So I'm getting out of my car in the grocery store parking lot and I glance down at the driver's seat and there's the biggest freakin' spider I have ever seen. Movie star material, this one was. Probably still is. Fortunately it was running the other way. And by the time I got myself untangled from all the straps and peered behind the seat it was nowhere to be found. So I guess it's still in the car, unless it's in my pocket.

Anyway, what I'm wondering is, why do they always put the meat in a separate little bag before they put it in with the rest of your groceries? Is that so it doesn't poison you before you get home? Or is there some other reason for that, I don't know.

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File this.

The Raw Story | Osama bin Laden is dead, French regional paper says:
Paris- Saudi intelligence services have determined that terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in August, the French regional daily L'Est Republicain reported on its website on Saturday. The newspaper said it based its information on a document classified "defence secret" originating in the French DGSE intelligence services. According to the story, the DGSE informed President Jacques Chirac of the Saudi report on Thursday.

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Saturday September 23, 2006
Somehow I have a hunch this might be a good story to tuck away for future reference. Near term future reference, in fact.

Guerrilla gets it right.

Again. Exactly.

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How grave is your breach?

Differences Settled in Deal Over Detainee Treatment - New York Times:
The proposed legislation outlaws under the War Crimes Act “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, including specific crimes such as murder, torture and rape, but also broad descriptions that might encompass a variety of crimes: maiming, extreme physical pain, trying to cause physical harm, and serious mental harm.
"Might" is the operative word here. "Wide open to interpretation," as the DOOFUS would say - and indeed has said about the Geneva Convention's "outrages upon personal dignity" phrase.

This so-called compromise looks more like an exercise in obfuscation to me.

(Image: Wikipedia)

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Lawmaker says 'vote for torture' comment meant as joke | ajc.com:
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) said Thursday he was making a joking reference and did not mean to be taken literally when he said at two recent events that he "voted for torture."

"What I should have said was that I voted against an anti-torture bill that did not define what torture was," Westmoreland said.

Palast interviews Chavez for the BBC.

Hugo Chavez: An Exclusive Interview with Greg Palast Greg Palast:
Politically, Venezuela is torn in two. Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution,” a close replica of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal — a progressive income tax, public works, social security, cheap electricity — makes him wildly popular with the poor. And most Venezuelans are poor. His critics, a four-centuries’ old white elite, unused to sharing oil wealth, portray him as a Castro-hugging anti-Christ.

Recovered video

Bush Speech (Edited)
Or not.

A second law revealed.

Innovator Devises Way Around Electoral College - New York Times
After reading the NYT story (linked above) about John Koza's scheme to obviate the Electoral College, and engaging in twenty or possibly even thirty seconds of concentrated deliberation of it's assorted pros and cons thereafter - and also, I might add, as one who on several occasions played his 60s-era, "brutally complcated" board game about the Electoral College (I thought it was kind of dull, but maybe that's because I didn't appreciate its brutal complications) - and further, after decades of idle speculation, I am prepared to formally introduce Compton's Second Law, namely...
Compton's Law of Unadulterated Rectitude
...which holds as follows:
Any decision that puts experts out of business is a good one.
(For those few who remain unfamiliar with Compton's First Law, it is...
Compton's Law of Total Financial Elasticity
...to wit:
Total income plus (or minus, if the minuses are plusses, or vice versa) total outlay equals zero.

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McCain's so-called deal.

The Abuse Can Continue - washingtonpost.com:
In short, it's hard to credit the statement by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) yesterday that "there's no doubt that the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved." In effect, the agreement means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent. If they do, America's standing in the world will continue to suffer, as will the fight against terrorism....

Mr. Bush wanted Congress to formally approve these practices and to declare them consistent with the Geneva Conventions. It will not. But it will not stop him either, if the legislation is passed in the form agreed on yesterday.
There was a time when I thought John McCain had the right stuff. And maybe he did. Then. But not now.


Tech trivia quiz.

If a single-digit binary number (that would be a "0" or a "1," there are no other choices here) is called a "bit" - as, of course, you know it is - what is a two-digit binary number called?

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Good plan!

If those propane tanks start blowing up what you do, see, is just go right on over there and read the emergency number off the box.

The next Olympic scandal takes root.

Discovery Channel :: News - Technology :: Music Tech Lending Athletes an Edge:
But he says the technology could create a whole new conundrum for sports authorities by making them redefine whether the use of performance enhancing music is cheating.
Performance enhancing music! Woohoo!

