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

28 February 2007

I love it when a plan comes together

Carrie and I have been dreaming of a little cabin in the woods for several years now.

Well, lookie here.

Here's a nice parcel of land - about 10 acres - smack in the middle of Catskills State Park, near Woodstock and Phoenicia, New York, a little more than two hours from the city.

And here are some really cool little houses just sitting around doing nothing:

Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, VA, is giving away 36 Lustron homes, the largest collection of Lustrons in the world. Select from an array of Technicolor models, all identified as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, all featuring that same classic design you know and love! Assembled from high-quality, porcelain-enameled steel panels, these gabled-roof, ranch-style beauties are the perfect place to call home.


A Lustron home consisted of 3,300 prefabricated parts and was advertised as fire-proof, decay-proof, vermin-proof, rust-proof and termite-proof. Extremely low-maintenance, with porcelain-enameled exterior panels, it never had to be painted and could be washed with a quick hose-down. To entice buyers even more, Lustron homes came in Technicolor, with a choice between Maize Yellow, Dove Grey, Surf Blue, Desert Tan, Flamingo Pink, a Sea Blue-Green and Brush-Three-Times-A-Day White.

All we gotta do is relocate them from... urp... Virginia.

Hmm. Must cogitate.

Related: Lustron Houses

Have Gat(o), will travel

The very chi-chi restaurant just down the block from us has a little problem:
I had the privilege of dining at the Waverly Inn on Monday night. Although we were seated in the back dining room with the common folk, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, well, mostly. We were seated right next to the fire and I couldn't help but notice over the course of the night that a few mice scurried back and forth along the floor boards.
Waverly Inn Has Mice (Eater, February 27, 2007)

Graydon, bubelah... call us.

Fees negotiable.

Let's do the math

Ever wonder how the Zagat Guides assemble their ratings?

SmartMoney.com: Zagat Math

Let's review the bidding

The following paragraphs emphatically do not describe my current employer, chosen by me in large part because they grok the importance of well-designed, well-written proposals and are willing to invest in their management and production.

It does describe a few places I've had personal experience with, however:

Bid managers are unsung heroes in many companies according to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas of the University of Lincoln [UK]: “The fortunes of many construction, consulting, engineering, manufacturing, IT, distribution and services companies are heavily dependent upon their success at competitive bidding. Yet too often teams putting proposals together are left to their own devices and provided with inadequate support. Some directors and senior managers largely ignore the very people whose efforts make the greatest contribution to their salaries.”

Speaking at the Annual Conference of the UK Association of Proposal Management Professionals Coulson-Thomas outlined key findings from his continuing investigation of winning business and competitive bidding: “The senior management of companies with low win rates tends to view proposal professionals as ‘boring techies or grafting geeks who work out prices’. They are also often risk averse and worry about the ‘cost of bidding’. They put bid teams through a battery of internal checks and confrontational reviews that add little value to submitted proposals, but greatly complicate their preparation.”

Company bosses failing to support bid managers and proposal managers

27 February 2007

The French have a word for it

Témoignage means, literally, "testimony."

In the context of the pitiful human suffering that takes place everywhere on our planet every day, témoignage has a slightly different flavor of meaning; it means, in that context, to bear witness to the suffering and to describe what we have seen.

It can be the suffering of huge groups of people, as in the ongoing atrocities in Darfur, or it can be the suffering of an individual, a loved one struggling with illness and pain, to which we bear witness.

So often in life, when a loved one is hurting, we're unable to do anything that really helps in any material way; we can just bear witness.

I was discussing this with a friend the other night, and we agreed, there's value in the act of bearing witness and there's comfort, sometimes, in just being there.

Is it churlish and whiny of me to complain that I wish I had not had quite so many recent goddamned opportunities for témoignage in my life?

26 February 2007

Stick a fork in me; I'm done

About ten hours of work today; an hour (or a little more) of fielding phone calls and e-mails from concerned friends and relatives, and another two of actually visiting with Mom, who is doing a little better, thank God, in the actual hospital.

I am ready for a light supper and about twelve hours of sleep.

And it's 8PM.


Thanks to everyone who has written in (or posted in the comments.) We've got reinforcements helping with the Mom-sitting, she's in a regular hospital room and not the ICU any more, and things are looking up - the progress is just slow.

24 February 2007

It's a jungle out there

Sometimes, you've gotta fire the client.

(Hat tip: Greg.)


Even Gato might need some backup here:
Rats have long been a problem in New York City, with such a dense population and such a large and readily available food supply for the rodents. They are frequently seen scampering through subway tunnels, rooting through trash, dashing across parks and burrowing into the walls of apartment buildings.

Greenwich Village tends to be a happy home for them because of its combination of older buildings and a tangle of subway lines converging just below street level.

And speaking of travel...

From Friday's Wall Street Journal:
TALL EL-HAMMAM SITE, Jordan -- Dennis Addington, a retired California construction worker with a bad back, splurged this winter on his first foreign vacation. He spent $5,000 to dig himself into a deep hole. "It's the most fun I've ever had," he said, crouching 12 feet down in a pit more than 7,000 miles from home.

Mr. Addington and scores of others paid good money to come to Jordan and get to the bottom of something seriously bad: the world's most infamous city of sin.

They're looking for Sodom, a place so wicked that, according to Scripture, God obliterated it and sister settlement Gomorrah in a cataclysm of "brimstone and fire." Its sinfulness is one of the few things Jews, Christians and Muslims agree on. The Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Quran all slam Sodom.

"This is ground zero for wickedness," says Steven Collins, a New Mexico college professor who is leading this archaeological dig for the long-vanished -- and, say skeptics, fictional -- city of vice. A devout Christian, he believes the place will one day make "a great tourist destination with a great big sign, 'Welcome to Sodom,' perhaps in pink neon."

