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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?

I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.

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"The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson

"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin

"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton

"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan

"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt

"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley

"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss

"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind; and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon

"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon

"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon

"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and they love to chatter instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
-- Socrates

"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook

"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook

"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr

"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion

"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson

"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition -- to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand

"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri

"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke

"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology; it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant

"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville

"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis

"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis

"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon, but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant

"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand

"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal

"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.

"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible, and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus

"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814

"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort, are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true, the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated. This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944

"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News

"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas

"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
-- Cicero

"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." -- François, duc de La Rochefoucauld

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." -- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson

"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example." -- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance." --
H. W. Fowler

"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place." -- Kate Wilhelm

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein

"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms

"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).

"Nothing would be done at all, if a man waited till he could do it so well, that no one could find fault with it."
-- Lecture IX, John Henry Cardinal Newman

“Nothing is more common than for men to think that because they are familiar with words they understand the ideas they stand for.”
-- John Henry Cardinal Newman

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
-- James Madison

"Those who are free from common prejudices acquire others."
-- Napolean I of France -- Napoleon I of France

"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.

"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.

"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128

"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)

"American life is a powerful solvent. It seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in the native good will, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism."
-- George Santayana, Character and Opinion in the United States, (1920)

"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days

"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs

"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign

"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden

"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
-- Batman


Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit. He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.

The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cute panda. Don't you love pandas?

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Contents © 2001-2013 All rights reserved. Gary Farber. (The contents of e-mails to this email address of Gary Farber are subject to the possibility of being posted.)

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world

[Blogroll now far below the sea line! Dive, dive, dive!]

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Gary Farber! Jeez, the guy is practically a blogging legend, and I'm always surprised at the breadth of what he writes about.
-- PZ Meyers, Pharyngula

...Darn: I saw that Gary had commented on this thread, and thought: oh. my. god. Perfect storm. Unstoppable cannonball, immovable object. -- Hilzoy

...I think Gary Farber is a blogging god. -- P.Z. Myers, Pharyngula

...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow

‎"Gary Farber is a gentleman, a scholar and one of the gems of the blogosphere." -- Steve Hynd,

"Well argued, Gary. I hadn't seen anything that went into as much detail as I found in your blog." -- Gareth Porter

Gary Farber is your one-man internet as always, with posts on every article there is.
-- Fafnir

Guessing that Gary is ignorant of anything that has ever been written down is, in my experience, unwise.
Just saying.

-- Hilzoy

Gary Farber gets it right....
-- James Joyner, Outside The Beltway

Once again, an amazing and illuminating post.
-- Michael Bérubé, Crooked Timber

I read Amygdala...with regularity, as do all sensible websurfers.
-- Jim Henley, Unqualified Offerings

Okay, he is annoying, but he still posts a lot of good stuff.
-- Avedon Carol, The Sideshow

Amygdala - So much stuff it reminds Unqualified Offerings that UO sometimes thinks of Gary Farber as "the liberal Instapundit."
-- Jim Henley

...the thoughtful and highly intelligent Gary Farber... My first reaction was that I definitely need to appease Gary Farber of Amygdala, one of the geniuses of our age.
-- Brad deLong

Gary is a perceptive, intelligent, nice guy. Some of the stuff he comes up with is insightful, witty, and stimulating. And sometimes he manages to make me groan.
-- Charlie Stross

Gary Farber is a straight shooter.
-- John Cole, Balloon Juice

I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber

Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
-- Ogged

I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow

One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.

One of my favorites....
-- Matt Welch

-- Virginia Postrel

Amygdala continues to have smart commentary on an incredible diversity of interesting links....
-- Judith Weiss

Amygdala has more interesting obscure links to more fascinating stuff that any other blog I read.
-- Judith Weiss, Kesher Talk

Gary's stuff is always good.
-- Meryl Yourish

...the level-headed Amygdala blog....
-- Geitner Simmons

The only trouble with reading Amygdala is that it makes me feel like such a slacker. That Man Farber's a linking, posting, commenting machine, I tell you!
-- John Robinson, Sore Eyes

...the all-knowing Gary Farber....
-- Edward Winkleman, Obsidian Wings

Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged

We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog

Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog


Gary is certainly a non-idiotarian 'liberal'...
-- Perry deHaviland

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

Gary Farber's great Amygdala blog.
-- Dr. Frank

Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott

Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit

My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal

If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.

Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks

I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes

Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this?
-- Natalie Solent

You nailed it... nice job."
-- James Lileks

Gary Farber is a principled liberal....
-- Bill Quick, The Daily Pundit

December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 December 2011 January 2013

Blogroll is Always In Progress:

Roger Ailes
Alas, A Blog
The American Street
The Aristocrats
Avedon Carol
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
Lindsay Beyerstein
The Big Con
CantBlogTooBusy The Center for American Progress
Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Doghouse Riley
Kevin Drum
Fables of the Reconstruction
Gall and Gumption
Gin and Tacos
House of Substance
The Hunting of the Snark
If I Ran The Zoo
Lawyers, Guns & Money
Lotus: Surviving a Dark Time
Matters of Little Significance
Nancy Nall
Charlie Stross bastard.logic
Daniel Larison
American Conservative
American Footprints
Andrew Sullivan
Angry Bear
Balloon Juice
Beautiful Horizons
Bitch Ph.D.
Brad DeLong
Crooked Timber
Cunning Realist
Daily Kos
Debate Link
Democracy Arsenal
Edge of the American West
Ezra Klein
Glenn Greenwald 13th Floor
Hit & Run
Juan Cole
Kevin Drum
Lawyers, Guns and Money
List Project (Helping Iraqis who worked with us get out)
Marc Lynch
Mark Kleiman
Katha Pollit
Market Square
Matthew Yglesias
Megan McArdle
Metro Green
Pam's House Blend
Paul Krugman
Philosophy, et cetera
Radley Balko
Sadly, No!
Southern Appeal
Stephen Walt
Steve Clemons
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taking It Outside
Talking Points Memo
The Poor Man
The Progressive Realist
The Sideshow
U.S. Intellectual History
Unqualified Offerings
Volokh Conspiracy
Washington Monthly
William Easterly
Newsrack Blog
Ortho Bob
The Poor Man
Prog Gold
Prose Before Hos
Ted Rall
The Raw Story
Elayne Riggs
Sadly, No!
Texas Liberal
Think Progress
3 Weird Sisters
Tristram Shandy
Washington Monthly
Ian Welsh
James Wolcott
World o' Crap
Matthew Yglesias
Buzz Machine
Daniel Larison
Rightwing Film Geek About Last Night
can we all just agree
Comics Curmudgeon
Dum Luk's
Glenn Kenny
Hoarder Museum Juanita Jean
Lance Mannion (Help Lance!
Last Words of the Executed
The Phil Nugent Experience
Postcards from Hell's Kitchen
Vanishing New York
a lovely promise
a web undone
alt hippo
american street
city of brass
danger west
fierce urgency of now
get fisa right
great concavity
happening here
impeach them!
kathryn cramer
notes from the basement
talking dog
uncertain principles
unqualified offerings
what do i know
crooked timber emptywheel
ezra klein
The F-Word
glenn greenwald
schneier on security
ta-nehisi coates
talking points memo
tiny revolution
Roz Kaveney
Dave Ettlin
Henry Jenkins' Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Kathryn Cramer
Monkeys In My Pants
Pagan Prattle
As I Please
Ken MacLeod
Arthur Hlavaty
Kevin Maroney
MK Kare
Jack Heneghan
Dave Langford
Onyx Lynx Atrios
Rittenhouse Review
Public Nuisance
Scoobie Davis
Nathan Newman
Echidne Of The Snakes
First Draft
Rising Hegemon
Cab Drollery (Help Diane!
Southern Beale
The Kenosha Kid
Culture of Truth
Talk Left
Black Ag=Q< Report
Drug WarRant
Nieman Watchdog
Open Left
Meet the Bloggers
Dispatch from the Trenches
Crooks and Liars
Campaign for America's Future
Iraq Today
Daily Kos
Lefty Directory
News Hounds
The Brad Blog
Informed Comment
UN Dispatch
War and Piece
Glenn Greenwald
Schneier on Security
Jim Henley
Arthur Silber
Julian Sanchez
The Agitator
Balloon Juice
Wendy McElroy
Whoviating (LarryE)
Scott Horton
Tennessee Guerilla Women
Looking Glass
Charles Kuffner
Brad DeLong
Busy, Busy, Busy
Oliver Willis
The Carpetbagger Report Shakesville
Down With Tyranny
Professor B
Monkey Media Report
The Grumpy Forester
Ian Welsh
Pacific Views
Booman Tribune
Matthew Yglesias
The American Street
Media Bloodhound
Liz Henry's Composite
The Heretik
Arizona Eclectic
Sisyphus Shrugged
Interesting Times
Talking Dog
Liberal Desert
Under the Lobsterscope
Seeing The Forest
Sean Paul Kelley's The Agonist
King of Zembla
Mark Kleiman
Liquid List
Elayne Riggs
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Fanatical Apathy
Blue Gal
Mark Evanier
Roger Ailes
Suburban Guerrilla (Help Susie with money!)
The Mahablog
Brilliant at Breakfast
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People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost, Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry, Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny. It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out. And She of whom I must write someday.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

"I don't do feelings," Dr. Griffin said at a breakfast in Washington last month. "Just think of me as Spock." His audience laughed at the reference to the pointy-eared icon of rationality on "Star Trek," as did he.
Oh, okay, this, too:
But Dr. Griffin does do space, and he told a Senate committee not long ago that when his mother, a teacher, gave him a book on astronomy in 1954 at age 5, he knew he wanted to spend his life exploring space. And though he still keeps that childhood volume on his shelves, he took another lesson away from it. "Based on what we know today," he said, "everything in that book was wrong."

("Gee, and I started with the Three Bears," said Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland. Dryly, Dr. Griffin responded, "Well, we went down different tracks.")
Michael D. Griffin last mentioned here.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 although more if interested in him.

7/31/2005 10:12:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YOUR MOTION TO DECLASSIFY IS CLASSIFIED. And because of that, it's utterly impossible to say from this whether the charges against the government are substantial and true, or completely baseless and simply piggy-backing on the current issues.

