Silflay Hraka

5/03/2003




Civil Liberties under assault

Things like this, more than anything, are why I will vote for anyone but George Bush in the 2004 election.


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Every Girl's Crazy 'bout a Sharp Dressed Man

New dress shirt: $36.00
Black leather shoes: $75.00
Shiny silk tie: $35.00
Nice dress pants: $125.00
New thin wallet: $21.00
New socks: $15.00
New non-reversible black leather belt: $28.00
Manly smelling cologne: $52.00
Art society group membership: $35.00
Cute girl whom you are desperately trying to impress being conspicuously absent from the art society social for which you are hideously overdressed: priceless.


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5/02/2003




C-3POh God!

At long last, the truth about why Princess Leia kept C-3PO around.


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Q: What's the official song of the Yale University branch of Hezbollah?
A: Bollah, Bollah!


This is Laurence's fault . Lezbollah, indeed.

Aahzbollah - Fictional Demons who have lost their magic powers, hide in Southern Lebanon and shoot at Jews.
Bazbollah - Australian Film directors who hide in Southern Lebanon and shoot at Jews.
Edgebollah - Irish rock guitarists who hide in Southern Lebanon and shoot at Jews.
Fezbollah - Men in little red harts, who hide in Southern Lebanon and shoot at Jews.
Pince-nezbollah - Glasses worn by Fezbollah.
Kedsbollah - The official shoe of Fezbollah.
Yazbollah - English new wave pop-synth duos who hide in Southern Lebanon and shoot at Jews, not to be confused with
Yasbollah - Baseball players who hide in Southern Lebanon and hit dingers at Jews
Tazbollah - Why for you bury me in the cold, cold ground?
Sezbollah - People who claim they hide in Southern Lebanon and shoot at Jews, yet are never seen doing so. Also known as the Syrian Ba'ath party.
Pezbollah - Colorful plastic candy dispensers that hide in Southern Lebanon and shoot fruit flavored tablets at Jewish Youth. Not to be confused with the Pejbollah, who live in Illinois and snipe at idiotarians.
Dasbollah - German submariners who hide in the waters off of Southern Lebanon and shout grimly yet upliftingly to each other as the Israeli navy depth charges them for what seems like forever.
Vasebollah - Pretentious people who live in Southern France and snipe at Americans. "It's pronounced vaz, not vace, you shitty little person."
Haysbollah - Prudes who live in Southern California and long for the days of movie censorship.
Jizbollah - The porn wing of Islamic Fundamentalism
Le Misbollah - Hate Jews, love Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Wizbollah - People who live in the Middle East and lose control of their bladder at the sight of Jews. The Arab world's fastest growing organization.


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Suicide Squeeze

Al Qaida has gone from flying 747s into skyscrapers to not being able to fly a Cessna into an overseas embassy, in Pakistan, the home of Al-Qaida.

Who says we're not winning the War on Terrorism? Aside from Bob Graham, that is.


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Jewel performs her new hit song, "Smelly Cat"


Photo via Yahoo

Smelly Cat, Smelly cat what are they feeding you?
Smelly Cat, smelly cat it's not your fault...
They won't take you to the vet.
You're obviously not their favorite pet.
You may not be a bed of roses,
And you're no friend to those with noses.
Smelly cat, smelly cat what are they feeding you?
Smelly cat, smelly cat it's not your fault!


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Job Listing

A company headquarted in Atlanta is looking for a J2EE developer who is also fluent in Spanish. Not sure if you need to be in the Atlanta area or not, but a fair amount of travel to and from Latin America to work on the product site is required. That's all I know. Send me your resumes; I'll pass them on.


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Base Principles

Take the Bush administration's reaction to the mouthings of Trent Lott and Rick Santorum, as well as the Republican Party's in particular. Boil them down. Here's what you're left with.

A. It's not acceptable to treat black people like niggers.

B. But it's ok to treat homosexuals like faggots.

Now matter how I cook it, I can't come up with a couplet as verbally damning for the Democrats, not that they are any more consistent. Here's what their principles reduce themselves to:

A. It's not acceptable to treat homosexuals differently, because of their genes.

B. But it's ok to treat blacks differently, because of their genes.

The argument could be made that affirmative action is simply the flip side of racism in that while racism forces blacks into second-class status, affirmative action takes second-class status for granted. A racist says "You're not as good as me." where the quota adherent says "You're not as good as me, so I'll lower my standards." That's not so different.

