Friday, February 29, 2008

Rush in where angels fear to tread

Well this seems interesting . . .
rush is a replacement for the unix shell (bash, zsh, etc) which uses pure Ruby syntax. Grep through files, find and kill processes, copy files - everything you do in the shell, now in Ruby.

Well, why not? Immerse yourself in Ruby 24x7. Dive into it so deeply your fingers forget tab completion or the funny way that csh uses vi keystrokes. Get into that sucker, do a zen thing and snuggle right up to the machine.

rush> myrails = home['rails/']
=> localhost:/Users/briandunbar/rails/

Who you gonna call?

Hillary commercial:
It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone at the White House?

Excellent! Hillary is going to cut costs at the White House by eliminating the overnight answering service. What about those times when she's away from the office: will she carry a pager?

But, seriously? I want Batman picking up the phone.

Okay, yes; Bruce Wayne is a head case. But he is highly functional and he kicks ass.

Yeah, baby. Let's see Yelstin harass our Navy when Bats is Commander in Chief.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Comment of the day

From Marc Gunn's LJ ...
one weekend we were at a Celtic Music Festival, and DH was decked out in his kilt. he had to make a quick trip by the property where he works. one of the tenants saw his attire and stopped to talk to him. when DH explained he was wearing the kilt to listen to bagpipe music, the guy nodded and said "I understand, that's one of those things white people do."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Time to move!

Thanks God for the legal system.
Sea ice traditionally protected the community, whose economy is based in part on salmon fishing plus subsistence hunting of whale, seal, walrus, and caribou. But sea ice that forms later and melts sooner because of higher temperatures has left the community unprotected from fall and winter storm waves and surges that lash coastal communities.

In the old days if you found you couldn't maintain your village on a sandbar you'd have to pack up your crap in wagons and sleds and move yourself.

Now you can sue about eight thousand public corporations [1] and use the loot from your raid to hire someone to do it for you.

Don't tell me there isn't progress.

[1] Companies named in the lawsuit include Exxon Mobil, BP PLC, BP American, BP Products North America, Chevron, Chevron USA, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Shell Oil, Peabody Energy, AES, American Electric Power, American Electric Power Services, DTE Energy, Duke Energy, Dynegy Holdings, Edison International, MidAmerican Energy Holdings, Mirant Corp., NRG Energy, Pinnacle West Capital, Reliant Energy, The Southern Co. and Xcel Energy. Odds are good if you have a 401k you've been sued - congratulations!

Command line calculator

I'm not the only person who fires up irb to perform basic math, am I?

irb(main):001:0> 53 - 20
=> 33
irb(main):002:0> exit

Am I?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And there will be stories, and statues, and a song about honey

Well, gawd-damn this story is a bit of a tear-jerker.

“Do you know what’s happened to the children?”

Edward swallowed. Suddenly, he wanted to cry. “Yes. They’re…sleeping?”

He hoped and hoped and hoped and hoped, grimacing as he did. He looked around.

Makeshift beds lined the room. Small hands gripped blankets, small eyes stared at the ceiling.

“No.” The boy frowned. “They’ve died.”

“Because of Something Very Bad?”

“Yes. And I need you to be a Very Brave Bear. Can you do that?”

This story is why I read Sci-Fi, why I read the more than occasional 'meh' story, why I search through stacks of books about dragons, fairies, elves and sexy vampires at Barnes and Noble [1] to find the one gem from a literary tradition that is hopeful and looks at the future and is not beholden to a dead past. [2]

'Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk' by Ken Scholes, read by Stephen Eley. Not for young children. It's 45-minutes of recorded audio and worth every minute.

Update: Text of the story here, at RevolutionSF.

[1] Would it kill you guys to separate the dragons and fairies books from real literature?

[2] Every gosh-damned fantasy novel published since 1960 owes it's existence to a humble Oxford scholar with a nerdly passion for language. Would it kill you guys to innovate?

Monday, February 25, 2008


David Louis Edelman wrote a really good short story called mathralon.

Along the way [possible spoiler] he became excited by the idea behind the story ..

So what was this idea I got so excited about?

I believe it started with a friend of mine who writes mathematical models for automated stock trading. There’s no human being there reading the Wall Street Journal and making informed decisions about what to buy and sell on any particular day; it’s just a computer program making these decisions based on past performance and current market conditions and the arrangements of chicken entrails and who knows what else. Thinking about this, I wondered: what if all the entities on the other end of these transactions were automated computer programs too? Hell, what if the actual companies represented by these stocks were run by automated computer programs?

Take this out to loony, science fiction extremes and you start to reach some very interesting philosophical territory. You could have automated General Motors factories building cars, based on specs determined by automated computer programs that study market trends. They glean those market trends by reading publications that are also generated by automated computer programs, based on purchases by companies who are also run by automated computer programs, and so forth and so on.

