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

30 June 2006

Sure has been warm lately

Mister Gato finds a position on the couch, in the direct path of the floor fan, where the maximum amount of moving air will hit the maximum surface area of cat belly:

mister gato in warm weather scaled
Only a cat can be this comfortable.

Be sure to visit The Modulator's Friday Ark to see pictures of other bloggers' pets; this Sunday, the Carnival of the Cats is hosted by Watermark.

Another reason to love Whole Foods

The Corporate Crime Reporter has it in for John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods (or as we like to call it, "Whole Paycheck," where the phrase "I'm just running in for a few things" equals a hundred dollars worth of groceries in three bags):
Most people who shop at Whole Foods are liberal yuppies.

They have enough money to spend $9 on a pound of cherries.

They believe that shopping for groceries at Whole Foods instead of Safeway or Food Lion or Giant or Wal-Mart is the politically correct thing to do.

They probably believe that the President and CEO of Whole Foods is a liberal like themselves.

They of course would be wrong.

John Mackey is instead a libertarian with right-wing tendencies.

Mackey says that Milton Friedman is his hero.

He’s a devotee of Ayn Rand.

He’s opposed to national health insurance.

He’s a union buster.
A libertarian with right-wing tendencies? Ayn Rand?

Quick, Muffy, ask our undocumented Guatemalan nanny to fetch my smelling salts! (Por favor traerme el amoníaco...)

The man is making the right enemies, that's for sure.

Time for a trip to Whole Foods. I wonder if the heirloom tomatoes have arrived yet? Made the nicest salad with those last year...

(Hat tip: Hit and Run)

Related: John Mackey on "The Modern Freedom Movement" (Liberty)

29 June 2006

Evacuating NYC...

...in the event of a hurricane strike:
Saying New York has learned from mistakes made after Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the city's own emergency plan Wednesday.

A storm of category four or higher has never hit the city in recorded history, but if even a category one storm were to make landfall, the mayor says there are several parts of the city that would be in danger of flooding.

If a stronger storm were to hit, the mayor said as many as three million people would need to be evacuated.
I have always thought that if you had to get out of Manhattan in an emergency, the best way by far would be in a boat.

Except, come to think of it, in a hurricane.

Mayor Unveils Hurricane Preparedness Plan (NY1)

28 June 2006

Finding the inner superhero

Your results:
You are Iron Man
Inventor. Businessman. Genius.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...

Hat tip: Rachel at Tinkerty Tonk

Well, sorta.

Search terms that get the gestalt of "enrevanche" almost but not quite right:

Google for "mice in barbecue."

Ew. The things that turn up in my site logs...

Gliffy - the online Visio killer?

Gliffy is easy, free, and fun!
  • Diagramming in your web browser without downloading additional software
  • Similar to Visio, yet in your web browser
  • Desktop application feel in a web-based diagramming solution
  • Add collaborators to your work and watch it grow
  • Link to published Gliffy drawings from your blog or wiki
  • Create many types of diagrams:

    • Flowcharts
    • UI wireframes
    • Floor plans
    • Network diagrams
    • Any simple drawing or diagram


Also posted at Knowledge Work.

Bedbugs Invade New York City

Tiny blood-sucking bedbugs have become an epidemic in New York City. The little pests have invaded even the cleanest and most expensive apartments in neighborhoods around New York. In fact, a councilwoman from the Upper West Side has called for a citywide bedbug task force to address the problem...

Bedbugs Invade New York City -- What are bed bugs and how do you get rid of them? (About.com)

We're not entirely unused to bloodsucking vermin in our neighborhood--the headquarters of International A.N.S.W.E.R. is not far from us--but the NYC bedbug invasion has finally hit our building, and most specifically our apartment.

I am planning all-out unconventional warfare with the nastiest chemicals I can get my hands on. Back before Rachel Carson and her band of do-gooders got DDT outlawed, we had effective treatments for bedbugs; now all we have are half-assed approximations of stuff that might (or might not) kill the little bastards.


'Breathtaking' Waste and Fraud in Hurricane Aid

Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one: it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion.

A hotel owner in Sugar Land, Tex., has been charged with submitting $232,000 in bills for phantom victims. And roughly 1,100 prison inmates across the Gulf Coast apparently collected more than $10 million in rental and disaster-relief assistance.


One Louisiana Department of Labor clerk, Wayne P. Lawless, has been charged with issuing about 80 fraudulent disaster unemployment benefit cards in exchange for bribes of up to $300 per application. Mr. Lawless, a state contract worker, announced to one man he helped apply for hurricane benefits that he wanted to "get something out of it," the affidavit said. His lawyer did not respond to several messages left at his office and home for comment.
This is a rather extraordinary standard of incompetence, fraud, waste and abuse even for the Federal government.

As for the corrupt officials, I have an idea or two about what Mr. Lawless and his ilk should "get out of it" - five to seven years of hard prison time wouldn't be a bad start.

'Breathtaking' Waste and Fraud in Hurricane Aid - New York Times

25 June 2006

Balancing security and liberty

After 9/11, the Madrid bombings, and the London subway bombings, it is clear that Western societies need to consider, and re-consider, and discuss and then reconsider some more, the ways in which we deal with a whole host of issues related to internal security.

To reduce to a short but hopefully fair summary a long, nuanced, and complex discussion that I had the other night with a friend who is in the national security business (so to speak):
  • The people responsible for protecting us want to ensure that everything possible is being done to identify and neutralize the bad guys, even if that means bending or breaking some of the rules (and/or interpretations of the rules) about the rights of citizens. This has always been done in wartime, they argue, and in what condition are we now, if not war?
  • Civil libertarians, like myself, worry about extending the power and influence of government and the military over the lives of ordinary citizens, even for the worthiest of reasons; we know that power granted to government today is subject to abuse tomorrow, even if it's granted for a good reason. We are fond of quoting Benjamin Franklin: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."
To reduce it even further, to bumper-sticker level, the security-conscious want to protect America at all costs; the liberty-conscious want to ensure, at all costs, that it's still "America" (land of the free, home of the brave) that we're protecting.

So. Along those lines...

There's a fascinating story ("After Londonistan") in today's New York Times magazine about how one Western country, Great Britain, is dealing with the problem of being a free and open society with enemies very much in its midst.
Today, Britain has more than a million and a half Muslims. A million live in London, where they make up an eighth of the population. They are not just the refugees and tempest-tossed laborers of the developing world, large though those groups may be. London's West End is full of Saudi princes and financiers, and journalists and politicians from around the Arab world; its East End is home to erudite theologians from the Indian subcontinent, along with some unhinged ones. In the 1980's and 90's, a hands-off government allowed London to become a haven for radicals and a center for calls to jihad. Culturally and politically (and theologically and gastronomically), London ranks among the capitals of the Muslim world and is certainly its chief point of contact with the United States and the rest of the West. Since last July 7, when four young British Muslims used backpack bombs to take their own lives and those of 52 others on London's public-transport system, getting information out of the city's various Muslim communities has become a desperate preoccupation of British law enforcement.


