When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

31 October 2005

It's on!

I can live with the Alito nomination pretty happily. He's eminently qualified, has plenty of intellectual heft, and from what I've been able to learn about him since this morning, seems like he'd make a fine Justice.

I can tell you who's turning backflips right now, though... ecstatically happy beyond their wildest dreams...

The political fundraisers.

On the right and the left. The nomination of "Scalia Lite" is just the kind of polarizing political event that everyone from James Dobson to NARAL dreams about.

They're going to prolong the mudslinging and namecalling just as long as possible, in order to whip their respective constituencies into a frenzy of check-writing indignation.

As a South Park conservative, I was utterly delighted to hear Nina Totenberg observe this morning during NPR's live coverage... "It's on!" (Ms. Totenberg was already handicapping the probability of a Democrat filibuster against the new nominee, with the announcement barely five minutes old.)

Of course, I immediately recalled this classic South Park episode, in which Stan and his wannabee breakdancing friends Get Served by some out-of-town upstarts (emphasis added)
Coach: Oh, it's on!
Randy: Nonono, it's not on.
Coach: Whoo, it's on all right!
Randy: It isn't on. Nothing's on. It's off.
Coach: [insistent] It's on!
Randy: I'm keeping my son home on Saturday. I just came by to let you know so you can... put a stop to all this. Goodbye. [turns around and walks away]
Coach: Hold on a second, clamhead! [catches him and blocks his way] You think you can just roll in here and tell us it's not on when it very clearly is on?! You're just trying to make us not practice, aren't you?! Because you KNOW that your kids are goin' down when my kids give them this! Give me some moves out, Girl T! [the girl turns on the boombox] Check this out! [balances on his left hand and bounces around, then stands up] Yeah! You like that?!
OC Leader: Oooo man! [shakes his head]
OC Member 1: Ohhh Lord! [the coach spins on his back, rises to one hand, flips over, and lands doing the splits, then rises to his feet using an imaginary hook]
OC Leader: Oooo, he is gettin' served! [the girl shakes her head]
Fabulous. I think we should ask Judge Alito to show us some funky breaks to the beat during the confirmation hearings.

(Update: Politechnical is hosting the RINO Watering Hole on the Alito nomination.)

29 October 2005

I'm very, very disappointed in you

Okay. Several hundred of you visit enrevanche every day, but so far... so far... only six of you have taken the time to plant your flag in the Frappr map of enrevanche readers.

Look. I'm not asking you to take the time to register if you're just some random Spanish-speaking person coming in from an Argentina-based search engine looking for cat pictures (um, Usted no tiene que colocarse si usted es el visitar de Google Argentina y buscar cuadros del gato...)

enrevanche world map recent
Sitemapper map of enrevanche visitors, Saturday, 29 October

frappr map recent
Frappr map of enrevanche visitors, Saturday, 29 October

But if you read the site regularly?

Ach. We make such an effort for you, and you never write, you never call.

Fine. We'll just sit here in the dark. All alone. No, no. We'll be fine. Don't worry about us.

Check out our Frappr!

28 October 2005

North Carolina buys more jobs with handouts to Chinese

North Carolina has agreed to pay Chinese computer maker Lenovo millions of dollars to build a new research and development center in the state. This handout goes to a company which is largely owned by [companies controlled by the Communist Government of the People's Republic of China] and builds on a growing tradition in North Carolina to woo businesses with massive amounts of cash.


“Lenovo exemplifies the type of company we want in North Carolina by providing sustainable, top-quality jobs for hard-working North Carolina families,” [North Carolina Governor Mike] Easley said. “As a leading global information technology company, Lenovo will enhance our existing information technology industry in the Triangle.”

Chinese holding company Legend claims a 41 per cent stake in Lenovo, and the biggest shareholder in Legend - the Chinese Academy of Sciences - enjoys 65 per cent ownership of Legend, making Lenovo quite the PRC firm. As you know, China can really use our financial support these days. It needs money to build out software sweatshops, call centers and Wal-Mart product houses. It's great to see North Carolina lend a helping hand.

North Carolina buys more jobs with handouts to Chinese | Channel Register

A sleepy vigil

While Carrie and I are down in North Carolina with my family, a cat-loving friend is taking good care of Mister Gato. (We don't mind boarding the Chows when we go away, since they *love* the "sleep-away camp" that we send them to; as a shelter animal, however, Mister G is much more comfortable in His Apartment than even the nicest cattery that NYC has to offer.)

dozing kitty
Sooner or later, they're going to show up to check their e-mail.

As shown above, Mister Gato tends to keep a drowsy vigil in front of our computer when we're away. We have carefully hidden our credit card numbers, and he doesn't know our passwords; otherwise, we might come home to find UPS delivering a 500-pound order of smoked salmon.

Be sure to check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator for more bloggers' pets from around the world, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday at the excellent blog Watermark.

(And if you're a catblogger yourself, don't pass up the chance to join Ferdinand T. Cat's "Cat Lovers Community.")

Check out our Frappr!

27 October 2005

Buh-bye, now.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to be a Supreme Court justice Thursday in the face of stiff opposition and mounting criticism about her qualifications.
Bush's Embattled Nominee to Supreme Court Withdraws

If Fox News Had Been Around Throughout History

If Fox News Had Been Around Throughout History

Samurai restaurant critic

Frank Bruni just had dinner at the new TriBeCa restaurant Ninja New York.

He, um, didn't like it very much.
Confusing the point of a restaurant with the mission of a "Saturday Night Live" skit, Ninja New York deposits you in a kooky, dreary subterranean labyrinth that seems better suited to coal mining than to supping...

...Ninja intends to evoke a Japanese mountain village inhabited by ninjas, a special breed of stealthy warriors. In this case they come armed not only with swords and sorcery but also with recipes, which may be their most dangerous weapons of all...

...In the name of "new style sushi" Ninja employs rice cakes as beds - or sometimes graves - for a rectangle of truffle-flecked omelet (it tasted like soggy French toast)...

...For a toddler with a trust fund and a yen for udon and maki, Ninja might be a valid alternative to the Jekyll and Hyde restaurant...
Yelping Warriors, and Rocks in the Broth - New York Times

Indian Techie Flamewar

An hilarious and overwrought e-mail exchange between two very, very upset men on the subcontinent.
First, yes I have written mail to Managing Director. Because you are a cheap person. You are such a basted, you don't know, how do talk to any person. You are mental sick. Yes my English is weak, that’s why I worked in sentient under cheap person like you. But write now I have learned English especially for writing this mail.
Hat tip: Numair Faraz

26 October 2005


Kiss your conscience goodbye and switch to the winner: http://www.becomerepublican.com.

NPR : Thomas P.M. Barnett's 'Blueprint for Action'

Being a non-car-owning Manhattanite, one of the things I don't do much any more is listen to drive-time radio.

Since I'm in Raleigh at the moment, driving a rental car around, I was checking out NPR's "Morning Edition" today and heard an interview with Thomas P.M. Barnett, who has a new book ("Blueprint for Action") out.

The interview is available at the NPR site in RealAudio and Windows Media format, and it's short and well worth a listen. Barnett is his usual provocative, rhetorical-bomb-throwing self. A sample, and I'm paraphrasing, not quoting: Barnett observes that America's most successful nation-building experience of all time has arguably been the Kurdish autonomous zone of northern Iraq. We gave them air cover for 15 years, didn't ask anything specific of them, and they've created a functioning state.

Check the interview out.

(And having enjoyed The Pentagon's New Map and learned a lot from it, I've ordered Blueprint For Action as well.)

You bastard (bacterium), you killed my father!

