Silflay Hraka

3/29/2003




A Warmonger Explains War To a Peacenik

I saw this on Daypop and debated about posting it here, as I knew it would piss off any number of people. But it made me giggle. And I kinda' enjoy pissing people off. Actually, what I enjoy more is pushing people's comfort level.


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3/28/2003




Smarter Smart Bombs

Iraq is claiming that the U.S. has targeted civilians in Baghdad. While I find the suggestion that the U.S. is deliberately targeting civilians to be ludicrous, I don't find it beyond belief that some U.S. munition strayed off course and exploded in an area populated by civilians. The JDAM, for example, is designed to fall within 43 feet of its target only 50 % of the time, though actual performance may be better. The GPS these weapons use to guide them to their targets can be jammed, causing them to fall in unintended areas, coordinates can be entered wrongly, and I'm assuming that there may be other issues that cause them to go astray, such as stuck fins or something equally mundane.

Anyway, the whole debate about who blew up the market in Baghdad got me thinking. Shouldn't there be a way to set up some kind of logic test for these bombs that determines whether they detonate or not? That way, even if they were off target, no harm done. For a JDAM, you could set up a test something like this:

Let radius = 21.5 feet
Let x coordinate = target latitude
Let y coordinate = target longitude
/*position representing lat and long (determined by GPS readings if available) of ordinance upon impact

If GPS readings not jammed
If position <= x coordinate + radius and position>= x coordinate - radius
And
If position <= y coordinate + radius and postion>= y coordinate - radius
Then
KABLOOEY
Else
DUD
End If
Else
DUD
End If

Anyway, if it were possible to use a test like this, we wouldn't have to worry so much about who is to blame for civilian deaths. I am sure there are flaws in the logic. For one, if you enter in the wrong coordinates, there isn't much you can do. It'll detonate anyway, because it'll think it's on target. But, if GPS is being jammed, it won't detonate, and if the true GPS readings of the ordinance's position don't closely match the target coordinates, it won't detonate. It's not perfect, but it seems like it should be possible. Raytheon, you guys think you can do something with this?


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Gone Fishin'

Woundwort, Jawbreaker and I are down to the coast this weekend for a spot of testosterone. Will blog if we are inside and are sober enough to see the keys.


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Call And Response

One of the most famous anti-war songs of all time,

No Man's Land* - Eric Bogle

Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride,
Do you mind if I sit here dawn by your graveside,
And rest for a while heath the warm summer sun,
I've been worldng all day and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen,
When you joined the great fallen in nineteen sixteen,
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean,
Or young Willie McBride was it slow and obscene.

Chorus:
Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the life lowly.
Did they sound the dead march as they lowered you down,
And did the band play the Last Post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind,
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
Although you died back in nineteen sixteen,
In that faithful heart are you forever nineteen?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enclosed and forever behind the glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and battered and stained
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

The sun now it shines on the green fields of France
There's a warm summer breeze, it makes the red poppies dance.
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds
There's no gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it's still no-man's-land.
The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand,
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
To a whole generation that were butchered and damned.

Now young Willie McBride I can't help but wonder why
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
And did they believe when they answered the cause
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrows, the suffering, the glory, the pain
The killing and dying was all done in vain.
For young Willie McBride it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

The Most Famous Response - Steve Suffet**

My dear friend Eric, this is Willie McBride,
Today I speak to you across the divide
Of years and of distance, of life and of death,
Please let me speak freely with my silent breath. You might think me crazy, you might think me daft,
I could have stayed back in Erin, where there wasn't a draft,
But my parents they raised me to tell right from wrong,
So today I shall answer what you asked in your song.

Chorus:
Yes, they beat the drum slowly, they played the pipes lowly,
And the rifles fired o'er me as they lowered me down,
The band played "The Last Post" in chorus,
And the pipes played "The Flowers of the Forest."

