Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun

Essays & Items


"You gotta keep up with the times." It would seem that large parts of the future have been postponed....

Everyone’s Cuba Curious | Primordial Slack It’s been around 20 years since I left, weeping bitterly that I had to, so hard had I fallen in love with Cuba. The land is so fertile that the fence posts bloom, but there was no food to eat. The despair is as thick as the wafting smoke from their marijuana, and drowned in their rum.

Robot dolphins, turtles and shellfish used as underwater spies in the deep blue sea - Each radio-controlled swimming model is fitted with HD cameras to capture unique footage of the unsuspecting marine mammals.

In 1918, California Drafted Children Into a War On Squirrels | There were over 100,000 casualties.

Scientists have found the world's largest cluster of sinkholes, and it spans 4 counties - ScienceAlert To give you an idea of how big they were, the biggest sinkhole is deeper than the Eiffel Tower is tall, and its diameter is wider than the height of the Empire State Building.

The Devil’s Tower: US’ Mysterious Sightseeing Spot | Unusual Places

Conclusion – Sexuality and Gender - The New AtlantisSome of the most widely held views about sexual orientation, such as the “born that way” hypothesis, simply are not supported by science.

Portland 'Adulting' School Teaches Millennials How to Be Functional Grownups | Oddity Central - Collecting Oddities “Credit card stuff, which I didn’t think I would have at this age,” a 29-year-old “student” said. “And I really don’t have the skill set, how to pay for our rent, and our food, on top of paying off that debt.”

Opera Boeuf |The star draw is the 72-ounce steak challenge: a diner (several volunteer each night, I’m told) sits on an elevated platform—to an opera singer, a stage—under a large digital clock that begins to tick when his four-and-a-half pound steak and accompanying dishes are presented to him. He (almost always a he, I gather) commences eating, and if he finishes eating the steak—and importantly, all the side dishes—in under 60 minutes, his meal is free of charge; otherwise, he pays $72. Plus tax and tip. [We've been there too. As I note in one of the earliest posts on American Digest from June, 2003. The Cowgirl and the Four Pound Steak @ AMERICAN DIGEST]

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 29, 2016 12:02 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
My Weekly Reader


Living in the Village at the End of the World:

Dogs outnumber people in this surreal and remote settlement with no more than 15 houses in total. If the population falls below 50, government ministers have talked about stopping the supply ships that pass through every few weeks between May and December and relocating the people of Niaqornat. When their fish factory closed a few years ago, the villager's main source of income, thefishermen had to sail 100km just to sell their fish. Within in a few years, the villagers raised what little money they had spare and managed to re-open the factory. This is a village bravely fighting for survival.

Time Regained! by James Gleick | The New York Review of Books
What is time? Nothing but a fourth dimension, after length, breadth, and thickness. “Through a natural infirmity of the flesh,” the cheerful host explains, “we incline to overlook this fact.” The geometry taught in school needs revision. “Now, it is very remarkable that this is so extensively overlooked…. There is no difference between Time and any of the three dimensions of Space except that our consciousness moves along it.”

Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 7, 2013 3:19 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Newspaper Death: Dr. Johnson and Today's Liars for Hire

Buh-bye: In 'survival mode,' newspapers slashing jobs -Washington Times

"In Sir Henry Wotton's jocular definition, 'An ambassador is said to be a man of virtue sent abroad to tell lies for the advantage of his country ; a news-writer is a man without virtue, who writes lies at home for his own profit.'"

One of the amusements of idleness is reading without the fatigue of close attention, and the world therefore swarms with writers whose wish is not to be studied, but to be read. -- Samuel Johnson, The Idler, #30, 1758

One of my odd hobbies is to read authors so ancient that they are only seldom taught and even less read in our post-post-modern world. Currently these authors are Montaigne and Dr. Johnson. A glance at the prose of these two giants is usually enough to warn today's readers to flee. Dense, extended paragraphs are composed of prolix sentences packed to the the gills with ten-dollar words. Unlike the thin consumé of contemporary fare served lukewarm and then constantly reheated in newspapers, magazines, and the books on the best-seller lists, these authors are thought to be difficult and, in absolute terms, they are. But in reading as in life, it is generally the case that the path of greater difficulty leads to the greater reward.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 5, 2012 8:17 AM |  Comments (25)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Feeling Stimulated Yet? Unemployment Reaching for 10%, A 26 Year Record,

Rush Limbaugh: "This represents a successful assault on prosperity."

U.S. job losses spike in June, dampen recovery hopes WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. employers cut far more jobs than expected last month and the unemployment rate hit a nearly 26-year high of 9.5 percent, underscoring the likelihood of a long and slow recovery from recession.

BREAKING! The White House today announced that Sir Paul McCartney will open for President Obama's "Happy Days Are Here Again" tour.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 2, 2009 9:29 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bad Daddy: This Man Never Met an Apology He Didn't Like
The president also discusses his shortcomings as a parent, writing, “I know I have been an imperfect father. I know I have made mistakes. I have lost count of all the times, over the years, when the demands of work have taken me from the duties of fatherhood. There were many days out on the campaign trail when I felt like my family was a million miles away, and I knew I was missing moments of my daughters’ lives that I’d never get back. It is a loss I will never fully accept.” -- President Obama in a Parade Magazine article

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 19, 2009 4:23 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Tears on My Speedo: An Olympic Trail of Broken Dreams


As the first Totalitarian Olympics since 1936 oozes away in our rear-view mirror, it’s time to reflect on the high-minded lessons they taught to a troubled world. I know, for example, that contemporary tyrants such as Robert Mugabe (rhymes with “Zimbabwe”) looks on the works of the Chinese Communist Party and thinks, “Hey, with a few more billion people under my thumb, and more UN funding, I could do that.

I know that the current government of Britain, even though they beclowned themselves last night with a Monty Pythonesque promotion for the 2012 games, thought to themselves, “Hey, with only 30 billion pounds in new taxes from our disarmed citizens, we can do that.


"The bus was surrounded by a scruffy bunch of chavs.... which made it look as though they were about to loot the bus, shake down anyone who was on board, and strip the vehicle to its axles before setting it alight."

And I know that many of my fellow countrymen will join me when, after America’s Aquaman Michael Phelps sucked up gold medals like a baleen whale hoovers krill, said along with me, “Hey, I could do that.”

Posted by Vanderleun at Aug 25, 2008 6:14 PM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Rise of the Purple Warriors
Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 13, 2007 5:27 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
All I Want for Christmas is About a Dozen of These
Johnson CO2 Generator
Fertilizes greenhouse air - easy and inexpensive to install
The Johnson CO2 Generator automatically provides the carbon dioxide to meet maximum growing potentials - and operates for only pennies a day. The Johnson Generator can easily be installed in any greenhouse. No expensive ductwork is necessary and CO2 is diffused evenly without supplemental fans.

Plants must absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) in combination with water, soil nutrients and sunlight to produce the sugars vital for growth. A shortage of any of these requirements will retard the growing process. Normally there are approximately 300 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere; when this level is increased to over 1 ,000 ppm, results are higher production and better plant quality. The Johnson Generator provides up to 1,500 ppm per unit in an average 24' x 200' greenhouse or an equivalent 50,000 cu. ft. volume based on one air change per hour.

Yes, 12 of these placed around my front yard with a large sign of features and benefits (for educational purposes) would certainly be just the thing for inducing coronary arrest among my neighbors here on Queen Anne in Seattle.

[Via Tim Blair]

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 19, 2007 9:19 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Housing Bubble is Now Not "Pssssst....." but "KABOOM!"

"Here's to you Ms. Too Much Home Buyer with a payment that eats up 60% of your gross income."

For the last several years I've been bedeviled at various times and hectored to "buy" a house. My default position has always been that the housing boom will bust on the very day I close on a house. To keep the boom booming, I've stayed out of the housing market and in the stock market. It was the least I could do for my fellow citizens.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 27, 2007 8:27 AM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Imus Said It. So What?

Only the dead do not know Imus this week. Hardly had the words "nappy-headed hos" left his grizzled lips when he was chained, pushed into the tumbril, and rolled by the Sharpton-Jackson tag-team to lick their mire spatted boots, in a live demo of the "Bottom rail on top" ritual that should have passed sometime after Reconstruction. He was allowed to beg and beg shamefully he did as all bullies must. It was the show trial of one-man hostage taken in the American culture wars whose confession tapes were aired for all and sundry. Who says we can't learn anything useful from the Iranians?

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 14, 2007 7:26 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Snapshot from the Floating World

Ezekiel saw a wheel way in the middle of the air.
Little wheel run by faith, big wheel run by the grace of God

-- Traditional

At the far end of the two rows of houseboats, up where they stop and the lake widens, the sun looks like a widening pool of molten gold poured out across the water. And as the sun sinks lower in the sky above Queen Anne hill on the far shore, that gold flows down the canal between the houseboats until the pool of shade from the shore trees behind me absorbs it.

A mallard wheels over me and slooshes down into the the water here in the shadows. It is so quiet I can hear those small ripples slap the sides of the sailboat moored at the back of the house. Across the eight yards of open water that form the "street," they raised the roof-beam on the neighbor's house in the winter and have been painting it for over five months. It's not a trivial thing to paint a large two-story houseboat. It requires long ladders, an indifference to falling, rafts, poles and patience with a

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 17, 2006 8:29 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Parent Trap

One of the many compelling reasons for following James Lileks' Journal AKA The Bleat is the never-ending story of Gnat, his daughter. I always brighten up when there's a day with Gnat being retold. It lets me, in a strange way, relive long ago days with my daughter when things were, well,

Posted by Vanderleun at May 18, 2006 9:17 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
What Are You Doing Here...

when you could be reading....

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 22, 2006 9:56 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Well, Ex-cuuuse Me!

Wherein I admit I was wrong.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 19, 2006 10:47 AM |  Comments (22)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Leonard Cohen - "The Future" - live in Finland

"Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don't like children anyhow
I've seen the future, baby:
it is murder ...."

Neo looks at the career of one of our greatest poet/songwriters, Leonard Cohen. Quite rightly she sees the voyage and the vision and the uplift of the man. But poets do not always write, as evidenced here, in the affirmative. Sometimes they don't report to us on the condition of their souls, but the condition of our souls.

Here's one of Cohen's masterpieces, The Future, as performed in Finland and intercut, briefly, with an interview with him. The Finnish subtitles make it all the more disturbing as Cohen brings us his prophecy with a kind of easy shrug.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 14, 2006 10:56 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Noted in Passing

SPENGLER ON WHY THE WEST WILL ATTACK IRAN:".... if Washington waits another year to deliver an ultimatum to Iran, the results will be civil war to the death in Iraq, the direct engagement of Israel in a regional war through Hezbollah and Hamas, and extensive terrorist action throughout the West, with extensive loss of American life. There are no good outcomes, only less terrible ones. The West will attack Iran, but only when such an attack will do the least good and the most harm. "

MEANWHILE BACK IN 1662: "This day I read the King’s speech to the Parliament yesterday; which is very short, and not very obliging; but only telling them his desire to have a power of indulging tender consciences, not that he will yield to have any mixture in the uniformity of the Church’s discipline; and says the same for the Papists, but declares against their ever being admitted to have any offices or places of trust in the kingdom; but, God knows, too many have."
-- Samuel Pepys' Diary: Thursday 19 February 1662/63

DAVID WARREN: "We cling to things that cannot last, out of our curious panic; to things like Porsches, and the nanny state. We ignore, in this panic, anything that isn’t hard to the touch -- the verities of God, nature, and our nature. Yet in so doing we select what is transient, over what is eternal."

DAVID STOWE ASKS So You Think You Are a Darwinian? "Most educated people nowadays, I believe, think of themselves as Darwinians. If they do, however, it can only be from ignorance: from not knowing enough about what Darwinism says. For Darwinism says many things, especially about our species, which are too obviously false to be believed by any educated person; or at least by an educated person who retains any capacity at all for critical thought on the subject of Darwinism."

TIME FOR SOME ANGER MANAGEMENT in our politics:"....there is abundant evidence that extreme political opinions lead to the personal demonization of fellow citizens."

BUT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH The Logic of the Paranoid:"KILL THE JEWS!" "BEHEAD THOSE WHO INSULT ISLAM" --these slogans are merely the expressions of inescapable and contorted logic of the paranoid."

WHICH CAN LEAD TO SEVERE ANGER MANAGEMENT ISSUES: "We will not accept less than severing the heads of those responsible."
VICTOR HANSON LOOKS AT: What Will Europe Really Do?in response to Islamic Paranoia: "First will come a radical departure from past immigration practices. Islam will be praised; the Middle East assured that Europe is tolerant—but very few newcomers from across the Mediterranean let in."

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 20, 2006 8:56 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Falstaff Dialogues

The instances that second marriage move
Are base respects of thrift, but none of love.

(Hamlet 3.2.185-6)

[A previously unpublished fragment found in the rubbish pit under the London lane where Shakespeare's First Folio was printed. Scholars dispute the reasons why it was not included. The more learned point to the printer's wife.]

FALSTAFF, sitting upon the ground telling sad stories of the deaths of kings.... some poison'd by their wives.

Enter FOOL.

FOOL: Good Sir John, how fare thee.

FALSTAFF: I fare well enough but soon, I fear, must fare thee well.

FOOL: How so, Sir John? Be not downcast, and take the shadow off thyself. Do but drink this bottle down, screw thy courage to the sticking post, abide awhile, and we shall merry be.

FALSTAFF: Merry? Me? Not this old dobbin. Falstaff shall no more merry be.

FOOL: Nay, good Sir John. Bite not your thumb at me for, sooth, thou art known from Land's End to John O'Groats as the merriest of that merry band that did Prince Harry harry. I mark well the tales that Falstaff is never more merry than when a boon companion, such as myself, will ever stand you cakes and a cup or two of ale. And I stand witness from our revels past that all such tales are true.

FALSTAFF: (Aside: Like all lost fools he sees not my inner state, but only this outer self of a former shell. Stand off and scry my larger outline. Behold how it blots out my former merry stars like the moon held out before the sun. )

Oh, fine Fool, if you seek one who would be merry with you you seek not old Sir John.

FOOL: Posh and bother, good Sir John, with these sweet cakes and this good ale how can you not merry be?

FALSTAFF: I may not now make merry because I have made myself marry.

FOOL: Merry? Why certainly you merry are. The very stones echo back your merry laughter from across the years.

FALSTAFF: You hear me amiss. I am not merry because I married am.

FOOL: Ah. Now I have your measure. You say you married are? Well, there's the rub that raises up the blister on the foot of all men's souls. How say you of this married state in which you are not merry?

FALSTAFF: It is all one and of a muchness. Indeed, it is much of a muchness and on it have I meditated mightily this past fornight far beyond the chimes of midnight. Follow me, my Fool, in this:

The unmarried man, being merry, seeks to marry from merriment mainly while in his cups. For in this muddled state his merry mind reminds him that to marry may mount his present merriment in his maid to highest heaven, and hence his maid, marking he is merry at the thought of marriage, moves maidenhead to make him yet more merry still. Do you follow well my stormy petrel's seaward path, my Fool?

FOOL: Indeed I do e'en though it pricks my feet with shards of ice.

FALSTAFF: I'll dance you deeper still into those darker seas where many our merry men have drowned.