Digging for Sin City, Christians Toil In Jordan Desert (WSJ, February 24, 2007)

Memo to sin-seeking tourists: New York City is above-ground and served by all major airlines.

However, I do want me one of these T-shirts:
After years of discussion, [Collins] got permission to dig from Jordan's Department of Antiquities. In December 2005, work started with a few holes and the printing of T-shirts bearing the motto: "What Happens in Sodom, Stays in Sodom" -- a play on an advertising slogan for Las Vegas, often reviled as the modern Sodom and Gomorrah.

X-ray specs at the security checkpoint

Some privacy advocates are up in arms, but I figure it's gonna be worse for the security screeners than it is for me.

23 February 2007

An explanation of my absence, with catblogging

Back in the RTP area; Mom's travails with ill health continue.

An Emergency Room admission on Wednesday night for dehydration after two days of stomach upset turned into an ICU admission for elevated blood pressure and arrhythmia, and now there are new elements in the mix... the trajectory now will hopefully be from ICU to regular hospital room this weekend, and from hospital room home sometime next week.

Blogging will either be extremely light or extremely heavy for the next several days, depending on the mood state I happen to be swinging through at any given moment. :-)

Here, have a cat picture from the Home Office in New York City (with two bonus dogs.)

gato with bodyguards scaled
The king, on his cardboard throne, with his royal guard.

Any question that Mister Gato is Lord of All He Surveys? Those Chows are guarding his regal little behind.

Be sure to check the Friday Ark at The Modulator for more quadruped goodness, and the Carnival of the Cats this Sunday at Scribblings.

P.S. The flight into RDU -- on Continental, thanks very much, though I was out of town on the first thing smoking when I got the phone call -- was character-building, involving a small plane (a 37-seat Embraer) and wind shear. A passenger on the plane--an adult, and thank God not me--apparently soiled themselves on the first landing attempt, which was aborted when the plane sort of plummeted, shuddered, and skittered sideways all at the same time...

21 February 2007

Odometer rolling over on the blog

Sometime this afternoon, enrevanche will receive its 100,000th "unique visitor" as reckoned by Sitemeter. (The number of page views is about three times that; folks tend to stick around and poke around for a while when they visit.)

I realize that the major bloggers get more traffic than this in a day, and that there are plenty of sites out there clocking more than 100,000 visitors an hour. A couple of hundred visitors a day isn't much in the grand scheme of things.

But I think there's a nice little community that has grown up around this blog, and for something that I generally write early in the morning after my second cup of coffee, I'm shocked that there are any readers at all.

Friends from around the world that I rarely get to see, and some that I've never even met in person, drop by to read and comment on the postings here, and I appreciate all of you.

(Except the comment spammers.)

Update: This is quite lovely... As it turns out, visitor #100,000 was from Beijing, China; he or she surfed in on a Google search for "michael pollan unhappy meals" (and found this post.) Random Chinese foodie, we salute you.

Motivation Hacks

For the last two weeks I've been posting the Top 20 Motivation Hacks, one by one. These are the tips and tricks that, if used in combination, are a nearly sure way to achieve your goals.

Achieving goals is not a matter of having "discipline". It's a matter of motivating yourself, and keeping your focus on your goal. Follow these hacks, or any combination of them that works for you, and you should have the motivation and focus you need.
zen habits: Top 20 Motivation Hacks

20 February 2007

Excerpts from a love letter to a CEO

To: Mr. David G. Neeleman, Chief Executive Officer, JetBlue Airways Corporation

...I was one of the passengers affected by your system failure last week on the East Coast. Thank God, I wasn’t one of the passengers stuck on the tarmac in the snow, but I was booked on a flight that you cancelled several days after the bad weather had passed...

...Your notification e-mail invited me to call an 800 number for assistance with cancellation and rebooking. OK, I called. And called. There was no one there to answer the telephone when I called (repeatedly, and often) on Saturday. Or Sunday. There wasn’t even an Interactive Voice Response system to “interact” with... just a deadpan recording advising me that you were experiencing high call volume, couldn’t take my call right now and please call back later. If you want to “bring humanity back to air travel,” may I suggest that a good place to start would be to have a sufficient quantity of actual human beings manning the telephones to assist your customers?

...So, let’s sum up. Flight cancelled, no help of any kind available from JetBlue to rebook, no sign of my $298 from the cancelled flight, a few hours of work ahead of me restructuring two weeks’ worth of planned meetings and appointments, and a bad, bad taste left in my mouth...

...Back to Continental and American for a while, I guess. I’ve got hundreds of thousands of miles flying on those two airlines, and I know from experience that they won’t offer JetBlue’s customary level of service and comfort, but I also know, from experience, that when there are system disruptions on one of those airlines, they figure out a way—and have the resources available—to help me get where I’m going.

Rino Sightings are up at Right Thoughts

RINO Sightings are up at Right Thoughts:
The night was black as ink and cold, the kind of cold that makes a man wish he had a bottle of applejack and someone to drink it with. I was waiting. Just waiting. Stakeouts are about the most boring thing you can do when you’re a gumshoe, but that’s the job, so we do it. I knew that tomorrow I was hosting the RINO Sightings, but tonight - tonight it was just me, the night air and the job.
Very noir.

19 February 2007

You taste of America...

After a year of courtship, Harlequin, the leading publisher of romance novels, has entered into not a marriage, exactly, but what a Harlequin heroine would call a meaningful relationship with Nascar, the stock-car racing association.

