Archive for December, 2004

Happy New Year Everyone!

2



Any blog posting dated during
the graveyard shift on New Year’s Eve is testimony to either a wholehearted
embrace of the Art and Craft of
Blogging
or to a complete
lack of social life. Or maybe both. As the clock creeps towards 2005, Norma Yvonne is
sound asleep in the other room, and No. 2 son has gone to a Rock Rave
in some
industrial
space
in Somerville,
celebrating the fact that he finally landed a job (more on that later),
leaving us alone at the keyboard.

In the name of neatness (cleaning up the desktop) if nothing else, allow us to post
the above photo of our niece Molly, currently in training to address the
cosmetology needs of the stars.  In the meantime she practices on the
nails and tresses of her fair and faithful model, and whatever family members
she can get to sit still for a few minutes.

We have been looking for a hairdressing story to accompany
the picture, but none has appeared, and we really feel the photo, taken Christmas Day, stands
on its own merits.  Happy New Year!

Al Queda’s WMDs Responsible for Tsunamis

ø

Sources
within the CIA have revealed that the agency has unearthed evidence directly
linking Al Queda with
the recent catastrophic Indonesian earthquake and subsequent tidal waves.

Information extracted from the hard
drive of a partially destroyed laptop recovered in the Northern Iraqi city
of Mosul led investigators to believe that a secret cache of Saddam’s most
powerful weapons was smuggled out of the country by a crack team of Al Queda
operatives in the weeks before the anticipated invasion of the country
by the US-led alliance.

Reportedly the laptop was first discarded as worthless
junk, and it was only after a Special Forces reconnaissance team member sent
it home as a souvenir of war to his 14-year-old nephew that the partially
erased information was discovered and turned in to military experts in data
recovery.

Incredibly, data recovered from the drive led investigators
to an abandoned oil derrick off the coast of Nicobar Island in the Bay of
Bengal. Satellite-based sonar detected a large unidentified dome-like object
on the ocean floor near the base of the derrick. According to unconfirmed
reports team of Navy Seals was dispatched to investigate, but before they
could penetrate the dome a massive explosion ripped through area.

"It looks like we finally discovered Saddam’s weapons
of mass destruction," said a high US intelligence official who spoke with
us only on the condition of absolute anonymity, "and they were booby-trapped
to explode if anyone breeched the area without the proper security codes."

Military geologists speculated that this massive explosion,
located directly above tectonic fault lines along the Indian Ocean plate
boundary, may have triggered the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tidal waves
which have killed over 150,000 at last count.

"Al Queda has been promising "something big" for months
now.  We believe this scheme has been in place since before the war,
and that this proves that Saddam Hussein and Al Queda were working together,
hand in glove, for several years before his downfall," confirmed our source.

The recovered data from the hard drive referenced a research
paper titled "Potential for actuation of intercontinental plate
shifts via stress point displacement" written by Saudi Arabian graduate student
Iman Faruk Yousihk as his doctoral thesis for the Geology Department at Texas
A&M University.

"It was a diabolical move, carefully planned, probably
by Usama Bin Laden himself. He knew that the destruction caused would be
largely limited to the coastline and thus would kill thousands of innocent
Western
tourists in a single blow." US military and intelligence officials are reportedly
meeting in urgent sessions to draft an appropriate response.

Comic of the Day

ø

tsunarale

A God Given Opportunity

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Charges
and countercharges continue to fly concerning the world leadership, or
lack thereof, of the United
States in the disaster recovery effort following the Asian Tsunami. The
US government, annoyed and insulted by foreign reports of "stinginess"
and lack of compassion, have taken pains to repeat and reiterate that
total US foreign aid dwarfs that of any other country. Unmentioned is
the fact that these figures include the multi-billion dollar bonus bribes
we have been paying every
year to the Israelis and Egyptians to make nice. Today’s news brings
word that President Bush is sending lame duck Secretary of State Colin
Powell and Heir Apparent Florida Governor and Presidential Brother Jeb
Bush to the area of devastation to wave the flag and "raise the American
profile in the international relief effort".(NYTimes)

On
the other side of the equation, those ungrateful foreigners keep pointing
out uncomfortable data points, like the facts
that of the half-Billion in aid contributed so far by the "developed
world", only $35 million has come from the US. We are near the bottom
of the list in per-capita pledges and amount of offered aid as a percentage
of GNP. Just goes to show you can say anything with statistics:

Jeffrey Sachs, an economist at Columbia University and
a specialist on aid to developing countries who has worked with the United
Nations, said, ”There is a very big difference between American attitudes,
which are generous; beliefs, which is that we do a lot; and the reality.
. . . The reality is we actually do very little by comparative measures.

