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

30 November 2006

Now, that's love

At the risk of giving you too much information about my personal life in this Thursday catblogging entry, I'm a sweaty guy.

As a Person of Size (yes, this appears to be the new PC term for "fat guy") I would be somewhat more inclined to excess surface moisture than the norm anyway, but even before I was heavy I tended to perspire freely. There are pictures of me at age 15, at a cousin's outdoor wedding on a humid summer day, in which it appears that I've recently had a hose turned on me.

My tendency to schvitz is not so bad that it's a clinical condition, but it's annoying enough that I've usually got a clean handtowel stashed in my bag, year-round. (I always know where my towel is... thanks, Douglas Adams.)

Well.

New York City has had unseasonably warm weather this November, and the rocket scientists at the MTA have been having a little trouble with the climate control on the trains. One recent 60-degree evening, I was headed home on the subway, in a packed car, which not only had no air-conditioning (necessary even on temperate days due to the heat subway cars generate, to say nothing of the bodies crammed inside) but may have actually had the heat on; if you threw a few bricks in one corner, you would have had a very satisfactory sauna.

Naturally, while in this very uncomfortable configuration, we got stopped by traffic control... and sat in the tunnel, between Christopher Street and 14th Street, for what seemed like an eternity but must have been only ten minutes or so.

Everybody on the train had long since shed their jackets, and a couple of people had stripped down to T-shirts; I just stood there, an unhappy straphanger, quietly soaked to the skin. There I was, less than five hundred yards from home (were it not for the third rail I could have forced the doors open, walked through the tunnel in either direction, climbed up on the platform when I got to a station and been home in ten minutes) and there wasn't a thing I could do but wait. And sweat. And hope that someone might at least come by with a dish of melted butter to baste me with.

As soon as I opened the door to the apartment, in more or less one motion I kissed a slightly startled Carrie on the cheek, scratched the dogs behind the ears (the cat was not close by; cats don't do Mister G doesn't do [see comments - bc] "greeting you at the door"), and peeled off all my clothes, tossing them on the living room floor, on the way to a long, blissful, cooling shower. I believe I may have said something profound like "Gaaaaaaaaaaah!" as I dove in.

And when I got out (here's the catblogging part) here's where I found Mister Gato:

Gato atop shirt scaled
Atop a sweaty dress shirt.
Now, that's love.

Be sure to check out The Modulator's Friday Ark tomorrow, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday, at Catymology.

29 November 2006

Give away the razor, sell the blades

"Give away the razor, sell the blades" is shorthand for a marketing strategy that means taking an upfront loss in order to guarantee a recurring revenue stream. It's useful to remember that the expression comes from an actual marketing strategy executed successfully by people who made razor blades... and that the strategy is still in literal use today.

Last week, I received (in the mail, free of charge, and unasked for) a brand new Gillette Fusion razor.

The latest escalation in the multiblade razor wars, the Fusion has *five* cutting blades on the front side of the cartridge and a "trimming blade" in the back (for, e.g., sideburns), as well as a little rubber squeegee-looking thing to pull your face taut before the blades hit the skin.

OK, I tried it.

And you know what, it really was a superb shaving experience, resulting in a great shave... it's not a straight-razor shave with hot lather in a barber chair, with a skilled hand wielding the straight-razor, but it's close.

(I almost can't believe that I'm writing about this, having formerly been a member of the Bearded Techie Class, but now that I'm a Suit, I think and care about things like shaving, God help me.)

bc
That's MISTER Hairy Freak to you, buddy.
(BC, circa 1997)


Since Gillette was giving away the razor, and since Procter and Gamble is a very fine American company but not in the personal care products business out of altruism or for their health, I knew there had to be a catch.

Was at the drugstore last night picking up a prescription, and I decided to buy myself some Fusion cartridges.

OK. Exercise for the reader. How much was Duane Reade charging for a four-pack of Fusion cartridges?

$13.29. To save you the trouble of whipping out a calculator, that's $3.32 per cartridge, leading me to believe that their planned price point all along was "ten bucks for three" and then someone wimped out about selling three cartridges in a pack but wouldn't back down on price.

Discount pharmacies on the Web have the four-pack as low as $11, but any price difference is quickly eroded by shipping charges.

You magnificent bastards.

Remind me to buy some Procter & Gamble stock.

28 November 2006

MAKE: The Open Source Gift Guide

There are hundreds of gift guides this holiday season filled with junk you can buy - but a lot of time you actually don't own it, you can't improve upon it, you can't share it or make it better, you certainly can't post the plans, schematics and source code either. We want to change that, we've put together our picks of interesting open source hardware projects, open source software, services and things that have the Maker-spirit of open source.
The Open Source Gift Guide

Personally, I've got my eye on the "MAKE Warranty Voider" - a customized Leatherman tool that contains every attachment, bit and blade you need to pop open the sealed case of most computing and consumer electronic devices.

Carnival of the Cats #140

Is up at Scribblings.

27 November 2006

Borowitz: Al-Jazeera refuses to air OJ special

...[A]fter reviewing the tape of the Simpson program, Al-Jazeera executives decided that "If I Did It" was a non-starter at their network.

"O.J. Simpson certainly qualifies as a delusional madman, which is the bread and butter of our broadcast schedule," said Al-Jazeera spokesman Hassan El-Medfaii. "Having said that, 'If I Did It,' is not up to our standards of taste."

While some media observers took the Al-Jazeera statement at face value, insiders close to the decision not to air the O.J. special said that the network was "queasy about getting into business with Judith Regan."

Instead, the network has decided to broadcast a new special starring Mr. bin Laden, entitled, "If I Declared a Global Jihad, Here's How It Would Have Gone Down."
Al-Jazeera Refuses to Air O.J. Special (The Borowitz Report)

26 November 2006

You gotta get hot to play real cool

Okay, now.

If you are a small child, or if you are a jazz fan, or dear sweet Mother of God, if you are a jazz fan with small children, you need to watch this classic Looney Tunes short.

Right. Now.

It's called "The Three Little Bops," and it just goes to show you what can happen when you give three hip cats like Friz Freleng, Shorty Rogers and Stan Freberg a sufficient budget. (Full credits here, courtesy of IMDB.)

Real gone, man.


Hat tip: Pistol Wimp.

Update: And Chap hips us (in the comments) to a link to the Tom and Jerry classic, "Solid Serenade," from the 1940s.

A new home for Bill In Exile

Bill in Exile (warning: that entire site is pretty much Not Safe For Work, unless you have a very unusual workplace) has moved off of Blogspot and into a brand new, redesigned home.

