Sunday, January 5, 2002

This is kind of a geeky post. I won't feel bad if you skip it...

I've been screwing around with RSS for a while, and I felt sort of uneasy about it the whole time, like I was maybe missing something important. The I happened upon this post over at Photodude's place and I realized I wasn't alone.

An RSS feed is nothing magic - it's just a text file, formatted in a special way, that provides nice, low-bandwidth access to all your precious posts.

The one good use I've found for RSS is to keep track of my comments - I use a free RSS reader called Headline Viewer, which sucks up the RSS feed provided by YACCS, the guys who make my comments work. By just checking the feed, I can quickly see if any new comments have been added to any of my 61 comment-enabled posts, and I can respond each to them instantly. It works wonderfully, and I don't know how else I could do this, other than manually checking every comment section, every day. But when I think about providing an RSS feed for my own blog, I can't help but wonder... what's the point? I already have a no-graphics version of the page available, and other than the graphics, the only thing I really offer here is links and text. If I provided all the text through the RSS feed it would be almost as large as the no-graphics page itself, and if I just provided headlines, then you'd still need to download the page in order to read anything anyway.

So, I'm asking... is there a single reader out there who would have the slightest use for an RSS feed, or who can suggest some credible future relevance that it might have to this site? Remember, we use static pages here, no PHP or anything on the server side...



The FBI Seeks Public Assistance
Monday, December 29, 2002

These gentlemen are now pictured front and center on the FBI's webpage. The feds must want them pretty bad.

Arab-looking young men, huh? Who'd have thought?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking the public's assistance in determining the whereabouts of the following individuals:

The above identified individuals, whose names and dates of birth may be fictitious, are believed to have entered the United States illegally on or about December 24, 2002.

Update: From FOX:

Officials are especially concerned that the men may be heading to the New York City area, based on information received from at least one intelligence source.

And is it just me, or do those two blurry photos - the ones that each have that strange yellow logo in the background - look suspiciously like frames from the sorts of videotapes these assclowns like to make before they go off on a suicide mission?

Update: This story just keeps getting better:

Among the tips coming to the FBI since its public request for information is the compelling account by a nurse from B.C.'s Lower Mainland [... who] reported seeing two of the five men [... aboard the Vancouver Island ferry] to Tsawwassen, the large ferry terminal south of Vancouver.

She said Mr. Ali was sitting in the front forward lounge of the ferry, slumped in his seat with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face. She was so startled by his cold stare she considered phoning authorities to report him. "This fellow stood out in my mind and bothered me. I told my husband and others about him when I got home. But what could I do? Phone the police saying a man looked angry?" she said.

[...] After the ferry arrived, she said another man, whom she now believes was Mr. Pervez, was taking photographs of the facility with a digital camera he held at chest height. "He continued to take photographs of the entrance to the ferry terminal, the ticket area and baggage area and escalator. He photographed the entire area -- and a tourist would just not want photos of that for souvenirs," she said. "It was pouring rain and I thought, Why is he photographing the entrance to the ferry? It was unnerving to watch. He must have taken, easily, two dozen photographs. He then, together with another fellow, lifted a fairly large container -- about three feet by four feet -- into a van. The box bothered me because of the way it was wrapped and also the unusual size. It was poorly and cheaply wrapped. It looked like it was cardboard and wrapped in wrinkled brown paper and duct tape. I just found it odd. It took two of them to get it into the van."

[...] "This piece of baggage, after taking the ferry for 12 years, bothered me when nothing else has; and so did these two people," she said.

This is Mr Ali, the scowling one This is Pervez
The scowling Mr. Ali (left) and Pervez


I guess they really are serious: FOX TV is reporting that President Bush personally asked the FBI to run these guys to ground.

It may be harder than it looks - at least one of them probably doesn't look too much like his picture. The original owner of the face below has turned up in Pakistan, the apparent victim of identity theft.


Update: Nevermind!

ABC News is reporting that "The FBI has concluded the information that led to a nationwide hunt for five men suspected of infiltrating the United States on Christmas Eve was fabricated by the informant".

I guess I'm relieved.