The article points out "galley slaves were forced to row to the rhythm of drum beats" and "if you play music with a fast tempo, people will work harder." But I'm ready to be the guys at Muzak have already figured that out.

So here's what they really think about keeping you safe in the air.

MATTHEW L. WALD, NY TIMES, DALLAS - A drive by the Federal Aviation Administration to cut the number of air traffic controllers nationally by 10 percent below negotiated levels, and even more sharply at places like the busy radar center here, is producing tension, anger and occasional shows of defiance among controllers.

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Hey, I can't even retrieve my phone number that fast.

Our brains work the way our computers work because we made the computers. If the interfaces were at least marginally intuitive, they'd be worthless. Our brains do not crash as often as our computers do; on the other hand, our brains cannot retrieve the primary exports of Albania in .033 seconds.

Maybe it's time to re-think evolution. Or not.

Recovered blather.

President Bush Discusses Economy, Small Business in Wisconsin:
See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction.
Midwest Airlines Center
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 3, 2003

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CONTEXT is not just another techie convention in Las Vegas.

Media Matters - Buyer's remorse: The Bush story the press won't tell:
The issue of buyer's remorse is directly connected to a larger, twofold problem surrounding the ongoing coverage of Bush's polling numbers. First, there's developed a pervasive press obsession with trying to be the first to document Bush's rebound in the polls....Secondly, and just as disturbing, is the categorical refusal by the press to put Bush's consistently dreadful poll numbers into any kind of historical context.

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Here's a blast from the past.

ASCII art. Woohoo! Guys used to spend hours constructing images like this. And even more hours trying to print them out in chat rooms ("OK nobody type now. Look at this.") Now you can have some ASCII art of your very own - just point your up-to-date Firefox at gopher://gopher.floodgap.com/1/fun/figletgw.

Ooops. There's another blast from the past, huh? Gopher. Invented at the University of Minnesota (hence the name), it was a pre-WWW protocol for browsing files on the net. Fast, efficient, searchable (by Archie and Veronica), and full of glorious stuff.

The Gopher link above, BTW, will work in Firefox and a few other browsers but not in others, those others not offering support for the now pretty much atrophied Gopherspace. You can find out more about this - and about Gopher - at this Floodgap Public Gopher Proxy.

I wonder what planet he thinks he's on.

President Bush Meets with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority:
"So, welcome to Washington, D.C.,"
said the DOOFUS to Abbas of Palestine as they met yesterday at the Waldorf Astoria - in New York.


Horse gone? Let's shut the door.

Independent Online Edition > Americas:
Bomb disposal experts are working around the clock to clear the lethal leftovers after Israel fired 1.2 million bomblets in the last three days of the war [with Lebanon]. The pods containing the 650 bomblets, which burst apart at a pre-determined height, have a failure rate of up to 30 per cent, leaving clear evidence of their American origin.
That's somewhere around 360,000 unexploded bomblets littering the landscape. Now we're thinking - or somebody's thinking - maybe we shouldn't sell them any more.

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Proof positive I don't need to update Quicken.

I go to type the amount of a purchase, miss the decimal point, and 36.12 becomes 3,612. And there you go.

Dude, I don't need a checkbook manager that even imagines a number that big. Ten percent of that would do fine. Thing is, when you operate as close to the line as I do you need to know exactly what's in your account, today, no mistakes. And Quicken is the only thing that syncs with my bank. Hey, I could do just fine with a spreadsheet if it weren't for that. (And don't say pencil, please. That would be way uncool.)

So it's the unupdated Quicken for me. I figure I've got at least a few more years before it turns off entirely and by then I might have won the lottery. Or bought at ticket, at least.

Oh well. I never figured out what "draw down" means anyway.

'06 Cuts In Iraq Troops Unlikely - washingtonpost.com:
Asked point-blank whether the United States is winning in Iraq, Abizaid replied: "Given unlimited time and unlimited support, we're winning the war."
But whatever it means, it seems to be no longer part of the plan. Unless it means sort of like "dress down," in which case I guess we could still try for sort of a surfer look or something. Anyway this guy Abizaid - everytime i read that name I think of Frost's Abishag (the withered hag) but that, of course, is neither here nor there - Abizaid, I say, notes "The bodies are piling up in areas that are not necessarily the same areas that we're patrolling." All of which, explains WaPo, "dampened" hopes for troop cuts (those would be US troops cut, of course - we're actually trying to involve more Iraqis) this year.