Swanky.

Congratulations to Scott (and Bill) and their designer.

I've got your number

You don't need 007's "Q" to listen in on coded broadcasts that are transmitted to spies in faraway places.

Anybody can tune in to the world's top spy agencies talking to operatives in harm's way. All you need is a cheap shortwave radio receiver - the kind available at any drugstore.

Tune it to 6855 kHz or 8010 on the hour. You might hear a girlish voice repeating strings of numbers in a Spanish monotone.

"Nueve, uno, nueve, tres, cinco-cinco, quatro, cinco, tres, dos ... ," went one seemingly harmless message heard this week on a Grundig radio.

It was the Cuban Intelligence Directorate or Russian FSB broadcasting coded instructions from Havana to spies inside the U.S.

Snoop, Here It Is (New York Daily News, 26 Nov 2006)

For more on this fascinating topic, see the website SpyNumbers.com.

An online quiz, paid for by your tax dollars

How about an exciting career with the CIA? Take this online aptitude test (just for laughs.)

I was stirred (not shaken) to discover that both my wife and I rated as "Impressive Masterminds."

24 November 2006

Mostly feet; also a very long tail

While the enrevanche family is on the road, the quadruped members of the clan have retreated to their favorite animal spas in Manhattan, where, among other things, they get daily rubdowns and are hand-fed foie gras and other delicacies by a small army of attractive young staffers.

Until next week, when we're all reunited, here's a photo from the Mister Gato Archives to tide you over:

mostly feet and a very long tail scaled
The tail's counterweight keeps me balanced precariously atop this box.
Okay, not so precariously.


Be sure to check out The Modulator's Friday Ark today, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday, at Scribblings.

23 November 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Down in North Carolina this week, making Thanksgiving dinner today for the extended family: two turkey breasts, a standard international shipping container load of cornbread dressing, the World's Best Carrot Salad, marinated "Chinese" vegetables (which are approximately as Chinese as my sainted mother, whose recipe this is), mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole, collard greens...

Anyway, I hope that everyone enjoys the parades, the football games, and of course the inevitable tryptophan coma, and has a wonderful Thanksgiving 2006.

Here's a picture from Thanksgiving 2005, chez enrevanche:

Chef with entree Thanksgiving 2005
Kiss the cook.

One thing I'm thankful for is that I'm a few pounds lighter this year.

Channeling Wodehouse

In this week's New Yorker, Christopher Buckley reimagines James Baker and Dubya as Jeeves and Bertie Wooster.

“Might I suggest, sir, a regional conference?”

“Dash it, Jeeves, we’re at war. You can’t go conferencing with bullets flying all over the place.”

“Indeed, sir. And yet if we were to invite, say, Iran and Syria and some of the other affected countries to sit down for what is, I believe, referred to as ‘networking,’ it might take some of the pressure off yourself?”

“You mean the sort of how-d’ye-do where everyone sits at one of those huge U-shaped tables and makes endless orations all day?”

“That would be the general notion, yes, sir.”

“Now, steady on, Jeeves. You know I hate those things. You sit there with an earphone, listening to interpreters jibber-jabber about how it’s all your fault. I’d rather take my chances playing Blinky with Cobra Woman and Cactus Butt.”

“You wouldn’t actually have to attend personally, sir. Indeed, I could represent you, if that would be agreeable.”

“I say, would you, Jeeves?”

Smashing.

22 November 2006

Overpriced at $85? (sigh)

When Google went public, I steered friends (all of whom are, thankfully, still speaking to me) away from the IPO, feeling that the stock was overpriced at its opening value of $85/share.

Now that Google has broken the $500/share barrier (with no ceiling in sight), another one of the Google Stock Price Milestone stories has hit the papers.

Of course, there are still naysayers:

As with any highflying stock, though, a few investors are actively betting on a reversal of fortune. Fred Hickey, who writes the High-Tech Strategist newsletter from his home in Nashua, N.H., says that Google’s shares are sharply overvalued and will fall as investors notice that the company’s rapid growth is slowing.

He points out that its revenue increased 11 percent from the second quarter to the third quarter — a brisk pace, to be sure, but a lot less than the 18 percent pace in the corresponding time a year earlier.

“Google showed the sharpest revenue slowdown I’ve seen,” he said, “and nobody has paid attention.” He argued further that the company’s expenses are “out of control,” and that if the economy headed into a recession, Google’s revenue would falter and its profits plummet.

“Google will suffer the same fate that Yahoo did in 2000,” he said.

Mr. Hickey has put his money where his mouth is: he sold Google shares short, a bet that the stock price will decline. But not much: the short position is just 50 shares.

“I just wanted to be able to say I was short Google when it blew up,” he said.

A $500 Milestone for Google Believers (New York Times, November 22, 2006)

Heh, yeah. He's "short Google" in almost exactly the same sense (and not far from the same dollar value) that I am "long Berkshire Hathaway."

Hey, a couple of Class B shares (and continued fractional investment via Sharebuilder) is a position...

Stop laughing.

The return of the online grocery

Webvan, a grocery delivery service, was one of the most colossal and expensive failures of the dot-com boom.

But quietly, in the last few years, there have been some interesting success stories in local delivery of groceries ordered online.

Carrie and I are enthusiastic and frequent customers of FreshDirect, the NYC-metro online grocery service, and there's a very good article in today's New York Times about the business (and the business model):

[T]he idea behind Webvan is finally starting to look good. Since its demise, smaller players have been slowly and quietly building online groceries into a legitimate business. The most intriguing of the group is a little New York company called FreshDirect that may well be offering us a glimpse of the next wave of Internet commerce.

It has already become something of a cult in New York, thanks to produce, fish and meats that put most supermarkets to shame, usually at lower prices. A handful of new apartment buildings have installed refrigerators in their lobbies, built to FreshDirect specifications, to lure residents who want their groceries delivered during the day. Real estate agents selling home buyers on up-and-coming neighborhoods like Inwood have taken to emphasizing that FreshDirect delivers there. When a friend of mine saw a delivery man walking on her Brooklyn street, she chased him down to confirm that, indeed, the company had begun delivering to her part of Park Slope.

Today, which is FreshDirect’s busiest day of the year, it will deliver many of the 2,000 fully cooked Thanksgiving dinners and 6,000 uncooked turkeys that it has sold in recent weeks. Operating out of a single warehouse in Queens, the company brings in about $240 million a year, up from nothing in 2001. Its executives talk as if they’re planning someday to expand to other cities, where they would compete with services like Peapod run by existing supermarkets. In all, online groceries are still only a $2 billion business, but they are growing quickly.