Ask the people of Belgium or Alsace-Lorraine,
If my life was wasted, if I died in vain.
I think they will tell you when all's said and done,
They welcomed this boy with his tin hat and gun. And call it ironic that I was cut down,
While in Dublin my kinfolk were fighting the Crown.
But in Dublin or Flanders the cause was the same:
To resist the oppressor, whatever his name.

It wasn't for King or for England I died,
It wasn't for glory or the Empire's pride.
The reason I went was both simple and clear:
To stand up for freedom did I volunteer. It's easy for you to look back and sigh,
And pity the youth of those days long gone by,
For us who were there, we knew why we died,
And I'd do it again, says Willie McBride.

* That's the Clancy Brothers singing, not Eric
** I cannot find an mp3 of the song at present. If I do I'll update the post with it.


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Parachutes in the Military

I am sure that someone much smarter than me has the answer to my question, but something has bothered me for a number of years in the military. When I was a small boy, my aunt would take me to Fort Bragg to see some of the military exercises of the paratroopers. I would hear terrible stories (which have also been reported in this war) about the paratroopers landing all over the place and having a number of injuries due to their jumps. These injuries would range from twisted ankles to broken legs, and that made me wonder, aren't there better parachutes for the military personnel to use?

I realize there may be a number of reasons for it. Perhaps those parachutes work because they can hold up more weight, or they are more durable, but it would seem that it is much more difficult for the paratroopers to land near their targets, and they land so violently that it makes it dangerous for them to jump, especially in the dark. I wonder why they haven't designed special parachutes for them so they can have more control over where they land, potentially putting them closer to the target than with the traditional parachutes, and that would seem to be beneficial. Also, if they could move and turn it would make it more difficult for them to be killed by enemy fire on the way down.

Perhaps cost is another issue, but it would seem that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Putting our troops closer to their targets, and allowing them to have softer landings would be helpful to the individuals as well as to our military as a whole. Just another observation which suggests that I have too much time on my hands.


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3/27/2003




Leporidae Family Unity

Another bunny in favor of moral imperialism


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Sara Hughes' Moving Tribute To the Spanish Civil War



Sarah Hughes, skating to the Clash's Spanish Bombs, brought the house down last night at the World Figure Skating Championships in Washington with her moving and unexpected tribute to Robert's Capa's unknown Spanish Republican.

Hughes' coach and choreographer, Robin Wagner, stated that the move had been decided on at the last minute, as a tribute to the coalition forces in Iraq as well as a warning to the American public of the potential costs involved in a campaign there.

"We didn't inform the judges about the new move until after she skated her program." Wagner told reporters afterwards. "Sarah and I felt that in order to appreciate the full artistic impact of the collapse, the judges would need to feel the same shock and surprise that Capa did when he snapped his famous photo."

After being informed of the program change, the judges enthusiastically agreed with Ms. Wagner, giving Sarah near perfect marks for both Technical and Artistic merit.

The only dissent in the judging ranks came from the French judge, Dominique de Villepin, who stated that he had lowered Ms. Hughes' technical mark for a "lack of realism in the death portrayal."

"If you study the move closely," said M. de Villepin, "You clearly see that Sarah is falling backwards. In all my years as a member of the French armed forces, I never witnessed one of our soldiers fall in this manner after being struck by a bullet. My comrades invariably fell forwards when shot by the enemy, in the direction they were running rather than back towards the enemy."

He further theorized that Capa's Republican had not been shot at all, but was perhaps instead stretching out prior to a late afternoon nap.

At a late afternoon news conference, Ms. Hughes dismissed M. de Villepin's remarks as "Nothing twenty dollars couldn't fix." Both she and Ms. Wagner stated that the "Republican Death Jete'", as they have come to call it, may or may not be performed as part of the upcoming long program.

"To inform the audience in advance of the move or moves would ruin their artistic impact should we choose to perform them," stated Ms. Wagner, "And we have worked too hard perfecting the Death Jete' to do that. It must come as a complete surprise to everyone in the building, as it did to the subject of Mr. Capa's photograph."