A great essay in today's New York Times. Instead of being afraid of the avian flu (which, to be fair, could in fact turn out to be a Really Big Deal), what about the immediate and real dangers that most of us are in denial about? To quote the good doctor who wrote the op-ed, here's what she'd like to say to her bird-flu obsessing patients:
If you want to be scared, then how about that drug habit of yours you think I don't know about? How about the fact that you are 100 pounds overweight and eat nothing but junk? How about the fact that in a few short months Medicaid is going to stop paying for your very expensive medications and no one knows how just high that Medicare Part D deductible and co-payment are going to be?
Preach. But here's the part that really made me sit up and take notice: antibiotic-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae gets a prominent shout-out.
If you want something to be scared of, how about the drug-resistant Klebsiella that is all over this very hospital, an ordinary run-of-the-mill bacterial strain that has become so resistant to so many antibiotics that we've had to resurrect a few we stopped using 30 years ago because they were so toxic.

That Klebsiella is one scary germ. It's in hospitals all over the country, and by now it's probably killed a thousandfold more people than the avian flu.

But you don't hear much about our Klebsiella. Like our bad habits and our dismally insoluble health insurance tangles, our antibiotic-resistant bacteria are with us, right here, right now. Apparently they all lack the drama, the suspense, the titillating worst-case situations that energize our politicians and turn into a really newsworthy health care scare.
I noticed this, I guess, primarily because drug-resistant Klebsiella (contracted in a hospital) is ultimately what killed my father.

Scare Yourself Silly, but the Real Terrors Are at Your Feet - New York Times

Everyday low prices from everyday lowdown employers

An internal memo sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart.

In the memorandum, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive.
Next time you're stocking up on cheap T-shirts manufactured by Chinese prison labor, say hi to the presumably healthy 19 year-old part-timer manning the cash register.

And, hello, they're surprised that a seven-year veteran of Wal-Mart is no more productive than an employee with one year's tenure? Just exactly what mindbendingly difficult skills are they supposed to be mastering in the intervening six years?

Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs - New York Times

(See also: Actual internal memo - PDF format)

Where in the world are you?

Gina, over at Lifehacker.com, tipped us to the existence of Frappr Maps - a Google Map hack that allows members of online communities to register their names (or handles) and locations, and point out where they're participating from.

I use Sitemapper's "World Map" feature all the time, and I know that we've got readers from all over the place. But in most cases I don't know much more about them.

Do me a favor? When you have a second, register yourselves at enrevanche's Frappr page, and add a photo or image (nothing grossly pornographic... I'm looking at you, Bill in Exile) and a shout-out.

Check out our Frappr!

It's time to play the music... it's time to light the lights...

The Muppet Show was a staple of my childhood, a child- and adult-friendly variety show featuring the lovable Henson puppets we had all become familiar with on Sesame Street.

Disney recently bought out the Jim Henson empire, and it looks like they're getting ready to revive the TV franchise. Brace yourselves and get ready to meet America's Next Muppet:
The Muppets could come back to primetime television with their own reality show. ABC has ordered a script and five episode outlines for "America's Next Muppet," in which viewers may join in choosing the newest member of the puppet family that includes Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, a network spokeswoman said Tuesday.
If this is done correctly, with the same sly, subversive sensibility that the Henson stable used to apply to their parodies, it might be really good.

'Muppets' May Return to Primetime TV - AP, via Yahoo! News

25 October 2005

Twenty-five years of service

Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
On your twenty-fifth anniversary of employment with IBM, you get (or at least you used to) your choice of gifts from the company; my Dad, and most of his buddies, opted for the Rolex watch.

Dad got his Rolex in 1983, and though he had previously been an enthusiastic Seiko partisan, he wore that Rolex for the next 22 years.

I have worn reasonably nice watches before. My wife and my in-laws are responsible for the two watches I alternate wearing from day-to-day, actually; my wife bought me a beautiful pilot's chronograph not long after we met, and it has considerable sentimental value to me. (Funnily enough, she now sometimes wears the "railroad watch" that I was wearing when I moved to New York!)

And my father-in-law, who is a *serious* eBay maven, found a great price on a set of deeply geekly "Eco-Drive" Citizen watches that recharge automatically on exposure to sunlight, and bought enough for all the males in the extended family; mine showed up one day in the mail unannounced, and I've enjoyed wearing it ever since.

But today--after the quick and professional attention of a helpful Raleigh jeweler, who incredibly enough had some spare links for a vintage Rolex wristband in his parts drawer--I'm wearing Dad's Rolex on my wrist.

And this is just a whole 'nother thing. Set aside the fact that it's like an exquisite little moving sculpture. My old man wore this watch for a little more than two decades, and I think I'm really going to enjoy looking down to check the time and thinking about Bob every time I do it.

23 October 2005

Back down in Raleigh

Hey, y'all. Back down in Raleigh with the family; thanks to everyone for their kind expressions of condolences and sympathy.

Dad died very peacefully in his sleep yesterday morning.

I'm still rummaging through the family photographs, but as I drink my coffee this morning and get ready to meet the tide of incoming relatives, this is the one that's really making me smile.

Dad could fix *anything.* In this picture, circa 1973, the engineer on the left is giving the young man on the right a fundamental lesson in aeronautics.

(We're flying a kite off the deck of a beach house at Holden Beach, North Carolina.)

22 October 2005

Robert Eugene Campbell (1936-2005)

RALEIGH, NC -- Robert Eugene (Bob) Campbell, 69, died October 22, 2005 at his Raleigh home after a long illness.

Born June 27, 1936 in Enochville, NC to the late Floyd William and Estelle London Campbell, Bob Campbell attended and graduated from the Rowan County public schools. He married Betty Sue Hodges in 1955.

A 1958 graduate of Indiana Technical College (now the Indiana Institute of Technology), Bob worked as an engineer with the International Business Machines corporation for his entire career, finally retiring in 1992 after 34 years. Bob and Betty lived and worked in Atlanta, GA and Poughkeepsie, NY, before moving to Raleigh with IBM in 1965, where they made their permanent home.

Following a motorcycle accident in November 1967, Bob was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. After a prolonged and difficult period of recuperation, he returned to work and continued for the rest of his life to provide for his family and to maintain what were for him the most important roles in life, that of a good husband and good father.

Although he had experienced declining health in recent years, Bob is still widely remembered in the Oak Park neighborhood of Raleigh as a friendly, gregarious presence, and, in his retirement, as the designated "Mr. Fix-It" for anyone who ever had a problem with a lawnmower or small engine. He delighted in using his engineering and analysis skills to diagnose and fix problems with just about anything, and dispensed advice freely.

Despite his ongoing struggles with health problems related to his paralysis, he maintained a positive attitude, due in large part to a mischievous sense of humor that none who knew him well will soon forget. His courage and determination to persevere in the face of incredibly difficult physical and psychological challenges were, and remain, an inspiration to everyone he met. The support provided for him by his wife, Betty, until very recently his sole caregiver following his paralysis, was a testament to the power and force of love and devotion.

Bob Campbell was a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Cary Lodge No. 198 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the Wake County Shrine Club, and the IBM Quarter Century Club.

He is survived by his wife Betty, his son Barry and daughter-in-law Carrie, brothers Roy and Marvin, and sister Juanita Smith, as well as an extended family and a wide network of friends and professional colleagues who join his immediate family in mourning his passing.

In accordance with Bob's expressed wishes, there will be no funeral service, viewing, or visitation. A memorial service, to be conducted at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Raleigh, will be scheduled and announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to Hospice of Wake County or to the charity of one's choice.

bob den
Robert E. Campbell

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets...

An update to an earlier post...

Of *course* there are places on the Internets where you can make a modest (or large) wager on the Miers nomination; for unaccountable reasons, my Google-fu temporarily failed me.