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 17, 2006 12:33 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bleached Woodpulp + Ink + Glue = A Mature Information Retrieval System

"The most technologically efficient machine that man has everinvented is the book." --Northrop Frye

ONE OF THE RECURRING THEMES in the discussion of the "new media" (internet, blogs, databases, web pages, online encyclopedia's, Google's thirst to control and contain all the information in the known universe, etc.) is if bytes will "replace" books. To many, it certainly looks that way on any given day at any given rest stop on the Information Highway. After all, the current Holy Grail of Deep Geek Hipness is to have everything -- every scrap, note, frame, word, and image -- stored on one's iPod for display at the touch of a fingertip. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Be that as it may, the book is not going anywhere. Indeed, the book -- in form and concept -- is the foundation of the new media; it is contained within and yet contains it. The very way in which we discuss the new media ( web pages, web browsing, and that constant root of all places cyber, the place, space and file called "index.html" ) asserts that the book remains the dominant permanent record of all things worth keeping. Storage mediums come and go in the cyberverse ( One word: "floppy."), but I don't think that the age when all information and opinions and records and history is held in some immense GoogleServer pile is one which we should welcome. Distributed information is more powerful and more secure when it is distributed not only throughout the Net, but in more than one medium.

The way-new information universe, straddled by the ever growing hulk that is ("First don't be evil." ) Google is barely out of infancy and just about due to grow into "The Terrible Twos." The book, by contrast, represent a fully mature information retrieval system.

What is good about the book? What makes it persistently valuable in storing, not the trivia of the day, but that which is valuable to humanity over the long term?

Let's review:

1) No "advanced" technology required. Ability to manufacture present in all areas of the globe.
2 ) Crude but functioning units can be made by kindergartners with pencil, paper and glue.
3) Operating system and interface rock solid.
4) All types of information can be stored.
5) Has been demonstrated to be able to retain information in retrievable form across several thousand years.
6) Of the two, the User will often crash first.
7) All parts can be recycled.
8) All or part can be backed-up at any Kinkos.
9) Can be powered for hours with one candle.
10) All users receive up to 12 years of interface training free.

Add to that the tactile and aesthetic pleasures of fine books where art combines with craft and you have something that will be with humankind well into the future long after this day's high-tech toys are consigned to a museum and listed in their paperback catalog.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 17, 2006 5:57 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Ten Wonderful Things About Seattle's "Winter"

1. Citizens save vast sums on moisturizers.

2. Sparkling clean streets. Every hour, every day.

3. No need to buy expensive purified bottled water. Just walk outside, tilt your head, open mouth.

4. Church attendance increases as days of rain approaches 40.

5. Fresh seafood at your door.

6. Office slackers easily identified by fungus patches.

7. No smoking outdoors. Anywhere. Anytime.

8. No showering indoors. Why bother?

9. Grunge music replaced by sea chanteys.

10. Socks wash themselves.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 10, 2006 7:44 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Pointers That Click


DAVID WARREN LOOKS AT THE MODERN MEANING OF TOLERANCE: "It is one of the "thought-killer" words for the politically correct mind; "tolerance" is to be accepted uncritically as a word for all seasons and reasons, and thought must stop the moment it appears. As ever, we find even postmodernity is not without a history -- it is the carrying forward of a loose idea hatched during the Enlightenment, into the realm of dementia."
MEANWHILE THE MANOLO FINDS one style of female life that cannot be tolerated.
TOLERANCE AT WORK. A restroom available to men and women. And very tiny crippled people.

DAVE SIFRY ANNOUNCES yet more "cool" features destined to make Technorati even more undependable than it already is. Robert Scoble plugs in the term "Microsoft" and finds no mention of it in the blogosphere. Sifry responds that this a mere "glitch." Right. Next.

THINKING OF WORKING FOR GOOGLE? THINK TWICE: "Every month, aspiring workers deluge the popular Mountain View search engine with up to 150,000 resumes, equivalent to a stack of paper at least 50 feet high."

HOMELESS HOMES -- or --Intellectual Insanity in Architects.

BILL GATES. He's rich, but is he smart? Ole doesn't think so.

"I happen to think Bill Gates is incredibly overrated as a smart guy. He is a lousy presenter, and really smart guys give good, focused presentations that make you realize they are really smart. Steve Jobs would be an example. Kip Thorne - now he's a smart guy. Or how about Richard Feynman; in addition to being interesting, he exuded intelligence and deep understanding. Bill Gates may be a great businessman, but he is not a great technologist. And he is not a really smart guy. Sorry."

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 20, 2005 12:59 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
From the Seattle Notebooks

HEADLINE above the fold in Queen Anne's neighborhood newspaper: Grass Roots Local Group Seeks to Save the World.

LEAD SENTENCE of a review we never finished reading of a book we will never read: "This lumbering coming-of-age tale of a boy and his dragon...."

UPON READING a comment by someone who didn't get the joke: "Satire is invisible to those with no moral compass. If good and evil are believed to be relative, if all morality is seen as mere relativity, then that person has no tuning peg upon which his soul can be pitched to perceive either sense or satire."

ONE of the greatest disappointments of the failing feminist mind is the knowledge than it can never be, nor even hope to emulate, Antigone. Even Sappho at her most mundane remains forever out of reach.

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 10, 2005 5:30 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
From the Laguna Notebooks

The Bond of the Band

In the morning in the room where I write I always open all the blinds to my left, liking the cascade of natural light that flows in as the sun rises over the slope of the tree outside and the hill above it. At this time of the year the sun in its arc shines for about twenty minutes directly into the room making everything in front of the window very bright while the rest of the room is held in shadow. This only goes on for such a short time since the space between the tree across the drive and the edge of the roof is quite narrow. And, since the sun moves daily in relationship to this space, the daily effects are different daily too.

This morning over coffee as I was reading this or that page of hope or despair spun out by the Net, I noticed that a gleaming gold light was flitting about the shadowed part of the room in front of my desk. It was a bright lively spirit, almost a Tinkerbell, moving and jumping around the walls or

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 9, 2005 5:56 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The "Not Insane" To-Do List

"There is no multi-tasking. There is only the monkey mind jabbering so fast it seems like multi-tasking." *

CHIEF AMONG THE RESOLUTIONS about to be made will be the one in which "we here highly resolve" to get more stuff done. "Productivity" has become a pagan idol and it's cult is GTD -- or "Getting Things Done." Merlin Mann @ 43 Folders is the high priest of this cult and David Allen is his prophet.

As Bokonon says in Cat's Cradle, "Busy, busy, busy."

But putter not, I am here to "restore you to life."

As you know, we all have far too much to do. But the only reason this is so is because of the proliferation of productivity tools that respond to our insane lust to be "productive." Driving this insanity is the To-Do list which is, being limitless, is unlimited in its ability to drive us insane.

It's time to stop the To-List insanity. To just say no to To-Do.

Toss all you've previous To-Do Listing Systems you've got out -- paper and/or electronic -- and convert to this new, improved certifiably not-insane system.

Click to enlarge

Prints out on 3x5 cards suitable for your Hipster PDA

A PDF file suitable for printing is located RIGHT HERE.

Don't say I never do anything to increase your sanity, because I just did.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 31, 2005 12:27 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
6 DAYS LATER: "We couldn't rush to failure..."

JUST BACK FROM THE GULF COAST, presents a Lt. Gen. H. Steven BlumDefense Department Briefing on the Ongoing National Guard Response to Hurricane Katrina. Up to date numbers and plans for mitigating the disaster. And this exchange which puts a little reality back into the picture:

Q: Across the disaster zone our reporters have consistently run into people over the past week, victims who have asked where's the National Guard, why aren't they here, why aren't they helping us? I know it's not your job to decide where and when aid is delivered. You have to provide these forces. But as a general who's been there and a commander with a can-do reputation, I just wanted to ask your opinion. Do you think in retrospect that more creativity, more ingenuity could have been employed early on to use the military to deliver more aid to people sooner?

GEN. BLUM: It would be easy to draw that conclusion, Jamie, but if you've ever been to Gulfport, remember the highway that runs along the coast was a four lane super highway. It was impassable. So where you could -- if a normal infrastructure existed, no question, you could have saturated the area with more, faster. But we were putting forces in in very degraded infrastructure. Airports had reduced capability. Roads, in some cases we had only one road in because of lack of bridges, flooding, loss of infrastructure, or the structures were too unsafe to cross or we would become casualties ourselves.

So we couldn't rush to failure on this thing and we had to take a more measured approach than any of us wanted. But to call this response late to need, if you're talking about the National Guard response, that would be a low blow to some incredible individuals who were on watch before the storm, harbored during the storm, on the scene immediately after the storm cleared. Just think about it. When was the storm? When did it hit? How many days ago?

Q: Early Monday.

GEN. BLUM: And today is what?

Q: Saturday.

GEN. BLUM: In that short time we're talking numbers of 40,000. This is just military. You're talking about being able to provide food, fuel, water for an unknown number of people that we have to first fine and discover in lots of cases, and then immediately care for with extremely high expectations.

I think the response of the National Guard is nothing less than unbelievably sensational. It's actually better than any planner could ever expect.

When I first laid out the numbers of reinforcements that would be coming into theater and then I went down there to ensure that they arrived so that the plan was in fact being executed, I was very surprised to find that every single projection that we had made had been exceeded because of the magnificent response that we're getting from all over this nation. Puerto Rico, in the height of hurricane season, is sending 1,000 soldiers to the relief effort. Think about what that means. One of the first forces in there were coming in from Oregon, Washington, Alaska. Forty states have soldiers there. Others are lined up to come in later because they have different skill sets that we think we'll need down the road, particularly as we get some of these roads uncovered and we have to start with reconstruction and rehabilitation of the area, rather than just getting in and getting the necessities in, the essentials.

[Emphasis added.]

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 4, 2005 9:27 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Renewing New Orleans

DAVID WARREN says it best in "New Orleans:"

In the end, of course, we all die. And all our cities will disintegrate, and their ruins finally dissolve like sugar. As Prospero puts it in the Tempest, "The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, and leave ... not a rack behind."

But that is to get ahead of the plot. It is for us to be creators not destroyers, and to build and rebuild against the impossibility that anything we touch can outlast time. And this is something that cannot be argued with: the immutable command of our Maker.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 4, 2005 7:40 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Landslide in Laguna: There Goes the Neighborhood

Cubist speed sculpture by nature in Laguna Beach

Slide Area via Mapquest
Area from orbit via ACME mapper
Google Satellite Shot of Area in Color
Topographical map of area via ACME Mapper Yes, it is that steep.

FIRST IT IS JUST ONE HELICOPTER HOVERING, then two, then four, then seven. Up over the house here on Arch Beach Heights above Bluebird Canyon in Laguna Beach.

The choppers are all set on hover and they are not going away. How annoying. Call the police department to complain. "Why in the devil are there all these helicopters over my house?"

"Bluebird Canyon's had a major landslide. 20 homes wiped out. We're evacuating the canyon. Turn on your TV."

"Which channel?"

"All of them."

Disaster zone is about 400 yards away from this house.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 1, 2005 9:44 AM |  Comments (71)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Thoughts While Waking, Showering and Shaving

While I Was Sleeping

BEING NO LONGER COMPELLED to follow every trend of pop music, I missed the moment when the ability to actually sing was removed as a basic requirement for performance, adulation and success. This is not to say I was deaf to the merger of street-corner doo-wop with "doing the dozens" that occurred somewhere during the time when break-dancing on stained cardboard was the money-raising rage on New York streets. Neither was I deaf to the Punk Rock triumph when the ability to play the electric guitar well was deemed to exist once one had learned three, and only three, chords. Nor did I neglect to notice the rise of Rap from it's origin in failed grammar classes in our more deeply disturbed schools of the inner cities.

But everyone has to sleep sometime and while I was sleeping it seems that the ability to sing was tossed out right behind the three chords. The result, if various television and radio spots and commercials are to be credited, is that pop music has become the apotheosis of affirmative entertainment action. No talent other than an obsessive loggorhea of doggerel seems to be required. Song itself has been effectively banished.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 10, 2005 9:26 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Drive-By Weekend

SET THEORY VIA MARK STEYN: "Spot the odd one out: 1) mass starvation; 2) gas chambers; 3) mountains of skulls; 4) lousy infidel pop music turned up to full volume."

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 18, 2005 5:38 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"... and a Landslide on the Side, Please."

UP HERE IN ARCH BEACH HEIGHTS, about 400 yards away from the scene of yesterday's Laguna landslide, everything last night was quiet -- except for the persistent roar of the helicopter from Channel 2 News that had been overhead with four to six others all day. By the time night arrived most of the helicopters had left, but Channel 2 had decided on a full-court news press for their 11 o'clock edition and so kept their chopper up and running its spotlight hither and yon around the affected neighborhood.

This meant that they were hovering pretty much in the same spot that they were all day over another neighborhood. As I discovered yesterday the noise of a helicopter hovering above you hour after hour tends to put you just a tad on edge.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 2, 2005 9:44 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Anchoress (with Flamethrower)

OUCH! That's gonna leave a mark: Well, they’ve got their 1971

It took a while, but the left, the Democrats and the press, who have been pining away to relive the glory days of their Vietnam protests have finally managed, after two years of relentlessly negative press about the war, two years of relentlessly negative press about the President, two years of daily tabulations of dead soldiers, provided without context two years of nonsensical “we support the troops, but not the war,” gibberish and now, the Summer of Mrs. Sheehan (complete with hippies) they have finally reached the “taunting returning soldiers” point. Next we’ll hear that they are spitting on soldiers and calling them “babykillers” and then the template will be complete.

Except these people don’t even have the decency to taunt healthy soldiers. They’re going after the wounded.

Much more (with links) at the link.

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 25, 2005 10:38 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Stop the Presses! Salon to Break Even in 31 Years!

Salon, the Ramparts Magazine of the Web, is not losing an editor at the same time it claws out a profit, it's gaining a messiah. This comes to light in a report on Salon in the NYT (The Founder of Salon Is Passing the Mouse) where we meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

"I think that when we went to a subscription model, we lost a lot of casual readers," Ms. Walsh said. "My job is to get people's awareness up and let them know that you can read Salon for free."
Translation: "You know those 88,000 'loyal' readers who give us $30 a year to subscribe? I want to let them know one thing.... 'Suckers!' "

Salon claims to have 3.4 million readers who visit the site every month, but it is not the buzz bomb of journalism it was when it was free. Slate, which was sold last year to the Washington Post Company, gave the subscription model a go a few years ago and threw up its hands. Now that advertising dollars are rushing toward the Web, it will be interesting to see whether Salon continues to charge at the door or will fling open the gates in pursuit of big audience numbers to sell to advertisers. Ms. Hambrecht said she and Ms. Walsh were being handed a stable, going concern that needed a bit of work.

"Salon has been a success from a journalistic and artistic point of view," she said. "We have been and will continue to focus on making this a business."

Well, I think that spending about $50 million of other people's money to make $400,000 last quarter is certainly a sign that you need to focus on business.
Ad sales have more than doubled in the last year, and revenues were up 69 percent, from $1.3 million in the quarter that ended in December 2003, to $2.2 million in the same quarter this year. And Salon's marginal profit of $400,000 is a marked improvement from last year's loss of $1.2 million. In addition, subscriptions grew over the past year by 16,000. Clearly, Salon - give or take the $50 million to get there - has found some business traction.
That's the good news for Salon and about as much as it is likely to get going forward. The bad news is that Talbot, even though he's gone, is probably still going to hang around.

Talbot will still be "Chairman of the company" and no doubt still collect a check while he spends his time writing a book about... wait for it... Robert F. Kennedy, an obscure American historical figure about whom little is known or has been written. Rumors that Mr. Talbott's access to the Kennedy papers and the Kennedy family has been greased by years of fawning interviews with and articles on Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. are utterly without foundation.[More]

And just because he is stepping down as the editor in chief and chief executive, Mr. Talbot is not relinquishing his pompoms.

