Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Problem with Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders - author, educator and tool - recently took aim at the big green machine, how much fuel it consumes and how wasteful all of this is and how this contributes to global warming. Sort of - it's hard to work through the thicket of obfuscation and ratty data.

That armored vehicles are fuel hogs and that POL is a huge consumer of logistic assets is not news. Should we work on this? Log officers the world over would love to have a fuel efficient HMMWV - and it would cost a lot less to operate.

Of course this would make our armed forces yet more lethal and efficient at the business of breaking things and killing people so this might not have the end result Mr. Sanders desires. So it goes.

I'd be a poor blogger indeed if I didn't - along with about eleventy-dozen other bloggers - point out where Mr. Sanders went off the rails.

The Army tries to keep its entire inventory of Abrams tanks up and running in Iraq--all 1,838 of them.
As opposed to just parking say, half of them in a depot. Tanks are heavy fuel eating monsters - I doubt even the Army would ship 1,838 of them to Iraq unless they really needed all of them.
Feeding the appetites of these voracious machines, with gasoline or diesel or kerosene, requires intricate logistical planning and support from some 2,000 trucks, a battery of computers, another 20,000 GIs, and, according to an Associated News report for September 2007, as many as 180,000 workers under federal contracts--more contract workers, in fact, than soldiers. Of the twenty-eight private security companies operating in Iraq, the major ones are Blackwater USA, Triple Canopy, Kellogg, Brown and Root, DynCorp International, and the Vinnell Corporation. The largest of them is not even American, but British, named the Aegis Corporation.

Many of the contract workers are former military Special Forces troops, such as Navy Seals and the Army's Delta Force.
We jumped - in one paragraph - from talking about logistics to talking about trigger pullers. Rangers and SEALs might be able to handle fuel and logistics but they probably wouldn't sign up for that job. But hey - logistics is boring and Blackwater and their fellow contractors are hot hot hot.

What contractors have to do with fuel and global warming ... I have no idea.
He (Erik Prince - Blackwater) intends to expand into a "full spectrum" defense contractor, offering "one-stop shopping" for anything and everything the military might need, from unmanned planes to tanks and ammunition.
Lousy running-dog capitalist.
On its way to the Persian Gulf in 2002, a trip that took fourteen days, the Independence went through two million gallons of fuel.
Independence was decommissioned in 1998. For a ship laid up at the yard I'd say that's pretty good fuel consumption.
Already sitting in the Gulf were ten other "Carrier Task Forces" built around the aircraft carriers Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Chester W. Nimitz, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry S. Truman, and the Abraham Lincoln.
And this happened when? Twelve carriers in the Gulf at the same time? You could walk from one side to the other on the flight decks.
The USS Abraham Lincoln, familiar to us as the ship on whose deck President Bush declared to the nation, on May 2, 2003,"Mission Accomplished,"
Huffington Post Style Guide Rule 12: at least one obligatory slam against President Bush per post. No exceptions.
The USS Lincoln helped deliver the opening salvos and air strikes in Operation Iraqi Freedom. From March 2003 until mid-April of that same year, during its deployment in the Gulf, the Navy launched 16,500 sorties from its deck, and fired 1.6 million pounds of ordnance from its guns.
This was after her refit when the Navy mounted two turrets from the USS New Jersey on her flight deck, aft of the island, creating the first carrier-battleship hybrid. Next year they're going to put wheels on her so the Navy can drive around on land like the Army.
Just one pair of Apaches in a single night's raid will consume about 60,000 gallons of jet fuel.
This is the famous Whale variant that carries a 30,000 gallon external fuel tank.
Any of the large helicopters--the Sea Stallion, Super Stallion, Sea Dragon, or Pave Low III--sucks up five gallons every mile.
Surely this isn't because the referenced models are, essentially, the same machine with different hardware and missions?
With its afterburners fired up, the F-16 Fighter Jet uses 800 gallons per hour, the F-15 about 1,580 gallons per hour.
Frick: Captain you're using up 800 gallons per hour on afterburner! Frak: That's ok, Colonel, I'm not going to be flying that long.
More dramatically, the F-4 Phantom Fighter
Do we even FLY these any more?
To keep the B-52 or F-111 in the air for extended periods of time requires in-flight re-fueling. Even though the B-52H holds an enormous 47,975 gallons of fuel, it requires mid-air refueling.
You're repeating yourself. Someone call an editor for Mr. Sanders!
That's the job of the aerial refueling tankers, the KC-10, which burns 2,050 gallons per hour, and the larger KC-135 Stratotanker, which itself carries 31,275 US gallons of fuel, and sucks up an impressive 2,650 gallons per hour; and the KC-10.
He's doing it again - where is that damned editor!
We can assume, with confidence, however, that those bases run through a considerable number of barrels of fuel.
You know what they say when you assume ...
The only way I know how to make military pollution in any way tangible here is through numbers,
It would help if you would use correct numbers when you have them available.

It's not that his argument has no merit - it's that it's hard to take a fellow seriously who make mistakes with his basic facts and figures. What else is hiding in his prose? What else is he fudging or obscuring? If he's dishonest he's not worth reading. If he's just dumb he's fair game for mockery - and also not worth reading.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Puppet recipe - XWindows Login Service halter

Puppet recipe (script) for disabling X aka CDE aka waste of resources aka security hole on Solaris

# cde-login.pp
class cde-login {
    service { cde-login:
        ensure => "stopped",
        enable => "false"

The client runs, find this code and bang it's done. Beats the snot out of running 'svcs disable cde-login' on a few hundred hosts.

