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Showing posts from August, 2002
On innovation and your cell phone

Technology Review - Push-Button Innovation

Hello? Hello? Can you hear me now? The telecom sector seems badly disconnected. Analysis reports state that over two trillion dollars’ worth of its market value has evaporated in less than 30 months. The high-flying, high-tech visionaries of the high-bandwidth future--Global Crossing, Covad, Williams, XO, Teligent, et al--have vanished into bankruptcy or liquidation. The AT&Ts, WorldComs, Qwests and Sprints, as well as their counterparts overseas, have seen their bold ambitions for growth in billion-dollar gambits such as the third-generation wireless standard turn into mad scrambles for survival. A few dishonest telco execs may even be going to jail.

There are many good reasons for this sorry state beyond corrupt accounting. Here’s one of the best: America’s telecom companies are lousy innovators. ...Interesting reading, especially in light of that "Can you hear me now?" ad campaign tromping aroun…
A Palestinian State

Mother of 7 executed as informant

It is a new form of violence not seen before, even in the Middle East. For the first time, a Palestinian woman, a widow and mother of seven, has been executed by her own people for allegedly collaborating with the Israelis. There was no trial, no appeal, no mercy.By all means, let's support yet another despot in the Middle East. It will give an opportunity to see even more stories like these.
Thank god for environmental summits

Lobsters, caviar and brandy for MPs at summit on starvation

The sickening champagne and caviar lifestyle being enjoyed by Earth Summit delegates was exposed yesterday.

They are gorging on mountains of lobster, oysters and fillet steak at the Johannesburg conference -- aimed at ending FAMINE.The article does a lovely job pointing out the ironies raging around the conference. Unfortunately, it only takes aim at the key western delegates, including (shock!) the US. I guess the others are just nibbling bread crumbs in sympathy with the people they oppress--er, govern.

brought to you by Quizilla

So I wish I knew what this was about, but nonetheless....
Fun in the modern age

Technology Review: How (not) to Build a Dirty Bomb

When I call Matthew Bunn, of the Nuclear Threat Initiative think tank in Washington, he says he is a little worried about this idea.

"One does not want to provide a cookbook for terrorists," he says. Nonetheless, he recommends that I try Russia.

"If I was building a dirty bomb," he says, "that's what I would do. In the nuclear age, they were building nuclear airplanes and nuclear rocket-ships. They were digging canals using nuclear bombs. There was a great deal of nuclear enthusiasm, and now loads of these big, hulking, nasty radioactive sources are scattered around all over. Those are the absolute worst. And loads are still missing in breakaway republics."Entertaining reading, of a sorts.
A little Dr. Seuss

Received this in my email:

Dr. Seuss Explains Why Computers Sometimes Crash

(Read this aloud, if you can!)

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,

and the bus is interrupted at a very last resort,

and the access of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,

then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.

If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,

and the double-clicking icon puts your window in the trash,

and your data is corrupted cause the index doesn't hash,

then your situation's hopeless and your system's gonna crash!!

If the label on the cable on the table at your house

says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,

but your packets want to tunnel to another protocol,

that's repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall,

and your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss,

so your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse;

then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,

'cuz sure as I'm a poet, the …
On meeting standards

From the Washington Post, Algebra = X in One School, Y in Another, which recounts a Maryland state algebra test which had students asking: Where's the algebra?

University of Maryland mathematics associate professor Jerome Dancis called the test "pretend algebra." Montgomery County parent John Hoven, an economist, said most of the problems were what students in Singapore get in the fifth grade. Even one of the people responsible for the test, Maryland State Education Department official Gary Heath, said, "We would be the first to tell you it doesn't have a lot of algebra, nor was it intended to."Then why call it an "algebra test" if it doesn't have algebra in it?

Pretend algebra, indeed. Explains why much of our educational system is "pretend."
A history of flight lesson

Seth Shulman, in Technology Review, writes about The Flight that Tamed the Skies. In recounting early aviation pioneers, he names:

One of them was Glenn Hammond Curtiss, who in the spring of 1910 completed a 243-kilometer public flight along the Hudson River from Albany, NY, to Manhattan. Curtiss’s feat--the first true cross-country flight in the United States--was a technological tour de force. Not only was it by far the longest flight yet attempted in the United States, but it meant traveling over unpredictable terrain with virtually unknown wind and weather hazards--quite a different matter from the fair-weather demonstration laps around airfields that characterized most of the previous flights....Great stuff, if you're into the "pioneer days" of early aviation. Also makes the point that the person who does something first is seldom the one to actually develop a technology, to demonstrate what it's really capable of. The Wright Brothers mi…
Coming to your provider soon?