"I still feel this whole messianic vision," he said. "At its best, Salon is not only progressive and crusading, but also running stories about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. A lot of that joyful spirit has been trashed by recent events, and I think Salon will play a role in reviving it."

Sigh, poor David, he'll never get over not being Jann Wenner in 1968. Even Wenner has moved beyond that sort of thing. You won't catch him running a magazine any longer with a groupie on his lap, a line on a mirror, and the iPod cranked up to 11. I guess that for the messiah of Salon it will always be 1968? No. For Talbot it will always be 1999 when you could party like you were burning up $50 million of other people's money.

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 10, 2005 9:55 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink


A REASONABLE, BUT NOT OFTEN SEEN, GOAL OF ANALYSIS: "Since the goal of analysis is to enlarge the sphere of responsible behavior by the patient (that is, for the patient to understand and accept responsibility for their actions) giving advice is antithetical to such work.  Just as important, it is the patient who has to live with the results, intended and unintended, of their actions, not the analyst or therapist. " -- ShrinkWrapped

SCOTT SHIELDS, FIGHTING FOR HIS OWN TIN DROOL CUP WITH EVERY BREATH: How Bush Failed the Sago 13 "I haven't seen much discussion of it in the blogosphere, but there are 13 coal miners trapped under 260 feet of dirt right now in West Virginia."

Didn't take our ideologically driven vermin long to chime in on the West Virginia mining disaster as caused by that evil genius, George Bush. You can tell this Shields insect is warming up to a longer push on this with the coining of "The Sago 13."

I suppose at some point this kind of diseased thinking will be cured, but "How long, oh Lord, how long?"

DAVID BRIN ON GOD 2.O " A craftsman of mind-boggling subtlety, who formulated Maxwell’s Equations and all the other staggeringly beautiful innovations of math and geometrodynamics and quantum subtlety that translate into let there be light! "

WIRETAPPING? FERGEDDABOUTIT. IT'S THE DATAMINING, STUPID: "Data-mining, for those unfamiliar with it, simply put, collecting every available bit of information about you, public and that which comes up via investigation of others, accurate or inaccurate, putting it all in a massive file about you updated on a constant real-time basis, and then integrating that into a massive data-matrix that shows all perceived links between you and other people and enterprises, and then analyzes that, and then washes, rinses, and repeats, non-stop."

THE EVILS OF EATING ORGANIC: "Every organic mouthful makes it more difficult to feed the most vulnerable. As the distinguished Indian plant biologist CS Prakash put it: 'The only thing sustainable about organic farming in the developing world is that it sustains poverty and malnutrition.' "

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 3, 2005 8:29 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Nixonian Echoes

WHILE MANY MAY THINK that the major malfunction of the New York Times is that it is stuck on stupid, I've come to believe that it is merely stuck on Nixon. Case in point is current Executive editor Bill Keller's statement in Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence. Keller claims he can't reveal, not his sources but his thinking by stating: "There is really no way to have a full discussion of the back story without talking about when and how we knew what we knew, and we can't do that."

Am I the only one in the world that hears echoing within that statement the question "What did the President know and when did he know it?" No? I didn't think so. And do we all remember what the answer to that question wrought? Keller should.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 2, 2005 10:11 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Telephone Conversation, December 28

FRIEND IN FLORIDA: It didn't take long. In fact, it took them less time than it ever has before.

ME: Who? What?

FIF: The UN. The bodies are still bobbing around in the Indian Ocean with more coming in on each tide, and those useless excuses for human beings are already bitching and moaning about how we're not giving enough money to help the victims.

ME: Well, they'll say about anything to take the spotlight off the mountain of crooks and fascists they've become.

FIF: My idea is that, if they're so upset about the money going to the tsunami victims, they should just take a few billion dollars out of their Bribes Accounts.

ME: Not. Going. To. Happen.

FIF: Correct, but did you ever notice how the first reaction of crooks and liberals whenever disaster strikes is to tell other people to reach for their wallets?

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 30, 2004 7:28 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The UnSolitary Cybercrowd: Over 5 Million Served

December 11, 2004: 8:43 AM Pacific Time

TECHNORATI'S MAIN PAGE : 5,002,014 weblogs watched. 718,687,874 links tracked.
"Nobody goes online anymore, it's too crowded."

Going online and being online are not solitary experiences. If they were, only hermits would bother with them.

If all online was was a only collection of data bases, data dumps, bots, and a hoary assemblage of mediators/librarians/whatever ... then we'd see a lot less emotion, time, and thought expended on it. Many people read and are moved by various online interactions. Few people are moved by encyclopedias and databases although all would agree they are useful. Even if online were all of the world's records stored on an infinite hard drives and accessible to all at any moment, it would still be nothing more than a card catalogue as high as the sky. We'd use it but it wouldn't seem any more compelling than the reference section.

Quite the contrary, online is a state that evolves from the wish not to be solitary. It arises from the desire to be "connected" on a new level to others -- to their knowledge, their businesses, their tastes as they choose to reveal them, to their personalities as they choose to construct them. The gravitational attraction of online for people is other people.

WiFi cybercafes, as a group, are emblematic of this state. Where a cafe's business plan once stopped at beverages, sandwiches and pastry, one that does not offer WiFi today is a cafe heading for oblivion. Those that offer free WiFi are the one's heading for success. Touted by the cafe conglomerate Starbucks as "the third place" in American life, the addition of WiFi to this place weaves all those places into a single space that is both of and beyond the physical location in which an espresso and a laptop rests on a table.

This drive to reach through the abstract nature of the experience to something more concrete is one of the primal power sources of the Net. It drives the metaphors and the metaphors are key to how humans perceive and use the medium: "cyberSPACE," "virtual COMMUNITY," "Where do YOU want to GO today?" and "LiveJournal" to cite a few. That's why we respond on a deeper level to personal home-brew blog pages than we do to something like Apple's movie trailer site -- even though the utility of the latter seems to be larger than the former.

We're pack animals, although we call our origins "tribal" to differentiate ourselves from beasts. As pack animals we try to assemble a group around us in life that augments and extends our

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 11, 2004 8:48 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The How of Spam
EWeek has a fascinating wrap-up of the Jaynes Spamming Trial. Short form: 10 Million emails a day = $750,000 per month = 9 years in jail. Trial Shows How Spammers Operate: "Jaynes' business was remarkably lucrative; prosecutors say he grossed up to $750,000 per month. If you have an e-mail account, chances are Jaynes tried to get your attention, pitching software, pornography and work-at-home schemes. The eight-day trial that ended in his conviction this month shed light on the operations of a 30-year-old former purveyor of physical junk mail who worked with minimal assistance out of a nondescript house in Raleigh, N.C. A state jury in Leesburg has recommended a nine-year prison term in the nation's first felony trial of spam purveyors. Sentencing is set for February. "
Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 14, 2004 8:42 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The How of Spam
EWeek has a fascinating wrap-up of the Jaynes Spamming Trial. Short form: 10 Million emails a day = $750,000 per month = 9 years in jail. Trial Shows How Spammers Operate: "Jaynes' business was remarkably lucrative; prosecutors say he grossed up to $750,000 per month. If you have an e-mail account, chances are Jaynes tried to get your attention, pitching software, pornography and work-at-home schemes. The eight-day trial that ended in his conviction this month shed light on the operations of a 30-year-old former purveyor of physical junk mail who worked with minimal assistance out of a nondescript house in Raleigh, N.C. A state jury in Leesburg has recommended a nine-year prison term in the nation's first felony trial of spam purveyors. Sentencing is set for February. "
Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 14, 2004 8:42 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Lateral Un-Thinking: New Brain Drain Spotted

Michael J. Totten: They Ain’t Studying War No More: "The fewer intellectuals there are on the left who study military history and strategy, the less likely any otherwise left-minded person who is interested in such things will want or be able to work with or for liberals and Democrats. What has been happening is a nation-wide brain-drain from the left to the right – at least in certain areas. "

(Via Glenn .)

Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 14, 2004 7:38 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Large Liberal Media Just Keeps Tanking
Was It Something They Said?

Large liberal media continues to slide down the long slope towards Total Loss Farm. The Los Angeles Times, which brought in Michael Kinsley as an editorial tourniquet a few months back, admitted today that it has suffered a large if not catastrophic loss in circulation during this election year -- a time when readership traditionally grows for newspapers.

The LA Times which is widely known as a liberal hotbed of news hit pieces ( The recall election in California saw it shine in this regard.), enjoys a virtual monopoly in Los Angles. Still, it cannot seem to shake itself out of the stupor which has overtaken most liberal media.

The numbers of the last year tell the story.

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 28, 2004 5:21 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
How those elusive terrorist websites are designed and coded...
We require a team manager, 2 web developers, 3 graphic designers, 1 multimedia designer and 3 reps to join up as a full time team in website design and graphic design to run as a freelance team as you will all be from different parts of the country (most likely).

All of you will have to be in contact with each other for at least 8 hours per day from 7am to 10pm via MSN Messenger or another IM program providing we all have it you will be all on my list so me and my admin team can monitor your online times and send you info etc.

Each of you will be given a business email addresses ( which will have been registered for the .net service which will be your msn email address.

You will be paid an annual wage per month either by wire transfer or paypal, possibly a cheque, payment is in different tears for the type of role you play. All payments are calculated by the hour in 15 minute increments. You will be held at a basic payment price per hour for the first 2 months to allow me and the admin team to assess you as a person and also your work produced.
-- Tem Members (Online, UK) -

"...different tears for the type of role you play" and "Tem Members" are dead giveaways. Speaking of which, if you take this kind of job, you don't want to be handing out your home address, less the admin team "assess you as a person" up close and personal.

Pointer via Need To Know 2004-10-15

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 15, 2004 12:19 PM | QuickLink: Permalink

"The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever
invented is the book."
--Northrop Frye

Let's review:

  • No "advanced" technology required. Ability to manufacture present in all areas of the globe.

  • Crude but functioning units can be made by kindergartners with pencil, paper and glue.

  • Operating system and interface rock solid.

  • All types of information can be stored.

  • Has been proven to retain information in retrievable form across several thousand years.

  • Of the two, the User will often crash first.

  • All parts can be recycled.

  • All or part can be backed-up at any Kinkos.

  • Can be powered for hours with one candle.

  • All users receive up to 12 years of interface training free.

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 5, 2004 9:53 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Grand Rounds
Posted by Vanderleun at Aug 20, 2004 9:45 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Posted by Vanderleun at Aug 19, 2004 8:46 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Grand Rounds
Posted by Vanderleun at Aug 18, 2004 9:21 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Not Every Cannes Award Winner Is Swill

THESE NINE COMMERCIALS from the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival go a long way towards redeeming the town if not the Other Festival. Check them out at Ad Age's BOILED EELS, BASHED SKULLS AND BEER-SWILLING BALLET DANCERS.

Tip via the always rewarding growabrain

Posted by Van der Leun at Jul 10, 2004 9:34 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Slate's Weisberg Hits A Low Previously Thought Impossible

SLATE'S LONG RUNNING EXERCISE IN ELITIST SMARM Bushism of the Day By Jacob Weisberg is part of the ongoing "isn't the President stupid' meme that liberals love to drench themselves in. It has always been a scrape-the-bottom feature and, on occassions too numerous to count, slants and distorts the speech for the sake of a cheap laugh. It also never, ever links to the news item that inspired it. Context, you see, might spoil the joke with the truth.

On Wednesday, Weisberg -- who's made some pocket change off this "concept" -- gave the world this as a Bushism:

"I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein."-- Washington, D.C., May 25, 2004

The man was one of a group of Iraqi men whose hands had indeed been chopped off by Hussein. They had been given new hands by a team of American doctors in America. That's the plain and simple truth of the matter.

That anyone would look to mine this moment for the sake of making it seem other than it was is despicable. But being despicable seems to be what Weisberg and his ilk are all about these days.

If there was ever an example of unalloyed good being done for individual Iraqi citizens, you would think that giving men new hands would be one of them.

But for Weisberg and his ilk, it is merely another chance to steal a march on the good and reinforce evil.

You would think that Weisberg would be ashamed of himself, you would think that Slate would be ashamed. But you would be wrong. The sense of shame has long abandoned these people. All they have is hate. And, in due course, hate shall be their reward.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 28, 2004 12:13 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Slate's Weisberg Hits A Low Previously Thought Impossible

SLATE'S LONG RUNNING EXERCISE IN ELITIST SMARM Bushism of the Day By Jacob Weisberg is part of the ongoing "isn't the President stupid' meme that liberals love to drench themselves in. It has always been a scrape-the-bottom feature and, on occassions too numerous to count, slants and distorts the speech for the sake of a cheap laugh. It also never, ever links to the news item that inspired it. Context, you see, might spoil the joke with the truth.

On Wednesday, Weisberg -- who's made some pocket change off this "concept" -- gave the world this as a Bushism:

"I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein."-- Washington, D.C., May 25, 2004

The man was one of a group of Iraqi men whose hands had indeed been chopped off by Hussein. They had been given new hands by a team of American doctors in America. That's the plain and simple truth of the matter.

That anyone would look to mine this moment for the sake of making it seem other than it was is despicable. But being despicable seems to be what Weisberg and his ilk are all about these days.

If there was ever an example of unalloyed good being done for individual Iraqi citizens, you would think that giving men new hands would be one of them.

But for Weisberg and his ilk, it is merely another chance to steal a march on the good and reinforce evil.

You would think that Weisberg would be ashamed of himself, you would think that Slate would be ashamed. But you would be wrong. The sense of shame has long abandoned these people. All they have is hate. And, in due course, hate shall be their reward.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 28, 2004 12:13 PM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
First Planet of a Distant Star?

Hubble snaps new world:
Is this the first photo of
a planet beyond our solar system?

An infrared snapshot taken by the Hubble Space Telescope might be our first glimpse of a truly alien world. Although we know of more than 120 planets outside our solar system, none has been photographed directly.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 15, 2004 2:38 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Bags Over Heads vs. Beheading


"My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Susan," the man said on the video. "I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in Philadelphia."
American beheaded 'for abuse'

After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting "Allahu Akbar!" - "God is great." They then held the head out before the camera.


OKAY, TELL ME AGAIN how much like our enemies we have become. I'm a little unclear on the concept that we are no better than our enemies when this is their "response":

Video Seems to Show Beheading of American

A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site appeared to show a group affiliated with al-Qaida beheading an American in Iraq (news - web sites), saying the death was revenge for the prisoner-abuse scandal.

The video showed five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks, standing over a bound man in an orange jumpsuit who identified himself as an American from Philadelphia.

After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and cutting off his head with a large knife. They then held the head out before the camera.

Weve been here before with Daniel Pearl, but most of the members of the Fourth Estate not working for the Wall St. Journal have long forgotten about him, havent they?

Still, I trust that when video footage of Iraq Prisons is broadcast on the Evening News, that those same news organizations will be honorable enough to give equal time to this footage as well. It would be in the interests of, well, balance, wouldn't it?

Indeed, I think that our "news" organizations should make a special point to air the footage and run it over and over for a two weeks or more. The New Yorker should unleash Seymour Hersh to get the real inside goods on the breakdown in the Arab chain of command that allowed this to happen.

VidCaps need to be made and large color pictures published on the front pages of all the newspapers. Then we need to have every pundit who weighed in on the Prison Scandal have a go at this subject as well. In addition, every politician who called for actions and investigations and resignations should insist that the people in this video go through the same "process" as well. It would be the least they could do to demonstrate that they are men of honor. They are men of honor, aren't they?