”I think the disaster in Asia is a stark example of this for a lot
of Americans. It challenges their perceptions of their own country," Sachs
said. ”There is going to be even more shock when the US government asks
for an additional $80 billion in Iraq and the American public juxtaposes
that with what was given in one of the worst natural disasters the world
has ever seen. This discrepancy between what we think our country
does and what it actually does is hurting America’s image in the world,
especially in the poorest corners of the world," added Sachs. (from
today’s Boston
Globe
)

Good point, Jeff. As numerous other commentators point
our there is something just a bit unseemly and less than compassionate
in a country which enthusiastically spends over $140
BILLION dollars
to kill people and blow things up in Iraq, and
yet has a problem coming up with $35 million to save lives and rebuild
things after the worst
natural disaster in modern history. Can anyone think of a bigger missed
opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of the quarter of the world’s
population of the Muslim faith?

With images of
the savagery and inhumanity of Abu Ghraib prison still fresh in the
memories and pamphlets of the great masses
of non-fanatical Muslims, we could be replacing them with new images
of crates and pallets and cargo holds full of food and water, US military
doctors treating and inoculating Muslim children, uniformed personnel
distributing food packets, dry clothes and tents to prostate and defenseless
peasants.  The 4th largest country in the world, with over
200 million non-violent, non-radical Muslims living in a West-friendly
secular democracy, is in dire straits.  How can we not help?

In the end, we lost the Vietnam War because we could
not convince the rank and file of Vietnamese, North and South, that we
were there to help them and liberate them from Communism rather than
to destroy them and subject them to American "imperialism". Turns out
it WAS a war for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people, and we
lost.

Now it is happening all over again.  There are
good reasons we are having trouble convincing the Iraqis that we are
there to help them. It is hard to distribute humanitarian aid when all
of the NGO’s and international relief organizations from the Red Cross
on down have pulled out of the country due to the danger of kidnapping
and death. It is hard to get basic services up and running if every time
engineers or technicians try to repair the sewage system or the electrical
grid they get shot at and blown up by the very people they are trying
to benefit.

So here is an opportunity to do good, to save lives,
to show ourselves in the best, truest light of the American spirit, far
away from the war zone, in a safe and sunny vacationland temporarily
placed in dire straights by the humbling power of nature. These horrific
images of destruction and survival, and America’s response, is being
beamed into every TV set and computer
screen on the planet. Just as the hurricane season offered a God-given
chance to the Bush brothers to hand out unlimited government largess
and nail down a few hundred thousand decisive votes in Florida, now the Tsunami has
produced a God-given opportunity to shorten the war and save American
lives by
presenting America’s nobel and generous side, our resolve and can-do
attitude, and showing up the demonizing slander of our enemies for the
transparent propaganda
it is.

Please, Mr. Bush, don’t let this one get away.  It
may be our last chance to win the war on terrorism.

Flying Blind

2

As incredible
as our initial
posting
seemed, the phenomena of laser light being directed
into the eyes of commercial pilots continues with
two new and alarming reports.

FBI Probes Laser Beam Directed at Cockpit

Authorities are investigating a mysterious laser beam that was directed
into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500
feet.

The beam appeared Monday when the plane was about 15 miles from Cleveland Hopkins
International Airport, the FBI said.

"It was in there for several seconds like (the plane) was being tracked," FBI
agent Robert Hawk said.

The pilot was able to land the plane, and air traffic controllers used radar
to determine the laser came from a residential area in suburban Warrensville
Heights.

from the Associated Press

And then this….

Green Lights at Airport
Lasers Cause Problems For Pilots

Federal officials are investigating reports from two pilots who say bright lights
were aimed from the ground into their cockpits as they headed into the Colorado
Springs Airport.

Both planes landed without problems on Monday night.

Federal officials issued a warning this month that terrorists might try to down
aircraft by shining powerful lasers into cockpits to blind pilots during landing
approaches.