Before we jump on the FBI too harshly for this one, I want to be the first to say I'd rather they were too quick to inform us of suspected threats like this, than too slow. If an occasional false alarm is the price we have to pay to be kept in the loop, so be it.


What Would You Do?
Monday, December 24, 2002

I had an interesting experience this morning.

I slept late - it is a holiday, after all - and when I got up, I simply staggered that short distance from my bed to my computer without bothering to dress. The wife is at work, and I haven't read a news update since ten o'clock the previous night. First things first, after all...

My dogs are downstairs, and they start running around the way they do when someone is approaching my front door. Sure enough, I hear some knocking and assume it's the FedEx guy or the postman or somebody dropping off a package. I don't bother to answer, because (a) I'm buck naked, and (b) I figure the guy is in a hurry, and it'll be quicker for both of us if he just drops the package at the door and leaves.

I hear a male voice sweet-talking the dogs, and then I hear the front door open. That ain't right.

I quietly pick up a .45 and listen. The guy is still sweet-talking the dogs, who seem to be lapping it up. I look out my bedroom window and see a civilian minivan in my driveway, not a FedEx or postal truck. "Anybody home?" he asks. I say nothing.

At this point, he's either a good guy or a bad guy. Speaking up in either event is unnecessary.

After a moment, I hear the door close behind him and he leaves. Just inside my front door is a nice arrangement of flowers that someone had sent us for the holidays.

Now, I'm not real happy that this guy took it upon himself to open my front door, but he really didn't so anything wrong. I understand that he didn't want to leave the flowers in the snow, and I assume that the wife did not latch the door behind her when she left for work. He wasn't trying to be sneaky, he knocked, he spoke up, and he left as soon as he could. Frankly, I figure he went out of his way for us, trying to do the right thing.

Nonetheless, I am happy that I noticed something was up, and happy that I dealt with it exactly the way that I did, and I'm happy that it turned out fine. This little lesson reminded me of a few things that I think all of us should keep in mind:

1) If someone is going to break into your home, they are probably going to do it in the daylight.
People have the idea that burglars strike in the dark of night, usually after putting on a skimpy black mask and a striped shirt and breaking the living-room window with a crowbar. In practice, burglars usually strike during the day when the owners are not around, and when they have a better chance of coming up with a good excuse if they are asked why they are on your property.

2) If you are at home, the most likely way for a bad guy to enter your home is through the front door.
Bad guys knock. Sometimes, they do it so they can tell that a place is as deserted as they think. Sometimes they do it so the owner will open the door for them, and save them the trouble of kicking it down.

3) Bad guys are dangerous.
Sometimes, burglars are moral and upright folks who will neatly steal a few things and leave. Sometimes, lawyers and used car salesmen are honest, too.

More often than not, burglars are scummy, dangerous people who might react very badly to your presence. They might decide that they can convince you to show them where the good stuff is by terrorizing you, or they might take advantage of the opportunity for an unplanned sexual assault. Sometimes they are screwed up kids who like to trash the place and kill the pets for fun. Sometimes they will run if they discover that you are home, but if they do not run, you have a very serious problem on your hands.

4) The dogs are pretty much useless.
Mine are, anyway. They are happy, gentle, well-behaved animals that have known nothing but kindness their entire lives. Sometimes they do not even bother to get up from the couch when we get home in the evening.

Sure, I can usually count on them to alert me to something unusual, but they are certainly not going to deal with it for me.

5) If you are unprepared, you are shit out of luck.
Had I been a woman home alone today, and had I been unarmed, this would have been the most frightening morning of my life. Outside of possibly fleeing out the second-story window, I don't suppose there is much of anything I could have done to help myself if this was going to turn into a problem.

Even as a man, being unarmed this morning would have sucked a lot. If this had turned out bad I certainly would have found something - anything - to put into my hands, either a broomstick or a hammer or whatever I could find. If that sounds to you like a pathetically inadequate way to handle an emergency like this, you're right. Fortunately, I was not in the position of simply wishing I had a weapon while trying to make do with something inappropriate.

Obviously, the best thing would have been to avoid all the trouble entirely. Being prepared means, first and foremost, doing your best to prevent bad things, rather then just getting ready to deal with them once they come.