Posted by Vanderleun at May 11, 2004 11:51 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
High Apogee for the Hubble

SPACE DAILY sports the hopeful headline Shuttle Or Not Hubble Will Be Saved

"Indications are growing that the aging Hubble Space Telescope will not be allowed to die -- even if the U.S. space shuttle fleet will not be used to save it. More and more, it appears that NASA -- or even an international consortium of some kind -- will deploy a robotic space mission sometime in the next few years to service or repair the telescope."
Well... maybe. As the article points out there are several very large hurdles in the way. On some level this may well be just a NASA noh play titled: 'Hey, We Tried."

Posted by Vanderleun at May 11, 2004 10:35 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
They Come One to A Million

From the fascinating site for the game MOOT (Tough questions about the nuances of the English language) comes this curious question: Trying to add some precision to its meaning, Mathematician J.E. Littlewood defined it as "an event that has special significance when it occurs, but occurs with a probability of one in a million."; what word is it?"

Click below for answer and wonderful Freeman Dyson quote:

Posted by Vanderleun at May 11, 2004 10:24 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Odd Items for Sale on the Net #1,237,985


A Microturbo TRS18 small jet thrust engine, used in missiles and target drones (is any kitchen complete without one???). HOT NEWS - this engine has been SOLD to a friend who has a real use for it. -- The Corestore - Turbines!!
Thank God we live in a society where no crushing of dissent is tolerated. A more repressive regime might actually have sent agents to interview the owner of Corestore:

"Sir, we note you have sold a turbine engine used in missiles and target drones to a friend who has a real use for it. It you would not mind, please tell us the name of this friend, the use he has for it, and the address of his local mosque."

Posted by Vanderleun at May 1, 2004 6:46 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Five Second Press Conference


From: DoD Transcripts
Date: Thu Apr 29, 2004 11:56:44 AM US/Pacific
Subject: Secretary Rumsfeld Stakeout After Closed Hearing

Q: What about the operations [Inaudible] outside of [Inaudible] ?

RUMSFELD: What's going on is some terrorists and regime remnants have
been attacking our forces and our forces have been going in and killing them.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 1, 2004 6:21 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Writers: One Day of Professional Editing to Highest Bidder


GONE: Winning Bid was $800 BY ERIC B.

Auction CLOSED Wednesday Evening, April 28, at 10:00 PM Pacific Time.

Authors,Writers, and Fellow Americans! This is Your Chance to Join the Exclusive and Expensive Gerard Van der Leun Famous Writers Boot Camp at a Discount

Heres the deal: If you give the most to Spirit of America via The Victory Coalition through the auction here, Ill give you a day of professional editing. (Details below)

Why would you want that?

Because no matter who you are or what you write, you need careful editing and an honest evaluation. And Im the man to do it.

For over 30 years Ive been working with writers of fiction and non-fiction to bring their manuscripts up to par and seeing them through the publishing process. Ive been a magazine editor and a book editor and a literary agent. Ive seen it all. Ive worked with the best and the worst. And Ive made all of them better -- sometimes with a scalpel, sometimes with a hand grenade, but most of the time with my blue pencil.

Among those writers I have worked with in the course of my career are people such as Steve King, R. Crumb, Harlan Ellison, Andre Dubus, and Robert Fulghum.

Ive edited and published more than 200 books for the Houghton Mifflin Company where I worked as Senior Editor and Director of Trade Paperback Publishing. Ive edited dozens of writers as a magazine editor for Earth Magazine, Viva Magazine, Omni Magazine and Penthouse Magazine.

Ive written and had published two books of my own and ghosted a few as well. (No, you dont get to know which ones those were.)

My own magazine articles have been published in Time, Omni, Penthouse, and Wired among others.

Im found among that rarest fauna of editors: the line editor. That means I dont just opine and book you on the nearest talk show and then take a long lunch at Michael's. I get under the hood of your writing with my blue pencil and mark it up until it bleeds. Then help you stitch it back up, make it pretty, and send it out.

Warning! This can be a brutal process so if you are looking for someone to glance at your work and tell you how wonderful it is, ask your mother. If you want to BE ALL THE WRITER YOU CAN BE be prepared to donate until it hurts.

I currently bill my time at $200 and hour and up, but you can have a day of my professional working life applied to your manuscript if yours is the highest bid to donate to The Victory Coalitions Drive at Spirit of America.

Thats a $1,600 value but bidding will start here at $200.00

It closes Thursday, April 29, at 12:01 PM Pacific Time.
CORRECTION: Auction will close Wednesday Evening, April 28, at 10:00 PM Pacific Time.
[Otherwise, how would we know?]

The Victory Coalition donation information and page can be found here at: The Spirit of America

Enter your bid here in the comments below in some amount north of $200 and, at the end of bidding, supply proof of your donation, and my time becomes your time. It can be one 8-hour day or the same 8 hours spread out over time. Well work it out.

If you live within a reasonable distance of Laguna Beach, California, we can arrange a face to face workshop. If not, well do it via the Internet or even the old fashioned way -- real mail. Either way, there will be hard copy involved.The choice and timing and one day of my professional life will be yours.

Remember, some give all -- so you can give some. Plus your writing will be the better for it.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 28, 2004 10:00 PM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
After Dover


A stirring and deeply moving account of what it was like to escort the body of Marine PFC Chance Phelps home from Dover AFB begins,

Taking Chance Home

Chance Phelps was wearing his Saint Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday. Eight days later, I handed the medallion to his mother. I didn't know Chance before he died. Today, I miss him.

I'd say it was your duty to read it.

Pointer via: One Hand Clapping

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 28, 2004 11:32 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Out to Lunch?

There are more than 1,600 sandwich compilations at The Sandwich Project. This is one of them:

1653. The 'Fridge Emptier' Sarnie

What's in it? Cheddar Cheese, Salad Cream, Tomatoe, Onion and wait for it -- Jalapeno Peppers (from a jar)

Er... We'll wait for it. But that doesn't mean there aren't 1,600 more tasty morsels here.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 19, 2004 10:51 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Losing It in America

Victor Davis Hanson again demonstrates his deeper understanding of our times.

What a weird war we are in. The president of the United States gives a press conference to steel our will and endures mostly inane cross examination -- at the very time the New York Times best-seller list has five of its top ten books alleging that he is a near criminal. Various disgruntled, passed-over or fired employees (Clarke and O'Neill), buffoonish provocateurs (Franken), and conspiracists (Phillips and Unger) all assure us in their pulp of everything from Bush family ties with Nazis to a First Family perennially plotting to get Americans killed for nothing other than cheap oil.

If that was not enough, a U.S. senator, with a reprehensible record of personal excess and abject immorality, now in his dotage damns the war in Iraq on moral grounds -- even as young Marines seek to protect a nascent and tottering consensual government from thugs and killers.

An ex-president who calibrated his campaign for a Nobel Prize by criticizing his successor in a time of war to the applause of foreign powers now steps forward to call for a more principled nation. Such are the moralists of our age.

Are we crazy? I think in fact we almost are. But the tragedy is that if we are paradoxical, self-incriminatory, and at each other's throats, our enemies most surely are not. They know precisely what they want from us -- an Islamic world of the 8th century, parasitic on the resources and technology of the 21st, by which all the better to destroy a supposedly soft and bickering West. And if the present chaos here at home continues, they are apparently on the right track.
--Victor Davis Hanson: Our Present Chaos

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 16, 2004 11:28 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Words of the Day

It's time to upgrade your political vocabulary, courtesy of protein wisdom:
Frankenfreude fran-KEN-froy-duh n: A salicious satisfaction in the misfortune of self-important and unfunny lefties.

garofaloed gah-RAH-fa-lod;v. tr: 1) To find oneself on the receiving end of puerile insults, generally of the sort peppered with chimp references and accompanied by the smell of patchouli and cloves; 2) To be cancelled quickly and with little fanfare. And you know that's coming.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 16, 2004 7:33 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Dialogue Found Under The Orange Tree
SUB-HUMAN: How are things going over there?
INSURGENT: Death to America!
SUB-HUMAN: That's good, that's good. Now listen, we're doing okay. I'm getting people over here riled up about Vietnam. All you have to do is keep killing soldiers.
INSURGENT: Death to America!
SUB-HUMAN: Right. Now it's not going to take a lot, just make sure you do it in front of the cameras.
INSURGENT: Death to America!
SUB-HUMAN: Now, *hiccup* how many hostages are you up to?
INSURGENT: Death to America!
SUB-HUMAN: That's good, 30 is a good start. Now let me give you the general rule of thumb. Every new hostage you take gets you the same amount of publicity as the previous three combined.
INSURGENT: Death to America!
SUB-HUMAN: Listen, I saw you had some Japanese hostages. What the hell is that? You only need Americans man, Japanese do you no good. If anything it pokes holes in our "no coalition" argument.
INSURGENT: Death to America!
SUB-HUMAN: Ok, keep up the good work and stay focused, I'll be in touch.
INSURGENT: Death to America!

From: Under the Orange Tree

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 14, 2004 11:25 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Now That's Gotta Hurt

If you'd like to build your own personal Earth-Asteroid collision, we direct your attention to Earth Impact Effects.

A simple but horrifying calculator, this page lets you select density, size, velocity and angle of impact for your personal Armageddon device. Then it tells you what will happen -- to you, to your friends, and yes, even to your little dog.

I plugged in a few parameters just off the top of my head and hit "go figure." Here's some out-takes fromt my results:

Distance from Impact: 12.00 km = 7.45 miles

Projectile Diameter: 91.44 m = 299.92 ft = 0.06 miles

Projectile Density: 8000 kg/m3

Impact Velocity: 72.00 km/s = 44.71 miles/s

Impact Angle: 78 degrees

Target Density: 1500 kg/m3

Target Type: Competent Rock or saturated soil


The air blast will arrive at approximately 40.0 seconds.

Peak Overpressure: 448706.4 Pa = 4.4871 bars = 63.7163 psi

Max wind velocity: 436.8 m/s = 977.0 mph

Sound Intensity: 113 dB (May cause ear pain)

Damage Description:

Multistory wall-bearing buildings will collapse.

Wood frame buildings will almost completely collapse.

Multistory steel-framed office-type buildings will suffer extreme frame distortion, incipient collapse.

Highway truss bridges will collapse.

Highway girder bridges will collapse.

Glass windows will shatter.

Cars and trucks will be largely displaced and grossly distorted and will require rebuilding before use.

Up to 90 percent of trees blown down; remainder stripped of branches and leaves.

Earth Impact Effects Program Copyright 2004, Robert Marcus, H.J. Melosh, and G.S. Collins

These results come with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY

No warranty? You mean we can't return the planet if it breaks?

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 12, 2004 11:32 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
On How Hard It Is to Get A Clear Shot in Iraq

Click to Enlarge

A crude but telling sketch on the problems confronting our forces in Iraq from Robert Horn's MacroVU site.

Discriminate Force -- Helping to Visualize It: " This illustration shows the difficulties of the individual soldier in avoiding new participants in use-of-force situations."

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 6, 2004 5:02 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Father Forgive Me for I Must Fisk

The thing known as The Daily Kos continues his limp attempts at revisionism. Today he poses as the victim in his latest attempt to obscure the fact he revealed his soul to be a very ugly place last week.

His latest report on the state of his existence is even weaker than his vapid pseudo-apology of yesterday. But not so weak that I can resist an idle afternoon's fisking of his "status report:"

>So I said something pretty stupid last week.
No. You said many stupid things last week. You said one very evil thing.
We are talking about your evil statement, which you've since hidden in shame. If we were talking about your stupid statements... well, we just don't have that many terabytes available.

>I served up the wingnuts
No. You were writing for your acolytes deep within the self-serving "diaries" of your site. You did not serve up anything. You were taking a victory lap in front of the grandstand of people you knew would applaud you. You served up nothing. You were preening for your peers. You basked in the hundreds of soft-strokes and nods of approval in the comments that followed. Then the evil nature of what you said was seen and you were outed. There was nothing brave or forthright about what you wrote or what you did afterwards to cover your tracks. The "wingnuts" did not condemn you. Decent men and women condemned you. But since you have no decency, you cannot see that.

> a big, juicy softball.
No. It was not a 'softball' nor any other sporting object. It was a statement filled with spite, hate, and treason. We all saw it for what it was. It was a small dropping of a smaller mind. It had no "juice," but was as dry and withered and repellent as something run over and found mummified on the side of the Interstate.

>They went into a tizzy,
No. Decent men and women who read your words were appalled, but did not go into a "tizzy." Decent people have much more gravitas than that. The only person who might characterize the reaction as a "tizzy" would be an aging adolescent whose character is built on an artificial notion of self-esteem. You know, a narcissist.

>led by Instapundit.
No. Nothing of the sort happened. This is an outright lie on your part. But since you have shown yourself to be bereft of compassion, insight, decency and gravitas, the fact that you are also the sort of compulsive liar depicted in the film "Shattered Glass" is not surprising.

>And for a while, I was actually pretty worried.
No. You were never worried unless you were worried about being widely exposed for the souless traitor you have revealed yourself to be, or worried about losing a few dollars. Other than that, this little phrase is as empty and false and self serving as your pseudo-apology.

>But the final tally was -- about 30 hate-filled emails, about 15,000 hate-filled visitors,
No. Again you are endeavoring to re-inflate your delicate and deflated self-esteem by cooking the numbers. While you may have had "30 emails" I would think that, judging by how vile your comment was, was marginal at best.

As to the "15,000 hate-filled visitors" there is no way you can read the minds of visitors to your site by your logs alone. And, as you know, the ability to comment on Kos is subject to a delay of some days. There is no telepathy in this medium, so, if you assert that your "15,000" visitors are filled with hate, you are just making that up out of whole cloth. Much like Stephen Glass used to make up facts for his much more entertaining yarns. But that you are a person who tells a lie of the soul so deep you cannot see it in yourself has already been established beyond doubt.

>and the pulling of three advertising spots that are going to be replaced in less than a week.
Really? We have only your worthless word for that. It is fortunate that you have a few days to scramble around and make it seem as if that is true. What we do know from that is that there are 3 members of the Democratic Party that have more decency than you have shown.

>(I had two emails today about people wanting to advertise despite the controversy.)
Well, that certainly makes for a landslide vote of confidence for your advertising since this whole episode has been pretty much at the top of the charts for about 48 hours. Please tell us when Nike calls and offers to make you a spokesman for their new line of tap-dancing shoes.

>That was it.
No. That is not "it." "It" will haunt you for quite some time. It is never a good thing, if you have a vile soul, to show it so clearly to so many. People may forget, but the Net never forgets.

>Oh, they're doing their best to turn me into the devil,
No. What was done here in that regard was done by yourself to yourself.

>and they're making racist comments about my heritage and family
No. Please try to grasp a small, tiny shred of decency from the tatters around you on the ground. Stop trying to haul a history you do not share into the situation just to paint yourself in denser shades of moral camouflage. We see you. As you really are. And, I note in passing, a real man would leave his family out of this.

>and threatening to kick my ass --
No. Your fundament is safe from others. It is too occupied at present with your own foot.

>you know, typical right-wing shit.
No, I don't know. But I do know typical whining and playing the woebegone victim when I see it, and I've seen plenty out of you in the last two days.

>But if that's the best they can throw at me,
No. You are not worth the best. You are only worth a short, 72 hour drive-by. You've neutered yourself and are too numb to feel it. But you will since the neutering was done by a blunt instrument, yourself.