FreshDirect doesn't sell us everything that we need, but they don't want to, either. They are delighted to sell and deliver relatively high-margin items, and we continue to shop at our local grocery store (or the Greenmarket) for staples and locally grown produce, respectively.
...FreshDirect stocks less than a complete selection of certain staples, like cereal, giving customers a reason to shop elsewhere for them. When the tennis partner of the company’s chief executive, Dean Furbush, sheepishly confided that he shopped at both FreshDirect and Costco, Mr. Furbush replied that he loved hearing that.
Very interesting read about something that may be coming to your town soon, if the demographics and population density are right.

Filling Pantries Without A Middleman (David Leonhardt, New York Times, November 22, 2006)

21 November 2006

The 100 Most Influential Americans

Instead of the usual "best-of" year-end lists that start appearing, oh, right about now, how about a list from The Atlantic that's sure to inspire debate:

The 100 Most Influential Americans (ever.)

Ronald Reagan shows up quite early in the list, at #17 (which I happen to agree with; fair-minded historians are already ranking him as one of the great Presidents.)

But ranking Elvis Presley (#66) higher than Louis Armstrong (#79) is musical and cultural illiteracy of the highest order; Armstrong was the man who invented modern American popular music and paved the way for everyone who followed, from Sinatra and Crosby to Elvis to Jay-Z and beyond.

But what I really want to do is (art-) direct

Everyone's an art director: national flags, but fresher!

(Flash required, but so so worth it.)

Hat tip: Laurie.

Portable Apps Suite

Take your entire (Windows) computing environment with you on a USB key with the Portable Apps Suite.

Suddenly, any computer that has a USB port becomes *your* computer--with your browser bookmarks, your e-mail, your IM settings, and so on.

Applications in the Portable Apps Suite (which takes about 260MB of room unpacked and runs fine on a 512MB drive) include:
PortableApps Suite (Standard Edition): ClamWin Portable (antivirus), Firefox Portable (web browser), Gaim Portable (instant messaging), OpenOffice.org Portable (office suite), Sudoku Portable (puzzle game), Sunbird Portable (calendar/task manager) and Thunderbird Portable (email client) and runs comfortably from a 512MB drive.
A "lite" version that requires about 100MB of space and runs comfortably on a 256MB drive is also available... but considering that 1GB USB keys are now selling for under $20 (as of this writing, Fry's is selling a Memorex USB flash drive for $18, no rebate required), and that the applications are completely free (being open-source freeware), this is one of the best deals of all time for anyone who travels and would rather stick a USB drive on their keychain than lug a laptop around.

RINO Sightings are up at Right Thoughts

RINO Sightings are up at Right Thoughts.

Actually, they went up yesterday, but I couldn't tell you much about them then - connectivity problems down here in North Carolina, where Carrie and I are spending Thanksgiving week.

They are hopefully resolved now. (Memo to Bellsouth: Providing reduced service to your customers over an eighteen-hour period does not fit the usual industry definition of a "maintenance window.")

16 November 2006

It's tall, it's warm, and it purrs back

Mister Gato's new favorite elevated perch: the quietly humming, heat-shedding top of our refrigerator.

fridge kitty scaled
Tabby cat, towel and fridge magnets sold separately

Be sure to check out The Modulator's Friday Ark tomorrow, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday, at Mind of Mog.

My very own truffle tree

Following up on an earlier post:

Wow, look what arrived in the mail today!

A picture of my very own truffle tree.

the truffle tree in plot d19 scaled
A Downy Oak growing in Plot D19 in
the truffière at Le Gardian, Barran, France

Jim Webb on "Class Struggle"

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper [The Wall Street Journal - bc] has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.
"Class Struggle"; Senator-Elect Jim Webb (D-VA), writing in The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2006

What kinda throughput you gettin' these days?

Time-Warner Cable, New York, NY, 7:22 AM EST:



We're taking an informal poll. Post your results in the comments if you're so inclined.

Hat tip: Fiona.

The birth of urban public health

Cool! Steven Johnson is now blogging at the New York Times:

In late August of 1854, in London’s crowded working-class neighborhood of Soho, a 5-month-old girl fell ill with cholera, and unleashed a chain of events that ultimately helped shape the world we live in today. The girl — known only as a “Baby Lewis” — lived with her parents, Sarah and Thomas Lewis, at 40 Broad Street, across from a public water pump known throughout Soho for its reliably clean and cool water. When Sarah Lewis emptied out the water she had used to clean her child’s soiled linens, a small amount of that waste found its way into the well beneath the Broad Street pump, thanks to decaying brickwork that separated the well from the cesspool in the Lewises’ basement.

Within 36 hours, one of the most explosive outbreaks of cholera in the history of London erupted throughout the neighborhood. By the end, some two weeks later, 10 percent of the Lewises’ neighbors were dead, and far more would have perished had so many residents not fled in terror.

Metropolis Rising (Steven Johnson, Urban Planet, New York Times, 15 November 2006)

15 November 2006

The event horizon of passenger aviation

In the news today, I read of a proposed merger between US Airways and Delta, once Delta emerges from bankruptcy protection.

Oh dear Lord, the suckfulness will be strong in this combo.

US Airways and Delta are at the top of my list of "airlines I never fly."

Delta has never once arrived on time, in my experience, and US Airways lost my luggage.

Twice.

Think there's a reason they're both in big financial trouble, other than the "expensive jet fuel" excuse that doesn't seem to be bothering carriers like Southwest and JetBlue?

14 November 2006

It's a bitch to clean the drains, though

"When Tom [DeLay] and his bunch first ran, they campaigned against the cesspool in Washington. After a while they looked around and said, 'Hey, this isn't a cesspool, it's a hot tub,'" - Richard Viguerie, conservative bomb-thrower.
Hat tip: Sully.

See also the thoroughly depressing article in the Houston Chronicle from which this quote is taken.

Tierney exits the Times Op-Ed page

John Tierney, the one consistently interesting columnist on the New York Times op-ed page, is moving on: not leaving the newspaper, but trying a different beat:

Whatever [the new Congress does over] the next two years, I won’t be here to kick them around. This is my last column on the Op-Ed page. I’ve enjoyed the past couple of years in Washington, but one election cycle is enough. I’m returning full time to the subject and the city closest to my heart: science and New York. I’ll be writing a column and a blog for the Science Times section.

