end up being the second hardest thing you do (aside from graduating itself). Entering college will mean most all of you will have jumped from luxurious independence to indentured servitude in a matter of months. It's happened so fast that none of you will even notice it for at least another year. You'll be dealing with it for probably the next fifteen.

    "Independence?!?" I can hear you all cry out, "this is not independence! Independence is what I'm going to, not coming from."

    Wrong-o. You're confusing social independence with economic independence. This will be the very first time in your life where the economic decisions you make will be the difference between having what you want and getting what you need. There really will come a time when it's down to getting Manson's (or Korn's, or BEP's, or Jay-Z's, or whoever it is you damned kids listen to nowadays) new CD or getting groceries. When (not if) this happens, the siren song of easy credit will be deafening. Most of your friends will succumb, which will make your ragged sweatshirt, torn jeans, and Ramen noodles even harder to bear.

    As someone who only just now, after more than a decade of trying, got himself out from under the debt hole he'd dug himself in his college years, I won't preach to you how credit cards are wrong or evil, or that you should throw them all away. I'll just say they're stupid, and they'll make you do stupid things if you're not damned careful with them. Become a mean cheap bastard, and if you ever catch yourself seeing credit cards as an opportunity, cut them up now.

  • If you go to orientation or some big introduction assembly, look to your left, then look to your right. Those people aren't going to graduate. College is that brutal. Now sigh and feel sorry for them, because you're the one getting out with the prize.
  • Never take a class before 9:00 am or after 2:00 pm if you can possibly avoid it. The people around you saying, "how hard can it be? High school classes start at 7:30!" are idiots, and will not graduate. 9:00-ish classes don't condone laziness, they give you invaluable cram time to bone up on exams and finish papers. If a class you must take is only available at 7:30, take an elective now and take the required class next semester. I'm serious, it's really that important.

    Late classes are different, in that they cut into your study/leisure/work time, and make job scheduling more complex than it has to be. Avoid them when possible.

  • "Gappy" schedules can work to your advantage, as long as the gap isn't too long. You'll get an hour or two of free time to study, work on projects, or read without the discipline pressure you'll face back at the dorm or the apartment.
  • Don't be afraid to drop a class, especially if the problems you're having are caused by the instructor. Nobody pays attention to "incomplete" marks on your transcript, but everyone pays attention to your GPA. Only a moron tries to "tough it out" with an instructor who can't teach them.
  • Understand that college instructors do not care about you. You'll be dealing either with grad students who have problems of their own or tenured professors who could screw the Dean's daughter in the main square and not get fired for it. Mommy and daddy have no leverage with these people, and neither will you. Students who go to class thinking the instructors will catch them if they fall are going to end up as colorful splats on the pavement below.
  • You are not the smartest person in this school. You will not be able to bullshit your way out of an answer you don't know, or to an A you don't deserve. Try it at your peril.
  • Don't envy athletes, pity them. In sane colleges they're working their butts off pleasing two masters, the coach and the teacher. In an NCAA division 1 school, they're probably recruited, on a scholarship, have no idea what they're doing, and are essentially doomed from the start. They'll live high on the hog for awhile, but ten years from now they'll be asking, "you want fries with that?"
  • Learn how to use a washer and dryer. Nothing screams "stupid freshman" like a pretty well-scrubbed face staring cow-eyed at a washing machine. Except maybe for the ones who go to class with pink socks.
  • Cherish your weekends. You can completely cut loose between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning with essentially no consequences (well, as long as you stay out of jail). Under no circumstances hang out with people who want to party on any other day (or night). They will not graduate.
  • Always keep in mind the weekend ends on Sunday morning, not Monday morning. Be wary of attempts to squeeze one more night of partying out of the weekend, and don't hang out with people who make a habit of it. They will not graduate.
  • Travel. This is the only time in your life when you're supposed to be able to stuff everything important to you in the back of a car. Learn how to read a map, and take "we've never been there before!" as a challenge instead of a roadblock. If you have a reliable car, make sure you use it at least once a month to go somewhere (parent's houses don't count!)
  • Give your roommate a chance, but don't stick with a psycho. They're not worth it, because they're not going to graduate. If you try to stay with them, they'll make sure you don't either. Get out quickly.
  • Expect drama, ridiculous drama. The vast majority of college students will be living away from home for the first time, and far too many will be making some of the dumbest decisions of their lives. Don't let the personal politics of your new peers take your eyes off the prize.
  • Expect romance, grownup romance. The kind that can and often does lead to marriage. This is not high school, where you were surrounded by layers of safety nets keeping your hormones from ruining your life. Don't get me wrong... casual is now very casual; you can boink everyone within reach if you like without garnering a "reputation". But keep in mind serious is also now very serious. Romantic entanglements will be the last, greatest risk to your chances at graduation. Tread carefully.
  • Don't feel like you must pledge a fraternity or sorority for the "complete" college experience. Especially in the South, Greek life is all too often merely a continuation of the petty peer pressures of high school, only with alcohol and party dresses. Try it out on your own for awhile first.
  • College is the first place you will be valued for what you know, not who you know. Cherish this, and find a group of people who share every weird or bizarre interest you may have. You'll find them if you're patient. It may be the last time.
  • College is the first place you can ignore the pretty people and get away with it. Pity them too, because now they just don't matter. Some of them never get over it.
  • Never walk home at night without a can of pepper spray in your hand. Girls and guys.
  • Always keep a small box of condoms in your nightstand. Guys and girls.

