Archive for July, 2006

Boston Wi-Fi: When We Finish the Big Dig

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Boston will tap a nonprofit corporation
to blanket the city with “open access”; wireless Internet connections,
under a plan to be unveiled today by Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

The plan, which envisions raising $16 million to $20 million from local businesses
and foundations, is a striking departure from the business models used by other
cities, including Philadelphia and San Francisco, which have turned over responsibility
for their wireless data networks to outside companies such as Earthlink Inc.
and Google Inc.

By empowering an independent organization to own and operate the city’s WiFi,
or wireless fidelity, network, Boston is hoping to keep control of the technology
deployment and use it to spur innovation, improve city services, and extend wireless
Internet access into low-income neighborhoods across the so-called digital divide.
WiFi allows laptops, handheld computers, cellphones, music players, and other
devices to connect to the Internet at high speeds via radio waves.

“They want to create a wholesale network and open it up for entrepreneurs to
build all kinds of applications on top of it,” said Jim Daniell , a Boston
venture capitalist who tracks wireless development around the country. “If this
model works, it will probably become the dominant pattern other municipalities
adopt. It could be a blueprint.”

from the Boston Globe

We’ll believe it when we log on. These stories have
been popping up like lawsuits all over the country, but from what we
have seen, all vaporware so far…..

You Can Take The Lobster Out of the Pot…

1

At restaurants throughout the world, menus feature “Maine lobster," that
sweet, succulent stuff that makes grown people don bibs and make a delicious
mess. Like Idaho potatoes, Vermont maple syrup, and Florida oranges,
Maine lobster has become a name brand. The state produces 75 percent
of the lobster catch in the United States, and it brings a premium price,
both at the docks and on the table.

But are you really getting Maine lobster, or is it what some Mainers call an
“impostor lobster," from Canada or elsewhere? Under a new program that
kicks off today in Portland, lobster dealers will be encouraged to tag the catch,
identifying it as being caught in Maine waters. The plastic tags will hang from
the claw knuckles and state simply: “Certified Maine Lobster." On the front
will be a picture of a lobster and a lighthouse; on the back, “lobsterfrommaine.com."

from
the Boston Globe

www.lobsterfrommaine.com

Those tags look waayyy too easy to counterfeit. Why, a Canadian schoolboy
with a Dell could produce a decent copy in 10 minutes. They should go
directly to embedded, encrypted microchips. Anybody wanna start a company to tag lobstas?

World Strip Poker Championship

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DUBLIN (Reuters) – It started as an April Fool’s joke but an Irish
bookmaker’s proposal to hold the world’s biggest strip poker contest
will become reality next month.

Paddy Power floated the idea as a joke but it generated so much interest
— and hundreds of requests to take part — that the Dublin-based company
decided to organize a contest.

So next month, 200 poker buffs will risk baring all in an attempt to
become the first World Strip Poker Champion — and earn a place in the
Guinness Book of Records.

The winner will also receive a "Golden Fig Leaf" trophy plus
10,000 pounds ($18,630) in cash."This will be the most fun you can
have with your clothes on — or off!" Paddy Power said in a statement
for the tournament, which will be held in London on August 19.

from Reuters

tourney info from PaddyPower

Newscaster Freaked by Decapitation Hoax

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The heat wave is getting to people all over the country. Check out
this video of Fox Newscaster Jodi Applegate getting totally freaked out
by a couple of guys demonstrating how easy it is to steal a bike with
an electric bone saw. Until one "accidentally" cuts the jugular of the
other….

from the NY Daily News

see the video HERE

Going for the Jugular

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The heat wave is getting to people all over the country. Check out
this video of Fox Newscaster Jodi Applegate getting totally freaked out
by a couple of guys demonstrating how easy it is to steal a bike with
an electric bone saw. Until one "accidentally" cuts the jugular of the
other….

Single Servings

1

Unlucky in love? Stop beating yourself
up — and think about moving. Maybe to Denver. After all, it is the
best city for singles.

For the third consecutive year, Denver-Boulder is the top metro area
on our annual ranking of The Best Cities For Singles.

Boston sails into second place for the second year
in a row. "We’ve got a huge singles scene here," says Stuff@Night
staff writer Heather Bouzan. "I think the huge population of college
students in the city influences the scene–they make it rowdier and
give it more life."

In fact, Beantown sits near the top of the
list in nearly every category, thanks to its wealth of creative types,
multiple colleges and active online dating community.

