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

31 January 2006

Morning in Vauxhall

Sort of a grey morning in Vauxhall, the area on the Thames River's south bank where I'm staying. The main selling point of this hotel is that it's walking distance from the office complex where I'm taking a training course; other than that, it doesn't have much to recommend it, except that it's a short Tube ride (10-15 minutes tops) to central London.

This is almost exactly like going to New York City but getting a hotel room in Jersey City across the river... right down to the light industrial/residential rehab building mix and the Portuguese restaurants in the neighborhood.

Putting in some long hours at work, but we're still managing to have a bit of fun. Looking forward to seeing some old friends tonight.

More soon.

30 January 2006

Hello from an Internet Cafe in London

Hello from an Internet cafe in London. I arrived safe and sound (though a bit late.) Am in a reasonably nice hotel, but incredibly, it doesn't have in-room Internet access of any sort, and at work, I'm behind a firewall and proxy server that stubbornly refuses to recognize my credentials.

But I'm fine, having a good time, drinking some good beer and enjoying myself thoroughly in the margins around the rather long hours I'm putting in at the office.

More soon, I fervently hope.


28 January 2006

Gung hay fat choy!

Happy Chinese New Year! It's actually tomorrow, but as I'll be on a plane, I thought I'd better get my greetings in early.

The New Year is going to be the Year of the Dog.

Hell, it's *always* the year of the Dog around here:

Year of the Red Chow
Year of Chow Bella

Year of the Yellow Chow
Year of Chow Fun

Warning: Lumpy blogging ahead

Blogging will be light for the next day or two and likely "lumpy" afterwards; my usual posting schedule (before and after working hours, East Coast time) will be way off, as I'm heading to London for a week on a business trip, and Internet access (and time to write) will have to adjust to that new schedule.

Although I'm going to be kept pretty busy with work, I'm really looking forward to visiting some old friends (Carrie and I both have childhood friends now living and working in London) and drinking some real ale. Hopefully I'll also manage a trip to Brick Lane for a cheap, fiery curry or two while I'm in town... London has it all over New York when it comes to Indian food.

Expect some travelogue blogging from Blighty in a day or two.

A letter to Joe Bageant

Hey, Joe.

A friend forwarded your "Mutt People" essay to me, and it thoroughly kicked my ass. I believe it to be one of the three best things I have ever read about the land and culture of my birth (the two others being David Hackett Fischer's "Albion's Seed," at least the "borderlander" sections, and James Webb's "Born Fighting"; W.J. Cash and V.S. Naipaul, brilliant though they are, are a distant tie for fourth behind the three of y'all. Oh, and Tom Wolfe's Esquire profile of Junior Johnson definitely gets an honorable mention.)

Your sociology, if not your socialism, resonates deeply with me; I have forwarded the article (and your blog link) to quite a few of my friends, including a college buddy who now teaches high school history in a poor county in the NC mountains; I think it pretty much made his head explode. That's quite a cracker chain-lettter you seem to have spawned.

I am a Scots-Irish hillbilly mutt to the bone, though an overeducated one now living in the big city of New York, with a whip-smart liberal Jewish wife and a bunch of (mostly) limp-dicked left-wing intellectual types for friends and colleagues.

It was my *parents*, not me, who got out of the Western North Carolina textile mills and off the sharecropper's farm (Mama and Daddy, respectively) and got themselves an education. In addition to giving me a good Christian raising, they did their damnedest to make sure that I'd never have to do "honest work" of the kind they so determinedly escaped back in the day, and it's largely because of their determination and drive that I'm not an unemployed linthead in some tiny little town somewhere trying to keep my F-150 out of the hands of the repo man.

Though I soaked up white-trash culture with mother's milk (literally) it was a peculiar blend that involved an almost religious mania for education; after working their way through school with no help from anybody (not, as you cannily observe, that they'd have been likely to take it if offered) Mama taught school and Daddy became an engineer, and the house, crucially, was full of books and music in addition to the other necessities of life.

For me to as come as far as they did from their upbringing, I think I'd have to become President of the World Bank or discover cold fusion or something.


Education is the answer. Period, end of story. To quote that brilliant philosopher, George Clinton - "Free your mind and your ass will follow...the kingdom of heaven is within."

And I hate to say this, but given the prevailing class prejudices among the liberal elites, crackers are gonna have to save themselves; nobody else will do it for them. (If I want to play epater le bourgeois up here, all I need to do is talk about George Jones or NASCAR at a cocktail party; hell, one hint of a drawl escapes my mouth and the automatic assumption from most liberal New Yorkers is that I've got a set of Klan robes hanging in the closet at home, and that I can be found on Sunday mornings handling snakes and speaking in tongues.)

My suggestion, and you may not like this much, is that we try to vaccinate cracker kids with an authentic libertarian strain of conservatism to protect them from the trumped up, phony religious-right variety. Wild-eyed libertarianism--the full Jacksonian don't-fuck-with-me social-liberal, economic-conservative package--should appeal to the Scots-Irish in their very DNA (it hooked me at an early age) and if nothing else might serve to wean them away from the criminal mooks currently running the Republican Party.

Some of the libertarian-inoculated may go on to become full-blown liberals, which would make you (if not me) happy, but I suspect that quite a few of them, in any event, would be philosophically driven to educate and better themselves, which I think would please both of us no end.

Once we do that, of course, the trouble becomes - who the hell do we point them TOWARDS?

The crackers already know that the Democrats view them with contempt. Sooner or later, they are going to realize that the Republicans have been using them like cheap whores at a bachelor party for the last forty years or so... and I mightily fear what's going to happen when they do.

If your book tour brings you to New York City, let me buy you a drink.

All best,

Barry Campbell

27 January 2006

Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices...

I watched a few minutes of the Harvard v. Yale men's basketball game tonight with wife Carrie, a Harvard alumna.

And may I just say, after that experience, I have never been prouder to be a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Whoof. I half-expected one of those Ivy League fellas to try a two-handed set shot.

University of North Carolina Seal

Google in China

The news that Google has capitulated to the wishes of the Chinese Communist government and is censoring search results at the just-launched Google China (sources: BBC, Washington Post) isn't sitting too well with folks in the blogsophere (or the mainstream media, either.)

The Financial Times editorially harrumphs:
Google is not the first internet company to face the China dilemma, and it will not be the last. That does not make it any the less regrettable that a company whose motto is "Don't be evil" has chosen to abandon the principles of free speech and universally available information in order to gain access to a large market in a repressive state....

Internet searches via the Chinese website to be established by Google will be censored by the company itself. They will therefore exclude results on such sensitive topics as democratic reform, Taiwanese independence and the banned Falun Gong movement.

But I think that this picture, shamelessly yoinked from Sheepster Trippin' at b3ta.com, says it all:


Hat tip: Chap of Chapomatic.