In response to the overwhelming enthusiasm for the Death Jete', Michelle Kwan has hinted that she may also unveil a new move, tentatively entitled "Trout on Riverbank", during her long program.


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I don't have the words...

I don't make the claim that all of these photos are genuine but, if they are, may God have mercy on us all.

Editor's Note: The "us" in that statement is meant to be a general humanity "us" and not an American "us".


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What's That Burned Smell?

If you really want to shake a child's worldview, arrange for the picture tube on the big-screen to blow while she's watching the Aristocats.


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Commenting Iffy

From Haloscan:

We're currently experiencing an extremely high amount of traffic because of a couple war and politics-related weblogs that use our commenting system that have skyrocketed in traffic because of the war. So at peak hours, the site may respond slower than usual because of the high server load.



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As if we didn't already know

Comments by General Tommy Franks indicate that the U.S. may have been planning to go to war months before approaching the U.N. and no matter the outcome of weapons inspections. Comes as no surprise, really.


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I've Been Slimed

Not getting much at all done today. Ngnat is sick, so I'm staying home with her. She's not very sick, having just enough of a stomach flu to keep her out of daycare, so she's been fairly active. Hasn't really eaten anything, though. The sainted wife wants to take her to Bluefield this weekend to see the great-grandparents while I'm off fishing; she's hoping a day of rest will help Ngnat's system fight off the bug before then.

Right now we're sitting in the Lazy Boy downstairs. She's drinking juice and watching The Iron Giant. I'm taking care of work issues on the laptop as they come up, typing one-handed. Occasionally she leans over and sneezes directly onto the keys.

It's a hard knock life.

When she's not sneezing, she's demanding juice, or cutting up Bongo comics with her safety scissors, or helping me type, which is quite the adventure when I'm editing the Apache config file for the campus webservers. I've not been able to pay attention to much of anything for more than three or four minutes at a time, so it's a good thing most of the work tasks haven't called for any deep thought.

I wanted to say something about Shelley Pokorney, whose husband was one the N.C. based Marines who died when Iraqi soldiers first faked surrender and then fired on them, but the only thing that I can think of during the staccato intervals of peace that Ngnat is allowing me is Abraham Lincoln's 1864 letter to Mrs. Bixby

Dear Madam,
 
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
 
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
 
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
 
Abraham Lincoln


Shelley Pokorney's loss, and that of the other N.C. Marine families is less than Mrs. Bixby's in number only. One or five or twenty, it's still a tragedy.


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3/26/2003




Charles J. Hanley, AP Special Correspondent

No refugee exodus yet, but aid officials fear humanitarian crisis in Iraq

"It is clear that Iraq is on the brink of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and that UNICEF is facing possibly the largest and most complex humanitarian operation we've ever undertaken,'' United Nations Children's Fund spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte said in Geneva.

The Hungry to Get Hungrier as War Blows Away Harvest

The upheaval of an invasion could interrupt the reaping and the sowing just as stored food is running out for most Iraqis. "It's a particularly bad time for both the winter crop and the spring crop," said Barry Came, a U.N. food specialist.

The Iraqi government's food- rationing system, the daily sustenance for most of its people, is crumbling. That, along with the wartime threat to the grain crop, points toward a huge emergency in the coming weeks, requiring possibly "the biggest humanitarian operation in history," said Khaled Mansour, regional spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program in Amman.


Basra again stands on war's frontline

The UN Children's Fund estimated up to 100,000 Basra children under the age of 5 were at immediate risk of severe disease from the unsafe water, especially life-threatening diarrhoea.

"Many of these are children already suffering from malnutrition. This drives such children into a downward spiral," said Unicef's Iraq spokesperson Geoff Keele, temporarily operating from Amman.


Baghdad homes for abandoned children offer glimpse into terror of war

International relief officials got word from Baghdad on Friday, the day after the cruise missiles began slamming into the city, that food was growing short at four children's institutions in the central part of the capital. Two more children's homes had shortages in Karbala, a city to the south that came under U.S. attack over the weekend.