Unfortunately,
it doesn’t fare as well when it comes to living costs or job opportunities.

from Forbes.com

It’s good to know, should our state of happily
married bliss ever end, that we are in the right place to do something
about
it….

Bare Breast Backlash

30

Blame it on our upbringing. Too much breast feeding,
or not enough, but regular readers of the Dowbrigade may have noted
a certain fixation with the human breast.

In particular, we are deeply distressed by the discrepency
in public acceptance of the bared female vs. male breasts. Why does
our culture tolerate, even celebrate the bared masculine chest, yet
turn it’s head in shame and horror at the much more graceful and fuctional
female version.

We have written that it smacks
of sexism
. We have
traced the taboo to the tenets of the Elders
of Zion
. We have
speculated that it is evidence of the not-so-hidden
agenda
of the Gay
Liberation Movement. We enthusiastically envisioned bare breast beaches,
topless Fridays and bare-breasted equality in women’s sports like beach
volleyball,
platform diving and martial arts.

But all the time we imagined we were
campaigning for the liberation of
women’s
breasts.
Recent news  reports,
however, have convinced us that in these fundamentalist times we
will be lucky to resist the increasing stigma and prudishness attached
to
the display of the MALE chest. The great cover-up has started…..

London – Men may be barred from baring their chests
– and stomachs – in public under new local laws being considered by
town
halls.

They would stop men stripping off their shirts in crowded town centres
and give powers to police to remove any who defy the cover-up laws.

The proposal has been inspired by the least attractive side effect
of the heatwave – the tendency of a number of often middle-aged men
to go about in nothing more than shorts and trainers.

from the Daily Mail

On
a related note, the same publication has made a powerful visual argument
with this
slide show
of geriatric male flesh.  Perhaps
we could put an age limit on degree of public nakedness. Maybe we could
say a person is allowed to bare a percentage of their flesh equal to
their age – babies could go completely naked, centinarians must be completely
covered at all times. Or perhaps we could have yearly body inspections,
like for automobiles, to check on the current condition of breasts,
thighs and chins. A tough job, but someone might have to do it. Looking
at these pictures, there oughtta be a law…..

India Calls Negroponte Immature

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India has decided against getting involved in Nicholas
Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child scheme – which aims to provide kids
in developing countries with a simple $100 machine.

The success of the project depends on support, and big orders, from governments.
The loss of such a potentially huge, and relatively technically sophisticated
market, will be a serious blow.

The Indian Ministry of Education dismissed the laptop as "paedagogically
suspect". Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee said: "We cannot
visualise a situation for decades when we can go beyone the pilot stage.
We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools."

Banerjee said if money were available it would be better spent on existing
education plans.
Banerjee told the Hindu: "We do not think that the idea of Prof
Negroponte is mature enough to be taken seriously at this stage and no
major country is presently following this. Even inside America, there
is not much enthusiasm about this."

OLPC’s original schedule was to deliver machines by the end of 2006,
but it will not start production until it has received orders, and payment,
for between five and ten million machines.

But in better news it also emerged earlier this month that Nigeria is
ordering one million machines. Allafrica.com has the story here.

Sources say the Nigerians will pay for their laptops
with $100 million in US Postal Money Orders, contributed by Dr. Rev.
Jefferson Ezekiel Lumbago, ex-Minister of Finance.

from The Register

Highway Blogging

1

It takes only a bedsheet and 18-gauge wire for Bruce
Macdonald to stir road rage in some motorists.

For eight months the Cambridge lawyer has been stringing homemade banners from
highway overpasses, including those crossing Interstate 93 and Route 128. His
neatly painted messages usually take short jabs at the Bush administration or
the war in Iraq.

Like noxious fumes and traffic snarls, a well-placed road sign can’t be ignored
by a driver, he said. Tens of thousands of cars can stream beneath an “Impeach" or
“U.S. Out of Iraq" banner before it is ripped down, usually by a passerby
or road crew. “If they stay up a day they’re doing well," Macdonald said.
“Some people get upset ."

Macdonald, 59, is one of an increasing number of “highway bloggers" —
loosely connected activists who favor bridges over websites as posting places
for their antiwar slogans. They say it is an easy, inexpensive way to reach large
numbers of people, especially those who may not be receptive to their opinions.