Europe to force ISPs and telcos to retain data for one year

European Union proposals on data retention would compel telecom firms to keep customer email logs, details of internet usage and phone call records for at least a year.

That's the gist of proposals leaked via civil liberties group Statewatch, which says the plans increase law enforcement powers without adequate civil liberties safeguards.

In the name of tackling "terrorism" the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Minister decided last September that law enforcement agencies needed to have access to all traffic data....So, we (the US) aren't the only ones using this "war on terrorism" (as opposed to a war against terrorists) as an excuse for snooping hither and yon. Will wonders never cease.
Security, oh, Security!

Speaking of Jerry Pournelle, the column is Live Free Or..., and I think he's a tad annoyed, as it begins....

We continue to lurch forward to incompetent empire, with the petty tyrants in the airports demanding that we act as if we like them when they do something particularly stupid, and if we make the wrong comment, they bare their teeth and arrest us. But we were born free.

I presume the goal is to eliminate air travel entirely. ...Like I said, I think he's...annoyed.
Is this your computer...?

I was reading Jerry Pournelle's Byte column this week, which lead to peruse this, Next-Generation Win32 exploits: fundamental API flaws. Gleeful news:

This paper presents a new generation of attacks against Microsoft Windows, and possibly other message-based windowing systems.

The flaws presented in this paper are, at the time of writing, unfixable. The only reliable solution to these attacks requires functionality that is not present in Windows...Oh joy, oh rapture. Well, at least Microsoft does publish The Ten Immutable Laws of Security.
Greenpeace, liars!

The Daily Telegraph reports that Melting glacier 'false alarm', referring to a "warning" issued by Greenpeace. The original "alert" apparently showed a picture of a retreating glacier, blamed it all on man-made global warning:

"The blame can be put squarely on human activity," Greenpeace said. "Our addiction to fossil fuels releases millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and this is what is causing temperatures to rise and our future to melt before our eyes."And lo and behold, they're full of it!

But Prof Ole Humlum, a leading glaciologist in Svalbard, 500 miles north of Norway, said yesterday: "That glacier had already disappeared in the early 1920s as a result of a perfectly natural rise in temperature that had nothing to do with man-made global warming."The article describes the earlier Greenpeace statement as "misleading at best." Misleading? How about flat out full of **it?

Up, up, and away...

Specialists put space elevator on fast track

The message from the First International Space Elevator Conference, held here Aug. 12-13, is that the concept is an idea whose time has come … well, almost. World-class specialists in diverse fields -- from materials science, bridge-building and aerospace technology to law, business and financing -- contend the project is on the up-and-up.

“This is a vertical railroad,” said Brad Edwards, co-founder of HighLift Systems, a privately held, Seattle-based firm established this year.As Robert Heinlein is quoted as saying, "Once you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere."
Let us rewrite history

While perusing old mail, I read in last week's (!) Best of the Web a little piece referring to this article in ArabNews, so I had to go read for myself. (Eek, such a habit.) And I read:

Suddenly you notice that all these exotic and diverse places have one thing in common, they were bombed by Brits and Yankees. These guys sure get around. Today we bomb Afghanistan, tomorrow the rest, or whatever they sing in the Air Force. The reasons vary. They had bombed China for the stubborn Chinese did not want to buy their opium, Colombia, for they were selling drugs, Russians and Vietnamese, for being Commies, Cambodians, for being there, Germans and French, for offending Jews, Iraqis, for hard cash and Sudanese by mistake.What were the "exotic and diverse places"?

Marseille, Brittany, Oriente, Milan, Naples, Shanghai, Archangel, Berlin, Hamburg, the passes of Hindukush, Tokyo, Baghdad, Manila, Havana....

Egads, for the most part he's recounting Allied target…
Tech rolls on Technology | The media titans still don't get it

You'd think that, in summer 2002, with the red ink of a thousand bankrupt dot-coms still bleeding across the stock charts, everyone could agree on what happened to the Internet. Big money poured in; a few got rich, many lost their shirts. Trend became gold rush became bubble. Pop -- end of story. Now, everyone, back to work!

That, at any rate, is how much of the commercial media world views the Internet saga. New technology thing came along. Couldn't figure it out. Seemed important. Threw a lot of money at it. Down a hole. It's over now, thank God.