Alert enrevanche reader and pal Laurie points me to Irish "futures market" (read: "casino") Intrade.com, where one can easily see the current line on Miers.

Round and round she goes.
Where she stops, nobody knows.

(They're also offering proposition bets... excuse me, "futures contracts"... on Karl Rove/Scooter Libby indictments, the putative date of Osama Bin Laden's capture, and the identity of the next Federal Reserve chairman, among other things.)

Oh yeah, y'all; I've opened an account. But since Intrade is based in Ireland, and US banks are chary of allowing you to fund offshore gambling, I'm going to have to place my opening deposit with a banker's check (!)

And over at the Politburo Diktat, the Commissar points us to the trading volume chart at Tradesports (who, incestuously enough, owns and operates InTrade), where we can see high volume, and low odds of success for the Miers nomination:

Not looking good for the home team.

Looks like the "markets" have already sussed out the situation.

21 October 2005

Random thought

I cannot freaking believe that I left Sarah Silverman off my list of "celebrity crushes."

That's a fine-looking magazine right there.


'I Will Eat Your Dollars'

Fascinating article in the LA Times, via Yahoo News, about Nigerian e-mail scam artists (known as "419 scammers" after the anti-fraud section in Nigeria's penal code.)

Their anthem, 'I Go Chop Your Dollars,' hugely popular in Lagos, hit the airwaves a few months ago as a CD penned by an artist called Osofia:

419 is just a game, you are the losers, we are the winners.
White people are greedy, I can say they are greedy
White men, I will eat your dollars, will take your money and disappear.
419 is just a game, we are the masters, you are the losers
'I Will Eat Your Dollars' - Yahoo! News

LA face with the Oakland booty

Hip-hop music has been, and continues to be, a pervasive influence on American culture.

Recently, there have been some truly stunning genre-busting cover versions of classic hip-hop and rap songs. The gold standard, for me, is set by Nina Gordon's acoustic-folk cover of NWA's Straight Outta Compton (MP3 link, 2.1 MB.)

But I've just heard one that will give Nina a run for her money. Jonathan Coulton has turned out a remarkable alt.country version of Sir Mix-A-Lot's ode to steatopygia, "Baby Got Back."
(humming) LA face with the Oakland booty...

Flocking Brilliant!

Flock is a new Mozilla Firefox-based browser that is optimized for the package of technologies that is becoming known as "Web 2.0." A very early developer release has just been made available for downloading at the Flock developer site.

flock site
Get the Flock outta here.

So what makes Flock different, and special?
  • It has excellent RSS integration, making it possible to quickly see when your favorite blogs and sites have been updated. If you create a collection of site feeds (e.g., a collection of news sites) it aggregates them on the fly--in other words, it groups them together for viewing automatically.

  • Instead of bookmarks stored on your own machine, Flock uses del.icio.us, a "social bookmarking" service, making it easier for you to share your bookmarks with others (if you choose.) It's a snap to add tags to your favorites/bookmarks, too.

  • If you're a blogger, you can use tools built into Flock to compose blog entries on the fly. Flock includes a blog editor that works with WordPress, Movable Type, Typepad (and shortly also Live Journal) and Blogger.

    blogging about flock in flock
    Blogging about Flock, in Flock

  • If you've got a Flickr account, you can share photos automagically within Flock. Just drag your pictures to the "topbar" in Flock.

  • Flock indexes the pages you visit and has a built-in search history, thus taking a big step towards solving the problem of "I saw this on the Web a couple days ago... dammit, where was it?"
Fair warning: this is a very early "developer release," and it's probably not stable enough for everyday use. However, it is a *very* promising and interesting look at where web browsers may be going. Flock is available now for Windows, Mac and Linux users.

20 October 2005

Box, fixed

We solved the collapsing box problem. A bunch of stuff went into storage or got thrown away, we rearranged things a bit, and now Mister Gato's favorite box sits atop a very sturdy metal filing cabinet. With the addition of a cheap fleece baby blanket ($1 at WalMart, fetched during a recent trip to North Carolina) it is now the best seat in the house.

lord of most of what he surveys
Lord of most of what he surveys.

Be sure to check the Friday Ark at The Modulator for more bloggers' pets from around the world, and don't miss this weekend's edition of the Carnival of the Cats, hosted at Mind of Mog.

Go, Biscuits!

Hey, that was quick! Bis-quick, in fact.

My Montgomery Biscuits paraphernalia arrived today.

Go Biscuits!
Go, Biscuits!

Since I posted on Saturday, I've received a few requests for the recipe for God's Own Buttermilk Biscuits. I posted it in the comments, but people aren't finding it there and I've mailed out several copies...

So, what the heck. We've had everything else at enrevanche, why not recipes?

When I baked these for her recently, my own sainted mother pronounced these as "the best biscuits she ever ate," and she is no slouch in the kitchen herself, to put it mildly. The recipe is based on the "basic rolled biscuits" recipe from the first edition of Joy of Cooking (Rombauer) with a few minor tweaks.

With no further ado...

Yield: two dozen small (tea-sized) or one dozen large (breakfast-sized) biscuits.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In large bowl, mix:

2 cups all-purpose flour (extra points for using a Southern biscuit flour like Martha White or White Lily, if you can get it - if you get self-rising, obviously, omit the baking powder.)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 (0.5) teaspoon baking soda

1/2 (0.5) teaspoon salt

Cut six tablespoons (three-quarters of a standard stick) of *cold*, good-quality butter into small pieces; drop butter pieces into dry mixture and "cut in" with two butter knives clutched in fist like Wolverine's talons (if you are a kitchen gadget fetishist, you may use a pastry blender) until the flour mixture has the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs.

(Cold butter is specified because you don't want the butter to start melting until the biscuits go into the oven. This will create little air pockets in the biscuits and contribute to the overall delightfully fluffy effect you are trying to achieve. Do not substitute margarine or shortening. Won't work.)

Add 3/4 (0.75) cup of fresh buttermilk, and mix until ingredients are just combined (don't beat it; this is more of a toss/mix thing!)

Transfer dough to a lightly floured board and roll out to approximately 1/2 (0.5) inch thickness. For the authentic experience, cut your biscuits out with a small drinking glass, applying a slight twisting motion as you cut to seal the edges.

Place biscuits, well-spaced, on an ungreased, cheap (not double-layer or insulated--you want the bottoms to brown until they are almost but not quite crunchy) baking sheet and bake at 450 until nicely browned, about 10 minutes.

Serve hot with any of the following:

- Strawberry, peach, or apple preserves
- Fried or grilled sausage patties
- Country ham and redeye gravy


If you're feeding more than three or four hungry people, you're gonna want to double this recipe (at least.)

Leftover biscuits (ha! - but it does occasionally happen) are delightful the next day split, smeared with a little butter and toasted.

Pencil Roving: More on the Great (Strunk and) White Way

Oh. my. Guh.

Last night was the premiere of an operetta based on Strunk and White's classic The Elements of Style.

And Carrie and I, grammar geeks to the core, missed it!

Oh, the humanity!

Eater: Inside Chowhound's Cult of Mina

Are you hip to the Chowhound crowd's devotion to a woman called Mina? She's the Thomas Keller of Queens. And she's opening a new restaurant this week.

Jim Leff stumbled across her in Jackson Heights a few years ago in this little dive in Queens and created a cult around her...
Eater: Inside Chowhound's Cult of Mina

Tempted by blogs, spam becomes 'splog'

[Google's] Blogger blog-creation tool and BlogSpot hosting service, together the most popular free blogging service on the Web, fell victim this past weekend to the biggest splog attack yet--an assault that led to clogged RSS readers and overflowing in-boxes, and that may have manipulated search engine rankings.