>I'll simply echo Kerry.
No, you'll echo Kerry echoing Bush and remain not a choice but an echo.

>Bring it on.
No, Kos, there is no need. You have brought this on yourself.


UPDATE: It would seem that the John Kerry campaign has decided it doesn't need a weatherman nor a DailyKos to know which way the wind is blowing on this issue:

In light of the unacceptable statement about the death of Americans made by Daily Kos, we have removed the link to this blog from our website. As John Kerry said in a statement earlier this week, "My deepest sympathies are with the families of those lost today. Americans know that all who serve in Iraq - soldier and civilian alike - do so in an effort to build a better future for Iraqis. These horrific attacks remind us of the viciousness of the enemies of Iraq's future. United in sadness, we are also united in our resolve that these enemies will not prevail." -- John Kerry for President Blog

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 3, 2004 5:01 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Higher Beings Schiavo Countdown Wrap-UP

A LAST LOOK BACK, via The Blogosphere Ecosystem at how the top 10 blogs handled the death of Terri Schiavo.

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 1, 2004 2:20 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"When do the unmanned flying drone dogfights begin?"
JOEL JOHNSON at Gizmodo -- Sporting such charming names as 'Birdy,' 'Mosquito,' and 'Spy There,' Israel Aircraft Industries has shown four new models of mini- and micro-drone UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for use by Israel's military in "low intensity conflict." Small enough to be worn on a soldier's backpack and to be navigated through open windows, the Mosquito [at right] is only 13 inches wide with a weight of 9 ounces. There is something disconcerting about military equipment that looks and performs almost exactly like the paper gliders we used to make in school to simulate full-sized military aircraft. When do the unmanned flying drone dogfights begin? -- Israeli Micro UAVs

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 30, 2004 8:15 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Need to Know

Living La Vida Robot
"How four underdogs from the mean streets of Phoenix took on the best from M.I.T. in the national underwater bot championship."
Harvest Mouldering Business Intelligence
"Where do you find all the bits and pieces that comprise your business intelligence? Some of the more interesting snippets are probably trapped in thousands of e-mails languishing in cluttered inboxes or in archived instant messages that no one will ever read..."
Long Tail Meme of the Moment Gets More Jargon Attached
"Functions that have this characteristic are said to exhibit self-similarity at multiple scales. I speculated that this was indeed the case in many industries, and that the Long Tail is in fact made up of many "minitails" (below), all adding up to the powerlaw ("Pareto") shape we know so well."
Become a Human Lie Detector
"When someone's telling the truth, her words, her face and her body language are all congruent. For example, if a person is honestly saying that she likes you, her face is usually relaxed, offering a gentle smile and warm eyes. Her body is calm and open. But when she's lying, something is usually inconsistent. In the most obvious case, she may be saying she likes you, but she's not smiling. She may even have a clenched fist. Better liars can muster a smile, but it doesn't look natural. Even better liars can put on a convincing smile, but their eyes aren't smiling. Still better liars can control their entire face, but their bodies seem closed or cold. Look for mismatches between words and body language."
Hacker's Heart Macs and It Matters
"Who cares if hackers like Apple again? How big is the hacker market, after all? Quite small, but important out of proportion to its size. When it comes to computers, what hackers are doing now, everyone will be doing in ten years."
Do It Yourself iPod stand
"You could go shell out for a third-party stand, but I imagine you'd rather spend that hard-earned cash on music to fill your 'pod. Get the template here."
What's Talking Head David Byrne listening to today? Some fine music. Stream along with him.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 29, 2004 4:38 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
It's Official. There Are No Palestinian Men Left

The death of spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin has, it would seem, put and end to anything that might call itself a man in the Palestinian regions of the Middle East. Teenagers also seem to be in short supply. It would seem that, having gotten to the end of their supply of men, the Palestinians have decided to reach deep down into their diminishing gene pool and send in very young children:

Soldiers catch Palestinian boy, 12, wearing explosive belt

Israel Defense Forces paratroopers caught a Palestinian boy, aged 12, wearing an explosive belt at the Hawara roadblock south of Nablus in the West Bank on Wednesday afternoon.

Yes, for some people there really is no bottom.

Pointer via LGF

Unfortunate Ad Placement


Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 23, 2004 7:39 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Hamas Fashion Accessories, The Spring Line

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 23, 2004 5:52 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Edwards' Candidacy Begins Death Spiral

1. "Read my lips: no new wardrobe malfunctions."
0. "If I could get Al Gore to endorse me, I could get off
this damn bus. The 3-year old is driving me nuts."

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards took his turn at late-night comedy Wednesday in hopes of building on his success in winning the South Carolina primary. Edwards taped an appearance on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" in which he presented the Top 10 list.
Also known as "The Bit They Do When They Decide It's a Good Day to Die"
The last Democrat to deliver a Top 10 list was [Howard the Duck], who did so Jan. 22 after a much-ridiculed concession speech in Iowa.
Rep. Dick Gephardt, of Missouri, read his Top 10 list a week before his poor showing in Iowa. After losing Jan. 19, Gephardt abandoned his presidential bid.
....and DOUBLE-check

From: The Union Leader

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 5, 2004 4:27 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Mars:"Man, you gotta go"

There's a hell of a nice universe next door. Let's go."

For the first time in decades, the possibility of going to Mars has been brought forward and placed on the table for discussion and debate. Ive been carrying on a conversation with a friend over the past few weeks about the immediate ramifications of this, the worst of which is, to my mind the abandonment of the Hubble.

But the Hubble issue and others that have swirled around the Mars gambit in the last few weeks are merely political and transitory; of no more moment, really, than a primary election in a dinky state. There are larger issues that Mars illuminates.

Those issues came to mind this morning when an email from the friend mentioned above said:

....if, indeed, life and intelligent life is as prevalent as we think it should be, why aren't we (a) intercepting millions of alien broadcasts in the electromagnetic spectrum, and (b) positively inundated with alien landings?

One reason that is disturbing in a deep way is that we're all wrong, and we're all alone....What if, in all those billions of galaxies, we're it. Gives me the shivers.

....Look at us, mankind. We've been given the gift of intelligence, and the ability to expand our ecosystem out into space, where, with some significant but not insurmountable effort, we could spread like a proverbial virus.

Heaven above. All we need do is figure out how to make a wheel within a wheel to take us away to the middle of the air.

But the ILIE Religion requires proof that our ETC Gods exist and from that you get the High Church of SETI. All we need is one, just one, captured episode of some far-stars afternoon sit-com and well know ILIE is the one true religion. It will show us that we are not, as mentioned above, a fluke of the universe; that we are not alone.

But I suspect that we are, indeed, alone. Or, if not exactly alone, alone enough that it makes no practical difference.

Many years ago I read a very stirring and beautiful book by Guy Murchie called The Seven Mysteries of Life. It is a complicated bit of scientific romanticism and I wont go into it here in detail. Besides Im sure if I re-read it now it would seem antiquated, even quaint. But at some point in that book, Murchie began to take on the Google stars - X stars = X Stars Supporting Intelligent Life proposition that forms the foundation for the ILIE Religion. The argument removes stars from the board of life for being in the center of galaxies, being multiple, being too big, too small, too young, too old, etcetera, etcetera and turtles all the way down. This gets you a much smaller number of stars with planets and then, through application of other elements, makes that number smaller and smaller until you get to, well, the single planet on which we have found intelligent life, Earth. Its at least as compelling as the arguments for ILIE.

But they are both still religions and we are returned, just when we thought wed escaped into the one true faith of ILIE, back to a situation of dueling faiths each playing a slightly different tune even if the underlying harmonic blends. But lets boost the all alone track for now and dampen the ILIE part of the mix. Lets say that we are all alone and that Murchies argument is correct. After all, the all-aloners do have a planet to stand on. The others need at least two planets to get going.

If we are alone and we are in the fluke category, then what we do will hardly matter to anything other than ourselves. Hence, we need to take responsibility for our actions as a race. If we are all that is we need to keep going -- if only from the imperative that life must keep going even if it is to no purpose other than simple replication. To achieve that with any certainty we have to create, it seems to me, a second planet just as an insurance policy, a safe haven. This is, to my mind, the most cogent argument for Mars.

Of course, in technical terms, going to Mars in the near future with the technology on hand will probably be similar to launching balsa log rafts into the Pacific in the Kon Tiki era, but that doesnt mean we wont do it. (The only real limits to this are 1) the vehicles cost a lot more than balsa rafts and 2) a foolish desire on our part to make sure that everyone gets there safe and sound 100% -- i.e. We cant repair the Hubble because it isnt safe.)

In the Home and Alone theory of intelligent life in the universe, Mars is key. If we can get there and establish ourselves then we will have transformed ourselves from fluke to seed. This is especially stimulating to the ILIE Religion because it will seem to be something weve done all by ourselves without any help from metaphysical realms or something named God. And keeping God out of the new ILIE religion is essential. It is more essential to ILIE than finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Keeping God out preserves the ILIE religion as the one true faith and a religions first imperative is that there can be only one.

I keep returning to the words God and Religion. The injection of these terms into a discussion of things scientific always makes people very uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. Today, one seems to have nothing to do with the other. In fact, we did at some time in the 20th century come to a tacit agreement to keep science and religion in separate spheres where: Never the twain shall meet / Til Earth and Sky stand presently at Gods great Judgment Seat.

I am not a man of traditional religion. My church going activities are sparse to say the least. Im what I call A Christian in Crisis Only. Make me fearful or make me terrified or make me hurt deeply on an emotional level, and youll find me on my knees praying in a church or even on a back lawn somewhere. Other times I go blithely about my business. But thats not the state Im talking about when I bring God into this discussion.

To my mind, limited as it is, Ive been noting a tendency at the extreme reaches of physics and the observable universe to touch the metaphysical. This is the phenomenon thats called A universe not only stranger than we imagine, but a universe stranger than we *can* imagine. The high church of physics/astronomy/biology/mathematics has its high priests, and what they are preaching from their visions of the far edges of the microsphere and the macrosphere on a lot of levels boggles the minds of lesser mortals. But we take them on, well, faith.

Mine is a primitive mind driven by, to tell the truth, poetry and romanticism with a veneer of pragmatism to get through the day. I tend to look at the whole of what is now known, and know that right now all we know is just how deeply ignorant we are. Weve advanced at a great rate, but I think that all this advancement has gotten us is a vague inkling of what there really is to know. And because of this I think, or rather believe, that what we are about to become, in a way we are too ignorant now to know, is a seed.

If we are home alone then, if we have any purpose whatsoever, we are a means by which the universe can not only know and perceive itself, but also a way of whipping up a hot-fudge sundae for itself. (Not so trivial as you may think.) Were certainly a driven form of matter. You see that around you everyday. And we are impatient. We want the stars and we want them now. We dont understand the gap between desire and gratification, and that creates no end of trouble for us. We think we are doing so many things wrong because we can see what is wrong with what we do. We seldom think of all the things we are doing right, not the least of which is taking only about a century (an inch of time) to get out of the gravity well.

So, at the end of the day, I guess Ill have to take Pascals wager and go with it until there is evidence of something other than absence. Im on the side that believes we are here with some sort of purpose that we are not yet equipped to understand (Please recall that all we really are is a smart monkey.). We dont really know why we do the things we do, but we will be driven outward, in time, until we do understand it. How, I do not know, but the hominid paddling a log across a river didnt know about the Lunar Lander, did he?

Everybody needs something worthy of belief. I believe we have a purpose, and probably a purpose given to us by what I would call a non-interventionist God who just sets things up and lets them roll. But for the roll out to work out, free will has to be in the mix. Otherwise, this one planet would be hip-deep in slime mold and that would be the end of the story. Since it isnt, it comforts me to believe that we have greater ends in store for us and that, as a race, we will somehow make it through our current difficulties. Measured against the sweep of time and the universe, our present problems are quite trivial.

Remember that the moon is already part of our story, if only for a golf shot. Mars? That will be added to the story soon. Beyond that I cant see, but I do like Our Story So Far.

And I like stories that dont let you know the ending. Mars is one of them. Ill probably be gone before this chapter ends and the next begins. I like to think at some point well be at the part of the story where somebody like Gully Foyle in Alfred Besters The Stars My Destination stands up in front of a crowd somewhere and rants at them, Blow yourselves to Christ gone or come and find me. I make you men. I make you great. I give you the stars.

Or, in perhaps a less dramatic way, somebody says: We are here. The stars are there. It is only a matter of going.

Were either alone in the universe or part of a maddening crowd. Either way, man, you gotta go.
But what do we do? Like dung beetles on the last bolus of shit, we cling harder and harder to the Earth, multiplying and strangling it. Resources which could go to expansion, instead go to more weapons to ensure that we have firm control over our little ball of nutrients, all the while depleting it and making it more uninhabitable. Of course, unlike the dung beetles, there's no elephant waiting around to drop us another one in the foreseeable future.

I think we've misinterpreted the slogan "Earth First." Perhaps it really means "First stop of many on the line".

Are we alone and will we, in the vernacular, blow it. I think the answer to the latter question is no. As for the former, well....

For quite a few years now, Ive been a bit unpopular when I suggest that we need to consider the fact that we might, indeed, be all alone; that we might be a fluke or a seed or simply something of no purpose struggling to no avail and heading towards an ignominious ending in a backwater of a third-rate galaxy.

There is currently no real evidence that sentient life 1) exists elsewhere in abundant quantities or 2) exists but is rare. If intelligent life were at all common the electromagnetic spectrum should be awash in signals. And while the old saw Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence tugs at me, the phrase No information is no information also comes into play.

Another possibility is that What we have here is a failure to communicate. This would suppose that the electromagnetic spectrum is simply not the means by which communication between Extraterrestrial Civilizations (ETC) happens and something else that we are too primitive to understand is being used. Weve certainly imagined such things just as weve imagined Faster Than Light drives. But so far these are devices that merely help our science fiction narratives along. It would be boring indeed to have to dunk around the same old solar system forever using chemical rockets. Pushing off to the stars in them would give new meaning to the phrase slow boat to China.

Arthur C. Clarke reminds us that Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Id bend that around to say that Any proposition asserting the existence of ETC is indistinguishable from religion.

I say religion for two reasons. The first is that, regardless of the many arguments advanced for it, there is still no proof that any ETC exist and thus it is purely a matter of faith.

The second reason that the ETC assertion is religious in nature is that technotronic types need to believe it because they need, in their lives, something that is worthy of belief beyond mentation and purposeless matter hovering in the dark. Any specific religion can be denied but need to believe in something seems to be hard wired into humanity.

One of the many curses of free will is that it can remove, at will, God from the equation of the universe. But removing God does not remove the need to believe. The result is a host of secular faiths of which the assertion of Intelligent Life Is Everywhere (ILIE) is central to the catechism. No God means that Mind is God, no Soul means that Self is Soul. When the Kingdom of Heaven that is within is denied, then the Kingdom of Heaven must be lurking in, well,

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 1, 2004 11:46 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
"These are a few of my favorite links..."

(Sing Along)

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Spam in my mail box announcing new kinks,
These are a few of my favorite links.

  • IRAQ NOW: Media Analysis with a Sense of Insurgency.