Halloween and Murphy Rules

Littlest Dog heard Boy From Next Door and ran to the door to bark 'howdy'. Saw a ghoul with a scythe. Ran to the bedroom and urinated on Little Monkey's bed.

Then the front porch bottom step broke clean off - the bolts holding it to the frame had rusted and snapped clean away.

Monday, October 29, 2007

10 Reasons to get Vista and snarky comments

In the now deleted comments to this post, a splogger provided a link to what turned out to be this article: 10 reasons you should get Vista.

1. UI built for the era of video and digital photography.

I don't do this. If I do my Mac is supposed to be handy at this as well.

2. Image-based install.

The reason for this?
PC enthusiasts spend a lot of time installing and reinstalling Windows for their own and other people's PCs.

Um, ya. If an operating system needs a lot of installation and re-installation perhaps this is a reason NOT to use it?

3. Up-to-date driver base and better driver handling on installation.

No comment. Except that if Microsoft weren't upgrading to a new OS the guys that write device drivers would be spending time updating them for XP.

4. Desktop search and search folders built in.

I take this for granted but I also don't use it much.

5. Sleep mode that actually works.

Something else I take for granted on my current operating system.

6. Rock-solid laptop encryption.

Something else I take for granted on my current operating system. I note that it's available only two of eleventy-dozen versions of Vista so as excellent as this is your average home user is kinda going to miss out on this.

7. Better file navigation.

I've spent a decade getting used to File Manager and NOW you change it? Bastards.

8. Inbuilt undelete.

Funny. I though that you could drag stuff back OUT of the trashcan.
9. DirectX10OK.

No comment.
10. Face it, you have no choice.

Sure I do.

In the end I'm not an OS snob - if you need Windows you need it. But there are alternatives and it's silly to pretend otherwise.

Fastest Windows Vista Notebook

Haw. I remember when OS/2 ran Windows applications better than Windows did. From PC Magazine ...
The fastest Windows Vista notebook we've tested this year is a Mac. Try that again: The fastest Windows Vista notebook we've tested this year--or for that matter, ever--is a Mac. Not a Dell, not a Toshiba, not even an Alienware. The $2419 (plus the price of a copy of Windows Vista, of course) MacBook Pro's PC WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 88 beats Gateway's E-265M by a single point, but the MacBook's score is far more impressive simply because Apple couldn't care less whether you run Windows
Hey - at least when Windows crashes on a Mac it doesn't take the entire machine with it.

Missile Defense is a dream

We're miles and miles away from a working system but darned if you can't get missiles to kill other missiles.
Late Friday evening Hawaiian Standard Time, a liquid-fueled single stage Scud missilestreaked across the tropical black sky over the Pacific Ocean near the northern islands of Hawaii after being launched from a sea-based floating barge. Moments later, after being detected and tracked by an X-band radar located on the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Kauai, a ground-based mobile defensive missile was launched from a different location on the same range in Barking Sands.

This defensive missile accelerated quickly and flew with a brilliant white slash against thenight. At approximately 9:15 p.m. Friday Hawaiian Standard Time, on the border where space and the atmosphere meet, the Scud missile was destroyed by the defensive missile as it flew with high velocity right into the center of the incoming missile. The mobile ground-based missile defense system that includes the defensive missile, its launcher and its X- band radar is called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.

This marks the fourth successful test of this current system and follows the successes of the Ground-Based Interceptor last month, the Patriot 3 Success flight in July and the Aegis Standard Missile 3 intercept in June.

It ain't Reagan's SDI but it ain't whistlin' Dixie neither.

Slow down

Dude. If you're shooting your rifle fast and hard enough to catch it on fire - you're doing something wrong.

Pardon me while I slip into NCO mode:

"Aim that weapon, and slow down you yahoo redneck. It is a rifle, not your penis, you are on the range, not in back on the block with buddies, I am your corporal not your girlfriend, you are impressing nobody and you are not making friends. And if you turn your weapon the wrong way on the range again I will tear off your head and defecate down your neck."

AFP's caption generator goes hawire

AFP's caption generator goes on the fritz, hilarity ensues.

A US airman with a machine gun in Indian Springs. Burglars in the United States could once sue homeowners if they were shot, but now a growing number of states have made it legal to shoot to kill when somebody breaks into a house(AFP/Getty Images/File/Ethan Millar)

Next up - a story by AFP about the growing tend of homeowners to utilize M60s and claymore mines for deliberate ambush in their front yards.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


This is Windows Server 2003 in a Parallels VM session ... crashing.

It just does that, now and again.

Now - this might be an issue with the VM software and Server 2003 is very very stable on real hardware. But none of the OTHER operating systems I have in Parallels (FreeBSD, Solaris) do that.

Make some noise

Via Joe Huffman:
Uncle asks, "But, you know, who can’t watch chicks in bikinis firing belt fed machine guns?"

Unh, no. The video does nothing for me - it's merely annoying. In particular I wanted to yell at the machine gunners to fire 6-8 round bursts - full on rock-and roll might be fun but you're shooting wildly and risking a melted barrel. If you're not putting rounds on the target, what's the point?