'Uh, ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, I think we have an emergency on our hands,' Tim Bray, Web technologies director at Sun Microsystems, wrote in his blog in response to what he called the 'splogsplosion.'
"Splog": Portmanteau word, combining "spam" and "blog"; a "splog" is a blog that creates solely to point to a commercial website, thus driving traffic and driving up search engine rankings.

Tempted by blogs, spam becomes 'splog' (CNET News via TechRepublic)

Inadequate, insufficient and insulting

The Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers suffered another setback on Wednesday when the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked her to resubmit parts of her judicial questionnaire, saying various members had found her responses "inadequate," "insufficient" and "insulting."

Miers Is Asked To Redo Replies to Questions (New York Times, October 20, 2005)
You know, this is quite remarkable. The Miers nomination has managed to piss off social/religious conservatives, intellectual/ideological conservatives, most Democrats, and the pro-choice activists, all at the same time. Truly a remarkable achievement in American politics. Is there anyone other than Dubya and Hugh Hewitt still supporting her?

I have searched in vain for an online casino accepting proposition bets on whether Miers will withdraw her nomination, and when.

Right about now, I'd like to put $100 on Aunt Harriet pulling out before the start of the confirmation hearings on Monday, 7 November. (Ladbroke's would take a bet like this in a hot second, but, sadly, they don't open accounts for Americans over the Web. Must remember to pop into the betting shop and set one up next time I'm in London.)

19 October 2005

Reasons I love Metafilter...

There's a lot of noise on Metafilter, but there are real gems in the rough.

Like this answer in an Ask Metafilter thread, in which MeFi's resident board-certified neurologist explains just what's happening when the hero in an action movie "takes out" a bad guy with a blow to the back of the head:
It works!

The thing that is happening is cerebral concussion. The sharp blow causes the skull to move rather quickly: the neck anteroflexing and anteriorly-subluxing somewhat for a total overall forward motion. The brain, being a squishy jello brain tightly fit inside a rigid bony jello mold, lags behind owing to inertia. In lagging, it gets squashed, first against the occiput; rebounds and begins to travel forward; and, then, when the skull decelerates at the end of its travel, it gets squashed against the frontal bone...
I love this stuff. Excellent example of medical writing for a general audience, by the way.

Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems - The Register

Encouraging signs from the Wikipedia project, where co-founder and überpedian Jimmy Wales has acknowledged there are real quality problems with the online work.

Criticism of the project from within the inner sanctum has been very rare so far, although fellow co-founder Larry Sanger, who is no longer associated with the project, pleaded with the management to improve its content by befriending, and not alienating, established sources of expertise. (i.e., people who know what they're talking about.)

Meanwhile, criticism from outside the Wikipedia camp has been rebuffed with a ferocious blend of irrationality and vigor that's almost unprecedented in our experience: if you thought Apple, Amiga, Mozilla or OS/2 fans were er, ... passionate, you haven't met a wiki-fiddler. For them, it's a religious crusade.
A cautionary note that bears repeating - Wikipedia is fine as a starting point for investigating a topic that's new to you, but never ever rely on it as a sole (or even primary) source of information. This article contains a lot of needless snark (pointing out that the articles on "Ayn Rand" and "the Klingon language" are excellent, as if there isn't excellent coverage of non-geekly topics in Wikipedia as well) but it makes some very valid points.

Wikipedia founder admits to serious quality problems - The Register

Top 20 Search Engine Helpers - Lifehacker

Lifehacker brings us a very useful article called "Top 20 Search Engine Helpers." Unlike many of these sorts of things, it isn't specific to one search engine (Google), but covers the all of the Big Four: Google, Yahoo, AskJeeves, and MSN Search.

I knew most of this stuff already; my Google-fu is strong. But here's a nifty trick I wasn't aware of, and I bet you might not know either - searching by date range:
12. Search within a specific date range: You can narrow you search to only a very specific window of time, i.e., you’re looking for Macromedia Dreamweaver information only between August and October 2005.

AskJeeves: macromedia dreamweaver betweendate:200508,200510

MSN: somewhat confusing to do; MSN has provided a Search Builder pull-down below the main search query box that allows you to stack your results from “updated very recently” to “static” (page hasn’t been updated in a while).

Yahoo: on the Yahoo Advanced page there is a drop-down menu titled “Updated.” You have four choices: search for content “anytime”, “within the past three months”, “within the past six months”, “within a year.”

Google: macromedia dreamweaver daterange:200508-200510
Bonus: There's a downloadable PDF Cheat Sheet containing all the tips.

Seek and Ye Shall Find: Top 20 Search Engine Helpers - Lifehacker

18 October 2005

WWJD (What Would Jakob Do?)

Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen weighs in on the Top 10 Weblog Design Mistakes.

Aside from the fact that my articles are way too long and the subject matter is all over the place, I think enrevanche comes out okay by these heuristics.

Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)


The CommonCensus Map Project is redrawing the map of the United States based on Internet users' voting, to show how the country is organized culturally, as opposed to traditional political boundaries. It shows how the country is divided into 'spheres of influence' between different cities at the national, regional, and local levels.

This information will finally settle the question over where disputed cultural boundaries lie (like between New York City and Upstate New York), contribute to the national debate over Congressional redistricting, and educate people everywhere as to the true layout of the American people that they've never seen on any map before.

Participation takes just 12 clicks. Take a look and participate at: http://www.commoncensus.org
Initial CommonCensus Map effort (after 8000 votes)

I wonder if the CommonCensus people would be open to the idea of sharing their code.

I would *love* to create a "barbecue spheres of influence" demographic and psychographic map of the lower 48, or perhaps a very detailed map of the Southeastern United States. (See post below.) This would finally settle the question over where disputed gastronomic and cultural boundaries lie (like between Western, Lexington, and Eastern-style Carolina barbecue, not to mention the South Carolina abomination with the mustard-based sauce)

17 October 2005

Take a ride down the barbecue highway

The (Raleigh, NC) News and Observer ran a wonderful article over the weekend: "Barbecue highway," by Fred Thompson, takes us from Western North Carolina to Eastern, and samples a baker's dozen of the best barbecue joints in the state (which means, the best in the world.)

I've eaten at about half of these places over the years, and Mr. Thompson's taste is impeccable. Here's his entry for the transcendent Allen and Son on Highway 86 just outside Chapel Hill:
Allen and Son, Orange County

Turning west along I-40, approaching that invisible line somewhere between Burlington and Greensboro and separates Eastern from Lexington-style, we find Allen and Son on N.C. 86 between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough.

Allen and Son seems lost in time. Here, an artisanal approach to barbecue takes place. The hickory wood is split with ax and maul, the charcoal made from those logs added at the perfect time. The barbecue is hand- chopped with its dark, deep golden brown outside meat mixed in to perfect proportions. Keith Allen likes it this way. Pure, simple. Even after exposure in Bon Appetit Magazine, little has changed, and the barbecue is first-rate. While his sauce is more Eastern style, his methods have a Piedmont take. With Lexington- style red slaw his 'cue could be perfect.
Barbecue highway (News and Observer, Oct. 16, 2005)

Oh, snap!

From this week's New Yorker, here's the Contributors Page cartoon:

Any caption of mine would be superfluous.

I want to party with *this* guy

Must-read Op-Ed in today's Los Angeles Times:
Sometimes people in law enforcement will hear it whispered that I'm a former cop who favors decriminalization of marijuana laws, and they'll approach me the way they might a traitor or snitch. So let me set the record straight.

Yes, I was a cop for 34 years, the last six of which I spent as chief of Seattle's police department.