Both parties practice group politics, they just go about it differently. A Republican who supports gay rights has about as much chance of leading his party as the Democrat who disavows affirmative action has of leading his. Republicans exclude groups. Democrats pander to them.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." sounds simple enough, but adhering to such a philosophy would seem to rule out a successful political career, at least so far. Anyone actually following the Golden Rule is basically screwed as far as getting into office goes, which means that voters are also screwed. There's not an exact one for one tradeoff, but the primary process of each party ensures that come election day a voter is faced with choosing between an anti gay rights Republican and a pro quota Democrat.

And pundits wonder why people are so cynical about politics. They're cynical because the system seemingly functions, yet the end product isn't worth a damn in most cases.

Casting a protest vote, as many Nader voters discovered to their surprise, can backfire horribly. The Greens failed, and will continue to fail, because they only draw voters from one side of the spectrum. Most other third parties do the same. H. Ross Perot was the last viable third party candidate who received votes from across the spectrum, and he wasted his time running for president. If a third party wants to remain viable, then it needs to elect senators and representatives, not presidents. Being the balance of power in a closely divided Congress is guaranteed to keep the party's profile elevated in non election years, and in election years, people can feel much more comfortable casting a protest vote when they can cast it for someone whom they don't consider a total political opposite. Seats in congress would also make it much easier to fight election laws that tilt the political playing ground to the advantage of the current major parties.

Of course, there's the matter of actually getting those congressional seats to begin with. Any hypothetical third party would have to start off in states with a history of voting independent. New Hampshire springs to mind. But it would be much easier if a few disaffected Senators and Representatives from both sides decided to jump ship and form the Alternative party.

It's not likely to happen. Even disaffected politicos are treated like so much royalty, so no one is likely to jump. But a political system with three legs would inherently be more stable than the two-legged one we have now. Current political debates resemble nothing so much as a wildly swinging pendulum, as the political middle shifts left to denounce Trent Lott, then right to upbraid Tom Daschle, then left again to denounce Rick Santorum. It's exhausting.

And as long as politicians are allowed to pander to the extreme elements of their parties without paying a price at the polls, it will continue.


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5/01/2003




In The Mood To Be Stewed, Subdued, Renewed

Pass Grandpa a lude, dude.


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One Bad Apple

I cogitated on the Apple Music Store all afternoon, racking my brain for the name of a band, any band, where it would make financial sense for me to pay 99 cents for digital files of their songs. The group had to fit two criteria;

1. Their price of their compact discs had to cost more on average than 99 cents a track, even on the used market, and
2. They had to be somewhat difficult to find on the pirate services, for they were easy to find, why would one pay for them?

I finally came up with one, the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. You've likely never heard of them, though they do a kick-ass version of the Sesame Street song. I am regularly outbid for their discs at auction, and the cost per track average at Amazon is well over two dollars per, even before shipping. A Kazaa search for them turns up exactly four songs that meet my desired quality level of 160 kbps, all of which I already own.

So, having actually found a band for whom I was willing to shell out a buck a tune for, I downloaded and installed the ITunes music update on my Ibook, clicked on store, searched for Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, and got........."no music matches your search". Bloody Apple, bloody music labels. Since I was already there, I searched on a few other bands.

No Toasters.
No XTC.
One Zombies song.

They did have the Osmonds, though, in case I was suddenly seized with a need to be even more retroactively whitebread than I already am. Can't swing a dead cat in the music business without hitting an Osmond, it seems.

So, I didn't buy anything. I did submit a request for TSPO to be added, so there is that slim reed of hope. I shan't be holding my breath, though.


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The Digital Follies

I made the mistake of going into a Fye store the other day to ask if they had a ska section. The overweight and entirely too sweaty assistant manager made a point of looking down his nose at me before informing me that ska was "over like 5 years ago."

I considered this for a moment, and then asked him if he knew where the Donny and Marie Osmond albums were. He ponderously led me to them, indicating them with a sniff and derisive wave of his hands.

"Thanks," I said, "Just checking," and left him there, all a-quiver.

He didn't have what I wanted, and he was an ass about it, so I went elsewhere. And although he certainly didn't realize it, he didn't lose my business. After all, it's very hard to lose what you never had in the first place. I wanted a ska section that I could paw through in search of something new or to find a band I had never heard of. Not to buy, but to search for on Kazaa later. I'll be damned if I'm going to spend money on something I've never heard of.