What is a moderate Muslim? It could mean someone who's not very serious about his religion or someone who's quite serious about his religion but not very political about it. What of the common formulation that terrorism is "not Islam"? This could be a politically correct dodge or a hardheaded diagnosis that something more unholy is at work. The mainstream Islamic organizations, which unite Muslims around political grievances, are certainly a useful route into the British political system, but maybe they are whipping up those grievances in the first place. And nonbelievers are so numerous among people of immigrant background that dealing with religious leaders may be a wrongheaded strategy in the first place. Britain is working out its answers to these questions by trial and error.

Potential terrorists now in Britain — those worthy of being kept under careful watch — may number in the several hundreds, as Blair said last year, or in the thousands, as a police official told me this spring. Britain's approach — tightening up law enforcement for all its citizens, while trying to ensure that Muslims feel represented in every step of the process — differs from that of both the United States, which has focused on border control and electronic eavesdropping, and France, which relies on infiltration and an aggressive investigative judiciary. But its basic problem in fighting terrorism is the same one that all Western countries face. Britain is trying to clamp down on its Muslim communities and empower them at the same time. Clamp down too hard, and you alienate the people you want to win over. Empower communities indiscriminately, and you give free rein to people it is foolish to trust.

"After Londonistan," New York Times Magazine, June 25, 2006

Social Values Survey

This survey assesses human social values by asking questions about your view of the world, and about your personal goals, wishes, hopes, dreams, and expectations. There are no right or wrong answers to such questions so please be as honest and as complete as you can be when filling them out.
I ranked as a Connected Enthusiast, but had much in common with the Autonomous Rebels as well.

Environics 3SC Social Values Survey

Hat tip: John deVille (another Autonomous Rebel)

Neutral Net: A Battle for Control of the Web

Next week, the Senate will jump into a heated debate that divides the titans of the new economy -- companies like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo -- from those of the old -- AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner and Comcast.

The issue is 'net neutrality,' and it has to do with how much control the companies that build the Internet pipelines -- mostly telephone and cable companies -- should have over the content that runs through those pipelines and whether they can force content providers to pay for the privilege.

The Internet is set up so that users can use any legal Web site or application, and all Internet traffic is treated equally. But downloading a two-hour video eats up far more bandwidth, or space on the Internet pipeline, than an email.

Telephone and cable companies have suggested they may start charging fees to Internet-content companies, like Google, whose content is eating up large portions of their bandwidth. Companies that refuse to pay might find their content moving at slower speeds over the pipeline than the content of those that do pay...
An excellent, thoughtful treatment of an issue that isn't nearly as black-and-white as many people who are squawking about it (from both sides) in the blogosphere make it out to be.

The telcos and cable companies still know their way around Washington better than the high-tech guys do, although Microsoft, Google and similar companies have come up to speed on that in recent years.

Wall Street Journal - Neutral Net: A Battle for Control of the Web (subscription required)

24 June 2006

For Dad

Remarks at Robert E. Campbell’s Memorial Service
Barry Campbell
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Raleigh, NC
June 24, 2006

This section of the morning’s program is entitled “Family Reflections,” and so on behalf of Bob Campbell’s immediate family, I want to thank all of you for coming this morning, to honor his memory and to celebrate his life, and to recognize the impact that his life had upon us all.

Looking out into the congregation assembled in the church today, I see so many faces of people who loved Dad, and whom Dad loved, and your very presence here is the most fitting tribute to him that I can imagine. Thank you for honoring him by getting dressed up in your nice clothes on this appallingly humid Saturday morning and coming here to stand with us and sing some hymns and remember Bob Campbell.

So many of you have shown us so much kindness during Dad’s final days, and after his passing, and we are thankful and appreciative for that, more than I can tell you.

Fathers and sons are complicated business, and a lot of people who are more articulate and much more interesting than I am have had a lot to say about that. I only plan to speak for a very few minutes, and if I tried to tell you all that my father meant to me, we’d still be going strong as the sun came up tomorrow morning.

For my part, I will simply say that when Bob Campbell died last October, I lost not only my father, but I lost a very dear friend as well.

Because he was so sick, for so long, before he died, I can truthfully say that I am not sorry, but relieved, that he is now at rest and free from pain and suffering. But I do feel sorrow, and a deep sense of loss, for myself, because I can’t pick up the phone, or get on a plane or slide behind the wheel of a car, and go and visit with my father and my friend.

And at least once or twice a week something happens, at work, or in the news, or in a conversation that I have with someone, that I know would either completely delight him, or absolutely outrage him, or some unforeseen combination of both of those things, and for a fraction of a second I forget that I can’t pick up the phone and call him any more, and then I remember and my heart sinks, and I expect it will be a long time before I—or any of us, really—will get over that particular feeling.

No, I am not sorry that my father, and my friend, is at rest. But I do feel a little sorry for myself that he’s not around.

And I kind of wish I didn’t, because “feeling sorry for yourself” is not something that Bob Campbell had a lot of room for in his life. He needed an enormous amount of personal strength and character to face the challenges that he had to face in this life, and he had those qualities in abundance.

Of course, it was Father’s Day last weekend, and next week Bob would have turned 70 years old. This was my first Father’s Day without him, and it started me thinking about the last Father’s Day I spent with him, last year when he was staying over at Blue Ridge Health Care, a “skilled nursing care facility,” because according to the insurance folks, he was too sick to come home but not sick enough to remain in the hospital.

Until a day or two before I came down, I hadn’t actually known that I was going to do it. But I got a last-minute flight, rented a car out at RDU, and drove out (without announcement or warning) to visit him in his temporary quarters.

He was of course already quite ill, and really just simply exhausted, but when I showed up in his doorway unexpectedly, the first words out of his mouth were “What are you doing here?”, delivered with a mischievous grin that all of you would have recognized, I’m sure.

(Actually, that’s not precisely what he said, but that’s the version that I’m comfortable repeating in church.)

We visited for a few hours, and watched part of a stock car race, and joked around a little bit, like we always did. It wasn’t too long after that before he really didn’t have enough energy even to do that, and when Bob didn’t have the time or inclination to tell a joke or a funny story, we all knew that things were dire indeed.

So I’m so glad that we had that last Father’s Day together.

Bob Campbell set an example for me, and for everyone who knew him, about the power of a positive attitude and the value of persistence. I want to leave you with this thought.

In the kitchen of my parents’ house, taped to the inside of a cabinet door, there is a yellowed newspaper clipping from 1973, which contains a famous quotation uttered quite a few years earlier by, of all people, Calvin Coolidge, a man so reserved and reticent in his public pronouncements that he earned the nickname “Silent Cal.”

But on the subject of the value of persistence, which is something that I think both of my parents could probably tell you a lot about, he had this to say, and Bob and Betty liked it enough to cut it out of the newspaper and tape it to the kitchen cabinet door:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On!" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Thank you again for coming, and again, speaking on behalf of the family now, I would like to invite all of you to stay after the service and join us for lunch in the Fellowship Hall of the church, to share your memories of Bob Campbell with us and with each other.

And if you’ve heard any good jokes lately, I hope you’ll share those too.

And that's what I love about the South...

Have been in North Carolina all week; today is Dad's memorial service.