But I suspect we'll hear more, sooner or later.

Read The Rest as interested in getting a leg up on another CIA/Administration nukes-in-Iraq set of charges/counter-charges.

7/31/2005 09:51:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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YES, "COLORFUL" IS ONE WORD for Las Vegas mayor Oscar B. Goodman.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for a living movie character, or perhaps someone who should have been on either Starsky & Hutch or Vegas with Robert Urich (yeah, I'm fairly sure he's already been on Las Vegas).

MONDAY ADDENDUM: Yes, he's on tonight's repeat of Las Vegas, which starts in two minutes on the East Coast, but two hours from now here, and three hours from now on the West Coast.

FURTHER: The mayor's big scene just occurred; he chugged a boiler-maker while people around him chanted "be the Mayor!"; big surprise, eh?

7/31/2005 08:18:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Wielding bamboo batons and small leaded clubs, Egyptian security agents attacked and beat protesters on Saturday as they tried to rally in the central Tahrir Square here, chanting slogans calling for the end of Hosni Mubarak's 24-year-reign as president.

The police battled protesters Saturday as one carried a sign calling for an end to "24 years of oppression" under President Hosni Mubarak.

A contingent of several thousand black-uniformed riot police officers, with shields and batons, together with squads of plainclothes agents, each armed with a blackjack, cornered small groups of protesters and then beat them, often tearing their clothing, as commanding officers, with stars on their shoulders, shouted for the beatings to continue.
Hey, this is a cultural tradition; stop trying to impose your culturally imperialistic notions on others! Besides, Mubarak is an ally in the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism®. Woot.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

7/31/2005 07:49:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Assignment desk: find Major Robert Preston and Captain John Carr, both now reportedly out of the military, and attempt to get them to comment on these memos; first, of course, verify them; second, gain more knowledge of context, and if they stand by them.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.

ADDENDUM: Now the Times has picked it up.
Colonel Borch did not respond to telephone messages left at his home. Captain Carr, who has since been promoted to major, declined to comment when reached by telephone, as did Major Preston. Both Captain Carr and Major Preston left the prosecution team within weeks of their e-mail messages and remain on active duty.
Ah, well, if they're still on active duty, contra ABC News (of Australia), it's no surprise they're no-commenting. But the Times clearly believes this is all on the up and up, and their responses from other officers indicates that the memos are authentic and the accusations actually made.

7/31/2005 07:40:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ROCKET-SHIP SOUNDS. Stephen Hunter also loves Stealth. Not.

The sad thing is that the screenplay is credited to W.D. Richter, director and writer of this immortal work. (As well as Big Trouble In Little China, Brubaker, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and other good stuff.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for sneering. Stealth last mocked by Roger Ebert here.

7/31/2005 05:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE FIGHT FOR LABOR RIGHTS is passe, or an outright enemy, in the view of many, as are child labor laws, unions, and any and all sorts of rights, or protections, of workers, these days. Ignorance of labor history, or, worse, false, or, shall we say, limited knowledge about the alleged evils of unions, is widespread.

But Charles Kernaghan fights the good fight.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

7/31/2005 03:28:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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CONNERY MUSES, in the truly important news. The story is being sold as "Connery calls it quits" on acting in movies, but I don't buy it; call me cynical, but I see a fine ploy to be in the news and keep your price high (especially since the figures that they quote in the story as paying him are not, in fact, at all high by Hollywood standards), and a terrific interest in British newspapers in headlines that make people buy papers.

But there are still various amusing elements.
"I'm fed up with the idiots ... the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies," Connery says.

"I don't say they're all idiots. I'm just saying there's a lot of them that are very good at it [being idiots]. It would almost need a Mafia-like offer I couldn't refuse to do another movie."


Connery reveals he has no regrets about turning down a role in one of the biggest money-earning film series ever - as Gandalf the wizard in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Not because the pay on offer was too low, however. "Yeah, well, I never understood it," he said. "I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don't understand it."
Wonderful as Connery is in the right role, I'm perfectly happy to have had Sir Ian, and albeit I can't say how I'd react to a control alternative, my bias pushes me now to prefer McKellen.

Read The Rest if you want the stuff about his pulling out of cooperating on a biography that would have examined his Sixties flip comments about the virtues of hitting women, and otherwise gone warts-and-all. It's probably useful, in considering his above opinion, to keep in mind that his last film was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (you should go read the comic!).

7/31/2005 02:46:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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THE FORGOTTEN REALITY OF DARFUR continues. Euan Ferguson writes:
They are talking about rape: about having to have the babies of rape, and about bringing them to this camp.

'I want to tell you about me,' shouts the man. The translator translates, and the man grows less agitated because someone is finally listening, however reluctantly. 'I had to dig up my family,' he begins. We all stop, and quieten, and finally listen, to Sharif Yahaya, from a small village near the town of Tawila.

'Janjaweed had come and killed them, many near me, and we buried them, and we all went away. And came back. Days later. Maybe at the wrong time.

'Janjaweed were there and told us to dig up all the graves. I don't know why, I think just to make it worse. We had to dig people up who had been dead, and then look at the bodies, and then put them back in the earth. Just to make it worse. Just to show that they could make it worse.'

This is Darfur, today, where everyone has a story, each one worse than the last.


Not awful places, these camps: but terrifying and impossibly huge. To drive the perimeter at a fair lick can take an hour. To helicopter over it, more than three minutes.

Two million people. Six hundred thousand babies.
Read The Rest Scale: you be the judge.

7/31/2005 02:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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WHO SAYS AUSTRIANS ARE BUTTONED-DOWN? Really, they could show Bob Newhart something, when you can get into a prestigious museum free by going naked.
Vienna's prestigious Leopold Museum is usually a pretty buttoned-down place, but on Friday, some of the nudes in its marble galleries were for real.

Scores of naked or scantily clad people wandered the museum, lured by an offer of free entry to "The Naked Truth," a new exhibition of early 1900s erotic art, if they showed up wearing just a swimsuit — or nothing at all.
Yeah, that should bring in more paying appreciators of fine art, don't you think?

Read The Rest Scale: there's a fair amount more detail, if you're curious.

7/31/2005 02:35:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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PARENTS, WANT YOUR KIDS TO HAVE FUN? This summer, send them to Hamas summer camp! Swim, play ball, have sack races, learn about suicide belts, sing intifada songs, learn to drill and march! It's all good!

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

7/31/2005 02:29:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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OH, LOOK, A CHINESE SEA MONSTER. Related, nonetheless, to Godzilla? You tell me. If you believe it, that is.
It's unclear how it frys up.

Read The Rest as otherwise curious.

7/31/2005 02:26:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JAMES BOND IN "FROM ICANN WITH LOVE." Is British Intelligence deleting al Qaeda web sites? As ever, I'm skeptical, but the Times of London seems to buy it.

Which means I'm still skeptical

Read The Rest as curious.

7/31/2005 02:19:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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PTERRY STRIKES BACK. I had some words on J. K. Rowling's, and Time magazine's, recent swipes at fantasy writing here. Now Terry Pratchett, longtime fan, unsurprisingly agrees with me.
The magazine also said Rowling reinvented fantasy fiction, which was previously stuck in "an idealised, romanticised, pseudofeudal world, where knights and ladies morris-dance to Greensleeves".

Pratchett, whose first fantasy novel was published 34 years ago, wrote to the Sunday Times saying the genre had always been "edgy and inventive".

"Ever since The Lord of the Rings revitalised the genre, writers have played with it, reinvented it, subverted it and bent it to their times," he wrote.

"It has also contained come of the very best, most accessible writing for children, by writers who seldom get the acknowledgement they deserve."

He also expressed surprise at Rowling's comments that she only realised Harry Potter was fantasy after the first book was published.

"I'm not the world's greatest expert," he wrote.

"But I would have thought that the wizards, witches, trolls, unicorns, hidden worlds, jumping chocolate frogs, owl mail, magic food, ghosts, broomsticks and spells would have given her a clue?"

Incidentally, do you think the Times of London gave Harry Potter enough coverage?

Read The Rest Scale: well, you should read what I said, of course.

ADDENDUM: Neil Gaiman comments.

7/31/2005 01:38:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER MEMO; this from within the FBI.
The strongly worded memo, written by an FBI supervisor then assigned to Guantanamo, is the latest in a series of documents that have recently surfaced reflecting unease among some government lawyers and FBI agents over tactics being used in the war on terror. This memo appears to be the first that directly questions the legal premises of the Bush administration policy of "extraordinary rendition"—a secret program under which terror suspects are transferred to foreign countries that have been widely criticized for practicing torture.

In a memo forwarded to a senior FBI lawyer on Nov. 27, 2002, a supervisory special agent from the bureau's behavioral analysis unit offered a legal analysis of interrogation techniques that had been approved by Pentagon officials for use against a high-value Qaeda detainee. After objecting to techniques such as exploiting "phobias" like "the fear of dogs" or dripping water "to induce the misperception of drowning," the agent discussed a plan to send the detainee to Jordan, Egypt or an unspecified third country for interrogation. "In as much as the intent of this category is to utilize, outside the U.S., interrogation techniques which would violate [U.S. law] if committed in the U.S., it is a per se violation of the U.S. Torture Statute," the agent wrote. "Discussing any plan which includes this category could be seen as a con-spiracy to violate [the Torture Statute]" and "would inculpate" everyone involved.

A senior FBI official, who asked not to be identified because the issue is sensitive, said the memo was not an official bureau legal conclusion. Its author was at Gitmo to advise on interrogation techniques, not to render legal opinions, the official said. (The memo's author, a former New York City prosecutor, declined to comment to NEWSWEEK.)
I'm sure it wasn't the "official bureau legal conclusion"; had it been, it would have necessitated, at the least, a huge fight within the Department of Justice, and possibly with Department of Defense and the White House; but the political appointees are unlikely to ever let such a thing go that far.

Meanwhile, the law is the law.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5.

7/31/2005 01:23:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE COMING FLU PANDEMIC. Your Amygdala stays alert and frightened for you, the home viewer! How many shopping days left until millions die?
Public health officials preparing to battle what they view as an inevitable influenza pandemic say the world lacks the medical weapons to fight the disease effectively, and will not have them anytime soon.