26 January 2006

Bill in Exile, R.I.P.

So my buddy Scott, who writes the incredibly not-safe-for-work blog Bill in Exile, is hanging it up for a while:
For those readers who have followed what we have written here I would like to thank you for your support and your patience. I know that we’ve both been trying at times and your support for what we did here is deeply appreciated and I only hope that from time to time we were able to be as entertaining for you as we are for each other.
To paraphrase Douglas Adams... and yes, I stole this line from my beloved wife...

"So long, and thanks for all the fisting."

Mister Gato says Hi

Testing out new cellphone and headset tonight, calling Mom at the nursing home in Raleigh. (She's recuperating nicely from back surgery, up and around and doing physical therapy; although she's tired, she's doing fine.)

Because there's a new gadget in the house, with a dangly cord attached, Mister Gato, the Curious One, cannot resist investigating.

holding phone small
Please pay attention to me, not the cellphone.

Suddenly alarmed, Mom asks, "What in the world is that?"

gato says hi.small
Hi, Grandma!

"That's your grand-cat, Mom. Chewing on the microphone."

Visit the Friday Ark at The Modulator to check out more bloggers' pets from around the world--and be sure to visit the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted by Political Fred.

(Mark your calendars: we're hosting the Carnival of the Cats here on February 5.)

P.S. There's more Mister Gato over at Pencil Roving.

Frank Bruni: My Week as a Waiter

New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni spends a week waiting tables at the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and discovers that it's hard, unpleasant work:
I learned that for servers in a restaurant as busy as the East Coast Grill, waiting tables isn't a job. It's a back-straining, brain-addling, sanity-rattling siege.
My Week as a Waiter - New York Times

Of course, the truly essential take on Bruni's experiment will soon be found, I confidently predict, at The Bruni Digest. (TBD tipped us yesterday about the upcoming article.)

Thought for the Day: Goldwater on tyranny

"Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism."

-- Barry Goldwater, Acceptance Speech at the 1964 Republican Convention

Business 2.0: 2005's 101 Dumbest Moments in Business - February 1, 2006

Ah, it's that time of year again - time for Business 2.0's "101 Dumbest Moments in Business" list.

Some of my favorites from the past year:
  • The superheated real-estate market creates a new trend: the conversion of abandoned lunatic asylums in major urban areas into condominiums and apartments. (editor's note: This story just works on so many levels.)

  • Commodities brokerage Refco lasts a total of nine (nine!) weeks on the New York Stock Exchange before having to disclose that its CEO has hidden over $400 million in debt "off the books." (Refco filed for bankruptcy and has been delisted; the CEO may well be headed for the Big House.)

  • Confectioner Russell Stover runs into a little trouble with the Catholic Church over its new line of Easter candies: little chocolate crucifixes...

  • ChoicePoint -- the self-proclaimed "leading provider of identification and credential verification services" -- admits that it sold the personal data of 145,000 people to a number of unauthorized recipients, including an identity-theft ring in Los Angeles. ChoicePoint thoughtfully offers the victims a free credit report -- but still makes them pay to see the detailed information that was provided to the criminals...

  • The Iowa Pork Producers Association announces that it may retire a contest used to promote its product -- due to the lack of interest among young Iowa women in being designated "Pork Queen"...

  • Attempting to reformulate Alpha-Bits into a healthier cereal made with 75 percent whole grains and no sugar, Kraft Foods runs into "letter integrity" issues: The whole-oat flour yields an edible alphabet that's too chunky to read, while the elimination of the sugar coating causes the floating font to break apart more readily...

  • With the help of Latin pop sensation Thalia Sodi, Hershey introduces Cajeta Elegancita, a new candy bar for the Hispanic market. Though the wrapper features a picture of Sodi, apparently she neglects to fill her Yanqui partners in on a subtlety of Spanish: In Mexico, "cajeta" can be used to mean "nougat." Elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world, however, it's common slang for female anatomy (editor's note: "cajeta" translates literally as "small box," being a diminuitive of "caja," or box.)
And there's more. Much, much more.

Business 2.0: 2005's 101 Dumbest Moments in Business - February 1, 2006

25 January 2006

BB&T Won't Lend to Eminent Domain Abusers

North Carolina-based bank BB&T--the nation's ninth largest financial holding company--announced today that they would not lend money to any developer who tried to take advantage of the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. City of New London and abuse the power of eminent domain to seize property for redevelopment.
“The idea that a citizen’s property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it’s just plain wrong,” said BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison.

“One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won’t help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership.”
BB&T - News Release: BB&T Announces Eminent Domain Policy

Related links: The Castle Coalition, a project of the Institute for Justice

Editing tips from the NSA

Hiding confidential information with black marks works on printed copy, but not with electronic documents, the National Security Agency has warned government officials.

The agency makes the point in a guidance paper on editing documents for release, published last month following several embarrassing incidents in which sensitive data was unintentionally included in computer documents and exposed. The 13-page paper is called: "Redacting with confidence: How to safely publish sanitized reports converted from Word to PDF."

Instead of covering up digital text with black boxes, it is better to delete any information you don't want to share, the NSA suggested.

Editing tips from the NSA: CNET News.com

Update: On the TECHWR-L mailing list, user Sue Gallagher points us to a very useful redaction tool for users of Microsoft Word 2003:
The Microsoft Office Word 2003 Redaction Add-in makes it easy for you to mark sections of a document for redaction. You can then redact the document so that the sections you specified are blacked out. You can either print the redacted document or use it electronically. In the redacted version of the document, the redacted text is replaced with a black bar and cannot be converted back to text or retrieved.

Sensitive government documents, confidential legal documents, insurance contracts, and other sensitive documents are often redacted before being made available to the public. With the Word 2003 Redaction Add-in, users of Microsoft Office Word 2003 now have an effective, user-friendly tool to help them redact confidential text in Word documents.

Microsoft Word 2003 Redaction Add-In

(Also posted at Knowledge Work.)

Scheduled Blogger outage coming up

There have been more than a few *unscheduled* outages on Blogger lately (Friday evening, Monday morning...) and so it's nice to have actual notice of one.

At 4PM PST (7PM EST, midnight GMT) today there will be a brief outage on Blogger while they do some dusting and cleaning:
We'll be taking Blogger down on Wednesday the 25th at 4pm PST to fix a bit of a switch that's gone wonky on us. The outage should last about 15 minutes. Blogger.com and Blog*Spot blogs will be inaccessible during this time.

This repair will fix the problem that caused the brief outage last Friday night. We're also using this down time as an opportunity to tune our databases for more efficient spam catching and deletion.
Blogger Status

Why I love New York, Reason #7,513

The cab ride home was long last night, as we got stuck in traffic.