But I'll happily download it. I can find all sorts of new stuff just by typing generic terms into the Kazaa search engine. It's the equivalent of pawing through Fye's non-existent ska section, not to mention all the other ones.

I'm the reason why a buck a tune is going to fail. Me, and people like me, which is most everyone. If you doubt me, take a look at the Gnutella meter. While there are a few specific searches, the vast majority are those that will produce multiple results. People aren't searching for specific songs, they're trawling for music, downloading dozens of tunes.

And there in a nutshell is the record companys' problem. People will download all sorts of crap for free, just to see if a nugget or two of gold can be gleaned out of the megabits of dross in their download folders. There's no way they will do that at a buck a tune, or 18 cents a tune, or even a nickel a tune. They'll just stay with Kazaa, or Gnutella. They might pan for music at a penny a tune, but anything higher than that is unlikely. Very few people are willing to pay for music that they haven't heard.

Take Floetry, for example. I don't care how good the reviews are, I'm a middle aged white guy, and I ain't paying 99 cents for a Floetry song I've never listened to, and since NPR isn't likely to put them in heavy rotation, I'm not likely to hear them anytime soon. What I can do is download a couple of their tunes, or a dozen, since that's just as easy, and stick them into my 30 gigabyte jukebox, where they'll get played randomly for the next month or so. Eventually I'll decide I like them and maybe buy a cd, or I'll delete them. Hard drive space is still finite, after all, and having to advance through a song that's disliked is a pain in the buttocks. I might not buy a cd, but just having their songs on my hard drive increases the chance that I will. It may be a small chance, but it's more likely than it was previously, when it was no chance at all. It's happened before; I own three Pizzicato Five albums because of Napster.

And where will I buy that cd? Let's see here. I can buy Floetic right now at ebay for $8.50. There's 16 tracks on that cd, which means each track costs me.......53 cents, and there are copies cheaper than that at Amazon. Or I can pay the Apple music store sixteen dollars for it, plus another buck for a cd to burn the songs to.

Now, why exactly would I do that?

The problem with the Apple music store, and all of the other digital music initiatives, is that the only thing they are selling is digital music files, and people can get those for free. If someone wants to make money off of digital music, then they need to use it to sell things that can't be digitized. The two most common non-digital things usually mentioned are concerts and t-shirts, and record execs dismiss those with same short-sighted sniff and wave I got at Fye. They're selling music, dammit, not fripperies. But there are other non-digital things that people will pay for, like membership and convenience, as anyone at Emusic can tell you. There are bound to be others, business plans that use digital music file as come-ons, or as additional value. The companies that develop them will rule the music world ten years from now, and labels like Universal will be as dead as Apple Records.


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4/30/2003




Club Card

The 32nd edition of the Carnival of the Vanities is at Clubbeaux this week.

Upcoming Carnival stops include;

May 7th Common Sense and Wonder
May 14th The Inscrutable American
May 21st Cut On The Bias
May 28th Dean's World
June 4th Drumwaster's Rants
June 11th Overtaken by Events
June 18th Real Women Online
June 25th Single Southern Guy
July 2nd Amish Tech Support
July 9th Winds Of Change

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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Tricks of the Trade

Just had to kill multiple Java threads spawned by a hanging database query, or something so similar to a hanging db query that it makes no difference. On Solaris, this would be comparatively simple, as all the threads would have been represented by a single process id. One kill -9 < pid > would have done the trick. On Linux, or at least the 7.2 Redhat version we run, each thread has it's own pid, so before I could restart the Tomcat servlet engine I would have had to kill each one individually. It's not difficult, typing "kill -9 < pid > " over and over again, but it is onerous, or at least as onerous as my job gets.

Here's where I tell you a secret. The best sysadmins are lazy bastards, so lazy that typing in even just 10 "kill -9 < pid > " commands seems an overwhelming task. I am not a great sysadmin; I'm not quite lazy enough*. Most of the time I'll just type in the multiple commands. Today I decided not to.