I don't know. My own hopes were way past damp already. Soggy, in fact, would be a better word.

Just a friendly reminder...

...from the Propaganda Remix Project.

Airport security update from the Dull Men's Club.

Dear DMC (3rd quarter 2006)

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Let's not encourage the comma, Nazis.

Punctuation author collects examples on Web site - Yahoo! News:
A misplaced comma in the list of ingredients gives diners a
totally different dish -- and gives British writer Lynne Truss
new ammunition in her campaign for the proper use of
Yeah, sure, commas. You've gotta have 'em. But, please. Notice there are two versions of Truss's bestseller, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" - one for them, one for us.

Speaking of which - "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," that is - the ampersand makes things dicey but I once got into a knock-down, drag-out over whether one uses a comma before the "and" in a series - should it be "red, white and blue" or "red, white, and blue"? Determined to get to the bottom of the matter I consulted seven style books, including Strunk & White, the University of Chicago style manual, The AP's style book, my old college textbook, and a couple of others, I've forgotten what they were. Three books said use the comma, three said don't, and the seventh, the college textbook, said whatever turns you on.

I liked the AP style book myself but it said no. I was in the pro-comma camp myself, so I changed the style book. I later mentioned that to a friend of mine who was an editor for the Chicago Tribune and he said yeah, the Trib had a guy who sat there all day putting commas back into AP stories because the Trib's style book said use them.

I'm pretty ambivalent about commas myself, these days. In a previous life I wrote speeches and used commas liberally - even sometimes where they didn't belong - to indicate phrasing for the speaker. I've been trying to taper off. As a result I'm more or less back in the whatever-turns-you-on school. Except when it comes to "red, white, and blue," in which case I'm definitely a comma, guy.

Or maybe they're just more honest.

Philadelphia Inquirer | 09/19/2006 | Survey: M.B.A. students more likely to cheat :
A survey of 5,331 students at 32 graduate schools in the United States and Canada found an "alarming" amount of cheating across disciplines, but more among the nation's future business leaders. Fifty-six percent of graduate business students admitted they had cheated at least once in the last year, compared with 47 percent of non-business students.
Nawww. Cheating makes more sense.

Good morning! How's your gall bladder?

Firedoglake - Firedoglake weblog » When Your Gall Bladder Gets Sent to India, Have You Had Enough?:
Sen. Bill Frist got egg on his face last week for inadvertently acknowledging the disastrous state of the U.S. health care when he said it’s worse than the care prisoners get at Guantanamo: GITMO prisoners get "24/7 medical care—better than many Americans."
Meanwhile, on a completely different topic here, it looks like Blogger's Atom link works again and I can use my ecto again, which has been broken lo these many weeks. What joy.

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And we're worried about batteries catching on fire now?

Engine on a chip promises to best the battery - MIT News Office:
The MIT team has now used this process to make all the components needed for their engine, and each part works. Inside a tiny combustion chamber, fuel and air quickly mix and burn at the melting point of steel. Turbine blades, made of low-defect, high-strength microfabricated materials, spin at 20,000 revolutions per second -- 100 times faster than those in jet engines. A mini-generator produces 10 watts of power. A little compressor raises the pressure of air in preparation for combustion. And cooling (always a challenge in hot microdevices) appears manageable by sending the compression air around the outside of the combustor.
Wait for this!

What these guys are doing is designing a gas-powered turbine engine small enough to fit on a silicon chip about the size of a quarter and using it to replace the batteries in electronic devices. Don't ask what kind of gas. I have no idea. But it might give new meaning to the phrase "fill up" on a cell phone.

Can't we just find smaller squirrels and let it go at that?

Orwell on this and that.

Whiskey Bar: Orwell Has a Field Day:
The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable."

Blogger, FYI...

...is going down at 4:00 PM Pacific time this afternoon. For 15 minutes. They say.

So, um, this guy's crazy, right?

Jessica and Ashlee Simpson's Holy attack - Showbiz News - Life Style Extra:
"Jessica and Ashlee will reap the dismal crops they are sowing. Their breasts will sag and their faces will wither and they will be left with nothing but a hollow shell."
I mean that's...not...really...true. Is it? Naww. it can't be true.

A hollow shell?

Eighteen screws!

