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

31 May 2007

Hi, y'all - from Savannah

Hello from beautiful Savannah, Georgia, where the lowcountry cooking is good, the shellfish run scared, and you get mighty good grits with a room service breakfast.

Downtown Savannah, from across the river on Hutchinson Island
Downtown Savannah, GA as viewed from Hutchinson Island (click to enlarge)

I'm down here at the 2007 Association of Proposal Management Professionals International Conference, and immensely enjoying the opportunity to meet, learn and network.

Helpful hint for any Savannah-bound travelers: a day or two before your arrival in town, book dinner reservations at The Olde Pink House on Abercorn Street. (And order the she-crab soup... you'll thank me later.)

More bloggage soon, as I'm returning to Raleigh tomorrow. I had an epiphany on I-95 that I can't wait to tell y'all about (finally, after all these years, I understand the South!) and a fun conversation with an old-school haberdasher to relate (I stopped on the way down to buy a summer suit.)

29 May 2007

War Fears Turn Digital After Data Siege in Estonia

When Estonian authorities began removing a bronze statue of a World War II-era Soviet soldier from a park in this bustling Baltic seaport last month, they expected violent street protests by Estonians of Russian descent.

They also knew from experience that “if there are fights on the street, there are going to be fights on the Internet,” said Hillar Aarelaid, the director of Estonia’s Computer Emergency Response Team. After all, for people here the Internet is almost as vital as running water; it is used routinely to vote, file their taxes, and, with their cellphones, to shop or pay for parking.

What followed was what some here describe as the first war in cyberspace, a monthlong campaign that has forced Estonian authorities to defend their pint-size Baltic nation from a data flood that they say was set off by orders from Russia or ethnic Russian sources in retaliation for the removal of the statue.


“It turned out to be a national security situation,” Estonia’s defense minister, Jaak Aaviksoo, said in an interview. “It can effectively be compared to when your ports are shut to the sea.”
War Fears Turn Digital After Data Siege in Estonia - New York Times

28 May 2007

Five questions for Heidi

5/28: Bumped because Heidi has answered these five questions here.

Five questions (well, multipart questions) for Heidi:

(1) You have written very interesting and powerful stuff about basically being an introvert, and yet you are active in the "public poetry" sphere, giving readings and participating in slams and similar open-mike kinds of events, something that even as a wildly overcompensating introvert who can usually pass for an extrovert, I would find absolutely terrifying. What is the experience of reading your work in public like, and what have you learned from it? Do you think it has changed anything in your approach to the world?

(2) Choose any starting point that you like and describe the perfect one-day road trip (taking up to 24 hours, but returning to the point of origin, in other words, not staying anywhere overnight.)

- One week? (With overnight stays.)

- One month? (Ditto.)

(3) Who is your favorite poet that appears in everybody's anthologies of everything?

(4) Who is the single best poet you know of that nobody anthologizes? Where can we find his or her work?

(5) You take great photographs of abandoned places. Obviously, you don't photograph every abandoned property that you encounter. What is it, do you think, about the places you choose to photograph that speaks to you?

27 May 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday Mom!
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
Yesterday, we had a small gathering of friends and family at the house in Raleigh to celebrate Mom's 77th birthday. The fat blur in the black shirt holding the cake is me; the quick-thinking cell-phone photographer was my cousin Chip.

Fresh vegetable supper

nc farmers market sunday
Originally uploaded by enrevanche.
Plenty of nice-looking produce at the Raleigh (NC) Farmer's Market today.

The menu:

- Blanched fresh asparagus and spring onion salad, in a red wine vinaigrette

- New potatoes

- Yellow squash sauteed in butter

- Garden peas, cooked with just a little snap left in them

And for dessert, fresh strawberries.

Playlist for a roadtrip

A CD worth of MP3s for a drive from Raleigh to Savannah.

Memorial Day, 2007

The best way to commemorate Memorial Day 2007 that I can imagine is to point all of you to guest-blogger C. Scott Smith's Memorial Day post, from (exactly) one year ago today.

A rising tide lifts all bass boats

It's been a while since we checked in on the White Trash and Minor Vices Portfolio.

As of Friday's close, it's humming along nicely, up 5.4% since inception.

But in this rising market, instead of beating the Dow, the Dow is (right now at least) beating our overalls off.

Over the same time period, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tracking the major indexes performed as follows:

  • DIA, an ETF which tracks the Dow Jones Industrial Average, is up 8.9%
  • SPY, an ETF which tracks the S&P 500, is up 6.32%
  • VTI, an ETF which tracks the performance of the broad US stock market as a whole, is up 5.96%
  • IYC, an ETF which tracks the Dow Jones Consumer Cyclical index, is up 3.14%.