If nothing else, your roommate will thank you for it.

Posted by scott at 03:52 PM | Comments (4)
Can the "Marvel Comics Bible" be Far Behind?

At first, I thought Truth for Youth Ministries was another scam site, a "Landover for Teens" if you will. However, after reading a few of the comics (click any link on the left), I'm of the opinion it's probably real.

Notwithstanding the horribly corny dialogue and at times subtly racist themes, I must admit whoever designs the comics has the paradigm down flat. I wonder if the team behind them are actually professionals in the field somewhere?

Posted by scott at 01:28 PM | Comments (2)
Moist Apples

The apple nuts (seeds?) in the audience will probably be interested in the latest powermac design feature, liquid cooling. Having been around a few of these things lately, I can say that the powerPC chip definitely seems to be a good substitute for a space heater. As always, much more elegant (and expensive) than most PC water cooling projects, which typically involve adapters on water faucets and garden hoses.

Posted by scott at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)
I Spy with My Fly Eye

One of the particuarly dear pet arguments of Christians who think evolution is "just a theory", one no more or less valid than that of, say, creationism*, is that "speciation has never been observed." While demonstrably invalid for quite some time, this BBCnews article provides yet another nail for that coffin:

Scientists at the University of Arizona may have witnessed the birth of a new species.

Fruit flies, this time. Of course, the typical creationist reaction is to drop back 5 and punt with the reply, "well, nobody's seen any big species diverge." We're not here to convince these people, we're here to provide the rest of you ammunition to make them a little less smug in their arguments.

* Which is, of course, flat wrong. Evolution is a scientific theory because it can be proven wrong. Creationism can't, so it isn't. Period. See, that was easy wasn't it?

Posted by scott at 10:45 AM | Comments (1)
A Titanic Update

ABCnews is carrying this summary of a recent TV broadcast concerning Robert Ballard's return to Titanic, this time to document deterioration and (in some opinion's) desecration. If I recall correctly (IIRC), the last studies done suggested the forward section would probably collapse outright from corrosion in the next twenty years or so. What's not clear is if the various expiditions are contributing to this problem.

Kinda conflicted about this one. Yes, it's a grave site, but because of the natural processes of sea life, it's an empty one. And, contrary to Ballard's assertion in the article, people do get married in graveyards. Odd people, and not very many, but it happens.

The cold truth is that as long as there's profit to be made on the wreck, there will be people picking on it.

Posted by scott at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)
Feds: 1, Obnoxious Cell Caller: 0

Fark linked up this story about "the lady, the cellphone, and the federal air marshall":

A plane passenger slapped a federal air marshal after refusing to sit down and ignoring instructions to end her cellular phone call, which she said would have been ``rude,'' prosecutors said Tuesday.

Yeah lady, you can ignore our dirty looks, and flip the flight crew the bird, but the buck will eventually stop somewhere. Glad to see it landed on her head. She's still in jail right now, by the way.

Posted by scott at 08:29 AM | Comments (3)
June 08, 2004
Can't Sleep Clowns Will Eat Me

Just in case your life isn't surreal enough, we have Ouchy the Clown, a full-service "dom" and DJ. Well, now we've found the entertainment for Amber's wedding. See! That was easy wasn't it?

Posted by scott at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)
~ You Push the Right Screw in/You Pry the Left Screw Out ~

There's defragging a hard drive, and then there's defraggling it:

Step 4: Remove the disks

When the discs have finally come lööse, keep them in order and don't mixem up If you have Windows on your Data machine, You'll find the OS on the top disc, you'll recognize it easily, it's much heavier then the rest of the discs. If you use Linux, then you'll of course don't need to do this operation at all...

Well, I can say one thing, after performing this procedure you will definitely not have trouble with fragmentation on your hard drive.

Via Jimspot.

Posted by scott at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)
Black Hole News

Space.com is carrying this article summarizing the discovery of the first "middle weight" black hole ever found. With a mass of "only" 25 to 40 times that of our Sun, it fits neatly inside the well-known gap between stellar black holes formed by stars and supermassive black holes that lie in the center of galaxies. The main problem right now is that astrophysicists have no idea how it formed.

Posted by scott at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)
But do Cicadas Stick to it?

BBCnews is carrying this article summarizing the development of a new sort of glass that never needs to be cleaned with anything but water. By using a nano-scale coating of titanium oxide, natural chemical reactions are created that both prevent dirt from sticking and allow it to be washed away by rain. No soap required!

Posted by scott at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)
Homeless Luxury

Now you, too, can live like a homeless-bum king (queen) with this ghetto-fabulous shopping cart chair. Hmm... Nina's going to need dorm furniture soon...

Posted by scott at 09:30 AM | Comments (2)
Port Out, Starboard Home

Fark linked up this Telegraph article that goes into detail over the origins of several different catchphrases used in the UK and the US. While the author is honest in saying we simply don't know where most of them come from, he does provide some fascinating information on how they were used, and how they changed, once they did make it onto the scene. Apparently excerpted from a book with the same title as this post.