We had such fierce rainstorms last night that the entire county was under flash-flood warning... a real summer frogstrangler.

This morning, the weather is "mostly cloudy, hot, with 97% humidity."

Yes, that's right: 97% humidity.

I'll be putting on a coat and tie in a few hours. I might as well soak myself down with the garden hose on the way out the door.

23 June 2006

Speaking of Godwin's Law...

Mike Godwin, a net.legend, the first attorney hired by the EFF and a Usenet veteran, once made an observation once that has become a digerati formulation known as "Godwin's Law."

According to Wikipedia, this is the canonical version:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.[1]
With that in mind...

Who said it? Hitler or Ann Coulter?

I don't think the quiz is all that hard, actually; I got 11 out of 14 citations attributed correctly, and I am not personally familiar with the oeuvre of either writer, except for having read an exceprt from Mein Kampf for a college class almost 20 years ago and occasionally catching a Coulter column or one of her appearances on Bill Maher's show.

My position on Ann Coulter, by the way, is that her act is getting kinda stale and she desperately needs to eat a couple of bacon double cheeseburgers, but I will observe in her defense that this rather unsubtle quiz tries to elide a very key point: while every fascist rages against "liberalism," certainly not everyone who rages against liberalism is a fascist.

(Hat tip: Hit and Run)

22 June 2006

Fake Name Generator

Tired of giving up your personal information to register for websites, just so you can read an article in a newspaper you're not registered for?

The Fake Name Generator will automatically create a brand new name, snailmail and e-mail address, phone number, and birthdate for you, as well as generating a fake MasterCard number that is perfectly useless for buying anything but *will* pass the bone-stupid validation algorithm that most sites use to "verify identities."

Here's the one it just offered me:

Matthew T. Cahoon
234 4th Street
Cross Plains, TX 76443

Email Address: Matthew.T.Cahoon@pookmail.com
(More information at PookMail.com)

Phone: 254-725-5626
Mother's maiden name: Jones
Birthday: December 19, 1951

MasterCard: 5484 8115 0376 9063
Expires: 3/2007

Like your name? You can always view this specific name and address here.

Oh, and "pookmail?" It's a temporary e-mail server. You create any address you like (e.g., "bitemeyouspammers@pookmail.com") when you register for a new website. For 24 hours, you can log in to that address at pookmail without a password, retrieve your verification e-mail, and move on. (After 24 hours, your temporary ID is wiped.)

Good stuff.

Personally, whenever I have to give name, address and other personal information at a site that I don't want to share it with, which is almost all of them, I register as Richard Milhous Nixon.

And let me tell you, the late President sure does get around.

Fake Name Generator

(Hat tip: security guru Bruce Schneier)

The Internet: Where catblogging meets Godwin's Law

A blog devoted to cats who look like Hitler.

Related: Godwin's Law

(Hat tip: Popbitch)

Thursday catblogging: The Center of Attention

mrs. enrevanche has gone back to the freelance world, and found herself one recent weekend morning with a fresh package of book galleys to copyedit. She employed most of the empty surfaces available in the apartment, and finally hit upon the solution of taking our portable laptop stand and using it as a work table, as it's large enough to accommodate either a big laptop or a proof sheet.

It is said that nature abhors a vacuum.

In a similar vein, Mister Gato will absolutely not tolerate a large, flat, and relatively empty expanse of table that is not serving as a platform for an irascible tomcat:

Working From Home is Not Always So Easy
The woman is proving difficult to distract,
but I think I have found a way.

On Friday, be sure to visit The Modulator's Friday Ark at to see pictures of other bloggers' pets; this Sunday, the Carnival of the Cats is hosted by Life - Florida - Whatever (Pet's Garden Blog.)

21 June 2006

Staring down Dear Leader

The Bush administration is weighing responses to a possible North Korean missile test that include attempting to shoot it down in flight over the Pacific, defense officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Because North Korea is secretive about its missile operations, U.S. officials say they must consider the possibility that an anticipated test would turn out to be something else, such as a space launch or even an attack. Thus, the Pentagon is considering the possibility of attempting an interception, two defense officials said, even though it would be unprecedented and is not considered the likeliest scenario.
U.S. weighs shootdown of N. Korea missile - Yahoo! News

On the surface, this sounds like the kind of saber-rattling I can live with, and even enjoy.


Guys, if you plan to demonstrate our extremely expensive and as-yet completely unproven (under real-world conditions) missile defense capability during a live launch test from North Korea, you'd better be really, really damned sure that you don't miss.

Sad day in Legoland

Lego Group, whose iconic plastic building blocks have entertained millions of children for more than 70 years, said Tuesday it will shed 1,200 jobs to remold itself in an era when kids prefer playing with electronic gadgets.

The Denmark-based company, which is one of the last to produce toys in the United States, plans to close its U.S. manufacturing plant and lay off 300 people there in early 2007. About 900 employees in Denmark also will be sacked over the next three years.
Lego to lay off 1,200, end U.S. production - U.S. Business - MSNBC.com

Google Your Race

A simple enough trick; the author Googles the phrase "X people are known for" (where x=the commonly accepted name of a racial or ethnic group) and simply catalogs the first page of results; he does the same with Google image search.

Thus, according to Google, white people are known for:
  • crime
  • their conservative Republican leanings
  • either being rich or white trash
  • their racism
  • valor and graciousness
  • that suicide shit
Many other groups are represented, but since the author has published his research method, you can conduct endless variations of your own. Fun for the entire family.

Google Your Race: Racial profiling with Google

19 June 2006

A memo from the Green Zone

The Washington Post has obtained a cable, marked 'sensitive,' that it says shows that just before President Bush left on a surprise trip last Monday to the Green Zone in Baghdad for an upbeat assessment of the situation there, 'the U.S. Embassy in Iraq painted a starkly different portrait of increasing danger and hardship faced by its Iraqi employees.'

This cable outlines, the
Post reported Sunday, 'the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government.'

It's actually far worse than that, as the details published below indicate, which include references to abductions, threats to women's rights, and 'ethnic cleansing.'
'Wash Post' Obtains Shocking Memo from U.S. Embassy in Baghdad (Editor and Publisher)


Thought for the day: Press On!

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On!" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

-- Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge, 30th President of the United States

RINO Sightings

RINO Sightings are up at Inside Larry's Head.

Broken Windows Theory

Vista. The term stirs the imagination to conceive of beautiful possibilities just around the corner. And “just around the corner” is what Windows Vista has been, and has remained, for the past two years. In this time, Vista has suffered a series of high-profile delays, including most recently the announcement that it would be delayed until 2007. The largest software project in mankind’s history now threatens to also be the longest.

Admittedly, this essay would be easier written for Slashdot, where taut lines divide the world crisply into black and white. "Vista is a bloated piece of crap," my furry little penguin would opine, "written by the bumbling serfs of an evil capitalistic megalomaniac." But that'd be dead wrong. The truth is far more nuanced than that. Deeper than that. More subtle than that.