26 May 2007

The Final Days of Google | PBS

Back in the 1990s Bill Gates said the company that would eventually beat Microsoft probably had yet to be founded, by which he meant that Microsoft was in such a strong position that only something truly disruptive -- a whole new business -- would have a chance to unseat Redmond. Some people think the company Bill was describing back then might be Google. I don't know if that's the case or not, but it leads me to ask this question: If Google, itself, is to be eventually beaten by some other company, does THAT company yet exist? I don't think so. But unlike the scenario envisioned by Gates, I have a pretty good idea where we'll find the founders of that Google-beating start-up. I think they are working right now at Google.
I, Cringely . The Pulpit . The Final Days of Google

Michael Yon : Online Magazine » Blog Archive » A Memorial Day Message

Michael Yon's Memorial Day Message deserves your attention this weekend.

23 May 2007

Dude would float...

Michael Crowley of the New Republic has read Bob Shrum's memoir, and the tear-stained reflections of the man who blew eight presidential campaigns are chock-a-block with dirt on John Edwards. Short version: He's a lightweight. Long version: If you tied cement blocks to his ankles and gave him a medicine ball to carry, then chucked him off one of the Petronas Towers, dude would float.
Hit and Run: The Third Man

Perhaps NASA should arrange to launch Mr. Edwards into orbit, so that scientists can study the effects of weightlessness on weightlessness.

"Poor Like Me"

Ted Rall's take on Barbara Ehrenreich.

22 May 2007

Uh-oh, busted!

Like That "Charm" People Always Talk About

Old man #1: You gotta watch out for those southerners. Don't think they're stupid just because they talk slow.
Old man #2: Yeah, they just talk that way to get you off your guard.

--Health & Racket Club locker room, 45th & Lex

via Overheard in New York, May 22, 2007

Five questions for Chap

5/22: Bumped because Chap has answered the five questions over at his place.

Go read now.

We have our first victim volunteer.

Five questions for Chap:

Question 1: You often write about the difficulties of encouraging and managing change in large organizations, and are clearly fascinated by how actual innovations occur in the real world -- where better ideas come from, what drives their uptake and acceptance, and so on. Who or what has influenced you most in your approach to acting as a change agent, and what advice would you give to someone who is bound and determined to try to introduce big changes into their environment?

Question 2: As a milblogger, you are more patient than many/most with the relative ignorance of the civilian world to matters military, but occasionally, reactions somewhere on the spectrum from exasperation to disgust can be detected in your writing over episodic cluelessness that you've observed. What are some of the things you think that the segment of the population *without* military experience should know about the culture of the United States military, and how do you think (or do you think) that the world would be different if they did?

Question 3: Has becoming a parent changed your view of:

(a) Yourself
(b) Your wife
(c) Your community
(d) The world in general

and if so, how? ("It hasn't" would be an acceptable but totally unexpected answer.)

Also, your picks for best children's entertainment options?

Question 4: What does "information warfare" mean (in your opinion) and what should we be doing about it?

Question 5: Hypothetical: In recognition of your long service as owner and curator of the World's Most Dangerous Record Collection, a grateful Apple, Inc. presents you with a 1GB iPod Shuffle. You are about to leave on a long trip and this will be your primary source of music for the duration of the journey. Knowing that storage space is limited and you will have absolutely no control over the order in which songs are played, what do you load on it? (Please be as specific as possible. The ideal response would be a playlist.)

20 May 2007

It's that third guy I'm really scared of

Yeah, I've had days like this.

Hat tip: Chap

Meet Moonshine Patriot

John deVille, who really needs to start blogging again, points us to Moonshine Patriot, who helpfully translates Sunday talking-head talk-show blather into the modern idiom, e.g.:
[Meet The Press, May 20, 2007]

Dodd: when u have a military hammer everything looks like a country u can bomb the shit out of

Newtie: look at me im condescending and wrong all the time

Russert: yeah yeah

Newt: are we prepared to accept and legislate defeat look at i know how troops in combat think i played with a lot of toy soliders during vietnam

Russert: well there you go

Newt: we need to bomb Iran, North Korea, Waziristan, Hamas, Russia, Estonia, London and New Jersey

Tim: ok

Blog Reader Profile

Please take my Blog Reader Project survey.

In our continuous quest for world domination, the provision of your individual demographic information will help us immensely. Your data will never be shared with anyone, and even I will not see personally identifiable information.

Estimated time for completion: 10 minutes or less.


19 May 2007

"These people are gullible..."

The thieves operated from small offices in Toronto and hangar-size rooms in India. Every night, working from lists of names and phone numbers, they called World War II veterans, retired schoolteachers and thousands of other elderly Americans and posed as government and insurance workers updating their files.

Then, the criminals emptied their victims’ bank accounts.