Posted by scott at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)
June 07, 2004
And You People Think I'm the Only Alfa Nut in the World

Not only are there more of us out there, some of us are chicks:

When people find out that my husband and I own three Alfa Romeos, none of which we currently can drive, they assume that I’m simply tolerating his quirks. The truth is, I’m as obsessed as he is.
I discovered the adrenaline rush of maneuvering through slalom courses and putting my car into a skid to explore options for recovering. I never drove very fast, even though the [driving instruction] took place on a racetrack. But I learned the limits of my car and improved my driving skills. Most importantly, I had a blast doing it.

Ellen and I were once hardcore... all we owned were Alfas. If I'd had my garage then, we'd probably still just own Alfas. As it turned out, we just couldn't keep up with two of them going to $85/hr mechanics once or twice a month, so one had to go. To this day Ellen will tear up looking at pictures of our dearly departed Milano (although her reaction to the Alfa Romeo SZ, a sports car based on the Milano platform, bodes ill for our child's college fund). I can't help but think once we have a place to put one, another will take its place.

If all this sounds completely nutty to you, you obviously haven't driven an Alfa. My spider even put a smile on the face of an inveterate Honda nut. You may find them weird and too unreliable, and I'll accept that, but you'd have to be seriously lacking in the soul department to think they're not a barrel of fun.

Posted by scott at 08:38 PM | Comments (8)
Got cash? Yup! Got Brains? Wha?

Jeff gets a very fast no-prize in a tree for bringing us what happens when rich morons aren't careful with their toys:

It is a 38 foot Fountain [speedboat]. The owner had it for about a week and has not made the first payment on the 375,000 dollar pricetag. He was going 80 mph made a sharp turn, it threw him and his passenger out of the boat. He did not have his kill switch on, so it steadily accelerated until it hit the bank, went airborne and split on this tree.

Explain that to the insurance adjuster!

Note: Link is very slow, but the pictures are worth it.

Posted by scott at 04:04 PM | Comments (5)
The Sound of Moonbats Twirling

Well, it's good to see at least one bastion of the left is not hiding its colors just because a Republican died:

i don't care what killed him, alzhiemers or the black plague, i'm glad he's dead and i don't care how many times i'm scolded or chastised for it.

The follow-ups are just as rich.

Oh yes, I expect at least equal vitriol from the fringe right when Clinton finally goes. I just wanted to point out the right doesn't have a monopoly on people we wish we could keep behind locked, barred, and chained attic doors. I vote Republican because I don't want them anywhere near the levers of power. Many of you vote Democrat because of the same reason (but with different targets).

Instead of pissing and moaning about it, we should all be grateful that the politicians who actually get elected are almost to a person conniving narcissistic elitist bastards who grab for our wallets with one hand while swearing on a bible to place our interests first with the other. Because if they weren't around these people* really would be in charge.

Via Iraq Now.

* Radicals and True Believers in our political system prefer to style themselves as polar opposites. In reality, no matter what it smells like, an asshole is still an asshole.

Posted by scott at 02:36 PM | Comments (2)
Nice Work, if You Can Get it

I guess I shouldn't be surprised someone who bills themselves as a "cheese artist" is capable of this:

Cosimo Cavallaro, who once repainted a New York hotel room in melted mozzarella, has covered a bed in processed ham. "I feel like I am back in my mother's deli," the artist said Thursday.

Which only proves what we've always known... the New York art scene is capable of anything. Hopefully he (somehow) earns a living this way, but I have a sinking feeling at least some of his income is probably written out on Social Security checks.

Posted by scott at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)
Broken Hearted Bargain

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Because scorned chicks do things like sell all your stuff and then tell everyone what a sleaze you are in the auction description:

I am looking to part with a great boat, with optional premium Annapolis slip space at the entrance to Back Creek, which has too many wonderful memories for me to keep.
It all started when his ex-girlfriend asked him to meet her for lunch so they could exchange a few items that they had had failed to return at the end of their relationship over two years prior...

Ebay brags that their auctions are so much better than classifieds because of all the extra information you get. Sometimes, though, you get too much. I personally would not have to worry about this happening, as I have it on good authority the best I could hope for would be a set of concrete shoes and a long walk off a short pier.

Note: Auction link. Get it while you can.

Posted by scott at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)
The Saga Continues

Try Windows XP
Hard drive platter death rattle
Casket now colored blue

Well, at least now I know why it croaked. Spare parts, here we come...

Posted by scott at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)
~ Way Down, Below the Ocean ~

Slashdot linked up this BBCnews article summarizing a new development in the search for Atlantis:

Dr Rainer Kuehne thinks the "island" of Atlantis simply referred to a region of the southern Spanish coast destroyed by a flood between 800 BC and 500 BC.

Includes some hard-to-interpret pictures. The proposal is intreguing, but until someone sticks a shovel in the ground there it's little more than that. Unfortunately (and suspiciously coincidental), the site resides inside a national park, so getting permission to dig could be problematic.