What if over thousands of years you built an automated economy that functioned so well that it outlasted the people who built it? Eventually you would get to the point where the remaining human cogs are servicing a machine that’s become more important than the thing the machine was built for.

Interesting because a lot of our jobs have automated components to them - computer models, inventory ...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What's wrong writh the precautionary principle

Wretherd is talking about end of the world scenarios ...

The first question that arises in connection with these observations is why the 'precautionary principle' beloved of environmentalists does not apply to all possible disasters, just some. After all, if the earth is doomed to encounter a hydrogen cloud in 40 million years, which is a short time in comparison to the life of the planet and its biosphere, isn't it time to accelerate our technological development so that we can develop the starships to get away? After all 40 million years may not be enough lead time, given the engineering challenges that must be faced to evacuate from the vastness of the threat. Admittedly extinction by hydrogen cloud is an unlikely, or at least incalculable danger. But the precautionary principle says that if some danger exists you have to prepare for it. My guess is the precautionary principle is always trumped by opportunism principle. Dangers which can't be used as opportunities to advance a political agenda are not covered by the precautionary principle. And therefore there won't be a UN Conference on Hydrogen Clouding any time soon.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Han shot first

Look out Obama!

Before Lucas reimagined this film Hillary shot first ..

From the always interesting American Digest.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Rebellion - Supervision

Paper by kelly zen-yie tsai

by kelly zen-yie tsai

i love tupac shakur and william
shakespeare equally. i love
alice walker and courtney love.

i love poems crossing
my consciousness like the
opening credits of “star wars”

(or stretches of ocean
crashing below
grey-bellied seagulls)

i love the solitude of wrapping
myself in blank paper, covering
my fingers to pluck a
thorn from its wound –

i use paper to sop up blood as it spills,
inking kaleidoscope blots of
grotesque beauty
from unhonored pain

rows of letters
trace subterraneans
unknown in me

ones unregistered on my skin,
their bulk lopes like a long necked
monster wading in the deep

each poem, a photograph
snapped by the child whose faith
cannot be torn from what lies beneath

she camps out yawning
past the midnight hour

blinks her eyes
unsure of what she sees

she widens the aperture
slows the camera’s speed

shutter falls and captures
before she nods off to sleep

In which

I re-discover the power of checklists and standards and the saying 'If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have the time to fix it?'

I had a task - on short notice [1] - to move a local zone [2] to a new host. Couldn't migrate the sucker using the cunning shell scripts [1] we've deveoped so I did it the hard way - create a new zone, create the local users, mount points, startup scripts and then turn it all on.

I like to create checklists for situations like this. The act of creating a checklist forces logic on the task, and nothing beats having a rote list of steps to follow when you're in a hurry; it saves 'thinking' for exceptions to the process.

But I didn't have time so I scribbled out a rough list of steps in a text file and called it good.

This reinforced the value of a properly done checklist because I spent (or so it felt) nearly as much time going back and forth on basic tasks [3] as I did getting anything done and thinking way too much.

This exercise also reinforced the value of standards.

We have a reasonably smart way to shortcut hardware fail over [4] but one directory, with one script was the sole exception on this host.

I spent 90 minutes on the failover. I spent 60 minutes tracking that bug down and fixing it.

I wonder what the time code is for 'flailed around like a dumb ass but a valuable habit was reinforced'?

[1] For a variety of reasons that are tedious and not worthy of discussion.
[2] Solaris-speak for a virtual machine.
[3] Couldn't create the users without the mount points for their home directories. Couldn't mount the directories without editing vfstab. Etc.
[4] Mounting everything but the OS on NFS mounts.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spy satellite - now with more BLAM


"A network of land-, air-, sea- and space-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the Earth's atmosphere," a Department of Defense statement said.

Ethical considerations of defense aside, for a Navy ship to reach up and touch something in orbit is stomp-down cool.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

They were men - with great big cold ones

My daughter - she's fifteen - was excited. A lunar eclipse! Her teacher had made a big deal about it.

Dad! You didn't tell me it was nine o'clock! It's happening!

She threw on her coat, gloves, ran outside.

And was back in about that quick. It's cold outside.

Astronomers in the days before central heating were manly men.

Ol' Yeller

Dude works for a big company. Blogs. Gets noticed. Gets fired. It happens.

Now, he claims he's never seen an employee manual, which I find really hard to believe - those guys in HR are really into making sure people read those things. But, whatever.

Naw - my problem is his usage of metaphor ..
... that is until the day she was taken out into the figurative woods without any warning and given the Old Yeller treatment.

Dude. Ol' Yeller wasn't taken into the woods. Yeller was confined to a pen when he turned rabid and that's where Travis did the deed.