  • Max Lyons Digital Image Gallery : Lyons can make images up to and beyond a gigapixel in size and shows you how to do it as well.
  • Special Report on Marijuana from The New Scientist in England : Tired of the preposterously pro and the cravenly con of this debate? This page is a small island of sanity in a "War Against Some Drugs" that has produced outrages such as this "Police Raid"with guns drawn in an American High School. We suppose it was an exercise to teach American teenagers what a Gestapo driven police state feels like. An overwhelming "success" in that regard. No drugs,of course, were found.
  • Popular Science: Don't let the age of this magazine fool you. It has undergone a rebirth over the last decade and the website can keep you up to date on the latest in technology, engineering, and -- extra points -- new toys for grown boys.
  • The Book Art of Richard Minsky: Minsky, for decades, has been one of the world's cutting edge creators of book binding and books in general. Brilliant and intensely quirky, Minsky's online exhibition of his ten volumes exemplifying The Bill of Rights is not to be missed. You might want to save up and order one or two ammendments for your private collection. We're opting for The Fourth Amendment (Neuromancer) for our collection.
  • Goudy: No, it isn't a soft form of Dutch cheese, but one of America's most brilliant typographers, Eric W. Goudy who worked in the early part of the 20th century. I believe Goudy is the most brilliant American typographer in history. This link takes you to an online, page by page tour of some of his work done for The Village Press & Letter Foundry of New York. Browse a bit and see if you don't agree.
  • Mark Twain on language and bein paid by the word at Wordspy. "An average English word is four letters and a half. By hard, honest labor I've dug all the large words out of my vocabulary and shaved it down till the average is three and a half. . . . I never write "metropolis" for seven cents, because I can get the same money for "city." I never write "policeman," because I can get the same price for "cop." . . . I never write "valetudinarian" at all, for not even hunger and wretchedness can humble me to the point where I will do a word like that for seven cents; I wouldn't do it for fifteen."
  • "The Peace Rug": When you need to see how deeply demented new age psychobabble has become and visit some hustlers who are making an old age buck out of it.
  • David Warren: He's Catholic, he's Canadian, lots of folks like his politics and hate his anti-gay positions. He's also a wise and asture essayist."To my mind, the real story was in the opposition to this war, and how it persisted and developed in Europe and North America even after Iraq had been liberated from its tyrant. That will be the "developing story" in 2004 and years to come -- how the West has turned against its own ideals, and grows increasingly ashamed, even of its own most obvious accomplishments. "
  • Amazing Art: Beyond, way beyond, Escher
  • The Wingnut Debate Dictionary: An invaluable resource for keeping up with the widening plague of mental illness on and off the Web, i.e. "Blognostication \blog-"ns-t&-'kA-sh&n\ n (2003): 1) an indication in advance: FORETOKEN, delivered through the internet, via a Weblog, or 'blog. Usually most effective when done after the fact. "
  • Cool Tools: Kevin Kelly, ex-Wired, ex-Whole Earth Catalog, ex-etc. is still coming up with amazing and useful items in all areas. Short takes on great things in the Whole Earth style. Makes catalogs in general seem, well, very 20th century.

  • Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 18, 2004 2:58 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
    Meanwhile, in near Earth orbit... a slow leak.


    "U.S. and Russian specialists are investigating a slight drop in total cabin air pressure, which was first noted on 12/29 and has now stabilized at 731-732 mmHg after as total drop of 11 mmHg. While total pressure is directly measured, ppN2 (nitrogen partial pressure) cannot be determined by instrument readings but is commonly calculated (with known ppO2). The apparent decrease in nitrogen is as yet unexplained and under investigation."

    Translation: The International Space Station is losing significant amounts of air, and nobody knows why.

    Via SciScoop

    Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 6, 2004 2:59 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
    The Clipping File

    The "Wrong" World View :

    Why did they blow up the World Trade Center in 1993? Because we kicked Iraq out of Kuwait? Yes! And if wed turned a blind eye to that, and struck back only when Saddam invaded Saudi Arabia, then wed be accused of supporting him in his previous war. We cant win. And according to this line of thought, winning is something we shouldnt be thinking about. Its the wrong way to look at the world. Only losers win. -- James Lileks

    Hated for Who We Are:
    It is not our policies that inflame the hatred of the mullahs and the wahhabis, the Shiites and the Sunnis, the Osamas and the Mughniyahs. It's not what we do, but what we are a free and successful society that threatens them. The tyrannical terror masters know that our existence undermines their own authority and their own legitimacy in the eyes of their own people. -- Ledeen

    With Sprinkles on It :
    Now as a matter of lifestyle, cosmopolitanism has a lot going for it....The crust of our culture is British : perhaps the most open and inquisitive culture ever known, particularly if you drain out the class warfare and substitute the Scottish enlightenment . Subsequently, we've sprinkled ingredients from every other culture on the globe on top of it. -- Jonah Goldberg

    On the Beach :
    When the tide of terror recedes, it exposes an endless beach of bones. Some people want the bones exhumed; some want the tide, any tide, to cover them again. Some want to build a seawall. Some draw up plans to blame the moon; others wonder who built the roads down to the shore. And some complain because the pointy ends hurt their feet when they walk on the sand. Cant someone deliver some flip-flops, already? -- James Lileks

    On the French Masters of War:
    For France was not just Baathist Iraq's largest contributor of funds; French banks have financed other odious regimes. They are the No. 1 lenders to Iran and Cuba and past and present U.S. foes such as Somalia, Sudan and Vietnam.

    This type of financing is shared by Germany, France's partner. German banks are North Korea's biggest lenders, and Syria's -- and Libya's. But France is the most active. In Castro's sizzling gulag, French banks plunked down $549 million in the first trimester this year, a third of all credit to Cuba. The figure for Saddam's Iraq is $415 million. But these pale in comparison with the $2.5 billion that French banks have lent Iran. The figures come from the Bank for International Settlements -- BIS in Basel, and were interpreted by Inigo More for a Madrid think-tank, the Real Instituto Elcano. As he says, "one could think that Parisian bankers wait for the U.S. to have an international problem before taking out their checkbooks." French banks seem to be almost anywhere U.S. banks are absent. They lend in 57 such countries, and are the main lenders in 23 of those. His report can be read at The report offers reasons why Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin really ought to stop using the phrase "our American friends" every time he talks about the U.S. -- Wall Street Journal

    Howard Dean -- Media Buster:

    DEAN: The answer to that is yes.
    I would say that there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country. We need locally-owned radio stations. There are only two or three radio stations left in the state of Vermont where you can get local news anymore. The rest of it is read and ripped from the AP.
    MATTHEWS: So what are you going to do about it? Youre going to be president of the United States, what are you going to do?
    DEAN: What Im going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.
    MATTHEWS: Well, would you break up GE?
    DEAN: Yes, were going to break up giant media enterprises. That doesnt mean were going to break up all of GE.
    What were going to do is say that media enterprises cant be as big as they are today. I dont think we actually have to break them up, which Teddy Roosevelt had to do with the leftovers from the McKinley administration. ....
    You have got to say that there has to be a limit as to how-if the state has an interest, which it does, in preserving democracy, then there has to be a limitation on how deeply the media companies can penetrate every single community. To the extent of even having two or three or four outlets in a single community, that kind of information control is not compatible with democracy. -- MSNBC

    Muslim to the European Core :
    Young women killed for dating. Limbs amputated for petty theft. Makeshift courts deciding the fates of members of local Muslim communities. The Western world has grown accustomed to hearing about the brutalities of Islamic law. However, these primitive practices are no longer limited to the remote tribal areas of Pakistan, the backward kingdom of Saudi Arabia, or oppressive, mullah-dominated Iran. Today, thanks in large part to a massive flow of immigration from Muslim countries, sharia law and medieval customs are becoming increasingly common in the heart of Christian Europe.

    No Surrender :
    I know my nation. I know my people. We don't want to destroy you all. But if you -- I mean "Muslims" -- place us in a position where only you or us can survive, it's going to be us, and you'll all be dead. We can do that; we've had that capability for a very long time. We don't want to, but we will if we must.

    If my nation was made up of the kind of monsters who "debate final solutions" and feel no qualms about "mass murder", you'd already be dead, because Tehran would have been converted to a glowing crater about 12 hours after the collapse of the WTC towers.

    How long before the cost in blood is too great? It's already too great. It was too great after the first person died on September 11, 2001. But that's when the war started. My people are not monsters; we didn't want this war. If you want to look for monsters, look no further than al Qaeda and ask them about mass murder, and ask them why they started the war.

    If you learn nothing else about America, learn this and imprint it on your brain in glowing colors: we will never surrender . There are many ways this war can end. That's not one of them. -- DenBeste

    Acme Terrorist Supply:
    The last box to arrive from the Acme terrorist supply company was the "drive out the allies" kit. The United Nations building was blown up; British military policemen were lured to their deaths; Italian carabinieri were struck by a car bomb. Spanish intelligence officers were ambushed; Japanese diplomats were killed and South Koreans targeted. This is Plan G and the press believes it will succeed like all the others. -- Belmont Club

    Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 5, 2004 2:47 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
    Yesterday in Iraq Love Was Such an Easy Game to Play

    "rummaging around one quiet afternoon at baghdad international airport (i'm a photographer for a company that's working in iraq), i went into an abandoned store and, naturally, started going through some of the drawers. underneath a stack of year-old pita bread (very, very hard), i stumbled across a small stack of passport photos. there are two things strange about them. one, all the photos are of women. and two, every face has been scribbled on with a red ink pen. very strange.
    -- This week's picture in FOUND Magazine

    Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 18, 2003 11:56 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    It Can't Happen Here. Right?

    "France is not really a democracy but a bureaucratic state in which, instead of voting for change, interest groups take to the streets to make themselves heard on various issues."
    -- Roger L. Simon: BEHIND "ENEMY" LINES

    Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 18, 2003 10:18 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    Facts Cannot Trump Environism

    Author Michael Crichtone, a man who knows a bit about the past and the future, is not taken with the modern and corrupt religion of environmentalism:

    With so many past failures, you might think that environmental predictions would become more cautious. But not if it's a religion. Remember, the nut on the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts the end of the world doesn't quit when the world doesn't end on the day he expects. He just changes his placard, sets a new doomsday date, and goes back to walking the streets. One of the defining features of religion is that your beliefs are not troubled by facts, because they have nothing to do with facts.

    So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven't read any of what I am about to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally don't report them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn't give a damn.

    I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage the US land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%. I can tell you that the Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing. I can tell you that a blue-ribbon panel in Science magazine concluded that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century. Not wind, not solar, not even nuclear. The panel concluded a totally new technology-like nuclear fusion-was necessary, otherwise nothing could be done and in the meantime all efforts would be a waste of time. They said that when the UN IPCC reports stated alternative technologies existed that could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong.

    I can, with a lot of time, give you the factual basis for these views, and I can cite the appropriate journal articles not in whacko magazines, but in the most prestigeous science journals, such as Science and Nature. But such references probably won't impact more than a handful of you, because the beliefs of a religion are not dependant on facts, but rather are matters of faith. Unshakeable belief.

    -- Remarks to the Commonwealth Club 9/15/2003

    Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 16, 2003 5:10 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
    Fear of Fritterware: The Nightmare Before Christmas

    Last night I had one of the most frightening dreams a man in 2003 can have. I dreamt that someone, who hated me very deeply, got me a new computer for Christmas. I woke up screaming, but the dream persisted. The horror! The horror!

    A new computer! I could just see it. It had everything: a speed so fast that it was measured in googlehertz rather than megahertz, more ram than the entire sheep population of New Zealand, a hard drive bigger than the Great Plains, and a megaplex sized-monitor capable of displaying 2.5 trillion ordinary colors at warp six. A broadband connection so huge it could suck the Library of Congress dry in a nanosecond. The CPU was covered in sable. The keyboard fashioned from rare woods. The wireless mouse was surgically implanted in my finger tip so all I had to do was gesture mystically.

    It got worse.

    This Christmas puppy came loaded with Fritterware. It had Pantless OS, BrokenWindows 2010, HomelessOffice 2004, Internet Deplorer, Fretscape, Opensource Godzilla, iEverthingEverywhere and Pong. The Paperclip was back as the host of a computer training program aptly named RageMaker. When I opened the box in my nightmare my first impulse was to rip open all the other presents in hopes that someone had given me a gun so I could just shoot myself.

    Nothing is worse than life itself than a fully loaded new computer, and I've been using them for nearly 20 years. Setting up a new computer is like getting ready to French Kiss an elephant; you know it will be a new experience, but you know it wont taste like veal cordon blue.

    I presently own and operate three computers (One hopefully named "Power Macintosh.") I hate all of them in a separate but equal ways. I am not alone.

    Given the desperation of AOL (Available Now:A free computer with only one year of six million popup ads!), the Piranaesque Dell feeding frenzy, and the return of Web TV (Just Right for Grandma and so simple from Microsoft!), I know that all over the world this holiday season, millions upon millions of people will be receiving new computers, and that they will truly be the "gifts that keep on giving." Their gifts will be confusion, puzzlement, frustration, despair, disgust, and homicidal rage. As people across the globe attempt to install backup drives, get modems to dial, configure wireless networks, cheat at Solitaire, and sign-up over the telephone lines for America Online Sometimes, suicide hotlines will begin jam as human beings come face to face, not for the first time, with the only machine in history that makes its customers into human lab animals. And makes them pay thousands of dollars for the pain.

    How did we get here?

    Why have we become a world of sheep begging the Bill Gates' of the Silicon City to not only clip us, use us, keep us on hold to their aptly name "Help Lines" for hours at a time, and then clip us again with "upgrades" to programs that are less than six months old?

    When did we become like junkies who don't even get the first one free, but have to go back time and again to get the latest, greatest, fastest version of something we didn't really need in the first place?

    How did we lose our sense of time being of at least some marginal value so that we patiently endure the loathsome America Online message, "Please Wait While We Download New Art."

    The truth is that, over the last 20 years that personal computers have been a part of our lives, we have been trained to expect computers to fail. Weve accepted that they will screw around with our lives and our fortunes. We have slowly and without any organized protest, been suckered into being the Beta Testers for new software and hardware that not only screws up in predictable ways, but is known by the manufacturers to screw up in predictable ways ("The inability for the program to connect with the Internet? Oh yes, that's a known bug. Well have a patch soon. Just connect to Internet and download it.")

    If General Motors were to release an automobile whose steering wheel froze without warning, whose engine took three minutes to load and start itself and then came to a halt when turning left and going downhill five percent of the time, whose windshield suddenly went from clear to black, whose trunk made ten percent of the things put inside disappear forever, whose radio went on and off without warning, and whose passenger compartment came with a dog that ate homework daily, and whose Owner's Guide was the size of a phone book printed in Farsi, would the consumers of the world line up in droves screeching Feed Me!?

    If life is brief, how can we go on and on spending oceans of time dicking around with what is, for most people, only a very expensive version of an electric typewriter, adding machine, and mailbox? What can be the reason behind the thirst of millions to own computers with more and more features to fail, and software programs whose primary advance over the previous program is to enable you to put a drop-cap in a thank you note while secretly mailing your credit card numbers to Bobs Wild World O Porn in Bosnia?

    It can only be that besides being junkies and sheep, computer users are also masochists willing to pay for being abused, degraded, humiliated and made to feel as if we hand the intellectual capacity of a planeria.

    Well, this worm is turning. I, for one, am kicking the habit, leaving the barnyard, and getting the whiphand. After almost 20 years of getting bigger, "better," more powerful computers, I am now going to search for a smaller, slower, more dependable model. I want to find the way-new old computer.