Richard Guthrie, a 92-year-old Army veteran, was one of those victims. He ended up on scam artists’ lists because his name, like millions of others, was sold by large companies to telemarketing criminals, who then turned to major banks to steal his life’s savings.

Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say.

InfoUSA advertised lists of “Elderly Opportunity Seekers,” 3.3 million older people “looking for ways to make money,” and “Suffering Seniors,” 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. “Oldies but Goodies” contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: “These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change.”

Bilking the Elderly, With a Corporate Assist (New York Times, May 19, 2007)

Predators of all species instinctively seek out easy pickings: the old, infirm, weak and sick. It's true whether you're talking about lions stalking herds of wildebeest or human scum like this using computerized databases to identify easy marks for telemarketing and banking fraud.

A few people may eventually do some jail time for this.

I'd like to see them driven through the public streets with horsewhips first. After a fair trial, and after sentencing, but before their delivery to the Big House, where, it is to be hoped, they will enjoy a steady diet of institutional food and forced sodomy.

Meet "Marcus Biko"

With respect to the proposed immigration reform package, Cobb's got a good idea:
First of all, if I had 5000 cash to spare, I would get in line and get one of these new biometric foolproof ID cards. I mean what a great deal. Who cares if I don't get citizenship for 13 years. I've got an unassailable ID. I'll be Marcus Biko from Botswana. Who's going to prove I'm not? I was clever enough to get over here, sorry I don't have any records of that, I destroyed them out of paranoia. Do I have any relatives in Botswana? No my family was killed. Try the embassy. Do I have a bank account? No. I just show up, wait in line and get certified as Marcus Biko. Who's going to check when there are 12 million others in line too?
If I had $5K lying around unoccupied, I might follow Cobb's lead, although I think I'd have a slightly harder time convincing people that I'm Steve Garvey.

18 May 2007

TAP: A meme for me

Phil at The Archer Pelican is interviewing bloggers and commenters at his blog. (Here's his interview with Lisa of the blog A Clear View to A New Life.)

And now, Phil interviews me, on the topic of personal evolution. (I wonder if I should call him Dr. Phil? And it's a good thing for Phil that I am not an intelligent design supporter.)

Question 1.
Think back to 1983, when we were still in high school (where you introduced me to the word “disseminate” through your role as editor of one of our school journals). What parts of your personality or wisdom were newly emerging and/or solidifying back then – things that you consider to be important parts of your nature today, 24 years later?

I think I was figuring out, at about that time, how much I loved working with words: writing, and--funny that you mention it--especially editing. At its best, editing is a process by which you help others express themselves more clearly by asking a lot of questions and helping them shape their language a little differently.

Especially as a teenager, I was often at a loss for the right thing to say when speaking, but given time to write and revise I could usually get across the point I wanted to make.

As a kid I think I acted like an arrogant prick (my wife and friends, reading this today, are no doubt saying, "so what's any different now?") Well, what's hopefully different now is that then I was awkwardly overcompensating for deep feelings of insecurity, and now I believe I have learned to compensate for my deep feelings of insecurity more gracefully. :-)

The nugget of wisdom that I mined from all of this is how powerful--and even potentially healing--good communication is, and I resolved to try to get better at it.

I went through the writing program at Carolina, got a gig as a technical writer at IBM while still in school, and have supported myself as a professional communicator in the IT industry for over twenty years now--first a technical writer, then a training developer, now a proposal manager and process consultant.

I learn something new damn nearly every day. I hope that doesn't stop.

Question 2.
In two elegant entries, you’ve written about your dad, his life, and his passing:


Are there any big decisions you’ve made in this life that you think were particularly influenced by something your dad had taught you through word or example? When you made the decision(s), were you aware at the time of how your father was influencing you? How did the decision(s) turn out?

Bob wasn't big on lectures or life lessons, but he taught me a couple of hugely important things by example:

(1) Persistence and focus will beat the living shit out of undisciplined genius 99 times out of 100 (not that Bob wasn't plenty smart, understand, but he was one of the most determined people I ever met.) Even after a grievous injury, he bounced back and went about all the things that were important to him, hammer and tongs, like some kind of demented blacksmith - and God help you if you got between him and his anvil.

(2) A sense of humor, especially about yourself, is one of the most important survival skills in life. Humor will get you through bad times when nothing else will.

Not only does Bob still influence me on a regular basis (a minor matter like death doesn't stop that sort of thing happening) but when I hear some of the things that I say come out of my mouth, I am not altogether sure that I'm not channeling him.

Ironically, twenty years into my career, I am doing the job (proposal management) that my old man did at the end of his career with IBM... something that *seemed* to be a complete accident at the time I started doing it, but now I'm not so sure.

Question 3.