That and .. Ol' Yeller had to die - he was rabid. I don't think the fellow is trying to make the point that his friend acquired rabies defending her boy against a wolf, and then had to be shot by his best friend.

Unless that's really where he's going; his friend got all weird in the course of her work so her corporate masters had to tearfully execute her. Naw, that's just too weird.

I call a metaphor penalty.

Infernal Contraption

Infernal Contraption™ is the stand-alone card game where goblin mechanics race to assemble nigh-uncontrollable magical machines.

Through the strategic placement of arcane components like arcantric funnels, chthonic grinders, and entropic processors just to name a few, these crazy goblins risk life and limb to overcome the competition with the ultimate Infernal Contraption.

Let that race around in your brain: goblin .. mechanics. The mind reels.

Interesting bits from the site ...

Bodging Tip: Never touch an unshielded Core. Remember there is an "Ow!" in "power"!

Bodging Tip: remember there's no throttle like full throttle. If it won't go, then give it more power!

Bodging Tip: The best things in life are often the small things. You know, the ones that are likely to melt, explode, disintegrate, or all three at once.

Via the always interesting Command Line Podcast.



The foolish, soft-headed and obstructive elements are heard from [1] ..

The planned Pentagon shoot down of the wayward U.S. military satellite is nothing more than an opportunity to test new Star Wars anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) technology says the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

Well no screaming eagle shit, Ace. Did you have to pull out your Dick Tracy Crime Stoppers book to figure that one out?

It's also a notice to China that we can blow apart a target on short notice without a ton of prep time, from a mobile platform that can deploy anywhere in the world and spend months on station. Without creating a cloud of debris that lasts for years. Just because we feel like it.

It's also a message to Russia (with love) that however frisky they want to get with their bombers and our Navy they've got a lot of catch-up to do before they can play with the big boys. Hey, Ivan: we can do the Cold War again, but you won't like it.

“At the time when we need to be constraining space debris-creating ASAT testing, this test will throw open the door to a new arms race in space.”

There won't be any space debris, not that lasts longer than a few days, at best. That bird is coming down, we're just taking steps to make it come down in smaller chunks.

These same Aegis ships are now being home ported by the Navy throughout the Asian-Pacific region giving the U.S. the ability to encircle China’s coast.

I don't think that you can encircle a coast.

These Aegis ships could give the U.S. the ability to intercept China’s twenty nuclear missiles that today are capable of reaching the west coast of the continental U.S.

That sounds absolutely fan-fucking-tastic to me.

Interceptor rockets are a defensive tool. The only thing you can destroy with them are .. other weapons. The only situation you can conceive of them being used as a means of offense involves scenarios so unlikely that a person who would seriously advance them must think the people he's talking to are absolute morons or children.

You'd have to be a morally bankrupt tool to think that it's a good idea to deprive your nation of the means of defense.


[1] I would not even bother but he issued this as a press release and I'm irritated and pissy tonight thanks to the foolish and obstructive elements in the state legislature and the Gov's office.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Scolding Lenin

The stars were never made for those who refuse to look up; nor are they vouchsafed to those enslaved by ancient hatreds. ~Wretcherd

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Roy Rogers - now there is some good eatin'

Jordan179 quotes an Obama-gets-assassinated fantasy done by Earl MacRae in The Ottowa Sun.
"They do not want to hear that he is a better American than they are, these right-wing extremist fascists in the land of America who no doubt believe it's God's will Barack Obama not get to the White House, no method of deterrence out of bounds, in their zealotry to protect and perpetuate Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Mom's apple pie and the cross of Jesus in every home."

Among the funniest aspect of this is that MacRae apparently does not know the meaning of "deterrence," and imagines "Roy Rogers" and "John Wayne" to be symbols of racist assassinations (to the younger among you Gentle Readers: they were cowboy movie actors!!!)

Not to mention that for many people on the East Coast 'Roy Rogers' is the name of a really good fast-food restaurant.

Can you build a life from $25?

Can you start from the bottom and work your way up?

Adam Shepard thought so and bet his ass on it; he set out with an empty gym bag, a tarp and $25. His goal? He had one year to a working car, a furnished apartment, $2500 in cash, be in a position to go to school or start his own business.

He almost made it; family circumstances (cancer is a bitch) terminated his experiment 10 months in. He had a job, a truck and $5,500.

Website here, excerpt from the book here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Prey in a huddle

Joe Huffman writes
I want explained to me is why, when a bunch of helpless people were slaughtered, is it an appropriate response to huddle in a crowd with their heads down? They are emulating prey. And they are demanding that even more people be made defenseless as well. They are acting like stupid grass-eaters. Do they think this will somehow make it less likely for the predators to attack them?

He's got a point. They do look like sheep in a huddle.



Because it's the weekend. And it's funny.

Cross Posted to The Daily Brief.