"Do you mind if I put on some music?" the cab driver asked.

"Please do," I said. The driver was an African-American gentleman of a certain age, and I waited with interest to see which radio station he would tune in. Then I noticed he was reaching for a CD case.

New York consistently defies one's prejudices and expectations. My middle-aged cab driver selected a recent Melissa Etheridge CD, and sang along with the first four tracks on the disc. He had a not-unpleasant, very deep bass voice, and the "duet" sounded good.

"I can't get enough of this record," he said. "It's good to hear her happy again."

24 January 2006

O'Reilly Media introduces "Rough Cuts"

I have long been a fan of O’Reilly Media’s technical books, and a happy subscriber to “Safari Bookshelf,” their online library; in its most basic form, for about $10 a month the Safari plan entitles you to read up to five O’Reilly books on-screen at the same time. It’s a tremendous bargain and value.

Safari is about to get a lot more interesting. O’Reilly has just announced “Rough Cuts,” a way to gain access to very early editions of books on emerging technologies as they are being developed.
Safari Books Online is pleased to announce the launch of the new Rough Cuts service. Rough Cuts gives you early access to content on cutting-edge technologies — before it’s published. It lets you literally read the book as it is being written.

The four inaugural Rough Cuts titles come from O’Reilly Media and share our focus on hot emerging technologies: Ajax Hacks, Flickr Hacks, Ruby on Rails: Up and Running, and Ruby Cookbook. In February, O’Reilly will follow up with Ubuntu Hacks, Ajax Design Patterns, and Perl Hacks. The Pearson Technology Group will join the Rough Cuts service later this quarter with: Macs on the Go, Real World Adobe Creative Suite 2, Secrets of Videoblogging, Imagination Challenge and ASP.NET 2.0 Unleashed.
This is a great idea and should prove to be an interesting experiment; O’Reilly has consistently found ways to remain relevant as a print publisher in an increasingly Web-based world, and this idea shows a lot of promise.

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)

Two worth reading in Foreign Policy

A few articles in the most recent Foreign Policy that are worth a read:

How The French Fight Terror

In 1988, the FBI invited Alain Marsaud, then France’s top antiterrorist magistrate, to speak about terrorism to the bureau’s new recruits at its academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Marsaud, now a conservative lawmaker, told the audience of would-be feds of the deadly threat that radical Islamist terrorist networks posed to Western societies. His talk was an unmitigated flop. “They thought we were Martians,” recalls Marsaud, who chairs the French Parliament’s domestic security commission. “They were interested in neo-Nazis and green activists, and that
was it.”

Marsaud’s experience goes to show just how far Washington has come. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has moved swiftly to overhaul its counterterrorism policy, and has hit some bumps in the road. The recent revelation that President George W. Bush mandated domestic spying has caused a political uproar, even among Republicans. Yet questions of spying, security, civil liberties, and privacy are not new to France, which found itself in the cross hairs of Middle Eastern terrorists well before the United States did...

Hugo Boss

As the 20th century drew to a close, Latin America finally seemed to have escaped its reputation for military dictatorships. The democratic wave that swept the region starting in the late 1970s appeared unstoppable. No Latin American country except Haiti had reverted to authoritarianism. There were a few coups, of course, but they all unraveled, and constitutional order returned. Polls in the region indicated growing support for democracy, and the climate seemed to have become inhospitable for dictators.

Then came Hugo Chávez, elected president of Venezuela in December 1998. The lieutenant colonel had attempted a coup six years earlier. When that failed, he won power at the ballot box and is now approaching a decade in office. In that time, he has concentrated power, harassed opponents, punished reporters, persecuted civic organizations, and increased state control of the economy. Yet, he has also found a way to make authoritarianism fashionable again, if not with the masses, with at least enough voters to win elections. And with his fiery anti-American, anti- neoliberal rhetoric, Chávez has become the poster boy for many leftists worldwide...

23 January 2006

Amazing Calphalon bargains at Amazon.com

If you're in the market for heavy-duty pots and pans, you can get great buys on Calphalon's "Commercial" line if you move quickly.

Check out the Cookware Outlet at Amazon.com.

I was able to pick up a couple of covered 2.5 quart saucepans ($25 each, 79% discount), a 10-inch griddle/crepe pan ($30, 65% off), and a 12-inch, deep "everyday pan" (perfect for paellas; $30, 82% off) for about $110 total, which is a complete steal for pots and pans of this quality.

Hat tip: Chowhound.

(Note - we're an Amazon site affiliate, but we don't get a bounty on clearance items; we're passing this along because we know from your e-mails and comments that a lot of cooks read this blog!)

Choose your perfect college major

You scored as Engineering.
You should be an Engineering major!





























What is your Perfect Major? (PLEASE RATE ME!!<3)
created with QuizFarm.com

Hat tip: Neptunus Lex.

(And just for the record, I have a BA in English Literature from the University of North Carolina, and was at one point an aspiring poet and medievalist. Which is probably why I've worked in the computer industry for the last twenty years.)

RINO Sightings at Phin's Blog

This week's batch of RINO Sightings should be going up later today at Phin's Blog.

(We're hosting RINO Sightings here at enrevanche on Monday, February 13, 2006.)

Yourish.com » The 96th Carnival of the Cats

The 96th Carnival of the Cats is up over at Yourish.com:

Yourish.com » The 96th Carnival of the Cats

Thought for the day: Socrates on Writing

While they're not, strictly speaking, about technical writing, Plato's thoughts should strike fear into the hearts of all of us who try to communicate for a living:

Socrates. He would be a very simple person… who should leave in writing or receive in writing any art under the idea that the written word would be intelligible or certain; or who deemed that writing was at all better than knowledge and recollection of the same matters?

Phaedrus. That is most true.

Socrates. I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence.

(Plato, Phaedrus - translated by B. Jowett)

Campbell Creative Services » Thought for the day: Socrates on Writing

21 January 2006

BusinessWeek: The Future of Outsourcing

The January 30, 2006 edition of BusinessWeek has a large special section entitled "The Future of Outsourcing."
Ever since the offshore shift of skilled work sparked widespread debate and a political firestorm three years ago, it has been portrayed as the killer of good-paying American jobs. "Benedict Arnold CEOs" hire software engineers, computer help staff, and credit-card bill collectors to exploit the low wages of poor nations. U.S. workers suddenly face a grave new threat, with even highly educated tech and service professionals having to compete against legions of hungry college grads in India, China, and the Philippines willing to work twice as hard for one-fifth the pay.

Workers' fears have some grounding in fact. The prime motive of most corporate bean counters jumping on the offshoring bandwagon has been to take advantage of such "labor arbitrage" -- the huge wage gap between industrialized and developing nations. And without doubt, big layoffs often accompany big outsourcing deals.