Public health specialists and manufacturers are working frantically to develop vaccines, drugs, strategies for quarantining and treating the ill, and plans for international cooperation, but these efforts will take years. Meanwhile, the most dangerous strain of influenza to appear in decades -- the H5N1 "bird flu" in Asia -- is showing up in new populations of birds, and occasionally people, almost by the month, global health officials say.

If the virus were to start spreading in the next year, the world would have only a relative handful of doses of an experimental vaccine to defend against a disease that, history shows, could potentially kill millions. If the vaccine proved effective and every flu vaccine factory in the world started making it, the first doses would not be ready for four months. By then, the pathogen would probably be on every continent.

Theoretically, antiviral drugs could slow an outbreak and buy time. The problem is only one licensed drug, oseltamivir, appears to work against bird flu. At the moment, there is not enough stockpiled for widespread use. Nor is there a plan to deploy the small amount that exists in ways that would have the best chance of slowing the disease.

The public, conditioned to believe in the power of modern medicine, has heard little of how poorly prepared the world is to confront a flu pandemic, which is an epidemic that strikes several continents simultaneously and infects a substantial portion of the population.

Since the current wave of avian flu began sweeping through poultry in Southeast Asia more than 18 months ago, international and U.S. health authorities have been warning of the danger and trying to mobilize. Research on vaccines has accelerated, efforts to build up drug supplies are underway, and discussions take place regularly on developing a coordinated global response.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will spend $419 million in pandemic planning this year. The National Institutes of Health's influenza research budget has quintupled in the past five years.

"The secretary or the chief of staff -- we have a discussion about flu almost every day," said Bruce Gellin, head of HHS's National Vaccine Program Office. This week, a committee is scheduled to deliver to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt an updated plan for confronting a pandemic.

Despite these efforts, the world's lack of readiness to meet the threat is huge, experts say.


The most outspoken is Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. In writing and in speeches, Osterholm reminds his audience that after public calamities, the United States usually convenes blue-ribbon commissions to pass judgment. There will be one after a flu pandemic, he believes.

"Right now, the conclusions of that commission would be harsh and sad," he said.
Just hope you're alive to read it.

For those unfamiliar with influenza.
The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.


The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected 28% of all Americans (Tice). An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in the world war. Of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy (Deseret News). An estimated 43,000 servicemen mobilized for WWI died of influenza (Crosby).

The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years. The influenza virus had a profound virulence, with a mortality rate at 2.5% compared to the previous influenza epidemics, which were less than 0.1%. The death rate for 15 to 34-year-olds of influenza and pneumonia were 20 times higher in 1918 than in previous years (Taubenberger). People were struck with illness on the street and died rapid deaths. One anectode shared of 1918 was of four women playing bridge together late into the night. Overnight, three of the women died from influenza (Hoagg). Others told stories of people on their way to work suddenly developing the flu and dying within hours (Henig). One physician writes that patients with seemingly ordinary influenza would rapidly "develop the most viscous type of pneumonia that has ever been seen" and later when cyanosis appeared in the patients, "it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate," (Grist, 1979). Another physician recalls that the influenza patients "died struggling to clear their airways of a blood-tinged froth that sometimes gushed from their nose and mouth," (Starr, 1976). The physicians of the time were helpless against this powerful agent of influenza. In 1918 children would skip rope to the rhyme (Crawford):

I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza.
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. Just the way it was, and may be.

7/31/2005 12:40:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DO MEN AND WOMEN PROCESS PAIN DIFFERENTLY? Beats me. But these folks think so. Make of it what you will.

Read The Rest only as interested.

7/31/2005 11:35:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ABOLISHING SOFTWARE PATENTS. This call to do that, and rely instead on copyright and trademark protection, seems fairly persuasive to me (as have other such arguments that I've read). Anyone have an opposing case?

Read The Rest as interested.

7/31/2005 10:56:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SMOKE 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM. Showtime has a new half-hour dramedy called Weeds coming up, in which the lead character sells maryjane, the killer weed, in suburbia; since it stars Mary-Louise Parker, whom I've loved ever since Grand Canyon, I'd be very curious to check it out, and my urge is amplified by the description, but, alas, not affording even basic cable tv, I'll have to wait for Some Day.

But if you see it, let me know what you think, eh?

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for a description of what sounds like an interesting premise.

7/31/2005 09:22:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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OKAY, COMICS ARE TAKEN MORE SERIOUSLY BY SOME PEOPLE. The Gray Lady examines the architecture of Grant Morrison's Cinderella City as seen in Seven Soldiers. Complete with slide show of imagery from the comic.

Read The Rest as interested either in comics, or NYC architechure.

7/31/2005 08:55:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I LOVE ME SOME WILLIAM SHATNER singing "Rocket Man." Don't miss the dancing Shatner in the last third.

Two years ago today -- okay, plus three days -- I posted this link. I figure that's enough time for a repeat of a classic. Is that okay by you?

View The Rest Scale: you must! He's a rocket man! (Special bonus musical link on the previous post.)

7/31/2005 08:32:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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OOPS. Mind-blowing.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today began considering a poster promoting Iain M Banks's latest science fiction book after receiving a complaint from a passenger on the London Underground.

The poster, which first appeared on the tube on July 4, included a line from Justina Robson's review which appeared last year in the Guardian describing The Algebraist as "a perfect place to have your mind blown to smithereens".

"We are looking into a poster on the London Underground for the new science fiction novel of Iain Banks," said ASA spokesman Matt Wilson. "The complainer objected to the critic's position on it, saying 'have your mind blown to smithereens'. Given the recent attacks on the Tube they felt this was not appropriate, so we are in the process of looking at this to see if action needs to be taken."

Jessica Williamson, publicity manager at Orbit books, apologised for any offence caused, saying that the posters had been printed in June. "Orbit books would like to apologise for any offence or upset that may have been caused by the posters for the paperback of Iain M Banks's The Algebraist," she said. The campaign was due to finish on July 17, and "was never intended to relate in any way to the tragic events of July 7."

The investigation is still at a very early stage. "It's a tricky one," said Matt Wilson. "Emotions are running a bit higher and you have to take that into account. Obviously there's a difference between a matter-of-fact, throwaway statement and something that's trying to hop on the back of an event. You've got to keep a sense of perspective."
It's hard for me to see what's "tricky" here, but I Am Not A Briton. What would they do about an ad that no longer exists, anyway? Fine Orbit? For what? Not anticipating a Tube bombing campaigning, and not thinking that "mind-blowing" would offend anyone? (The notion that it's offensive, even so, still strikes me as explainable only by the sort of understandable fear and hysteria that such events create, but perhaps I miss some nuance; besides the story only indicates a single complaint, which makes the idea of taking it as worthy of launching an "investigation," and writing a news story about, even more bizarre to me, but, again, I Am A Foreigner.)

Read The Rest Scale: 0 out of 5; that's the whole thing.

7/31/2005 12:31:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Saturday, July 30, 2005
MARVELS OF INDIA. A village is put up for sale on E-Bay. Fabulous, if not fabulist. Are the people included?

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5; there's also an attached story of an Indian millionaire buying a Canadian ghost town, for constrast, if you're interested.

7/30/2005 10:14:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Crafty Danes.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 burps out of 5.

7/30/2005 10:08:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I REALLY SHOULD HAVE BLOGGED BY NOW the lake of ice found on Mars, because that's really pretty hotshit news.
I was late because my first glances at the story misled me into misunderstanding the way they used the word "pictured," and I stupidly didn't realize these were actual photos, not this-could-be. But it's real. Yowser.
The HRSC obtained these images during orbit 1343 with a ground resolution of approximately 15 metres per pixel. The unnamed impact crater is located on Vastitas Borealis, a broad plain that covers much of Mars's far northern latitudes, at approximately 70.5° North and 103° East.

The crater is 35 kilometres wide and has a maximum depth of approximately 2 kilometres beneath the crater rim. The circular patch of bright material located at the centre of the crater is residual water ice.
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5. Goshwowboyohboy.

7/30/2005 09:57:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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HACKING SECURITY. Amusing little look at Mark Seiden, who tests security systems, and a few clues about his methodology, although nothing truly in-depth, of course. Inevitable Bruce Schneier quotes.

Although only indirectly, for some reason I'm reminded of Dortmunder, and found that Donald Westlake has a not-quite-blog where he talks about his work and stuff (chapters, even). (I was always quite fond of one of the lesser Robert Redford movies ever made, The Hot Rock, which while not a great caper film, centers partially around breaking into the Brooklyn Museum, which I spent endless amounts of time at as a child and teen, including working in various volunteer capacities, from docent to working-with-younger-kids-in-workshops, for some years, and which was very much My Museum (fond as I otherwise was of the American Museum of Natural History, which I also spent a great deal of time in, and to some degree the Met). (Being adjacent to the Main Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, a standard haunt for me on innumerable weekends, often made for a twofer.)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for amusement. Speaking of this sort of hacking, it turns out there are all sorts of things you can do with an infrared hotel television.
A vulnerability in many hotel television infrared systems can allow a hacker to obtain guests' names and their room numbers from the billing system.

It can also let someone read the e-mail of guests who use web mail through the TV, putting business travelers at risk of corporate espionage. And it can allow an intruder to add or delete charges on a hotel guest's bill or watch pornographic films and other premium content on their hotel TV without paying for it.
Fun for the whole family. Mildly amazing stuff, actually.

7/30/2005 09:30:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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I DON'T WANT TO EXPLODE. Another fine Serenity trailer. Y'know, I'd still far rather have had two years of episodes to get to the end of this plot line, though. Sigh. (And I'd far rather they brought the series back then made a movie sequel to this one, but I suppose the odds of that are about nil.)

Mal: "You wanna run this ship?" Jayne: "Yes!" [weakly] Mal: "Well... you can't!"

View The Rest as the Joss moves you. (Via Sore Eyes.)

7/30/2005 08:48:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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BEAT ME, SHOOT ME, DOMINATE ME. That is, if anyone ever wants to try direct playing of games such as Rise of Nations, Star Wars: Battlefront, Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich, Medal of Honor (various versions), Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, or Quake III: Arena, online against me sometime, or from time to time, drop me an e-mail.

7/30/2005 07:24:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE DACHAU MCDONALDS ad, as sent in by old friend and reader Tim Kyger, as taken by his old friend, and my acquaintance, Roger Patterson; Tim says:
Yep, it's the sign outside the Dachau McDonald's, right across the street from the Camp's entrance.