Princeton report questions electronic voting machine security - Wikinews:
"Every voter in every local jurisdiction that uses the AccuVote-TS should feel secure knowing that their vote will count on Election Day,"
says Dave Byrd, president of Diebold Election Systems, protesting that 18 screws (!) and "numbered security tags" (or maybe that's one screw and 17 numbered security tags, hard to tell, whatever, doesn't really matter anyway) were destroyed in the Princeton research on the HackaVote we mentioned a while back. Woohoo! Eighteen!

But that's not the point, or the question either. Why is it so many so-called "conservatives," the ones who are constantly bellyaching about a "nanny state," seem perfectly comfortable with "trust us, we will count the votes for you"? That's the question. And the point is, only Diebold knows for sure how the software works. Diebold and some "certifying" service somewhere that Diebold pays. Only Dieblold knows how the votes really get counted.

Which is exactly Diebold's defense here, namely trust us, those researchers weren't working with the latest version of the software, only we know how that works and - did I mention "trust us"? - we're telling you it's safe.

The 18 screws are just there for decoration.


Didn't get the memo, looks like.

The Raw Story | Sources: August terror plot is a 'fiction' underscoring police failures:
"The idea that these people could sit in the plane toilet and simply mix together these normal household fluids to create a high explosive capable of blowing up the entire aircraft is untenable," said Lt. Col. Wylde, who was trained as an ammunition technical officer responsible for terrorist bomb disposal at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Sandhurst.

We are shocked. Shocked!

Telegraph | News | Hungary PM admits lying to win election:
Hungary's Socialist Party has publicly backed prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany after the leak of a tape in which he admitted lying to win April's general election, despite opposition calls for him to quit.
Lied to win an election? Oh, that's low.

AccuVote? More like HackaVote.

Freedom to Tinker » Blog Archive » “Hotel Minibar” Keys Open Diebold Voting Machines:
A little research revealed that the exact same key is used widely in office furniture, electronic equipment, jukeboxes, and hotel minibars. It’s a standard part, and like most standard parts it’s easily purchased on the Internet. We bought several keys from an office furniture key shop — they open the voting machine too. We ordered another key on eBay from a jukebox supply shop. The keys can be purchased from many online merchants.
Exact same key as what key, you ask? Why, the key that opens Diebold HackaVote voting machines, of course. Sweet.

Here's the wackiest argument yet for NSA wire taps.

The Raw Story | GOP Senator says with better intelligence South would have won US Civil War.:
Either way you slice it, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) argued last week that the South could have won the war between the states if the Confederates had just had better intelligence.

Hipsters left for living at terrorism event.

Hundreds play the part for antiterrorism drill - The Boston Globe:
Interviews with some of the 215 volunteer victims suggested that mistakes might have been made. The volunteers described passing rescue workers failing to ask them if they needed help, despite the index cards the volunteers wore indicating the seriousness of their condition: bleeding to death, radiation exposure, in shock. Other volunteers said officials were slow to bring buses to evacuate people fleeing the scene.
Begging the question of who'd want to bomb the CambridgeSide Galleria (a "hip urban center," according to its web site, in Cambridge, MA) anyway, you've got to figure when a guy's got a sign pinned to his freakin' chest that says "I'm bleeding to death" and goes unnoticed by rescue workers you've got a problem, somewhere, with the system, don't you?

Or maybe not. Maybe the rescue workers were just in a hurry to check out the new iPods at the Apple Store - which is, of course, in the CambridgeSide Galleria, a hip urban center. As you know.

Emergency drugs too dangerous to test?

Bid to Stockpile Bioterror Drugs Stymied by Setbacks - New York Times:
Because of the perceived urgency of the threat, the project suspends some traditional standards. It allows new vaccines or drugs to be used in emergencies before completing the lengthy Food and Drug Administration approval process. Full testing on humans is also not required because it is too dangerous, even though that means no one will know with certainty whether the vaccines will work until used in a crisis.
Oh that's certainly reassuring. Not that you're likely to ever take one of these emergency drugs, since the Bushies' $5.6 billion "Project BioShield," an effort to stockpile emergency drugs inspired by the (as yet unsolved) case of the anthrax letters five years ago, has, in the laconic words of the New York Times, "largely failed to deliver."

Meaning there ain't no emergency drugs, Bunky, or at least not enough of them to put you in much danger.

(Reading newspapers is really a very depressing way to start a day.)

At least a groundhog makes the headlines once a year.