The changes can be harsh and deep. But a more enlightened, strategic view of global sourcing is starting to emerge as managers get a better fix on its potential. The new buzzword is "transformational outsourcing." Many executives are discovering offshoring is really about corporate growth, making better use of skilled U.S. staff, and even job creation in the U.S., not just cheap wages abroad. True, the labor savings from global sourcing can still be substantial. But it's peanuts compared to the enormous gains in efficiency, productivity, quality, and revenues that can be achieved by fully leveraging offshore talent.
BusinessWeek Online: The Future of Outsourcing

The New 'Sputnik' Challenges: They All Run on Oil - New York Times

I'm going to break with a house rule here and actually link to something that lives behind the Times Select firewall.

Two house rules, actually... as it's a column by Tom Friedman, aka Captain Obvious.

But this particular one pulls some ideas together in a particularly useful way (read: for once, I agree with Tom) and you might want to get your hands on it if the topic interests you.

The topic is "oil."


Friends, we are in the midst of an energy crisis...

First, we are in a war against a radical, violent stream of Islam that is fueled and funded by our own energy purchases. We are financing both sides in the war on terrorism: the U.S. Army with our tax dollars, and Islamist charities, madrasas and terrorist organizations through our oil purchases.

Second, the world has gotten flat, and three billion new players from India, China and the former Soviet Union just walked onto the field with their version of the American dream: a house, a car, a toaster and a refrigerator. If we don't quickly move to renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, we will warm up, smoke up and choke up this planet far faster than at any time in the history of the world. Katrina will look like a day at the beach.

Third, because of the above, green energy-saving technologies and designs - for cars, planes, homes, appliances or office buildings - will be one of the biggest industries of the 21st century. Tell your kids. China is already rushing down this path because it can't breathe and can't grow if it doesn't reduce its energy consumption. Will we dominate the green industry, or will we all be driving cars from China, Japan and Europe?

Finally, if we continue to depend on oil, we are going to undermine the whole democratic trend that was unleashed by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Because oil will remain at $60 a barrel and will fuel the worst regimes in the world - like Iran - to do the worst things for the world. Indeed, this $60-a-barrel boom in the hands of criminal regimes, and just plain criminals, will, if sustained, pose a bigger threat to democracies than communism or Islamism. It will be a black tide that turns back the democratic wave everywhere, including in Iraq.

If anybody finds a non-firewalled link to this piece, please let me know. I haven't turned anything up (yet.)

The New 'Sputnik' Challenges: They All Run on Oil - New York Times

Congress votes database @ washingtonpost.com

Now, this is service journalism:

The Washington Post goes all Web 2.0 on us and starts republishing Congressional vote data on their site. Currently, you can search for and browse every vote in the US Congress since 1991.

So if you're looking for Senator Bedfellow's *complete* voting record, or want to learn how Representative Kickback voted when the chips were down... it's all there.

Congress votes database @ washingtonpost.com

20 January 2006

Site of the Day: Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances

Here's an important new organization that you might like to know about: Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances.

It's a group of politically active and aware people who are concerned about the excesses of the USA Patriot Act, and who don't buy the argument that it's necessary to destroy the Constitution to save America from terrorism. (Lieutenant Calley, call your office.) (Likely-inaccurate attribution redacted. See comment thread. -btc)
The continuing traumatic repercussions caused by the deplorable terrorist attacks of 9/11 has knocked our system of checks and balances askew. The words "national security" are being used, unwisely, as a catch-all to justify the ever-greater accumulation of power in the executive branch.

We face grave threats, yes. This new organization, Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, stands foursquare with the American people and the administration against our enemies. We believe, however, that our political system is more than able to secure our safety and our liberties. We need not abandon the separation of powers, or the checks and balances that maintain that separation, to defeat the terrorists. Indeed, if we do abandon them, we will have handed them a victory of tragic and historic proportions.
Who's behind it? Oh, the usual mewling, puking, bedwetting left-wing nutjobs...

Like former Republican Congressman Bob Barr... Grover Norquist, the chairman of Americans for Tax Reform... the American Conservative Union... Gun Owners of America...

My goodness. Are those principled conservatives raising their concerns? Why, I do believe they are.

Finally, some signs of a healthy immune response in the American political system.

Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances


Michael Yon's new home

Independent journalist Michael Yon has left his Blogger platform and is now hosting his dispatches at a full-featured website: MichaelYon-Online.com.

Michael continues to do crucial, important work covering aspects of the Iraq conflict that generally don't make it into the mainstream media. All of his dispatches from the old blog made the trip over (looks like he's converted to WordPress.)

If you haven't read Michael Yon before, his most recent dispatch, "Operation Iraqi Children ," is a fine place to start.
Think of it as a Virtual Private Marshall Plan for the children of Iraq. It’s not just about enlightened altruism; the Iraqi children struggling to learn in poorly supplied schools today are the same leaders that our own children will deal with tomorrow. Today’s generosity can characterize that relationship for generations to come.

Related sites:

19 January 2006

Mister Gato está debajo de la mesa de cocina

I ripped a bunch of "Teach Yourself Spanish" CDs to MP3 a while back, and I've been listening to them when I'm sleepless and bored (¡Yo tengo ganas de aprender cosas nuevas!) so... welcome to Spanish class. (Corrections are invited; many thanks--er, muchas gracias--to Carrie, who speaks pretty great Spanish, for giving me some pointers already.)

Repeat after me:

Mister Gato está debajo de la mesa de cocina.
Mister Gato is under the kitchen table.

Él está esperando para atacar los Chow Chows cuando vienen a comer y beber.
He is lying in wait to attack the Chow Chows when they come to eat and drink.

Esto lo divierte mucho.
This amuses him very much.

Under the Counter Gato
Mister Gato está debajo de la mesa de cocina.

Visit the Friday Ark at The Modulator to check out more bloggers' pets from around the world--and be sure to visit the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday, hosted by Meryl Yourish.

(Mark your calendars: we're hosting the Carnival of the Cats here on February 5.)

P.S. There's more Mister Gato over at Pencil Roving.

Keep both hands on the keyboard while Googling

John deVille calls this story to our attention:
The Bush administration, seeking to revive an online pornography law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, has subpoenaed Google Inc. for details on what its users have been looking for through its popular search engine.

Google has refused to comply with the subpoena, issued last year, for a broad range of material from its databases, including a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period, lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department said in papers filed Wednesday in federal court in San Jose.

Feds seek Google records in pornography probe - U.S. Business - MSNBC.com
Well, there's only one response to this. And it comes direct from the foul-mouthed puppets of the hit Broadway musical, "Avenue Q"--the original cast recording, mashed up with a machinima made with World of Warcraft.