Eat hearty!

7/30/2005 06:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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SOMETIMES YOU JUST HOPE FOR A FILM that Roger hates enough.
'Stealth" is an offense against taste, intelligence and the noise pollution code -- a dumbed-down "Top Gun" crossed with the HAL 9000 plot from "2001." It might be of interest to you if you want to see lots of jet airplanes going real fast and making a lot of noise, and if you don't care that the story doesn't merely defy logic, but strips logic bare, cremates it and scatters its ashes. Here is a movie with the nerve to discuss a computer brain "like a quantum sponge" while violating Newton's Laws of Motion.

The plot: Navy fliers have been chosen to pilot a new generation of stealth fighter-bombers. They are Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Lt. Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Lt. Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx, who in his speech on Oscar night should have thanked God this movie wasn't released while the voters were marking their ballots).


The pilots believe that three is a lucky number, because it is a prime. One helpfully explains to the others what a prime number is; I guess they didn't get to primes at Annapolis. In a movie that uses unexplained phrases like "quantum sponge," why not just let the characters say "prime number" and not explain it? Many audience members will assume "prime number" is another one of those pseudo-scientific terms they're always thinking up for movies like this.


Whoops! Another emergency. Lightning strikes the UCAV, which goes nuts and starts to download songs from the Internet. "How many?" "All of them." The computer also starts to think for itself and to make decisions that contradict orders.

Meanwhile, the three human pilots, having participated in a mission that destroyed a skyscraper in Burma, may be on a worldwide most-wanted list, but they're immediately sent to Thailand for R&R. This gives Gannon a chance to photograph Wade in a bikini under a waterfall, while Purcell picks up a beautiful Thai girl.

Soon all four of them are having lunch, and the three pilots are discussing military secrets in front of the Thai girl, who "doesn't speak English." Beautiful Thai girls who allow themselves to be picked up by U.S. pilots almost always speak English, but never mind. It's not that Purcell is too stupid to know that trusting her is dangerous; it's that the movie is too stupid. How stupid? Nothing happens. The girl can't speak English.
And so on. Other reviews aren't kind, either.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5 for a bit more, if you like.

7/30/2005 03:38:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ON A TRULY IMPORTANT FRONT, Boing Boing brings us word of the kegbot, quoting DefCon attendee Phillip Torrone of Make Magazine:
One the coolest projects I've seen so far at DEFCON was the kegbot, a linux based keg that dispenses beer as long as you have an iButton key. The system keeps track of who you are, how much you're drinking and in team mode- where you rank.
Mmm, kegbot....

Read The Rest Scale: 3 burps out of 5 to learn how to build your own, or to see the picture.

And you won't have to share with the zombie flashmob.
They must have had the bad beer.

7/30/2005 02:52:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TWO DIFFERENT MOVIES ON DANIEL PEARL are proceeding, if you don't know. Of course, since both are still in "in development," we have no idea as yet if either will actually be made.

Read The Rest as interested.

7/30/2005 02:50:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN ITALY: spaghetti, now celebrated (not grown on trees).
On Tuesday, in a museum tucked into a corner of Los Angeles's sprawling Griffith Park, three men re-enacted the climactic shootout from the 1966 western "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

In that Sergio Leone masterwork, Clint Eastwood plays the good guy who is actually pretty bad, Lee Van Cleef plays the really bad guy and a jovially venal Eli Wallach plays the ugly one, though in truth all three characters are scoundrels. Van Cleef died in 1989, and that partly explains why, this time, the famous three-way battle was performed by 10-foot-tall puppets with enormous bobble heads.

Remember, every Giant Puppet used here is not used in a protest march.
[...] For his lead, Leone hired Mr. Eastwood, who made the movie while on hiatus from the television show "Rawhide."

In the handsome oversize book published in conjunction with the exhibition, also titled "Once Upon a Time in the West," Leone explained in an interview with the author, Sir Christopher Frayling, that he had been looking for an American actor, and James Coburn cost $10,000 more than his budget allowed.

It was while watching Episode 91 of "Rawhide" ("Incident of the Black Sheep") that Leone found his leading man: "His laziness, his laid-back quality, is what came over so clearly. When we were working together, he was like a snake, forever taking a nap 500 feet away, wrapped in his coils, asleep in the back of the car or on the set. Then he'd open his coils out, unfold and stretch...."

Mr. Eastwood signed up with Leone and took the gun grip and boots he wore on "Rawhide" to Italy with him. These items are among the material artifacts that Sir Christopher and Estella Chung, an associate curator at the museum, gathered for the show, which they believe to be the largest such exhibition devoted to the work of a single director.


Sir Christopher walked his appreciative audience through the exhibition, past the monitor playing Episode 91 of "Rawhide" and the large-screen videos with the minidocumentaries produced for the exhibit on continuous loop. Sir Christopher then ushered the group into a room where he paused before a large vitrine. Here, he said with a flourish, is "the poncho!"

Mr. Eastwood lent the exhibition the poncho, the iconic garment that defined his character, the Man With No Name, as much as the slim cigar, the flat-crowned hat and the squint. (The same poncho, which tends to look green when reproduced but is more of a dun brown, was used in all three Eastwood-Leone films.)

The actor also lent the gun grip and boots that he had borrowed from "Rawhide," which are exhibited alongside the poncho. Almost three decades later, Mr. Eastwood wore these same boots in one of his contributions as a director to the revisionist western, "Unforgiven." Mr. Eastwood wears very large boots.

Read The Rest if you are good, bad, or ugly, but not if you don't give a damn for Eastwood or Leone. Play this two-second soundbite while reading, or this for a slightly longer ~500k sample, which somehow manages to not quite fit the whistle in until it trails off at the end.

This piece on the documentary "Reel Paradise," about John Pierson's family's year on the island of Taveuni, Fiji (which has no electricity, as a rule), showing free movies, is also cute.

7/30/2005 01:25:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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ECHINACEA. I've been meaning to mention since Thursday that it turns out it apparently doesn't do a damn thing. Oh, well.

Read The Rest if you've ever taken it or thought about taking it for your cold or prevention or anything. See here for the study and abstract and so forth.

7/30/2005 01:05:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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THE WATER'S FINE. Contrary to popular image, the Hudson River is safer and safer to swim in.
"People think you can't swim in the Hudson because your skin will fall off," said Frances F. Dunwell, the Hudson River Estuary Program coordinator for the state's Department of Environmental Conservation. "But in general, water quality in the Hudson is considered swimmable all the way from the northern tip of Manhattan to a little way below Albany."
Not something I expect to take personal advantage of any time soon, but something that would be nice to do sometime.

Read The Rest as concerned or not. Support re-opening old beaches and making new ones.

7/30/2005 12:53:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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IT'S JUST A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT. I tend to bang on about this, now and again.
This point came through with resounding clarity recently at Pennsylvania State University, where about 90 students took complex genetic screening tests that compared their samples with those of four regional groups. Many of these students thought of themselves as "100 percent" white or black or something else, but only a tiny fraction of them, as it turned out, actually fell into that category. Most learned instead that they shared genetic markers with people of different skin colors.

Ostensibly "black" subjects, for example, found that as much as half of their genetic material came from Europe, with some coming from Asia as well. One "white" student learned that 14 percent of his DNA came from Africa - and 6 percent from East Asia. The student told The Daily Collegian, the student newspaper, earlier this year: "When I got my results I was like, there's no way they were mine. I thought it was just an example of what the test was supposed to look like. Then I was like, Oh my God, that's me."

Prof. Samuel Richards, who teaches a course in race and ethnic relations at Penn State, uses the test results to shake students out of rigid and received notions about the biological basis of identity. By showing students that they aren't what they think they are, he shows them that race and ethnicity are more fluid and complex than most of us think. The goal is to make students less prejudiced and more open to a deeper discussion of humanity. If the genetic testing fad pushes things in this direction, it will have served an important purpose in a world that too often thinks of racial labels as absolute - and the last word when it comes to human identity.
People come in genetic clusters, not in "races." The invention of "racial" categories was pure pseudo-science, invented purely for racist reasons; but belief in this nonsense still persists so strongly in our society. (That the social construct now exists is undeniable, but it needs to be understood as such, not as something that is particularly biologically based; and, of course, the genetic clustering exists, but its limits needs to be understood as to how it doesn't connect at all well to the social construct of "race.")

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

7/30/2005 12:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER on the interwub. Call it Saturday cat-and-dog blogging.
But if you Google poop and dog, you'll be led to a site called, which is more disgusting than funny. Or you may find the story of the "dog poop girl," also known as the "puppy poo girl," or in Korean "gae-ttong-nyue," which, believe it or not, is also not funny.

This is her story. Last month a woman let her dog relieve itself on the subway in Seoul. She was caught, by a cellphone camera, doing nothing about it. Within days, her picture, her identity, her family's identity and her past were revealed to the world on the Web. She quit her university in shame. The Washington Post and The Columbia Journalism Review weighed in. On Wikipedia there's already a "dog poop girl" entry logged, and a movement to delete it.

Interesting, yes, but not funny. Maybe the difference is that dogs are public, everyone's business. They go on subways and they go in parks. They are always caught in flagrante defecato. Cats stay home. They are private, nobody's business. To watch them in their homes is a privilege. They are perfect for the Web, the medium of voyeurs.


But can that be the whole story? There's a deeper answer to be had at, where users post pictures of their cats gazing at pictures of other cats already posted on the Infinite Cat site. You see an infinite regress: pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats.

Remind you of anything? Those cats are like so many bloggers sitting at home staring into their computer screens and watching other bloggers blog other bloggers. Cats, who live indoors and love to prowl, are the soul of the blogosphere. Dogs would never blog.
Are you going to take that lying down, dog people and blog folk? Bark!

Read The Rest Scale: 3 woofs out of 5 mrrows for a bunch of other links.

7/30/2005 12:03:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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K-2 AND UZBEKISTAN GOES SOUTH. I almost blogged the secretive evacuation of Uzbek refugees who survived the massacre the other day, but didn't. Now the situation has melted down. That might be for the best, where "the best" means "the least worst possibility."

Maybe we could finally get a bit of moral clarity.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5. More here.

