January 2003 Archives

Dr. Strangelove Says NO to War

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The New York Times just published this astonishing article about a large group of Nobel Prize winners who have signed a petition against the war against Iraq. The list of petitioners includes a significant group of Dr. Strangeloves, the very men who built America's most devastating nuclear weapons. If the President won't listen to Dr. Strangelove, who will he listen too?
Nobel Laureates Sign Against a War Without International Support
Forty-one American Nobel laureates in science and economics issued a declaration yesterday opposing a preventive war against Iraq without wide international support. The statement, four sentences long, argues that an American attack would ultimately hurt the security and standing of the United States, even if it succeeds.
The signers, all men, include a number who at one time or another have advised the federal government or played important roles in national security. Among them are Hans A. Bethe, an architect of the atom bomb; Walter Kohn, a former adviser to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Pentagon; Norman F. Ramsey, a Manhattan Project scientist who readied the Hiroshima bomb and later advised NATO; and Charles H. Townes, former research director of the Institute for Defense Analyses at the Pentagon and chairman of a federal panel that studied how to base the MX missile and its nuclear warheads."

Dentists Go To War

A local National Guard unit, the 109th Medical Battalion, has been activated and sent to war. The unit's website proudly proclaims it provides "eschelon [sic] I and II medical support," and makes it seem like these guys are pulling dying soldiers from foxholes on the front lines. But as usual with military people, it's all a big self-aggrandizing lie.
The US Military Field Manual clearly states that Area Support Medical Battalions only provide Echelon II support. This means that in the midst of battle, they sit around the well-fortified base waiting for casualties to arrive. While these units take care of critical casualties, the major ongoing duty of any ASMB is minor medical and dental care for the troops. The 109th is largely composed of dentists, since the local Dental College is considered the best in the world. Napoleon said that an army travels on its stomach, but apparently modern armies travel on their toothbrushes. I appreciate the urgent need for medical care for the soldiers, but somehow I doubt any soldier is going to be struck down in the midst of battle by tooth decay.
Across the USA, whole battalions of dentists, doctors, and nurses are being uprooted from their local jobs and being sent to Iraq. The local hospitals report losing a substantial number of people to military duty, and some vital medical services are now curtailed, particularly at Veterans Administration hospitals. This is essentially a tax on local communities. As more reserve troops are deployed, cities are discovering their citizens are disappearing, no longer producing goods or services, or spending their income, or generating tax revenue.
The irony of this is that the 109th has historically been full of Conscientious Objectors and draft dodgers. During the Vietnam War, many local residents signed up as National Guard reservists with the 109th, in an attempt to avoid the callup. COs were typically assigned to non-battlefield medical units. Even if the 109th had been sent to VietNam (it was not), it was an "HHD," a Headquarters Detatched unit, it would not go into the field. And certainly you wouldn't want COs and draft dodgers in frontline units, you'd want them close to HQ where you can keep an eye on these misfits and malcontents.

Total Rewire

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I decided to totally rewire my computer and video systems, since I am desperate to eliminate some electronic interference between my TiVo and my PowerMac. "Hum bars" and other interference patterns are the bane of any electronics rig, and they can be difficult to eliminate. I had everything all working a few weeks ago, then I merely put it all back in the cabinet without disturbing the cables and suddenly the interference is back again. It's driving me crazy.
But this time, I think I have the solution. Some Mac audio geeks say the new MDD PowerMacs have ground loop problems when connected to external audio devices. The solution is a cheap $15 ground loop isolator from Radio Shack (part #270-054). I bought a couple and I'll put them inline in the audio at various places in my Mac/TiVo rig, and see how that works.
So the server may be up and down over the next couple of days, and I hate resetting the server and losing my uptime. One of the crazy strategies that was suggested to eliminate the ground loops was to run all the Mac systems ungrounded, using a 2-prong cheater plug. That was obviously unsuccessful and now it's just a hazard. Now I have to rewire the power plugs. I haven't replaced my backup battery power supply either, that will cost at least another $150. I decided that the new Belkin UPS looked good, since they released MacOS X drivers for power management.
I've totally refurbished my office, and cleaned everything. I have a new high powered vacuum with a HEPA filter, it's great. It sifts such fine microscopic particles that you can almost completely eliminate all dust from a room. But the 4HP motor pushes out so much exhaust that the room is practically a hurricane of dust, and you've just got a little straw to suck it up, so it takes a few repeated passes to get it all. But it is astonishing to see how much fine dust that computers and CRTs will attract. It's important to clean this fine dust because when you work at a CRT and keyboard, the static charge also accumulates on YOU, your hands and face become statically charged and attract dust just like the CRT. You get dust in your eyes and nose, causing irritation. If you get eyestrain from working at a computer for hours, this is part of the reason. So go clean your desk and CRT.