The (useless) dogs, the (unlatched) lock on the front door, the lights, the alarm system, the vehicle in the driveway - all of these things prevent problems, and they are worth their weight in gold if they prevent even one problem over the course of my lifetime.

If you could take preventive actions that would work 100% of the time, there would be no question that this would be the smart way to go. If your preventive actions only work most of the time, you should still take them, but you still have a responsibility to protect yourself if they fail.


A Peek Behind The Curtain
Monday, December 16, 2002

Way back when I was still doing software for a living, I worked at this nice little networking company with a bunch of bright young engineers. We folded up just a few months after 9/11.

One of the guys I worked with seemed pretty typical of the breed - 26, with a Masters of Engineering in Computer Science, now looking for his third of what would surely be a continuing series of real jobs, all somehow involving little cubes, glowing screens and pointy-haired bosses. Hell of a nice guy, too, very fit, tall, kind of a robust preppy look about him. I figured he'd move out to California or something before the year was out.

Instead, he surprised us all and joined the Navy to be a submariner. None of us could believe it.

I just got an email from him this week, and with his permission I'd like to share it with you. Most folks have no idea what his new life is really like:

[...Officer's Candidate School] was a total bitch. Every morning I asked myself what I was doing there. I'm temporarily home until nuke power school starts. It's not too bad. I call up kids and ask them if they're interested in ROTC for a few hours a day, and then I take off.

[...] In fact, I sucked at OCS. Never in my life have I worked sooo hard to attain such mediocrity, and I pretty much knew that that was the best I was going to do about 4 weeks into the program. I had a hard time handling the stress and the physical training. If I had been training hard for it for 12 -18 months rather than 5 months, I think I could have effectively neutralized the physical drain of the training, and that would have helped me a lot. As it was, I had a difficult time keeping up with the physical side, and that made it harder to deal with the stress. The training is obviously intentionally stressful, as only Marine Corp. drill instructors can make it. About half the people going through the program were pilots and most were out of college. I would say I was in average physical condition, maybe even leaner than most, when I showed up. 100% of my problem was mental. I wasn't very well equipped to handle the stress, and after the 4th week I made my goal to get out in 13 weeks. Not do well. Not shine. Get out. And that's what I did.

To put that in perspective, the class started with over 50, graduated with 35, and about 10 of those were people who had for one reason or another started with an earlier class. So about 50% made it through in 13 weeks. I graduated in the lower half of the class, maybe even bottom 10. I have no shame in this, because I succeeded in my goal of making it out in 13 weeks.

I've come to the conclusion that the only real way to teach people to handle stress is to constantly subject them to a lot of it, certainly enough to cause discomfort, and then most people can learn to handle stress. Some people can't, and they don't make it through the program, and that's fine with the US Navy. Some exit after the first day, some the first day they meet the drill instructors. I think the program is a little front loaded for stress so people are scared off sooner rather than later, so that the Navy wastes as little effort on them as possible. It's tough to tell from a worm's eye view, because the candidates also quickly get used to the stress, so they're just less affected by the same actions in their later weeks of training than the first. The first time you put a guy in the sand, pour water on him, make him do pushups until he's delirious, and yell at him, you scare the shit out of him. The fifth time, it's routine. The 10th time, he's thinking to himself, "ok, I'll play your game." If he's physically prepared for it, then that first time is a little easier on him than the other guys. There was a prior Army Ranger who the DIs just couldn't touch. He was crazy, but the DI's couldn't really touch him too much mentally. A guy like me, they can mess with a lot more.

All that said, it was remarkably similar to what I expected. I just grossly misjudged how hard it would be. Oh well. It didn't kill me. It definitely made me stronger. The physical strength may wear off, but I'm trying to maintain it. I like to think that the mental side will always stay with me and I'll always be a little bit better prepared to handle stress.

My only regret is that it appears to have cost me my relationship with my girlfriend, which isn't that uncommon. Oh well. Maybe it will work out. Right now it's a little dicey. I never want to go through anything like that again, but it's reassuring to know that I survived it and could survive much worse.