And you can find it on Google Video, dammit: "The Internet Is For Porn!" (via Google Video.)

P.S. There's also a video excerpt of the actual Avenue Q cast performing "The Internet Is For Porn," here (RealPlayer format).

18 January 2006

Loompanics Unlimited is going out of business

Oh, no. This word just in: Loompanics Unlimited, publishers of fringe-libertarian and just downright weird and wonderful books for over thirty years, is shuttering its operations.

If there's a silver lining in this dark grey cloud, it's that all remaining stock in inventory is 50% off!

Over at Reason's Hit and Run blog, there's a lot of reminiscing going on about Loompanics and the stuff they've published over the years.
...[S]ad news for those of us who always enjoyed perusing the company's catalog, which reads like a D.I.Y. guide on crystal meth -- the list of titles published under the Loompanics imprint ranges from How to Start Your Own Country to How to Rip Off a Drug Dealer. I'll certainly miss it: As a publisher and as a bookseller, Loompanics was the go-to joint for tomes on radicalism, survivalism, and what the catalog itself described as "weird ideas."

(Loompanics, RIP at Hit and Run)
See also: More Loompanics Thoughts (Hit and Run).

I guess in the era of the World Wide Web, when High Weirdness is just a click or two away, this kind of mail-order eccentricity isn't a workable business model any more.

A Million Little Lies

Of course, everybody knows by now that memoirist/fabulist James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" is, you know, largely made up.

The Onion, bless their flabby, corroded little hearts, has helpfully pointed out some of the more egregious fabrications.

I especially like this one:

"Parts of book where Frey stares down mobster, biker and crack dealer based on his conflicts with copy editor at Random House."

A Million Little Lies | The Onion - America's Finest News Source


17 January 2006

IVR Cheat Sheet(tm) by Paul English

Just a quick update - Paul English's Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Cheat Sheet keeps getting better and better, and more complete.

If you hate "voicejail," then you'll love Paul's cheat sheet, which shows you how to bypass "Press 1 for X, 2 for Y" phone systems and get to an actual human being as quickly as possible... now with over 250 companies, including banks, brokerages, insurers, cable providers, and more.

IVR Cheat Sheet(tm) by Paul English

Unclaimed Territory: Invasion of the dirty masses

John deVille points us to an excellent essay at Glenn Greenwald's site on the topic of "credentialism" and the mainstream media's distaste for the blogosphere:
...[Many establishment journalists have raging contempt for the blogosphere. It is a contempt grounded in the fallacy of credentialism and a pseudo-elitist belief that only the approved and admitted members of their little elite journalist club can be trusted to enlighten the masses. Many of them see blogs as a distasteful and anarchic sewer, where uncredentialed and irresponsible people who are totally unqualified to articulate opinions are running around spewing all sorts of uninformed trash. And these journalistic gate-keepers become especially angry when blogospheric criticism is directed towards other establishment journalists, who previously were immune from any real public accountability.
Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: Invasion of the dirty masses

What Mayor Ray Said

Recently, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin opined that God is angry with America, and with black people, and that's why he's sending all the hurricanes. (source)

Criticizing the public pronouncements of Mayor Ray is a little like shooting fish in a barrel.

Okay, a lot like that.

That being said, it's always fun to watch somebody load up the twelve-gauge with buckshot and take aim at the carp. See, e.g, Larry Bernard:

Inside Larry's Head: Dear folks in the community of blog

On Business, and Blogging on the Road

enrevanche reader and pal Greg W. e-mails and comments:
There was an article in the NYT today about blogs written by those that travel extensively on business. They appear to have missed enrevanche.
An Internet search for full-time business travelers who write Web logs produces astonishingly low numbers, considering the eight million Americans whom the Pew Internet and American Life Project say publish a blog.

But that appears to be changing. "Just wait," said Steve Broback, a business traveler in Woodinville, Wash., who edits the new blog Inflighthq (www.inflighthq.com) and is an organizer of a blog conference called the Blog Business Summit. "The rush is starting."

On Business, and Blogging on the Road - New York Times

Memories of past repasts

Over at Pencil Roving, Carrie daydreams about a beautiful meal we ate a couple of summers ago at Babbo, in the context of pointing her readers to some useful tips about how to be treated well in restaurants: How to eat out like a pro.

I thought that it might be amusing to retrieve, through the magic of the Internets, the review I posted of the Summer 2004 Babbo tasting menu at the Chowhound site. (I Googled "Babbo Chowhound enrevanche" and it was, unsurprisingly, the first hit.)

Subject: Late-summer tasting menu at Babbo (long)
Name: enrevanche
Posted: September 06, 2004 at 12:57:19


We did the traditional tasting menu, with wine pairings. It was a three-hour extravaganza, and at roughly $150 per person (tax and tip included) worth every penny.

I took careful notes for y'all. :-)

Seven courses, seven wines. A salad, two pastas, a meat, a cheese course and two desserts. Needless to say, we rolled ourselves home and are nursing a mild hangover this morning. Je ne regrette rien.

First course: Citrus-cured King Salmon with Shaved Fennel and Horseradish (wine: Roero Arneis "San Michele," Deltetto 2002)

This was a beautiful, thin-sliced piece of salmon, very bright and lemony flavor, served with what amounted to fennel cole-slaw, which was very refreshing. There were tiny slivers of fresh horseradish on the salmon, which added interesting flavor notes without being overpowering.

The wine was a crisp, dry white with definite citrusy overtones, matching the cold salmon nicely.

Second course: Pappardelle with Chanterelles and Thyme (wine: Valtellina Superiore Inferno "Mazer," Nino Negri 2001)

A plate of gorgeous, perfectly cooked broad ribbon pasta, with meaty chanterelle mushrooms and fresh thyme. A lavish coating of creamy butter and a few generous gratings of pecorino romano to finish the dish.

The wine was a big, spicy red.

Third course: Duck Tortelli with "Sugo Finto" (wine: Salento Rosso "Armecolo," Castel di Salve 2003)

Three big tortellis stuffed with duck meat, dressed with "sugo finto," a tomato sauce cooked with pancetta, imparting a delightful smoky flavor.

The wine was a young, fresh and bright flavorful red.

Fourth course: Barbecued Lamb Loin with "Caviale di Melanzane" (wine: Brunello di Montalcino, Visconti 1998)

Okay, this dish was so good it almost killed us. Five slices of fork- tender rare grilled lamb, on a bed of "eggplant caviar" and cherry tomatoes. At this point I wanted to cancel the tasting menu and order the kitchen to just bring me a big platter of this. The lamb... the lamb... I think they marinated it in liquid cocaine. Oh my god. One of those dishes that goes straight to the pleasure center of the brain.

The wine: another lovely red, but more subtle and nuanced and kind of tannic; beautiful with rare grilled meat.