I hate to abandon my libertarian comrades here fighting in the belly of the beast, but this is the right moment to leave. After six years of libertarians reluctantly electing Republicans as the lesser of two evils, we’ve finally had enough. We’ve voted out big-government conservatism, and the result is the happy state of gridlock. For now, our work is done. See you in January in a new column on a new page.

Bring On The Seinfeld Congress (John Tierney, New York Times, Nov 14, 2006)

At least, one hopes, he won't be behind the TimesSelect firewall any more, and he's definitely trading up by moving back to NYC.

More signs of the End Times

New Zealand's high school students will be able to use "text-speak" -- the mobile phone text message language beloved of teenagers -- in national exams this year, officials said.

Text-speak, a second language for thousands of teens, uses abbreviated words and phrases such as "txt" for "text", "lol" for "laughing out loud" or "lots of love," and "CU" for "see you."

New Zealand students may 'text-speak' in exams (AP via CNN.com)

OMG! 404... SMHID... G2G. (key)

Hat tip: deVille.

13 November 2006

Tonedeaf? Think you might be?

Take the Pitch Perception Test.

I scored 88.9% Correct: Excellent musical abilities (just 1.1 points shy of "world class.")

Try telling that to the innocent humans and quadrupeds who have to suffer through me singing in the shower every morning.

RINO Sightings - We're on ur blogz, linking ur posts

Well, the GOP ran into a little spot of trouble at the polls last week, but it hasn't slowed down the Raging RINOs one bit.

In this first post-election RINO Sightings, enrevanche has got the duty, and there's a veritable passel of fine posts this go-round.

JimK of Right Thoughts leads off this week's edition and gives us a theme: an update to the "Im in ur base, killing ur d00ds" Internets meme (which meme is explained authoritatively here):

Indeed.

Hmm, I guess this strategy didn't work out as planned:

IN UR BOOTH
(image courtesy GoSleepGo.com)

(Memo to the American left: Can we all drink a tall, frosty glass of STFU about Diebold now? kthxbye.)

"Im in [E]ur[ope], watching the foreign press comment on ur elections": A pair of posts from Pigilito, who first reports on the giddy reaction of the Swiss press to the Democrat triumph in the midterm elections:
The Swiss newspapers are pretty happy with the Democratic victory. They view the outcome of the elections as a repudiation of Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Which completely misses the point. The Dems did well because of Bush's post-invasion mismanagement of Iraq. Had that gone well, the Republicans would still hold the House and Senate.
Almost certainly correct.

And for lagniappe, Pigilito offers us some good news from the midterm elections: most so-called Intelligent Design advocates on the ballot went down in flames, which bodes well for the teaching of actual science in American classrooms. ("Im in ur schoolz, telling the truth to ur kidz.") Good news.

"Im on ur border, keepin an eye on ur illegal alienz": Digger of Digger's Realm checks in with news of four successful anti-immigrant ballot initiatives in Arizona; although immigration-related issues did *not* result in boffo ballot-box business nationwide, as Republicans were hoping, at least on the statewide initiative level, they carried the day in AZ:
Arizona voters have spoken and they did it with a scream. Four [immigration-related] Propositions on the Arizona ballot passed with ease in yesterdays election.
"Im in ur library, readin about Ur": Bloodspite of Techography burned the midnight oil last week, exhaustively researching the history of the Mesopotamian region and authoring a multipage post that meditatively considers the history of conflict in the area and asks, in essence, what the hell were we thinking?
It is much too late to place the long overdue troops on the ground that I have called for. I have long said we need at least an additional 300,000.

But because of realpolitik it will never happen. Too many mothers' faces on national television. The will to win is no longer with the American people. The desire to be something better, and more than we are was lost with our grandparents generations, I am afraid.

It is not Our governments failure.

It is ours.
"Im in ur face, eyeballing ur shifty Democrats": Don Surber reminds us that absolute power isn't required for absolute corruption, and enumerates the rogue's gallery that's about to take power in 2007:
Nancy Pelosi will be the richest House speaker ever. She will appoint as head of intelligence a federal judge who accepted a $150,000 bribe. Alcee Hastings was impeached, ran for Congress and sat on his behind long enough to gain the seniority necessary to be the next intel head.

Her Ethics Committee chairman could be Alan Mollohan, who is under federal investigation for a kickback scheme in which he created five nonprofit orgs back “home” (well, in West Virginia) staffed by friends and former staff members. He fed those orgs a quarter-billion in federal money. They contributed to his campaigns.
As Don observes, "21 years in West Virginia have convinced me that a politician is guilty until proven innocent."

(Ten years in New York City will drive you to the same conclusion, Don. Plus ça change...)

"Im in ur clouds, lookin 4 the silver lining": Cody Herche at legal redux thinks that it's an ill wind that blows no man to good (and that's Shakespeare I'm quoting, not Bill Clinton); while we're studying the election-result clouds, he's finding the silver lining:
Now that an opposition party controls one of the houses of Congress, it will be much more difficult for the government to shoehorn new spending proposals through. Gridlock may be just the thing to keep government growth to a minimum...
(His post was written before it was clear that Democrats controlled the Senate, too...)

"Im on ur hiway, tryin to keep u off the left shoulder": At Searchlight Crusade, Dan Melson has some good advice for the newly elected Democrats in Congress: govern as you ran, from the center:
If you look at the Democrats who won, they ran as centrists, not leftists. Calls for the impeachment of President Bush or another go-around of something like Iran Contra will not endear you to the American public. Most of your leaders are leftists, but it's the centrists who won on Election night, and if they don't want to be swept out in their next election, they are going to have to act like centrists, talk like centrists, and most importantly, vote like centrists.
"Im watching from the sidelines, dissing ur nascent third party": MW at Divided We Stand, United We Fall is not impressed with what he's seen of Unity08:
It is just so painfully obvious that the "unity" in Unity08 will last exactly as long as they support no actual candidates, have no platform, and have no opinion on any actual issues, and will not last one minute longer.
(MW has blogged about Unity08 before, but am I the only one who's never heard of these people?)

"Im out of the majority, but enjoyin teh schadenfreude": Gary the Ex-Donkey looks at the disconnect between liberal Democrat leadership and the newly elected centrist Congressmen and Senators, and concludes that rhetoric is easy, but governing is hard:
It's easy to be on the outside, lobbing criticism. It's easy to find fault. It's easy to Monday-morning quarterback.

What's difficult is governing. What's difficult is supporting and defending policies that may not be popular.

Now Democrats have the difficult tasks.

And Republicans have the easy ones, as do I.

It's a role reversal.