Here was my reply:

I'm proud of you. This was hard as hell, and you made it. Most of us would not.

More importantly, you are now equipped to do a job that most of us can't do. Think about that...

It's fucking cool, thinking that my buddy is going to be living under the sea, running down the bad guys, keeping watch for us, maybe getting in position to launch a cruise missile at some cocksucker who so richly deserves it.


And he's busting his ass, too, just to have the chance.


This picture is fake. It's an actress made up to look like a smallpox victim for a BCC television show.

Real victims don't have such nice mascara.

These pictures are real. Click on any of them to learn more.

This is real.

This is real.

This is real.

This is real.

This is real.

Historically, smallpox has killed about a third of those infected. A similar number were blinded or crippled by the disease.

This is real.

This is real.

A lot of people seem to think that a smallpox attack is incredibly unlikely, or that somehow we'd be able to manage it if it did occur. Neither of these assumptions is correct.

There are persistent rumors that smallpox has been made available to our enemies, particularly Iraq. Rumors are cheap. Unfortunately, rumors alone do not justify a massive, multimillion dollar, international crash effort to stockpile and distribute vaccines. So far, at least seven nations - Israel, the US, Canada, France, Britain, Germany and Australia - have made it very clear that they take this threat seriously. Others are almost certain to follow.

This simply would not be happening now if the risk of a smallpox attack were truly as remote as we might hope.

If smallpox does hit us, it will hit very hard. Historically, smallpox has destroyed entire civilizations when it encountered large groups of people who lacked the critical immunity; people like us, and like virtually everyone else in the modern world.

Why would it be so bad? Let me count the ways:

1) It would spread everywhere. Not only across our nation, but across the entire world. Smallpox is highly contagious, and has historically spread with astonishing swiftness even without the help of the millions of aircraft, trains, buses, cars, and ships that now connect every population center on the planet.

2) Even if the vaccines work, it would still be a disaster. Assume the best case - every single American, Western European and Israeli gets vaccinated instantly, and the vaccines work like a charm.

What happens to the people of Mexico? To every living soul on the entire South American continent? What happens in Eastern Europe? Asia, China, India, Japan, Indonesia? Do you suppose our economy will keep running smoothly as half a billion people die?

To be blunt, our modern way of life would probably cease to exist if smallpox were to spread around the world.

3) There is an excellent chance the vaccines will not be effective. Our vaccines probably work against the known, natural forms of the disease; they most assuredly do not work against the weaponized versions, or even against an ordinary research version which has mutated sufficiently from its original form. Considering that any smallpox sample we are likely to face has probably come from a Russian weapons lab, we have every reason to believe that our vaccines are not going to be bulletproof. Besides, it appears that the weaponization process is not exactly rocket science anyway.

4) Modern medical care will not be sufficient to even control the symptoms. Anthrax was once a very scary disease, until it ran up against modern medicine and was stopped cold. Partly, this was because anthrax is a bacteria, and it can be controlled by modern antibiotics; partly, it was because our recent experience with anthrax required that we provide treatment for only a few dozen people at a time.

Smallpox is a virus, and with modern medicine you'd treat smallpox the way you treat the common cold: you would attend to the sympoms, and basically wait for it to go away on its own.

If a few dozen people were to become infected, modern supportive care could probably keep most of them alive, limit the possibility of blindness or crippling injury, and return them to us after a month or so of careful attention. If several million become infected - hell, even if just a few thousand become infected - our hospitals would quickly become saturated and there would be little difference between the care that most of these folks would receive now, and the care they might have received in 1930. They would simply wait, at home, in bed, and many would die.

Imagine for just a moment the sorts of travel restrictions which would be in place that a time like this. Imagine even supplying food to people under these conditions. The healthy would be needed to care for the sick, and the sick would be the majority. Who would be left to provide all the other services which we would so desperately need?

5) A smallpox attack would never happen, because it would hurt the people who launched it just as badly as it would hurt us. Wouldn't it?

Let's be clear about something here: Smallpox would destroy the modern world. It would drop all of us to about an 19th-century level of existence.