Radio Capricon

I've been remiss by not mentioning this before; Radio Capricon is on the air, through Sunday.

What is it and why should you care?

It is a one-watt radio station at Capricon. If you like eclectic music this is your thing. Here is the playlist.

It's run by Eric Coleman who is a really good guy. He's funny and talented as well.

Plug into your radio listening software and enjoy.

Friday, February 15, 2008

We may want to reconsider this approach

Serendipity and Wikipedia led me to this a few minutes ago; Niven's Laws, with commentary, January 29, 2002.

4) Giving up freedom for security has begun to look naive.

Even to me. Many of you were ahead of me on this. Three out of four hijacked airplanes destroyed the World Trade Center and a piece of the Pentagon in 2001. How is it possible that those planes were taken using only five perps armed with knives? It was possible because all those hundreds of passengers had been carefully stripped of every possible weapon. We may want to reconsider this approach. It doesn't work in high schools either.

In which I demonstrate that I am not a people person

Earlier Today ...


RING. Hey, maybe it's that vendor calling back, on goes the head seat, slap the handset off the cradle ....

"This is Brian." Long pause. "Hello?"

Hi, can I speak to Brian?

A Saleswoman. Sigh. "This is he."

Hi this is X calling on behalf of xxx blood center we're seeing if you'd like to come in and donate this quarter?

"Not so much, thanks." [1]

I could hear the disappointment and negative vibes come ringing down the wire. I guess people don't tell them 'no' very often.

Well okay ....

"Bye, then."

... bye.

Boy, I sure made her day.

[1] I give blood on a regular basis. But I've never had anyone call up and ask, that was weird. Usually it's through a company blood drive or at a con.

Nobody does 'irritated' like Harlan Ellison

I got the following over at Dar Kush. I have no dog in this fight - I'm just a consumer, suckling at the glass teat. But .. no one writes quite like Harlan Ellison.




Creds: got here in 1962, written for just about everybody, won the Writers Guild Award four times for solo work, sat on the WGAw Board twice, worked on negotiating committees, and was out on the picket lines with my NICK COUNTER SLEEPS WITH THE FISHE$$$ sign. You may have heard my name. I am a Union guy, I am a Guild guy, I am loyal. I fuckin’ LOVE the Guild.

And I voted NO on accepting this deal.

My reasons are good, and they are plentiful; Patric Verrone will be saddened by what I am about to say; long-time friends will shake their heads; but this I say without equivocation…

THEY BEAT US LIKE A YELLOW DOG. IT IS A SHIT DEAL. We finally got a timorous generation that has never had to strike, to get their asses out there, and we had to put up with the usual cowardly spineless babbling horse’s asses who kept mumbling “lessgo bac’ta work” over and over, as if it would make them one iota a better writer. But after months on the line, and them finally bouncing that pus-sucking dipthong Nick Counter, we rushed headlong into a shabby, scabrous, underfed shovelfulla shit clutched to the affections of toss-in-the-towel summer soldiers trembling before the Awe of the Alliance.

My Guild did what it did in 1988. It trembled and sold us out. It gave away the EXACT co-terminus expiration date with SAG for some bullshit short-line substitute; it got us no more control of our words; it sneak-abandoned the animator and reality beanfield hands before anyone even forced it on them; it made nice so no one would think we were meanies; it let the Alliance play us like the village idiot. The WGAw folded like a Texaco Road Map from back in the day.

And I am ashamed of this Guild, as I was when Shavelson was the prexy, and we wasted our efforts and lost out on technology that we had to strike for THIS time. 17 days of streaming tv!!!????? Geezus, you bleating wimps, why not just turn over your old granny for gang-rape?

You deserve all the opprobrium you get. While this nutty festschrift of demented pleasure at being allowed to go back to work in the rice paddy is filling your cowardly hearts with joy and relief that the grips and the staff at the Ivy and street sweepers won’t be saying nasty shit behind your back, remember this:

You are their bitches. They outslugged you, outthought you, outmaneuvered you; and in the end you ripped off your pants, painted yer asses blue, and said yes sir, may I have another.

Please excuse my temerity. I’m just a sad old man who has fallen among Quislings, Turncoats, Hacks and Cowards.

I must go now to whoops. My gorge has become buoyant.

Respectfully, Yr. Pal, Harlan Ellison

Little Monkey and Dog

Every boy should have a dog - even if she's a little one.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


The Air Force recently came by and did some simulated bomb runs on City Hall. The idea is that ground controllers need practice guiding air strikes in urban areas. Most bomb ranges are way the heck out in the middle of nowhere and lack urban terrain, so they come up here and do their thing.

Makes sense to me - you guys in blue do know how to rock on completely.