Last year, with Nascar’s approval, Harlequin successfully published three Nascar-theme books, including one in which the heroine, an ex-kindergarten teacher, falls in love with a Nascar driver after first being hit by his car and then driving his enormous motor coach from race to race. The company is now embarking on a 16-book paperback series, all of which will have Nascar settings, and the first and last will feature cameo appearances by Carl Edwards, a real-life Nascar driver who has consulted with the author, Nancy Warren, to help create a suitable fictional representation of himself. [Mr. Edwards finished 23rd in the Daytona 500 on Sunday.]
In Harlequin-Nascar Romance, Hearts Race (New York Times, Feb 19, 2007)

There's more than one way to finish "in the money."

Carnival of the Cats #152

The 152nd Carnival of the Cats is up at Pet's Garden Blog.

17 February 2007

Concert on wheels

We usually don't get this quality of vocal performance in the subway cars in NYC, though some of the platform buskers could give them a run for their money.

Perhaps it's because all of our close harmony singers are on tour at the moment. ;-)

Ladies and Gentlemen, the New York City R&B a capella group "Naturally 7" on the Paris Métropolitain.

Hat tip: MeFi

Assess your geekitude

I scored 26.82446% - Total Geek.

Hat tip: Fiona.

Sorely tempted

This would be an interesting occupation to declare on one's income taxes.

Well, at least they didn't lock me into a plane for 11 hours first

from: DearJetBlue@jetblue.com
to: [barry]
date: Feb 17, 2007 12:19 PM
subject: JetBlue Airways Flight Cancellation Notification

Dear Barry,

As a result of system disruptions impacting flights to/from the Northeast we are unable to complete your travel as scheduled. Your flight #1105 on February 18, 2007 for travel from New York's JFK has been canceled.

Please call us at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) to discuss options for alternate travel. Your confirmation number is [redacted].

We thank you for your understanding and look forward to welcoming you onboard soon.


JetBlue Airways

Jihadists in Paradise

Mark Bowden's new article, "Jihadists in Paradise," is behind the subscription firewall at The Atlantic, which is a damned shame.

It tells the story of how the Philippine military -- with plenty of technical and financial assistance from the United States -- hunted down and killed Muslim insurgent guerrillas who were kidnapping both locals and foreigners and holding them for ransom:
Over the next year and a half, [terrorist ringleader] Aldam Tilao would in fact be hunted down and cornered, in a Philippine military operation that involved the CIA and the American military. Eliminating him was a small, early success in what the Bush administration calls the “global war on terror”; but in the shadow of efforts like the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, it went largely unnoticed. As a model for the long-term fight against militant Islam, however, the hunt for Tilao is better than either of those larger engagements. Because the enemy consists of small cells operating independently all over the globe, success depends on local intelligence and American assistance subtle enough to avoid charges of imperialism or meddling, charges that often provoke a backlash and feed the movement. [italics added - bc]

The United States would play a crucial but almost invisible role in finding and killing Tilao, enlisting the remarkable skills of the Philippine marine corps for the most important ground work, and supplying money, equipment, and just enough quiet technological help to close in for the last act. Such an approach does present problems; the Philippine operation exposed some of the legal, logistical, and moral challenges of this kind of work. For one thing, the Americans worked hand in hand with Philippine forces who almost certainly murdered people standing in the way of their intelligence operation.
This is a long, terrific and tremendously important article; it describes an operation that could serve as a model for a long-term, sustainable strategy in the fight against terrorism (not "the" strategy, but "a" strategy.)

P.S. There's plenty of good stuff in the March 2007 edition of The Atlantic; if you don't subscribe, this story alone makes it worth picking up at the newsstand. (I think The Atlantic is one of the most consistently interesting and fair-minded publications on the market right now, and $24.50 for an annual print + online subscription is a bargain; it's the only monthly we subscribe to that I more or less read cover to cover every month.)

Missing in Baghdad

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required; ping me if you want a copy of the full article), reporter Sarmad Ali shares a family tragedy:

About 5 o'clock on a mid-December morning, I was awakened by a call from my brother in Iraq. "Dad is missing," he said. He was upset and some of his anger spilled out at me: "You should be here," he shouted. "You don't seem to care."

My father had left home in Baghdad that morning to go to the auto-repair shop across town where he works. Fifteen minutes after he left, car bombs exploded on his route to work and he hasn't been seen since.

His disappearance set off a desperate search by my family through the netherworld of war-torn Baghdad. It also put me in the agonizing position of trying to help my family with the violent dislocations of civil war -- over the phone, from thousands of miles away. I'm the oldest son and have been studying and working in New York for more than two years. Since my father vanished, my three grown siblings and my mother have looked to me as the head of the family.

Every time I hear about a bomb going off, I brace myself for the worst possible news. Last February, my entire family went missing for two weeks, without a word. When my cellphone rings and an Iraqi number shows up on the display, I say a silent prayer before answering.

Missing in Baghdad: My Father (Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2007; subscription required)

Friends like these

As George Bush prepares to send more troops to Iraq, his critics all over the Western world are bringing more protesters onto the streets—and the range of people who are angry enough to fill the icy air with chants of rage seems broader, and in some ways stranger, than ever.

On February 24th, for example, gallery-goers and pigeon-feeders should probably avoid London's Trafalgar Square, on which tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of people will converge from all over Britain, and farther afield, to demand the withdrawal of Western troops from Iraq—and while they are at it, oppose the renewal of Britain's nuclear arsenal. Tourists who do venture near the square will notice the odd sociology of the anti-war movement: the unkempt beards and unisex denims of old-time street fighters rubbing shoulders with the well-trimmed Islamic beards and headscarved ladies.