Cheese course: Coach Farms' goat cheese with Fennel Honey (wine: Franciacorta Brut, Contadi Castaldi NV)

Proof that sometimes the simplest dishes are best. This was just a nice wedge of creamy goat cheese, drizzed with raw honey which had been infused with fennel seeds, served with a couple of little crostini.

The wine was dry, white, sparkling and delicate, and cut right through the stickiness/gooiness of the cheese and fennel honey.

I am going to make a small dish of fennel honey this very afternoon. Wow, what a flavor combo.

First dessert: Cannoli with Vanilla Yogurt and Fresh Raspberries (wine: Brachetto d'Acqui, Braida 2003)

Just your basic little cannoli, cunningly filled with whipped vanilla yogurt rather than sweetened ricotta, and fresh raspberries.

The wine was a sweet, fruity, sparkling red, with heavy berry overtones, almost a raspberry soda. It was practically a dessert in itself.

Second dessert: Sampler platter - chocolate hazelnut cake, panna cotta, assorted gelato (wine: Graham's 10-year-old Tawny Porto)

Beautiful, rich, moist, dense chocolate cake; custardy pannacotta, lovely gelatos. My wife doesn't like port very much (I love it, but she finds it "medicinal") but pronounced this particular glass of port just fine.

A good time was had by all. Whew.
Related links:

16 January 2006

Inside Larry's Head: RINO SIGHTINGS: Three Day Weekend edition

The long weekend edition of RINO Sightings is now up over at Inside Larry's Head.

Inside Larry's Head: RINO SIGHTINGS: Three Day Weekend edition

Update: Mom's doing fine.

Wow, what a long day (and it's not over yet.)

I am pleased to report that Mom underwent apparently successful back surgery this morning (an L4-L5 microlaminectomy and disk decompression, for those of you with medical training out there.) Her neurosurgeon reports that the pressure is now completely off of the affected nerves, and that he accomplished everything he wanted to during the procedure.

The surgery did not go *quite* as uneventfully as planned, however; her stenosis (arthritis in the spine) was much more pronounced and severe than it appeared on the x-rays and the MRI, and so once the doctor saw what was going on, he had to do a bit more repair work than he had originally planned.

Also, and more worrying, her blood pressure shot up rather alarmingly while she was in the Recovery Room, and so as a precaution she is being kept in the Intensive Care Unit for overnight observation; she should be moving to a regular hospital room in the morning.

We were able to visit with Mom briefly late this afternoon, when they finally got her to her bed in the ICU. She was awake, alert, lucid, was in fact joking around with us, and was (naturally) concerned that we were worrying too much about her!

The medicine she is receiving through her IV lines has brought her blood pressure back down to a safe level, and we both anticipate and hope for a continued, uncomplicated recovery.

Here's what the rest of Mom's week looks like right now:

Tuesday: Transfer to a regular hospital room , where she can receive phone calls and visitors (she can receive neither in the ICU - also, no cards or flowers.)

Tuesday, Wednesday, and possibly part of Thursday: Mom lies flat on her back in bed to help the "repairs" heal up.

Thursday-Friday: Work on getting Mom up and out of bed and moving around a little.

Late Friday or early next Monday, depending on progress: Mom is discharged to an inpatient rehabilitation center for three to four weeks of fairly intense and unpleasant but necessary physical therapy.

Thanks to all for your expressions of concern and support. Despite the scare she threw into us this afternoon, it looks like she's doing fine.

Mom having surgery today

In Raleigh, NC; blogging will be light today. Mom is having back surgery this morning - a laminectomy on her fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae, to correct a pinched nerve that seems to be causing all manner of discomfort and difficulty.

The procedure is scheduled for this morning, but it will be well on up in the day before she's back in her room, and well into the evening, in all likelihood, before I'm back at the keyboard of the Mighty Wurlitzer here.

Those of you who are devout agnostics and atheists, please keep us in your thoughts. If you're otherwised inclined, your prayers would be appreciated.

That is all.

15 January 2006

SiteAdvisor: The Web's Download Disasters

Web startup company SiteAdvisor has some hard-working 'bots that troll the Internet(s) 24/7, looking for threats to your computer's safety and well-being (and by extension, yours.)
SiteAdvisor helps protect you from all kinds of Web-based security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser-based attacks, phishing, online fraud and identity theft. Our automated testers continually patrol the Web to browse sites, download files, and sign-up for things with e-mail addresses. As you search, browse, download or register online, SiteAdvisor's safety ratings help you stay safe and in control.
If you register as a preview tester and download SiteAdvisor's software (not yet in general release) you'll be hooked into their network via a browser plugin; you can get SiteAdvisor's ratings on most popular sites before you visit, and check out most downloads before you download something and possibly challenge your computer's "immune system" (antivirus, anti-spyware software... you're all running this stuff, right? Right?)

Over at the Site Advisor blog, they're starting to publish the results of their research. It ain't pretty.
When we first started crawling the Web looking for bad downloads last year, we weren't sure what we'd find. Today, a million Web sites and 140,000 download tests later, I can say with confidence that there are some great programs to be downloaded out there. I can say with equal confidence that there's also plenty of train wrecks waiting to happen to your PC.

Liberty Links

New on the sidebar: Liberty Links.

This is a link collection that I've been meaning to pull together for some time. It's a grab-bag of organizations and publications covering a wide range of issues: civil rights, property rights, economic freedom, privacy issues (especially medical privacy), drug policy, school choice, and so on, usually but certainly not always from a libertarian-conservative perspective.

I don't agree with everything on every one of these sites, to put it mildly, but these are my "usual suspects" when I'm doing issue or policy research; many of these sites also boast useful link collections of their own.

In the coming weeks, we'll likely be visiting quite a few of these sites on the blog, and pointing out some useful resources and thought-provoking articles.

14 January 2006

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.
I'm pleased and proud to sign my name to this document.

Barry Campbell, enrevanche

New Scientist: Three-week diet curbs diabetes

Just three weeks of a high-fibre, low-fat diet and moderate exercise could slow key changes in the body crucial to the development of diabetes, a new study suggests.

The new study, along with previous work on the so-called Pritkin diet and exercise programme, found that just three weeks of the programme reversed the clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes – or its precursor, called metabolic syndrome. The programme worked in half of the overweight patients following it.
The study, reported in the Journal of Applied Physiology, does not suggest that you can 'cure' Type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise, but it does suggest some very specific dietary guidelines (an ultra-low-fat Pritikin-style diet, at least an hour of moderate exercise every day, in this case, walking on a treadmill) that diabetics can profitably follow to get the best results managing their blood sugar.