Here's what the processes that needed killing looked like; (I've broken them up so that they won't screw up viewers with small monitors. Normally everything in the 2 entries below would appear on one line)

root 18935 0.0 6.7 236880 86704 ? S Apr28 0:00
/usr/Java/jdk1.3.1_07/bin/i386/native_threads/Java -Djava.endorsed.dirs=/usr/local/tomcat-smartask/bin:/usr/local/tomcat-smartask/common/lib - classpath /usr/Java/jdk1.3.1_07/lib/tools.jar:/usr/local/tomcat-smartask/bin/bootstrap.jar -Dcatalina.base=/usr/local/tomcat-smartask -Dcatalina.home=/usr/local/tomcat-smartask -Djava.io.tmpdir=/usr/local/tomcat-smartask/temp org.apache.catalina.startup.Bootstrap start

root 18936 0.0 6.7 236880 86704 ? S Apr28 0:00
/usr/Java/jdk1.3.1_07/bin/i386/native_threads/Java -Djava.endorsed.dirs=/usr/local/tomcat-smartask/bin:/usr/local/tomcat-smartask/common/lib -classpath /usr/Java/jdk1.3.1_07/lib/tools.jar:/usr/local/tomcat-smartask/bin/bootstrap.jar -Dcatalina.base=/usr/local/tomcat-smartask -Dcatalina.home=/usr/local/tomcat-smartask -Djava.io.tmpdir=/usr/local/tomcat-smartask/temp org.apache.catalina.startup.Bootstrap start

There were about 50 just like the above, and this command took care of all of them at once, once I took the two minutes needed to puzzle it out;

kill -9 `ps -auxwww | grep smart | cut -c10-16`

I'm going to assume that most everyone who made it this far understands the above, and is wondering why it took me to this point in my career before I used such a simple damn command.

My answer? Because I never needed it before, so there.

For the rest of you, who must have a masochistic streak a mile wide somewhere in your makeup, the command above is actually 3 commands, enclosed in backquotes and separated by pipes (|), that output a number (the pid) to the fourth command, the kill -9

Commands:

ps -auxwww - is part of the Berkeley implementation of the the ps command, found inn /usr/ucb for an Solaris users out there. It gives me the entire process entry, instead of cutting it off after display line. If passes that information to

grep smart - grep looks at all the process entries and filters out all the ones where the word "smart" doesn't appear. I can't use "Java" because I have lots of processes with that word in the entry, and I don't want to kill them all. However, if I could have used "Java" then I could have gotten away with the much simpler and more familiar "ps -ef" command at the beginning, rather than the more cumbersome "ps -auxwww". The filtered processes are passed to

cut -c10-16 - which cuts out the characters in the 10th thru 16th spaces in the filtered process entry and serves them to

kill -9 - end a process, and do it now. It is the UNIX equivalent of your mother calling you by your entire name, and telling you to drop whatever you are doing and get in the house now.

I copied the entire command to a text file so that rather than having to type multiple kill -9's in future, I can just change "smart" to whatever identifies the processes I want and run it again. Two minutes expended now, 30 minutes saved over the course of the next few months. The entire course of a system administration career can be traced in minutes of activity saved. Like I said, lazy

The best sysadmins, the ones whose praises are sung in story and song, are entirely sessile, or invisible, having saved enough time that they need never come to work, which of course is the goal of every sysadmin.

Just think how much blogging I'll be able to do then.

Update: Aside from the sloth, another nice thing about thing a sysadmin is that there are always more elegant sysadmins around to point out inefficiencies in one's code**, like Jeff of Caerdroia, who wrote to point out that

kill -9 `ps -auxwww | grep smart | grep -v grep | awk '{print $2}'`

is a much better solution, as it proscribes the possibility (admittedly remote) that I would kill my own command before it had run its course. After all, "smart" would be found in its process entry as well. That's where the grep -v grep command comes in, as it filters out the word "grep." awk '{print $2}' pulls out everything in the second field of the process entry, rather than a set number of characters, useful in case the pids that need killing Re not all of the same length. As my "cut" would only pull out spaces in the case of a shorter pid and extra spaces are ignored in commands, it doesn't actually matter, but it is a more elegant solution, and thus better.

*The sysadmin at Medfusion is, though, and both he and his boss read the site regularly. Heh.

** all it takes is a willingness to expose one's shortcomings to the world, and I posses both the willingness and the shortcomings in ample measure.


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These Boots Were Made For Sculpture


Photo and blurb from Yahoo, where link half life is measured in minutes

A creation by Iraqi artist Zerak Mera made from Iraqi army boots is seen where a statue of toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein once stood, in the center of Kirkuk, April 29, 2003.