The pilots heading into Colorado Springs about 8-30 p-m Monday reported a bright,
pulsating light shining into the cockpits. Colorado Springs police say the pilots
described the lights as "green laser lights."

also from the Associated Press

As if flying isn’t stressful enough these days….

Smoke and Mirrors?

ø

As incredible
as our initial
posting
seemed, the phenomena of laser light being directed
into the eyes of commercial pilots continues with
two new and alarming reports.

FBI Probes Laser Beam Directed at Cockpit

Authorities are investigating a mysterious laser beam that was directed
into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500
feet.

The beam appeared Monday when the plane was about 15 miles from Cleveland Hopkins
International Airport, the FBI said.

"It was in there for several seconds like (the plane) was being tracked," FBI
agent Robert Hawk said.

The pilot was able to land the plane, and air traffic controllers used radar
to determine the laser came from a residential area in suburban Warrensville
Heights.

from the Associated Press

And then this….

Green Lights at Airport
Lasers Cause Problems For Pilots

Federal officials are investigating reports from two pilots who say bright lights
were aimed from the ground into their cockpits as they headed into the Colorado
Springs Airport.

Both planes landed without problems on Monday night.

Federal officials issued a warning this month that terrorists might try to down
aircraft by shining powerful lasers into cockpits to blind pilots during landing
approaches.

The pilots heading into Colorado Springs about 8-30 p-m Monday reported a bright,
pulsating light shining into the cockpits. Colorado Springs police say the pilots
described the lights as "green laser lights."

also from the Associated Press

As if flying isn’t stressful enough these days….

Smoke and Mirrors?

ø

As incredible
as our initial
posting
seemed, the phenomena of laser light being directed
into the eyes of commercial pilots continues with
two new and alarming reports.

FBI Probes Laser Beam Directed at Cockpit

Authorities are investigating a mysterious laser beam that was directed
into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500
feet.

The beam appeared Monday when the plane was about 15 miles from Cleveland Hopkins
International Airport, the FBI said.

"It was in there for several seconds like (the plane) was being tracked," FBI
agent Robert Hawk said.

The pilot was able to land the plane, and air traffic controllers used radar
to determine the laser came from a residential area in suburban Warrensville
Heights.

from the Associated Press

And then this….

Green Lights at Airport
Lasers Cause Problems For Pilots

Federal officials are investigating reports from two pilots who say bright lights
were aimed from the ground into their cockpits as they headed into the Colorado
Springs Airport.

Both planes landed without problems on Monday night.

Federal officials issued a warning this month that terrorists might try to down
aircraft by shining powerful lasers into cockpits to blind pilots during landing
approaches.

The pilots heading into Colorado Springs about 8-30 p-m Monday reported a bright,
pulsating light shining into the cockpits. Colorado Springs police say the pilots
described the lights as "green laser lights."

also from the Associated Press

As if flying isn’t stressful enough these days….

The First American Genocide

ø


Frances Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam
Tribe, counts cedar boxes holding tribal ancestors’ remains unearthed
by work in
connection with reconstruction of the Hood Canal Bridge, a state Department
of Transportation project. STEVE RINGMAN PHOTO

SEATTLE – If it had been only one skeleton,
the project would have continued. Even a few dozen skeletons might
not have been enough to persuade Washington state officials to abandon
a
$283 million bridge-repair project along the Strait of Juan de Fuca,
about 65 miles northwest of here.

But what construction workers stumbled upon went beyond anything
ever found in the Pacific Northwest: an ancient Indian village dating
back 17 centuries, with lodges, dance halls, and cemeteries containing
hundreds
of skeletal remains. Nearly 300 complete skeletons have been unearthed,
many of them buried in clusters, including entire extended families.

Men and women lay in ritual embrace. Infants were buried
with mothers, the young and the old lay side by side, as many as 11 in
a grouping.

”This is just the tip. There could be thousands of people buried there," said
David Rice, a senior archeologist for the Army Corps of Engineers in
Seattle, who characterized the site as potentially the largest prehistoric
village
and burial grounds ever found in the United States.

The arrival of Europeans in the late 1700s and early 1800s marked the beginning
of a devastating decline for the region’s Indians. Smallpox and other
European diseases wiped out 90 percent of the native population, scientists
say. Rice thinks the mass graves at Tse-whit-zen resulted from these
illnesses.