New Scientist Breaking News - Three-week diet curbs diabetes


ConsumerReports - Organic products, when buying organic pays (and doesn't)

Consumer Reports has a great, short article, with some solid science behind it, about when it pays to buy organic and when you shouldn't bother.

The short list:

ALWAYS buy organic if possible: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries (reduced pesticide exposure); meat, poultry, eggs and dairy (avoidance of hormone and antibiotic supplements; reduced likelihood of prion exposure); baby food.

Buy organic IF MONEY IS NO OBJECT: asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, and sweet peas; breads, oils, potato chips, pasta, cereals, and other packaged foods, such as canned or dried fruit and vegetables.

Don't bother: seafood, cosmetics.

ConsumerReports.org - Organic products, when buying organic pays (and doesn't) 2/06

Political proposition bets at Bodog

Shamelessly yoinked from Eric Pfeiffer at Wonkette:

The online sportsbook Bodog.com is taking political "proposition bets" on current events.

Right now, among the props you can wager on:
  • In President George W Bush's 2006 State of the Union address, how many times will the President say the word: Evil?

  • In President George W Bush's 2006 State of the Union address, how many times will the President say the words, "Space Terrorism"?

  • How many years will lobbyist Jack Abramoff be sentenced to prison on federal charges?
I've got my money on "6-9 times," "3 times," and "8 to 15 years," respectively.


As long as we're pimping cell phone products, here's a free one that can be used from ANY phone and might be a big money-saver for you: 1-800-FREE-411.

I haven't used a paper phonebook in years; if I'm near a computer, I can be at Switchboard.com in a jiffy. For the same reason, I never use 411 at home or work.

But I use "directory assistance" on the road all the time, and the charges add up rapidly.

1-800-FREE-411 is an advertising-supported service that will look up any number in the US for you for free; the "price" is that you may have to listen to a brief ad (15 seconds or so) before you get the number you're after.

Obvious tip that it took me a few minutes to figure out: Save the number in your cell's phonebook with the text name "411 Free," and it'll alphabetize to the top of the list.

Charge 2 Go

Carrie bought me a very cool and thoughtful "just because" present this week: a Charge 2 Go for my cell phone.

I've been travelling a lot, and burning up the minutes (no sweat, I've got thousands) but, more importantly, the battery, on my little cellie. When I'm in New York City, I'm rarely far from a power outlet, so it's no trick keeping the cell phone charged; on the road it can be a little more difficult.

I was off on one of my rants a few weeks ago: "You can find standard-sized batteries in every store on the face of the Earth; if there's a 7-11 on Antarctica I am morally certain they sell AA and 9V batteries. WHY WHY WHY isn't someone selling an adapter that lets you recharge your damned cell phone from a standard disposable or rechargeable battery?"

charge 2 go in action
A rant, answered.

Someone is.
Carrie tracked down the right model and ordered it for me, God bless her, and it arrived yesterday. Works a treat, too.

The adapter itself is barely larger than the AA battery that it houses; made of aluminum, it feels as sturdy and well-built as a MagLite. The little ziploc baggie that the adapter comes in is more than large enough to hold two to four AA batteries as well; I've just stuffed some Duracells in with it and tossed the whole shootin' match into my laptop case.

Standard disclaimers apply - I have no affiliation with Charge 2 Go; I just wanted to hip y'all to a cool, inexpensive solution to a vexing problem. ($24.95 + S&H... but see below for the great deal currently available from Amazon, which includes 7 adapters. I do get a little piece of the action if you order through Amazon by clicking the link below.)

13 January 2006

New York City cabbie simulation

Sponsored by the cheerful sadists communications professionals at Sprint, Entertainment Anytime hosts a simulation of the New York City cab-driver experience.

You've got a rear-view mirror perspective; as the simulation begins, your fare slides into the back seat, and you're off into the mean streets of the big city.

Using your keyboard's arrow keys (and some other controls which you can have fun discovering on your own), you can accelerate the cab rapidly, swerve from side to side (bouncing your fare off both doors, the back seat, and the security partition) and generally create chauffeurial mayhem.

sudden acceleration
Passenger reacting to sudden acceleration.
(Clearly, he's from out of town.)

The sound effects (squealing tires, etc.) are great, and the "music" playing in the background even has a vague, appropriate hint of the Subcontinent about it.

The only thing missing is a cloud of stinky incense, and the "thump thump thump" as you roll over the bodies of hapless jaywalkers.

EntertainmentAnytime.com - New York City Cab Simulation

12 January 2006

Home-burned CDs, DVDs have short lifespan

Opinions vary on how to preserve data on digital storage media, such as optical CDs and DVDs. Kurt Gerecke, a physicist and storage expert at IBM Deutschland, has his own view: If you want to avoid having to burn new CDs every few years, use magnetic tapes to store all your pictures, videos and songs for a lifetime.

Unlike pressed original CDs, burned CDs have a relatively short life span of between two to five years, depending on the quality of the CD," Gerecke says. "There are a few things you can do to extend the life of a burned CD, like keeping the disc in a cool, dark space, but not a whole lot more."


"Many of the cheap burnable CDs available at discount stores have a life span of around two years," Gerecke says. "Some of the better-quality discs offer a longer life span, of a maximum of five years."
If your backup strategy relies primarily on recordable CDs or DVDs, be sure to take this into account. I use high-quality optical disk blanks (my experience with the made-in-Japan Verbatims has been excellent) but my working assumption is that the maximum shelf life is 18 months.

PCWorld - Do Burned CDs Have a Short Life Span?

InformationWeek: 2005 A Record Year For Outsourcing

Workers loathe it, politicians rail against it, and one TV newsman vilifies it almost nightly. Despite it all, companies are outsourcing work at record levels, according to new data released Wednesday.

The number of outsourcing contracts--through which businesses hand off routine IT and back-office work to a third party, often operating from a low-wage foreign country--increased 9% in 2005 to 293. It's the most deals seen in a single year, according to consulting firm Technology Partners International, which published the data.


Not all work that's outsourced is bound for foreign shores. The vast majority is still performed domestically, despite popular perceptions. In fact, outsourcers are beefing up their workforces in the United States. According to the Labor Department, payrolls among IT services firms grew by nearly 32,000 workers in 2005, a 2.7% gain for the year.
InformationWeek: 2005 A Record Year For Outsourcing

11 January 2006

The return of an old friend

barry in barbour jan 2006
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
It was just about this time of year, in 1991. Gah - fifteen years ago.

I was on my first overseas business trip, and due to poor planning, it wasn't to someplace toasty and warm in the Southern Hemisphere; in fact, in the dead of winter, I found myself in a small town in North Yorkshire, England, freezing my cracker ass off.