I managed developer teams in Windows for five years, and have only begun to reflect on the experience now that I have recently switched teams. Through a series of conversations with other leaders that have similarly left The Collective, several root causes have emerged as lasting characterizations of what's really wrong in The Empire...
The World As Best As I Remember It: Broken Windows Theory

(via Metafilter)

18 June 2006

Mind of Mog » Carnival Of The Cats #117

Carnival Of The Cats #117 is up at Mind of Mog.

(Re)Mapping The Middle East

Chap points to a fascinating article in Armed Forces Journal by Ralph Peters, which speculates about what the map of the Middle East might evolve into in the coming years:

International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.

The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa's borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally.

Chap and I are old friends; we agree on some things and disagree on others. One area that we're in complete agreement over, I think, is Ralph Peters; he is at turns brilliant and incredibly frustrating, and he's working overtime at being both in this particular article.

Go check it out.

Personally, I think that any significant understanding of the geography of the Middle East and Africa starts with its geology. I would recommend that interested students begin reading here:

US Geological Survey: Mineral Facilities of Africa and the Middle East (2006)

and then follow up with another USGS page, the World Energy Assessment.

(To *really* understand the politics of the Middle East, you'd need a detailed oilfield map showing which companies, from which countries, held which mineral rights where and for how long, but as you can imagine, reliably sourced versions of such maps, are, um, a little hard to come by on the Web. Pointers to reliable open-source maps meeting this description are gratefully accepted.)

And finally, the "Mapping The Middle East" lesson plan from WGBH.org, although designed for high school students in grades 9-11, is a hell of a refresher course for anybody interested in regional issues.


Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day, everyone.

I'm headed down to North Carolina in a few hours, working from Raleigh this coming week. We're also finally having a memorial service for my father, who passed away last fall, now that a few key family members (especially Mom!) are healthy enough to attend.

Dad made me promise him that we wouldn't have a funeral, and we didn't. The old man hated funerals all his life, and was determined to skip out on his own.

But I told him at the time that we would at some point have a memorial service, and since that was for us and not for him, he didn't have much say over that. :-)

He was perfectly happy with this formulation.

Posting may be light over the next day or two. For today, I'm going to just link you to a couple of posts in remembrance of Robert E. Campbell, the man I wish I was visiting in person today.
bob campbell retirement party 1992
Robert E. Campbell (1936-2005)

Fathers and sons are complicated business.

I said much of what I've probably got in me to say about my father on this blog last year, so perhaps you'll forgive me if I borrow the words from a Steve Goodman song I've always loved.
My Old Man
Steve Goodman

I miss my old man tonite
and I wish he was here with me
With his corny jokes and his cheap cigars
He could look you in the eye and sell you a car.
That's not an easy thing to do,
but no one ever knew a more charming creature
on this earth than my old man.

He was a pilot in the big war in the U.S. Army Air Corps
in a C - 47 with a heavy load
full of combat cargo for the Burma Road.
And after they dropped the bomb
he came home and married Mom
and not long after that
he was my old man.

And oh the fights we had
when my brother and I got him mad;
He'd get all boiled up and he'd start to shout
and I knew what was coming so I tuned him out.
And now the old man's gone, and I'd give all I own
to hear what he said when I wasn't listening
to my old man

I miss my old man tonite
and I can almost see his face
He was always trying to watch his weight
and his heart only made it to fifty-eight.
For the first time since he died
late last night I cried.
I wondered when I was gonna do that
for my old man.

17 June 2006

Fourth Annual 50 Best Magazines (Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Tribune's fourth annual 50 Best Magazines list is out.

The top ten:

1. The Economist
2. Dwell
3. Wired
4. The New Yorker
5. ESPN the magazine
6. Esquire
7. Consumer Reports
8. Blender
9. Gourmet
10. The Atlantic

As a subscriber to numbers 1, 4 and 10, and an online subscriber to number 7, I concur wholeheartedly. Another enrevanche house favorite that rated: Reason, at #37 (and Vogue Knitting, a favorite of mrs. enrevanche, came in at #50.)

Fourth Annual 50 Best Magazines (Chicago Tribune)

Champagne in the news

Those emergency-cash debit cards distributed by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina sure bought some interesting stuff.
The Hooters restaurant chain has a $200 check ready for FEMA, reimbursement for a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne bought with Hurricane Katrina relief money. FEMA will be happy to have the money back.

The champagne, purchased in San Antonio, was among numerous examples of improper spending of hurricane relief money cited earlier this week by Congress' Government Accountability Office. The bogus spending could be as high as $1.4 billion, the GAO said.
Hooters wants to pay FEMA for champagne (AP via Yahoo! News)

Meanwhile, hip-hop artist and impresario Jay-Z is boycotting Cristal:

Cristal, the champagne that has been name-checked in songs by rappers like Lil' Kim, Snoop Dogg, Sean "Diddy" Combs and 50 Cent, no longer has a place on Jay-Z's table. The Def Jam Records president announced Thursday that he would be boycotting the beverage, both at home and at his chain of nightclubs, due to comments made by a Cristal executive that he found offensive.

Frederic Rouzaud, the managing director of Louis Roederer, Cristal's parent company, told the Economist magazine that his organization viewed the hip-hop world's affinity for its champagne with "curiosity and serenity."

For an article titled "Bubbles and Bling" featured in a summer 2006 issue, Rouzaud was asked whether Cristal's image as a symbol of a flashy lifestyle was detrimental to the brand.

"That's a good question, but what can we do?" he said. "We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

Jay Z's Cristal Clear Decision (E! Online via Yahoo News)

Adventures in Mac/Windows Wonkery

Well, I must say I'm enjoying the new MacBook.

I still have a need to run a few Windows programs (Visio, Project), and so for the first few days this week I experimented with Apple's BootCamp. This is a perfectly satisfactory solution, as long as you don't mind shutting down and rebooting whenever you need to access something in Windows.

But when I ramped up the MacBook's RAM this week to 2GB (thanks, Small Dog Electronics -- $225 with shipping is a much better deal than the $500 that Apple charges for the identical sticks o' memory), I had enough overhead to play with virtual machines.

So I downloaded and installed Parallels Desktop (just formally released; on sale for $49 through July.) Parallels allows you to run Windows XP (or any Windows OS, or Linux, or pretty much anything that runs on an Intel chip) in a window on your Mac, while your other Mac software putters along happily.

Does it work?

Yes, it does:

Mac Desktop With Parallels Scaled
A new Outlook on Macintosh computing

That's Windows XP in a Mac window, with Windows Outlook downloading my company e-mail and showing my calendar for the week.

The performance is admittedly much less snappy than BootCamp, which is, after all, running Windows natively on a fast Intel processor. But it's perfectly adequate for occasionally starting up XP and tweaking a Visio document or a Project plan, and as I get a little better at adjusting the settings to find the configuration's "sweet spot," it is improving all the time.


Mister Goto

Mico Goto, who passed away eighteen years ago, was recently unceremoniously disinterred from his grave and schlepped to a new location across town, a casualty of the real estate boom in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The trouble is, no one bothered to inform the Goto family.

When a Goto family member showed up to put flowers on Mico's grave...
...[H]e found the land cleared, the graves uprooted and Mico gone.