Relief Begins, but Need Grows

Aid professionals said it would be a mistake for the U.S. military to try to oversee aid distribution long term.

"Only civilian organizations specializing in humanitarian relief can make impartial distribution of aid supplies," said David Wimhurst, of the U.N. office on Iraq, speaking in the Jordanian capital, Amman.


Evidence of Iraq weapons remains elusive

Two months after US officials said they had begun providing “significant” intelligence to the inspectors, Blix told the council he was still awaiting “high-quality information.”

He said no evidence had emerged to support US contentions Iraq was producing chemical or biological weapons underground or in mobile laboratories.

The inspectors, privately, disparaged the “leads” they were receiving from the US government.


Ex-Hostage Plans to Travel to Baghdad

Kara Speltz, 65, of Oakland, Calif., sees one similarity between their team and the young Americans now waging war in Iraq with assault rifles and grenades.

"If we're committed to nonviolence and are not willing to put our lives on the line ... ," she said, pausing. "We have to be as committed as those soldiers are"

Unlike those camouflaged troops, the group is traveling light, equipped with such provisions as candy bars, water and stuffed animals for Iraqi children, and Bibles and a deep religious commitment as members of several Christian denominations.


In the last three days, according to his story locations, Charles J. Hanley, AP Special Correspondent, has been in Washington, Amman, Umm Qasr, Basra, and Juweideh, Jordan. It's the ability to travel through a war zone at will that separates the AP Special Correspondent from your run of the mill regular AP correspondents, you see. He reports with the speed of ten, because his heart is pure. If you see a meek and mild mannered reporter jump into a phone booth, and a man in blue tights emerge, with the letters APSC flowing across his broad, rippling chest, odds are it's Charles J. Hanley, AP Special Correspondent, off to a distant land to report on another humanitarian crisis story.

It is that purity that gives him his innate objectivity, the objectivity that allows him to compare human shields and American soldiers with the phrase "Unlike those camouflaged troops, the group is traveling light". The objective journalism of the AP Special Correspondent finds that human shields are not only braver than American combat troops, but also less materialistic.

The AP Special Correspondent knows without even seeing that the information given to United Nations Arms Inspectors by any agency of the United States on Iraqi weapons of Mass Destruction is useless. One source is sufficient for an AP Special Correspondent to establish the facts of a situation, especially if the source is a paladin of the U.N. He is beyond having to cultivate the two or more sources than lesser journalists must gather for a story.

For the AP Special Correspondent it is an unquestionable fact that "Only civilian organizations specializing in humanitarian relief can make impartial distribution of aid supplies." The United States could not possibly be impartial in handing out food supplies, because the United States is disrupting the food supply network and putting Iraqi children at risk for no good reason. The Objective Reporter knows this, because he's interviewed damn near every U.N. official with a title in Amman, Jordan, and he's seen Tommy Franks on television a couple of times.

Journalism just doesn't get any better than that.


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Money Dance!

Many thanks to our generous PayPal tipster, Marduk of Babylonian Musings, discoverer of the embedded Michael Moore. Only $399,870 to go before we purchase the blogger beach house.

Unless I blow it on beer for this weekend's fishing trip. Decisions, decisions.


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Caught 22

This week's Carnival of the Vanities is at Dancing with Dogs.

Upcoming Carnival stops include;

April 2nd Go Fish
April 9th Solonor's Ink Well
April 16th Billegible
April 23th The Kitchen Cabinet
April 30th Clubbeaux
May 7th Common Sense and Wonder
May 14th The Inscrutable American
May 21st Cut On The Bias
May 28th Dean's World

If you'd like to host the Carnival, drop us a line. Information on how to join the Carnival can be found here.


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The Force Is Strong In This One



Taken from Yahoo, where link half-life is measured in minutes.