Posted by scott at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)
June 06, 2004
En Memorium

So, while I watch the entire press corps bend over backward posthumously kissing the ass of a president they hated, I figure I'd take a bit of time to dig through the archives and post our own memorial:

Reagan inherited a shattered and weak military, incapable of even rescuing a few hostages in the desert. He inherited an economy weakened by inflation and recession. He inherited a press corps and international community happy for American weakness that made their jobs easier. Most of all he inherited a people who had sunk into despair and self-loathing over a stupid war in a stupid place that sent all too many sons home in boxes.

Reagan would have none of it. A charismatic man, someone you literally could not help but watch speaking, who had a mind like a razor and a love of country from a simpler time. He decided appeasement would not work, communism was a danger to the entire world, and only through confrontation would it be defeated. He rearmed, rebuilt, and reaffirmed America. For the first time in a very, very long time someone was standing up in front of cameras saying this country was the best country in the world, and you could be for us or against us, but you didn't want to be against us because we were going to win no matter what it took.

It's an essay more about how our perceptions of nuclear war have changed, but most readers took it as a tribute to Reagan himself. So be it.

Posted by scott at 08:00 PM | Comments (2)
Hello Darwin Award

Fark linked up the latest in stupid-is-as-stupid-dies morons:

A northwest Iowa man illegally making powerful fireworks died Friday after the materials ignited, causing an explosion so powerful that it blew off his hands.
Kaiser was mixing together gunpowder, sulfur chlorate and phosphorous in his living room at the time of the blast, Bloomendaal said.

(Emphasis added)

I remember an Alfa guy who was nice but a little, well, off. He had the carcass of a 1971 Ford Mach-1 automobile sitting in his living room. Hey, at least that couldn't kill him.

Posted by scott at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)
Grand Challenge II

They haven't updated their website yet, but according to Slashdot, the DARPA Grand Challenge, 2005 is already heating up with several schools announcing their projects. Apparently the first one was not only innovative, but extremely amusing. Cars driving in circles, running into trees, even a motorcycle just sort of falling over. Definitely gotta set the TiVo for this one.

Posted by scott at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)
For the Seige Engineer in Your Life

Mangonel.com, your one-stop-shop for all things, rrm.. "seige-engine-ish". From Mangonels to Scorpions, Ballistas to Onagers, they have it all for sale. Give the ultimate in 13th century warfare to your 21st century love!

Posted by scott at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)
June 05, 2004
As Long as You Spell the Name Right

So most of our regular readers have decided to roll their eyes at the whole "vampire hunter" saga. However, one significant participant most definitely has not:

A prime example of where this socially inadequate group of attention-seekers [aka bloggers -ed] prosper is a “weblog” site run by Scott Johnson and his wife, Ellen Carozza. This couple operate AMCGLTD from Virginia in the USA. In Holy Week, April 2004, the four offenders with a history of harassment in the UK began posting their calumny.

Calumny! Deceit and Calumny! Found in what appears to be a sermon to what I can only imagine are a group of otherwise normal (and therefore, through no fault of their own, clueless) parishoners. But what makes me laugh out loud is his modification of our motto:


Bravo Mr. Manchester! Bravo! And, since we're all about equal time, let's finish with another quote:

And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.

I'm sure he'll remember the quote. I doubt if he'll understand the sentiment.

PS. Ha! Take that, Instapundit! Take that, ASV! Take that, IMAO! Take that, Amish Tech Support TBIFOC! You all may be bigger and better, but we have loony British vampire hunters!!! Beat that!

Posted by scott at 08:29 PM | Comments (5)
Not Subtle, but Effective

I dunno what a naked chick has to do with selling computer magazines, but then again, who cares?

NSFW, duh.

Posted by scott at 03:38 PM | Comments (1)
Down We Go

Slashdot linked up news that Opportunity's actually going down into that crater it's been circling the past few weeks. They're pretty sure they can get back out, but have decided the science potential is worth the risk.

Posted by scott at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)
Time for a Visit to Natural History

Fark linked up this description of the latest IMAX film, now playing at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History:

Ten years in the making, the new National Geographic film "Forces of Nature" opened at the museum Friday. It is also showing at other giant-screen theaters ... The film takes on three forces of nature - volcanoes, earthquakes and tornadoes.

Tornadoes. On Imax. I'm not sure Ellen will ever be the same.

Posted by scott at 09:38 AM | Comments (1)
June 04, 2004
~ Tiny Fossils, In the Ocean ~

New Scientist is carrying this summary of recent fossil finds concerning the development of all complex multicellular life. By examining microscopic fossils found in Chinese deposits laid down just after the last "snowball earth" episode, scientists have found evidence that microscopic creatures first developed complex, bilaterally symmetrical bodies, then grew in size.

Posted by scott at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)
Oh I Only Thought That Was a Pain in the Ass

Fix Netware login,
Registry backup not made,
Blue screen is pretty

Don't try this at home folks, I'm a professional.

Posted by scott at 02:23 PM | Comments (4)
Who Knew What and When

One of the more frequent rocks thrown at the Bush administration by certain members of our Yellow-Dog peanut gallery is that they ignored or were incapable of understanding obvious signs of the build-up to 9-11. This may or may not be true, but it wouldn't make them the first administration to do so:

More than a year before 9/11, a Pakistani-British man told the FBI an incredible tale: that he had been trained by bin Laden’s followers to hijack airplanes and was now in America to carry out an attack. The FBI questioned him for weeks, but then let him go home, and never followed up. Now, the former al-Qaida insider is talking.