How do you think your mother and father influenced each other through the years? Do you reckon their influence over each other was more via the way each of them was an example to the other, or via the way they treated each other? And – inasmuch as you’d like to answer – how did their ways inform your own in your first marriage, and now in this marriage with Carrie?

Mom and Dad came from two very different kinds of families, but they both grew up poor in Western North Carolina, and both worked very hard to escape the poverty they were raised in and the small communities they grew up in. In addition to just falling in love and so forth, I think they realized about each other, pretty early on, that they were of a similar mind about improving themselves, and they supported each other in that endeavor.

After my Dad's injury, my Mom became his primary caregiver. Dad became a paraplegic after I was born but a few days before my first birthday, so the model of marriage that I grew up with was very interestingly skewed; it was absolutely a marriage of equals, but there was also a caretaker/patient dimension to it.

They, being very realistic people, were comfortable with this, though it was not always easy.

I think that the model of their relationship has affected me primarily in that the way I best know how to show love for someone is by 'taking care of them' - not playing nursemaid, but doing nurturing things like cooking, things like that. This is usually accepted graciously by my loved ones but must also be occasionally smothering and overwhelming; I try to be conscious of that.

My first marriage was a trainwreck and probably doomed from the jump; I was too young to know who I was or what I wanted. (I do have some good memories.)

Being married to Carrie for the last eight years has been the best thing that ever happened to me. The organizing principle of my life right now is to try to become the husband and partner who is someone she deserves, instead of the schlub she actually married.

Question 4.

In the previous questions, I realize that there’s a common theme of “how and where do we form our outlook?” and “how does our outlook influence how we act?”

Your Blogspot profile speaks a little to this: “I'm not one to look behind, I know that times must change / But over there in Barrytown they do things very strange...”

That said, do you have a method to how you learn and how you act? As a strong thinker, I know that it’s within your means to have developed a personal philosophy that you might use as daily guidance. At the same time, I don’t mean to presume that you don’t also draw from intuition, or that you don’t live like many of us do – playing from what seems to feel right at the time, based on a combination of rational thought, emotion, impulse, and the path of least resistance.

I couldn't draw you a flowchart of the process or method that I use to govern my actions. I try to be ethical and rational to the extent possible, but emotion and especially vanity govern how the world works, very much including myself in that.

Sometimes you've got a plan, sometimes you've just gotta wing it.

I can tell you how I learn something new: first I immerse myself in it, soaking up every detail no matter how seemingly trivial or tangential, and depend almost completely on flashes of insight to glimpse the overarching structure that I'm going to use to understand it.

Once the intellectual scaffolding is in place, I can become much more systematic about my approach to assimilation (and of course the structure is often subject to extensive revision along the way.)

Question 5.
Lastly, do you think you’ll ever get to a place where your combination of conservative, libertarian, and other ideals coalesce into something you’d consider a uniform and consistent philosophy? And would it be a philosophy that’s actually livable in this human world populated by ourselves, some decent people, and a whole lot of idiots?

Well, shit, Phil... I think it's a uniform and consistent philosophy now.

And it goes a little something like this:

Insofar as you aren't hurting me, I don't have a right to tell you how to live. I expect the same respect in return.

I am a conservative (or, for European readers, "classical liberal") on economic issues and in my philosophical approach to governance because I think, to slightly paraphrase P.J. O'Rourke, that giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

I am a liberal on social issues because as long as it isn't hurting anyone and consenting adults are involved, I not only don't care what you do behind closed doors, I mostly don't care what you do out in the street. (Just don't frighten the horses.)

I am a hawk on defense because it's a very dangerous world and if history teaches us anything, there are terrible consequences to be paid for being unable to kill the people who need killing at crucial times, up to and including the extinction of your own society. (I am not a supporter of the way we're currently prosecuting our foreign policy via our military ventures, as I don't think it's likely to achieve our objectives, to put it mildly.)

If I tried to reduce all of this to a bumper sticker, it would read something like this:

"Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. Also, expect me to hit back. Really hard."

Of course it's a livable philosophy. I live it. :-)

Extra credit: how does wearing a necktie fit into all of this?

It's just an element of a costume, part of a uniform... in the working role that I have, and the city that I work in, it's expected.

I don't wear a tie to walk the dogs, cook dinner, hang out with friends, or do almost anything other than go to work and attend weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. :-) I put the tie on after I arrive at the office every morning and usually take it off before I head home. It is not without its ritualistic significance in this way.

The blog picture shows me in a tie because, although the blog is where I do my fun, informal writing, I'd like people to know that I'm taking it seriously. If, on my best day, I manage to swing like a m*****f***** and pull off wild bebop jazz improvisations in my blog writing - well, Bud Powell always wore a suit and tie when he sat at the piano.

Part of the deal with this interview meme:
So if you want to play along and now be interviewed by me, please leave me a comment or send an email saying: "Interview me."