The paper described the AttackSimEx [1] as controversial but the only people who actually objected were six members from the Fox Valley Peace Coalition. One of whom was confused about what he was upset about.
"Apparently, this exercise is to improve the accuracy of bombs so they don't have the 'collateral damage,'" he said. "Collateral damage is a euphemism for killing innocent people, and I strongly object to my government killing innocent people. This is one small gesture on my part to at least make this known."

Um, yeah. Actually the military [2] is all about killing as many people as possible; good, bad, innocent, guilty as sin, as long as the gun sight lays on 'em we'll pull the trigger. Our only problem is we can't slaughter them fast enough; they keep wiggling around and throwing off our aim.

No, it's the nancy pants [3] in Accounting that insist we get as much bang for the buck as possible. While carpet bombing is a whole lotta fun and a terrific emotional release it's just not effective enough. The taxpayer is footing the bill and it's our fiduciary responsibility to make sure the bombs land as close to the actual target as possible. That way we can use less of them - it's a win-win for everyone.

Except the guys who are actually the target. But we in the War Mongering business call this hard cheese.

That angular monstrosity is City Hall - the target. Talk about putting the 'close' in close-air support ...

[1] I have no idea if the milspeak shorthand for this really is AttackSimEx or not - but if it were it would not surprise me.

[2] Sarcasm.

[3] You don't really believe this, do you?

Do as I say

Stuff White People Like - #62 Knowing what's best for poor people
White people spend a lot of time of worrying about poor people. It takes up a pretty significant portion of their day.

They feel guilty and sad that poor people shop at Wal*Mart instead of Whole Foods, that they vote Republican instead of Democratic, that they go to Community College/get a job instead of studying art at a University.

It is a poorly guarded secret that, deep down, white people believe if given money and education that all poor people would be EXACTLY like them. In fact, the only reason that poor people make the choices they do is because they have not been given the means to make the right choices and care about the right things.

But it is ESSENTIAL that you reassert that poor people do not make decisions based on free will. That news could crush white people and their hope for the future.
Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dear State of Wisconsin ...

I feel like one of those stereotypical neolithic savages. You know, the guy who, in a fey mood, flips the neolithic equivilent of a finger at the Great Sky God.

Darth on Mail

Ohhhh you're gonna get hammered for that.

Phhh. The Great Sky God .. if he even noticed .. has a sense of humor.

Then everyone in the village gets sick. The crops wither. The goat's milk goes sour. A bear wanders around and starts munching on the sheep.

I told you.

Yeah, yeah.

Now we're all modern people and we'd know that everyone got sick because the flu was going around that year, the crops withered because the water table dropped, the goat ate stinkweed and carnivores happen.

Me, I'm wondering what I did to piss the folks at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue off. We keep sending them money, the checks are cashed and the good folks there keep sending us a bill that sure 'nuff looks like we're getting further and further behind.

It .. was .. a .. joke. And the letter was going to the WIDOT anyway. So y'all can go ahead and flip the cams and gears on the mainframe and get the account all caught up.

And if talking nicely doesn't work I'll stake a sheep out on a rock or something else Old Testementish and ookey. At this rate the bear is just going to get them all so we might as well get some use out of them.


Hot funk, cool punk, even if it's old junk ...

From The Firearms Blog ..[1]

I suppose standing around all day gazing at the sky and waiting for targets to show up can really screw with your head - how else to explain the whitewall tires?

But for a real dose of 'what the ..' take a gander at the AK-47s mounted on the barrels. What are those brave air defenders thinking?

Tracer rounds? I can't see it - the rates of fire and ranges on the S-60 and the AK-47 don't match.

I can't see them being used - however crudely - as sights. You could weld a cross-hair on the barrel for less than the cost of a rifle.

As a training aid in place of costly or scarce live ammunition .. maybe. But every thirty rounds you'll have to drop the barrel and insert a new magazine. Why not mount them closer to the gunners so they can just reach over and swap the magazine?

For goodness sake, the guys on the left aren't even trying to pretend theirs is bore-sighted.

[1] Note that while the source article discusses NK air defense the picture in question is from China.

Subject line tip o' the hat.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bleg answered

A guy named Michael answered my bleg ..
I remember the book. The name RIP Foster, Assignment in Space. If I remember the name RIP was a compilation of the initials of the chap's first three names.
A minute's googling reveals that it's by a fellow named Harold Goodwin, in public domain and available via Project Guttenberg.

So how does my memory hold up? Not too shabby, I think. The space Marines are called Planeteers and are a mix of Seabees, Force Recon and SEALs. The top-kick character was one of 17 pure-blooded Hawaiians. Spacemen are nicknamed 'Rocky'. The bad guys are Connies; why the author didn't call them 'Commies' is a mystery - were they going to sue?

Their mission? Nab an asteroid of pure thorium and ride it back to earth while fending off acquisitive Connies. All the bits I remembered are there.