Freedom to Fly the Flag

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America's flag has always been freedom's banner, but lately I feel the Stars and Bars does not represent the America of my ideals, or of the Founding Fathers. That flag is the banner of a government that no longer represents its people.
I was particularly struck by a story on CNN.com showing the Abolitionist Flag of 1859. 20 stars represent the States of the Union, with 4 red and white bars removed for the seceding states from the original 13 colonies.

Abolitionist Flag

This flag represents 20 states standing united against the evils of slavery, in the face of a terrible and heinous war. This banner of freedom from slavery should be the memorial symbol of the Civil War, not the Confederate Flag.
I noticed the 20 stars happened to equal the 20 Blue States in the presidential election of 2000, so I was inspired to create a "Blue Flag" representing the majority of voters that are not represented in the current government. It will now be my site's banner, in the upper right corner of this page.
While researching the flag design, I discovered some very interesting demographic maps from the 2000 election. It is particularly worth noting the Blue States population density concentrated in the northeast US, and the Red States strong in the southern US. It is as if the country is still divided between the industrial North vs the slave-economy South. Did we fight the Civil War for nothing?

The War Prayer by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.
Sunday morning came--next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams--visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and fiends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or , failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation
God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!
Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory--
An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"
The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside--which the startled minister did--and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:
"I come from the Throne--bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import--that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of--except he pause and think.
"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two--one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this--keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.
"You have heard your servant's prayer--the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it--that part which the pastor--and also you in your hearts- -fervently prayed silently. And ignorantlyy and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle--be Thou near them! With them--in spirit--we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it--for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"
It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Disinfotainment Logo to be Retired

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I am considering retiring my site logo, so I thought people might enjoy seeing it at a larger size.


I found this image in a web archive of old radio and TV advertisements. This is an ad for Raytheon, promoting their involvement in live broadcasts of nuclear tests in Nevada.

Redneck Cop Rampage

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Redneck cops from Tennessee that killed a dog have become a national news story. Much outrage has been expressed about the death of the dog, along with much support for the cops who were just "doing their job."
What nobody has pointed out is that these cops, by their actions, have put the lives of other cops in peril. This gross abuse of power is not likely to help cops gain cooperation during a traffic stop. If a real criminal thinks he's up against trigger-happy cops that will shoot without provocation, they're more likely to shoot it out in a traffic stop. Now the Mayberry P.D. has given the entire state's police force a bad name.

Weird Wacom Bug

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My new Wacom Intuos2 tablet has an odd bug that the manufacturer cannot duplicate. When I click in the topmost row of the screen, the menu will not pop up. I have to slide down at least one pixel before clicking in order to get a menu. This is not how the Mac GUI works. One of the best mouse GUI features is that you can just slide your mouse to the top of the screen and keep going, the pointer will stop at the top of the screen and you're ready to click. This allows you to hit menus much more sloppily, with a larger target, with one quick motion. Now I have to take two actions to do one menu task. It's driving me nuts. Wacom can't duplicate the error, they're investigating my report. I'm not holding my breath for a fix.