"What a surprise this was," said [Takeshi] Goto, a Cary [NC] engineer. "Next year would have been my 20th year."

Mico was a tabby cat who lived 14 years, starting with Goto's sixth birthday.

After getting the runaround from the construction company and the former owner of the pet cemetery, the grieving Takeshi Goto finally tracked Mico down at his new location.

newsobserver.com | Man finds cat has multiple afterlives


Great last minute travel deals on unsold inventory can be found at SkyAuction. Just the thing if you're suddenly seized with a desire to get the f*** out of Dodge as the weekend nears.

(Hat tip: Forbes Magazine, "Best of the Web Weekly")

16 June 2006

Bill Gates Gets Schooled (BusinessWeek)

What happens when one of the richest men in the world tries to fix the broken US public educational system? This week's BusinessWeek gives us a clue or two:
After gathering a team of experts, [The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation] decided to focus on high school dropouts, the 20% to 30% of teens who fail to get a degree in four years. The foundation embraced what many social scientists had concluded was the prime solution: Instead of losing kids in large schools... the new thinking was to divide them into smaller programs with 200 to 600 students each. Doing so, numerous studies showed, would help prevent even hard-to-reach students from falling through the cracks. The foundation didn't set out to design schools or run them. Its goal was to back some creative experiments and replicate them nationally. "I thought, if you get enough of these going across the country, people will realize they're good, and more and more will pop up," says Melinda Gates, who devotes several hours a week to education philanthropy.

Six years and a steep learning curve later, the Gateses see just how intractable are the many ills plaguing America's worst schools. It has been a difficult, even humbling experience. Melinda Gates says she and Bill didn't realize at first how much cooperation it would take from school districts and states to break up traditional big schools. "If you want to equate being naive with being inexperienced, then we were definitely naive when we first started," she says. "There are a lot of places where many people have given up, or decided that 'bad schools are not my problem.' There are also a lot of entrenched interests."

Bill Gates Gets Schooled (Business Week)

15 June 2006

Just "click" it

Enrevanche pal John deVille says:
This site has enrevanche "written" all over it.
And it does, it does.

The Gallery of "Misused" Quotation Marks

Best seat in the house

We recently blogged about how happy we were to get our Aeron chair back from the repair shop.

But no one was happier than Mister Gato.

In this picture, Mister G. is enjoying a nap in the best seat in the house.

mister gato in aeron chair scaled
Let sleeping cats lie.

Check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator to see pictures of other bloggers' pets; this Sunday, the Carnival of the Cats is hosted by Mind of Mog.

BadgerBadgerBadger, World Cup edition

Football, football.... GOOOOAL!

"Designed in California, made in China"

Apple's iPods are made by mainly female workers who earn as little as £27 per month, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday yesterday.


The report claims Longhua's workers live in dormitories that house 100 people, and that visitors from the outside world are not permitted. Workers toil for 15-hours a day to make the iconic music player, the report claims. They earn £27 per month. The report reveals that the iPod nano is made in a five-storey factory that is secured by police officers.


Apple is just one of thousands of companies that now use Chinese facilities to manufacture its products, the report observes. Low wages, long hours and China's industrial secrecy make the country attractive to business, particularly as increased competition and consumer expectations force companies to deliver products at attractive prices.
Macworld UK - Inside Apple's iPod factories

Related: Apple's Response

Where did you go on your vacation?

This guy went to North Korea, and he's got pictures.

14 June 2006

Mister Gato's new tactic

I don't have a picture of this yet, due to poor planning and the unnaturally early hour at which this occurs, but Mister Gato has an enormously amusing new dominance tactic that he has been practicing of late.

I have turned into that most lamentable of creatures, the early riser. (The work I get done between about five in the morning and around nine o'clock, when my colleagues around the country start to come online, is usually the most productive of the day by far.) One of the first things I do upon waking is feed the animals. Mister Gato gets his crunchy kibble in his little dish, and the dogs get theirs.

Well, lately, Mister Gato has been hunkering down for a few seconds in front of the dog dishes and ceremonially eating a little kibble (one or two nuggets) before he moves on to his preferred breakfast. The bemused Chow Chows stand by and wait for him to finish tasting their food, having learned early not to trifle with the cat while he's eating.

Judging from the faces he makes, I don't think Mister G. likes the taste of dog food very much. It is absolutely clear, though, what he is doing and why.

There's not a good expression for it in American idiomatic English, but the Brits have a perfect one. (See also.)

I'll try very hard to get a picture of this soon.

Barbaro update

Barbaro update: the mighty horse has just had the cast on his leg replaced, and he's doing fine:

Dean Richardson, the chief of surgery at the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, replaced the cast he first put on Barbaro's leg during surgery May 21.

'His leg looks excellent,' Richardson said in the statement. 'The incision has healed well and judging by the radiographs, the graft is opacifying (taking). Callus is forming nicely, and all of the implants look unchanged.'

Barbaro Has Cast Replaced on Leg (AP, via the San Francisco Chronicle)

13 June 2006

Basic Negotiating for Fun and Profit

Many independent developers eventually find themselves in a situation where they must negotiate a contract for the first time, such as for a publishing deal. And many developers are taken advantage of on their first deal because of a lack of basic negotiating skills. This article will attempt to give you a general understanding of how to negotiate a fair deal.

The first thing you must learn are the three variables of negotiation: time, information, and power. You can remember these easily with the acronym 'TIP,' so the next time you have to negotiate an agreement, you'll remember the 'TIP' to think in terms of time, information, and power.
Basic Negotiating for Fun and Profit (Steve Pavlina)

Verizon to launch mobile chaperone service

Verizon Wireless, the No. 2 U.S. cell phone service provider, plans on Monday to launch a wireless service that lets parents check their children's whereabouts and alerts them when they venture out of bounds.

Parents can use the service to set up geographic limits and receive text alerts if their children, who also carry phones, go too far from home. The service also lets parents check where their offspring are via a map on their cell phone or computer.
Verizon to launch mobile chaperone service | Tech News on ZDNet

Anybody out there want to hazard a guess as to how many suspicious wives or husbands will be giving Verizon cell phones as birthday present (or "just because" gifts) to their spouses?

"Honey, it's for you. Because I care."

12 June 2006

John Derbyshire on Iraq

We are not controlling events in Iraq. Events in Iraq are controlling us. We are the puppet; the street gangs of Baghdad and Basra are the puppet-masters, aided and abetted by an unsavory assortment of confidence men, bazaar traders, scheming clerics, ethnic front men, and Iranian agents. With all our wealth and power and idealism, we have submitted to become the plaything of a rabble... The lazy-minded evangelico-romanticism of George W. Bush, the bureaucratic will to power of Donald Rumsfeld, the avuncular condescension of Dick Cheney, and the reflexive military deference of Colin Powell combined to get us into a situation we never wanted to be in, a situation no self-respecting nation ought to be in, a situation we don’t know how to get out of...