Does the work read as if it was written by a guy who knew his science, the service and life from a grunts point of view? It does ..
He talked about his early days as a reporter for a news service and his adventures during World War II as a combat correspondent in the Marine Corps.

Goodwin's specialty was "Joe Blow" stories, articles about individual Marines that appeared in hometown newspapers back in the States. He also produced major feature stories on the war for magazines such as Argosy and Coronet. The humor, camaraderie and struggle he chronicled would germinate and grow into the imaginative exploits of Rip and his platoon of space Marines.

He followed up his service in the Marines with a job in civil defense, science advisor to USIA and six years at NASA.

Not too shabby. Thanks for the book and thanks for not dumbing your writing down, Mr. Goodwin.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bleg - What was that novel

I wrote
I read my first science fiction novel in the fourth grade. I no longer remember the title but I do remember that my teacher caught me reading it under my desk during a math lesson.

Now I'm wondering what the book was. It was in the elementary school library so it could not have been too adult ... here is what I remember about it ...
  • The good guys were space marines. Their mission was to capture ... something .. in the asteroid belt before the bad guys did.
  • The bad guys were Commies.
  • Spacemen were nicknamed 'Rocky'.
  • One of the space marines was one of 17 pure-blooded Hawaiians.
  • One of the characters commented on how close the cruiser was to some of the asteroids, to which the helmsman .. or the officer of the deck .. replied 'a miss is as good as a mile out here' or words to that effect.

Anybody? Bueller?

Well said

Well said, indeed
DF: I really enjoyed Vinge’s _A Fire Upon the Deep_. Charlie Stross has the same relationship to Vernor Vinge that [ comic book author ] Warren Ellis has to Hunter S Thompson: a dumber, lamer, suckier British sack-of-crap version of the real thing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Thing I Did Not Know This Morning

Tom Landry flew B-17s in Europe.

Landry earned his wings and a commission as a 2nd lieutenant at Lubbock Army Air Field and was assigned to the 493rd Bomb Group at RAF Debach, England, as a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber co-pilot in the 860th Bomb Squadron. From November 1944 to April 1945 he completed a combat tour of 30 missions and surviving a crash landing in Belgium after his bomber ran out of fuel.

Via tonight's episode of King Of The Hill


Dina tagged me. Hi Dina! Then Pasty tagged Shannon who tagged me with the same game. Cripes, the women are inside my OODA loop!

Once you have been tagged you have to write a blog with 10 weird, random things, facts, habits, or goals about yourself. Don't forget to leave them a comment (tag, you're it) to read your blog. You can't tag the person who tagged you. Since you can't tag me back, let me know when you've posted your blog so I can see your answers.

Tag yourself if you want to play; that's the way I roll.

1. One of the funniest things I've ever seen on television is the WKRP 'Thanksgiving' episode. If the line 'God as my witness I thought turkeys could fly' does anything at all to your funny bone you know what I mean.

2. I held two primary MOS (Military Occupational Specialites) in the Marine Corps - 0311 (Rifleman) and 4063 (Computer Programmer).

3. I never held a billet where my primary MOS was utilized. I was a rifleman on barracks duty and a computer programmer doing LAN administration and desktop support.

4. I read my first science fiction novel in the fourth grade. I no longer remember the title but I do remember that my teacher caught me reading it under my desk during a math lesson. I was somewhere in the asteroid belt with space marines and then zap-pow I'm back on Earth and I had no idea what the answer to Mrs Kanold's question was .. or that we were twenty minutes into math.

5. I could like writing code for a living, but I'd loathe using the tools that are most common; VB, .net.

6. I ate oatmeal at IHOP yesterday for breakfast - and it was good. And cheap. I'm all set to be an old crotchety man.

7. Hotels that advertise 'wireless internet access' and then have it available only in the lobby irritate me.

8. My kids and wife tell me I snore.

9. I've got a jones for the classic 'Civilization II' game - it runs real good on my Mac under Parallels.

10. Incompetence irks me - especially when it's mine.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Join the Marines ..

Travel to exotic lands
Meet exciting unusual people
And kill them.

Protesters without a clue.

Berkeley, the famously liberal college town in California, has taken aim at Marine recruiters, saying they are "not welcome in our city."

Unh, ladies? The ditty you're quoting isn't a protest slogan. It's usually found on t-shirts and bumper stickers for sale outside the main gate and in Army-Navy surplus stores across the land. It's one of those yin-yang duality of nature mock-ironic things that service members do so well and clueless zealots just don't get.

Instead of mindlessly repeating something you read on a recruiter's bumper sticker, may I suggest a return to the classics?

1 .. 2 .. 3 .. 4
We don't want your dirty war!


Hey, hey what do I say?
Kick the Marines into the bay!


Hey, hey, look our way!
We're naive and we like it that way!