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Moroccan Landmine Monkeys

So my friend, the Boogie Scarecrow, calls me last night out of the blue and starts telling me about Morocco offering the U.S. a troop of monkeys trained in the clearing and detonation of landmines. I immediately asked for he punchline. No, he assures me. This is no joke. He begins walking me through Google, using various keyword combinations, in an attempt to independently verify the story. No luck. I am sure he's full of hraka.

And then he sends me this link in my email. Too weird.



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3/25/2003




The Hraka Hits a Fan

Despite the hundreds of thousands participating at any one point in time, blogging is essentially a solitary activity, even on a group blog like Hraka. If you disagree, try group typing a post one day. I know it's supposed to be more like a conversation than the more traditional media, but it's still conducted at a distance, so it feels more like a ham radio transmission than a bar conversation. It's possible that this metaphor is specific to me, that to someone else writing a post feels like a chatty letter to a friend, or an entry in a private diary that is nonetheless left unlocked and on the kitchen table where everyone can see.

If one were to record the metaphorical view each blogger holds of the practice of blogging, likely it would reveal a much richer stratum of blogtypes than the current tech/war/other divisions do. It's probably telling that I participate in a group blog in the most information rich medium in history, yet still see the practice as akin to sitting along in the dark, casting out messages into the ether to find an ear as they may. I just don't know what it tells.

But, speaking of the messages, occasionally they do find an ear. Occasionally, surprisingly, they make a difference.

Yanno....I stumbled across your blog a couple of weeks ago. I have no clue who you are, or what made me keep reading, but I did.

I'm not very clever under "normal" conditions at 4am, but today's circumstances are anything but normal..so basically, I just wanted to say thanks.

For the last few weeks my husband, past Army active duty, and now Army Natl. Guard Air Assault, has been in an "undisclosed location." The last few days have left me sleepless, and with very little to laugh about. But your blog did it. I've sat here for the past few hours and read entry after entry. You've actually had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion with my dogs staring at me like I've lost it.

Ok..so maybe I have, but that's beside the point.

It's nice to know that there are people out there, besides family members, who actually give a damn about our troops over there. I can't tell you how sick I am of hearing "We support our troops" with a "but" qualifier following.

Anyway, with little on TV besides news, (which though I appreciate, I have to take a break from on occasion) or coverage of Michael Moore spewing garbage. You've given me a bit of escapism, given me a few laughs, and hopefully settled me down enough so I may actually be able to sleep tonight.

So..Thanks..and when my hubby comes home, you can be sure I'll share your link, he'll love you guys

Thanks Again,

Wendy


I don't know what I expected when I first started blogging, sending ones and zeros out into the darkness. Thank you letters from soldier's wives were not anywhere on the horizon, I know that. Nor was hate mail, for that matter, though when it came it was much less of a surprise than the e-mail above.

Hitting singles day after day does make a difference over time, even if it doesn't feel like it. If you send out your call sign long enough, eventually someone calls back.

Remember that, the next time it feels like no one is listening.


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The Sure Thing

Not only is outsourcing a company's IT projects a security risk, half the time it's a complete waste of money, delivering a application seen as essentially useless by the very executives overseeing the project to begin with.

Half. In 2002, over $550 billion was spent in outsourcing projects, which means that at least $275 billion of that was pissed away, wasted on the tech equivalent of plastic trinkets and beads. Magic Server Dust, if you like. The real total is likely even higher, given the predilection most people, especially executives, have for playing CYA. Even if one cuts the current estimates in half, the amount of money wasted on outsourced projects last year alone is still over 100 billion dollars.

I've talked about outsourcing before, here and here, emphasizing that outsourcing an IT project was not only insecure, but slow and inefficient to boot. Outsourcing is short term cheap and long term expensive. IT staffs are the opposite, short term expensive and long term cheap. Most executives either don't plan for the long term or feel that they cannot, that the pressure to keep stock prices high prevents them. It's a remnant of 90's bubble thinking, and one that will eventually be as harshly punished as the rest of that era's philosophy was.