7/30/2005 11:18:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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SOME DO MAKE PASSES AT WOMEN IN GLASSES. The Grauniad had a little fix of Dorothy Parker stories, so naturally I will tell you of them. Here an account of attending Parkerfest, sort of a little convention of Parker fans.
I once bid for one of Dorothy Parker's dresses on eBay. How great would that have been? I could have framed it or persuaded my girlfriend to wear it on special occasions. That would have been fine, absolutely nothing strange there.

It is probably just as well that I was outbid by another Mrs Parker fan, a bigger Mrs Parker fan. A fan who was probably here in New York, at Parkerfest, an annual festival dedicated to the funny, clever, desperate, tragic figure who was the writer Dorothy Parker. I'd failed Mrs Parker by not bidding enough but I could still pay due homage at Parkerfest and its highlight, the Bathtub Gin Ball and Speakeasy Cruise. Guests on board for the cruise would be kitted out in Twenties, Parker-era costumes, and I'd be looking out for the fan who outbid me - a 6ft man in a size six dress couldn't be that hard to spot.

Even hard-bitten New Yorkers can be amused out of their city survival instincts. The sight of us running down Fifth Avenue in full Twenties gear, late for the party, desperately trying to get a cab proved that. Shouts of, 'Hey buddy, lost your gun?' and 'Luv ya dress! Where's the party?' trailed in our wake.

Our vessel, the Diplomat, was filling up fast at the quay, people chattering excitedly. But my partner Carolyn and I stood nervously apart. I was still frightened by the whole 'fan' thing. I collected her first editions, had flown across the Atlantic just to be at the party and, well, tried to buy her dress, but I was not obsessive, obviously. How would I deal with the über-fan, who knew more about her underwear habits than was strictly healthy? You had to approach these people warily.

But then the bar opened; Mrs Parker would have approved.


Mrs Parker obviously found the Algonquin hotel, (also referred to as the Gonk), as comfortable as we did; probably more so because she had a special room rate - she rarely paid. The management hid their disappointment well as the hotel basked in the reflected glory of Mrs Parker and her friends.

It is still a splendid place to stay - any five-star Manhattan hotel that has a cat with its own miniature chaise longue in the lobby has to be worth a visit.
Y'know, although most of my life I've lived in NYC, I don't recall ever going into the Alqonquin. I'm not sure why, other than inertia.

Anyway, the other piece is here, a sort of general look at Parker's life, by Christian Spurrier, whose play about her opens at the Edinburgh Festival. Somehow he doesn't mention Parker's glowing review in the early Sixties of a piece by the young Harlan Ellison, which helped him attract notice.

Oh, incidentally:
This year's Parkerfest will be held from 30 September until 2 October. It is organised by the Dorothy Parker Society of New York ( which also runs monthly walking tours of Dorothy Parker's New York.
I should like to try that walking tour sometime, although I'm a bit loathe to spend $15 just to hear someone chat. Too bad Dorothy Rothschild was so ashamed of her Jewish father.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5 for each if interested in Mrs. Parker.

Razors pain you; Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give;
Gas smells awful; You might as well live.

Words to live by. A few other quips. Some short poems. One:
Symptom Recital

I do not like my state of mind;
I'm bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn's recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the simplest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I'm disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I'd be arrested.
I am not sick. I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore:
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men.
I'm due to fall in love again.

7/30/2005 10:17:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Friday, July 29, 2005
WHO DOESN'T LOVE WEAPONS-GRADE URANIUM? It's so snuggly and warm on a cold winter night! After a hard afternoon of snowman-building, there's nothing more comfy and relaxing then curling up round a nice lump 'o weapons-grade uranium!

That's why a Canadian isotope manufacturer has succeeded in slipping into the just-passed energy bill a provision loosening restrictions on commercial use of weapons-grade uranium, and undoing a 13-year-old ban on shipping it overseas for commercial reasons!

This is a great thing, because government regulation is evil! And bad for the economy! What we need is as few of those nasty jackbooted drags on our economy, intrusive government regulations, as possible! And weapons-grade uranium is a terrific place to succeed at, doncha think?

Hilzoy has the goods.

My own plan for personal irradiation is to collect a mountain of Denver sidewalks and build on it. But I have my heart set on my own personal pound of plutonium. I need it for my new company, and who would want to interfere with my free enterprise? Proliferation-smoliferation, I've always said! And that settles that!

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

ADDENDUM: This piece by J. Peter Scoblic is good companion reading on the Bush Administration's complete failure to deal with proliferation in favor of focusing on regime change, and why this has been such terrible policy. RTRS: 3.5 out of 5.

7/29/2005 06:54:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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IT'S NOT EVERY DAY that you find a planet bigger than Pluto in this solar system.

My apartment often feels like that, though.

Read The Rest as interested.

7/29/2005 04:27:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE MARS HOMESTEAD PROJECT. Hmm. (Home page here.) Well, let's see how building the earth version goes, first.

Read The Rest as interested.

ADDENDUM: Interestingly, today John Tierney's column is on going to Mars.

7/29/2005 03:10:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 2 comments

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CISCO KIDS. Read about the revelation of the huge Cisco routing security flaw, and their harassment of the whistle-blowing researcher, and then be sure to read my friend Bruce Schneier's important commentary, which is too long and spot-on to quote only part of (Bruce should always be everyone's first stop on issues of computer security, of course, and often on security in general; I'd feel a lot safer if he had a very high-level Homeland Security position).

Meanwhile, Cisco is fighting a shareholder resolution requiring them to consider human rights in their contracts, notably with China, where they are accused of being the greatest contributors to China's censorship of the Internet; see the piece for more detail.

Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5 on Bruce and the first story; 3.5 on the last one.

7/29/2005 02:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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Thursday, July 28, 2005
ALSO, HIS DOG ATE THOSE OTHER DOCUMENTS. You can't make this stuff up.
WASHINGTON (AP) -John Bolton, the nominee for U.N. ambassador, inaccurately told Congress he had not been interviewed or testified in any investigation over the past five years, the State Department said Thursday, responding to a Democratic critic.

Bolton was interviewed by the State Department inspector general as part of a joint investigation with the Central Intelligence Agency related to Iraqi attempts to buy nuclear materials from Niger, State Department spokesman Noel Clay said.

When Bolton filled out a Senate questionnaire in connection with his nomination, ``he didn't recall being interviewed by the State Department's inspector general. Therefore, his form, as submitted, was inaccurate,'' Clay said. ``He will correct it.''

The response came after Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserting Bolton had been interviewed and suggesting he had not been truthful in his questionnaire.
Res ipsa loquitur.

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

7/28/2005 07:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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LOOK OUT FOR THE KILLER TREES. It seems that possibly planting trees can sometimes suck water out of an environment, and harm it, rather than help it.
“Common but misguided views about water management,” says the report, are resulting in the waste of tens of millions of pounds every year across the world. Forests planted with the intention of trapping moisture are instead depleting reservoirs and drying out soils.

The report summarises studies commissioned over the past four years by the Forestry Research Programme, funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development.

It agrees that, in some places, the environmental nostrum works: trees trap moisture from the air and bind soils that prevent floods, store water and nourish the environment. But it says that in other places, trees suck up moisture from the soil, evaporate water from their leaves, lower water tables, empty rivers and create deserts.

This matters especially when trees are planted specifically to protect water supplies, says chief author John Palmer of the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich, London, UK. Often, he says, “projects intended to improve water conditions in developing countries may be wasting massive amounts of money”.
That would be, it sounds, bad.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5 as concerned.

7/28/2005 05:57:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 1 comments

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TIME TRAVEL WITH VIRTUAL EARTH. The Register informs us:
Not one but two Register readers emailed us to tell us that MSN's Virtual Earth is promoting a world free of the menace of Apple Computers.

If you've got time on your hands - stand up Jens and Stefan - have a look at Apple's Cupertino headquarters from Google and MSN's rival map sites. Both sites offer aerial photos alongside maps. MSN's version is here and Google's is here.

See the difference? Google shows the Apple Cupertino HQ - a lovely, shiny building probably full of iPods. MSN on the other hand shows an apparently empty field. Not as much as a black turtle-necked jumper remains of Apple's headquarters. This could be no more than an old picture taken before Cupertino was built or a glimpse of an imagined future.


Even more disturbing MSN's Virtual Earth still shows the twin towers of the World Trade Center in all their pre-9/11 glory.

No comment from Microsoft HQ as yet but we'll keep you posted.
Has anyone checked for signs of Borg infiltration at either HQ? Any bees in the area?

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

7/28/2005 05:41:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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AIIEEE! And then they fed him lemon chicken.
CIA officials used a sledgehammer handle to beat various prisoners in Iraq, and one official, whose name is classified, would often brag about his abuse of prisoners, according to testimony in a closed session of a military hearing.

The transcript, obtained this week by The Denver Post under a court order, was of a March hearing to determine whether three Fort Carson Army soldiers should stand trial for the death of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush during an interrogation in 2003.

Chief Warrant Officer Jefferson Williams and Spec. Jerry Loper face murder charges in the case.

A third soldier, Sgt. 1st Class William Sommer, has not had final charges approved, though he also was involved in the March preliminary Article 32 hearing.

Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer waived his hearing but is charged with murder.

In the March hearing, Sgt. 1st Class Gerold Pratt of the Utah National Guard said he saw classified personnel use a 15-inch wooden sledgehammer handle to hit prisoners.

"They'd ask you a question, and if they didn't like it, they'd hit you," he said.

"With Chief Welshofer, he'd at least give the detainee a chance to tell the truth," testified Pratt, who was running logistics at the detention facility near Qaim dubbed the Blacksmith Hotel.

A CIA spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, would not comment.

While identifying information in the transcript is redacted in most cases, an exchange between Pratt and a defense attorney show that the CIA was involved.

"To your knowledge, SFC Sommer did not accompany any of these CIA folks?" Capt. Michael Melito, who was then representing Sommer, asked Pratt.

While allegations about CIA officials and special forces beating Mowhoush with fists and a rubber hose have been previously reported, the court transcript is the first evidence that those officials repeatedly beat other detainees in northwestern Iraq.


Later, Pratt testified that the official was mocking the prisoners he was beating.

"Well, particularly after the general was killed. I don't remember the exact words, but he was mocking the fact that the general died," Pratt testified.