And that would be the story's end, if it weren't for one stubborn fact that refuses to vanish....A review of a pair of books covering a volatile period in tech growth.
So this began when...?

Paul Roberts reviews the book "Buy, Lie and Sell High", whick attempts to figure out what happened to the stock market, and why all these CEO's just flat out lied.

In his new book," Buy, Lie and Sell High: How Investors Lost Out on Enron and the Internet Bubble," D. Quinn Mills sets out to analyze what happened. A professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School and the author of a number of books on the high-tech industry, Mills argues that the bubble in Internet and technology-related stocks that developed in the U.S. and international stock markets during the late 1990s was evidence, not of the "irrational exuberance" of ordinary investors, but of a complete ethical collapse on the part of major investment banks, brokerage houses and even the Federal Reserve.The 90's? I thought Bush was the root of all evil in the corporate world?

After a brief pause....

We saw "Signs" this last weekend. Excellent, if not perfect, film. I think we've found the heir apparent for Hitchcock; M. Night Shyamalan gets my vote right now. Harry probably sums it up best. (I especially love Quentin Tarantino's desire to film a Godzilla flick, and the kind of film he'd like it to be.)

Shyamalan has a consistent theme in his films to date, namely one of redemption mixed with recovery of faith. This is rather blatant in "Signs," which is all right since that's precisely what the film is about. All the crop circles, apprehension, aliens, etc., are all window dressing for Mel Gibson's loss of faith...and whether he'll recover it or not.

The science fiction fan/writer in me asks a ton of questions, but it gets told to shut up since the point of view of this film wouldn't have the answers, maybe wouldn't even ask the questions.

About the only persistent problem(s) I have involve weapons and t…
The beat goes on (and on)

Palestinians approve Israeli plan

As top Palestinian officials headed for talks in Washington, the Palestinian Cabinet on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to an Israeli proposal that troops withdraw from some Palestinian areas in exchange for a Palestinian crackdown on militants there.Which is pretty much what Israel has been demanding all along, isn't it?

The story itself is full of interesting, er, twists. Such as the caption for the lead photo:

Palestinian police rush through the streets of Gaza with a casket in preparation for a body after incursions into Gaza by the Israeli army Wednesday."In preparation"? You mean they're rushing to where they anticipate a death? Is this sloppy writing, or what?

Further in, MS-NBC has picked up the Reuters beat.

Meantime, at least five Palestinians were killed Wednesday as Israel pursued its military crackdown on several fronts.Wow, death toll rising. Wait! Next paragraph:

In the West Bank town of Bethlehe…
Through a spinning world

So, since I was already at Reuters, I thought I'd check the headlines, and lo and behold read that the "militant" designation, rather than "terrorist," continues, but with even greater fervor. For instance, the headline reads:

Israeli Forces Kill Five Palestinians

...and the story begins:

Israeli forces killed at least six Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Wednesday, but both sides drew closer to agreement on an Israeli plan to ease a military clampdown in occupied areas.Now, when a lot of web sites (such as Yahoo!) picks up Reuters (or AP, or whoever), they often only print the headline and the first paragraph. You have to click the link to read the entire story. So, a quick scan of web "headlines" would read that those vicious bastards, the Israelis, and just killing Palestinians again.

But, ah ha, keep reading:

Israeli undercover soldiers on a "roundup of wanted terrorists" killed four militants and wounded a…
Almost missed anniversary

I was looking for stories about the 57th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing yesterday, but apparently didn't look in the right places. So, today I find one:

Reuters: Hiroshima Hits 'Pax Americana' at A-Bomb Memorial. Bush is apparently annoying the mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba:

Akiba invited Bush to Hiroshima "to confirm with his own eyes what nuclear weapons can do to human beings" and lashed out at Washington's go-it-alone stance.

"America has not been given the right to impose a 'Pax Americana' and to decide the fate of the world," Akiba said.

"Rather, we, the people of the world, have the right to insist that we have not given you the authority to destroy the world.""Destroy the world"? Where does that nonsense come from?

For a Reuters' piece, it actually manages to have a shade of balance:

While Japan each year solemnly mourns its own war dead, less attention is paid to the victims o…
You have to work to keep the faith

NYC Workers Accused of Stealing Millions From Credit Unit After Sept. 11

NEW YORK -- In one of the largest fraud cases resulting from the terrorist attacks, thousands of people are accused of using ATMs to steal $15 million from a municipal employees' credit union whose computer security system was damaged on Sept. 11.