* I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
* You will update your weblog with the answers to the questions.
* You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
* Then others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions and so on.

So. If you're feeling masochistic, and would like to be interviewed by me, let me know in the comments. :-)

16 May 2007

The road to Des Moines

Tom Tancredo, who has about as much chance of getting the Republican presidential nomination as I do, had the line of the night in the GOP debate:
Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado said he had witnessed, in the course of his campaign, candidates move to more conservative positions on guns, abortion and immigration. “You know it’s beginning to sound like a Baptist tent revival meeting here,” Mr. Tancredo said. “And I’m glad to see these conversions. But I must tell you, I trust those conversions when they happen on the road to Damascus and not on the road to Des Moines.”
The stage was like the Beijing Zoo last night, what with all those pander bears.

Giuliani, who is polling best against leading Democrats at this point, is not backing away from his pro-life, pro-gay rights, and pro-gun control positions. Unless Republican politics have undergone a complete transformation, he will never survive the primary process.

15 May 2007

Note for proselytizers: A certain baseline intelligence is required

Editor's Notes: Less Smiting; More Compelling Central Character

Jock #1: If I give you a book, will you read it?
Jock #2: Yeah. What's the title?
Jock #1: It's called The New Testament.
Jock #2: Man, I had to read the old version for class...

--Fordham University

Overheard by: jack

via Overheard in New York, May 15, 2007

Study: French world's biggest whiners

French workers are the world's biggest whiners, according to a study published Monday which said the Irish complain least about their lot.

Britons come second to their Gallic cousins in the moaning stakes, followed by Sweden, the United States and Australia. Japanese workers have the lowest morale, but don't complain so much.

The lowest levels of whining were found in the Netherlands, Thailand and Ireland, according to the study by the FDS research group.
French workers biggest whiners, Irish happiest: Study (Agence France Press via Yahoo! News)

In other news, water is wet, the sky is blue, and it's generally a bad idea to attempt to draw to an inside straight.

13 May 2007

The sleepy, peaceable kingdom

Chow Fun on couch 1
Originally uploaded by CWCampbell.
Chow Fun and Mister Gato share a quiet moment of naplitude on the couch. (Cat is in background, on his Army blanket.)

Photo credit: Carrie

"Thriving Office"

Small businesses know they must seem successful to become successful. So they play Thriving Office while they're on the phone. This valuable CD is filled with the sounds people expect to hear from an established company, providing instant credibility. It's fast, easy and effective!

Thriving Office contains two 39-minute tracks: “Busy” and “Very Busy”. Both are filled with the sounds of voices, phones, computers, drawers and more. Click below to hear a free sample and then start benefiting from this amazing product!
Thriving Office: $12.95 CD, $5.95 MP3 download.

Hat tip: TechCrunch.

12 May 2007

Belly laugh o' the day

Outside the supermarket, a table was set up to distribute literature and gather signatures for a petition There was a big, crudely lettered sign, "Impeach Cheney Now!" (They wanted to go after Cheney first for some reason, then Bush.)

This is about par for the course for my neighborhood, so I ignored them, and I didn't notice until I was on my way out who was sponsoring the table.

One of the guys smiled earnestly said "Hi, are you ready for the impeachment?"

It was then I noticed that they were LaRouchies.

And had the best laugh I've had for weeks, much to their consternation.

Too, too funny.

11 May 2007

Paul Rubin: Evolution, Immigration and Trade

Public policy pays surprisingly little attention to evolutionary psychology. Yet there are many human intuitions and behaviors that influence contemporary policy issues -- sometimes in ways that are no longer useful or perhaps even harmful to humans flourishing. These intuitions are sometimes referred to as "folk economics," and one area in which they often emerge is the international economy.

Our primitive ancestors lived in a world that was essentially static; there was little societal or technological change from one generation to the next. This meant that our ancestors lived in a world that was zero sum -- if a particular gain happened to one group of humans, it came at the expense of another.

This is the world our minds evolved to understand. To this day, we often see the gain of some people and assume it has come at the expense of others. Economists have argued for more than two centuries that voluntary trade, whether domestic or international, is positive sum: it benefits both parties, or else the exchange wouldn't occur. Economists have also long argued that the economics of immigration -- immigrants coming here to exchange their labor for money that they then exchange for the products of other people's labor -- is positive sum. Yet our evolutionary intuition is that, because foreign workers gain from trade and immigrant workers gain from joining the U.S. economy, native-born workers must lose. This zero-sum thinking leads us to see trade and immigration as conflict ("trade wars," "immigrant invaders") when trade and immigration actually produce cooperation and mutual benefit, the exact opposite of conflict.

Paul Rubin, "Evolution, Immigration and Trade," The Washington Post, May 7, 2007

Hat tip: Hit and Run

Yeah, it's getting to be about that time

The biergartens of New York City.