This leftist-Muslim partnership exists not just on the streets, but in the protest movement's heart. Britain's Stop the War coalition, which has organised more than 15 nationwide protests and hundreds of smaller events, was largely forged by two small, intensely committed bodies—the far-left Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Muslim Association of Britain, which is close to the international Muslim Brotherhood. These tiny groups have co-ordinated street protests by up to 1m people.

Muslims and socialists: With friends like these (Economist, Feb 8, 2007)


Grand-strategist Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett:
...[T]he price for renegotiated cooperation/alliance with the U.S. is reduced by half the minute anybody but Bush-Cheney sit in the White House. I think, much like the Carter-to-Reagan shift, there will be such relief abroad in seeing the isolated, much-despised president leave office that it'll be 50 percent off the top on everything. Why? Everyone will want a reasonable, deal-making America back.

To that end, the only candidates who worry me are Edwards and McCain. The former because his pandering in all directions will constrain him too much if elected (my guess, if he were to look good, Gore would pre-empt), the latter because he too confuses being stubborn with being resolute and because his view of potential allies is hopelessly stuck in the past.

The downside opinion on fostering sectarian (read: anti-Iranian) violence (Thomas P.M. Barnett weblog)

16 February 2007

Automation, not outsourcing, will take your job

By 2015, 40% of today's IT job roles will be lost to automation, predicts [the Gartner Group.] Although the number of people employed in the US manufacturing sector has declined steadily during the past 50 years, productivity per worker continues to rise and has doubled in the past 20 years.

'The same trend will be true of IT-related jobs as we move further into the information age. Multiple, simultaneous trends are converging in IT departments' say the analysts.
Gartner predicts: Nearly Half of IT Jobs will be Lost to Automation by 2015 (Usability News, February 4 2005)

15 February 2007

Checking for survivors

Mister Gato sniffs the sad remnants of the two dozen frozen flowers that arrived for Carrie's Valentine's Day:

gato stops to smell the flowers
They still smell nice.

Gato loves flowers. He likes to smell them, and in fact left to his own devices will rub his head all over them to get as much of their scent on him as possible, and maybe vice-versa.

And he's hardly the only one. In posting some recent shots of him in attitudes of floral-olfactory investigation, I discovered that there's a Flickr group called Cats Sniffing Flowers.

Thousands and thousands of pictures of cats sniffing flowers. Web 2.0, baby. w00t!

On Friday, be sure to check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator, and this Sunday, don't miss the Carnival of the Cats, hosted this week by Pet's Garden Blog.


A friend of mine was on one of these ill-fated planes yesterday.

I would've murdered someone. Or at least maimed them.

Valentine's Day Dinner

The New York winter (MP3 link) has finally arrived with a vengeance, and it's played havoc with Valentine's Day.

FTD delivered two dozen red roses--a day early--to my true love. They were frozen and irreparably damaged. (sigh)

I get full marks from the spouse for "it's the thought that counts," I suppose, and once I got someone on the phone (not easy, as it involved calling their headquarters in Downers Grove, Illinois... no one was answering the customer service phones yesterday, and forget about e-mail) FTD fairly cheerfully refunded my money, but dead flowers on Valentine's Day? Damn.

We trudged through the cold and snow last night to have Valentine's Day supper at Fig and Olive, which more than made up for some freezer-burned flowers. The VD prix-fixe dinner included an asparagus terrine, a choice of carpaccios (portobello mushroom, tuna or beef) and sole papillote or filet mignon. It was a nearly perfect dinner, and after three glasses of wine we were bracing for dessert...

...when a late-arriving couple was seated quite close to us, the woman drenched in what was no doubt a very expensive but absolutely cloying perfume.

After ten years together, in situations like this, we don't even have to speak. Carrie and I locked eyes, I nodded and signaled for the check. We'll be skipping dessert and coffee, thanks.

I'd rather try to eat next to someone smoking a cheap cigar, or even incessantly farting, than deal with someone wearing that much scent. Why the hell do people go out in public like this?

If the place hadn't been so packed, we would have asked to be reseated. As it was, we hurriedly collected our coats and laughed all the way home.

14 February 2007

Twelve Tips for Managing Geeks

Those who run the business lack affinity for technology so they need the geeks, but they get frustrated by sloppy procedures, slipped deadlines, tactless communications, mystifying documents, warped priorities, lack of respect, non-compliance and stubborn resistance. Geeks, in the minds of business types, just don’t get it.

I once interviewed a Unix systems programmer in a bank about the machines he “owned.” I asked him what applications ran on them. He started listing HP-UX, Oracle, OpenView… No, I said, applications; what business processes? He looked surprised and slightly embarrassed, because he had no idea.

For the health of the business it’s most important that management understand the geek mentality and manage appropriately. This is a huge topic beyond the scope of one article. Please do make a study of it as effective geek-management rewards the effort. In the meantime we can help by pointing out the most important threats to watch out for from geek culture.

Twelve Tips for Managing Geeks (Rob England at IT Management, February 8, 2007)

The geopolitical "If I Did It..."

Dinesh D'Souza has a new book out, in which he suggests that American cultural conservatives make common cause with "traditional Muslims" based on their mutual desire for theocracy and profound distaste for individual liberty (e.g., gay marriage making the baby Jesus cry and that sort of thing.)

Let's let Mark Steyn have the final word on Dinesh, a once-promising conservative theorist and writer who, it must be said, appears to have completely lost his mind:

The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left And Its Responsibility For 9/11 is the geopolitical If I Did It. As you may recall, that was the title of the artful OJ Simpson tome no sooner announced than yanked from the warehouses and pulped by its publisher: OJ isn’t saying he did do it but if he had done it he’d have done it like this. Likewise, Dinesh D’Souza’s new book: he’s not the jihad’s marketing consultant but, if he were, this is pretty much the critique of America he’d have offered to buck up the lads in the cave on September 10th 2001.