Randall promotes freeway blogging on his website, freewayblogger.com , and through a two-minute instructional video, "How to Reach 100,000
People for Under $1.00."

from the Boston Globe

The Coming Islamic Superstate

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Over the past several weeks the Dowbrigade has seen
a sea change in his feelings about what is happening, and what will
happen next, in the Middle East. We no longer see an intractable long-term struggle and
the continuing deterioration of security due to factional warfare and
an anti-Western insurgency.

We are now convinced in the inevitability of the establishment
of an Islamic Superstate, stretching from the Himalayas to the Sahara.
It will have over a billion people (With over 1.1 billion adherents,
Islam is the world’s most popular single religion.). It will be fantastically
wealthy, and will control the flow of oil on which the West and Asia
depend.  And it will have nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver
them.

Despite the fact that this sounds like any American’s
worst nightmare, we believe it might be a manageable state of affairs,
analogous to the Cold War in that two implacable and opposing systems
will be confronting each other on a number of fronts around the world,
without necessarily degrading into open warfare.

At any rate, get ready to live with the New Islamic
Empire, because it’s gonna happen and it’s coming soon to a Mosque
near you.  Let us review the main reasons we feel this is an inevitable
development.

First, there is plenty of historical precedent for
the emergence of a Pan-Islamic Nation. Although all eventually fell
to internal divisions, the Islamic world has been periodically united
under inspirational leadership or in opposition to outside invasion.  Currently,
both conditions may be present.

Within a hundred years of the death of the Prophet,
an Islamic state stretched from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Central
Asia in the east. During the intervening 1300 years the empires of the
Abbasid caliphs, the Mughals, and the Seljuk Turk, Safavid Persia and
Ottomans were among the largest and most powerful in the world.

Second, our current situation in the theater is untenable.
Roman generals established over two thousand years ago that a powerful
empire has only two choices after toppling a hostile foe.  Either
blast the earth bare, leave no stone standing upon stone, and kill
all males in the land, or they will grow strong and cunning and come back to kill
you, or put in a puppet regime to play the heavy, keep people in line,
and insuring the Empire’s prerogatives in the area.

In the case of Iraq, our modern civilized self-image
will not allow us to do the former, and we are failing miserably at
the latter. We are failing at every one of our responsibilities and
promises – eliminating the terrorists, stopping the sectarian violence,
providing peace and security to the civilian population, restoring
basic infrastructure like electricity and water, establishing a model
for other nascent Middle Eastern democracies to emulate, and pumping
Iraqi oil so the whole exercise can pay for itself.

The reason the Romans rejected the third alternative,
occupying the conquered land, is that while armies are great for destroying
and conquering, they are lousy at occupying and policing. They turn
into constant, walking targets. They are forced to constantly watch
out for attack, which can come from any direction at any time. They
must constantly differentiate between friend and foe, civilian and
terrorist. No wonder a lot of them are getting screwy. This isn’t what
they signed up for. This isn’t what they trained for.

We are failing because we can afford to fail, and
our opposition cannot. We can leave and go home, but they are already
home and have nowhere else to go. Because of this simple and unalterable
fact, we are the outsiders, and our enemies are seen as representatives
of the local population, and have their support, shelter and succor.

Even our ace in the hole, Democracy, has been turned
against us.  It seems we have become so unpopular that the easiest
way to win elections in dysfunctional societies is to declare yourself
the implacable enemy of the United States.

After 10 or 20 or 80 years of neglect, despotic control
and terror, the populations of the Middle Eastern nations are so traumatized and
terrorized that they will embrace any seemingly coherent philosophy which promises
to provide stability and security, like a drowning man grabs a flotation
device. Right now, our opponents are able to do a better job of offering this
than we
are
– case
in
point, Somalia,
where
the population cheered fundamentalist Islamic courts and militias which
forced out the venal and cannibalistic Warlords who were our chosen
proxies in the area.

We will lose for the simple fact that you cannot help
people who do not want your help even if you are doing so for purely
altruistic motives, which we are not.

Has it not become masochistic to continue this national
flagellation, tossing our fortune and our children into the flames
of an unquenchable fire? All we are accomplishing is making the civilian
population hate us more, and eroding our core values and geopolitical
position.

So we will have to leave, eventually, and when we
do the betting here is that we will soon thereafter see the emergence
of a billion-man Muslim bloc. It will include the entire Arabian Peninsula,
the North of Africa, and some of the Islamic ex-Soviet republics.

Exactly which of these, as well as the possible inclusion
of Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia and other peripheral states depends
on exactly how the deal breaks, and when.  It is possible that
some of these countries will become buffer states, and limited warfare
battleground for surrogates of the Islamic Superstate on one side,
and the Western and Asian powers on the other.