But no, I don't favor decriminalization. I favor legalization, and not just of pot but of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth, psychotropics, mushrooms and LSD.
Okay, my flippant half-awake headline aside, Norm Stamper, the author of this op-ed piece, has some very good points to make, from the point of view of a man who has spent his life in the trenches trying to enforce the drug laws.

For instance:
It's not a stretch to conclude that our draconian approach to drug use is the most injurious domestic policy since slavery. Want to cut back on prison overcrowding and save a bundle on the construction of new facilities? Open the doors, let the nonviolent drug offenders go. The huge increases in federal and state prison populations during the 1980s and '90s (from 139 per 100,000 residents in 1980 to 482 per 100,000 in 2003) were mainly for drug convictions. In 1980, 580,900 Americans were arrested on drug charges. By 2003, that figure had ballooned to 1,678,200. We're making more arrests for drug offenses than for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape and aggravated assault combined. Feel safer?
LA Times Op-Ed: "Let those dopers be" (October 17, 2005)

Hat tip: Hit and Run (Reason magazine)

16 October 2005

Carnival of the Cats #82...

...is now up, over at Where the Dolphins Play.

Meet the Life Hackers - New York Times Magazine (October 16, 2005)

Lots of people complain that office multitasking drives them nuts. But Mark is a scientist of "human-computer interactions" who studies how high-tech devices affect our behavior, so she was able to do more than complain: she set out to measure precisely how nuts we've all become. Beginning in 2004, she persuaded two West Coast high-tech firms to let her study their cubicle dwellers as they surfed the chaos of modern office life. One of her grad students, Victor Gonzalez, sat looking over the shoulder of various employees all day long, for a total of more than 1,000 hours. He noted how many times the employees were interrupted and how long each employee was able to work on any individual task.

When Mark crunched the data, a picture of 21st-century office work emerged that was, she says, "far worse than I could ever have imagined." Each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted and whisked off to do something else. What's more, each 11-minute project was itself fragmented into even shorter three-minute tasks, like answering e-mail messages, reading a Web page or working on a spreadsheet. And each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take, on average, 25 minutes to return to that task. To perform an office job today, it seems, your attention must skip like a stone across water all day long, touching down only periodically.
Meet the Life Hackers - New York Times Magazine (October 16, 2005)

Hat tip: Kottke.

Seven things

A tip of the enrevanche chapeau to Kimberly at Music and Cats, from whom this meme is lifted.

Seven things I plan to do before I die:
  1. Take a trip to Antarctica with Carrie.
  2. Raise another couple generations (at least) of Chow Chows, and maintain at least one cat on domestic staff at all times.
  3. Write a book worth reading.
  4. Finally learn a little something about wine.
  5. Read the unabridged version of "Remembrance of Things Past."
  6. And at least try one more time to make it all the way through "Finnegans Wake," dammit.
  7. Get a copy of every recording Ella Fitzgerald ever made.
Seven things I can do:
  1. Cook (except see #3 under "things I can't do," below.)
  2. Write.
  3. Sing.
  4. Gas on endlessly about things I really don't know much about. (The word "gas" is used advisedly... my discourse expands to fill all available volume.)
  5. Listen attentively to someone describing a personal problem, and at least two times out of three determine accurately whether they want advice, sympathy, both, or neither.
  6. Listen attentively to someone describing a business or design problem, and help them figure a way out of it.
  7. Hear the backbeat... that is, snap my fingers, tap my feet, or clap my hands appreciatively on the "correct" beats (that would be 2 and 4 in 4/4 time) when listening to jazz, live or recorded.
Seven things I cannot do:
  1. Fold a freshly laundered men's dress shirt. Bright, patient people have tried to teach me this. It's hopeless.
  2. Dance in a way that does not resemble a vertical grand mal seizure.
  3. Make Indian Pudding that sets properly.
  4. Speak any language fluently other than English, to my shame.
  5. Reliably know when to quit.
  6. Reliably know when to butt out.
  7. Closely related to numbers 5 and 6: Keep my foot out of my mouth. To paraphrase the great New Yorker writer Joe Mitchell: When I enter a room, if there's something that absolutely should not be said to someone in that room, I always say it; I never miss.
Seven things that attract me to the opposite sex:
  1. Intelligence
  2. Wit
  3. Highly developed sense of the absurd
  4. Willingness to indulge one's appetites (take that however you want)
  5. Sense of adventure
  6. Sound notion of fair play
  7. A nice smile
Seven things that I say most often:
  1. "I love you."
  2. "Aw, who's the (buddy/good girl/good boy/good Chow/good kitty)?"
  3. (expletive deleted) (hey, I'm a New Yorker.)
  4. "Coffee. Must have more coffee."
  5. (in imitation of C. Montgomery Burns, while tenting fingers): "Excellent."
  6. "Um, are you sure about that?"
  7. "Don't get me started."
Seven celebrity crushes (in alphabetical order)
  1. Anne Bancroft
  2. Anne Parillaud
  3. Audrey Hepburn
  4. Bridget Fonda
  5. Christiane Amanpour
  6. Molly Ringwald (John Hughes era only, no offense, Molly; "Pump Up The Volume"-era Samantha Mathis will be an acceptable substitute.)
  7. Queen Latifah
Note: While looking up those links, I was amused to realize that Anne Parillaud and Bridget Fonda both played the same female assassin character in two versions of the same movie, Luc Besson's exquisite "La Femme Nikita" (sadly inferior US version: "Point of No Return.") And Queen Latifah is certainly a lyrical assassin. Looking at that list, I seem to have a bad thing for smart, tough women. No surprises there.

15 October 2005

Review: "Take Control of Your Wi-Fi Security" (E-book)

Look, let's face it: Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) security is a godawful mess.

It's incredibly confusing, and yet at the same time it's terribly important. You've got a little radio transmitter and receiver in your laptop (that's what wireless is, after all) and unless you secure it, every time you make a wireless connection you are broadcasting all of your private data in the clear to anyone within range.

(And, psst! Anyone who can use Google can find freely available programs that will help them eavesdrop on you.)

Don't believe me? Here, just go read the official security statement from the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group.

And consider that WEP, the kind of security that most of the people with "secured" home networks are currently using has become such a complete joke that the Wi-Fi Alliance is too sheepish to even mention it on their site. In fact, their attorneys have probably advised them against it.

Like a lot of you, I guess, I am the designated System Administrator for my network of friends and my extended family. I'm the guy they call when the computer eats their homework, or they get infected with spyware from surfing porn sites ("I have no idea how this happened!") or iTunes suddenly stops working on them.

I achieved this honor by having worked in the computer industry for the last 20 years and being a general propellerhead, but I have never made my living in the realm of PC security technology.

I have managed to secure my home wireless network pretty well, using the much stronger WPA standard; when I take my corporate laptop on the road with me, the IT staff of the big multinational consulting firm that sends me regular paychecks has thoughtfully provided me with Virtual Private Network (VPN) software and a SafeWord card that allows me to log in securely from almost anywhere, whether it's a wired connection in a hotel room or a wireless connection in a random airport somewhere.

So until recently, I haven't spent too much time worrying about wireless security. I've either been able to handle it on my own, or I've had some very smart and well-educated security folks handling it for me.

Then my wife and I bought a new "family" laptop with built-in wireless.

And we started using it occasionally from public access points, like coffee shops, or branches of the New York City Public Library.

I've been realizing, in the back of my mind, that I ought to do something about securing our new wireless laptop. I can't use the corporate VPN, for obvious reasons.

What I really needed, I figured, was some kind of *personal* VPN service that we could subscribe to... a service that, for a few bucks a month, would let us create a secure connection (that couldn't be eavesdropped on) from anywhere we happened to be.

In the course of searching out information on such a service, I stumbled upon something simply wonderful.