It’s impressive stuff. He’s rounded up a ton of denunciations of the Great Satan’s appetite for “fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and trading with interest” (to cite Osama bin Laden himself). Quote after quote about America’s godless sodomites jostle on the page like eye-catching young lads in a San Francisco bathhouse on a Saturday night in 1978: Human rights for homosexuals? “What human? What rights?” scoffs a columnist for the Egyptian newspaper Al Akhbar. After a couple of pages of such zingers, D’Souza usually feels obliged to distance himself:

However uncharitable these sentiments…

And occasionally one can almost hear his editor at Doubleday urging the author to make the distancing a little less perfunctory:

However uncharitable these sentiments – and I find them appallingly so…

Much better! Distance-wise, that’s a good foot and a half.

SteynOnline: The Home Front

13 February 2007

Illegal Immigrant Visas (and Mastercards)

While US officials dither over immigration policy, business is quietly recognizing the immense power of the underground economy... and bankers, quite sensibly, are loath to leave all that business to the check cashing stores and Western Union:

In the latest sign of the U.S. banking industry's aggressive pursuit of the Hispanic market, Bank of America Corp. has quietly begun offering credit cards to customers without Social Security numbers -- typically illegal immigrants.

In recent years, banks across the country have begun offering checking accounts and, in some cases, mortgages to the nation's fast-growing ranks of undocumented immigrants, most of whom are Hispanic. But these immigrants generally haven't been able to get major credit cards, making it hard for them to develop a credit history and expand their purchasing power.

The new Bank of America program is open to people who lack both a Social Security number and a credit history, as long as they have held a checking account with the bank for three months without an overdraft. Most adults in the U.S. who don't have a Social Security number are undocumented immigrants.

Bank of America Casts Wider Net For Hispanics (Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2007; subscription required)

It's news to me that you can even open a checking account without a Social Security Number, much less get a credit card.

When I moved to New York City ten years ago, opening a checking account here was like applying for a low-level security clearance, and I thought (mistakenly, it seems) that the Patriot Act recently made banking restrictions (requiring proof of identity to open accounts) even tighter.

Guess not:

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said banking products aimed at illegal immigrants "reinforce the need for a temporary worker program" that the Bush administration has been promoting. That program would screen, tax and otherwise regulate immigrant workers and, the administration contends, would squeeze out illegal workers who now use forged or stolen documents to get jobs, driver's licenses and occasionally credit.

Anti-money-laundering regulations passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks put more pressure on banks to verify customers' identity and watch for suspicious transactions, but they don't require banks to ascertain whether account holders are in the U.S. legally. Most banks require a Social Security number or ITIN to open an account, but regulations also allow them to accept other government-issued forms of identification in some instances, including passport numbers, alien identification numbers or any government-issued document with photo showing nationality or place of residence.

Update: This article is available at AOL Money also - no WSJ subscription required.

Thanks, China.

BEIJING (AP) -- North Korea agreed Tuesday after arduous talks to shut down its main nuclear reactor and eventually dismantle its atomic weapons program, just four months after the communist state shocked the world by testing a nuclear bomb.

The deal marks the first concrete plan for disarmament in more than three years of six-nation negotiations, and could potentially herald a new era of cooperation in the region with the North's longtime foes -- the United States and Japan -- also agreeing to discuss normalizing relations with Pyongyang.

Under the deal, the North will receive initial aid equal to 50,000 tons heavy fuel oil within 60 days for shutting down and sealing its main nuclear reactor and related facilities at Yongbyon, north of the capital, to be confirmed by international inspectors.

For irreversibly disabling the reactor and declaring all nuclear programs, the North will eventually receive another 950,000 tons in aid.

The agreement was read to all delegates in a conference room at a Chinese state guesthouse and Chinese envoy Wu Dawei asked if there were any objections. When none were made, the officials all stood and applauded.
North Korea Agrees to Wind Down Nuclear Program (AP News via The New York Times)

One of these things is not like the other

12 February 2007

RINO Sightings are up

The latest RINO Sightings are up at The Southern California Law Blog.

Colony collapse disorder

A mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination.

  • Although the bodies of dead bees often are littered around a hive, sometimes carried out of the hive by worker bees, no bee remains are typically found around colonies struck by the mystery ailment. Scientists assume these bees have flown away from the hive before dying.

  • From the outside, a stricken colony may appear normal, with bees leaving and entering. But when beekeepers look inside the hive box, they find few mature bees taking care of the younger, developing bees.

  • Normally, a weakened bee colony would be immediately overrun by bees from other colonies or by pests going after the hive's honey. That's not the case with the stricken colonies, which might not be touched for at least two weeks, said Diana Cox-Foster, a Penn State entomology professor investigating the problem.
Colony collapse disorder ("Mystery ailment strikes honeybees," AP via Yahoo News, February 11, 2007.)

Ted Haggard betting pool

Friend Laurie writes:
Here it is, the 100 percent straight heterosexual meth snorting gay hooker [preacher] relapse betting pool... [Susie Bright's Journal; a few mildly NSFW images therein]
Proceeds go to charity.

Go get your piece of the action.

11 February 2007

Carnival of the Cats #151

Carnival of the Cats #151 is up at When Cats Attack.