Williams and Welshofer, through their attorneys, had previously denied any wrongdoing.

Welshofer's attorney could not be reached for comment.
Remember when Secretary Rumsfeld explained that the world should "watch what we do," not just what we said?

Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.

7/28/2005 05:37:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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99942 APOPHIS. The movie always starts like this:
The concern: Within the object's range of possible fly-by distances lie a handful of gravitational "sweet spots," areas some 2,000 feet across that are also known as keyholes.

The physics may sound complex, but the potential ramifications are plain enough. If the asteroid passes through the most probable keyhole, its new orbit would send it slamming into Earth in 2036. It's unclear to some experts whether ground-based observatories alone will be able to provide enough accurate information in time to mount a mission to divert the asteroid, if that becomes necessary.

So NASA researchers have begun considering whether the US needs to tag the asteroid, known as 99942 Apophis, with a radio beacon before 2013.

Timing is everything, astronomers say. If officials attempt to divert the asteroid before 2029, they need to nudge the space rock's position by roughly half a mile - something well within the range of existing technology. After 2029, they would need to shove the asteroid by a distance as least as large as Earth's diameter. That feat would tax humanity's current capabilities.


Last Wednesday, representatives from the foundation met with colleagues at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to review the issue. The foundation's letter marks the first time specialists in the asteroid-hazard field have called for a scouting mission to assess such a threat.

"We understand the risk from this object, and while it's small, it's not zero," says David Morrison, the senior scientist at NASA's Astrobiology Institute at the Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

The call for a reconnaissance mission also illustrates how far the field of asteroid-hazard assessment has come.


Based on available data, astronomers give Apophis - a 1,000-foot wide chunk of space debris - a 1-in-15,000 chance of a 2036 strike. Yet if the asteroid hits, they add, damage to infrastructure alone could exceed $400 billion. When the possibility of the asteroid passing through two other keyholes is taken into account, the combined chance of the asteroid hitting the planet shifts to 1 in 10,000, notes Clark Chapman, a senior scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.

"A frequent flier probably would not want to board an airliner if there's a 1-in-10,000 chance it's going to crash," he says.
Hey, who needs something new to worry about? (Okay, the odds are pretty good; but since when does that stop a good worrier?)

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5, for now. But remember, your Amygdala worried first!

7/28/2005 05:32:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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DO FATWAS EVER DIET? Terrorism is haram, sez Muslim scholars.
Hooper said Thursday's religious ruling, issued by the Fiqh Council of North America, said: "We clearly and strongly state (that) all acts of terrorism targeting civilians are 'haram' (forbidden) in Islam."

"It is 'haram' for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence, and it is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians," he quoted the ruling as saying.

The Fiqh Council is an association of Islamic legal scholars that interprets Islamic religious law. Hooper said it was the only one of its kind in North America.

Some 130 North American Muslim organizations and leaders have signed and endorsed the fatwa.
Will this change anyone's mind about anything? Probably a few, but likely not those prone to being truly extreme. And, yes, I have at least two different sets of people in mind, one non-Muslim.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5.

7/28/2005 04:29:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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THE COMING REVOLUTION. The science of sex.
Vicky - not her real name - is one of these women. A California college student, she can climax by "thinking off." She contacted Komisaruk after hearing about his work from one of his other test subjects at a party.

"It's amusing to tell people that I jack off in an fMRI for science," says Vicky, quickly adding that the process is more like work than sex. A typical day of research begins with Vicky lying on the fMRI machine's bed; Komisaruk and his team strap down her head. Then she's fed into the doughnut and the machine begins taking pictures, a process Vicky describes as "loud and clunky." She stimulates herself by contracting her vaginal muscles rhythmically and controlling her breathing for 26 minutes.

Vicky and the imaging team worked out a hand signal she can flash when she starts to orgasm. "Basically, my head was strapped to a board in an extremely loud machine, and I had to let them know when I was about to come, so they could mark it on the computer," she laughs. "Whoo - so sexy!"
Oh, and, of course:
Certain brain regions really stand out once the noise is eliminated: For example, the nucleus accumbens, associated with the brain's reward system, turns out to be a big player in orgasm. There is also heightened activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is linked to pleasure, pain, and craving; and in the amygdala and the hypothalamus, areas that process emotion. "Orgasm is probably incredibly good for the brain," Komisaruk says. "The entire organ is being oxygenated."
Italics mine.

Which goes very nicely with these filthy pictures of people having sex posted and written about by P. Z. Meyers.

Remember, it should be illegal to be able to access this sort of disgusting material in a public or school library!

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 for edutainment.

7/28/2005 01:21:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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AS ANY FULE KNO. I've been quite fond of Nigel Molesworth for many years, after first reading Geoffrey Willans' tales of him somewhere in my early twenties; I tend to fall into Molesworth usages without even thinking about it, at times, when I feel all weedy and wet.

Most Americans don't know from Molesworth, still, and I guess I can't judge how easily others might or might not find him amusing, although certainly the milieu I grew up in was nothing like that of a British public school. (On the other hand, I've always been something of an Anglophile, and grew up reading, among many other things, British children's writers, such as Edith Nesbit.)

Anyway, a good article, even if I wind up holding more affection for Molesworth than the author.
Nigel Molesworth is a 1950s prep-school boy - the 'goriller of 3B', 'curse of st custard's which is the skool i am at' - whose spelling is atrocious. His diaries, written by Geoffrey Willans (a one-time schoolmaster) and illustrated by Ronald Searle, originally appeared in Punch, as a kind of sequel about a boys' school to Searle's St Trinians drawings. They were published in book form as Down with Skool! (1953), How to be Topp (1954), Whizz for Atomms (1956) and, semi-posthumously (Willans died in 1958, at the age of 47), Back in the Jug Agane (1959).


The subtitle to Down with Skool! is 'A Guide to School Life for Tiny Pupils and Their Parents', and we are introduced to headmasters, other masters, matrons, lessons, sports, parents, skool food ('the piece of cod which passeth understanding') and so on. They are the bad things. 'The only good things about skool are the BOYS wizz who are noble brave fearless etc. although you hav various swots, bullies, cissies, milksops greedy guts and oiks with whom i am forced to mingle hem-hem.' Prominent among those with whom Molesworth is forced to mingle are: his younger brother, Molesworth Two; his best friend, Peason, who is almost exactly like Molesworth but less fat and with a pointier nose; Grabber, 'who is head of the skool captane of everything and winer of ther mrs joyful prize for rafia work'; Gillibrand, whose 'pater is a general'; and the inimitable Fotherington-Tomas, 'uterly wet and a sissy', who has a sister called Arabella, lives in a cottage called 'swete lavender' and skips about saying 'Hullo clouds, hullo sky.' The most important word in Molesworth's vocabulary, on the other hand, is 'chiz': 'a swiz or a swindle as any fule kno'; it's also an expletive.

On top of the usual subjects - 'lat. french. geog. hist. algy, geom', the last two taught by Sigismond the mad maths master - Custardians also get to study botany, which mostly involves going for walks in the woods. But these fungal forays are not the only extra-curricular activities: in the later books especially, we learn about Molesworth's life outside school. During one summer holidays, Armand ('as far as i kno he is the weedy wet in the fr. book who sa the elephants are pigs') comes to stay. 'You can well immagine him only he is worse than anything you can immagine. Armand is 6 ft tall, wear short pants, and look upon molesworth 2 et moi as if we were a pare of shoppkeepers.' He has an enormous appetite but won't eat Mrs Molesworth's cooking, and 'he like GURLS aussi.'

While this is likely to amuse anyone who's ever entertained a French exchange (an exclusive category, certainly, but not on grounds of age) there are many jokes that most 11-year-olds wouldn't get, and not only because they'd be crying and roaring with laughter so much they would no longer be able to read. For example: '"Who invented the first railway engine?" "Stalin"'. Or the headmaster's beginning of term speech: 'I should like to introduce a new master who hav joined us in place of mr blenkinsop who left sudenly.' This is footnoted, in 'the molesworth crib to reel thorts': 'who would hav thort it he semed so nice.' (When one of my teachers was unexpectedly summoned from the cricket pitch, never to be seen again, we accepted the explanation of 'personal reasons' without a murmur.)


As far as I can see, what takes Molesworth beyond the merely funny for his fans - the kind of people who, according to Hensher, 'ruin' dinner parties for the 'non-Molesworthphile' guests by saying things to each other like 'nearer and nearer crept the ghastly THING' or 'the prunes are revolting'; the same sort of people, I imagine, as those who describe Gary Larson cartoons or perform one of Eddie Izzard's routines when they want to be funny - is nostalgia. And the books are not just a sunny reminder of blissful childhood days spent climbing trees to smoke clandestine cigarettes during Miss Pringle's botany walks: more pungently, reading Molesworth now is evocative of reading it as a child. (The innuendos, like the references to Huxley, Proust and Eliot, allow adult readers fondly to reflect on their own childhood innocence and ignorance.) Extra piquancy (or poignancy, depending on whether or not you read the Molesworth books at school) is added by the fact that they were written in the 1950s, a decade which would appear still to represent our national childhood, and as such has a lingering tendency to bring on rashes of mass nostalgia.
All very well, but how this explains me, who definitely has no nostalgia about his upbringing at British public schools in the Fifties, or ever, who doesn't have this national childhood, I can't say, save to observe the obvious, which is that a well-sketched environ, no matter how alien or foreign or imaginary, has always been able to suck in those completely foreign to it, if it is well-done and intriguing and amusing enough. And for me, Moleseworth is. Even if I am not a BRANE of Britain.

Read The Rest Scale: 3 out of 5, you huge lout with 0 branes. i'm brave i'm brave hurra.

7/28/2005 11:38:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT. The IRA claims it is renouncing all violence; war's all over, mates.

We'll see. Nice thought, at least. But these days aren't the best climate for bombing-for-votes. They're not disbanding in favor of Sinn Fein, though; but how many organizations do voluntarily disband? Some, but momentum and inertia follow Newton's Laws. Still, this, too, may have its own momentum.

Read The Rest as concerned.

7/28/2005 11:27:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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JOHN ROBERTS IN FLORIDA, not there for his tan. A bit more in his role in the 2000 "election." Color me unsurprised.