And finally, this week at enrevanche, "Im thinkin about the long war and bummin' about Da Bomb":
Nuclear proliferation, combined with progressively loosening controls over nuclear weapons due to the nature of the increasingly unstable states that acquire them, make it close to a statistical certainty that non-state actors (terrorist groups) will get their hands on one or more nuclear weapons in the near future.

From where I sit, I see very few options open to us that will keep that from happening.



Update, November 13: Some late arrivals have been sighted.

"Im watching ur old moviez, it's Macacalypse Now": Mog at Mind of Mog thinks George Allen finally showed some class in the campaign by not dragging out the Virginia Senate election through a series of lengthy and expensive court challenges.

(Hat tip to Wonkette for "Macacalypse Now," which was way too good not to steal.)

"Im in ur house, psychoanalyzing ur dog": At Classical Values, Eric's dog Coco is having nightmares about a Democrat-controlled Congress.

"Im on ur Internets, rounding up ur opposition": At DANEgerus, a summary of Democrat talking points culled from a variety of media.

Carnival of the Cats #138

...is up at This Blog Is Full of Crap.

12 November 2006

The Long War - what's next?

In an introspective mood this Sunday morning, and I doubt that anyone's going to leave the theater humming the theme to this show. Sorry about that.

By general consensus (and certainly the consensus of the American electorate), the War in Iraq is not going well, and the Global War on Terror, of which our efforts in Iraq are but a part, looks like it may have limited staying power as a political issue.

I am not a fan of some of the changes that the GWoT has brought about in this country, and it has certainly been used as powerful fodder for demagoguery, but giving up on GWoT (as opposed to rethinking it and altering our approach) is actually a very dangerous outcome.

As the soon-to-be former nation of Iraq continues to dissolve into an extended and ugly civil war, characterized by ruthless sectarian and fratricidal fighting, Americans are losing whatever taste for nation-building they may have once had.

That's another tragic outcome: nation-building, in theory, should actually be one of the best possible defenses against the Chaotic Abyss that is available to us; the problem is that nobody seems to know how to impose democratic structure from the outside in, and it looks increasingly like it may not even be possible. (Supporting organic, native movements for democracy that come from within is a completely different matter--the Kurds built a vibrant tribal democracy very rapidly once we were able to give them a little air cover--but sadly, in the areas of the world that need it most right now, there's no internal movement of any significance to support.)

And so, as a result of the Recent Unpleasantness, trying to export democracy around the world is likely going to be DOA as a foreign policy option for the US for at least a generation. Our good intentions have paved quite a few miles of that particular road to Hell, and not even the most stalwart neoconservative theorists are still marching down it.

So the question now becomes, what do we do?

Belmont Club's Three Conjectures are as true today (actually, given recent events in Iran and North Korea, even truer) as when they were written three years ago:
  • Conjecture 1: Terrorism has lowered the nuclear threshold
  • Conjecture 2: Attaining WMDs will destroy Islam
  • Conjecture 3: The War on Terror is the 'Golden Hour' -- the final chance
(Go read that post right now.)

Nuclear proliferation, combined with progressively loosening controls over nuclear weapons due to the nature of the increasingly unstable states that acquire them, make it close to a statistical certainty that non-state actors (terrorist groups) will get their hands on one or more nuclear weapons in the near future.

From where I sit, I see very few options open to us that will keep that from happening.

While the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction ought to (and probably will) work as well with small countries, even corrupt and unstable countries, as it did with big ones, it doesn't work at all with stateless entities like terror networks.

And once, e.g., Al Qaeda or a group with similar goals and beliefs acquires nuclear weapons, there is no doubt whatsoever that, once acquired, they will use them. They've said so, and there's no reason to doubt them.

Another interesting feature of stateless enemies is that there is no one with whom to engage in the preferred conflict-resolution mode of liberal democracies, diplomatic negotiations. We can, should and will continue take the fight to the conference tables and meeting halls, for all the good it will do, but it isn't going to produce a solution.

One morning, before very long, we are very likely going to wake up and discover that a big chunk of New York City, or Los Angeles, or Rome, or London, or Berlin, or Moscow, is... gone.

And what will we do then?

To state the problem crudely and succinctly, since there doesn't seem to be any way to deter it, how do you retaliate?

Who the hell do you bomb when that happens?

11 November 2006

Final day of Project Valour-IT blogger fundraiser

Today, Veterans' Day, is the final day of the Valour-IT blogger fundraiser.

Team Navy hit our $45,000 target at approximately 11:30 EST on Friday and at that point many Navy bloggers began giving "fire support" by switching their donation links to the Marine Corps, in honor of the Corps' 231st birthday. (Apparently this worked really well, as the Corps has now pulled ahead in the friendly competition over fundraising numbers! The wonderful thing is that, interservice bragging rights aside--and as a civilian I don't have a dog in this fight anyway--all the money goes directly to providing laptops for injured troops.)

Again, big thanks to all the enrevanche readers who donated money to this very worthy cause. A bunch of wounded veterans with hand and arm injuries are going to have voice-activated laptops to use because of you.

If you haven't given, there's still time:

More regional ignorance from the Michelin Guide

I hold in my hands the Michelin Guide New York City, 2007 edition.

Actually, that's not completely correct. What I'm holding in my hands at the moment is my aching head, because I just read this paragraph orienting Michelin readers to my neighborhood (which, disastrously, is now captioned "Greenwich, West Village, and Meatpacking," apparently by a native speaker of French for whom English is a fourth or fifth language.)
Centering on Washington Square, New York's historic bohemia lies between Houston and 14th streets, and contains within it several distinct areas. From Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) to the Bowery, the West Village keeps itself young with New York University's student population. Greenwich Village, bounded by the Hudson River, is the prettiest and most historic of the West Village neighborhoods...

(Michelin Guide New York City, 2007 edition, p. 116.)
The error is further compounded in the descriptions that follow.

As a friend of mine would say, "that's not even wrong." It would have to be more accurate in order to be merely incorrect.

It is, in fact, egregiously, laughably, damnably incorrect.

Michelin has got the situation exactly reversed: Greenwich Village is a container for the West Village, and not the other way around; moreover, the freaking West Village most certainly does not run from Sixth Avenue east to the Bowery. (The particular chunk of real estate they are struggling to describe there is what some people refer to as the "Central Village," and the eastern boundary is Broadway, dammit, and most of us just call it "NYUland" these days because NYU owns most of it.)