Medical aid for the lightly charred

Historian Benny Morris's recent essay in the Jerusalem Post, "This Holocaust will be different," has been making for some interesting nightmares lately:

[The] dilemma had long ago been accurately defined by a wise general: Israel's nuclear armory is unusable. It can only be used too early or too late. There will never be a "right" time. Use it "too early," meaning before Iran acquires similar weapons, and Israel will be cast in the role of international pariah, a target of universal Muslim assault, without a friend in the world; "too late" means after the Iranians have struck. What purpose would that serve?

So Israel's leaders will grit their teeth and hope that somehow things will turn out for the best. Perhaps, after acquiring the Bomb, the Iranians will behave "rationally"?

But the Iranians are driven by a higher logic. And they will launch their rockets. And, as with the first Holocaust, the international community will do nothing. It will all be over, for Israel, in a few minutes - not like in the 1940s, when the world had five long years in which to wring its hands and do nothing. After the Shihabs fall, the world will send rescue ships and medical aid for the lightly charred. It will not nuke Iran. For what purpose and at what cost? An American nuclear response would lastingly alienate the whole Muslim world, deepening and universalizing the ongoing clash of civilizations. And, of course, it would not bring Israel back. (Would hanging a serial murderer bring back his victims?)

So what would be the point?

10 February 2007

What is black? Tell me tell me, if you think you know

Debra Dickerson recently appeared on The Colbert Report to explain why Barack Obama isn't black.

Her Salon article, which explains her central thesis, can be found here. Excerpt:
...I didn't have the heart (or the stomach) to point out the obvious: Obama isn't black.

"Black," in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves. Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that, voluntary immigrants of African descent with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics. At a minimum, it can't be assumed that a Nigerian cabdriver and a third-generation Harlemite have more in common than the fact a cop won't bother to make the distinction. They're both "black" as a matter of skin color and DNA, but only the Harlemite, for better or worse, is politically and culturally black, as we use the term.

Let's be fair: Dickerson's article, and position, is certainly a good bit more subtle and nuanced and interesting than the somewhat shocking "Obama isn't black" soundbite that she herself uses.

But the Colbert interview is quite something and should be viewed in its entirety. Without breaking character, and playing it for laughs, he slowly and systematically takes her argument apart and then smashes the pieces into... smaller pieces.

Debra Dickerson on The Colbert Report - February 8, 2007


Then Why Are You Wearing a Tuxedo, Mr. Penguin?

Teen #1 looking up at a tree with wonder: My god... I am so high.
Teen #2: We only smoked like five joints today.
Suit passerby: It's still morning, guys.

--Central Park

via Overheard in New York, Feb 9, 2007
These days, though, I'm the suit passing by.


Currently rocking the house chez enrevanche: "Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Original Soul Sister," a four-CD box set from Proper Records in England.

The difficulty here is that Proper Records, known for their affordable and high-quality compliations and box-sets, was kind enough to include a print catalog with the Rosetta Tharpe recordings.

And I can't find a single title of theirs that I don't want. (sigh)


Over at Carrie's place, a great post (with video) about live-action Ms. PacMan, played in the streets of New York City.

The startle reflex in action

Dial the sensitivity on your cuteness detectors waaaaaaaaay down if you don't want them to blow.

Baby panda sneeze (YouTube)

08 February 2007

It's a hell of a town

Never mind diamonds- a New York cabbie was a Texas girl's best friend. The driver returned 31 diamond rings he found in his cab after dropping off the passenger, who had left him with a 30-cent tip on a $10.70 fare.

"All my life, I tried to be honest," said Osman Chowdhury, a native of Bangladesh. "Today is no different."
NYC cabbie returns bag of diamond rings (AP via Yahoo News)

Mr. Chowdhury, you've made us all proud.

As for the skinflint yokel jeweler from Dallas (30 cents on a $10.70 fare?) I think we've all got a pretty vivid mental picture of her.

Back to the sticks with you, honey.

Under the desk

Lots of things happen under the counter, and if The Drifters can be believed, under the boardwalk as well.

You'd be surprised what happens at our house under the desk.

gato under desk
A comfortable position for a cat ambush.

gato atop CPU 2
Atop the CPU, looking down...

gato atop CPU
...and up.

"Under the desk" is Mister Gato's current favorite place to be.

On Friday, be sure to check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator, and this Sunday, don't miss the Carnival of the Cats, hosted this week by When Cats Attack.

Obligatory mention of the alma mater

I was going to let this pass without comment, but three disappointed enrevanche readers have already written me this morning...


How about them Heels?

07 February 2007

Ctrl-Z! Ctrl-Z!

Every now and then I really wish that life operated like TiVo, where you can rewind five or ten seconds back any time you want, or a good word processing program (or even a bad one) that has Unlimited Undo.

Tonight on the way in from work, I stopped at the neighborhood deli, a way station in the freezing cold, and at the cash register, I absent-mindedly addressed Mr. Kim, the very proper Korean deli owner I've been buying milk and bread from for ten years, as Mr. Lee, the very nice Chinese man down the block with whom I deal for my dry cleaning.

He smiled, and I realized what I had said. "Oh, lord, Mr. Kim, it's so cold I don't even know where I am or who I'm talking to."

And then, fatally: "I must be disoriented."

Gah! Undo! Undo!

(Thank God, he laughed his ass off.)

Web 2.0: The Machine Is Us/Ing Us

Hat tip: BoingBoing

06 February 2007

They're good arepas, too

Manuel A. Miranda was 8 when his family immigrated to New York from Bogotá. His parents, who had been lawyers, turned to selling home-cooked food from the trunk of their car. Manuel pitched in after school, grinding corn by hand for traditional Colombian flatbreads called arepas.