Our enemies currently exist at about a 16th century level of existence, and their greatest wish is to destroy the modern world. Sure, they would lose a third of their people, but their governments and their societies would remain largely intact, and for many, the details of daily life would hardly change at all. I honestly cannot even imagine how else they might achieve such a compelling victory at so low a cost to themselves.

If our enemies were honestly deterred by such concerns, why should we worry about these people getting their hands on nuclear weapons? Wouldn't a threat to destroy several Muslim cities - as we once threatened to destroy Chinese and Russian cities - be enough to prevent an attack?

Of course not.

Our enemies are not deterred by the threat of retaliation, no matter how massive, and no matter how the retaliation might be delivered. If they were deterable, we wouldn't be at war with them now.

Smallpox is horrible stuff. I can say, without exaggeration, that I would rather a nuclear bomb were used against one of our cities than smallpox. A nuke would only kill a few million, at worst. Smallpox would kill several hundred times that many worldwide, and leave the rest of us living like serfs for the remainder of our lives.

Smallpox is probably an unlikely threat, but it is certainly a real threat, and a dire one. Let's hope our luck holds for just a little longer.



The Daily Pundit agrees.
Heretical Ideas disagrees.
The Daily Pundit fires back.
Silflay Hraka disagrees some more.

These are all good posts, and I can't help but be reminded that we are, for the most part, non-experts, speculating about something that even experts would see differently.

Having said that, I stand by my assertions. I'd rather we were hit by a nuke, than by smallpox.

I hope I'm wrong, of course...

President Bush will sometimes use an interesting sort of indirection to get what he wants. (I'm not the first person to notice this, but since I've lost track of the various sites which have already made this observation, you'll just have to trust me for now). I also think I see the telltale signs of this method being used again.

Suppose you want to follow a certain path - call it Path A. As an indirect method of getting what you want, you instead embark upon a related path, Path B, which would lead to the same general area of interest but not satisfy you nearly as much.

Your critics, as you expect, take the opportunity to criticize. They point to an obvious flaw in the whole "Path B" plan and wonder aloud what in god's name you didn't do the logical thing, and take Path A, like they would have. After about three months, when the critics are in full throat, you agree and change to Path A after all, leaving your opponents grasping at shadows while you get exactly what you wanted all along.

This is a good plan, but it requires a few preconditions in order to really be effective:

1) You need critics who will attack whatever you do, be it good, bad, or indifferent. If this is not the case, then there is no reason not to just adopt a good Plan A at the outset.

2) These critics must be unable to offer a credible plan that opposes your actual desires; they must simply offer criticism, but not any viable alternatives which you would wish to oppose. Any decent "Plan C" that shows up can really screw with the outcome of this exercise.

3) You might get surprised, and end up on Path B anyway. If paths A and B are mutually exclusive, Path B had better be an acceptable outcome, too.

4) You must be decisive and firm. Once this boulder starts rolling, you will not be able to easily stop it.

5) Path A should be the sort of path that is well served by initial secrecy; you can expect friends and foes alike to be surprised.

The Department of Homeland Security was first opposed by the President. The Democrats got on his ass about it, insisting that Tom Ridge testify about his plans to congress and expressing their rage when he refused. "What should I testify?" asked Ridge. "I'm not a cabinet member". "Well you should be!" they insisted. "OK" said Bush, very quietly. Now he has a free hand in the largest governmental reorganization in modern history.

The invasion of Iraq was opposed by the Democrats, too. "Do this only by UN rules!" they insisted. "OK", said the President, and now he has congressional pre-approval to start a full-scale war the moment he thinks it is necessary.

Read points 1 and 2 again. Now think about Saudi Arabia.

Everybody knows the Saudis are not our friends. They fund the bad guys, and the latest memo hot off the presses is that this is simply not going to be tolerated in the post-9-11 world. The Saudis are toast.

Iraq is not, in and of itself, our biggest concern now. Iraq is the thing that you must first control, so that you can place a massive army on the border of your real enemy, with your flanks protected and the option to exert as little or as much force as you like, and to exert that force at the time of your choosing. This is what you do when you want to negotiate from a position of unassailable strength, to offer your opponents an easy way to make you happy before you have to resort to the hard way. The is the humane and correct way to do what needs to be done. This is Plan A.