    Here are the specs for the computer I really want for Christmas:

    1) I want it to go on and off with the touch of a button like a light or a television.
    2) I want the mouse to go where I steer it.
    3) I want the monitor to be big and bright and never fail.
    4) I want ALL the drivers in place so I can drive it.
    5) I want it to save everything I do in the background all the time so I never lose anything.
    6) I want it to keep track of everything and never lose anything.
    7) I want to never again see an error message that reads "Memory Fault at 000E461"( Nobody knows what that means, not even Bill Gates, but the preferred translation is "Neener, neener, neener!").
    8) I never want to wait to wait while we download new art again.
    9) I dont want to see Theres a 40 megabyte $99.00 upgrade for this software. Download? I want the software to be finished when I buy it the first time.
    10) I don't want it to eat my homework, I want it to do my homework.
    11) I want it bug free, freeze free, and fritter free the first time.
    12) I want it to cost about what a decent 21 inch color TV costs and be just as quick and easy to operate.
    13) I want it to listen to and understand my voice so I can never again feel I have to run Typing Tutor just to answer my email.
    14) I want it to incinerate the junk email that fills up my hard-drive quicker than you can say "Make Money Fast." and send a letterbomb to spammer.
    15) I want all the technoblather that this machines fills the world with to just stop right now! I never, ever, again want to wake up in the middle of the night staring at the ceiling thinking, "JAVA? What is it and why do I have to care about it?"

    Personal computers for human beings have been around for over twenty years and it is long past time for the industry's 'experimental' phase to end. Its time for everyone who is tempted to buy a new computer to just say, "We're mad as hell about being roadkill on the Information Highway and we're not going to buy in any longer! Use some of your billions to make these machines fit for human consumption before you dump them on the market, or we're going to force our governments to issue global recalls on these tainted, virus ridden rotten machines! If they can do it to beef, they can do it to silicon."

    Now you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. This Christmas my computer nightmare comes to an end. Unless of course I get a copy of something like Uru, in which case I'll be right next to you on hold for an hour at the Uru help line.

    Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 11, 2003 11:12 AM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    Burning Down the House


    adj. Relating to the intense anger felt by activists within the U.S. Democratic party, particularly regarding the results of the 2000 presidential election and the Florida recount (cf. "white-hot").blue hot n. Such a Democratic party activist.

    Example Citation: "Among the general electorate, ordinary people who don't follow politics too much, Florida 2000 is already part of history. You may as well be talking about the Punic Wars," says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. "But for Democratic activists, it's very much alive."

    Indeed, Professor Pitney sees the recount as sparking a "blue-hot" sentiment among the Democratic base -- a reference to the intensity of the "fire" burning on the left, and the fact that these voters hail from "blue" states -- that has dominated the primary battle so far.

    "The Democrats are angry," he says. "The recall is a blue-hot issue; the Texas redistricting is a blue-hot issue. And of course, Dean is the blue-hot candidate." -- Liz Marlantes, "How anger over Florida recount still roils politics," The Christian Science Monitor, September 18, 2003

    Via The Word Spy

    Hold tight wait till the party's over
    Hold tight We're in for nasty weather
    There has got to be a way
    Burning down the house

    -- Talking Heads Burning Down The House

    Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 5, 2003 1:06 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
    Public Relations Bloopers We Love

    "Marketing 101 should tell students that if you are a PR spokesman, and a newspaper reporter calls up to inquire about the propriety of selling KGB-logo merchandise for Christmas, you should nod, express interest at the concerns, note that the item is sold as a historical artifact, et cetera. Leave it at that. If you feel compelled to draw explicit parallels to the CIA and the KGB, realize that you are speaking on behalf of a national retailer not yet known for such political views. That sound you hear on the other end? The clicking sound that goes on while you talk, keeps going when you end, then falls silent? It's called typing."

    -- James Lileks

    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 25, 2003 8:24 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    If You Don't Like the Google News, Make Some of Your Own...

    Microsoft Launches Google News Competitor

    Now that Google has spurned Microsoft's takeover bid, it can expect the Redmond giant to start rolling out directly competitive services one by one, and building them into the Windows operating system. The first of the lot is a competitor to Google's new and popular News service called MSN NewsBot. Here's the beta version, which was launched in the UK. [Mike's List: The Raw Feed]

    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 20, 2003 12:06 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    The War: Two Converging Views

    Two novelists, Mark Helprin and Orson Scott Card, the first an ex-soldier and the latter a science fiction visionary, are of one mind when it comes to the need to shake off our sleepwalking state and face the reality of what confronts this nation.

    Halprin in War in the Absence of Strategic Clarity reminds us that:

    The enemy must and can be defined. That he is the terrorist himself almost everyone agrees, but in the same way that the United States extended blame beyond the pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor, it must now reach far back into the structures of enablement for the sake of deciding who and what must be fought.

    And given the enormity of a war against civilians, and the attacks upon our warships, embassies, economy, capital, government, and most populous city, this determination must be liberal and free-flowing rather than cautious and constrained, both by necessity and by right.

    The enemy has embarked upon a particular form of warfare with the intent of shielding his center of mass from counterattack, but he must not be allowed such a baseless privilege. For as much as he is the terrorist who executes the strategy, he is the intelligence service in aid of it, the nation that harbors his training camps, the country that finances him, the press filled with adulation, the people who dance in the streets when there is a slaughter, and the regime that turns a blind eye.

    Not surprisingly, militant Islam arises from and makes its base in the Arab Middle East. The first objective of the war, therefore, must be to offer every state in the area this choice: eradicate all support for terrorism within your borders or forfeit existence as a state. That individual terrorists will subsequently flee to the periphery is certain, but the first step must be to deny them their heartland and their citadels.

    Card is even less sanguine when he examines our present situation in light of the Anarchist movment of the 19th and 20th centuries in Fanatic Terrorism from the Past :
    I fear that the only thing that will cure the Muslim people of their current love affair with terrorism (for even though the terrorists are few, those who openly sympathize with their barbarities are many and their critics are virtually silent) is the savagery of total war.

    The only alternative is the kind of limited, surgical war that America has been waging in Afghanistan and Iraq. The cost of such a war is not trivial, but it is also not total.

    But if America and Britain lose heart and do not complete this kind of war, the terrorists will regard our retreat as proof that they were right and Allah supports their actions. More terrorism will surely follow, and the war we failed to complete now our children will have to complete later -- and under far less advantageous circumstances.

    ... Giving more aid or support to Muslim nations will not be seen as generosity, it will be seen as tribute or ransom money, and the credit will go to the terrorists ... thereby inviting further acts of terror. (This is the pattern that the Palestinian terrorists have already demonstrated for years.)

    That is the thing that the advocates of "peace" just don't seem to understand: Peace cannot be achieved unilaterally. When an enemy is determined to make war -- even a pathetically weak and under-armed enemy -- then a war will be fought ... or the enemy will become your conqueror.

    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 19, 2003 12:35 PM |  Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    Ancient Advice to the New Governor

    "Respect the worthy and employ the capable; put talented people in key positions, then all the best of the realm will be pleased and will want to be members of your court."

    "In the market-places, charge land-rent, but don't tax the goods; or make concise regulations and don't even charge rent. Do this, and all the merchants in the realm will be pleased, and will want to set up shop in your markets."

    "At the borders, make inspections but don't charge tariffs, then all the travelers in the realm will be pleased and will want to traverse your highways."

    "If the farmers merely have to help each other with the fields, and do not have to pay an additional tax, then all the farmers in the realm will be pleased, and will want to till the fields."

    "If you do not charge fines to the unemployed in your marketplaces, then all the people in the realm will be pleased, and will want to become your subjects."

    "If you are really able to put these five points into practice, then the people from the neighboring states will look up to you as a parent. Now, there has never been a case of someone being able to consistently succeed in making children attack their own parents. This being the case, you will have no enemies in the realm. The one who has no enemies in the realm is the vicegerent of Heaven. There is no case of one who attained to this level, and who did not attain to true kingship."


    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 18, 2003 12:54 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    The Pledge of Me

    I pledge (on a revocable basis)
    A smidgen of my attention
    To The Rainbow of Diversity,

    And to The United Planet of Well Meaning Persons,
    And to The Elite of Technosavvy, Highly Educated Nice People
    For which it stands (sometimes),

    And to All Global Cultures and Ethnic Traditions
    (Each one just as good as the next), divisible,
    Under a Nothing as big as the Universe

    With Liberty,
    Plus License,
    Plus Free cable TV,
    Plus Unlimited Weekend Minutes,
    And JustUs for All
    Those that agree
    One hundred percent with Me.

    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 17, 2003 5:46 PM |  Comments (9)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    Tang's Out, Strawberries Are In

    Strawberries may boost astronaut performance
    Frozen fruit protects rats' brains from harmful rays.

    Snacking on strawberries may help astronauts to perform better on long space missions. A daily dose of the frozen fruit boosts brain function in rats exposed to a lab version of cosmic radiation.


    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 12, 2003 1:58 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    A Hop, Skip and A 25,000 Light Year Jump

    The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy:
    Get the Big Picture here
    Take a trip to the galaxy here

    Milky Way's nearest neighbour revealed

    The nearest galaxy to our own Milky Way has been revealed. It is so close that the Milky Way is gradually consuming it by pulling in its stars. But it will be few billion years before it is entirely swallowed up.

    The previously unknown galaxy lies about 25,000 light years from Earth and 42,000 light years from the centre of the Milky Way, beyond the stars in the constellation Canis Major. It is twice as close to the centre of our galaxy than the previous record holder, the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy, which was discovered in 1994.

    More at:New Scientist

    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 12, 2003 12:40 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    Wondering About Wesley

    Our New National Nightmare

    The entry below set me to thinking about the Clark Campaign. Only a bit since, as currently constituted, the campaign does not require a lot of thought.

    Still something occurs to me that I don't have the answer for and I'm wondering if anyone else does.

    Question: Can Wesley Clark, after setting up his campaign machine -- volunteers, blogs, media appearances, money-raising mechanisms, all the bells and whistles of a campaign -- can Clark then decide to withdraw and hand over his support and campaing machinery to a new candidate? A previously unannounced candidate? A candidate with no visible electoral machine but a lot of Democratic support? A candidate like the distinguished senator from New York?

    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 10, 2003 11:25 AM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    On Reading Hitchens, Marshall, and New Scientist

    In looking through a variety of information sources, the value of serendipity cannot be overestimated. Today, I first browsed to Restating the Case for War - Waiting for Saddam to change is what got us into this mess in the first place. By Christopher Hitchens to discover Mr. Hitchens in fine form.

    The question then, becomes this: Should the date or timing of this unpostponable confrontation have been left to Saddam Hussein to pick? The two chief justifications offered by the Bush administration (which did mention human rights and genocide at its first presentation to the United Nations, an appeal that fell on cold as well as deaf ears) were WMDs and terrorism. Here, it is simply astonishing how many people remain willing to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt.

    Immediately after I found myself at the popular but excrable Josh Marshall peddling his less-than-fine whine to the converted in: Silly word games and weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Marshall spends a lot of silly words on parsing word games, of which he is a master. To wit:

    It's true that administration officials avoided the phrase "imminent threat." But in making their argument, Sullivan and others are relying on a crafty verbal dodge -- sort of like "I didn't accuse you of eating the cake. All I said was that you sliced it up and put it in your mouth."

    The issue is not the precise words the president and his deputies used but what arguments they made. And on that count, the record is devastatingly clear.

    To call something an imminent threat means that the blow could come at any moment and that any delay in confronting it risks disaster. Webster's defines "imminent" as "ready to take place; especially: hanging threateningly over one's head." That gets it just about right. The White House described the Iraqi threat as a sword over our heads, a threat we had to confront now.

    What is one to think of a person playing silly word games writing on how silly word games are.

    Ah well, Josh Marshall is too invested in his schtick and making too much money off of it to change his thinking. If only there were a word or an image that fit his style of subtle anti-Americanism.

    But then, there was.

    The very next link brought me this ground-breaking bit of news from the site of the of science:New Scientist

    Fish farting may not just be hot air

    Biologists have linked a mysterious, underwater farting sound to bubbles coming out of a herring's anus. No fish had been known to emit sound from its anus nor to be capable of producing such a high-pitched noise.

    "It sounds just like a high-pitched raspberry," says Ben Wilson of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

    Ah, Josh Marshall and his silly word games considered as "a high-pitched herrings' raspberry." There's a poetry in that as well as no little truth.

    I'll go with it.

    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 9, 2003 2:19 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    LA Times Shocked, SHOCKED, at Fox News Bias

    Fox News: How can you criticize me? On what grounds?
    LA Times: I'm shocked, shocked to find that bias is going on in here!
    [A team of reporters hands LA Times Arnold the Groper stories]
    Hacks: Your fair and balanced recall reporting, sir.
    LA Times: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.

    Tim Rutten, the LA Times media columnist, is one of the few bright lights at that paper. Indeed, if they had one more like him and one less like Robert Scheer, their circulation would increase. Rutten is a fine reporter and a man with a point of view I can respect even as, from time to time, I disagree.

    I also know, from some experience, how difficult it is to keep you head in the news business when all around you are losing theirs. It is also tough to pass by a fat juicy story on the media when you job is to write about big media from inside big media. Dogpile is the name of the game in Mediaberg.

    Hence it was no surprise this morning when I picked up the Saturday LAT and saw Rutten's Miles from 'fair and balanced'

    Now I realize that, in general, newspaper columnists don't write the cut headlines that display above their copy when it jumps to the inside, but it was a rich moment of morning irony in my coffee when I saw the LA Times print in 48pt type "Fox News accused of systematic bias." From within this frame, Rutten reports

    A veteran producer this week alleged that Fox News executives issue a daily memorandum to staff on news coverage to bend the network's reporting into conformity with management's political views, refocusing attention on the partisan bias of America's most watched cable news operation....

    The corporate boards and family investors who control most of the American news media generally feel obliged to maintain a wall of separation between news and editorial opinion.

    Sigh. It's tough being a columnist at a paper whose daily agenda includes such items as 'get Fox news' transmitted not with a morning memo but a nudge and a wink. Still, I'm not suggesting that Rutten covers this because it might make his bosses happy. No. He covers it because it is a genuine story about the media and it is his job.

    My deeper problem is that this story about "bias at Fox News" is always cycling through the infostream like some persistent Santa Ana that just keeps blowing. Ditto for the story of "Left-Wing bias" at obviously liberal media outlets. The short form is, in short, "So what?"

    The longer form about bias in the media is.... this is NOT news! The Bias stories ceased being news sometime in the, what, 18th century? Bias in the media is something we all know about. "Objective reporting" is something they teach kids in journalism schools before letting them out to find jobs teaching in other journalism schools.

    If ye would know the bias of a media organization, do not seek within the scribbling and babbling editors, seek it in the Publisher's office. It beings there and it will, trust me, flow through in shaping and sustaining the company.

    Is Fox News conservative in its selection and presentation of the news? Well, yes. That can hardly escape an educated human's perception for more than five minutes after first being exposed to their presentation. Are the LA Times and the New York Times, NPR, PBS and CBS/NBC/ABC bastions of liberal sentiment and slant. Well, yes. That can hardly escape an educated human's perception. except that ....

    Except that before the advent and success of Fox News, that perception did escape notice. Why? Because in the absence of a sharp contrast, liberal news operations appear, to the vast majority of those working within them and those depending upon them, as more normal and centrist than they are.

    Note in the excerpt from Rutten above when he writes, "The corporate boards and family investors who control most of the American news media generally feel obliged to maintain a wall of separation between news and editorial opinion." [Italics added]

    Yes, they 'generally' feel that way if you toss all of them from the Milpitas Muckracker to the New York Times into the same sample pool and generalize. But it is an open secret that the news sources that matter, such as the New York Times, exist in an eco-niche whose composition is controlled by the owners. (Indeed, the "family investors" of the NYT take pains to install a member of their family as the Publisher.) Those that reflect the owners' views thrive while those who do not are only hired as tokens or do not exist within the newspapers' ecology at all.