It's easy - pull the trigger, chant "six to eight round burst" and release. My seven-year old can do it. Jeez-us.

Fry & Laurie

Reminds me of a young pre-portly Robert Earl Keen: Fry & Laurie


Things I did not know this morning

I didn't know the idea of 'double-tap and one to the brain' had a name ...
The Mozambique Drill (also known as the Failure Drill or 2+1 Drill) instructs the shooter to place a double-tap in the center of mass, followed by a carefully aimed head shot. The third shot should be aimed to destroy the brain, killing the target and thereby preventing the target from retaliating. It was added to the modern technique of gunfighting by Jeff Cooper based on the experience of one of his students, Mike Rousseau, while on duty in Mozambique. Rousseau was later killed in action in the Rhodesian War.

In my defense when I was in the Marines they were only just getting around to teaching Marines how to shoot the pistol in combat - and such training would be for the grunts first, REMFs last, and super-REMFs working for II MEF G6 last of all.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Puppet - cute name, serious application.
Put simply, Puppet is a system for automating system administration tasks.
What, another one? Sure - but this one appears to be easy to setup, easy to scale across many servers and environments. I fooled around with cfengine long ago and it felt like an application I had to spend a huge amount of time getting to the sysadmin version of 'Hello World'. More time than I could spend, frankly. I work at a mid-size company I simply don't have time to devote to spend 40 hours to get to 'Hello World'.

I must not be the only one.

Luke Kanies, who founded Reductive Labs, has been doing server automation for years, and Puppet is the result of his frustration with existing tools. After significant effort spent trying to enhance cfengine, plus a stint at a commercial server automation vendor, Luke concluded that the only way to get a great automation tool was to develop one.

And yes, I'm familiar with the saying 'If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to fix it'. Well sometimes you don't have time to do it right, because you won't be in business if you fool around with piddly crap and forget you have customers waiting for your product.

Any way. Downloaded it, configured a server. Configured a client. Setup the server to tell the client who owns a test file and file permissions. Client connects and after a authenticating .. shazam! It works.

I like stuff that Just Works. See previous post for why.

Operations is a competitive advantage

Operations is a competitive advantage
Many people think of Operations as "a bunch of boring work... which I'm hoping someone else is doing."
Boring work that I happen to enjoy. Here is why I enjoy it so much:

The example above is the tale of two Web 2.0 startups scaling to 20 systems during their first three months. The first team starts writing software and installing systems as they go, waiting to deal with the "ops stuff" until they have an "ops person". The second team dedicates someone to infrastructure for the first few weeks and ramps up from there. They won't need to hire an "ops person" for a long time and can focus on building great technology.

The payoff for doing a good, boring job is making stuff happen and moving on the cool stuff, instead of cobbling together patch after hack after ad-hoc solution. Bleh.

The tools exist and there are many many system administrators who know how to utilize them. Of course there are a lot of drones who insist on hand editing files and doing things the hard way but with some care you can avoid employing guys like that.

The Day The Routers Died

The Day The Routers Died
a song performed by the secret-wg in the closing plenary of the RIPE 55 conference.

a long long time ago
i can still remember
when my laptop could connect elsewhere

and i tell you all there was a day
the network card i threw away
had a purpose - and worked for you and me....

But 18 years completely wasted
with each address we've aggregated
the tables overflowing
the traffic just stopped flowing....

And now we're bearing all the scars
and all my traceroutes showing stars...
the packets would travel faster in cars...
the day....the routers died

Chorus (ALL!!!!!)

So bye bye, folks at RIPE 55
Be persuaded to upgrade it or your network will die
IPv6 just makes me let out a sigh
But I spose we'd better give it a try
I suppose we'd better give it a try

Now did you write an RFC
That dictated how we all should be
Did we listen like we should that day

Now were you back at RIPE fifty-four
Where we heard the same things months before
And the people knew they'd have to change their ways....

And we - knew that all the ISPs
Could be - future proof for centuries

But that was then not now
Spent too much time playing WoW

ooh there was time we sat on IRC
Making jokes on how this day would be
Now there's no more use for TCP
The day the routers died...

Chorus (chime in now)

So bye bye, folks at RIPE 55
Be persuaded to upgrade it or your network will die
IPv6 just makes me let out a sigh
But I spose we'd better give it a try
I suppose we'd better give it a try

I remember those old days I mourn
Sitting in my room, downloading porn
Yeah that's how it used to be....

When the packets flowed from A to B
via routers that could talk IP
There was data..that could be exchanged between you and me....

Oh but - I could see you all ignore
The fact - we'd fill up IPv4

But we all lost the nerve
And we got what we deserved!

And while...we threw our network kit away
And wished we'd heard the things they say
Put all our lives in disarray

The day...the routers died...

Chorus (those silent will be shot)

So bye bye, folks at RIPE 55
Be persuaded to upgrade it or your network will die
IPv6 just makes me let out a sigh
But I spose we'd better give it a try
I suppose we'd better give it a try

Saw a man with whom I used to peer
Asked him to rescue my career
He just sighed and turned away..

I went down to the net cafe
that I used to visit everyday
But the man there said I might as well just leave...

And now we've all lost our purpose..
my cisco shares completely worthless...