It's a $10 electronic book (e-book) called "Take Control of Your Wi-Fi Security." And if you're at all concerned with the issue, it'll be the best $10 you've spent in a long long time.

The authors, two guys with enormous geek credibility (one is the editor of the consensus-best Wi-Fi news and info website, the other has been writing and editing the Macintosh tech newsletter TidBITS since 1990), take the confusing tangle of Wi-Fi security issues and break it down for you in plain language.

The book is a marvel of excellent technical writing for a general audience, and I say this as a technical writer of some 20 years experience. It is completely current and up-to-date as of this writing (published exactly one month ago today: September 15, 2005) and packs a ton of information into a brief (115-page PDF) package; it's full of links to resources on the Web, too, and every link I've tried works: click it in Adobe Reader, and your browser goes right to the site.

(The links alone are worth $10; compared to what you'd have to pay at the local bookstore for an already outdated print copy of Teach Yourself To Be A Wireless Dummy in 15 Days, the e-book is an incredible bargain.)

Look, there are plenty of good, free Wi-Fi information sites on the Web. I'm going to list some of them at the bottom of this post, in case you're too cheap to shell out $10 to a couple of guys who have done all the skull-sweat for you.

And you can Google around and discover that there are, indeed, private VPN services like the ones I was describing above. Your choices include:
  • PublicVPN - Works on Windows (Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP), Mac OS X (10.2 or later) $5.95 per month, $59.95 per year

  • HotSpotVPN - Ranges from $8.88/mo. to $13.88/mo, depending on encryption strength; multiply by 10 to get annual cost. (Has a day or week-priced option for infrequent travellers.)

  • WiTopia personal VPN (Windows XP) - Regularly:$79.00; currently priced at $39.50
All well and good.

But it took me over an hour to sort all of that out, my friends. (I signed up for a couple months of PublicVPN service and am currently testing it out; if it works out, I will point all the users in my "support community" to it.)

And then when I stumbled on the book, I saw... grrrrrr!... that the authors had already figured this out for me!

wifi security
Oh, the time I could have saved myself.

Okay, here are the free resources I mentioned. But go buy that book, really.
DISCLAIMER: Although I must sound like the worst corporate shill ever, I discovered "Take Control of Your Wi-Fi Security" on my own, bought it with my own money, have never met either of the authors and have no business relationship (or any relationship whatsoever) with them.

Odd search strings in the site logs

If you've ever run a blog or a web site of your own, you know that you can glean a lot of information by reading and analyzing your site logs:
  • Where your visitors are physically located.

    Unsurprisingly, the US, UK and Canada combined account for close to 80% of our traffic, but we get visitors from all over. The current top ten, in order: US, UK, Spain, Canada, Brazil, Peru, Portugal, Chile, Mexico and Singapore. (Hi, Fiona!)

  • Which sites are sending you the most visitors.

    Right now, The Modulator, Chapomatic, and Bill in Exile are sending the most new visitors our way... thanks, guys!

  • For visitors who find you through search engines like Google or Yahoo, the searches they ran that brought them to your site.
And therein lies our tale.

Lately, I have seen some very amusing and occasionally puzzling search strings.

For instance, we have a number of visitors from the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking parts of the world who find us by doing an image search for "gatos." Yep... if you're on the Iberian peninsula or anywhere in Latin America and you've gone looking for cat pictures recently, chances are you've met Mister Gato.

I have learned that there are a bunch of you out there who have no idea how to light a pilot light, and you ask Google, or MSN, or Yahoo about it (and find this post, which I doubt is all that helpful.)

I now know that many of you have problems with your Westell Versalink 327W DSL router/modems. Sigh. Me, too.

But every now and then I run across one that's completely inexplicable.

One of the interesting things about being an "eclectic blogger" (meaning that I write about whatever the hell I feel like on any given day) is that over time, your archives accumulate some unusual combinations of words.

And so it was, just the other day, that some Rhodes Scholar, some miscreant from the shallow end of the gene pool, surfed in to enrevanche after entering this search string into Yahoo:
"Using IAMS dog food for cooking meth."
Words fail me.

Rah, rah! Go, you fighting....Biscuits?!

enrevanche reader, fellow-blogger, spouse and general partner in crime Carrie calls our attention to a minor-league baseball team with a really tasty mascot.

Meet the Montgomery (Alabama) Biscuits, a AA farm team for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Oh, man. I gotta get me a T-shirt and a ball cap, right now.

biscuits shirt
It'll go so well with my Albuquerque Isotopes gear.

I don't know if you can make it out in the picture, but the Biscuit mascot has a little pat of butter for a tongue.


The Montgomery Biscuits (AA Southern League)

(Note to my non-US readers: what you probably think of as a "biscuit," we call a "cracker" or a "cookie" over here. In Southern American English, a "biscuit" is "a small quick bread made from dough that has been rolled out and cut or dropped from a spoon." It is a staple breakfast food item, especially when slathered with butter and jam, or filled with sausage or country ham. I have God's Own Recipe for rolled buttermilk biscuits, if anybody wants it.)

14 October 2005

A.J. Jacobs, Esquire Magazine: My Outsourced Life

Esquire writer A.J. Jacobs outsources the grottier parts of his reporting job, like, you know, researching articles before writing them, to India. And then he completely loses his mind and starts outsourcing tasks like his weekly telephone call to his parents, and apologetic notes to his wife...


Honey has completed her first project for me: research on the person Esquire has chosen as the Sexiest Woman Alive. (See page 232.) I've been assigned to write a profile of this woman, and I really don't want to have to slog through all the heavy-breathing fan Web sites about her. When I open Honey's file, I have this reaction: America is fucked. There are charts. There are section headers. There is a well-organized breakdown of her pets, measurements, and favorite foods (e.g., swordfish). If all Bangalorians are like Honey, I pity Americans about to graduate college. They're up against a hungry, polite, Excel-proficient Indian army. Put it this way: Honey ends her emails with 'Right time for right action, starts now!' Your average American assistant believes the 'right time for right action' starts after a Starbucks venti latte and a discussion of last night's Amazing Race 8.
Smartmoney.com: Esquire Magazine: My Outsourced Life

Remember The Milk

Remember The Milk is a very full-featured web-based tracking system for your business and personal To-Do lists.

Plan ahead, assign and track due dates, share and publish your lists... and reminders, they've got reminders: by e-mail, by Instant Message (AIM, GoogleTalk, ICQ and MSN) and by SMS text to your cellphone.

This is a really nice piece of work. I'm more or less married to the Outlook Tasks on PC/Pocket Informant on Windows Mobile combination for to-do-list management, but this web-based system is slick enough to make me give it a second, and even third, look. I've signed up for a (free) account and plan to test it out.

Remember The Milk - Learn More

nedwolf - Best Free Web Applications

They're free, and they run in any web browser! Check out nedwolf's short list of the Best Free Web Applications, just updated this week.

13 October 2005

Smug Kitty

Smug Kitty
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
Friend Scott, former NYC neighbor and now Seattle resident and proprietor of the entertainingly filthy and incredibly not-safe-for-work blog Bill In Exile, writes us to ask:
Is there a reason that Mr. Gato always seems so self-satisfied when you photograph him? He's positively the G.W. Bush of smug facial expressions of the feline world.
Scott, thanks for writing in.

You're quite right, Mister G. does have a certain ineffable smugness about him.

(That's *all* that he has in common with Dubya, though... as nice a man as our veterinarian is, Mister Gato would never, say, nominate him to the Supreme Court on the basis of proximity and friendship. I'm betting Gato would look for a strict constructionist, or possibly a Law and Economics guy like Posner.)

I have thought long and hard about why this is... my cat's smugness, I mean, and not his preference for libertarian-conservative intellectual judges.

I think I know.