Plan B involves Iraq and Iran, but somehow leaves the Saudis inexplicably exempt from anything that might ruffle them at all. Plan B makes nice to the Saudis. Plan B says the Saudis can do no wrong.

The Democrats probably see it coming, but they will be unable to help themselves. "Oil!" their followers shout. "Bush is in bed with the Saudis because of OIL! Don't get distracted by Iraq, it's the Saudis who are the real enemy!"

I figure about another six months. I can't wait.


Quote Of The Day

Most people I've shown this to don't believe these numbers are really accurate. They are.

Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men - the poorest - would pay nothing;
The fifth would pay $1:
The sixth would pay $3;
The seventh $7;
The eighth $12;
The ninth $18.
The tenth man - the richest - would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement - until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." So now dinner for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six - the paying customers?

How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?" The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being *paid* to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay. And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59. Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth. "But he got $7!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!" "That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!" The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They were $52 short!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works.

The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.

The data are quite interesting. The poorest half of Americans are paying even less of their share now then they did ten years ago, while the richest are paying more - and keep in mind, this data reflects money actually paid by people after all the tax breaks and deductions have been taken.


Excellent Site Of The Week

Gruntdoc recently clued me in to the excellent Image Of The Day page at The images in the archives range from amusing, to informative, to touching, to utterly horrific.

Personally, I found this image just mindblowing. Incredible stuff.

Another Vendor I Like

Every now and again, I am happily surprised by the quality of a product or by the service of a vendor. When that happens, I like to spread the good news around.

Tanners is now my first stop for things like knives, flashlights, and multitools. Their website is a little clunky but their prices are great, and the shipping is inexpensive and prompt.

More Serious Business Afoot In Europe

I have not seen this story confirmed, but at first glance it seems both credible and quite troubling. I'm surprised it has not recieved greater coverage.

Tastes Just Like Chicken

The plucky residents of Africa, six-time winners of the The Giant Reservoir Of Human Misery Award, have outdone themselves once again.

Going On Safari

If any of you have the chance to run Apples new Safari browser, please drop me a line. This page will probably render poorly at first, but with your help I can get it fixed up in no time.


Check This Creepy Shit Out

An Islamo-freakazoid web page. It won't last long...

And while you are at it, this is charming, too.


ABC News is reporting that "The FBI has concluded the information that led to a nationwide hunt for five men suspected of infiltrating the United States on Christmas Eve was fabricated by the informant".

The five guys pictured at left are, apparently, not at large after all.

I guess I'm relieved.

Before we jump on the FBI too harshly for this one, I want to be the first to say I'd rather they were too quick to inform us of suspected threats like this, than too slow. If an occasional false alarm is the price we have to pay to be kept in the loop, so be it.


Flight 93 Audio

Here's an MP3 of the aircraft radio traffic when Flight 93 was destroyed on 9/11.



Hate Mail! We Get Hate Mail!

Here's the latest, complete and verbatim:

 Subject: you make me puke

I wonder which post it was that set him off? Maybe he's mad because he couldn't figure out how to make Flyguy work...


The Web Is A Strange Place

The Hanged Man

Yes, that's a Peanuts Tarot card. Don't miss the rest of the deck.

Excellent Link Of The Week

So sue me; I think Flyguy is pretty damn cool. The more you explore it, the more interesting it gets.

So, How's It Look?

I went on a speed optimization binge and made a few changes to the layout of this site. Unless I screwed it up somehow, this page should look exactly the same, but it should load a lot faster.

Does everything still look OK?


The Straight Dope On Depleted Uranium

USSC knocks it out of the park again, and reminds all of us how to read graphs.

Excellent Link Of The Week

You've probably heard this story already:

A United Nations weapons inspector was expected to resign yesterday after he was revealed to be a leading member of several sado-masochistic sex rings.

What the hell is that all about?

Well, here's the rest of the story, and it's a damn shame most people will never hear it.

This was pretty good, too.

(Via JD)

Another Xylophone

Have at it!