No future meetings for me
At the Hotel Krasnapolsky

and the men that make us push and push
Like Geoff Huston and Randy Bush
Should've listened to what they told us....
The day...the routers....died

Chorus (time to lose your voice)

So bye bye, folks at RIPE 55
Be persuaded to upgrade it or your network will die
IPv6 just makes me let out a sigh
But I spose we'd better give it a try
I suppose we'd better give it a try


Friday, October 26, 2007

Not house broken either

"Gosh darn it - that's the third time he's done a tinkle in the living room today ...."

It's got to be a joke. I hope it's a joke ...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A country such as this

You know what's cool about living in this year of our Lord 2007 in America? We'll expend dozens of man-hours of effort a whole lot of resources to save a single animal from falling to death.

This is not unique to America of course but consider what people a few hundred years ago would have done; they would have potted him with a rifle and had bear stew. We have the time, energy and attention to save a single feckless bear.

Read here for the grizzly details and more pictures.


The Four Musketeers

The Four Musketeers.

No not that one. This one is three tedious hours long, made in France with a bad English dub. It's got assassins dancing around like ninjas. And Satan.

It's bad. I thought 'just meh' until the very end. Then it turned to krep: Milady de Winter escapes the executioner's ax. How? Satan intervenes. Why? So she can remain in his service.

Because that's the way Satan rolls.

Leaving aside that the actress is no Faye Dunaway - she's not even Rebecca De Mornay - no no - if she doesn't DIE then the whole story is twisted around and she gets to come back in a sequel like Michael Myers in drag. Urgh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Yes, yes yes.
A man experiencing love, and, what is more, experiencing it for the first time, does not envisage obstacles. If any happen, he assumes that they will go down, like the walls of Jericho, at the sound of the trumpets of his love. The only thing he fears is the girl herself; he will turn up at her door twenty times before he finds the courage to ring the bell once, he will send her unsigned Valentines written with his left hand from improbable places, and if he ever gets up the nerve to tell her what he means (and she will, by then, have got the point long since – unless she is preternaturally stupid), he will be in an agony of terror till she has finished going through the usual platitudes about being just friends. Roaring beasts? Love is more likely to make Bayard or Achilles into a terrified sheep; or, as I put it rather more poetically in some lines to Debbie,

O Love, the mountains bend their proud heads down,
And lions hide in your lap their royal frown.

What he writes is true, as I have experienced it.


From Gerrold's not-blog 'Bottomless Soup' from 9/15/07 . . .
Finally, a mildly funny bit of conversation that happened at a recent gathering of SF folks. A friend (fan?) was muttering about past worldcons, present worldcons, and future worldcons, and asked me why I hadn't been invited to be a guest of honor at a worldcon yet. (It was his point that I've been snubbed or overlooked or passed over, while other writers of a much more recent generation are being chosen.) I hadn't really paid much attention to worldcons (sorry guys), because I've been so busy with other stuff, but as near as I can figure out, whoever decides these things are probably waiting until I finish book five of the Chtorr series. I dunno if that's true, but that's as good a reason as any.
I do not know if it is true but ... do you think it's be a good carrot? I've been reading the Chtorr series since I was fifteen - I want to find out what happens to McCarthy and Lizard and above all how that damned Chtorrian ecology got here and if there is an intelligence behind it or if it's just evolution in action.

But also ..
I covered the area, hoping to find one out in the open—no such luck. But I did see where they had started to dam the stream. Could they be amphibious too? I sucked in my breath and tried to focus on the forest again. Just one clear glimpse, that’s all I wanted—

The CRA-A-ACK! of the M-20 startled me. I fumbled to refocus the binoculars—the creatures still moved undisturbed. Then what had Duke been firing at—? I slid my gaze across to the enclosure—where a small form lay bleeding in the dirt. Her arms twitched.

A second CRA-A-ACK! and her head blossomed in a flower of sudden red—

I jerked my eyes away, horrified. I stared at Duke. “What the hell are you doing?”

Duke was staring intently through the telescopic sight, waiting to see if she would move again. When she didn’t, he raised his head from the sight and stared across the valley. At the hidden Chtorrans. A long time. His expression was … distant. For a moment I thought he was in a trance. Then he seemed to come alive again and slid off down the hill, down to where Shorty and Louis and Larry waited. Their expressions were strange too, and they wouldn’t look at each other’s eyes.

“Come on,” said Duke, shoving the M-20 at Shorty. “Let’s get out of here.”

I followed after them. I must have been mumbling. “He shot her—” I kept saying. “He shot her—”

Finally, Larry dropped back and took the binoculars out of my trembling hands. “Be glad you’re not the man,” he said. “Or you’d have had to do it.”
That's writing, brother. Gerrold does it well, I want to see more of it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Peloponnesian War

Cleaning up around the house and I found 'The Peloponnesian War' on the shelf.


I recall ordering a copy via Zooba, a long time ago. It arrived, was opened and shelved by some kind soul without telling me "oh the book you wanted is here." Makes me wonder what other packages are lurking around the house waiting for me to stumble upon them.

At least my reading needs are now taken care of for the next two weeks - how cool.

Monday, October 22, 2007

We did a rush and that's why we're in the pickle we're in

City decides to get into the steam selling business. Converts an old power plant to sell steam to four industrial customers. What could go wrong?

  • Plant operations were more expensive than the city thought it would be.
  • A potential customer employed a modest amount of legal acumen and backed out of the project.
  • Three years on a key machine isn't working correctly.
  • The cost of coal doubled, requiring a changeover to softer coal.