    When the New York Times hires a person whose job is to write a daily item in the Times exposing the bias of the Times' news and opinion and business practices ... get right with God and ready for the Rapture.

    "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us
    to see oursels as others see us!
    It wad frae monie a blunder free us
    An' foolish notion."

    -- Robert Burns: "To a Louse", 1786

    Once you are inside of a specific media ecology of long standing, bias is not an issue. Bias isn't noticed. "Bias" is a resented word for "normality" inside our various media Biospheres.

    That's why liberals and conservatives in the media have such a difficult time seeing themselves as "biased." In their minds they see themselves as simply "normal human beings" with the "normal opinions" that all the other "normal" humans around them share.

    Asking a member of the liberal press to realize he has a liberal bias is like asking a fish to see the ocean as water. Yes, there might be something outside the ocean but no fish that has gone there for very long has returned, so how do we know?

    We start to know when we swim to the surface of our pond and notice the wavering forms of things on the other side of Waterworld; the surface and things beyond the surface.

    We start to notice when messages in the forms of hooks and nets start to drop down on us and haul the unlucky up and into oblivion.

    At that time, we start to question the world around us and ask if everything really is the water we are swimming in with all our friends. Any evidence of the other world makes us question our own normalcy and, of course, the strongest reaction to these questions is to deny that there's another world above the water; to deny that we are in a universe that has something called land as well as water. We might even send some amphibians out to check on it, but their reports are widely discredited especially among those that exist at greater depths.

    Recently, "the Fleet Street model" of a rough and tumble press has landed on their shores in the form of the always-monstrous Rupert Murdoch, the most brilliant press lord of our era. His method is to create media with obvious bias and with a discernible slant. The reason? So people can identify with them, patronize them and earn money for the media operations.

    Murdoch's sin is that he is obvious about this and, not only that, it works. The polite fiction of American big media for many decades before Murdoch's arrival was, "Biased? Us? Ridiculous. And if you don't like it you can go elsewhere." Except that before Murdoch there was no big elsewhere to go to.

    Murdoch's genius was to find the need for another voice, another universe, in American Media and fill it. And what the liberal media cannot stand is that this approach to unfair and unbalanced and Rightwing news is that, well, people love it. They buy it. They support it. Why? Because they happen to believe that it is, for them, The Truth.

    Liberal media, which had a corner on The Truth for a long time, is now finding itself ignored by many people. It is finding that it now longer is in possession of "The Truth" but only "A Truth." Monopolies of Sensibilities don't like it when they lose to a different Sensibility. It costs them both revenue and vindication.

    As audiences fall away and readers cancel, the businesses and assumptions of the Truth Monopoly get very, very nervous and unhappy. And they seize upon memos such as the one that started all this and begin to pump and hype them as if they were New News. The memo in question states in passing:

    The fact is, daily life at FNC [Fox News Corporation] is all about management politics.I say this having served six years there - as producer of the media criticism show, News Watch, as a writer/producer of specials and (for the last year of my stay) as a newsroom copy editor.Not once in the 20 years I had worked in broadcast journalism prior to Fox - including lengthy stays at The Associated Press, CBS Radio and ABC/Good Morning America - did I feel any pressure to toe a management line. But at Fox, if my boss wasn't warning me to "be careful" how I handled the writing of a special about Ronald Reagan ("You know how Roger [Fox News Chairman Ailes] feels about him."), he was telling me how the environmental special I was to produce should lean ("You can give both sides, but make sure the pro-environmentalists don't get the last word.")
    What a charmed life in the ocean it must have been for this fellow during all those years swimming in the vast and warm liberal seas. What a rude awakening to have to descend to a job at Fox News and to discover (since he strangely couldn't see it going in) that the operation had clear and obvious agendas. What a terrible thing to be told that, yes, he had to please his employers by actions rather than just by moving his gills. It must have been shocking and he was, in time, after he left, appropriately shocked, SHOCKED, that Fox News was biased.

    Somehow it would have been more admirable if he said it while still employed there. But that would have been too objective and unbiased, wouldn't it?

    Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 1, 2003 3:34 PM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    A Tale of Two Systems

    A short but touching item at the Belmont Club ("The Death of Minds") contrasts the fruits of two systems, one educational and one, well, not that educational at all in the final analysis. This is the conclusion:

    The contrast between the youth at Caltech, striving to touch the face of God and the illiterate Muslim boys in a French suburb striving to touch the underpants of their neighbors is a consequence, not of the difference in their natures, but of the contents of their minds. Nothing in the US Army arsenal has been half so devastating to the Muslim world as the Saudi-funded Wahabi madrassa. For where one can injure the body, the other can destroy the mind. Nor is there help in the land of France for those who have managed to leave Arabia yet are never quite permitted to arrive in Europe. The dole for food and a policeman's truncheon, maybe; but never a candle for the dark; nothing whatever from the condemned store of Western values.
    But the dark context that shapes this conclusion will chill you.

    Posted by Van der Leun at Oct 25, 2003 2:32 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
    PSA: Drug Warning -- Quicksilver

    No such thing as a "small" dose.

    "You know, I've seen a lot of people walkin' 'round
    With tombstones in their eyes
    But the pusher don't care
    Ah, if you live or if you die."

    Officials across the United States are expressing serious concern about a new "designer" drug which has hit the streets across the nation. Unfortunately, this new drug, known as "QuickSilver" or "Baroque" is neither regulated nor even recognized by the FDA.

    Reluctant addicts describe the drug as "a mission begging for my commitment" or "it's not too big for me, I can take it." Symptoms of addiction include long periods of somnolent silence and contemplation, interrupted only by serious lifestyle needs such as sleeping, working, or eating. Usage of the drug in the lavatory is common, and sometimes it's major venue.

    During a typical "session" (typically begun just before going to bed, or, in bed), the addict quickly finds their world transformed into a medieval world of stultifying detail. The user valiantly continues on, sure that there is something of interest, somewhere. Instead, the session quickly resembles a computer game where "you are in a maze of self-indulgent passages, all alike". Shortly afterwards, the addict gives up, and puts the drug aside.

    For that session. In roughly 24 hours, it begins again.

    One of the most puzzling aspects of the drug is the drive of it's users to finish it, as if "running out", or "finishing all of it" was a goal. Officials suspect this is an insidious experimental additive to encourage future sales, but it seems self defeating since the user would only have to buy more QuickSilver for at least the next 5 years, something officials admit only the stupidest addict would resort too.

    FDA scientists have analyzed the molecular structure of the drug, and determined that it's actually part of a family of drugs which have been evolving since the '90s. The first version, Snowcrash, actually had no detrimental affects, but led it's users to a significant expansion of their thought processes. Indeed, some readers went on to found companies after taking the drug. Repeated use had no detrimental affect, and new users are still appearing.

    Later evolutions included Diamond, and Cryptonomicon. Each was similar to Snowcrash, but the latter was already showing the detrimental effects of QuickSilver. Indeed, in a thinly veiled ploy to work through stockpiled product, induces repeated visions of Cryptonomicon, encouraging the user to supplant their addiction with the older drug.

    Our own sleuthing has traced these drugs back to a single lab, known in the underground parlance as "Stephenson", "Neal", or even just "Steph's". This shadowy character is apparently a native of Maryland, and our investigators have captured photos here, and here.

    Pusher or Prevaricator?
    The pony tail is a dead giveaway

    Officials are at loss as to what to do. Addicts really want to believe QuickSilver will be as good as Snowcrash or Diamond, but have yet to find it's substance. The biggest fear is that many of them will die of old age before finding out the truth, or just toss their dose out, and live forever not ever knowing if they should have finished it.

    As a Public Service, we warn you. You will find this new drug being pushed at bookstores across the nation, and even on the web. We'd like to tell you more, but we're too addicted ourselves to take the time to do so.

    Don't buy this drug. But, if you do, please tell us what happens.

    Alert First Published at Michael's Web

    Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 24, 2003 11:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
    "A Boxcar of Worms"
    From family conversation I gathered that, outside of my Yiddish child-world, there were savages who didn’t have much to say but could fix the plumbing. They were fond of animals, liked to go swimming, loved to drink and fight. All their problems were solved when they hut geharget yiddin. Killed Jews. Only the last has been impossible for me to dismiss. Like many other people I have fixed my own plumbing, owned a dog and a cat, gotten drunk, etc., but everything in my life, beginning with English, has been an uncertain movement away from my hut geharget Yiddish childhood. When a BBC poet said he wanted to shoot Jews on the West Bank, I thought, “Epes. What else is new?” His righteousness, his freedom to say it, suggests that he believes he is merely speaking English, and antisemitism is a kind of syntax, or what Wittgenstein calls “a form of life.” But in fact there is something new, or anyhow more evident lately. The geharget yiddin disposition now operates at a remove. You see it in people who become hysterical when they feel that their ancient right to hate Jews is brought into question. To give an example would open a boxcar of worms.
    From: Threepenny Review: Leonard Michaels, "My Yiddish"
    Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 22, 2003 3:52 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    Candidates Who Have Expired Already

    Jonathan Rausch at Reason knows his Presidential produce and some of it stinks: Who Can Win in 2004? Just use This freshness test

    Only four candidates have a shot next year. They are President Bush, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. The rest are history. Sorry, Dick. Sorry, John. Sorry, Dennis, Joe, Carol, and Al. Turn off the lights behind you.

    How do I know? Am I psychic? Mad? Possibly and probably; but in this case I rely on two factors. Following the conventional wisdom, I assume that former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and civil-rights activist Al Sharpton are too marginal to win, though I wish them luck. That leaves Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. Their problem is different. They've expired.

    As every grocer knows, many products have sell-by dates. Bread lasts a day or two, milk maybe a week. Well, presidential aspirants have a sell-by date, too. They last 14 years.

    Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 20, 2003 10:30 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    The Usual Suspects

    Palestinians round up suspects in Gaza attack - Oct. 16, 2003

    "In overnight operations in the Jabaliya refugee camp, security forces exchanged fire with some of the suspects before detaining them, the sources said. No injuries were reported."
    Note to Mideast Reporters: Firing in the air seldom produces injuries to those in the immediate vicinity.

    Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 16, 2003 10:13 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
    Poseur Alert: The Plame Game @ NPR

    This one from The Ombudsman at National Public Radio

    [A]stute listeners have noted that the name of Ambassador Wilson's wife has never been mentioned on NPR's air.

    News Vice President Bruce Drake had this explanation for a reporter:
    On issues like these, where there are questions of privacy or other issues that make you think twice about divulging someone's name, I prefer to err on the side of being conservative. In this case, there was no journalistically compelling reason to name her and keep naming her in our news reports, given that she was already put in a difficult position. She is a bystander rather than a player in this story and I don't think that our listeners lost anything in terms of the important elements by not knowing her name.

    While I understand and would normally agree with this logic on most stories where privacy is an issue, the point of not sharing a name that has been in every other medium seems lost. I think it ill-served the listeners in this case. The unintended consequence of leaving her name out caused some listeners to wonder if there is some nefarious political reason behind this. NPR appeared (to me) to be unnecessarily high-minded in keeping the name out of its reports.

    Astute listeners will have spotted more than one instance where the items on NPR seem to come from minds that are high.

    Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 13, 2003 11:55 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
    "...cohort psychological dependence on their "coming-of-age" experience."

    It is not just "the Net of a billion lies" it is also the Net of a million moments of weird synchronicity. No sooner had I posted the item immediately below on the major malfunciton of modern major media mugwhumps, than I clicked over to Slate's "Doonesbury" page. Now I never, ever, bother to read or pay attention to Doonesbury any more -- too much of the "been there, done that, have the T-shirt" quality in that old chestnut. But I had some thoughts about Chris Muir's Day by Day as the Doonesbury of this decade and I wanted to check in on the Trudeau factory and see what it was churning out.

    What it is churning out, this week, is this:

    You'll have to click and enlarge the image to get a clear idea of the content, but it is exactly what the item below talks about: The ossified intellect of person who came of age in the late 60s, who learned to leverage that sensibility into a comfortable life,and now churns out work in the 21st century that has nothing to do with the times we live in, but everything to do with the times he was young in.

    This is no surprise when it comes to Trudeau. He's been struck in an intellectual roach motel ("The ideas check in, but they don't check out!") for over 20 years. But this strip, part of a running "gag", is essential evidence for the propostion that the intellectual ideas of Left/Liberal Americans are, like the American Groves of Academe, stands of petrified forest.

    You have the Apocalypse Now 'updated' river patrol, you've got the assumption that the new grunts are the same as the old grunts, and you've got 'Duke' the Hunter Thompson avatar still crazy and still young after all these years. It's tired and it's trivial and it's lacking in new ideas. Worst of all, it isn't funny. At best, it elicits a wry, mocking sort of dry chuckle inside of dry souls.

    You can almost hear Trudeau singing as he cobbles this strip together:

    V is for the vic-tor-y we blew off!
    I is for the inside scoops I got.
    E is for the enemy that Jane loved.
    T is for the time when I was hot

    N is for my ni-hil-is-tic humor
    A is for awards that come my way
    M is for the money I've been making....

    Put them all together,
    They spell VIET-NAM!
    The word that means
    The world
    To Me!

    So maybe all this really is a bunch of aging media hipsters pining for the fjords of their lost youth. Scanning Doonesbury, buying Michael Moore and Al Franken ephemera, sending in fat checks to Howard Dean... a kind of generational upper-midlife-crisis. That would be one explanation and a benign one. The possibility that they actually still get off on this stuff is too horrible to contemplate.

    Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 12, 2003 3:25 PM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
    Question of the Day Answered

    Mark Frauenfelder asks on Boing Boing:

    "Why were computers beige colored? Why were most personal computers colored beige? I seem to remember reading that some researchers (at 3M?) used focus groups to determine that beige was the most non-obtrusive color to use in an office setting, but I can't find a reference. If you know, email me at

    Mark, the reason computers are beige is that right after IBM got into bed with Microsoft, IBM found itself lying on its back and thinking, "Beige. I think I'll paint the computers beige."

    Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 12, 2003 12:58 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
    Governator Schwarzenegger (Call for votes)
    governator "guh-vern-ate-er" Name for Arnold Shwarzenegger after running for governor, mix between a governor and a terminator. "Arnold Schwarzenegger is running for goverator."

    Via: UrbanDictionary

    HT: Michael's Web

    Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 11, 2003 5:05 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
    Shift key breaks CD copy locks

    Hey, why invest any part of your corporate brain-stem in figuring out copy protection schemes? In the recording industry's grinding ground war against its customers, nothing works like a lawyer. After all, the suits agree that lawyers are obviously not making enough money scamming the artists out of a phenig of royalties. Besides, what better way to make up for lost revenue than suing widows and orphans?

    Meerkat reports:"A Princeton University student has published instructions for disabling the new anticopying measures being tested on CDs by BMG--and they're as simple as holding down a computer's Shift key."

    In a paper published on his Web site this week, Princeton Ph.D. student John Halderman explained how he disabled a new kind of copy-protection technology, distributed as part of a new album by BMG soul artist Anthony Hamilton.

    Under normal circumstances, the antipiracy software is automatically loaded onto a Windows machine whenever the Hamilton album is run in a computer's CD drive, making traditional copying or MP3 ripping impossible. However, simply holding down the Shift key prevents Windows' AutoRun feature from loading the copy-protection software, leaving the music free to copy, Halderman said.

    [Meerkat: An Open Wire Service]
    Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 7, 2003 12:11 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
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