"This is a prime example of no good deed goes unpunished," [District Attorney Robert ]Morgenthau said. "People took advantage."The kicker, of course, is that credit unions are typically set up to get their members better deals than a standard bank would be willing to offer. So, who ultimately suffers here?

The irony is killing me

Windfarms Stir Up Controversy

The winds off Cape Cod, Mass., are some of the strongest in the country -- and now they're blowing a storm of controversy.

Developers have proposed trying to harness these mighty winds for energy by building a 170-turbine wind farm that could power half the homes on the Cape....


But there is vocal opposition to the wind farm from an unlikely source -- environmentalists.As classic a case of NIMBY (not in my backyard) as I've seen in a loooong time.
Jokes via email

And the story goes:

My name is John. Driving to my office this morning on Califonia Interstate 5, near Lake Forest, I looked over my shoulder to the left and there was a woman driving a brand new Mustang, with her face up next to the rear view mirror, putting on her eye makeup. I looked away for a few seconds and when I looked back, there she was, halfway over in my lane, still working on her eye liner!

It scared me so bad I dropped my electric razor, which knocked the Krispy Creme out of my other hand. In all the confusion of trying to straighten our the car with my knees against the steering wheel, it knocked the cell phone away from my ear, which fell into my Starbucks coffee between my legs, splashed and burned Big Bob and the Twins, ruined the phone, and disconnected an important call!

Darn women drivers!Only too true, too true....
A bit of a wandering rant

So I read this little gem, which leads to Ted Rall's bit, which has little nuggets of truth that are just a pain to dig out from all the anti-Bush anti-American anti-West rhetoric. Eventually I end up on Warblogger Watch, which certainly provides plenty of evidence of Charles Kauthammer's clarification of the differences between how Conservatives view Liberals and vice versa. Namely: "Conservatives are mean, Liberals are stupid." Other posts over at The Watch illustrate and support Christ Weinkopf's list of "What Liberals Hate Most."

While scrolling through the Watch's postings (and wondering, "Well, who watches the watchers?"), I found this one which, in turn, has this little quote:

It's really not much of a democracy anymore, is it? Shouldn't we own up to the fact that the US is governed by an oligarchy? Such an admission would at least begin the process of clearing our political language of cant.So, I had …
Hacker heaven?

THIS must have been fun!

This incarnation of capture the flag, the brainchild of a Seattle group of high-minded security geeks known as the GhettoHackers, pits rival hacking groups against each other in a game of corporate espionage. Each group has to maintain its own server while attempting to crash or take control of other teams' servers.Way cool.
Clinton's Black Hawk History

The Wall Street Journal has this featured article which reiterates much of what has been said about Clinton's recent attempt to blame the Battle of the Black Sea (Black Hawk Down) on President Bush Version 1.

We can understand Mr. Clinton wanting to defend himself, but as usual he can't get his own facts straight. His introduction of Somalia here is one of those breathtakingly brazen attempts to dodge responsibility for which Mr. Clinton is justly famous.


President Bush the Elder sent U.S. forces into Somalia in December 1992 to aid the United Nations in relieving a massive famine. In May of 1993, four months into his term, President Clinton declared that mission accomplished and pulled out most of the U.S. force.


[B]ack in Somalia, with no U.S. deterrent, Somalia's warlords began fighting again. After a series of bloody attacks on U.N. peacekeepers, Mr. Clinton launched a new mission: In August 1993, he sent in a force of Rangers and Spe…
A moment of history

Civil War ironclad’s turret raised

The coral-encrusted gun turret of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor was raised Monday from the floor of the Atlantic, nearly 140 years after the historic warship sank during a storm.Over this last weekend I listened to a historian, who said that the battle between the Monitor and the Virginia was the pivotal event of the Civil War. Even though they two ships fought to a draw, it was the key strategic victory for the North, which was attempting to assemble a blockade around all Southern ports, indeed all of the south (their Operation Anaconda).

The Virginia was the South's bid to break that blockade. If it had succeeded, there was a good possibility that the British would enter the war on the side of the South. If that had happened, history today would be much...different.

But it didn't, because the Monitor stopped the Virginia. And because of that, the blockade held, the South was starved of resources and resupply, the Brits …
At last!

In this morning's Washington Post if the report on a briefing that identifies Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States:

A briefing given last month to a top Pentagon advisory board described Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States, and recommended that U.S. officials give it an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States.