To me it's just another bit of proof nobody was really expecting the attacks. To those who think the death of thousands is a statistic, the reelection of one a tragedy, I doubt it will make any difference at all.

Posted by scott at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)
Display Tech

Remember a few years ago a technology was developed that allowed manufacturers to create video displays with fancy ink jet printers? Well, we're finally starting to see some devices made with that process. 13", 15", even a massive 40" system are all in prototype at this time, with commercial products expected in 2006.

Other "thin" display techologies are expensive because they're really hard to make, especially at very large sizes. This technology holds the promise to become so cheap the displays could be mounted on ceilings and used for (infinitely flexible) lighting applications. The jobs of my two friends Damion and Joshua could get a lot more interesting in the years ahead.

Posted by scott at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)
Crazy is...

Fark linked up this AP news article that confirms what we've all suspected about the Jackson family's "other" famous member:

Now, [Janet] Jackson says she expresses more grown-up urges through one of her alter egos, named Strawberry: "She's the most sexual of them all, the wildest."

The other character living inside her is Damita Jo, which is her middle name and the title of her latest album. Damita Jo, she says, is "a lot harsher, and quick to put you in your place."

Sometimes I think the only difference between a rock star singing on stage and a homeless schizophrenic singing on the streetcorner is that one of them can afford a good lawyer.

Posted by scott at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)
Well, That was a Pain in the Ass

Today, the dread blue screen,
Workbox was dead, now alive
Brother will laugh again

Posted by scott at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)
June 03, 2004
Kitty Cat Dance Dance Dance Song!

It's Addictive!!

I found this off an LJ who in turn found it from G-Shack.com

Posted by Ellen at 07:07 PM | Comments (124)
Cat Herding, The Video

I Laugh every time I watch this.

You'll need to be patient and have Quick Time to view the video.

Posted by Ellen at 04:55 PM | Comments (2)
Belly Dance Pix

Me on the left 2 years ago.


Me on the right now. I like me on the right better.

Posted by Ellen at 03:44 PM | Comments (3)
Eeny-meeny-miney-Moe, Catch the Terrorist By the Toe...

The Religious Policeman (a Saudi who is neither) gives us an excellent breakdown of how Saudi Arabia's finest performed during the recent hostage rescue operation:

Nevertheless, the following captured Al Qaeeda document may give some clues [as to how three terrorists, presumably soaked in the blood of their victims, completely surrounded by three rings of security troops in a medium-sized apartment building, vanish completely into the night (or day)]. It is part of their Training Manual.

"Chapter 17. Evading Capture.

Scenario: You are completely surrounded by Saudi Arabia's Finest. As you are exiting by a back staircase, you run into an entire platoon of these fierce menacing killers.

Response: One of the following phrases will normally suffice -

"They went that-a-way"

"What? Us, terrorists? I ask you, do we look Jewish?"
"Hey, Ali How you doing? Yea, we got rostered as Duty Terrorists today, what a bummer! See you down the Social Club tonite?"

"OK, fellas, you know the routine. One of us gets taken, the rest go. Eeny-meeny-miney-mo....."

Read the whole thing. I hope this guy doesn't get nabbed, he's too damned funny to go to jail!

Posted by scott at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)
Swear to God, I Saw One Looked Just Like it Today!


Clever little things, these devil bugs.

No-prize to Jennifer C. for bringing us our toothy little friend

Posted by scott at 02:56 PM | Comments (0)
When Producers Attack

Whether he was still stuck in character, or he's just a general jackass, "The Sopranos's James Gandolfini did not appreciate the show's producer's idea of a pratical joke:

In what's gotta be the dumbest freakin' move ever made by reality TV, those "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" queens suddenly invaded "The Sopranos" set and -- with cameras crankin' -- chirped cheerily at hairybear bossman James Gandolfini: "HI, there! Ready for your makeover?" That's when all HELL broke loose, say insiders.

Of course, since Mr. Gandolfini is simply a convincing actor instead of an actual mob boss, life did in fact go on. But, as always, it's no fun if there's not a little opera.

Posted by scott at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)
Is it a Cat? A Bat? A Dog with a Hat?

Here's a ripe little mystery for you: can you name this animal?

About the size of a fox, but with short brown hair and a long cat-like tail, it looked more like an animal in a National Geographic spread out of Africa than any critter native to the woods of central North Carolina.

With, of course, a "[something]-in-headlights" picture!

Via Silflay

Posted by scott at 10:52 AM | Comments (8)
Rover Update

The mainstream media may have forgotten about the Mars rovers, but we haven't! Neither has space.com, which is carrying this nice summary of recent rover activities. Spirit is nearly to a mountain ridge it's spent nearly a month driving toward, and Opportunity is angling to find a safe spot to crawl down into a crater. Great stuff!

Posted by scott at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)
Let's Twist Again!

Fark linked up this story and amazing picture of a couple's encounter with a "clear weather" tornado:

"It was so bizarre," Jo Anne said. "Here it was a bright, shiny, beautiful day and there's that tornado just sitting there in the middle of that field."