Given that such a Superstate would have practically
unlimited financial resources, a stranglehold on the planet’s energy
reserves, and nukes, some will declare the Dowbrigade clinically
insane for even contemplating such an occurrence. A super-rich
Islamic empire with nukes and missiles? Goodbye Israel. A recipe for
World War II.

But we are convinced that it is not only inevitable,
but survivable. Even
the
current blood
feud between Shi’ites and Sunni is not as intractable as it may seem.  Why,
just a few years ago Catholics and Protestants were killing each other
in the British Isles. Give them a few decades to grow into governance,
and they may evolve into sort of Islamic Democrats and Republicans,
each holding sway in certain states of the Greater Islamic Republic.

In our teaching we use a very short story called "On
Hope" by Spencer Holst, which takes place on the island of Gibraltar.
A luxury ocean liner, with British Navy escort, is in port.  Aboard
is an unnamed British princess and some of the Crown Jewels, including
the famous, cursed, Hope Diamond, set in a necklace.

Also on the island is a Gypsy animal trainer, whose
pet monkey for some time had been climbing through hotel windows and
stealing jewelry from sleeping tourists. Inevitably, the monkey steals
the Hope diamond. The Gypsy realizes he could never sell a gem so famous,
and returns it by mail. The monkey steals it again. Eventually, the
monkey is shot and killed in a third theft, but not before delivery
the cursed gem to the gypsy.

Heartsick over the death of his buddy the monkey,
the Gypsy decides to get rid of the necklace once and for all, by swimming
out into the Atlantic and dropping it into a deep ocean trench. But
instead of falling to the bottom, the necklace ends up on the dorsal
fin or a sleeping shark (we know, sharks never sleep, but it’s just
a story),
which swims up to investigate.

The story ends with the Gypsy swimming to shore, and spotting the necklace, glinting in the moonlight, seeming to float above the water. He starts to swim towards it. He doesn’t see the shark.

The title of the story is an allusion to the fact
that what might seem inevitable – that the shark will eat the man –
is not, for three separate reasons. First, the man IS a Gypsy animal
trainer.  Second, the shark is confused because the man is not
behaving normally – he shows no fear, and is swimming AT the shark.  Third,
the shark is now in possession of the diamond, and its curse.

In a similar vein, we do not hold it as inevitable
that a nuclear Islamic superstate would attack or attempt to annihilate
Israel for the following reasons.

First, there is the MAD effect.  Israel, of course,
is a nuclear state, and would meet any serious threat to its existence
with a nuclear spasm. Knowing this, we can only hope the Islamic state
would not risk turning the entire Middle East into a nuclear wasteland.

Second, there is the Guantanamo effect. Just as the
virulently anti-American Castro regime has tolerated a US Naval base
un their exposed underbelly, so the Islamic state may be willing to
tolerate an outpost of the Western World at its back door. Such an
outpost could have uses; as a conduit for intelligence, covert contacts,
and black market transfer of goods and technology.

Third, since it will have been the galvanizing presence
of Israel which enabled the Islamic fundamentalists to unite the Muslim
world and create the Superstate in the first place, it is probably
that they will see the utility of keeping it around, as a rallying
point and emotional tool.

As it is, we are playing out a losing hand in the
Middle East. The nation-states of the modern Middle East are doomed
to fail because they were artificial creations of the Western world
from the get-go. They are fated to fade into the dustbin of history
after we are forced to leave, and the betting here is that the Islamists will win the civil
war that follows.

It is going to be a nasty shock, in many ways, but
we had better get used to it. It would probably be prudent to get it
over with as soon as possible, before we lose any more kids or international
influence. The West vs. Islam is bound to be the next great confrontation
in world
history.
Let’s
just
hope
it’s
another
cold war, and not a shooting one.

Take That, Einstein

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Ames, IA — Physicist Costas Soukoulis
and his research group at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory
on the Iowa State University campus are having the time of their lives
making light travel backwards at negative speeds that appear faster
than the speed of light. That, folks, is a mind-boggling 186,000 miles
per second – the speed at which electromagnetic waves can move in a
vacuum. And making light seem to move faster than that and in reverse
is what Soukoulis, who is also an ISU Distinguished Professor of Liberal
Arts and Sciences, said is "like rewriting electromagnetism."

from a Press
Release
from U.S. Department of Energy’s
Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University

Comic of the Day

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