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A Primer For Frances

Since we checked out of the library two weeks ago, Bedtime for Frances has been near or at the top of Ngnat's bedtime story list. I assume because the book has suggested several new stratagems for Ngnat to try in order to delay bedtime each night. Circle Dogs has also been popular, but Frances is the clear winner.

It's interesting to read her books from a generation or two ago, before the PC lobby placed its claws on the throat of children's publishing. Frances is threatened with a spanking, something I have never seen in a recently published book, and Doctor Dan features not only toy guns, but a fight between cowboys and Indians. I'm thinking about writing a children's book that features both guns and spanking, perhaps with a smoker just to give it flavor ; say something where a boy gets spanked by his uncle the Marlboro man after practicing poor gun safety on a deer hunt. I'll throw the PC industry a bone and make the Uncle a member of the Pink Pistols; surely it'll be more saleable that way.

Among the other attractions Frances has for Ngnat is a song she sings at one point;

A is for apple pie, B is for bear,
C is for crocodile, combing his hair,
D is for dumplings.....


The book then skips E to R, as Frances goes to tell her father about yet another reason she is not asleep yet, then finishes with

S is for sailboat, T is for tiger,
U is for underwear, down in the drier


It has the feel of something that the author (Russell Hoban) cut for space, rather than never wrote, but I've been unable to find a complete version, or even a suggestion that there ever was a complete version. Since Ngnat has started to sing that particular passage along with me each night, I felt it behooved me to make up my own for her. The original, slight as it is, suggests a combination of the familiar and the surreal, which I've tried to keep.

A is for apple pie,
B is for bear,
C is for crocodile, combing his hair.
D is for dumplings,
E is for egg,
F is for Flamingo, shaving a leg.
G is for Garbage can,
H is for Ham,
I is for Icicle, dipped in jam.
J is for jelly fish,
K is for key,
L is for lobster, drinking his tea.
M is for monkey paw,
N is for nails,
O is for omelet, stuffed with snails.
P is for pangolin,
Q is for queen,
R is for rhyming skills, mine are keen.
S is for sailboat,
T is for tiger,
U is for underwear, down in the drier.
V is for vortex,
W is weird,
X is for xylophone, growing a beard.
Y is for yogurt,
Z is for zoo,
I'll sing this song, again for you!


I should tender my thanks to the Picture Dictionary at Enchanted Learning. It had a plethora of primer examples for every letter, which made the above much easier to come up with. I'll stick a copy into the book before I return it, and save the next patron the trouble of coming up with his own.


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The Compleat Dumbass

PETA activists are demanding that anglers stop fishing after a British study determined that fish can feel pain after all.

So fish can feel pain. Who cares? Of course they can feel pain. Worms feel pain too, as anyone who has ever watched one writhe on a hook could tell you, but I don't see any PETA protests for them. Every organism above a certain level of complexity can feel pain. Pain is an evolutionary defense against things like swimming into an underwater lava flow, or repeatedly ramming into sharp coral in an attempt to catch a particularly tasty shrimp.

PETA is apparently under the misapprehension that the "Fish can't feel pain" is something all fishermen believe, rather than the convenient lie they tell tenderhearted children so as to get on with the fishing. A species of fish could be pulled screaming out of the surf and it wouldn't make a difference, except that more fisherman would be angling for them.

"Hooked one of them screaming trout on a No.8 Tsetse fly the other day, Clem. Sucker had perfect pitch, hit a F sharp a hunnert yards out and kept it up all the way in. All I need now is a High C and an A flat, and Billy down to the Taxidermy shop can finish mah organ."

Once you get down to a particular level of stupidity, PETA is wasting its time, if not undermining previously won victories. Saving monkeys from lab tests may be one thing*, but the lower down the intelligence scale on goes, the less people care, and eventually they'll start to question you about the monkeys if you keep throwing tantrums about not bothering the clams.

*though not for me. If hooking up Colobus genitals to a car battery has even the slightest chance of curing cancer, teenage acne, or hangnails for that matter, I say shock that monkey.


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Rehab Schmeehab

I am so surprised by this news. Who could have seen this coming? If only we had seen the signs.


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4/29/2003




He Says It Like That's A Bad Thing



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Three

Ngnat is home sick for her birthday today. I'm not positive she's even that ill, though she is possessed of a cough, and perhaps a slight fever. I'm not planning on telling the better half that she played with a little runny-nosed Chinese girl at the park on Sunday.