Since the Iraq war was obviously a gross blunder, is it time for those of us who cheered on the war to offer some kind of apology? Here we are—we, the United States—in our fourth year of occupying that sinkhole, and it looks pretty much like the third year, or the second. Will the eighth year of our occupation, or our twelfth, look any better? I know people who will say yes, but I no longer know any who will say it with real conviction. It’s a tough thing, to admit you were wrong. It’s way tough if you’re a big-name pundit with a reputation to preserve. For those of us down at the bottom of the pundit pecking order, the stakes aren’t so high. I, at any rate, am willing to eat some crow and say: I wish I had never given any support to this fool war.
John Derbyshire on Iraq: National Review Online

Tinkerty Tonk: RINO sightings

RINO Sightings are up at Tinkerty Tonk.

Tinkerty Tonk: RINO sightings: You've got questions, we've got answers

The Carnival of the Cats...

...is up over at Gigolokitty.

How bad was it?

In a comment to a previous post, enrevanche pal John V. asks for more specific details about what's wrong with Microsoft Vista.

I responded:
It's bloated and a complete resource pig; it's slow, and it still feels very unstable.

I realize that it's "beta" software, but they've been working on this project since before XP was released (admittedly, abandoning much of the code in 2004 and starting over from the Windows Server 2003 codebase.)

And my overall impression after living with the new OS and productivity applications for a few days is: the baby is ugly.

Really, really ugly.
Just how bad is it?

Well, after spending the weekend with the "future" of Microsoft, I went out Sunday afternoon and bought a Mac... one of the Intel Core Duo-based laptops.

Apple's Boot Camp installed flawlessly, and it took me a little over three hours to get the machine configured (with both operating systems and a minimum set of required applications) to run both Mac OS X and XP Pro.

The future IT plans for the Campbell family involve, insofar as is possible, the avoidance of Microsoft operating systems and productivity applications. (The sole reason I've got XP installed right now is for Microsoft Visio, although in all fairness I may have to start using Project again soon.)

Here's what my workspace looks like this morning:

mac desktop scaled

11 June 2006

Looking for a job? Better check your web presence.

When a small consulting company in Chicago was looking to hire a summer intern this month, the company's president went online to check on a promising candidate who had just graduated from the University of Illinois.

At Facebook, a popular social networking site, the executive found the candidate's Web page with this description of his interests: "smokin' blunts" (cigars hollowed out and stuffed with marijuana), shooting people and obsessive sex, all described in vivid slang.

It did not matter that the student was clearly posturing. He was done.

"A lot of it makes me think, what kind of judgment does this person have?" said the company's president, Brad Karsh. "Why are you allowing this to be viewed publicly, effectively, or semipublicly?"
For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Résumé - New York Times

I recently interviewed a fresh-out-of-college candidate who was mildly surprised that I had Googled him prior to our talk and knew a few things that weren't on his résumé. But he was absolutely floored when he found out that I had also found his MySpace page (yeah, even us old farts have them.)

Unlike the NY Times story, this one has a happy ending: the kid's online presence had no damning information in it, but much that was of interest; it provided some great conversational pegs for the interview.

Blogs and other online personas can work for you or against you in the world of work. Be careful about what you're putting out there.

Early impressions of Microsoft Vista

I have a spare laptop of recent vintage around the house, and had some time on my hands this weekend--Carrie was working; I, uncharacteristically was not--so I downloaded and installed the public beta of the much-delayed and rescoped "Longhorn," the operating system that Microsoft is now calling Windows Vista.

I've also installed the public betas of the Office 2007 applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) plus Visio and Project.

My initial thoughts on Vista are all stock market-related.
  • If you own Microsoft stock, strongly consider selling it now.
  • If you don't own Microsoft stock, but have a margin account with your broker, strongly consider shorting (at least) a few hundred shares of it before the public release of this abortion (currently slated for November 2006 for business editions, and January 2007 for consumer editions.)
  • Go long on Apple. Their new Intel Core Duo-based machines, which can run both OS X and Windows, are perfectly positioned to take advantage of Microsoft's impending stumble.
I am currently evaluating Ubuntu Linux as a potential desktop OS alternative, and am very happy (to say the least) with its performance, but in all honesty, if I go with a Unix-like OS in the near future, it's going to be Apple OS X.

My thoughts on the new Office applications are soon to follow. One item of note: Microsoft Word 2007 supports a number of common blogging platforms natively, including Blogger (I'm composing this post in Word 2007.)


10 June 2006

Avoiding contamination from CBRN weapons


Tactics, techniques and procedures that military forces should use to
avoid contamination from an attack involving chemical, biological,
radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons are set forth in a recent
military manual.

"The possibility that an adversary will use CBRN weapons against the
United States and its allies continues to increase daily," the
manual states.

"If these weapons are used, our forces must be ready to implement the
principles of CBRN defense [including] contamination avoidance,
protection, and decontamination."

"Executed at all levels and coupled with an effective retaliatory
response, these fundamentals will increase the likelihood of a US

See "Multiservice Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Chemical,
Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Contamination Avoidance," U.S.
Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, February 2006 (13.5 MB

Barbaro update

Thoroughbred champion horse Barbaro, grievously injured in the Preakness Stakes, continues to recover nicely.
Kentucky Derby champion Barbaro continues to eat his hay, look out his window and take an interest in mares around him, one of his owners said yesterday.

Gretchen Jackson said she saw the recovering thoroughbred yesterday morning at the University of Pennsylvania's George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, in Kennett Square, where he has been since his breakdown in the May 20 Preakness Stakes.

"He continues to make remarkable improvement," she said. With mares and foals in nearby stalls, "He has a lot of entertainment," she said.

Barbaro making strides in recovery (Louisville, KY Courier-Journal, June 9, 2006)

Our Chows can relate

Watching Mister Gato operate, I have often thought that your basic garden-variety housecat wouldn't have to be all that much bigger to be a truly frightening animal.

The bobcats (Lynx rufus) that live in the North Carolina mountains only weigh in at around 30 pounds, but you *definitely* don't want to tangle with one if you can avoid it. Although they mostly hunt rabbits and smaller varmints, they're quite capable of taking down a full-sized deer without too much trouble.

But sometimes a plain old housecat can be pretty damned intimidating.

Just ask the black bear who wandered into the wrong back yard in New Jersey:
A black bear picked the wrong yard for a jaunt, running into a territorial tabby who ran the furry beast up a tree — twice.


Neighbor Suzanne Giovanetti first spotted Jack's accomplishment after her husband saw a bear climb a tree on the edge of their northern New Jersey property on Sunday. Giovanetti thought Jack was simply looking up at the bear, but soon realized the much larger animal was afraid of the hissing cat.

After about 15 minutes, the bear descended and tried to run away, but Jack chased it up another tree.

Dickey, who feared for her cat, then called Jack home and the bear scurried back to the woods.

"He doesn't want anybody in his yard," Dickey said.
I guess not!

09 June 2006

Control "Motivator"

Control "Motivator":
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
Flagrant Disregard has some very cool Flickr toys.

Like the one I just used to create a Mister Gato motivational poster.

Check them out.

Aren't cultural differences amazing?