You're welcome.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I want the number of that beast and the location of the door into summer

I suspect the Air Force filmed this [1] in a parallel universe.
I'm the commander of the 45th Launch Support Squadron .. the Air Force space program is about equivalent to NASA is size and scope and in most cases larger. The Shuttle launches about once a month ...

Where is this place and how can i get there?

[1] Gratuitous Flash usage.

No copyright, no t-shirt

Travis said ...
Brian should print up a big batch at a discounted price, then sell them

ff_space_nasa1_fBig - Dumb - Slow

That would be awesome. However the guys who created it have been heard from - Wired Magazine retains rights to the art.

Cultual Thing

US President George W. Bush (L) holds hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah while walking past some blue bonnets at his Crawford ranch 25 April 2005.

Flashback to 1991 . . .

Hey, them guys are holding hands.

Top looked up. 'Them guys' were two Bangladeshi enlisted troops were strolling around, hand in hand.

It doesn't mean they're gay. It means they're friends. It's what they do.

The Marine looked unconvinced. You sure wouldn't see that in Crossroads, Alabama.

Hey - they stone gay people here.

Well this sure ain't Crossroads, Alabama that's for sure.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wow! Another steaming pile of good news!

You'll never work in Hollywood again, buddy. To hear the Lou Dobbses and Bill O'Reillys of the world--not to mention politicians ranging from Ron Paul to Hillary Clinton--the middle class of America (however you define that term) has never had it so tough. Between credit squeezes, out-of-control immigration, rising costs of education and health care and everything else, it's all darkness out there for those of us who are neither millionaires nor welfare cases, right?

In "Living Large," Drew Carey and examine the plight of the American middle class. What do they find? Click here to watch the video.

There are a lot of people in bad financial shape through no fault of their own.

There have always been people in bad financial shape. There always will be. This is just the way of things; it always sucks for someone, somewhere.

What's going on - what the video shows and what everyone knows if they don't spend a lot of time watching the 'if it bleeds it leads news' - is that life is generally better for more people than it ever has been.

You know a lot of people who have it bad, fine. Maybe you know a lot of people who are English Lit majors who can't find a job. Maybe this or that - I know a lot of people with black hair; it runs in my wife's family. But it doesn't mean a whole lot and you can't base policy on stuff like that.


Appreciating Winter

There is one nice thing about changing a tire in Wisconsin in February: all that ice and snow gives you good place to jab your tire iron so it stands upright.

This keeps it ready-to-hand and super easy to find.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dear Episcopal Church

Dear Episcopal Church,

Gay clergy - hey we can talk about that. We're all grown ups here and things change. Replacing the Stations of The Cross with Millennium Development goals ... well that's a bit much, perhaps, but it's a big inclusive Anglican tent so we'll call it close enough for rock and roll.

But a Clown Eucharist?

I bet they played 'Send in the Clowns' for the processional. On an accordion

What genius thought that one up? What lame-ass priest didn't put his foot down and put a firm stop to the nonsense? Where for the love of Ned was the bishop during all this with his big pointy hat and his long shepherd's crook to clock people on the head and say "stop that, are you people stuck on stupid?"

Didn't anyone in the congregation have the courage to point out that the priest - the guy who stands up the front and sternly leads his flock on the path of the true and righteous - looks like a retard?

Sorry - that's harsh. I apologize to all the people with reduced intelligence; the worst of you on your most terrible day looks about eighteen times as good as a priest dressed up in whiteface and big floppy shoes.

I used to think of the Anglican Church the way I think of the Marines; firm of conviction and true to their ideals. Certain that while there ain't nothing that some Baptist churchs won't do to attract members the Anglicans were above pandering. That you don't do low-church stuff because it's just not what Episcopals do.

Y'all are an embarrassment. Scrub the paint, loose the floppy shoes, put the man of God robes back on and act like a serious religion.

An Open Letter to Bruce Gagnon

Not mine, TJIC's ..…

It’s important that we hold a protest outside the annual Space Technology Forum. Inside you will find NASA, Air Force, aerospace industry, and Department of Energy personnel planning the complete nuclearization and weaponization of space. They have huge elaborate displays of nuclear powered mining colonies on the Moon and Mars. They have mock-ups of the nuclear rocket with reactors powering the engines on space ships heading to Mars. These are the same people that have been working for years to create nuclear reactors for space-based weapons.

Our goal is to shine a very public light on this space nukes folks.

Dear Bruce Gagnon,

I am usually opposed to all NASA spending, and think that much of the Air Force’s spending is wasted.

However, you have made me see the light.

Nuclear rocket ships heading to Mars?

That is seriously bad ass!

I hereby fully endorse all of NASA’s and the USAF’s nukes-in-space programs - that is some awesome shit, and I am four square behind it. Those “space nukes folks” rock. Hard.