(Personal favorite: The Bohemian Hall in Astoria, Queens, built when "Bohemian" was a term of geographical reference and not an overused synonym for "unconventional." Believe me, there's nothing more conformist than a bohemian of the artistic type.)

09 May 2007

"Just pucker, and blow."

In honor of “Whistleblower Week in Washington,” the National Whistleblower Center is making its publication, Federal Whistleblower Laws and Regulations., available as a free download. This is the only legal treatise compiling the text of all federal whistleblower protection laws and regulations, and will be available as a free download immediately, and throughout Whistleblower Week in Washington (May 14-18, 2007). Federal Whistleblower Laws and Regulations contains the text of over 100 federal statutes and regulations, including the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate whistleblower law, the False Claims Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act.

This publication is available immediately as a PDF download from the National Whistleblower Center website. To download, please click this link:
Federal Whistleblower Laws and Regulations.
Whistle Week in DC

08 May 2007

A deterrent against nuclear terrorism?

Clearly, this has been discussed behind closed doors (or at least I hope so) for many years now, but the U.S. is finally going public with some highly relevant musings:
Every week, a group of experts from agencies around the government — including the C.I.A., the Pentagon, the F.B.I. and the Energy Department — meet to assess Washington’s progress toward solving a grim problem: if a terrorist set off a nuclear bomb in an American city, could the United States determine who detonated it and who provided the nuclear material?
A guy I know poses this problem a little more bluntly and pungently: "Say we wake up one morning and Houston's gone. Okay, what's our next move?"

U.S. Debates Deterrence For Nuclear Terrorism (New York Times, May 8, 2007)

Strange bedfellows

Here are a couple of sites set up to generate grassroots opposition to the Real ID Act, which essentially requires states to turn their drivers' licenses into de facto national ID cards.

This one is from the ACLU, which sees the national ID card as a gross invasion of privacy that won't do anything significant to deter terrorism:
The Real ID Act of 2005 would turn our state driver’s licenses into a genuine national identity card and impose numerous new burdens on taxpayers, citizens, immigrants, and state governments – while doing nothing to protect against terrorism. As a result, it is stirring intense opposition from many groups across the political spectrum. This Web site provides information about opposing Real ID.
And this one is from Endtime Ministries, which views the national ID card as the Mark of the Beast:
There is a prophecy in the Bible that foretells a time when every person will be required to have a mark or a number, without which he or she will not be able to participate in the economy. The prophecy is 2,000 years old, but it has been impossible for it to come to pass until now. With the invention of the computer and the Internet, this prophecy of buying and selling, using a number, can now be implemented at any time. Has the time for the fulfillment of this prophecy arrived?
And the libertarians shall lay down with the loons.
P.S. Ah, the benefits of a good old-fashioned parochial school education: Here are the hair-raising relevant bits from the Book of Revelation, chapter 13, King James translation.
11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.

12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads..."

I dunno, dude. Even allowing for the archaic English, that sounds more like implantable RFID chips to me.

The Macbook is back

...and all is well. The repairs in Apple's facility took less than twelve hours, meaning that this whole thing could have been wrapped up in three days if there hadn't been some shipping problems getting the box to me.

Being forced back into Windows World full-time for a week was painful.

I'm glad to be back.

(Chap and I have been having synchronized hardware problems, looks like.)

This is Spinal Tap 2007

The devil went to Devon
Felt like the fourth degree
He said, "Is it hot in here
Or is it only me?"
Spinal Tap 2007 - a short film by Martin DiBergi, at Live Earth

07 May 2007

The brotherhood of urban myopics

I Found a Roach in a Baguette There One Time. True Story.

Man: Jesus, I need glasses.
Woman: How come?
Man: That sign, 'Hot and Crusty.' A couple of blocks ago it looked like 'Hat and Cruelty.' I know this is New York, but that just had to be wrong.

--89th & Broadway

via Overheard in New York, May 7, 2007

06 May 2007

Consumer Reports: Where are all the American cars?

This year's Consumer Reports Top Picks are all vehicles produced by Japanese companies. This is actually the second year in a row that that's been the case. In the 10 years that Consumer Reports has produced annual "Top Picks" lists, it's the fifth time there have been no American cars among them.

The biggest problem is that fewer American cars even make it into consideration. To be a "Top Pick," a vehicle must first earn Consumer Reports' general recommendation. That doesn't mean it's the best, but it's at least proven to be reliable, safe, it handles well and is reasonably easy to live with.