The city as taken out loans totaling $13.9 million, which has caused their credit rating to plummet. In turn other projects are delayed or put off. Hard to talk the bank into paying for a new fire station when you're trying to pay off the note on a huge ol' coal-fired steam plant.

The plant is worth - at best - $17 million. The total debt is $40 million, which makes it kinda hard to sell without incurring even more debt.

Some choice quotes
"We did a rush and that's why we're in the pickle we're in," said Stan Martenson, longtime president of the Utilities Commission. "We're bleeding red. We've got to change it."
You think? One wonders if Stan might have exercised a tad more diligence if he were using some of his own capital here.
Since PCI (consulting company) already had done a lot of work for Wisconsin Public Power, Martenson said utility officials felt comfortable. Ultimately, he said, utility officials misinterpreted the consultant's proposal to mean a total cost of $12.5 million.
Translation: We didn't read the consultants report beyond the summary page.
In late December 2005, utility officials received a signed steam supply contract from papermaker SCA Tissue, which had been expected to be the plant's second largest steam customer. Their relief soon turned to dismay when it was discovered that SCA, which had signed a letter of intent to negotiate a steam contract in November 2004, had added a provision that would allow it to back out at virtually any time.
Translation: We didn't read the legal stuff we signed, either.
Laux said contracts with three other customers — Sonoco/U.S. Paper, Whiting Paper and Alcan Packaging Inc. — have provisions requiring them to pay hookup costs should they decide to stop buying steam. While the plant reportedly has helped those buyers reduce their costs, utility officials recently asked them to renegotiate their contracts to help keep the plant afloat.
I know what my answer would be - I have no doubt the guys at Sonoco, Whiting and Alcan will be nicer about it.
Evenson, who is an attorney, has read the consultant reports and thinks that the central question is whether existing customers are willing to pay more for steam.

"If they are willing to do so, the plant may be able to survive and it might generate a very modest profit," he said. "If they are not willing to pay more, then the utility and the city need to look at the hard alternatives presented."
Better start looking at the hard alternatives then.

The best part? The guy in charge - Martenson - of all this has been re-apointed to a new five-year term on the commission. Rewarding the success that is just out of reach, I suppose.

Disneyland without the safety precautions

"This whole continent is like fucking Disneyland without the safety precautions," Randy observes. "Am I the only person who finds it surreal?"

Crocs on the Loose
Shotgun-toting marksmen cruised rivers in northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province on Sunday hunting for 11 crocodiles that slithered away last week from a flooded farm.

I've seen alligators - I don't call what they do 'slithering'. I'm sure it would have been interesting to watch ... from a distance.

Update: 'Crocs' link changed to the right link.

Quotable Quotes

Coyote Blog
Avoid any business where there are substantial non-monetary reasons why people might want to start a business there

There is a huge field of people in business around me who don’t even understand the phrase “operational excellence”. Which means that if I consistently deliver “operational mediocrity”, I am still doing better than most.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Chrome Age

Mark has produced a new piece - 'The Chrome Age'.

I am no judge of art but .. man that is shiny.

See also 'Science', and 'Innovation' for other nifty Horvathian goodness.

Squeeze suits

Atomic Fungus has hit on the perfect nickname for mechanical counter pressure suits (aka Space Activity Suit aka Bio-Suit)

"Squeeze" suits.

That makes me happy.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Super Dork

Super Dork!

Children are interesting.

The Power of the Dog

“The Power of the Dog”

Rudyard Kipling

is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But . . . you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve.
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Carnival of Space #25

Carnival of Space #25 is up. Go thee forth and read a selection of space related goodness.

HeavyInk - damned interesting

HeavyInk is live. To call it an online comic store is damning with faint praise - it's nifty, slick and done by people who know what they're doing.

You know what Amazon did for book buying and books? They're doing that for comics.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Damn Interesting - The Vela Incident

The Vela Incident
On 22 September 1979, sometime around 3:00am local time, a US Atomic Energy Detection System satellite recorded a pattern of intense flashes in a remote portion of the Indian Ocean. Moments later an unusual, fast-moving ionospheric disturbance was detected by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and at about the same time a distant, muffled thud was overheard by the US Navy's undersea Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). Evidently something violent and explosive had transpired in the ocean off the southern tip of Africa.


Kids do the darndest things

What do kids do when you're not around?
My little brother is a dork. So I made him a costume, and took a video of him playing around.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Laser Robots in Salt Lake City

'Cause laser powered robots are cool.

The 2007 Spaceward Games are on in Salt Lake City - and they've got webcams



Subject line by Howard Taylor - it's just too good not to borrow.

Oh Sweet

I'm sure these are related in some way.

No? Well it's been a long night.


Pournelle on bureaucracy
CalTrans got the I-5 open again a day earlier than they thought they could. There are still some good engineers in that bureaucracy, and this should remind us that bureaucracies are not evil; it's just that they will always end up under the control of those more dedicated to the bureaucracy than to its goals. Case in point, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and particularly the water department. It does its job and does it well. It has also managed to get 20 to 50% higher wages for its employees than other civil servants manage for exactly the same qualifications and job descriptions.