Read The Rest if you want to pick up the nerf bat.

7/28/2005 11:21:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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"I think we all know where these mines are from," he added with a pained smile.

The Afghan general chose his words carefully. A uniformed U.S. military advisor was sitting on a couch next to him, taking notes on everything he said. Without using names, Faqir made it clear he thought the source of the sophisticated bombs was an enemy of the worst kind because it pretended to be an ally.

"No one should have two faces with his friend," he said, adding that such people would suffer shame and destruction. "Once you shake hands with somebody, you should stand with him till the end."
Say, possibly we should do something about this?

Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5.

7/28/2005 11:18:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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FEELING HELPLESS IN NIGER is how one CNN correspondent feels.
This town in West Africa is home to one of the largest refugee camps run by the aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders.

On Wednesday, the U.N. World Food Program said it would begin a series of airlifts Thursday to deliver emergency rations to feed 80,000 people in Niger. (Full story)

The agency has complained that the international community until recently ignored warnings of a prolonged drought and locust infestation in Niger, leaving more than a million people near starvation.

This week alone, the Maradi camp took in more than 1,100 cases of severely malnourished children. That is the highest it's ever had and it keeps growing.

The camp contains a group of tents divided according to the severity of the refugee's condition.

Aid workers weigh the children when they arrive and put wrist bands on them depending on how much they weigh -- red for critical cases, yellow for borderline and blue if they are well enough to make it through another week or so.

In the intensive care unit, all the beds are filled, with at least 100 children all under the age of 2 with their mothers, waiting for nutrition and getting attention from the doctors and nurses.

Seeing these children screaming and yelling, the feeling is harrowing. They're screaming because they're hungry and ridden with diseases -- everything from cholera to malaria to pneumonia.

Doctors at the camp say the situation will get worse before it gets better, with so many more many people arriving each day. If help does not arrive soon, they say, many more children will die.
You can donate to Doctors Without Borders here.

Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5.

7/28/2005 11:13:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TEN YEARS OF WEB. How fast it's gone by. Alas, poor Gopher and Veronica and Archie: we knew you well. And we recall when Alta Vista was king, "long" before Google. When there was no Wikipedia. When we had to remember things.

I don't know about you, but it changed my life dramatically. Heck, I was kinda famous on rec.arts.sf.fandom for my internet search skills before Google. Later they started using "farbering" instead of "googling" (immodest of me to mention, but, hey, I didn't start it or make it up).

I'd rather lose a couple of fingers than never have Google access. (Although the choice really need not come up, thanks.)

Remember stuff like this?
It's not hard to find smart people saying stupid things about the Internet on the morning of its birth. In late 1994, Time magazine explained why the Internet would never go mainstream: "It was not designed for doing commerce, and it does not gracefully accommodate new arrivals." Newsweek put the doubts more bluntly in a February 1995 headline: "THE INTERNET? BAH!" The article was written by astrophysicist and Net maven Cliff Stoll, who captured the prevailing skepticism of virtual communities and online shopping with one word: "baloney."

This dismissive attitude pervaded a meeting I had with the top leaders of ABC in 1989. I was there to make a presentation to the corner office crowd about this "Internet stuff." To their credit, they realized something was happening. Still, nothing I could tell them would convince them that the Internet was not marginal, not just typing, and, most emphatically, not just teenage boys. Stephen Weiswasser, a senior VP, delivered the ultimate putdown: "The Internet will be the CB radio of the '90s," he told me, a charge he later repeated to the press. Weiswasser summed up ABC's argument for ignoring the new medium: "You aren't going to turn passive consumers into active trollers on the Internet."

I was shown the door. But I offered one tip before I left. "Look," I said. "I happen to know that the address has not been registered. Go down to your basement, find your most technical computer guy, and have him register immediately. Don't even think about it. It will be a good thing to do." They thanked me vacantly. I checked a week later. The domain was still unregistered.
Wired has an interesting look back, with this glance at the roots of Google, and interviews with movers and shakers of the web for each of the past ten years. Lots of stuff to digest.

Here is a cute bit:
I was visiting some Amish farmers recently. They fit the archetype perfectly: straw hats, scraggly beards, wives with bonnets, no electricity, no phones or TVs, horse and buggy outside. They have an undeserved reputation for resisting all technology, when actually they are just very late adopters. Still, I was amazed to hear them mention their Web sites.

"Amish Web sites?" I asked.

"For advertising our family business. We weld barbecue grills in our shop."

"Yes, but "

"Oh, we use the Internet terminal at the public library. And Yahoo!"

I knew then the battle was over.
So there really is a need for Amish Tech Support.

Read The Rest Scale: The Google piece was good, if a bit of a tease for the book, and the history lesson/look at the future is good reading. Oh, and this crossword puzzle from the future is cute. The timeline entries are rather slight. Most important: the history of "more cowbell."

7/28/2005 10:14:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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TWO KINDS OF ZIONISM. Gershon Baskin writes:
I always believed that the true fulfillment of the Zionist dream required Israel to find the way to live with its neighbors. The Zionist dream was to create a safe haven for Jews from all over. This, by definition, means that Israel must provide shelter and security for Jews.

Political Zionism always found a way to advance the cause by being practical. But Zionism got sidetracked by the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Zionism was not about conflict with our neighbors. It was about creating a just, progressive and humane society based on "Jewish values" for Jews to live and prosper, both in spirit and in substance. Real Zionism accepted the reality that non-Jews would always live within our midst. This was expressed with both eloquence and finesse in Israel's Declaration of Independence. That Declaration has always served, for me, as a kind of statement of intent and of the values upon which this state and this society rests, or should rest.

ZIONISM is not about occupying the West Bank and Gaza. The continuation of the settlement enterprise is an act of suicide for the Zionist dream. It is not only about demographics. It is perhaps even more so about values, morality and lessons that we, as Jews, should understand better than anyone else.

The disengagement from Gaza is a Zionist act. Ending our occupation and domination over Gaza and its people is an action aimed at saving Zionism from those who have tainted the noble aspects of its cause since 1967. The Zionist dream is still in danger and the Zionist enterprise is at risk as long as we continue our occupation and domination over the West Bank and its people. The march out of the occupied territories must continue. We must return to ourselves and build Israel from within.

The future appears ominous. Over the past months I have watched the streets of Israel and, in particular Jerusalem, turn orange. As the streets, the trees and the fashion has adopted this new symbol I have found myself confronted with the very strong visual image of a people I do not recognize.

How could these people – with their messianic vision and value system that justifies treating the "other" as less equal than Jews – and I be part of the same nation? We have the same roots, we share a common heritage, we come from the same places, yet there has been a split; for some time they and their kind have been very different from me and my kind.

I received a bumper sticker in my email this week. It was two Israeli flags, one in orange and white and the other in blue and white. It said beneath the flags: "Israel – two states for two peoples."

That is a pretty good expression of my feelings toward the settlers and their supporters. We do not share values. We do not share a common view on the nature of this country or what it has to do to save itself.

Their ideology says "Jews don't expel Jews," implying that Jews may expel non-Jews. They believe they can subjugate the Palestinians and that the Palestinians will thank them for providing them with bread and water. Their sense of superiority disgusts me and raises questions about how we can live together.

I recognize that they are not all the same; that even within the orange world there are many shades. But the world view, conduct and ethics of the settlers are different from mine. We both claim our behavior is based on Jewish values, but our interpretation of what these values are as different as night and day.

THE DISENGAGEMENT from Gaza is a victory for me and my kind. It is not yet a done deal, though. There may be those in the orange camp willing to use violence or provoke acts that could freeze the disengagement. Blowing up the mosques on the Temple Mount or a terrorist attack against Palestinians could provoke a new wave of Islamic terror that could lead to halting the withdrawal from Gaza.

As their desperation grows, the chances of a cataclysmic type of event taking place increases. There are those whose motivations are so irrational that taking human lives for their cause is as easy as killing a mosquito. The toxic mixture of messianic lunatics aligned with political fanatics is explosive. If they represent Zionism and Zionist values then I am not a Zionist, and my dream is not the Zionist dream.

But what I believe and want for Israel and the Jewish people is the fulfillment of the vision of the Declaration of Independence.

I want to be a free people in my nation living in peace with my neighbors both within and along our borders. I cherish diversity and appreciate the wealth of cultural pluralism that we can experience in this land and in this region. I don't want to rule over another nation and don't want their land. If important parts of my heritage and history are on the other side beyond our borders, I may want to visit them. But I don't know have to be in possession of those places or rule over others in order to control them.

Many of those holy places are also holy for others who live in this land and who have other beliefs. Judaism teaches us to sanctify life, not places. The Zionist dream is a political expression of the sanctification of life. If we are worthy of living in this land we must respect all its peoples. We must recognize that our own security and prosperity is dependent on the security and prosperity of both peoples of this land. If we want dignity and respect for ourselves and our dreams, we must give dignity and respect to the others.

One day, I hope, the Israeli-Arab conflict will end. The struggle to reach that end will heighten and deepen the feeling of alienation between the two Jewish peoples of this state. We will then have to confront how we live together in peace and mutual respect.

Right now it seems like an impossible dream; right now it feels like a nightmare.
Works for me. But the true nightmare would be were the settlers to be in charge, in power, or if the Noble Sanctuary were blown up, or Sharon assassinated. Now is a time still full of worry, with nightmare only on the edges. May it never move to the center.

Read The Rest Scale: 1.5 out of 5 for a bit more at the beginning; I had trouble otherwise editing anything out.

Israel's Declaration of Independence, by the way. It must never be taken away.

7/28/2005 10:03:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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OLD BUSINESS: THE "REAL" AMERICA. You'll need to read this post of a few weeks ago to follow this. (I've got a variety of posts that fell on the floor while I was posting little that I'm slowly picking up.) Other blogs that commented are here and here.

I picked up on law Professor Todd Zywicki's dissing of Massachusets in a post at The Volokh Conspiracy, when he said:
...sorry Justice Breyer, I don't count Cambridge as "real America"....
I called saying that "un-American and despicable." You can go read that now, if you like.