Major Problems At Polls Feared - washingtonpost.com:
In the Nov. 7 election [upcoming], more than 80 percent of voters will use electronic voting machines, and a third of all precincts this year are using the technology for the first time. The changes are part of a national wave, prompted by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 and numerous revisions of state laws, that led to the replacement of outdated voting machines with computer-based electronic machines, along with centralized databases of registered voters and other steps to refine the administration of elections.
But this problem - the problem with electronic voting machines - gets attention every two years, right before a national election. As the Washington Post noted yesterday with a resounding yawn:
What is clear is that a national effort to improve election procedures six years ago -- after the presidential election ended with ambiguous ballots and allegations of miscounted votes and partisan favoritism in Florida -- has failed to restore broad public confidence that the system is fair.
Oh no, Bunky. It's not just a matter of "restoring public confidence" and "fair" is not what we're after here - correct is what we're after, not "fair." (It's entirely possible to be wildly incorrect but still "fair," as when both teams draw bad but generally offsetting penalties in a game.)

We've known about this problem for six years. What's at stake is, literally, democracy. But how many people have you heard yapping about it on cable news (I understand Lou Dobbs is on the case, but who else)? How many times have you read about it in a newspaper, except times like now, a month before a general election? And after this upcoming election there will be lots of screaming about election fraud for maybe two or three weeks, and then the whole affair will go back to sleep until 2008.

Yet the problem could be fixed by the end of the week. Toss out the machines, count by hand. And while we're at it let's make a law that says election results may not be disclosed until 48 hours after the election, and then they must be disclosed at the same set time nation-wide, all at once.


Is this guy starting to look like Pat Robertson?


Or, or, wait. No. They couldn't do that. Could they?
It's probably just, you know, a standard Republican look.

Wait! They're launching a tourist?

First female space tourist ready for launch :
Now at 40, after an improbable journey that has included learning a new language, earning an engineering degree and starting a telecommunications company that made her rich, this Dallas businesswoman will become the first female space tourist on a Soyuz spacecraft lifting off Monday.
Oh. Well. A tourist from Dallas. That's probably OK then.

Anyway they're not actually launching the tourist, they're launching a rocket with a tourist in it. Which may seem like a pretty picky point unless you're the tourist involved. One imagines.

Yeah. You've got to have reindeer too.

Santa Clauses Come to Town - Los Angeles Times:
"You can't become a Santa just because you're a big guy with a beard," said Connaghan, who has 38 years in the professional Santa business. "It takes a lot more."
Christmas is a "mere 100 days away," this guy tells his Santa class. That's, let's see, only a third of a year, not counting a little time off for good behavior.

I'm wondering. If we just did it all year round, wouldn't that be easier?

A tizzy!

Milan fashionistas fear Spanish skinny model ban - Yahoo! News:
MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's fashion capital is in a tizzy over a ban on overly thin models at Madrid's fashion week, fearing it could be next with its own catwalk extravaganza less than two weeks away.
Tizzies are way more fun than huffs. Come to think of it, they're sort of like imported Italian huffs. I mean, you have your basic funks and huffs, and then you have your tizzies. Sort of like, you have your coffee and then you have your cappuccino. Or your "wazzup" and your "ciao."

Best poll you'll get a chance to take today.

Whatever It Is, I’m Against It: Going beyond dissent:
Which brings us to today’s poll (I need to test out a different poll service):

No greens crisis here.

Try other greens, experts advise / Even unpackaged spinach should be shunned; number of E. coli victims climbs to 102:
"Mustard and collard greens -- all baby -- they're just as wonderful," said Bruce McKinney, owner of Catering With Style in San Francisco.

"Chicory, escarole, arugula -- all those baby greens work beautifully. And they're much more flavorful than spinach, actually."
Or dandelions. Forgot dandelions. And kale. And beet greens.

OK, maybe they don't have dandelions in San Francisco.

Woohoo! Could be quite a year!

Michigan Does a Number on No. 2 Notre Dame - New York Times
If you've ever lived in Michigan or Ohio (I've lived in both) you know the biggest event of the year is not Christmas, Independence Day, or even Beethoven's birthday, it's the Michigan-Ohio State football game, traditionally the last game for both teams. So now - well, yeah, the season's still young, but still - we have Ohio State ranked #1 in just about everybody's poll and Michigan whomping the almost-universally #2 ranked team, Notre Dame. Could be some kind of game between the Buckeyes and Wolverines.

Buckeyes, by the way, are poisonous to humans, but make good squirrel food.