If there were a Hall of Fame for Genocide, the European
extermination of the American Indians would surely have a featured
spot. Although impossible to accurately rank human genocide in terms
of total dead, anthropologists agree that the indigenous population
of the area which now holds the United States at the time of contact
(1492) was between 10 and 15 million. In an almost teutonic display
of efficiency, 400 years later there were fewer
than 300,000 left.

In the Latin regions of America, although genetic
intermingling made extermination problematic, ethnicide was employed
as a non-lethal sidekick to partial genocide. In both North and South,
the dominant cultures have escaped full responsibility for the ‘cides
due to the inadvertent collaboration of nature.

Without genetic or acquired resistance to old European
favorites like smallpox and syphilis, the Indians were decimated by
disease and dropping like flies before the invading Christians ever
laid a baptizing hand on their heads.

The diseases spread like wildfire, crossing both continents
in a death march that made the European Black Plague look like a mild
flu season. 60-90% fatality rates were common, complex societies fell
apart, survivors wandered and reverted to savagery. Between the time
Columbus’s crew hit the beaches of Atlantic South
America
(1492)
and
when Pizarro
invaded
Pacific
Peru
40 years
later the diseases had beaten him to the punch. The Inca Empire was
dying from exotic European diseases, explaining in large part how 200
pestilent Spanish thugs could conquer an advanced civilization with
millions
of inhabitants.

These bodies in Washington represent direct physical
evidence of the greatest genocide this hemisphere has ever seen.  It
will be interesting to see how this story develops, and we will try
to keep
an eye on it.

from the Boston Globe

Math Skills in Decline

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Boathouses
and yacht clubs across Greater Boston have been occupying prime, state-owned
waterfront properties at rock-bottom rates for decades. Take, for example,
Harvard University’s Sailing Pavilion, which pays $1 a year for its Charles
River digs.

Well, no more. The Romney administration is jacking up rates by as much
as 10 times for the two dozen boathouses and yacht clubs whose leases expire
at the end of this year.

So let us get this straight.  Harvard is now
going to have to pay UP TO $10 for their huge, prime location boat
house? Boy,
are we glad we remembered to send in our annual $20 contribution
to the Harvard alumni fund. They’re really going to need it this year!

It
took a year of site visits, comparison studies, and meetings to determine
the rates, which will jump from between $1 and $1,980 a year to between
$5,000 and $15,000.

Uhhh, we were never a Math Major, but if the lowest
fees rose from $1 to $5,000, isn’t that a little more than "up to 10
times"? Like, 500 times more? Like, a 500,000% increase. And they accuse
blogs of faulty fact checking and nonexistent editing….

from the Boston Globe

Interesting New Java-based Aggregator

ø

Just installed an interesting new
Java-based aggregator designed by a blogger, called "BlogBridge".
It seems to be a good combination of simplicity and functionality. You
can organize the individual feeds
you read into groups called "Channels" and then view each group or individual
feed in Headlines Only, Head and Lead (no graphics) or Full Feed (with
all graphics) modes.

The only problem we have noticed in our initial look
it that it does’t seem to be handling the justify and align tags we use
to make up the Dowbrigade
News
, eliminating the text wrap around the
graphics and other minor formatting details, but as the web site notes
it is a work in progress.

Free download from BlogBridge web site. Open source code offers easy tinkering for those so
inclined.

BlogBridge from blogger Pito Salas

Comic of the Day

4

ftext

Overdue Library Look

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The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and
perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between,
surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably,
the upper and lower floors.

The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves
per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance
from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase. One of the
free sides leads to a narrow hallway which opens onto another gallery, identical
to the first and to all the rest….

This passage from Jose Luis Borges’ "The
Library of Babel
" has always inspired us to imagine the Ultimate
Library, with all of human knowledge and wisdom collected, preserved,
intensively cross-referenced
and instantly available to anyone, anywhere and at any time.

An article in today’s Boston
Globe
by Harvard librarian
Matthew Battle reminded us of this dream, as well as of our own favorite
Harvard librarian, that Bloggin’ Fool j (she of the Scratchpad):

Coverage
of Google’s agreement, announced this month, with a host of major research
libraries
(including
Harvard’s, where I work) to digitize their collections and make
them available on the Internet, might lead one to believe that we have
entered a final phase in the long-sought emergence of a universal library

a compendium of knowledge at once comprehensive, densely cross-referenced,
and instantly accessible.

from the Boston
Globe