Today Mr. Miranda, 32, runs a family business with 16 employees, producing 10 million arepas a year in the Maspeth section of Queens. But the burst of Colombian immigration to the city has slowed; arepas customers are spreading through the suburbs, and competition for them is fierce. Now, he says, his eye is on a vast, untapped market: the rest of the country.

In the long run, like bagels, “you’re going to have arepas in every store,” predicted Mr. Miranda, whose innovations include a “toaster-friendly” version (square instead of round), and an experimental Web site that offers online sales nationwide. “But I don’t have the connections. I don’t know the people who can advise how to take us to the next level.”

Immigrant Entrepreneurs Shape A New Economy (New York Times, January 6, 2007)

A few random thoughts and observations.

(1) I've tasted these arepas, and for mass-produced arepas they are indeed quite amazingly good. (I grew up eating cornbread, and I have yet to find any variant of cornbread that I do not enjoy eating.)

(2) Lawyering skills, depending on the area of law you practice in, are not necessarily all that portable from state to state in the Union; to be trained and certified in another country's legal system, and then to emigrate as Mr. Miranda's parents did is truly a leap of faith, because you really are abandoning your luggage at the station.

(3) We seem to have a very different experience of immigration in New York City from the rest of the country. New York City's economy, from top to bottom, depends on the energy and drive of immigrants.

(4) Mr. Miranda will, no doubt, ultimately connect with the right people to help him take his business to the next level; I devoutly hope that the quality of the arepas does not suffer.

05 February 2007


Her carefully cultured cells were dead and Katherine Schaefer was annoyed, but just a few minutes later, the researcher realized she had stumbled onto a potential new cancer treatment.
Lab disaster may lead to new cancer drug (Reuters via Yahoo News)

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...'"
-- Isaac Asimov

RINOs rampant

Time once again for RINO Sightings, in which the Raging RINOs hold forth on issues of interest to them, and hopefully you, and offer up their best posts for your reading pleasure.

(You know, as I consider the GOP's sad slow-motion implosion in recent years, and their gradual desertion of core values like small government and fiscal responsibility, it occurs to me that the real Republicans In Name Only are the so-called "movement conservatives" currently helming the party. But I digress, and you can also read about that here and elsewhere any day of the week.)

A couple of posts on a favorite topic of actual conservatives -- economics -- start us off this week.

Dan over at Searchlight Crusade leads off with a meditation on the housing bubble: How big, how bad, and when's it gonna pop?

Mr Bubble
Gets your wallet squeaky-clean.

Answer: In some markets, the deflation has largely already taken place:
...[I]f you read my oldest articles (for instance Cold Hard Numbers) I spoke quite strongly about San Diego being in a bubble condition. I used the metaphor of "When Wile E. Coyote looks down" more than once. What has changed since then? Quite simply, I think that we've seen most of the overall hit that we're going to get. Sure, there are still idiots who think it's 2003, but if you look at the transactions that are actually happening - willing buyer, willing seller, etcetera - we're a little over twenty percent off peak prices, at least in the areas I mostly work. I consistently predicted a thirty percent decline up until about a year ago. We've now seen most of that.
As a man who just did his 2006 taxes and is looking desperately for mortgage-related tax deductions (read: gonna buy a house this year), this is of more than academic interest to me, at least. Also, "when Wile E. Coyote looks down": best answer ever. Heh.

Don Surber points out that the United States, an "international pariah" if you believe the talking heads (and former Democratic presidential candidates) is still the free-trade powerhouse of the world, selling and shipping more goods than any other country:

Last year, the “international pariah” called the U.S. set a record for exports — shattering the previous record — set the year before by that “international pariah” called the U.S.

Exports look to be up 13% in 2006 after rising 10% in 2005, the Washington Post reported.
(Barry comments: A devalued dollar is also keeping the US export market humming. )

22981_+Mariah 1
No, dammit, that's PARIAH, with a "P," and "Kerry"...
ah, never mind.

Jane at Armies of Liberation observes that Yemenia, the national airline of international garden-spot and exemplar of good government Yemen, has been flying jihadis to Damascus... lots and lots of them.
Recently an Iraqi columnist accused Yemen of playing games with the international community and “carrying the stick from the middle.” He described all the publicized measures of preventing fighters from traveling to Iraq as nonsense. He said that Yemenia regularly and openly transports fighters to Damascus. He quoted one eye witness who said that on one previous flight, about 40 Jihadists flying from Sana’a to Damascus to fight in Iraq were speaking openly on the plane about their plans.
Travel to lovely Syria on our all-inclusive holidays.

I've been having fun imagining what airport security in Yemen must be like. At the checkpoint, if they don't find a gun or bomb on you, do they give you one to take on board?

At Digger's Realm, Digger has been following the trials of Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, and points out some difficulties with the ballistics evidence, rather crucial when you've got people on trial for shooting people:
... proper evidence handling wasn't followed in the case because the prosecutor Johnny Sutton had the ballistic evidence run through the Texas Department of Public Safety instead of the federal agency that handles all federal cases, the FBI.

The complaint filed against the two agents included statements that ballistic evidence confirmed that the bullet had come from Ramos' weapon. Ballistics evidence, as reported by the criminalist who studied the bullet, was inconclusive as to even what type of weapon fired it.
Digger also points to an audio interview with Monica Ramos, Agent Ramos's wife.

Sorry, no amusing graphic to go along with this one.

Or the next one:

Rachel at Tinkerty Tonk notes that someone she blogged about last week wound up committing suicide (not that there's any correlation; the dead woman definitely had other things on her mind):
[The suicide] was a women's studies expert with a PhD in sociology who had been arrested for prostitution. Police alleged that she was working out of her suburban Maryland home.