Ellen regularly prices out storm-chaser vacation packages every spring. I can honestly say that will be one vacation she goes on by herself!

Posted by scott at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)
June 02, 2004
She's not Dead Yet!

Just wanted everyone to know that Ellen has not actually quit AMCGLTD. She just hasn't really been able to read computer displays for the past week. I had to set her display up to "old people huge" just so she could read e-mail (gotta have that e-mail, ya know). Expect weird/naughty/outrageous stuff and more O & cat updates within the week, as her eyesight returns to normal.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled fragfest...

Posted by scott at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)
A Satire of Miscommunications

Lair takes a different tack on computer support with Miscommunication:

*knock knock knock*

"Come in," says the attendant, putting down his coffee.

A meek customer holds a license plate in his hands. He sits down in a chair and smiles.

"I just got this license plate," says the customer. "Now how do I drive to the store?"

"Well, where's your car?" says the attendant.

"I need a car to do that?" sayd the customer. "I've got a license plate... and I've got a driver's license..."

"You need a car, sir," says the attendant. "Why don;t you just follow me to the Sales Desk and-"

"BUT I WANT TO GO TO THE STORE!" shouts the customer.

I wonder if he'd open a car shop with me?

Posted by scott at 04:08 PM | Comments (0)
Chicken Little and the Oil Crisis

Welcome to The Peak Oil Theory, the latest in a very, very long line of predictions that the world is in imminent danger of running out of oil. It all reads as very rational and very, very worrying:

Peak Oil marks the transition to the downward curve, where oil and gas become much more expensive to produce and demand hugely outstrips production. When energy supply falls beneath demand in around 2006 we will encounter an unavoidable crisis [...] The result? The economy will collapse.

Of course, the only real problem with this theory is that it's crap. Complete and utter crap. It's not that oil isn't abundant, it's just easier to get at it in some places compared to others. They're mistaking a momentary and artificial market spike for Ragnarok. When the oil finally does run out, it won't rush out in a whoosh that sucks the world down with it. It'll instead simper out in a trickle we'll barely notice at all.

First, regarding supply, let's take a moment to examine the Canadian oil sands:

Estimates of Canada’s oil reserves jumped from 4.9 billion barrels to 180 billion [in 2003], making the country the second-largest oil reserve in the world, according to an annual survey conducted by the Oil and Gas Journal.

Furthermore, pumping oil isn't like draining a bathtub. The taps won't all suddenly go dry, and certainly not all at once all over the world. Instead, world supplies will gradually decrease, gradually increasing prices. While there will certainly be some wailing and gnashing of teeth, in free market societies there will also be a great deal of innovation taking place.

There's no impetus to get serious about alternative fuels right now because there's no money in it; petroleum-based fuels are simply too good and too cheap. But when oil prices hit $55 a barrel, it'll send the alternative fuel industry into a growth spurt that'll make the tech boom of the 90s look like a baby fart in a bathtub.

And then something amazing will happen. Once things like this start attracting real money and real innovation, economies of scale will start to kick in. It will get cheaper, and then cheaper still. And it won't be an economic disaster, because the high price of oil will have finally made exploring alternative energy sources profitable. People will be making money off this new stuff, eventually more than was ever made from oil.

Except for the oil producing states, of course. For them very high oil prices are a short term boon that courts long term apocalypse.

This has already happened once to OPEC, in the 1970s. Then, an artificial shortage was created by Arabs who were pissed off because they thought it was the West that was keeping them from squishing Israel like a bug in a yarmulke*. Oil prices skyrocketed, and there were even outright shortages. Arabs got rich, and economies went into a tailspin. Pseudo-academics made millions on the talking-head-circuit telling us all now the taps will run dry.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Armageddon. Oil got really expensive, so consumers stopped using it. The money you'd save buying a little fuel-efficient Japanese car was suddenly large enough (in a short enough time) to make up for the difference in comfort you got from a big hulking American sedan. High utility costs meant you made up the difference between an expensive efficient air conditioner and a cheap wasteful one in a matter of months instead of years. Recycling became a profitable practice because it was a lot cheaper to wash a bottle and reuse it than to throw it away and buy a new one. In short, people just sorted it out and got used to it.

This was a complete disaster for OPEC. Demand started to fall, and so the price of oil did as well. Further cuts just made it worse. In 1979 oil prices were so high (the real record, once adjusted for inflation) that oil wells in Arkansas started making money again. Plucky Scandinavians finally had a reason to brave the shittiest weather in the world and started tapping gigantic oil deposits of their own. Not only was the West not using oil like it did before, it was buying it from the wrong people.

OPEC imploded, collapsing in a crisis of leadership that took twenty years to sort out. The taps gushed oil into a market that simply didn't need all that much anymore, and prices went into free fall. The pundits who predicted we'd never ever ever see gasoline prices under $1.00 per gallon in the US were suddenly filling their tanks up with stuff costing .69 cents per gallon.

Of course, the pendulum then began to swing in the other direction, but it took two decades to even come close to equilibrium. In the meantime oil-producing countries suffered an entire generation of instability and revolution, and the West, now with booming, efficient, cheaply-fueled economies, decided to let them.