No North Carolina winter had ever prepared me for this. I had a very nice lined overcoat that was the equal of any winter the Southern US had ever thrown at me, but Yorkshire meant business. The cold, the wind, the damp. (shudder)

My very first weekend, I took the train in to York from the tiny coastal town I was working in, and after fortifying myself with a glass of beer and a ploughman's lunch, presented myself at a men's clothier.

Through chattering teeth, I implored, "Please outfit me with some clothing that is suitable for this... this... WEATHER."

The salesman briefly sized me up and then briskly marched me over to a rack of dark green, waxed cotton jackets. "What you want, sir, is one of these Barbour Border jackets, over a nice thick woolen jumper. Layers, sir. This jacket, it's waterproof, it's indestructible. Brilliant. Perfect for this time of year."

(As soon as I ascertained that he wasn't trying to sell me a little girl's dress--my US/UK dictionary informed me that a "jumper" is what we call a "sweater" over here--I bought the Barbour, a couple of woolen sweaters, some thick socks and a pair of galoshes, which he called "wellingtons.")

The rest of the clothing has gone by the wayside, but I've held on to the Barbour, through half a dozen moves and God alone knows how many business trips.

In the last fifteen years, I've gone hunting, fishing, camping, and mostly just strolling around town in it; its voluminous cargo pockets have held cigarettes (back when I was a smoker), the paper currencies of ten different countries, sandwiches and snacks, electronic gadgets of every description, and more than once, when I was living in a "gentrifying" area where concealed carry occasionally seemed prudent, a snub-nosed .38.

Fifteen years can be as hard on a jacket as they are on a human being, though. I'm hardly the man I was at 25, and the jacket had accumulated enough tiny bits of damage over fifteen years of seasonal use that it was almost in tatters.

So, with the same sort of trepidation that Linus would face mailing off his security blanket to be mended, I sent my jacket off to Barbour's US service center (in New England, naturally!) for repair and reconditioning.

They do good work there. It wasn't cheap, and it wasn't quick, but for about half the price of a new jacket, the good folks at Barbour returned me a fifteen-year-old jacket with every flaw mended, completely rewaterproofed and good as new.

Better, because of the sentimental value and how thoroughly broken-in it is; at this point, it fits me like a second skin.

Today was a cold, blustery and wet day in New York City. And you'd better believe I wore it to work.

Geek lust: Apple's MacBook Pro

Apple announced their new Intel-chip based Macintoshes yesterday, including this little beauty: Apple - MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro
Object of desire.

(This blog's audience seems to have a high geek quotient, but for those of you who wonder why this is a big deal, Intel is the CPU standard in the PC/Windows world; IT people often use "Wintel" as shorthand for the "Windows + Intel" architecture. With Apple having switched to the Intel architecture, all kinds of new cross-platform computing possibilities are presenting themselves.)

I have long had a bad case of Geek Envy over Apple's OS X, the prettiest Unix in existence, but am currently tethered to the Wintel World, since I work in a Windows shop and have literally thousands of dollars invested in Windows software... including a few programs I live and die by, like Visio, that simply aren't available in Apple's world.

Existing solutions for running Windows software on an OS X Macintosh involve software-based Windows OS emulation, which has improved a great deal over the years but is still unsatisfactorily slow and buggy.

Well, now. Couple the introduction of Intel-based Macs with quiet little announcements like this...
Apple Computer Inc. won't thwart users from loading Microsoft's Windows operating system onto its new Intel-based Macintosh computers -- but don't expect Apple to start offering a Mac running Windows.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in an interview Tuesday that the company won't sell or support Windows itself, but also hasn't done anything to preclude people from loading Windows onto the machines themselves.

Heh. These machines are orderable now, and shipping in February.

Once they're on the street, it's going to take the geek community about a week to come up with a stable dual-boot configuration for OS X and Windows XP Professional on one of these new beauties.

And once that happens, the over/under on me whipping out the plastic is about ninety days.


UPDATE: Evidently, it has already been determined that Windows XP will not run on the new Macintels... but Windows Vista should. (
link to betanews article)

WMF Redux

(sigh) Here we go again.
Just days after Microsoft patched a critical vulnerability in the way the Windows operating system renders certain types of graphics files, a hacker has published details of two new flaws that affect the same part of the operating system.

The new vulnerabilities were posted to the Bugtraq security mailing list today by a hacker using the name "cocoruder."

All three flaws concern the way Windows renders images in the Windows Metafile (WMF) format used by some CAD (computer-aided design) applications, but these latest flaws are far less serious than the vulnerability that Microsoft patched last week, according to security experts. That vulnerability was serious enough to cause Microsoft to take the unusual step of releasing an early patch for the problem, ahead of its monthly security software update.
I think a policy of "watchful waiting" is probably in order for this one.

PCWorld.com - Two New Windows Metafile Bugs Found

Flaming Mouse Story Found To Be False

Oh, dear.

Reporters at a certain class of newspaper, the sleazier sort, have a folk-saying about "stories that are too good to fact-check."

It looks like the Mouse Flambée story might have been one of those...
A small -town rumor that sparked world -wide interest about a mouse burning down a house has been found to be untrue. After 81-year-old Chano Mares's house burned down Saturday in Fort Sumner, news services picked up the quirky story.


Interest in fires has been high lately. Unseasonably dry and windy conditions have charred more than 53,000 acres and destroyed 10 homes in southeastern New Mexico in recent weeks.

The mouse story, however, has been doused by Mares.

"It's really humorous more than anything that a mouse burned down the house," he told KOAT-TV in Albuquerque. The mouse was dead when it hit the burning leaves.

Mares said he trapped and killed the critter and tossed it on the fire

The flames, he said, probably reached his house because they were driven by high winds.
WSBTV.com - News - Flaming Mouse Story Found To Be False

Hat tip: Chap, in this comment here.

10 January 2006

Separated at birth?

An exchange in the comments section on this post resulted in possibly the single funniest e-mail I've received in my 20 years on the Internet(s).

First, the setup: it's a discussion of the relative cruelty involved in burning mice alive vs. turning them over to the tender mercies of a housecat:

I'll have to state that my cat appears to be an alum of the No Quick Kill School.

He's declawed but that didn't stop him with his first, and only, to my knowledge, kill: I found the rodent that he had dispatched had been "waterboarded" in his drinking water a little past what the guidelines had called for. I'm sure it entertained him for quite some time.

He also purrs loudly when the Sec. of Defense, the Attorney General, or the Vice President appears on the TV.

Cats: Nature's fascists.

(Mister Gato even *looks* a little like Il Duce in the picture in this post. Take another look at that facial expression.)

And now, the payoff. John sends an e-mail which consists of this picture and caption only:

I want my Friskies, dammit!

I actually did an old-school Jerry Lewis spit-take when I read e-mail this morning.

Come on. Don't tell me you can't see the resemblance:

separated at birth?
Separated at birth?