None of this should be astonishing. As Possony and I pointed out a long time ago, government often does good, and the usual way it does so is to set up a bureaucracy. My favorite example is rabies shots for dogs. Rabies is endemic in the hills above our house, but there have been essentially no cases of human rabies in Los Angeles since the 1930's. This is because we require proof of rabies shots as a condition for getting a dog license -- and the animal control bureaucracy is zealous in detecting unlicensed dogs. Now you and I are not likely to be obsessed with snooping on the neighbors to detect an unlicensed dog, but we are very glad that someone does that. The bureaucracy attracts the kind of people who do take that job seriously. Everyone profits and the public weal is served. I could multiply these examples.

Government can do two things: send armed men to intervene in your life, and set up bureaucracies. When we want government to do something, we should keep that in mind. If the problem can't be solved by force or through a bureaucracy, then perhaps it ought not be entrusted to government.

Kicking butt and taking names

For the record
I am very blessed to have an active partner in my parenting role at home. If I need him to he will come home for work and help kick butt for me.
I have never, ever kicked my children in the rear. Or at least not in anger. I have lightly boosted little monkey across the floor with my foot but that was rough housing and he madly giggled the entire time.

Also . . .
Maybe I don't have the guarantee that my children won't grow up to become serial killers

If they do we'll be supportive ..

Student 1 at College: Someone's gone to the roof of the bell tower with a rifle!
Dean at College: It's Kevin Buckman! His father totally screwed him up!
Student 2 at College: What's he yelling?
Gil: [Yelling through a megaphone] Son, I'm sorry. I did all the best I could.
[Kevin shoots the megaphone from his hands]
Gil: Nice shot son! It's important to be supportive. Come on lets sing one of the old tunes. "When you're sliding into home and your pants are full of foam, Diarrhea - "

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

We don't care. We don't have to.

Two of our vendors have been consumed by Oracle. Over the past year it's become clear that the classic barb about the telephone company is true of them as well.

We don't care. We don't have to. We're Oracle.

What would life be like without friction? Boring, that's what. So .. thanks Oracle for injecting irritation into my work day.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hail Eris

The Discoridan plan to subvert the Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel committee's announcement cited Gore and the IPCC "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

continues. Hail Eris!

The Brave One

Saw 'The Brave One' with best girl tonight.

Awesome film. I can't review the movie and give it justice except that to say that I don't think Jodie Foster has ever done a bad movie.

There is this thing that Foster does ... I can't describe it except to say that the woman can act.

Carnival of Space for Thursday, October 11, 2007

Welcome to the Carnival of Space for Thursday, October 11, 2007.

First up is Pamela Gay from Star Stryder with In Search of Alien Air. She links to, and comments on, two papers that discuss the difficult task of finding extra-solar planets.

I'm near-sighted and have trouble seeing past the end of my nose. It's astounding to me that we can find planets around another star.

Ken Murphy sends along his article in The Space Review - The Exploration of, and Conquest of, the Moon!.

In the 1950s, people were beginning to realize, as rockets penetrated further and further past the threshold of space, that perhaps Goddard had been on to something, and perhaps a trip to our Moon was possible. To help popularize this idea in the freest bastions of the free world, the US and UK, two teams of authors and illustrators set out to create books that would be accessible to everyone and explained the most basic principles of what would be involved. The results couldn’t be more different, perhaps reflecting the deeper cultural lessons, but also differing in the scope of their ambitions.

Moving outward from the Moon to Mars and the Asteroid Belt we have Darnell Clayton at Colony Worlds with Colonizing Ceres Before Mars Could Save The Red Planet.

Whether or not our species actually settles the red planet is highly questionable. Unlike Earth's Moon, Mars lacks major resources of any kind that would make colonizing the planet worthwhile. Unless those crimson deserts can provide some return on investment, it may be wiser to turn Mars into a penal colony, than attempting to recreate the world into a second home.But humanity may be able to justify settling Mars by diverting its attention towards the asteroid belt first--and the key towards conquering the asteroid belt, as well as Mars may lie upon the dwarf world Ceres.

The choice of which to settle first is a Cereous matter ...

Stuartatk at Cumbrian Sky talks about one of our happy robot pals who have gone before us and made tire ruts on the surface of Mars in Tracks

A couple of days ago an image flashed up on my screen and I literally froze as I looked at it...

It wasn’t anything anyone else would consider to be “special” or “amazing”; just a grainy, black and white picture of Opportunity’s tracks through the inches-high dust dune running around the edge of Victoria Crater, but it triggered something in me, a reaction, a response, that refused to go away. Just two notches in an undulating, close horizon, but it made my breath catch in my throat, because it occurred to me that that picture was the latest in a long line of images showing nothing less than Mankind’s progress and development – if not Evolution itself.

Come to think of it one of the more interesting memories I have growing up is looking at wagon wheel ruts carved into rock near my grandma's place in Oregon - ruts made by pioneers on the Oregon trail.

TopSpace at RLV and Space Transport News links to and comments on a USA Today article about Eric Anderson and Space Adventures.

These people (ISS tourists) are not part of a market study. They are hard data that prove the appeal of space tourism (sorry, I prefer that term). Furthermore, their "regular folk" backgrounds indicate that a similar percentage of people in lower net worth strata would go if the ticket prices came within their reach.
With respect five of anything doesn't prove much - the sample size is too small. We can be hopeful but ought to be wary of inferring from ratty data.

Speaking of cynics ... it's Shubber from Space Cynics about the ISS in Slim Pickings.