Finally they got it all back under control, around 1999. This time there would be no politics. Prices would be set at $28 per barrel come hell or high water. Western governments would squeak as prices increased 30% or so, but at that point OPEC countries were desperate and didn't really care.

The problem, of course, was there really was no way to completely exclude politics. Western countries, the US in particular, are insufferably arrogant (being rich, powerful, and right most of the time will do that to you), and there's nothing quite like the thrill of jiggering with their economies by twiddling with the taps.

The first real bumps in the road came from South America, when Venezuela's attempts to sustain old-fashioned cronyism while simultaneously trying to build a free market economy came unglued in 2000. Nothing will win you elections faster than slapping around the gringos from "el Norte", and sometimes if you don't do it your unions will do it for you. Up went the prices.

But the wheels didn't really fall off until 2003. At that point the Saudis, who'd had enough of being called the Wal Mart Supercenter of terrorism (the truth hurts when you don't want to hear it) decided taking the US down a peg or two might be good for it. Don't want them thinking they can build a liberal democracy on our doorstep without consequences, you see. So they allowed OPEC to close the taps just a bit, right when demand would be at its highest.

What everyone seems to have ignored is that the US isn't the only 800-pound oil swilling gorilla in the world anymore. China and India have gigantic oil requirements of their own, and their consumption is going up, not down. Mix in Osama and his Merry Band of Detonating Dervishes and suddenly it's 1979 all over again.

OPEC seems to understand they've badly miscalculated, and are taking steps to correct the problem. Who knows, if they do it fast enough it might actually work. They better hope it does, because the sad truth is OPEC needs the West a lot more than the West needs OPEC.

But to use short-term market miscalculations to support a theory predicting economic Armageddon is like using a burned out light bulb as evidence that you're going blind. Thinking we're all going to drive our SUVs until the taps run flat dry ignores the fact that people will change if they have the proper motivation.

Of course, tenured professors the world over have been trying to reason away human nature for five thousand years. Why should they stop now?

* Because you know it simply could not be that a free and democratic society full of Jews could defeat the flower of Islamic military culture. The horror!

Posted by scott at 03:47 PM | Comments (14)
The Bones of the Ancients

This Gaurdian article discusses new efforts at trying to identify people found in the Mycenean graves of ancient Greece. Heinrich Schliemann, who found them more than a century ago, decided he had seen the face of Agamemnon himself, but it eventually turned out the graves were perhaps five hundred years too old. It's hoped that by using new DNA technology on the physical remains it can be determined if these people were related, or represented soldiers, or perhaps something else.

I remember going over all this stuff years ago back in college. The classics course I was taking was evenly split between anthropology majors and classics majors (no, none of us were interested in getting a real job). All the material we were using was based exclusively on historical documents and archeological findings. All us anth majors wanted to know about the physical remains, and we were staggered to find that nobody had ever done anything with them. It would seem that, fifteen years later, someone finally is.

Posted by scott at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)
Diver Down

Ok folks, two words: pussy snorkel. No, Amber, the other kind.

Note: Site is graphically safe for work, but does have its title in big ol' bold letters. Your, um, mileage may vary.

Posted by scott at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)
Virus Bomb

New Scientist is carrying this article summarizing new developments in using viruses to treat cancer. By subtly altering a specific gene, Australian scientists were able to create a virus that was immediately spotted and stopped by healthy cells but was accepted by cancer cells. The resulting multiplication of the virus destroyed the cancer cells and then spread to others, resulting in dramatic reductions in tumor size and spread. Clinical trials in humans are expected in 2005.

Posted by scott at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)
Bugs for Cash

Unlike the "$5000 for a blue-eyed cicada", this offer of $10 per ounce of lightning bugs seems quite legitimate. I guess I now know how my nephew is going to make money this summer!

Posted by scott at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)
June 01, 2004
Time Passages

This pic of our Spider was taken in 1997, when it was just about as perfect as one could get without a ground-up restoration. The funny thing is, this picture was taken before nearly any of my friends's cars were even built, and at this point our spider is already 26 years old. How the hell did that happen?

Nowadays, it's still nice, just not this nice. But it could be again. That's what all those pennies I'm saving are for. Oh be quiet, I'm putting plenty away for Olivia's college, and Ellen's already got eyes and will have other "things" soon enough. Gotta have my own dreams just to make it all worthwhile, no?

Posted by scott at 09:18 PM | Comments (1)
Joints... Creaking... Hair... Graying...

Remember "Baby Jessica"? You know, the toddler who fell down the well? All the drama, the coverage, the movies, the documentaries? Well, guess what. She graduated high school a few days ago:

"Baby Jessica," who held the attention of the nation as a toddler when she fell into an abandoned well 17 years ago, is now a high school graduate, The Associated Press reports.

Oh don't worry K, D, J, C, et. al., I'll have your canes ready at the door.

Posted by scott at 02:42 PM | Comments (1)
Negative Spin

Joshua gets a no-prize for bringing us this Washington Post piece that shows the press is starting to get a stiffy now that the campaigns are finally "going negative":

Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts.

I do not find this surprising in the least, and, breathless tone notwithstanding, I doubt this particular reporter finds it that way either. Negative ads work, which is why all campaigns sooner or later use them. And the article does eventually mention Kerry's in on it too. Of course, this being the WaPo, the implication is clearly that "it's not Kerry's fault."