Back in the days when literacy wasn't widespread, a person would pay a clerk or scribe to read and write for them. Compared to reading and writing one's own messages, it was slow, inefficient and insecure. After all, the scribe could write or read whatever he felt like, and the customer had no way of telling. As literacy grew more widespread, those jobs vanished. Companies who outsource IT now are in the same position as a merchant who depended on a scribe would have been then, and increasingly they are going to have to compete against companies with an in-house IT staff, companies that know how to read and write their own code. Computing skills are the new literacy, and the percentage of people with skills in that area is only going to increase.

The billions of dollars wasted in 2002 are more than a symptom of inefficiency, they are evidence of a huge Darwinian vulnerability, the fiscal equivalent of a mammoth in the rainforest. Outsourcing is a practice that the marketplace will eventually punish, suddenly and severely. Given the speed at which changes ripple through the market, that punishment will happen sooner rather than later. It's time to actively bet against companies with large outsourcing budgets, especially if they compete directly against a rival using in-house resources. They simply will not be able to react as fast to changes in the economic environment.

Say Yahoo decided to compete against Google again, and hired an outsourcing company to build a search engine. Give the project a year. At the end of that year, assume that the product was delivered on time and without major bugs, which in itself would be a first for the outsourcing industry. It still wouldn't matter. It wouldn't matter because the product was built for the environment that existed a year ago, when it was ordered. The in-house staff at Google, on the other hand, has spent that year tweaking their app, so that they are still more or less in tune with the current environment, and more importantly, a year ahead of Yahoo. On the other hand, had Yahoo hired internal staff to build a search engine, it would still be behind Google, but not as far behind. The project would have been completed faster, and could have implemented reactions to changes in market conditions as it was built. That's a much harder than it sounds, even with an internal staff, but it's essentially impossible when using an outsourcing company. Not in the contact, so sorry. Upon delivery of the new app, Yahoo would also posses a staff thoroughly acquainted with search engines, one able to deploy changes to the code much more quickly, as they were the ones that wrote it in the first place.

Paradoxically, the recession has probably benefited companies with a large investment in outsourcing, as a slower market protects them from the consequences of outsourcing by temporarily devaluing IT skills. Once the market turns and IT skills are more in demand, the companies with a higher direct investment in IT skills are going to move much faster, more nimbly and above all more efficiently than companies where half of the IT dollars spent might as well have been burned as a sacrifice to the gods at the beginning of each fiscal year.

Once the market turns, though, the payoff will be much less. The time to place your bets is now, beforehand. Who to bet on/against should be fairly easy. Most outsource providers have a list somewhere on their site of major clients. Find out who competes with those clients, ascertain which ones have a large IT staffs, and bet on them. They'll be the winners in the next growth economy. Also, bet on the outsourcers. They won't begoing anywhere. There will always be companies looking for a tech shortcut, as well as clients whom market forces do not affect. Efficient use of money and a quick turnaround isn't nearly as much of an issue with governmental and educational organizations, and a lot of those types of institutions will lose knowledgeable staff back to private industry as the economy picks up, forcing them to increasingly rely on outsourcers to do the work that must be done.

Outsourcing won't be going away, but the types of clients on the list will increasingly be ones that can indulge in long software development cycles without worrying about the consequences. For-profit enterprises won't be among them.


Postscript: First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself. Also, you're currently at the old site. Fresh Hraka is posted every day at our current location.

3/24/2003




Toddler Hops

Ngnat announced to the other two-year-olds in her daycare class today that, when she was at home, she drank beer. As you might imagine, this caused no little comment among the staff at the Baptist church housing the day care, seemingly all of whom sought out her mother to inform her of Ngnat's beverage choice when she arrived to pick up the smallest alkie of them all.

"That's crazy talk," I told her when apprised of our child's new status among the pre-literati. "She can't even tilt the glass to pour properly, for god's sake."