She woke up screaming in the wee hours of this morning, within a couple of minutes of the exact time of her birth three years ago. She did the same thing on her first birthday, though not last year that we noticed. The first time it was an interesting coincidence. Last night it graduated to weird. We've wondered if she might be dreaming of her birth somehow, but I'm suspicious of that explanation. The timing is a little too "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy," for me.

We got her some water, and calmed her down, mostly to no avail. She stayed up most of the night, which meant that I too stayed up, and the thought of staying home today was very appealing to my bleary and befogged psyche come daybreak.

One of us is feeling much better now. It's not me, despite the application of three large latte size cups of coffee. Ngnat is walking around on tiptoe and declaiming; something about Dora and apple trees. I may put her down for a nap soon in self defense.


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Thrax Tracks

An Egyptian man in Brazil has died of anthrax after opening a suitcase contaminated by spores of the disease. The suitcase originated in Egypt, and was en route to Canada.

If this story pans out, and if the strain turns out to be the same as the one in the 2001 mailings, then there's going to be hell to pay domestically after all the assurances that the anthrax mailer was domestic in origin.

Hell to pay in the Middle East as well, as the current American posture in the region will in retrospect be thought of as subtle and light-handed.

Update: Suitcase? What suitcase? Canadian authorities are questioning the suitcase story, though not the cause of the sailor's death, which begs the question of exactly how the sailor happened to catch anthrax in the middle of the ocean. The mounties seem more intent on dismissing the suitcase's existence than in determining where it might be .

Which, if it never existed, will be fine. But if it did exist, and vanished before Canadian authorities boarded the ship, where is it now?

More Update: Twasn't anthrax at all, say Canadian officials, but some unknown disease that caused multiple organ failure and eventually killed the Egyptian sailor, so they have lifted the quarantine on his ship, allowing it to dock. Why doesn't that make me feel better?


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Aftershocks

U.S. ends operations in Saudi Arabia - the expectation is that this will remove one of the primary provocations Muslim miltants have cited for attacking the U.S., the presence of our forces in the holy land of Islam.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the level of rhetoric to die down in the mosques, however. Look for the Shiite holy places to gain a whole new level of exposure, even in Sunni mosques, and there's always the pesky Jews to fulminate against.

Military may lighten its 'footprint' in Europe - another knee to the groin of an already ailing German economy. In Iraq, we got a regime change by injecting troops. In Germany, we'll get a similar result by withdrawing them.

And just in time, too. I'm tired of not buying German beer, and that industry has apparently felt the effects of my boycott.



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4/28/2003




Bleeping Beauty

Ngnat got a special Sleeping Beauty napkin with her dinner tonight, a leftover from the early birthday party we held for her on Saturday. It went well with the leftover hotdog. She got upset when the Sainted wife handed me a plain napkin, though.

S.W. explained to her that these were special napkins, for a special girl, and that's why daddy didn't get one.

Ngnat was having none of it. "Daddy's special too!" she said, and burst into tears.*

So I too had a leftover Sleeping Beauty napkin with my leftover hotdog, and all was well with Ngnat, if not with me. I hate Sleeping Beauty.

Hate her, despise her, pull for the witch to cast her and all her tribe into a pit of molten lava for eternity her. It's a horrible annoying video, worse than Barney at his smarmiest, or Barbie at her boobiest. The heroine is Walt Disney's blandest of all time, not to mention the crappiest female role model for little girls since Marie Antoinette. She makes Snow White look like a paragon of forcefulness.

For all of the claims that Barbie is bad, she has a career, at least, and lives on her own. Briar Rose, the supposed center of Sleeping Beauty, has no will of her own, is totally acted upon throughout the entire movie, and doesn't even speak for the last third of the film. Or the first third, for that matter. Out of the entire movie, she has 31 lines of dialogue, almost all of which are either about meeting a handsome prince or her flirting with a handsome prince. She's an absolute milquetoast, especially when compared to Disney heroines like Ariel or Belle.

Every ostensibly good female character in the movie is either incompetent, or powerless. The only female character with any power, Maleficent, is of course evil, not to mention jealous, and is dressed like a lesbian Viking with a Goth fetish to boot. Everything about her suggests frustrated male, from her cuckold's horns to her weirdly obvious name. She's not so much female as she is an Eisenhower era vision of a drag queen, the whole of that period's view of homosexuality wrapped up in one tight package.