Be sure to click the asterisk, too.

Severe Windows XP Vulnerability

If you are using Windows XP, run Windows Update now. Your machine is wide open.

Here are the details from CERT.

Great Link Of The Week

An excellent, and only moderately depressing, Introduction To North Korea.

Can't Beat This With A Stick... Or Can You?

Another priceless video from the Real Men of the Middle East, who have actually raised wife-beating to something of an art.

I bet that guy would walk pretty funny with that club shoved up his ass.

Don't Let The Door Hit You

Al Gore has finally gone away.

Gore, Andrew Cuomo, Janet Reno... these folks can't even make it through the fucking primaries anymore. Even the democrats are spitting out the last of the Clinton legacy the way you'd spit out the last of a margarita hangover.

I Thought This Was Strangely Beautiful

Beethoven's Ninth, somehow slowed to the point where it would take 24 hours to listen to the whole thing. I randomly clicked on movement 3.2, and was surprised; it's pretty damn cool. Kind of a Bladerunner feel to it.

Here's A Product I Like

Following USSC's recommendation, I've just tried a product called AdSubtract to minimize the growing hassle of pop-up ads and disruptive flash animations. It seems to work quite well.

Without going into too much detail, this utility seems to strike the right balance of flexibility and simplicity; you can block what you want, and see what you want, with a minimum of screwing around. It also seems to do a nice job of helping to manage cookies, letting you keep the ones you want while easily removing the invasive ones.

Try the free 30 day download and tell me what you think of it.


One Of Those Little Catch-22s

Here's an example of the surprising power of the executive branch of the government.

Some poor citizen requires the government to act on his behalf, so that he can have his rights restored after they were unfairly taken away. The government claims it is too busy to bother. The courts refuse to hear the case, because unless the government actually moves to deprive this poor guy of his rights, he has no standing in court. As a result, simple inaction on the part of the executive branch is shielded from the scrutiny of the courts. Even if the end result is blatantly unconstitutional, the poor citizen is just shit out of luck.

A famous example of this was when the city of Chicago decided that citizens must register the guns they buy before they can take possession of them. A single executive - the city police chief - decided, all by himself, that it's "too much trouble" to provide the registration forms. Overnight, this resulted in a city-wide ban on gun sales that continues to this day.

You couldn't even appeal to the courts - you had no standing to being a case, because they government took no action to deny you your rights. You surrendered those rights the minute the legislature said that you needed permission to buy a gun, because there was nothing to guarantee that this permission would ever be granted again.

Registration is a form of permission. The power to register is the power to deny, and that power to deny is held by every executive involved in the registration process.


I'm not sure, but this seems to be gunship video, with audio, from Afghanistan. (Pretty interesting, but it's 35 megs so don't bother unless you have a high-speed connection).

Looks like they left the miniguns home, though. They would have come in handy.

My Windows Media Player initially refused to display this file (surprise!) until I downloaded this thing, which also refused to work, but which happily included the codex which Media Player needed all along. It'll be nice when this stuff starts working the way it's supposed to...

Parade Of The Idiots

First they drag Kissinger back from the grave, and now this.

Let's leave the pointy white hats in the closet and get back to the business of killing bad guys, OK? Remember, we can vote you folks out of office just as fast as we voted you in. Ask Newt.


Optical camouflage! Now this is fucking cool. Not very practical maybe, but cool...

Here's the details, if you're interested.

A Monkey For Every Mood

Click here for the no-graphics version of the page (very quick).

Click here for the slightly-less-offensive version.

Click here for the left-wing version.

Click here for the right-wing version.

Variety. Just another service I offer...

Cool Sites Of The Week

A 3-D, panoramic view of an underwater shipwreck.

The store you always wanted to visit when you were a kid.

Here's a practial source of free electricity right in your own home. Really.

Here's a short film which, for me, pretty much sums up the path not taken...

And finally, here's a handy guide to sexual positions. Animated. And with cheesy sound, too!

This Won't Last Long

Every single Playboy centerfold, from Dec 53 to October of this year.

Is this a great time to be alive, or what?

None Shall Provoke Me With Impunity