Her People Love Fashion at a Bargain

Older woman: Excuse me, miss?
Younger woman: Yeah?
Older woman: Your veil, your burqa is very beautiful. I didn't know your people were allowed to wear it in bright colors.
Younger woman: It's not a burqa, it's a poncho. I'm Jewish. It's for the rain. I got it at TJ Maxx.

--53rd & 7th

via Overheard in New York, Jun 9, 2006

Next, a ten-part series on the wild rodents of North America

Now I know why the television has been stuck on the Nature Channel.

mister gato chooses the nature channel scaled
Mister Gato loves his TiVo.

Be sure to check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator to see pictures of other bloggers' pets; this Sunday, the Carnival of the Cats is hosted by Mister Gato's pal Gigolokitty.

Web Usability experts not appreciating in value

Jakob Nielsen (guru of all things web-usability-related) did a salary study, and here’s what he found (as reported by ZDNet.com):

1. Entry-level staffers were paid unrealistically high salaries during the bubble, when dot-com companies were desperate to hire any warm body that walked in the door

2. Experienced staffers were also paid more during the bubble, but their salaries have declined less in subsequent years

3. As a result of the different trends for entry-level and experienced staff, the premium on experience has increased in recent years: it’s currently about $5,000 per year of experience, compared with about $3,000 in 2001.

Web Usability experts not appreciating in value | Digital Micro-Markets | ZDNet.com

Related: Jakob Nielsen’s Salary Trends for Usability Professionals

Also posted at Knowledge Work.

New Scientist Technology - Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites

'I am continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves.' So says Jon Callas, chief security officer at PGP, a Silicon Valley-based maker of encryption software. He is far from alone in noticing that fast-growing social networking websites such as MySpace and Friendster are a snoop's dream.

New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming 'semantic web' championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals
New Scientist Technology - Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites

ScienCentral News: Super Battery

Here comes the Shipstone... maybe:
Capacitors charge faster and last longer than normal batteries. The problem is that storage capacity is proportional to the surface area of the battery's electrodes, so even today's most powerful capacitors hold 25 times less energy than similarly sized standard chemical batteries.

The researchers solved this by covering the electrodes with millions of tiny filaments called nanotubes. Each nanotube is 30,000 times thinner than a human hair. Similar to how a thick, fuzzy bath towel soaks up more water than a thin, flat bed sheet, the nanotube filaments on increase the surface area of the electrodes and allow the capacitor to store more energy. Schindall says this combines the strength of today's batteries with the longevity and speed of capacitors.

"It could be recharged many, many times perhaps hundreds of thousands of times, and ... it could be recharged very quickly, just in a matter of seconds rather than a matter of hours," he says.

ScienCentral News: Super Battery

What's a Shipstone, you ask?
1. Common power source. It involved intensive solar collection and energy storage but was not otherwise described. It apparently replaced almost all other sources of energy. The name also applied to the conglomerate that apparently owned most of the corporations on and off Earth, including Daniel Shipstone Estate, Inc.; Muriel Shipstone Memorial Research Laboratories; Shipstone Tempe, Gobi, Aden, Sahara, Africa, Death Valley, Karroo, Never-Never, Ell-Four, Ell-Five, Stationary, Tycho, Ares, DeepWater, Unlimited, and Ltd.; Sears-Montgomery, Inc.; Prometheus Foundation; Coca-Cola Holding Co.; Intraworld Transport Corp.; Jack and the Beanstalk, Pty.; Morgan Associates; Out-Systems Colonial Corporation; Billy Shipstone School for Handicapped Children; Wolf Creek Pass Nature Preserve; Año Nuevo Wild Life Refuge; and Shipstone Visual Arts Museum and School. In effect, Shipstone controlled the entire economy. A feud among different factions resulted in the overthrow and disruption of many Earth governments, particularly in North America.
2. [mentioned in passing] Power source used for automobiles (and probably other devices).
(To Sail Beyond the Sunset)
[Compare D. D. Harriman's extensive holdings and economic influence in earlier stories, and the more benevolent depiction of an unlimited power source in "Let There Be Light".]

Daniel Thomas Shipstone
Inventor of the Shipstone power cell.

Muriel Shipstone
Daniel Shipstone's wife and business advisor. Her decisions gave Shipstone companies their pre-eminence in business and the world at large.

Road warriors, rejoice

LoveMySeat.com: Seating Maps & Reviews for 100 Airlines; Covers most Boeing and Airbus Airplanes

08 June 2006

Microsoft's antipiracy tool phones home daily

Microsoft has vowed to better disclose the actions of its antipiracy tool once it is installed on Windows PCs.

The tool, called Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications, is designed to validate whether a copy of Windows has been legitimately acquired. However, it also checks in with Microsoft on a daily basis, the company confirmed Wednesday.

This has alarmed some people, such as Lauren Weinstein, a civil liberties activist, who likened it to spyware in a blog posting.

Microsoft disputes that notion. It said that WGA's regular call home is innocent and done for necessary maintenance purposes.
Microsoft's antipiracy tool phones home daily | CNET News.com


Salvaging Iraq

The news of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death in an airstrike last night is welcome indeed.

But while this decapitation has important symbolic value, it isn't likely to stem the tide of savage, violent insurgency that plagues Iraqi civilians (primarily) and the US-led coalition (secondarily.) The insurgents work on a completely decentralized model; the best we can say is that we took out the leader of the local franchise last night.

David Ignatius's column in yesterday's Washington Post is well worth reading in its entirety, but here's the relevant excerpt for me (after all, anyone who follows the news is acquainted with the horrific body count):

What we're seeing in Iraq is a mismatch between ends and means: between a political strategy of unity and the reality of feuding factional leaders; between a military strategy of "clear, hold and build" counterinsurgency and the reality that most American soldiers remain hunkered down every day; between the goal of stabilizing the country and the daily reality of physical intimidation.

What can America do to mitigate the Iraq disaster? Certainly it doesn't need more strategy papers. The political and military strategies now in place talk the right language of unity and counterinsurgency, but this is still mostly Green Zone talk. Marine Capt. Scott A. Cuomo argues in the June edition of Marine Corps Gazette [unfortunately, not available online - bc] that the U.S. military should make "embedded training teams," living and fighting with the Iraqi security forces, its main effort. He says frankly of his own combat experience in Iraq: "We did very little to truly help indigenous security forces protect the populace from the insurgency."

Salvaging Iraq (David Ignatius, Washignton Post, June 7, 2006)


07 June 2006

Michael Yon on Haditha

Few people know what happened last November in Haditha. I first heard about it when the Associated Press called to ask if I was present. The answer was “no.” But I do know how our troops typically act on counterinsurgency missions, how surprisingly honest they can be about mistakes they make in the field, and the lengths to which they go to avoid collateral civilian injuries when on patrol and conducting raids and ambushes...

...In the matter of Haditha, what we do know is that an investigation is underway. The results of that investigation have not been issued publicly and it is uncertain whether those results will include criminal charges. Because we have one of the only militaries on earth that actually investigates its own troops so openly, at the end of the day, we can and do hold our people to very high standards. Granted, in this case, apparently it took a media pry-bar to crack the lid, but we also have one of the only militaries in the world where a writer — even one who is flagrantly anti-military — can embed with combat troops.
Michael Yon: Hijacking Haditha, via Chapomatic

Worm-inspired robot crawls through intestines

A robot designed to crawl through the human gut by mimicking the wriggling motion of an undersea worm has been developed by European scientists. It could one day help doctors diagnose disease by carrying tiny cameras through patients' bodies.