Thomas Pickens III seems to think that the future opportunity for making the ISS that success that we all deep down know it can be is to get the pharmaceutical industry to line up to use it… if only they knew how valuable it was!

I'd be wary of using an expensive one of a kind government facility that costs a bundle to get to as well.

Louise Riofrio at Babe In The Universe links pop culture and Niels Bohr in STARDUST and Niels Bohr.

STARDUST is based on a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman. A star (Claire Danes) falls to Earth in human form and can't return to the sky. Along the way she encounters lovestruck Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) and pirate Captain Shakespeare (Robert DeNiro), who captures lightning in his airship. She is pursued by Prince Septemus (Mark Strong) and a wicked witch (Michelle Pfeiffer). The villains wish to cut out the star's glowing heart to gain her secret of eternal life.

The eternal life of stars has been a mystery that life on Earth's surface depends on. According to standard models, life should not have evolved here at all because when the Solar System was forming the Sun was only 75% as bright. Earth's average temperature would have been 15 degrees below zero Celsius, frozen solid. This can't be true, for geology and the fossil record say that Earth had liquid water and life when models say it was frozen solid. This conflict with observations is the Faint Young Sun paradox.

Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams weighs in with Remembering Robert Bussard. As you are no doubt aware of Robert Bussard passed on last week. His work on fusion may yet bear fruit - and we'll owe him a great deal if it does. But we should also remember him for other work

it’s the ramjet that I return to as I think about him. If you collect classic papers, as I do, here’s one for you: Bussard’s “Galactic Matter and Interstellar Spaceflight” in Acta Astronautica 6 (1960), pp. 179–94. Imagine a scoop created by a magnetic field that sucks in interstellar hydrogen ionized by a forward-firing laser. The result is fed into a fusion reactor. Get the vehicle up to about six percent of light speed and you could light that engine, with presumably amazing results.

There are worse ways to get around the galaxy.

Greg Laden at Evolution (catchy tag line, Greg) opines that Sputnik was The greatest thing that ever happened to America.

If you were raised in a society in which there is an evil enemy that you are convinced intends to arrive some day on your country’s shores, take over your government, impose a new social order, marry your sister, and so on, then when this evil foreign government sends the first warning shot in this war and it is an unprecedented and amazing feat of science, then suddenly you love science. You pay taxes to fund science. Your idolize science. You start demanding that science comes to the rescue. One way to do this is to fund science, fund higher education, build up the universities.

Maybe? What do you think?

Space Files reports that the UFO seen during Apollo mission thing has been resolved.

One of the legends of the space age is that during their flight to the moon, Apollo astronauts saw UFOs, or objects they couldn't identify but which were obviously floating in space somewhere close to them. This is rather a fact than a legend, as Buzz Aldrin confirmed it in numerous interviews.

I mean we know this it never hurts to point this out. Me, I think that it's incredible that we assume there are aliens savvy enough to cross thousands of light years, hide their presence from us but .. dumb enough to pull an oopsie and show themselves to the guys aboard Apollo?

Thanks for reading and thanks for contributing!

Here are instructions for contributing - see you next week.

Personal note - this is posted long after I wanted it to, with apologies. I don't like to make excuses because that sounds (to my ear) like whining and I hate whiners. Let's just say that life has been busy of late and leave it at that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hammer Time!

From Doc Searls - Stop! Hammer time!

75-year-old Mona Shaw was angry after constant delays and broken promises derailed her Comcast Triple Play installation. Her solution? The woman took a hammer to a local payment center (via) and smashed a support rep’s keyboard, monitor and telephone. “Have I got your attention now?” asked the woman, who was arrested for disorderly conduct.

U can't touch this
Look man u can't touch this
You'll probably get hyped boy
'Cause you know you can't u can't touch this
Ring the bell school's back in break it down.

Notes from a Service Request - simplified

Notes from a Service Request* - simplified

Me: The fix you had us implement last week didn't work. What if we extend the timeout value?
Vendor: Please use the values we provided.
Me: I did. We want to extend the timeout values to see if that fixes the problem.
Vendor: The problem will be fixed by implementing the changes we recommended.
Me: bangs head on desk

*I won't mention the vendor's name but their name begins with 'O' and ends with 'E'.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Right brain or Left Brain?

The Right Brain vs Left Brain test.

I'm a Left Brain kinda guy it seems.

  • uses logic
  • detail oriented
  • facts rule
  • words and language
  • present and past
  • math and science
  • can comprehend
  • knowing
  • acknowledges
  • order/pattern perception
  • knows object name
  • reality based
  • forms strategies
  • practical
  • safeLink

Who would want it any other way? I did try really really hard to see her spinning clockwise but no dice. Guess I'm wired to be a 'facts rule, imagination drools' sorta fella.

The Two Monkeys are Lefties as well - Older Monkey could concentrate and make her spin clock-wise.


Update: SWMBO saw it as turning both ways at once. When I asked what she meant by that she looked closer, shook her head like a dog with ear mites and said it made her head hurt.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


All in all this was a near thing; details don't matter but she came this close to passing from my life forever.

So. Every day with her since is a Gift and shall be treated as such.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Indian Summer-ish

It's October and ...

Hunh. The Puritan in me warns that we can't expect to wear shorts in October without paying for it in February.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Children are not an unadulterated delight, true. They're people and they have good days and bad days. If you're not ready to stick it out for at least eighteen years, better off not starting a family. Find this out too late? Too bad - suck it up and do the best you can.