Like many NYC media figures, Mister Gato came up on the mean streets of the City... when the animal rescue folks finally managed to snare him, he had been living on the street in Brooklyn for his entire life.

He was pure sinew and scar tissue when we got him, and over the last year and a half has morphed into a fat, sleek, purring engine of absolute contentment. He knows that he has only to twitch a whisker, and we will rush to fill his dish with fishy nuggets, or pet him or scratch him or play with him or whatever the hell else he might want. The Chows are completely subservient to him as well.

So that look on his face? It's the same one Mike Tyson wore for a while.

He's looking out at the world and thinking, "You're all my bitches. Heh."

All best,


Thrillist fires a blank

The ordinarily perspicacious Thrillist.com misses badly today by recommending the Circle Line's "Bear Mountain Oktoberfest" cruise.

It sounds perfectly grand. You take a boat from a midtown Hudson River pier, ride up the river a few hours to Bear Mountain State Park, walk around, admire the changing leaves, go drink some beer and eat some food and dance to some oompah music, and then ride the boat home.

DON'T DO IT. Danger, Will Robinson.

Carrie and I got suckered into this deal last year. Autumn leaves! Beer! Outdoor dining! Three of our most favorite things ever.

We signed up and paid the high ticket prices happily, bucolic visions of dunkelsbier and fall colors dancing in our heads.

OK, there's a few things wrong with this rosy picture. Ready?

First, everybody and his brother and his brother's dog thought this was a good idea. The boat is small, ridiculously overcrowded, slow, and stinky.

Got it?

Second, once you actually *get* to Bear Mountain, which is lovely at other times of year, you'll find that "Oktoberfest" involves long lines for mediocre food and worse beer, with incredibly craptastic "music" playing in the background. Which you have to climb a steep incline and take a long walk to get to. (Some of the more geriatric folks in our party looked as if they might be in imminent danger of a coronary, and I must admit that I was breathing pretty hard myself.)

Thankfully, Carrie and I had packed a small picnic lunch as a backup (Faicco's cold cuts, fresh fruit and cheese) which took the curse off of the poor offerings at the "festival." But as soon as we were off that damned boat, did some deep-breathing exercises to calm down and got to a place where we could raise a faint cell-phone signal, we found out where the nearest Metro North station was, arranged emergency taxi evacuation from the Bear Mountain Lodge to said railroad stop, and drank several stiff ones in the tavern by the station as we waited for the train that would carry us home to Manhattan.

On the way back down to our own little Island of Misfit Toys (the tracks run parallel to the river) we passed Old Stinkpot, the Circle Line boat, on its way home.


You've been warned.

4,000 year old lo mein

Archeologists have discovered the remains of the oldest noodles known to mankind. They were made with millet, not wheat, and they're at least four thousand years old. This may settle once and for all the question, "who invented pasta?"

Read on: BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Oldest noodles unearthed in China

This still leaves a very important question unanswered, however.

According to the Jewish calendar, this is the year 5766. According to the way that the Chinese count time, it is the 22nd year in the 78th 60-year cycle, or the year 4693.

So, for 1073 years... what did all of those Jews do without Chinese food?

No wonder they were wandering in the desert. They were looking for takeout!

(We wish all of our Jewish friends and neighbors a serene and peaceful fast and a blessed Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, today.)

A lovely lede

Ledes like this are one of the biggest reasons I enjoy The Economist every single week:
Half of all Americans either don't know or don't believe that living creatures evolved. And now a Pennsylvania school board is trying to keep its pupils ignorant. It is the kind of story about America that makes secular Europeans chortle smugly before turning to the horoscope page...
Ouch. That's gonna leave a mark.

Right after that off-handed pimp-slap, the Economist's American correspondent goes on to deliver a well-reasoned, thorough analysis of the Intelligent Design movement and the implications of the Pennsylvania trial, dubbed "Scopes 2005" by some.

Evolution and intelligent design | Life is a cup of tea | Economist.com

12 October 2005

Look who's blogging now

My lovely and talented wife, over at the brand-new blog Pencil Roving.

Carrie is a much better writer than I am, and I've been after her to do this, like, forever now. (What's that blog name all about? She explains.)

Her blog promises to be eclectic and fun, particularly if you're into travel, pop culture, or knitting. And we'll be dividing up the catblogging duties, so, Mister Gato fans, you're going to have a new destination to check out occasionally...

Indian outsourcing profits soar

BANGALORE, India, Oct. 11 - India's two largest outsourcing companies, Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys Technologies, announced healthy growth in quarterly profits on Tuesday, indicating that Western corporations continued to vigorously outsource technology and back office operations.

India's $17.2 billion outsourcing industry is flourishing as companies hire skilled yet inexpensive English-speaking programmers and call center workers to carry out technology projects and provide customer support for their American and European clients.
Western Outsourcing Lifts Profits at Two Indian Companies - New York Times

All hail King Mike!

JERILDERIE, Australia (AFP) - If Australian forklift operator Mike Hastings is, as genealogists contend, the rightful heir to the British throne, then he really needs to brush up on his tea-making skills.


"I reckon I might send Lizzie (Queen Elizabeth II) a bill for back rent, the old girl's family have been living in my bloody castle for the last 500 years" [Hastings said.]

The documentary's historian Michael Jones found documents in Rouen Cathedral he believes show that Edward IV, who ruled from 1461 to 1483, was illegitimate because when he was conceived his parents were 200 kilometres (124 miles) apart.

Edward's "father" Richard of York was fighting the French at Pontoise, while his mother Cecily was five days' march away at Rouen, allegedly enjoying the attentions of an archer, according to Jones' research.

If true, the claim means the crown should have passed on to Richard's second son George, Hastings' direct ancestor.
That's a beautiful response. I love Australians. Just heed my advice, and don't ever try to outdrink one... I wound up with a tattoo that way (long story.)

(Incidentally, Hastings is originally from England, and in fact is the 14th Earl of Loudoun; he emigrated to Australia in 1960, and clearly he has taken to the place.)

HRH Mike, the man who should be king, prefers Aussie bush to Buck Palace (Agence France Press via Yahoo! News)

The Daily WTF

This is great stuff, in a deeply geeky sort of way: new enrevanche reader John V. points us to The Daily WTF, a site that highlights truly heinous code examples, interface excrescences, and other techno-embarrassments that are guaranteed to produce a WTF? reaction in those of us with experience toiling in the IT vineyards.

Most of the posts involve actual code examples, and may be hard to follow if you've never done any programming; some of them, however, will generate a WTF? reaction in just about anyone.

See, e.g.:
BRUSSELS - The Dexia Bank ATM machines are experiencing a curious problem. The machines stop functioning when someone enters the number 7, making it impossible for people with a 7 in their pin (personal identification number) code to perform a cash withdrawal.

The Daily WTF: Curious Perversions in Information Technology

G.O.P. Aides Add Voices to Resistance Over Nominee - New York Times

If this report is accurate, the Miers nomination is in even bigger trouble than I thought:
As the White House seeks to rally senators behind the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers, lawyers for the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee are expressing dissatisfaction with the choice and pushing back against her, aides to 6 of the 10 Republican committee members said yesterday.

"Everybody is hoping that something will happen on Miers, either that the president would withdraw her or she would realize she is not up to it and pull out while she has some dignity intact," a lawyer to a Republican committee member said.

That dignity thing? Too late already, probably.

G.O.P. Aides Add Voices to Resistance Over Nominee - New York Times

Oh my God! You killed Sully! (You bastards!)

Looks like Andrew Sullivan's blog is temporarily off-line (as of 7 AM EDT this morning):

you bastards you killed sully
You killed Sully! You bastards!

Sadly, the Geocities-hosted image in the middle isn't displaying.