Listen up, mes chers rédacteurs:

The boundaries of Greenwich Village are: the Hudson River on the west, 14th St on the north, Broadway on the east, and Houston (pronounced HOW-ston) Street on the south.

The West Village, an enclave within Greenwich Village, arguably begins at Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and goes west to the Hudson, but certainly, once you're west of Seventh Avenue, you're in the West Village, mmmkay?

Also, the "West Village" does not "keep itself young with New York University's student population," because they don't live here; the only young people here who aren't being pushed down the sidewalk in $500 strollers are the underaged bridge-and-tunnel homosexuals who congregate on far-west Christopher Street and the Hudson River piers.

The people who actually live here tend to be rich (or at least well-to-do) old (or at least middle-aged) professionals, because who else could afford the ruinous rents and prices?

(Also, the pier kids keep the local economy of the West Village going by buying and consuming heroic quantities of low-quality drugs and pizza-by-the-slice, while the New York University students buy slightly higher-quality dope from the few dealers in Washington Square Park who aren't actually New York City police officers.)

Mother of God, do they have no local editors and fact-checkers reading these things before they ship them to the world?

At least they're not calling the New York City subway the "Métro" this year.

10 November 2006

Taïm Restaurant's Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad

Courtesy of the hip food writers at New York magazine and Einat Admony, chef of our most-favorite-ever NYC Israeli falafel joint, Taïm, here's a recipe for the best carrot salad in the entire known universe: Taïm Restaurant's Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad.

Very simple; sheer perfection. I can eat pounds of this salad happily.

09 November 2006

The enrevanche Valour-IT challenge - CLOSED

(Bumped)

The enrevanche Valour-IT challenge has maxed out. After friend Chap linked to us at Milblogs, a few late donations came in tonight to push our total match to the $500 limit.

Thanks to all! As promised, I've kicked $500 matching funds into the kitty.

Mister Gato prefers HP products
No, not the kitty above.
This kitty.


Related posts:

"All I need is this remote..."

Mister Gato is not only keeping us safe from the dangers of the Internets (by blocking the keyboard), but he's got custody of the remote control, too.

elongated kitty scaled.jpg
"If you ask me nicely, we could watch the Nature Channel."

As the only other male in an apartment with three females, it's his duty to do this when I'm not around.

Hog the remote, I mean.

Be sure to check out The Modulator's Friday Ark tomorrow, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday, at The Whole Kitten Kaboodle This Blog Is Full of Crap.

Buying books: a leading cause of personal bankruptcy

Polk Benham, St. Marys, Ohio: “Right now, it’s costing me forty-five dollars to fill up my 4Runner, which is about two novels. Tough decisions are going to have to be made. I’m used to having a newly released hardcover on the dash of my vehicle, another in the back seat for the kids. At home, we’ve got a novel in each bedroom, two in the family room, one in the laundry room for my wife when she’s down there, and a novella in the john. We go through a couple of dozen novels in a year without even noticing. I hate to say it, but this can’t go on.”

[...]

Mitch Gelman, West Hempstead, New York: “As an accountant, the first thing I tell my clients is ‘Get a library card!’ Otherwise, you’re too subject to temptation, and liable to find yourself in over your head. Few people know that the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is the ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’ novels. You overspend on one, and, just when you begin to dig yourself out, the next installment comes along. Public libraries began during the Depression as a government measure against this very problem. They’re there for our protection, so we should use them.”
Downpaging (Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, Shouts and Murmurs, 13 November 2006)

Except when I'm on the phone with Mom, and then I drawl

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes
Hat tip: Rachel at TinkertyTonk.

And I certainly have a good *face* for radio.

I can relate to that

Wednesday-One-Liners...

Suit: Well, apparently I'm part psychic and part asshole.

--Union Square

Overheard by: quite the combo
via Overheard in New York, Nov 8, 2006

08 November 2006

A lovely birthday present

Per an e-mail received this morning, I am now apparently the proud adoptive owner of a truffle oak.

No, truffles don't grow on trees, but the trees are crucial in making good truffles:

Truffles multiply by spores and observation of these under a microscope is the only absolutely certain way to distinguish one species from another. The black truffle or rabasse grows in a strange symbiotic relationship with the roots of several trees but oaks are the most productive, particularly the evergreen Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) and the deciduous White Oak (Quercus pubescens).

The truffle enables the tree to assimilate phosphorus and in return it receives sugars to enable it to grow. It does this by producing mycorrhiza (tiny 2 to 3mm swellings the colour and shape of a miniature date) which invade the tree roots. The truffle develops over many months and harvesting can begin as early as 15th November although tradition has it that the best truffles are to be found between mid January and mid February.

Oh, and my tree? Is in Gascony.

I think I need to visit it in person, soon, and whisper encouragement to it, to help it make good truffles for Papa. And then adjourn to a nearby village for foie gras, charcuterie and vin.

Thanks, dear Carrie. You made my 30s the nicest decade of my life; I'm looking forward to experiencing advancing geezerhood with you.

Truffle Tree: Buy a piece of tranquility

Related: La gastronomie de la truffe / All about truffles

A Pyrrhic look at 40...

So the Democrats easily seized control of the House last night, and as of this writing three Senate races, including Allen v. Webb in Virginia, are still too close to call, with control of the upper chamber hanging in the balance. (At least Joe Lieberman, one of the most honorable and decent men in the Senate, was re-elected.)

A major power shift in American politics is clearly underway.

But the hell with all that; the New York Times and MSNBC and NPR will be covering all of this exhaustively today, and so will many other bloggers more serious than I.

This blog is primarily about narcissism, after all, and I turned 40 today.

"40" is a number to conjure with.
  • In Biblical idiom, "40" is used to indicate "a hell of a long time, we don't really know how long but boy it sure was a long time"; in the Great Flood, for example, it rained for forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:4), and the tribes of Israel wandered in the desert eating manna for forty years (Exodus 16:35).

    Parethetically, just try to find a decent manna joint in New York City. I dare you. You could wander the five boroughs for forty years, and eat very well, but would you find manna? I ask you.

  • Interstate 40 runs from my home state of North Carolina all the way to California (Wilmington to Barstow, to be precise.)

    I've always intended to drive its entire length, although 3,000 miles of interstate doesn't have quite the same appeal at all as, say, driving Route 66 in a convertible land yacht (pace, Hitch.)

  • Malt liquor comes in convenient 40-ounce bottles, and one can "pour a 40 on the curb," I am given to understand, in memory of a fallen comrade.

  • 40 is allegedly the number of hours in a standard American workweek (to which I say, ha!)