But I personally like this story about Kerry a lot more:

When the head of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry confronted the Democratic Presidential candidate yesterday, Kerry showed his true colors by extending his middle finger [at a public gathering].

In spite of the equally breathless "and he did it in front of children too!" tone, I actually kinda like this one. The VVAJK guy comes off as a complete tool even in this sympathetic article. It also finally shows that Kerry isn't justa splinter off the old "Hi-My-Name-is-Al-and-I'll-be-Your-Wooden-Candidate-for-Today" block of spruce.

Now that the gladiators have saluted the crowd, it would seem we're finally getting down to "bid-ness". Let the games begin!

Posted by scott at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)
I Guess We Should Call it, "Rubio Goldbergisto"

New Scientist is carrying this summary of a very new sort of clothes iron:

A human-shaped dummy that irons shirts by pumping itself up with hot air has been created by researchers in Spain. It is the first machine designed for the home that can take on this tedious chore.

My gadget-crazy mom constantly accuses me of looking like I slept in my clothes. I expect to see one of these things on my doorstep any day now.

Posted by scott at 12:51 PM | Comments (2)
Digging History

Jeff gets an old mangled no-prize for bringing us this story about a recently re-discovered German bomber from the Battle of Britain:

Archaeologists say that they have unearthed parts of a World War II fighter plane that crashed after downing a German bomber near Buckingham Palace.

I actually saw this story over on BBCnews last week, but that article was so vaguely written I had no idea what sort of airplane they might be talking about. The first time I read this CNN article I actually mis-read it thinking they were referring to the bomber, not the fighter. I'm pretty sure now they're referring to a Dornier Do-17, and, of course, a Hawker Hurricane.

Overall, much cooler than digging up an unexploded bomb in your garden (which, as I understand it, happens to this day in London's precincts.)

Update: When editing a story you screwed up, be sure to check the top and bottom for gaffes. That'd be "re-discovered British fighter thankyouverymuch.

Posted by scott at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)
When Spare Time Attacks III: The Empire F-'s Back

Yes, Virginia, someone has actually duplicated the Kama Sutra using Kenner AT-ST walker toys. And you people think I need a life.

Note: Contains images of plastic toys posed in weird positions. If this could get you in trouble at work, you need another job.

Posted by scott at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)
"War with Facisim is Our Buisness"

Instapundit linked up this interesting interview with Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Jewish Uprising of 1943. In it, he takes on the current "conventional wisdom" so passionately held by certain members of the peanut gallery, with bona-fides that are unquestionable:

Interviewer: So this war is one over some silly beliefs?

Edelman: Now, now. Who started killing people? Americans didn't invade a wonderful democratic Iraq. There was a dictatorship there, torture, terror.

Interviewer: But there are people who say it's not our business.

Edelman: And whose business is it? Every war with fascism is our business. In 1939 there were also many people who said that the war in Poland was not their war, and what happened? Great nations fell because politicians listened to those who were saying that it's not worth dying for Gdansk [Danzig]. If only we'd intervened militarily after Hitler re-entered Rhineland we probably would not have had the war and the Holocaust.

As always, read the whole thing before you start yelling, "cheerleader!"

Posted by scott at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)
When Morons Attack

Fark linked up a prime example of "Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Rant" with this tasty morsel on the Indy 500:

In an environment where gas prices are skyrocketing [...] is it really a good idea to show the world how profligate we can be with our gasoline?

Dedicated race fans will be the first to note Indy is run on Methanol. The rest of the article is even more soft-headed "I'm-not-an-enviroweenie-I-just-play-one-on-TV" drivel. I respect hardcore environmentalists because they can at least argue their way out of a paper sack (they're wrong anyway, but that's another story). This guy, well, this guy's just sad.

Almost as good were the fark comments themselves, where learned such interesting tidbits as:

  • The methanol used at Indy is actually 90% gasoline (reality: nope, pure methanol.)
  • Formula-1 cars use methanol too, which is why fuel fires in both series burn with a clear flame (reality: F-1 uses pump gas purchased from a French oil company. Makes a very nice classic fireball when improperly handled, as has been demonstrated several times in the past.)
  • Methanol is made from petroleum (reality: you can make it a bunch of different ways, none of which involve crude oil.)
  • Natural gas is a by-product of the refining process (reality: the fires at oil refineries are burning off a lot of unusable and weird byproducts of the refining process. None of which happen to be methane.)
  • The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not actually an oval (reality: depends on your definition of oval I suppose, but looks damned oval-ish to me.)

All of the above were stated, of course, as utterly irrefutable truths. God, I love the internet!

Posted by scott at 09:12 AM | Comments (2)
A Long Time Ago, in a Bikini Far, Far Away

For the ultimate Star Wars chick (we hope it's a chick) in your life, we found Leia'sMetalBikini.com, a clearinghouse site of sorts dedicated to every guy's favorite Star Wars costume. Be sure not to miss the "fans in constume" section, where a surprising number of women are actually able to pull it off. However, note to ladies: if someone's taking your picture in a bikini, don't slouch!

Posted by scott at 08:23 AM | Comments (0)