Or you can write a book and whine about it. Then you'll be famous and garner lots of sympathy and give your kids a concrete reason to hate you. Like Corinne Maier did.
"We went to a family dinner in the suburbs of Paris. It took us a lot of time to go there with the children, and we went because the children wanted to go. We didn't want to go, my partner and I, and it was a bit boring, but we took them anyway," she says with a Gallic nonchalance, strolling across an empty floor in the enormous, art-filled house in one of the better corners of Brussels where she lives in a kind of exile from France with her partner, Yves, 45, their daughter Laure, 13, and son, Cecil, 10.

"And on the way back, the two of us thought that it would be nice to see an exhibition on Belgian surrealists. Once inside the museum, the children began to be awful." Laure said that the exhibition was "bullshit." Cecil began to scream, so Yves took him outside. "And I started yelling at him for this: 'Why aren't you more strong with him?' And we began to argue. We didn't see anything. And at that point, I thought, 'I really regret it, I regret having children.' "
Take a 10 and 13 year old to an art gallery filled with Belgian surrealism and you deserve what you get.
She is painfully honest, as perhaps only a psychiatrist can be, about her own delusions of motherhood. She had been an only child and had hoped that having children would end her feelings of loneliness. She realized too late, she says, that it simply created new forms of loneliness.

"I thought it would be easier. I didn't realize how tough it would be - the organization required, the time you have to spend with them for maybe 20 years. It was the idea of feeling trapped, trapped in something that you are unable to end, it will last you 15 or 20 years and you cannot escape. It is not like a job, which you can change. Or a country."
Jee-zus on a pogo stick, lady. You can't run from who you are. Recall the words of the immortal Buckaroo Banzai " . . . no matter where you go, there you are."

There is an awkward question that looms over this, though: If she feels so strongly that motherhood is a mistake, is she willing to tell her children that they themselves were mistakes?

It seems obvious that a psychiatrist, who seems to be a successful mother, would instantly deny that. Instead, she thinks about this question for a long time, as if it had never occurred to her before.

"Well, I don't know, in fact," she says. And then brightens: "I think maybe in the future, if at some point, my daughter tells me that she will vote for Sarkozy, I will think very deep inside me that yes, I made a big mistake with her."

Prepare to be disapointed, babe.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Heart Attack, Update

You know you live in Wisconsin when the hospital explicitly forbids you from milking cows for at least two weeks after your heart attack.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Heart Attack Update

She's home and under strict orders not to do anything for at least a week. Cardio-therapy starts next week.

.I'm finally able to breathe for the first time in days.

Smartflix might be hiring soon

Smartflix might be hiring soon ...
Anyway, if the month pans out decently, then we may be hiring the next engineer sooner than expected. Is anyone here a coding rockstar (Ruby and Rails preferred, but not necessary - real rockstars can learn it during the first week on the job), and live in (or willing to relocate to) the Boston area ? Fun and informal office, espresso maker, dogs underfoot, and less BS than you’ll find just about anywhere.

Spread the word.

Dogs and espresso - that would be keen.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Code Monkey Dance

Remember Code Monkey? Course you do ....

Code Monkey have every reason
To get out this place
Code Monkey just keep on working
See your soft pretty face
Much rather wake up, eat a coffee cake
Take bath, take nap
This job fulfilling in creative way
Such a load of crap
Code Monkey think someday he have everything even pretty girl like you
Code Monkey just waiting for now
Code Monkey say someday, somehow

Code Monkey like Fritos
Code Monkey like Tab and Mountain Dew
Code Monkey very simple man
With big warm fuzzy secret heart:
Code Monkey like you

It follows naturally that we now have a Code Monkey Dance on YouTube.

Copperhead Road

Catchy tune catches up with reality.
I volunteered for the Army on my birthday
They draft the white trash first,'round here anyway
I done two tours of duty in Vietnam
And I came home with a brand new plan
I take the seed from Colombia and Mexico
I plant it up the holler down Copperhead Road
Well the D.E.A.'s got a chopper in the air
I wake up screaming like I'm back over there
I learned a thing or two from ol' Charlie don't you know
You better stay away from Copperhead Road.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present Kentucky - grass capital of the United States.
Many of the small towns of Eastern Kentucky, steeped in a tradition of bootlegging moonshine, also have high rates of unemployment and poverty and in some cases, public corruption, according to federal drug officials. People can make as much as $2,000 from a single plant, an often irresistible draw when good-paying jobs are scarce. Much of what is harvested is carried in car trunks to such cities as Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit, authorities say.

Complete with DEA choppers and booby traps. Saaa-lute.

Heart Attack

"A heart attack?" she said, "Shut up!"

Thanks, Nancy, for a bit of sunshine in a dismal morning.

First - Pasty is fine . . .

for someone who is on her back in ICU. Yes, she had a heart attack, but we got her to the hospital in time and the doctors and the medical arts are good enough that matters were brought to a halt before there was any damage to her heart.

There was also a feeling she had that it wasn't gas and that the right course of action was to drive quickly but with due caution to the emergency room. Deity chiming in? Common sense? Subconscious? Damfino - but I know that lady has an angel on her shoulder.

So .. huzzah for the state of the art in medical science in this year of our Lord 2007. Things can only get better.

And thanks, too, for that little voice.