  • On late-night television advertising, age 40 is the "entry level" in the depressingly vast age demographic of 40-75, between which ages, I apparently cannot be turned down for term life insurance (read: burial insurance, given the payout amounts) for any reason.

  • WD-40 can unstick damn nearly anything that shouldn't be stuck.

  • 40 acres is the canonical size for a small farm (or some multiple, giving us the terms "the front 40" and "the back 40"); 40 acres and a mule, promised but never delivered to the vast majority of freed slaves after the Civil War, has become a byword for unkept promises.

  • And, of course, there's the Top 40, as compiled by Billboard magazine, and "America's Top 40," the radio show now hosted by Ryan Seacrest, but formerly by Casey Kasem. (Atop the Billboard Top 40 this week, The Fray.)
I don't generally like birthdays much, but I'm liking this one okay. "40" beats "dead" any day of the week.

07 November 2006

Valour-IT: Double your donation, limited time only


Update, 9 November 9:45 PM EST:

The enrevanche Valour-IT challenge has maxed out. After friend Chap linked to us at Milblogs, a few late donations came in tonight to push our total match to the $500 limit.

Thanks to all! As promised, I've kicked $500 matching funds into the kitty.

The Valour-IT blogger fundraising drive wraps up this Friday, November 10th, the day before Veterans' Day. With four full days to go, the Navy team is not quite halfway to our fundraising target of $45,000 (and the other teams, while doing somewhat better, are also lagging behind.)

enrevanche readers--and these are just the ones I know about, the ones who have reached out to me and told me they've given; I have no way of knowing who has given what to whom, as Soldiers' Angels and PayPal keep that information completely confidential--have given well in excess of a thousand dollars to the fundraising effort, and for that I thank you kindly.

We've had donations ranging from a few bucks to an individual who donated the full cost of a new laptop ($800), and the Team -- and the wounded veterans who will benefit from your donations -- appreciate every last cent.

I know, from volunteer fundraising experience with political campaigns and public radio stations, that a lot of support comes in at the very end.

So let me sweeten the pot a little for you.

If you click the "donate" button in the upper-right sidebar of this blog and make a PayPal donation to Valour-IT between now and noon (EST) Friday, November 10th, I'll match it dollar for dollar, up to a total match of $500.

Just drop me an e-mail that says "I'm an enrevanche reader and I gave $x."

Remember, you have to tell me that you've donated; I have no way of knowing this, because the details of your donation and the fact that you've made one at all are both completely confidential; Soldiers' Angels will list your first name and the state you're from on their leaderboard, and that's it.

If you want to forward me your PayPal receipt, that's fine, but I'm also comfortable doing this on the honor system; however perverse and misguided some of y'all might be :-), my experience of you all during the last few years has indicated that you're an honorable bunch.

If you've been on the fence about giving, or if you feel like what you can afford to give won't make a difference (it will! it will!), here's a chance to double your donation automatically, but it's good for a limited time only. Noon Friday is the deadline.

Let's get cracking. And as we all go off to vote today, let's bear in mind that freedom isn't free.

Enemies of the Internet

The campaigning group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Monday listed 13 countries it labelled as "enemies of the Internet" ahead of a 24 hour campaign in favour of free access to the web.

The 13 countries are: Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Myanmar, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
Enemies of the Internet (Agence France Presse), November 7, 2006

Related:

06 November 2006

RINO Sightings are up...

...over at Don Surber's place.

The Underground Economy

For more than a century, many poor and working class residents of America's inner cities--in particular those black Americans who were confined to urban ghettos by segregation and economic disenfranchisement--have been forced to hustle to make ends meet. And they've also developed their own mechanisms for resolving conflicts when a hustle goes bad.

These residents live in what the University of Chicago sociologists St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton called the "shady world." Coined in the mid-20th century, their phrase describes the vibrant social life that arose around making money off the books. Then and now, not only residents, but churches, block clubs, stores, and other organizations have played a part in a shadow economy that most Americans neither see nor encounter.

Today, social scientists see the shady world as largely criminal. But this is only partially correct. Examine the underground economy and you will see signs of strength as well as indices of social problems. An incident like the one I observed between the mechanic and his customer hardly seems a positive exchange. How the neighborhood came to resolve the dispute, however, might change your perspective on how inner cities work.

Field notes from the underground - The Boston Globe, November 5, 2006

Election predictions

Looks like the Republicans are about to take a good old-fashioned country ass-whipping in the midterms, not that it'll do much good. It would be wonderful if it could create a "teachable moment" for the GOP, but the damage that has already been done will take generations to undo; the only party that seems to have learned anything so far has been the Democrats, who seem to have finally figured out that running towards the economic center will get them elected in red states.

I am going to buck the conventional wisdom and say that the GOP will (barely) hold the House due to the most recent round of gerrymandering, but will lose the Senate. You didn't hear it here first, maybe, but I'm putting my stake in the ground.

You know, down in North Carolina, back in the day, we talked about the ABC's of conservative politics... abortion, blacks, and communism. Those were the three wedge issues that could always get the mouthbreathers to the polling place, pulling the lever you wanted them to pull.

With polite society no longer complaining about the "Negro Problem," and Eastern European communism dead and buried (and Asian communism morphing into something very like the mercantilism the Chinese practiced since they first got their act together as an Empire), what distracting wedge issues do we have left?

It doesn't roll as easily off the tongue, but it's Gay Marriage, Abortion (an oldie but a goodie, now in stealth/proxy mode as the Stem Cell Debate), and Terrorism. GMAT - hey, isn't that also the test that you take to get into MBA school? ;-)

I must admit that I have been following the Ted Haggard story with far more gleeful schadenfreude than I probably should. It is definitely not the Christian thing to do or feel, and I actually do kind of feel sorry for this hypocritical bastard's family.

The excuse he offered--"I bought the drugs, but didn't use them; I got a massage from a gay escort but there was no sex involved"--was as lame as anything I have ever heard, though.

I am essentially as vanilla a heterosexual as it is possible to be on the Kinsey scale.

But if I order up a "massage" incall from an ad in a gay publication, and I buy some meth to go with it, I am definitely expecting a Happy Ending and also planning to snort the meth first, I mean, Jesus Christ, pardon the expression, you know? I want my money's worth.

04 November 2006

Perils of KM

I think it's safe to say that, in my 20+ years in Information Technology, I have been involved in my share of Knowledge Management (KM) initiatives.

(For the uninitiated, "knowledge management" is the capture, collection, organization, and storage of information within an organization, together with a mechanism for allowing this information to be shared easily. And yes, the World Wide Web can be viewed as a giant, collective experiment in KM, if you'd like to think of it that way; a more precise example would be something like Wikipedia.)