BlogTV Japan: One Man vs. 16,000 Girls

Can a man stand between a woman and the object of her desire? Can any man stand between 16,000 Shibuya girls and the object of their desire? BlogTV presents the dramatic evidence of what can happen when a few men must channel these young women's lust by interposing their bodies between these women and their target.
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This video (5 min, Japanese and English subtitles) contains so much fast action that it can hardly be captured on screen. Due to the rapid motion, the compression is poor and the original source has a pause due to a transmission problem. But the material is sufficiently compelling that I am presenting it despite these problems. The content has a combination of the factors that make it interesting culturally and linguistically. It has colloquial conversations between people of radically different social status, allowing us to see how the different levels of speech work in practice. We also see a traditional Japanese social custom, in the most modern, trendy context.
In the wee hours of the morning on January second, in front of the hyper-fashionable Shibuya 109 building, a hundred women rush to a closed storefront and form a queue. Something is afoot. Thus begins our first linguistic confrontation between these sassy lasses and the representative of the company, a single security guard. The guard insists in a polite tone they can not queue here, and the girls shriek their dissapointment at being booted out of the front of the queue. The situation is defused, the queue relocated to a warmer location, near the store's basement entrance. By the time the store is ready to open, 16,000 young women are waiting. The store employees are inside, preparing for the onslaught.
As opening time approaches, the throng of women make the glass doors shake as if they are about to burst, and as the doors are opened, a few fearless men stand in between the women and the elevators, linking arms, and yelling at them not to run. But their safety warnings go unheeded, and they are swept right up elevator with the rest of the crowd. Nobody could withstand such a force. The women run into the shops and now we see their goal: fukubukuro, grab bags. Fukubukuro literally translates to "lucky bag" and uses an amusing pair of nearly-rhyming words, fuku means luck, and bukuro means bag. They want their lucky bags, and nothing will stop them.
On the first day of sales of the new year, stores will clear old inventory by filling grab bags with their signature merchandise. Nobody knows what their bag will contain, but since the store's reputation is contained in each bag, there is intense competition to get to the trendiest stores first, and snatch the bags from the best stores before the other girls. Saleswomen toss the bags through the air, and shout through megaphones, enticing the buyers to the point it nearly becomes a riot. A lone man expresses his worry for his daughter, they were separated in the crowd and he fears for her safety. He does not understand the madhouse scene, it was far worse than he expected, and worries that it represents materialism run amok. And most certainly it does. Perhaps he does understand. And as quickly as the crowd arrived, they pay for their bags and run outdoors to rip open their prize and see what they have received. The women compare their goods, one woman complains she could only buy 7 bags because that was all she could carry. Another woman is so excited she starts dressing in her new clothes right out in the street in the cold morning air, and the other women giggle as she tries to wriggle her butt into a pair of pants that are a bit too small. Some women are more satisfied than others, as the value of goods varies from bag to bag. But that is not why these women are here. One woman, when asked what is the best part of buying fukubukuro, says "oshiai," the competition. Another woman shows her torn coatsleeve, ripped during the battle, and she laughs and waves it like a battle flag. But despite the mixed results, everyone has gotten what they came for, the excitement of competition, and the opportunity to rip and slash their way through the trendiest places in Shibuya. The prizes may be inexpensive, but some experiences are beyond value.

Do Not Buy APC Back-UPS

Do not buy any APC product, you will regret it. I just had a most unpleasant experience with APC, regarding a battery backup unit I purchased. About 2 years ago, I bought an APC Office 280 unit for about $30 at Staples. The unit was always a little troublesome, the recharger to buzzed about once an hour, but I figured that was normal, I didn't know because I'd never owned a backup power unit before. It wasn't normal. The one time I had a power outage, about 2 months after I bought the unit, the battery lasted about 30 seconds. Now I am informed it should have lasted at least 5 to 10 minutes. Finally, after about 18 months, the Replace Battery light came on and it totally failed. I thought the unit had a one year warranty, so I tried to find a replacement battery through the APC website. It didn't exist. So I threw it in a closet and forgot about it.
Today I found the original packaging and discovered it had a 2 year warranty. I called APC and they informed me that the UPS I bought had an expected battery life of 3 to 4 years, but that model was discontinued 4 years ago. The UPS I bought had been sitting on somebody's warehouse shelf for at least 2 years, the battery had already rotted away before I ever purchased it.
I told APC that the unit did not meet the Implied Waranty of Merchantibility, since it was defective when I purchased it. They said I should have returned it under warranty if I had problems. I told them I didn't know it was defective until now, their story about the unit being 4 years old when I bought it explained everything.
APC presented me with two options: replace the battery for $45, far more than I spent for it in the first place, or buy a "trade up" that costs $60. I said this was not acceptable when the unit was defective when purchased. APC blamed Staples, and absolutely refused to replace the battery or even offer it at a discount. The manager I spoke to said I was unreasonable, that it was like buying a new car with a full tank of gas and insisting the dealer replace the gas when it ran out. I vehemently disagreed, and said it was like purchasing a 2003 Toyota and when you take delivery, they've switched it with an identical-looking 2001 Toyota that's been sitting in the back lot, rusting and rotting away.
Anyone who is considering the purchase of any APC product should be aware that they do not stand behind their products. Any APC product you buy may already be nearly dead when you purchase it. APC will use any excuse to refuse any request for replacement, their favorite excuse is to blame the vendor. Do not buy any APC product, you will regret it.