Her enemies, the good fairies, are only remotely competent when in the presence of a man, and then only as supporters of his actions. They bless the sword the Prince uses to pierce the Dragon lady, who then dies, slain by a gleaming white phallic symbol. By themselves they do horribly stupid things like practice magic for the first time in sixteen years, on the very last day that the Sleeping Beauty curse can be invoked, conveniently drawing the notice of Maleficent's familiar just in time for her to bedazzle the all too easily ensorceled girl. And why pray tell, was magic so sorely needed? Because they were arguing over the color of a dress. Women, just too flighty for words, don't you know?

The virginal heroine, protected from the outside world for 16 years, falls into a deathlike trance after encountering her first prick** and is only saved by a prince, coincidentally the possessor of the second and presumably last prick she'll ever encounter. Yep, unless those pricks are part and parcel of the embodiment of true love, they'll ruin you. To rescue her, the prince not only has to kill the evil drag queen, but must first hack his way through a forest of thorns, which resemble nothing so much as the most threatening, coarsest and blackest patch of pubic hair ever animated. Pubic hair with thorns, yes, but her name is Briar Rose. Where do you think she got it from?

Someone should remake this movie with a man as the sleeper, and a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed Briar Rose as the rescuer. Have her invade the witch's castle amid a torrent of gunfire and acres of blood, execute Maleficent with a graphic shot to the back of her head, light a cigarette and leave the prince to his slumber.

At the very least, she'd be a better role model for my daughter the Disney's limp blonde noodle is.

It's hard to decide which is worse in the movie, the off hand yet absolute depiction of women as powerless objects, or the horribly twisted sexual subtext of the whole thing. As Song of The South is to African Americans, so Sleeping Beauty is to women. It may be worse. You don't have to be a feminist*** to see the stuff I noted above; it's two-by-four to the side of the head obvious, so there's probably a lot that I overlooked. I'll get more chances to review it, that's for certain. Ngnat shows no signs of realizing how bad it is, no matter how many times I explain it to her.


*In case you were wondering, she does say nice things to her mother, as well. Tonight for instance, just before bed, she said "Mommy, you're my best friend." But since Mommy doesn't have her own blog, and indeed looks askance at the whole practice, her interactions with Ngnat are much less recorded.

**this is a pun. What she actually encounters is technology with a phallic symbol attached, and we all know how women are with technology, right? She touches the phallic symbol, which makes her bleed, quelle surprise, then falls down in a faint. La petite mort, indeed.

**and god knows I'm not, though I did once write an end of term Women's Studies paper for a girlfriend, who had freaked out and was screaming "This is all such bullshit!" at her textbook the night before it was due.

It got an A.


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Count Zero Interrrupted

William Gibson is giving up blogging.

Zod: Must.Resist.Smell.Of.Stale.Fad.


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Substantial Penalties Apply To Early Withdrawal

Well, this is unexpected.

Most former exiles wanted a lesser U.S. role, arguing that only Iraqis should rule the country, while those who had not left Iraq said they wanted more U.S. supervision because they did not trust those who returned after Saddam Hussein's fall.

Given the prior news coverage of protests in Iraq, one would think the Iraqi positions would be reversed, with the exiles supporting a broad U.S. role instead of opposing it. In fact, they probably do, but can't afford to say so without casting themselves in the role of Washington's hand puppets. The newly freed Iraqis, with the exception of the Iranian-backed Shiite clerics, want the U.S. involved over the intermediate to long term. Were coalition forces to leave in the near term, their perception is that the the next rulers in Iraq would be those same Iranian-backed Shiites.

I commented on someone's blog a while back that it would be nice to hear someone in the administration state that the U.S. would not allow the establishment of sharia law in Iraq, no matter what. I figured actually saying so was impolitic and therefore unlikely, which of course meant that soon afterwards Donald Rumsfeld said something along those exact lines.

As the Iraqi Shiite are riven with factionalism, odds are that the adherents of an Iranian style theocracy do not even form a majority within the Shi'ite population, but the United States would likely do nothing further to discourage their intentions in any case.

One, because they really are a minority of the overall Iraqi population, albeit a vocal one. Politically, they are likely to have as much influence on the final shape of the Iraqi government as the American anti-war protestors did on George Bush's foreign policy.