Of 23 Toyotas tested by Consumer Reports since 2000, 20 are recommended. Of 37 General Motors cars tested, only 13 are recommended. For Ford, it's eight out of 17 and, for Chrysler, four out of 20.
Best Cars 2007 - Consumer Reports via CNN/Money

Support H.R. 2060 - Save net radio

Representative Jerrold Nadler
2334 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Nadler:

I write you today as a concerned constituent, to ask you to cosponsor H.R. 2060, The Internet Radio Equality Act.

Last month, the Copyright Royalty Board changed the royalty schedule for Net-based broadcasters from a percentage of revenue to a per-song, per-listener fee--effectively hiking the rates to be paid by Internet radio stations by between 300 and 1,200 percent.

An article in the online edition of Newsweek (April 30, 2007) explains the fee hike succinctly:
The fee hike will only affect Internet radio, not terrestrial AM and FM, because of a strange wrinkle in copyright law: broadcast stations pay royalties only for the composition as a piece of intellectual property--these are the fees that go to songwriters through ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. But in 1995 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lobbied Congress to pass a law that would require an additional performance fee specifically on digital music. So Internet radio stations pay both the composition fee plus an additional royalty for the performance of the song--the actual act of streaming it online. (Source)
H.R. 2060, The Internet Radio Equality Act, was introduced recently by Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Donald Manzullo (R-IL) to save the Internet radio industry from these ruinous royalty increases. This bill seeks to temporarily peg the royalty rate for Internet radio at the same rate that satellite broadcasters pay (7.5% of revenue) while a new fee structure is hammered out.

Congressman Nadler, I can’t think of many businesses or nonprofits that could sustain a 1,200 percent overnight rate hike; it amounts to the death penalty for Net radio, because it would put most Internet radio stations--the vast majority of them small businesses and labors of love--out of operation, just at a time when a few of them are starting to find some support as commercially viable businesses.

Internet-based broadcasters are filling a culturally important role by providing high-quality alternatives to the homogenized dreck that flows over the public airwaves. They are offering music lovers a choice and presenting an incredibly diverse palette of musical styles and options to their listeners.

Please don’t let bad policy kill Net radio, a welcome and sorely needed cultural and technical innovation.

Please cosponsor H.R. 2060.


Barry T. Campbell

05 May 2007

Ségo ou Sarko?

On the eve of the French election, an online quiz at Le Monde - are your opinions more in line with Ségo or Sarko?

Basic French is required (the quiz is an interactive slideshow and can't be translated by, e.g., BabelFish) and slightly more than basic knowledge of French politics and society. But it's kind of surprising how little command of language is required to read a country's newspaper of record (I speak Menu French), and what a shallow grasp of events is sufficient to understand political issues. or at least political positions.

The longer I think about that the deeper and more worrisome it seems.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I answered with Sarko on 13 of 20 questions (65%).

A tip of the enrevanche chapeau to Greg.

Etes-vous Ségo ou Sarko ?
LEMONDE.FR | 02.05.07

© Le Monde.fr

Save net radio!

The future of Internet radio is in immediate danger. Royalty rates for webcasters have been drastically increased by a recent ruling and are due to go into effect on July 15 (retroactive to Jan 1, 2006!). If the increased rates remain unchanged, the majority of webcasters will go bankrupt and silent on this date. Internet radio needs your help! H.R. 2060, The Internet Radio Equality Act was introduced by Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Donald Manzullo (R-IL ) to save the Internet radio industry. Please call your congressperson to ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 2060...
Save Net Radio

Compared to the stagnant audio wasteland that is commercial radio, net radio stations like Etherbeat.com are a hit of pure oxygen. The new royalty structure for webcasters is designed to shut them down, plain and simple.

04 May 2007


Microsoft has made a preliminary overture to Internet giant Yahoo, and the two companies are in very early discussions about a possible merger, according to people briefed on the discussions. The talks were first reported Friday in The New York Post. Microsoft and Yahoo have considered some kind of combination before, including the sale of a stake in Yahoo’s search business to Microsoft, but failed to come to terms.

The Post says that while the two have held talks on the subject in the past, there is a new urgency on Microsoft’s part, following Google’s $3.5 billion deal to buy DoubleClick, a company that Bill Gates also coveted.
NY Times DealBook: MSFT Rekindles Its Pursuit of YHOO

03 May 2007

An open letter to Nicholas Wheeler

Dear Mr. Wheeler,

Thanks for the latest shipment of shirts and ties, which arrived in excellent condition and, as always, fit beautifully.

The most appreciated article in the shipment, however, at least from the point of view of Mister Gato, our cat, was the box.

Mister Gato endorses Charles Tyrwhitt
We haven't been able to get him out of it since it arrived.

He not only sleeps in it, but spends many of his waking hours in it as well. (Should we ever need to mail him anywhere, it appears to be perfectly sized.)

We'll be ordering from you in the future, of course, probably quite soon.

I'd just walk into one of your stores in New York City rather than using the website, but my cat would never forgive me.