To be fair, no one really thought Ngnat has a cold one or two at the end of the day to unwind. All of the above was accompanied by the genial wink and a nod attitude so prevalent among modern child care providers and mothers when it comes to discussing alcohol use among minors.

I'd give a dollar to hear the conversation when her classmates ask for beer at home because Ngnat drinks it.

Of course, the fascination with beer is my fault. I'm a man, how could it not be my fault? No trip to the grocery store is complete in Ngnat's mind until we stroll slowly past the beer cooler, gazing at the bottles and cans in their serried ranks, looking, usually in vain, for something new. That's not a practice she picked up from her mother.

The slow beer stroll is one of the things we did Saturday, once we abandoned the house to the painting coterie. It was at least as interesting as Piglet's Big Movie, which was also sadly bereft of quality alcohol. As far as reviews go, it finished a distant second in the race for Ngnat's attention to the tub of popcorn in my lap. When we saw Lilo and Stitch a half year ago, we couldn't tear her attention away from the screen; she barely even moved except to change thumbs. Saturday it was all I could do to keep her still, though once I allowed her to sit on the stairs she gave Piglet at least some attention. On the plus side, she did make it through the entire movie without one bathroom trip, something she failed to do for Stitch.

And then we went to the bar, where Daddy sat Ngnat on the stool beside him, fed her complimentary peanuts and drank beer after beer, growing increasingly red faced and restive, muttering more loudly at the television screen with each round, until he picked a fight with the smart-mouthed stranger at the other end of the bar and was tossed out to lay, semi-conscious, in a puddle of his own vomit.

Oops, sorry. Started channeling Angela's Ashes there for a minute. Some faint echoing wave of St. Patrick's day must have just passed by. But really, what more can you expect of a family where the toddler claims to drink?

What we really did was go to Fyes and buy The Iron Giant, since I had promised her a good movie, and needed the excuse. I've always thought it one of the more affecting American animations, certainly as good as any of the Disney classics, and better than most.

We watched it after the painters finished up that night, and she demanded it again Sunday while we applied with SpongeBob tattoos upstairs in Mommy's bed.




I asked her where my bed was, and she pointed at the guest room.

Not even three, and she already has a thorough understanding of the basics of married life.*

Iron Giant was the first thing she asked about this morning, and at the top of her schedule again when she came home. I can see myself becoming almighty tired of the Iron Giant here soon, though it's still preferable to the Barbie as Rapunzel video.

*No, I don't actually spend enough nights in the guest bed for her to consider it mine. I just wrote that to scare my parents. The guest bed in now in the computer room, which was previously known as Daddy's room. To recap: Nothing to see here, move along.


Postscript: First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself. Also, you're currently at the old site. Fresh Hraka is posted every day at our current location.

3/23/2003




Fruit Salad, Yummy, Yummy

Put paid to several hours of my sleep deficit last night, crashing into unconsciousness with the wife at the for me, early, early hour of 9:30. That's about normal for her in the last seven months, what with Newt the fetus sucking up the calories she would normally use for staying up past ten, cleaning the hairballs out from underneath the bed, or tolerating my eccentricities.

This means that normally when I come to bed, at or around the first wee hour of the morning, I come in low, slow, and terrified of things that go squish in the dark. Since the war started, that wee hour has been a little bigger than normal, quickening the growth of an already substantial weekly sleep deficit, as I tried to affect the course of the war by sucking down ever larger portions of the information ocean, much I used to try and affect a Carolina free throw by holding a cigarette in my left hand.

I stopped smoking, and the Carolina basketball program collapsed. I go to bed early one night, and the next day's news is full of casualty counts and captured American soldiers.

It's enough to drive a man back to solipsism.

Not that I had the time this weekend to work on my impression of the Chinese brother who could swallow the sea. Sainted wife's three cousins and sister had decided weeks ago that this weekend was the weekend to paint the downstairs in new and sundry hues, because as everyone knows, newborns are very sensitive to bad decor. It's a leading cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, I understand.

"Either that wallpaper goes, or I do," they say. Very Oscar-Wildish, new infants.