Two, even if the Shiite clerics hold a wider sway over the Shiite population, their power flows from the mullahs in Iran, and the position of the Iranian ayatollahs is a precarious one. The Bush administration is betting that it can outlast them, that the Iranian street will overthrow them long before the Iraqi Shiites can shift us out of Baghdad. The longer the process of building an Iraqi government takes, the better our position. We are running the building of Iraqi democracy as a marathon, a race which the Iranian backed clerics know they cannot win, so they're using what influence they have to turn it into a sprint. A power comes back online, and food and water become more available, the more their influence will dwindle. The only hope of the mullahs is to get the U.S. out now, or to provoke our troops into committing an Amritsar-like massacre.

Three, fundamentalist Iraqi Shiites make excellent bogeymen. The wilder eyed they are, the more bellicose their pronouncements, the more they scare moderate Shiites, Kurds, Iraqi Sunni Muslims and what remains of the Iraqi intelligentsia and middle class. None of those groups want ayatollahs ruling in Iraq, anymore than they want Saddam back. This applies to the Arab governments outside Iraq as well. As long as the fundamentalist Shiites appear to be a viable threat, U.S. forces in the region are the lesser of two evils.

Paradoxical as it may seem, radical Shi'ia fundamentalism will a positive factor in the growth of an Iraqi democracy, as long as the United States stays the course in Iraq. Their actions will serve to spook the other disparate groups in the area, forcing them towards a more common ground in a defensive reaction. We should probably thank Iran (and Turkey for that matter) for its ham-handed attempts at influence. Had the fundamentalist Shiites not presented themselves as the repressive alternative to U.S. rule, it probably would have proved necessary to invent them.


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4/27/2003




Hijo De América

Who's a better father for an American boy? His gay American foster parent, or the deported Honduran criminal who is his natural father?

I realize there's more than a couple of different issues here, but my gut reaction is that there's no reason to deport an American citizen, no matter how young, to a third-world country, no matter how pleasant the city, to be raised by a felon. It's not like he won't be coming back in 11 years anyway.


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Tilting At Ospreys

After 20 years of development and testing, and 12 years after it was originally supposed to be deployed, The V-22 Osprey is still not ready for deployment.

Internal program documents obtained by The News & Observer show that the groundbreaking tilt-rotor aircraft -- 20 years and $14.7 billion in the making -- is failing two critical tests it was supposed to have passed several years ago:

* carrying a 5-ton cannon, an essential part of its mission; and
* keeping its balance with the maximum load of fuel necessary for making 2,100-mile trips across the Atlantic.


It's two-for-one deal. A money pit;

A joint program of Bell Helicopter and Boeing, the Osprey program has steadily increased in price; it is now estimated to cost $48.3 billion if all the planned planes are built. Each aircraft will now cost more than $105 million.

and a death trap.

The Osprey can roll over and lose control when descending too rapidly at low forward speeds. Unlike helicopters, it cannot autorotate, or land safely if it loses power. And problems continue to plague the hydraulic system, computers and firefighting system.

The worst thing about the Osprey is that tilt-rotor technology is relatively old, and thus relatively familiar. The first tilt-rotor flew in 1955, yet a program to develop a 1980's era tilt-rotor aircraft for the military is still going on, suggesting that the problem lies not in the tilt rotors themselves, but in the design of the aircraft itself.

After 20 years, whether or not the program can be successful if enough money is thrown at it shouldn't be the question anymore. Every year the program was funded after 1991 was a year in which the manufacturers of the Osprey, had their incompetence rewarded with millions of dollars. Funding that incompetence meant there was never any pressure on Bell Helicopter and Boeing to produce an aircraft that worked.

Bell, Boeing, and all the other defense contractors are capitalist firms, and as such should theoretically respond to market pressures, something that should be incorporated into the defense appropriations procedure. Every contract should have a series of benchmark tests that a company should pass, with a proviso that if a company fails to meet the timetable for a certain test, then bidding for that contract will be re-opened. Such a policy wouldn't need to be enforced many times before defense contractors would stop promising the stars and start delivering on time.

We may see something like this anyway, if Donald Rumsfeld decides to deal with the Osprey in the same manner he dealt with the Crusader.


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Blogging Origins

I also can wordify anything.


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No, Blogging Isn't Affecting my Family Life. Why Do You Ask?

The Sainted Wife: I dreamed we met Instapundit last night.

What did he look like?

Kind of a blond construction worker redneck type.

Well, he doesn't look like that. What did we do then?

I don't remember anything else.

Why are you smiling?

Cause I like Spongebob.

Uh-huh.


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