The team behind the robot includes scientists from Italy, Germany, Greece and the UK. They modelled it on polychaetes, or 'paddle worms', which use tiny paddles on their body segments to push through sand, mud or water.

'We turned to biological inspiration because, in the peculiar environment of the gut, traditional forms of robotic locomotion don't work,' says Arianna Menciassi, a roboticist from the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy.

'Worms have locomotion systems suited to such unstructured, slippery environments.'
New Scientist Tech - Worm-inspired robot crawls through intestines

06 June 2006

When fishermen break bad

He'd Better Get Free Pretzels

Airport security: Sir, we've been informed that you are carrying a firearm aboard this plane.
Suit: WHAT?!
Flight attendant: I overheard him say he was going to disassemble his firearm!
Suit: FLY ROD! Disassemble my FLY ROD!
Flight attendant: Oh. Whoops.

--Jet Blue plane, JFK

via Overheard in New York, Jun 6, 2006

05 June 2006

Furry sentinels

Their feline brother, Mister Gato, gets most of the pixels on this blog, but Chow Fun and Chow Bella are awfully cute themselves.

Dogs love ritual and routine, and they also love anything involving food.

Especially our dogs.

I've been eating hard-boiled eggs (usually with toast and a piece of fruit) for breakfast lately--I need to lose weight, but have no cholesterol issues--and have taken to fixing an additional hard-boiled egg, and slicing it into quarters, to feed to the dogs as I eat my breakfast.

It only took them a few days to embrace this as part of their daily routine.

Chow Chows in Kitchen Doorway scaled
Peel us an egg, Papa.

In this picture, the Chows are waiting patiently in the kitchen doorway for the egg timer to go off, so that I can shell and serve their pre-breakfast appetizer.

A graduation speech to remember

At the close of his commencement speech before 250 graduates (and 4000 others) at tiny Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. on Saturday, satirist Stephen Colbert left them with a piece of advice: Get your own TV show. “It pays well,' he observed, 'the hours are great and you have fans. Eventually, some nice people will give you an honorary degree for doing jack squat.”


Colbert considered the immigration debate: “It’s time for illegal immigrants to go — right after they finish (building) those walls." People keep saying immigrants built America, “but here's the thing, it's built now. I think it was finished in the '70s sometime. From this point it’s only a touch-up and repair job."

His suggestions for securing the U.S.-Mexico border went beyond walls to include moats, fiery moats and fiery moats with fire-proof crocodiles.
Colbert Tells College Graduates: Get Your Own TV Show (Editor and Publisher)

Carnival of the Cats #115

Carnival of the Cats #115 is up at TacJammer.

The Truth About Work/Life Balance

Problems with the balance between the demands of profit-driven corporations and peoples’ need to live a satisfying life won’t be cured by policy statements and procedure manuals. That isn’t where the causes lie. They’re inside peoples’ heads: obsessive achievement drive, ambition gone mad, laughable greed for money and power, and blithe disregard of anything not linked to short-term results. Macho, “grab ‘n go” bosses don’t treat underlings like cattle to be milked of every ounce of effort because they’ve selected incorrect HR policies. They do it because they have dysfunctional values and massively over-inflated egos.

Work/life balance is an issue of civilization. It’s driven by simplistic, financially-derived goals, an unthinking ideology of “winner takes all,” and contempt for those unable to keep up. It’s the result of achievement motivation run wild. Until executives (and wannabe executives) realize they’ve created a monster that’s out of control — one that will eventually devour their lives and health too — no amount of policy-writing will make any difference.

Source: The Truth About Work/Life Balance - lifehack.org

This seems to be a very simple proposition to me, but then I’m a simple man.

There are 168 hours (24 x 7) in a seven-day week.

Allowing ten hours a day for sleep, meals and personal hygiene, this leaves us with 98 potentially productive hours to work (and conduct our lives!) Let’s call it 100, because you’re gonna skip lunch at least a day or two.

(This assumes that you have no religious prohibitions against working on one of the days of the week, an assumption we’ve made to simplify the math.)

I don’t know anyone in New York in any professional job who works a strict 40-hour week, though they must be out there.

But if you are consistently spending much more than half of your available waking hours on the job–if you’re consistently exceeding the 50-hour-a-week mark by a wide enough margin–that should be a gigantic red flag that your work and your life are out of balance.

And you should do something about it.

(Also posted at Knowledge Work.)

04 June 2006

Thanks, FEMA.

On Monday, June 19, about 4,000 government workers representing more than 50 federal agencies from the State Department to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will say goodbye to their families and set off for dozens of classified emergency facilities stretching from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs to the foothills of the Alleghenies. They will take to the bunkers in an 'evacuation' that my sources describe as the largest 'continuity of government' exercise ever conducted, a drill intended to prepare the U.S. government for an event even more catastrophic than the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks...

...[S]ince 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, the definition of what constitutes an "essential" government function has been expanded so ridiculously beyond core national security functions -- do we really need patent and trademark processing in the middle of a nuclear holocaust? -- that the term has become meaningless. The intent of the government effort may be laudable, even necessary, but a hyper-centralized approach based on the Cold War model of evacuations and bunkering makes it practically worthless...
Thanks (again), FEMA.

Y'all are still doing a heckuva job.

Back to the Bunker: Washington Post

03 June 2006

Coke and Mentos Experiment

Pure genius.

Just click it.

Hat tip: Metafilter.

By the time we got to Woodstock, we were pretty freaking damp

There comes a time in every New Yorker's life, particularly a New Yorker who lives in a fourth-floor walkup with inadequate air conditioning, when he starts dreaming of a summer house.

Or, in our case, a summer/weekend/increasing amount of time out-of-Manhattan place.

I've lived in the City for ten years now, and Carrie's been here for twenty. And while we're not yet ready to give up our West Village apartment (and may never be), both of us now have jobs that can be done from anywhere, and that do not demand our physical presence in Manhattan on most days.

So we're looking.

We love the Hudson River valley very much... and had decided, based on some day trips and vacations that we've taken in the last few years, that the "sweet spot" for a country house would be somewhere in the latitudes between Newburgh and Kingston, NY.

And that was how we found ourselves in Woodstock, NY, on a rainy Friday afternoon, meeting a very smart and friendly real estate broker/developer/entrepreneur named Cree and driving out to look at a farmhouse for rent (with an option to buy.)

Woodstock Town Square
Right smack dab in the middle of town

Woodstock Main Street in the Rain
Main Street in the rain

Woodstock Landau Grill
Landau Grill: The onion rings are pretty good here.

The property in question turned out to be waaaaay too much house for us (hard to tell that from pictures and stats), but our time in the area, plus our leisurely drive home along US Highway 9W, confirmed that we're looking in the right place.

More day-trips with maps and MLS listings to follow, no doubt.