"The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader," stated the explosive briefing. ...

One administration official said opinion about Saudi Arabia is changing rapidly within the U.S. government. "People used to rationalize Saudi behavior," he said. "You don't hear that anymore. There's no doubt that people are recognizing reality and recognizing that Saudi Arabia is a problem."This is something even Ted Rall agrees with! (Well, all ri…
Shouldn't we take them at their word?

Israel launches air attack on Gaza

Israel fired missiles at Gaza City Monday night in the first such strike since the outcry over a bombing that killed a Hamas militant leader as well as 14 civilians, many of them children. Monday’s attack, on what Israel said was a weapons factory, followed a series of attacks by Palestinians over the weekend that left 13 dead. Earlier Monday, Israel announced a “total ban” on Palestinian travel in much of the West Bank and sealed off part of the Gaza Strip with tanks.



Palestinian attacks on Israelis have killed 27 people since the July 22 Israeli airstrike that killed leading Hamas militant Salah Shehadeh and 14 other Palestinians in Gaza.


About 4,000 people celebrated the bus bombing in Gaza City late Sunday, passing out sweets and praying near Shehadeh’s destroyed house. Militants shouting over loudspeakers vowed to “avenge every drop of his blood.”

“We advise (Israelis) to prepare more body …
And speaking of the weekend...

No, I didn't get to see "Signs," though one of the brood did, and he says it's scary and great. Bastard. I'll have to flog him later. The rest of us might get to go tomorrow evening, because starting next week my life will be entering a typhoon. Rather excited about it, truth be known.

Meanwhile, I did a flock of updates to my Windows 2000 boxes, including installing Service Pack 3, which installs (quit without my permission) some new gimic that wants to always check for "critical updates." I was doing that manually, thank you very much, leave the automatic crap out of my system. The MS update site has been saying I need to install this for the last month or two; I kept telling it, "No, go away." It didn't, and now MS has given it to me anyway. The install wizard allows me to tell it to shut up and drop into a coma; we'll see if it stays that way.

I also go Mandrake Linux 8.1 installed (again) on my old PC. …
There's a new trend in town

[All emphasis mine.]

MS-NBC: Israel clamps down after fatal attacks

Israel responded to a bloody 24-hour period by further clamping down on Palestinian movements Monday, announcing a complete ban on intercity travel in most of the West Bank and blocking the Gaza Strip's north-south road with more than two dozen tanks. Nineteen people on both sides, including assailants, have died in a renewed surge of violence, including the bombing of an Israeli bus and separate shootings in Jerusalem and the West Bank.Reuters: Israel Tightens Hold on W.Bank, Gaza After Attacks

The militant Islamic group Hamas said it sent the suicide bomber who killed nine people by detonating a bomb on a bus in northern Israel. Hamas said it was its latest act of revenge for an Israeli air strike that killed its military commander and 14 other Palestinians, mostly children, in July.AP: One Killed in Northern Israel Blast

Israel's Channel Two television said it appeared the people …
My weekend plans include...

'Signs' a thrilling ride

In the middle of the night, Graham's daughter wakes him with the news that "there's a monster outside my room -- can I have a glass of water?" Soon Graham and Merrill are chasing someone, or something, around the outside of the farmhouse. Then Morgan calls them into the corn fields, where he has made a frightening discovery. With dogs howling in the background, the family finds huge patterns have been pressed into their fully grown corn fields.The previews for this film have been perfect. It looks as though this could be an absolutely chilling thrill ride of a film.
We got hit!

Strange crater found under the sea

An otherworldly crater has been discovered hundreds of feet beneath the floor of the North Sea, using sophisticated seismic mapping equipment designed for petroleum exploration. Researchers say the 12-mile-wide, multiringed crater is 60 million to 65 million years old -- going back to the end of thedinosaur era -- and looks more like impact craters on moons of Jupiter than anything seen on Earth.This stuff is just too cool.
As seen on TV

Bias is where you find it, but this morning demonstrated a doozy. Morning news story on Sacramento TV station KCRA Channel 3, about how a jury is about to come out with a verdict against Bill Simon, Republican candidate for governor against the Democrat incumbant, Gray[-out] Davis. Talking news head says that "experts" believe this spells the end of Simon's run for governor. Then they show video tape footage of this expert.

Who is Governor Davis's spokesman.

Expert? Uh-huh, sure.