Oh, Andy. You're pwned!

Any bets on what the ASFAS level will be later today?

11 October 2005

Happy 60th Birthday, IBM Research!

You brought us everything from DRAM to the relational database, and some cool stuff like fractals besides.

And now, hey, you get the senior citizen discount on coffee at Dunkin' Donuts! (The AARP invite is in the mail.)
Originally housed in a renovated fraternity house at Columbia University, the then-named Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory has become one of the pre-eminent technological research centers in the world--and it has given IBM an edge over competitors in many fields.

Five IBM employees have won Nobel Prizes for, among other achievements, the discovery of electron tunneling and the invention of a microscope that captures images of individual atoms. Add to that seven National Medals of Technology, five National Medals of Science and four A.M. Turing Awards.
IBM Research turns 60 (TechRepublic/CNET News)

Karl Rove's Ringside Boasts

In which Turd Blossom/Boy Genius channels for The Greatest Of All Time:
I done wrassled with an atheist, I done tussled with McCain, handcuffed abortion, sabotaged your campaign. Only last week I murdered the environment, injured the U.N., hospitalized the liberal machine—I’m so low I make Nixon look clean.
Yankee Pot Roast: Karl Rove's Ringside Boasts (Michael Rottman, October 10, 2005)

Who is JT LeRoy? (New York magazine, Oct 17 2005)

Editor Ian Philips of Suspect Thoughts Press says, “Every time I’m alone with another San Francisco publisher, editor, author, reviewer, bookseller, I get asked one of three questions: Who does your distribution? What do you think of Dave Eggers? And who writes as JT LeRoy really? And no matter which question we start with, we always end up on the third—and the conspiracy theories fly.”
Who is JT LeRoy? The True Identity of a Great Literary Hustler - New York magazine, October 17, 2005

09 October 2005

Google Reader

Google Reader is the new RSS reader from Google.


And may I just say, it is plenty spiffy. Those guys do "web interface" better than anybody. Simple, clean, and fast.

Famous in France

The Knowledge Worker Free/Open-Source Toolbox is starting to get noticed.

Here, a kindred spirit in France notes the availability of the resource for her readers:
Barry Campbell nous propose une liste régulièrement actualisée des logiciels Open Source qui sont particulièrement utiles aux « knowledge worker » -travailleur de la connaissance -
Despite my snazzy blog-name, I only speak survival-level, heavily accented "menu French," but I am reasonably certain that Sylvie's post means something close to:

"Barry Campbell offers us a regularly updated list of Open Source software that is particularly useful for a 'knowledge worker' - a person who works with knowledge."

Sylvie, I'm glad that you found it useful!

Um... "Je suis heureux vous l'ai trouvé utile." Or something close to that.

08 October 2005

The French Terror Alert System

Color-coding the French response to terror.

(From ¡No Pasarán!)

Hat tip: Chap.

A street named "Ed"

I'm getting ready to fly back to New York City tomorrow morning, having spent the week working from Raleigh and hovering anxiously over my parents.

Mom, bunking temporarily at a Skilled Care Facility (nursing home), is doing well with physical therapy, and may be back home as early as next month; Dad, under Hospice care at home, is resting comfortably for the most part.

As I pack my bags, I thought that I would list, in no particular order, a few things I particularly enjoy about Raleigh, North Carolina:
  • Barbecue. There is just an embarrassment of riches here in Piedmont North Carolina in terms of places to get great pork barbecue. If there's no time to drive to Chapel Hill for Allen and Son's pig, which gets my vote for "best barbecue on the planet," we usually go to Don Murray's or to Clyde Cooper's in Raleigh. On this trip an old friend convinced me to drive all the way to the tiny town of Creedmoor, North Carolina to try a place called Bob's. (The satellite view appears to include a big cloud of hickory smoke.)

    And it was mighty fine.

  • Bumper stickers. In my NYC neighborhood, the bumper stickers have a certain earnest, humorless sameness about them; they say things like "Hate is not a family value," or "Visualize world peace," or "Don't blame me, I voted for [name of most recent Democratic loser]" -- the poor folks in this last group have to change their sticker every four years, I guess.

    Here in Raleigh, I saw several bumper stickers that I wanted to buy immediately, even though I don't own a car. One, a neat riff on the "it's not worth robbing me" genre of signs affixed to pizza delivery vehicles, read: "Warning: Driver carries only $20.00 worth of ammunition." Yet another: "PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals."

    But probably my favorite of the bunch: "Stop repeat offenders: don't re-elect them."

  • Street names. They run the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime.

    In one of the more pretentious new subdivisions, I actually spotted a street that was not a street, a drive, a circle, or a road... it was, brace yourself, a "Wynd." I shit you not. And it wasn't the only "Wynd" in the vicinity, either. (In case you're wondering, and I had to look it up, a "wynd" is a Scots word for a narrow lane connecting two main roads. Any Scotsman faced with a "Wynd" in a Raleigh McMansion subdivision would undoubtedly piss himself laughing, however.)

    Contrast this with the homely and comfortably named street that I drove past on my way to visit Mom in the nursing home. As I cruised down Blue Ridge Road, I saw the sign, right there...Ed Drive.

    The beauty part is that "Ed Drive" is only a stone's throw from that ridiculous tangle of Wynds.

Diabetes Mine - a blog about diabetes

Special note to my blood-glucose-measuring, A1c-obsessing, pill-popping, insulin-shooting, carb-counting, dieting-and-exercising, hoping-to-stave-off-dialysis-as-long-as-possible fellow diabetics:

Amy Tenderich's "Diabetes Mine" blog is a must-read.

A recent post about the "nation of Diabetica" will give you a feel for Amy's style:
Last night my husband said: "There are more diabetics in this country than there are people in The Netherlands." Now this may not mean that much to you, but we lived in that country for nearly three years. My second child was born there. And I'm picturing all of the 16.5 million bike-riding, cheese-eating masses pressing buttons on their insulin pumps and priming their pen needles, toting monitors and counting carbs.

No, really. Imagine, an ENTIRE COUNTRY of us. Mind-blowing.

Even more mind-blowing is the Economic Force this represents. If roughly equivalent to The Netherlands, "Diabetica" would be:

- the 61st most populous country in the world
- with a labor force of 7.53 Million
- and GDP of $482 Billion
- with nearly 2 Million people over the age of 65
- nearly 9 Million Internet users
- reading over 300 newspapers
-- AND: the 20th most affluent country in the world, with a per capita income of $29,500
I've added it to the blogroll, and if you're at all interested in the topic, you'll enjoy reading it regularly, as I do.

Diabetes Mine - a blog about diabetes

Chapomatic: Prine vs. Yon

Some interesting MSM v. Blogs kerfuffle over at Chapomatic, in the text and comments of these two posts:
My take on the situation is more or less as follows:

Prine is a fine journalist, and writes good stuff that (a) I'd be proud to write and (b) enjoy reading, now that it has been called to my attention.

Yon is an excellent blogger who is offering a valuable perspective from Iraq that no one else, MSM or otherwise, is currently offering, and I not only look forward to each dispatch, I have supported him financially in the past and intend to do so in the future.

Despite Prine's skills and journalistic "credibility," he does not get what Yon is trying to do over there, and his criticisms betray a fundamental misunderstanding of what weblogging is and how it works. Prine seems to be arguing that there is one absolute standard for what good writing and reporting should look like, and that's nonsense.

I give Prine points for both grace and courage, however. Courage, in that he has answered a call from the Pennsylvania National Guard and is headed for Iraq himself in the coming months; grace, in that he came immediately to eloquently defend himself in the comments over at Chap's blog.

I *really* look forward to seeing Yon's response, if such is forthcoming.