Being a heterosexual man, and thus accurately perceived as essentially useless in the entire decor area, I was put in charge of Ngnat while they taped, scraped, and painted, doing their best impression of a Trading Spaces episode, an impression that included arriving in costume Saturday morning.



L to R: Teaching Maenad, A. Actress, Banking Maenad and Advertising Maenad as Frank, Hilda, Laurie and Genevieve


Very precious, I am sure, and full of jovial sisterhood, but geez. A man couldn't take a step without treading in estrogen.

For future reference, it feels much like an early morning hairball.

I tried to do my part, in the hours when Ngnat was asleep, offering beer to all and sundry at the drop of a hat,and watching what news I could. It was eerie, watching the 7th Cav on subtitled CNN while the soundtrack to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert blasted out of the boombox in the next room.

Oddly appropriate, though. After all, both involved oddly clothed men traveling through the desert in large metal vehicles.

I did manage to get rid of some of the cheap Rolling Rock Kehaar had unsuccessfully tried to force on us during the October fishing trip, though one Maenad cousin waxed suspicious at the April 2002 expiration date stamped on the can. I did offer them the quality beer, but everyone other than Aspiring Actress preferred the elderly evil they knew to brew they had never heard of.

She took a Tetley's, thinking it a cider after hearing the name on the list I reeled off. She disabused herself of that notion one Oscar worthy spit take later, and traded me for a Wexford, which she pronounced perfectly acceptable after an hour.

How anyone can take an hour to drink a beer they like is beyond me, but that's neither here nor there.

They primed and taped Friday, painted Saturday, and came back for second coats and furniture rearranging today. In between they told stories on each other, though I'm sure I was only graced with the ones considered appropriate for male ears, like the time when one cousin, the Advertising Maenad, went into a meeting with United Airlines after hearing one too many radio promos for The Vagina Monologues

"So, how is everything at Ugina?" she enquired of the executives present.

The Banking and Teaching Maenads spoke of dialect, and taught me the meaning of "fart in a skillet", an expression so country I had never heard it. It apparently means an action that is both crazy and far fetched, such as cooking a fart in a skillet. Michael Moore resisting the chance to run his mouth at the Academy awards is a fart in a skillet.

Farts and vaginas. Not really that different a conversation from the ones I have with my friends, really. We do tend to polish off more than one beer before getting to those subjects, though.

They left his afternoon, while Ngnat and I wandered about in the woody tract behind the house, leaving my kitchen grape in color, my dining room a rich cranberry and my living room a succulent lemon.

Between that and Priscilla, still blasting from the boom box, it was like walking into a fruit salad. A very good fruit salad, I should hasten to add, lest either A. Actress or one of the Maenads come by to visit. A fruit salad full of hues both pleasing to the eye and extremely well delineated, as opposed to those all too common impressionist fruit salads. Not that my opinion matters a whit, which is as it should be.


Postscript: First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself. Also, you're currently at the old site. Fresh Hraka is posted every day at our current location.




Something occurs to me

I can't find the source of this but, a few weeks back, Iranian news reported that Osama bin Laden was captured by the U.S. The U.S. and Pakistan both vehemently denied that this was the case at the time. But now I'm wondering. Where is Osama bin Laden now that the U.S. has gone to war with Iraq? You think he'd at least make some kind of statement through Al Jazeera or something. But it seems to me that Al Qaeda has been very quiet since the war started. It makes me wonder if the news reports were correct, and maybe we have got Osama in custody. There are a few good reasons why we wouldn't want it publicized. One: if word got out that Osama was captured, one of the reasons for war with Iraq might be diminished. Not sure that matters so much now that the war is on. Two: we want to keep it quiet until we can glean every piece of information about Al Qaeda from bin Laden. Anyway, just thought that it's not like bin Laden to remain quiet about American actions in the Middle East.


Postscript: First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself. Also, you're currently at the old site. Fresh Hraka is posted every day at our current location.

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