Naturally, I e-mailed Professor Zywicki to ask if he had any response. He did, and I'm finally mentioning this here, with his permission. His initial response was:
Thanks--I appreciate your points. My effort was to make fun of the unique attribute of Harvard (where Breyer taught before going on the bench), not "urban states" in general, but I can see where my loose language was inappropriately flippant.
I pushed somewhat further, writing him:
I still think there's a very serious, and fairly widespread in our polity, point to discuss here -- the point you touched upon is, it seems to me, a fairly important and frequent attack upon a portion of the American polity -- the interesting notion that somehow urban elites are less authentic than, well, other Americans -- and it seems to me that you are glossing this as relatively trivial and humorous, when it is in fact made as an entirely major, and I daresay vicious, point by various politicians and supporters -- but I'm doubtful I'll get much further pushing you about this, and I do very much appreciate what you've said, and would like to post a (presumably) final cap on this.

If you felt like investing any more effort in this discussion, I'd ask what you meant by the "unique attribute of Harvard." This intrigues me, since I have only the vaguest of guesses as to what you might have in mind. I'm sure it's obvious to you, but I must say it's not obvious to me. (Myself, I'm such a member of the urban elite that I never even completed a full year of college, although I've worked in a number of academic environments.)
He responded:
Yes, you can quote me (I inadvertently left the "s" off "attribute" if you could fix that).

As for the "unique attributes" of Harvard, this was a dig at the uniquely unreal life of the modern university world--it was just a coincidence that Breyer taught at Harvard, if it had been Yale or Columbia that would've worked too, its just that Harvard is the generic stand-in for those looking to poke fun at the unreality of the academy. You will recall that in my original post I also took a poke at my friend Michael McConnell for being an academic before being a judge as well. So the idea was that academics of all stripes--whether Harvard (Breyer), Chicago (McConnell), or George Mason (Zywicki)--exist in some world other than the real world and bears little resemblance to the rest of America, whether Cambridge proper, Des Moines, or Roanoke. Its just that Harvard is a uniquely big target for poking this sort of fun because many more people get the joke when it is Harvard than if I had said "George Mason".

Plus, I graduated from Dartmouth, so I go out my way to make fun of Harvard, our main rival, whenever possible. Yes, quite juvenile, I admit.

So, make of that what you will. I'd say it was a gracious response, although still evading the larger issue of this sort of slur being an ultra-common trope on the right, and not generally simply as a harmless bit of fun. (It's also an odd use of "unique," although it's a word that seems to have little meaning these days.)

But I do thank Professor Zywicki for being so quick and willing to respond, and respond graciously and without offense. The interwub can always use more of that.

7/28/2005 09:28:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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A TYPE I'M FAMILIAR WITH. Type Week is still going on, although TypeCon is over.
If you are not the sort of person who cares deeply about the Old World subtleties of Fournier, the retro-hipster swirl of Ministry Script or the plain-vanilla, rock-ribbed dependability of Helvetica - nor the sort immediately able to identify the typeface you are reading right now as 8.7-point Imperial - then you were probably not aware that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared this week Type Week in New York City.


You also might have assumed that a group of a dozen people wandering around the Upper East Side on Thursday morning, snapping pictures of the unremarkable words "Public School 6" inscribed into stone above an unremarkable red door on East 81st Street were tourists in possession of a badly translated guidebook.

But they were actually admiring the inscription on purpose, remarking on its clean Bauhaus roots. And a few blocks away, they gave the third degree to the neo-Roman letters carved along the top of Regis High School.

"The 'R' is too small in the bowl, and too long in the leg," complained Paul Shaw, a New York type designer and calligrapher who was leading the group on what he called a letter-form tour of Manhattan, with stops to take in the Art Deco Bloomingdale's sign, the sputnik-esque Frank Lloyd Wright letters on the Guggenheim Museum and the work of Bruce Rogers, a demigod of American book design, in the form of a huge Emerson quotation adorning a wall of Hunter College.

These pilgrims were among about 500 people, some from as far away as Brazil and Finland, who have converged on the city for TypeCon, a yearly gathering of typographers, printers, designers, calligraphers and assorted, self-described font freaks and type nerds who can argue about kerning into the wee hours.
Yeah, I definitely know the type. I suspect I know a few attendees.
If nothing else, TypeCon, now in its eighth year, sets out to prove that the typographical crowd, despite its two-dimensional obsessions, can partake in all the three-dimensional joys of any conventioneers. The activities include a film festival (sample past title: "Helvetica It Hurts"), a citywide typographic scavenger hunt with cash prizes and even a temporary radio station, set up inside the Parsons School of Design on West 12th Street. ("Type is speech on paper," the station's slogan goes. "Typeradio is speech on type." The D.J.'s say, however, that it has not proved particularly exciting to talk about type, so conversation on the station, accessible on the Web at, has tended toward music, food and sex.)

"We do compare this to a Trekkie convention sometimes," said Tamye Riggs, the executive director of the Society of Typographic Aficionados, which organized the event. "People can get really obsessed about it."

But type types don't wear costumes like Trekkies or Civil War re-enactors. Instead, they often wear really cool T-shirts and designer eyeglasses and hand out exquisitely designed business cards on heavy card stock. Their conversation can quickly descend into the slightly self-satisfied jargon of any specialty, with talk of uncial script, ligatures and serif slants, along with frequent references to Trajan's Column in Rome, an ancient source of Western letter forms.

But unlike many kinds of buffs, they are quick to try to share their enthusiasm and knowledge with even the most ill-informed typographical philistine (who has never changed the typeface on his word-processing program and had no idea until he looked it up yesterday that his newspaper's body type was 8.7-point Imperial.)
Tsk. Although it's my experience that the overwhelming majority of (granted, certainly not all) buffs of anything are thrilled to find someone to listen to them wax enthusiastic.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 for a bit more reverting to type. A shame we've only had one large National Scandal where my knowledge of old typewriters came in handy.

7/28/2005 09:14:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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GREAT WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT. Before it was replaced by the "global struggle against extremism," the War On Terror offered many little-known bright opportunities.
Three years ago, Sunnye L. Sims lived in a two-bedroom apartment north of San Diego, paying $1,025 in monthly rent. Then she landed a dream job, with $5.4 million in pay for nine months of work.

Now she owns a $1.9 million stucco mansion with lofty ceilings on a hilltop, featuring sun-splashed palm trees and a circular driveway.

"She really went uphill," said Jerry Collins, a maintenance man at her former apartment complex who recalled Sims talking about her ambitions.

Sims is not a Hollywood starlet. She is a meeting-and-events planner who built her fortune on a U.S. government contract. In 2002, her tiny company secured a no-bid subcontract to manage logistics on an urgent federal project to protect the nation's airports in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Sims, now 42, recruited hundreds of people to help hire a government force of 60,000 airline passenger screeners on a tight deadline. With little experience, her tiny company was asked to help set up and run screener-assessment centers in a hurry at more than 150 hotels and other facilities. Her company eventually billed $24 million.

The company, Eclipse Events Inc., was among the most important of the 168 subcontractors hired by prime contractor NCS Pearson Inc. The cost of the overall contract rose in less than a year to $741 million from $104 million, and federal auditors concluded that $303 million of that spending was unsubstantiated.

Spurred by that audit, federal agents are examining the entire contract and focusing on Eclipse, according to government officials and Pearson. Investigators at the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General are trying to determine how and why Eclipse obtained the work and whether the company overcharged the government or submitted false claims.

The story of how Sims vaulted from relative obscurity into a key role overseeing tens of millions of dollars in government spending is still unfolding. A deeper examination of the Eclipse subcontract illustrates the chaos that accompanied homeland security initiatives after the terrorist attacks and shows how contractors were allowed to operate with little government oversight.

Eclipse came out of nowhere, starting as a one-woman operation based in Sims's apartment. She was hired in a hurry, through word of mouth, recommended by someone who did not review her background in detail. She had worked for more than a decade as an event planner for the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. But her company, Eclipse, did not exist as a corporation until Sims got the Pearson subcontract; two weeks later, she filed incorporation papers. Over the next several months, Sims hired hundreds of freelance meeting planners, many of them sight unseen.

As the number of hotel assessment sites expanded -- the Transportation Security Administration doubled the number of screeners to be hired -- Eclipse's subcontract grew to $24 million from $1.1 million. The company's authority to spend money on behalf of Pearson and the government also expanded -- in addition to its direct billings, Eclipse approved millions of dollars more in hotel charges by Eclipse employees and spending by other subcontractors, the audit shows.

"Eclipse did not have any other work, before, during, or after the completion of this subcontract," according to the Defense Contract Audit Agency, which was hired by the TSA to examine spending under the contract. A copy of the audit was obtained by The Washington Post.

Eclipse was hired as a field manager to coordinate with hotels for meeting spaces, conference rooms and food, as well as to act as the go-between with hotels and other vendors and subcontractors, such as local security companies. Eclipse employees later said they did the best they could under the most difficult of circumstances. But they also said Sims and her colleagues seemed overwhelmed.

"Did I think money was being spent wisely?" asked Christopher Bryson, an aspiring filmmaker who worked as an Eclipse logistics coordinator. "My answer is no. It just wasn't well managed."

The auditors said $15 million in expenses submitted by Eclipse could not be substantiated. For example, auditors were able to find supporting documents for only $326,873 of the $5.8 million that Eclipse spent directly on accounting, administration, consulting, management and contract labor.

The auditors noted that Sims not only paid herself $5.4 million in compensation as "President/Owner" but also that she gave herself a $270,000 pension.

In addition to focusing on the direct Eclipse expenses, auditors raised concerns about expenses Eclipse employees charged to separate accounts at the hotels chosen by Pearson. Auditors highlighted scores of other expenses run up or approved by Eclipse: hundreds of thousands of dollars for valet parking, unexplained cash advances, dry cleaning and other spending at the hotels, many of which were high-end or resort-style establishments.
What particularly gets me about this is that I spent years doing "events and meeting planning." I used to regularly read Successful Meetings, Meeting News, and other industry magazines; I was up on all the ins and outs of hotel contracts and attendent logistical arrangements. What I lacked was audacity (okay, and good health); it never occurred to me that I should seek a government contract so I could earn 5.4 million dollars in 9 months.

Shucky-darn. I even know how to hire accountants.

Read The Rest Scale: 2.75 out of 5 to feel confident your tax dollars are efficiently protecting you.

7/28/2005 09:06:00 AM |permanent link | Main Page | | 0 comments

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