Fly and Die

Here's the stupidest airline security story I've seen lately:
An airline worker inspecting a passenger's bag Jacksonville International Airport on Friday was accidentally injected with an antidote to chemical weapons. The Delta Air Lines employee, who was not identified, was injected with atropine, an antibiotic that helps people survive chemical attacks...
...and bee stings. My sister has an intense allergy to bee stings, she has to carry an atropine injector kit in her purse everywhere she goes. If she gets stung, she has to inject atropine immediately, or she will die. Now the airline will deny her the right to carry atropine injectors on a flight. Sure, she won't get stung during a flight, but she could get stung after arrival. This is sickening. I suppose they won't let diabetics carry insulin and syringes either.

Iowa Football Losers

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For several weeks the Iowa sports press has tried to turn lemons into lemonade. It started when local favorite Brad Banks lost the Heisman Trophy. The local newspapers blared on page 1, "Banks Voted Heisman Runner-up." Excuse me, there is no such thing as a second place for the Heisman Trophy, you either were awarded the trophy or you weren't. But the local papers trumpeted his 2nd place in the voting like it was some sort of real award.
And now the U of Iowa team has humiliated themselves in the Orange Bowl. The full complement of violent criminals was represented on this bowl trip, including Jermelle Lewis (criminal mischief, disorderly conduct), Sam Aiello (assault causing injury, no arrest), Warren McDuffie (DUI), Derreck Robinson (drug posession), Scott Boleyn (public intox x3, interference w/official acts x2, obstructing an officer), Jacob Bowers (public intox x3), even suspended players like Siaka Massaquoi (DUI) reportedly made the trip although they did not play. It was reported that OJ Simpson attended the Orange Bowl practice sessions, I am sure that our young criminals had much to learn from OJ.
For many weeks, the local press has been proclaiming that this game would be the true Heisman test, since the Trophy winner, USC quarterback Carson Palmer would play against "runner-up" Iowa QB Brad Banks. I did not watch the game, but news reports indicate that Banks was held to little or no yardage while Carson Palmer wiped the field with the Iowa team. I guess Banks really did prove who should have won the Heisman, just like he said he would! Congratulations to the Iowa team for showing what a bunch of pathetic losers you are! I expect the morning newspaper headlines will read "Iowa takes 2nd Place in Orange Bowl!"

Yankee Go Home!

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I demand an immediate end to the US Military occupation of my TV set. They've garrisoned my TV set for over 10 years, and it is time for them to go home.
Every December, the media is swamped with insipid video clips of military personnel abroad sending greetings to their families in the US. I sincerely doubt their families ever see these clips, they'd have to phone home and tell their families when they will be on TV. That sort of defeats the whole point of these messages. Why don't they just phone, or write a letter, or send a photo or videotape, instead of wasting the public airwaves? With all the news in this world worth covering, they waste time with this? There is nothing particularly newsworthy about the simple fact that American soldiers are posted overseas during the holidays. Yes, it's sad to be away from your loved ones at the holidays, but it is hardly newsworthy. They knew this would happen when they enlisted.
These clips seem to have appeared during the first Gulf War, I don't recall ever seeing them before that time. I suppose the media thought they were helping the morale of the troops, but the clips continued after the war was over, and by now, they've become just another part of the droning militaristic propaganda machine.
It is now January 3rd and the local TV stations are still showing these clips. None of these clips come from soldiers in Afghanistan or the Gulf area, they're all from soldiers in cushy luxury postings like Japan or England. And most of them aren't messages to their family, the soldier usually appears on camera with his family, giving greetings to hometown friends.
Even worse are the obligatory Thanksgiving and Christmas news stories about the troops eating turkey and cranberries inside a tent in a battle zone. I want to see Thanksgiving stories about soldiers eating MREs in a foxhole because they were too busy in a firefight to make it back to camp for a turkey dinner. And I assure you, there are plenty of those stories, but nobody will ever hear them, they're too busy pumping out propaganda about happy little soldiers full of turkey.
Am I the only person on earth who watched Apocalypse Now, and remembers that Kurtz said the US could never win the Vietnam War, they were too soft because they were used to luxuries like beer and steak barbecues, even in a battle zone?

2003: The Year of the Ram

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Akemashite omedetoo gozaimasu! I used to send out New Years cards, but nobody ever sent me any in return so I gave up. So I just whipped together a nengajou for the web instead.

nengajo 2003