Best regards,

Barry Campbell

[For more pet pictures from bloggers around the world, check out The Modulator's Friday Ark... and don't miss the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday.]

Things I have learned about Applecare

I am still waiting for the shipping box, "'overnighted" on the 30th of April, to arrive so that I can return my broken MacBook to Apple... again. (Counting the couple of days that the little laptop spent at the Genius Bar less than a month after my purchase, this is the *third* time that the computer has been returned to Apple's custody for repair in under a year. So glad I bought the extended warranty.)

Anyway, here's what I've learned from the latest festival of incompetence.

(1) Apple doesn't know how to give DHL the information it needs to deliver shipping boxes to office addresses in New York City, and

(2) DHL doesn't know how to find massive buildings in Lower Manhattan by conventional, US Postal Service-compliant street addresses. (I got a call on my cell phone from DHL yesterday morning, asking for clarification about where "17 State Street" was. Um, it's the HUGE F***ING SKYSCRAPER RIGHT ACROSS FROM THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY TERMINAL.)

Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage

Guestblogging at The Volokh Conspiracy, Bernard Harcourt writes, inter alia:

In practically all [of the studies that measure the social effects of incarceration in America], we have used the imprisonment rate to measure society’s level of incapacitation. But the prison rate alone may not capture what we were trying to measure. The most straightforward interpretation of my findings is that neither the rate of imprisonment alone, nor the rate of mental hospitalization alone are good predictors of serious violent crime over the period 1934-2001. In contrast, the aggregated institutionalization rate (aggregating the mental hospitalization and prison rates) is a strong predictor of homicides. This suggests that there is something going on in the relationship between mental hospitalization and prison — perhaps a form of substitution — that should make us rethink entirely how we measure social control and incapacitation. [italics mine - bc]

But since practically none of our studies on prisons, guns, abortion, education, unemployment, capital punishment, etc., controls for institutionalization writ large, most of what we claim to know about these effects may be on shaky ground.

(Source: Institutionalization vs. Imprisonment: Are There Massive Implications for Existing Research?)

Hat tip: Reason's Hit and Run blog

02 May 2007

A fool, advising liars

WFB on George Tenet:
The testimony reveals the CIA run by a man who cannot think straight, advising the national security adviser, who went on to make false allegations, and the vice president, who made more false allegations, and the president, who took ill-considered action.
Torture on 60 Minutes, William F. Buckley, May 2, 2007

01 May 2007

We'll ride them some day

A fascinating article on the wild horses of Shackleford Banks, the barrier islands that form part of North Carolina's Outer Banks:
Many who see the wild horses that roam the Outer Banks conclude they're a rare and different breed. Now science may confirm it.

An equine genetics specialist from Texas is collecting genetic material -- 60 strands of hair from horses in the herds on Shackleford Banks and around Corolla -- to analyze where these postcard-perfect icons of North Carolina originated.

He expects the research will reinforce studies he conducted on the horses in the 1990s that indicated they have Spanish blood -- possibly descending from a lineage of horses brought by Spanish explorers in the 16th century.
When I was a Boy Scout, back in the late Pleistocene era, my troop went at least once a year to camp on one of the barrier islands, and I remember vividly the sense of wonder at seeing a small group of wild horses romping around.

New York City, unplugged

A little problem with the subway last night kept me waiting on the platform longer than usual, and to pass the time I broke out the iPod Nano.

A friend and I had been talking about the late Jeff Buckley a few nights back, and so I dialed up Jeff's incredible album, Grace, and made a private bet with myself about how far through the recording I'd get before I made it to my doorstep.

I got pretty far. A little over two-thirds of the way through the album, actually, when I emerged at the Christopher Street station and started walking down West 4th St towards the house, Jeff wailing "Lover, You Should've Come Over" in my earbuds. The iPod changes the way you experience a city, and sometimes it really does make New York City more bearable.

While I was away in Raleigh last week, spring arrived in New York City, for real. Walking down the tree-lined street in my shirtsleeves on a warm spring night, with my tie loosened and the sidewalk cafe tables packed with tourists and neighbors, and good music playing in my ears, I was suffused with a sense of well-being.

Then I came across a fellow sitting on the sidewalk playing the cello, and I realized that I could listen to Jeff Buckley any time I wanted to, but that here was an unmediated artistic experience happening in the open air. (He wasn't a Joshua Bell-quality string player, but he was pretty damned good.) I dropped a buck in his case; he introduced himself and asked me if there was anything he could play for me. I suppressed a sadistic urge to ask for something brutally difficult (Shostokovich?) and just told him to keep doing what he was doing.

You can hear an unamplified cello for several blocks, even with New York City traffic noise behind it.

With the iPod earbuds out, you can also hear the birds singing in the trees.

Lovely night.