KM, as practiced in the current day, is an ambitious and very necessary effort to tackle a very real problem: how do you get key information to the people who need it?

But KM efforts fall down, again and again, because of this simple but universal truth:

Machines are Dumb.

And for your KM effort to be successful, you need someone Smart (usually several someones, a whole team of human editors) reading Every. Single. Thing. that goes into your KM database, keeping it current and accurate, and making sure that bad or undesirable information is not captured.

Otherwise, you wind up with situations like this:
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”

Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.

U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer (New York Times, November 3, 2006)
This is, of course, the kind of risk you run when you publicly post tens of thousands of documents in a language (Arabic) that the vast majority of your knowledge managers do not speak or read.

The irony is--if I have understood the news story correctly--that the documents that caused the current furor were UN reports that were written and distributed in English.

Ouch.

Update (and bump), 11/4: Chap adds some interesting observations over at his place.

"Family" values

After denying that he had ever met a gay escort who claimed to have had a three-year sexual relationship with him, the Rev. Ted Haggard admitted yesterday that he had summoned the escort to give him a massage in a Denver hotel room and bought methamphetamine from him.

But Mr. Haggard, one of the nation’s leading evangelical ministers, maintained that the two men never had sex and that he threw out the drugs without using them.

Minister Admits Buying Drug But Denies Tryst (New York Times, November 4, 2006)

"I bought the meth but I never used it, and I got massages from a gay hooker but there was no sex involved."

When that's your defense, call off the dogs and douse the fire; it's over.

And once again, a prominent crusader for Family ValuesTM is brought low, this time on the down-low.

Evangelical Christian leaders are surely pining for the days when big-name evangelists were merely being caught screwing ugly female hookers (or sexually assaulting attractive young female staffers) in motel rooms.

Because, you know, at least they weren't fornicating unnaturally.

03 November 2006

Insurance is interesting?

Katrina made me realize, however, that insurers could — I’m not saying they did — but could simply deny a legitimate claim or pay a few bucks on the dollar, put the money in its pocket and say “sue me.” And they could — theoretically — do this hundreds or even thousands of times. Or they could — not saying they did – assign hurricane losses to “flood,” and divert their losses onto U.S. taxpayers. And they could — repeat, theoretically – meet in Atlanta shortly before Katrina to decide how they would handle flood/wind claims and do so legally under their anti-trust exemption. (See archives; keep up with me, people!) What about state regulators, you say? That’s a story for another day (Y’all are greedy. Simmer down!)
Meet the Insurance Transparency Project, y'all.

Tip of the enrevanche chapeau to MeFi.

Valour-IT in the news

The Valour-IT fundraiser makes the Army Times:

A competition is raging among Internet bloggers to see who can raise the most money for voice-activated laptops that will be given to severely disabled service members.

The Veterans Day competition, which is organized by Valour-IT, began Monday. Its goal is to raise $180,000 in 10 days; as of Thursday morning, the total was up to $51,068.

Bloggers compete to raise cash for computer charity (Army Times, 2 Nov 06)

Thanks to all the enrevanche readers who have stepped up to the plate; if you haven't given yet, please consider doing so. Valour-IT provides voice-activated laptops for wounded veterans with severe arm and hand injuries; to donate, or for more information, consult the upper-right-hand corner of this blog's sidebar.

02 November 2006

Pantry raid

Mister Gato says: "You might not be aware that most mice are found in close proximity to foodstuffs."

The Pantry Inspector scaled.jpg
The Pantry Inspector

Be sure to check out The Modulator's Friday Ark tomorrow, and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday, Down Under at Crazy Meezer. (I never could get the hang of the International Date Line, but I think it's still Sunday.)

Good questions to ask candidates

Dear Candidate,

I am a registered voter in your district, and I want my government to use good science in formulating policy. Please answer the following questions, so I know how to vote on Election Day.

1. Do you support the Science and Engineering Bill of Rights (www.sefora.org)?

2. Do you support lifting the President's ban on the use of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research given appropriate ethical guidelines?

3. Should emergency contraception as recommended by FDA scientific staff and advisory committees be available over the counter for all women of childbearing age?

4. Do you endorse immediate and significant actions to diminish the effects of global warming caused primarily by burning fossil fuel and other human activity?

5. Should the research budgets of federal research agencies be increased substantially?

6. Do you support the teaching of Intelligent Design or creationism as an alternative theory to evolution in science classes?

7. Do you support strengthening the science and engineering advice for Congress by creating an organization to replace the Office of Technology Assessment (abolished in 1995)?

8. Should the United States ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and stop all work on new nuclear weapons?

9. Should the United States adopt visa policies that encourage highly skilled scientists and engineers from around the world to study and work in the United States?

10. Should there be a significant increase in federal funding for training science and mathematics teachers and development of high-quality curricular materials - including teaching materials that use new information technologies like the Internet?
Scientists and Engineers for America

Everything dies, baby, that's a fact...

Stardust Casino, 1958-2006, RIP.

Back in the day (long ago) I was a semi-serious blackjack player, and the first place I ever sat down at a legal card table was the Stardust.

This was in the late 1980s, and so Vegas had already been "cleaned up" to the extent that it would be, and the new megaresort properties were already starting to go up.

I never liked the newest generation of Vegas glitz; I preferred playing at the old Strip hotels (the Stardust and the Sands) or the seedy little joints down on Fremont Street.

Born too late, I guess.

I haven't been in a casino (except for a business function this year) in ten years. (No, I wasn't running away from a gambling problem, I didn't avoid them for any reason except that my tastes changed and I got bored with them.)

But I'll have a drink in memory of the Stardust tonight.

(Yes, I know the headline refers to Atlantic City. Work with me here.)

01 November 2006

Intelligence community goes wiki

The U.S. intelligence community on Tuesday unveiled its own secretive version of Wikipedia, saying the popular online encyclopedia format known for its openness is key to the future of American espionage.

The office of U.S. intelligence czar John Negroponte announced Intellipedia, which allows intelligence analysts and other officials to collaboratively add and edit content on the government's classified Intelink Web much like its more famous namesake on the World Wide Web.

A "top secret" Intellipedia system, currently available to the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, has grown to more than 28,000 pages and 3,600 registered users since its introduction on April 17. Less restrictive versions exist for "secret" and "sensitive but unclassified" material.

U.S. intelligence unveils spy version of Wikipedia - Yahoo! News