My first blog post consisted of a snarky headline, a quote and a one-liner. It was a throwaway that I justified because she lived near me. And because I was interested in the intersection of feminism and prostitution. Well, it seemed half the state of Maryland wanted to hear more about her. My traffic went up. I got tons of comments and I began getting emails about her from people who claimed to know her. Nasty emails.
When you're writing about individual human tragedy, it's hard to muster up enough snark to Google up an image on the web and stick it into a RINO Sightings post. Once the tragedy reaches a certain scale, of course, that would be in perfectly good taste. I hope that Rachel and Digger don't feel cheated.

At All Things Jennifer, Jennifer has something bright, clean, and good-looking for you to ogle, pace Senator Biden... and notes that out California way, the goo-goos are looking to ban the incandescent lightbulb.

Let's see if I can't combine those two concepts in a single image...

Here we go.

Reddy Kilowatt for President!

At Techography, BloodSpite commits a thorough fisking of William Arkin. Fiskings are fun, but hard to quote short excerpts from, and you don't want to know what came up on Google Images when I looked for "fisking," though I may have misspelled something.

(The article everyone's up in arms about is here.)

Pigilito, working the Euro-Expat tip, reminds us that some things in Europe are timeless, like the French urge to appease (Chirac) and the Italian tendency to chase skirts (Berlusconi).

Could it be time to trot out that oldie-but-goodie, the Système consultatif sur la sûreté de la France?

I think so.

Finally, Eric at Classical Values takes us home with some thoughts on Al Qaida's recent attacks on women in Western dress in music stores in the Gaza -- and the possible implications for Dinesh D'Souza's proposal of an alliance between social conservatives and traditional Muslims.

Well, you knew this last graphic was coming. It's Michael Jackson in a burqa, innit?

michael jackson in burka
Calling the kid "Blanket" was weird enough; does he have to wear one?

04 February 2007

Hitch on the Grey Lady

How to ward off atrophy and routine, you ask? Well, I can give you a small and perhaps ridiculous example. Every day, the New York Times carries a motto in a box on its front page. "All the News That's Fit to Print," it says. It's been saying it for decades, day in and day out. I imagine that most readers of the canonical sheet have long ceased to notice this bannered and flaunted symbol of its mental furniture. I myself check every day to make sure that the bright, smug, pompous, idiotic claim is still there. Then I check to make sure it still irritates me. If I can still exclaim, under my breath, why do they insult me and what do they take me for and what the hell is it supposed to mean unless it's as obviously complacent and conceited and censorious as it seems to be, then at least I know that I still have a pulse.

You may wish to choose a more rigorous mental workout but I credit this daily infusion of annoyance with extending my life span.
Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian, Perseus Books, 2001

02 February 2007

Be careful of that door on the way out, Cully

A senior Pentagon official resigned Friday over controversial remarks in which he criticized lawyers who represent terrorism suspects, the Defense Department said.

Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Charles ''Cully'' Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, told him on Friday that he had made his own decision to resign and was not asked to leave by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Defense Official Resigns Over Detainee Remarks (Associated Press via New York Times)

Related: Previously on enrevanche.

A Sinner's Guide to Offshoring

Very interesting and amusing article in CIO, in which the author manages to characterize six classic errors in offshoring as five of the Seven Deadly Sins (including my personal favorite, Gluttony) and one standard-issue Tragic Flaw (hubris):

Compass analyses indicate that both captive and outsourced offshore projects are often poorly planned, shoddily implemented and ineffectively managed. As a result, cost savings from these initiatives fall far short of their potential. In many cases, the failures result not from a lack of capabilities, experience or resources, but from human foibles such as arrogance, laziness or greed. In other words, good old-fashioned sin is to blame.

“A Sinner’s Guide to Offshoring”

Copyblogger: The 5 Immutable Laws of Persuasive Blogging

While there’s as many ways to approach blogging as there are blogs, some things remain steadfast when it comes to gaining influence and prompting action. Here are the 5 bedrock elements that you might keep in mind when blogging to persuade...

The 5 Immutable Laws of Persuasive Blogging | Copyblogger

Bad Language: How to be a freelance journalist

If you've ever thought about writing for money but aren't sure where to start, Matthew Stibbe of the Bad Language blog has some advice for you about becoming a freelance journalist.

(In the comments section of this post, Matthew also has one of the best lines I've ever read about writing copy fast: "I type like a repentant sinner with chest pains.")

(P.S. This fellow seems to be doing some interesting writing for a niche market... and he looks strangely familiar...)

Michael Pollan: Unhappy Meals

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.

Unhappy Meals (Michael Pollan, New York Times, Jan 28 2007)

01 February 2007

Un amore italiano

Say what you will about Italian politics; it's certainly entertaining.
“Dear Editor,” began a letter published Wednesday on the front page of La Repubblica, the newspaper that Silvio Berlusconi hates most. The scalding letter demanded an apology from Mr. Berlusconi for flirting publicly — and it was signed by his wife.


It turns out that the 70-year-old former prime minister, whose own heart now beats with a pacemaker, attended an awards ceremony last week and was overly friendly with two young and beautiful guests.

“If I weren’t already married, I would marry you right now,” he told one, according to Italian news media accounts. To another, he said, “With you I would go anywhere.”

“These are statements I consider damaging to my dignity,” wrote Veronica Lario, 50, who has been with Mr. Berlusconi for 27 years. His remarks could not be “reduced to jokes,” she said.

“To my husband and to the public man, I therefore ask for a public apology, not having received one privately.”


The Italian PM does, in fact, apologize to his wife publicly, and in the newspaper. Read on for the juicy details.

Berlusconi Flirts. His Wife’s Fed Up. Read All About It. (New York Times, 1 Feb 2007)