Thanks for your public outreach,


SpaceForCommerce fully endorses the sentiments expressed above.

If it explodes, moves fast or produces ridiculous amounts of torque, it's cool.


Brian Dunbar

Monday, February 04, 2008

Oranges in the winter are a blessing, I say

and I'll fight for my right to liquid pulpy Vitamin C in the winter.
We want to give voice to the millions of Americans who think our tax dollars should be spent on health care, education, and sustainable environmental technologies rather than preparing for control and domination of the heavens.

As if they can't speak for themselves.

Golly gee - they say - thank goodness we have BRUCE GAGNON to speak for us! Because we don't know how to piss and moan for ourselves!

Bruce Gagnon

As soon as we have sustainable environmental technologies then Bruce won't be able to fly all over the damn place on his moral high horse, looking down his long nose on the rest of us because we want to eat fruit in the middle of winter.

That might be a fair trade.

T-Shirt Awesomness


The "I kid because I love you NASA" t-shirt is here.

Big - Dumb - Slow

The 'WTF NASA 2007' bit is just a wee bit too dark - if this were to go commercial it needs more contrast from the background. But my it does look good, for all that.

And no, no word back from the guys who designed it for Wired.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Jumping the shark with Jimmy Carter

I wasn't going to bring up conspiracy theories about the recent submarine cable cuts ... but O'Reilly did so ...

The lol cats thing has jumped the shark.

Batman is a class enemy

Ignorant commentary from the Captain America's got a gun story ...

His gun's
just a TOOL? Then why not dispense with all the pretense and just have him follow in GW Bush's aircraft carrier landing bravado and show up with a huge bulge in his super crotch.

And what's more American than THE GUN! Great example for our kids, who already make extensive use of guns in school massacres. That's how we solve our problems here in the good ol' USofA, at the end of a gun. (Pass me the moonshine, Cletus!)

People get a grip. It's a comic book character. It's fiction. Kids are bright enough to get this.

If you're going to rag on Cap for carrying a gun you really need to take a look at Batman; that character is a disturbed loony, acting out childhood trauma on people who are innocent of the crime that was afflicted on young Bruce. Further, he hides his psychosis behind unearned wealth and privilege; does anyone doubt that, were the forces of law and order to penetrate that masque, that he'd get a pass because he's rich?

Batman is the ultimate class enemy. Censor Detective Comics!

"I kicked 'Kal-El' around like a little girl - come over here and tell me I'm crazy."

The Boy is Back In Town and He's Loaded for Bear

Cap is back .. and he's packing heat.

Sadly, the article is short on details. What kind of weapon is that? Does he have to follow rules of engagement? Is he available to be a spokesman for Colt? Does Cap have a rifle in the trunk of his Captain Americamobile? Cause when you want to really reach out and touch someone a pistol just isn't going to do.

I am morally certain that - this being Captain America - he's packing am M1911, chambered in .45. What could be more frickin' American than carrying an All-American gun like that?

Subject Line Tip o' the Hat to Thin Lizzy.

Friday night they'll be dressed to kill
Down at Dino's Bar and grill.
The drink will flow and blood will spill
If the boys want to fight, you'd better let them.


Being up [1] this early (or late) is interesting - I did get the oddest look from the cat around 0500 when he came up from the basement - he's used to owning the house at night and I got a 'what are you doing up at this hour of the morning' look.


Then he wanted breakfast - from his point of view as long as I was up I might as well be doing something for him.

[1] Oooh - self-referential links. Ain't I the clever [2] kid?
[2] Sarcasm.

Virtual Charter School article and unhappy crabby people: Reprise

While I'm waiting for Oracle to call back ... a response to an editor's selection in this NYT article on virtual charter schools ...

As someone
who is required to sit in front of a computer roughly 9 hours a day, I really feel for these kids. An issue that no one talks about whether for adult workers or children is what exactly happens in this interaction between human and machine. For me personally, I find that being with a computer all day is far less stimulating mentally than being with people and having interaction. Even the physical stillness is tough, I can't imagine what it does to an energetic kid. The very act of sitting at a computer is numbing and at times I almost feel it is hypnotizing and motivation goes way down. It is really a very isolating excperience in my opinion. I personally feel it has an effect on alertness and cognition and I would love to see some studies regarding extended exposure to a computer and its effects on people and motivation. If you even take a look at the fact that a computer screen flashes imperceptively thousands of times per minute, I believe it affects a person. I observe myself that when seeking classes for professional development, it is often tough to find courses held in an actual classroom. It turns me off from these classes because guess what it is additional time spent staring at a screen in isolation. Maybe I am out in left field but this is the effect that I observe it has on me. These kids have a lifetime to be stuck at a machine in a cubicle. I would not be surprised if it negatively affects their development and learning.

— cstock21, NJ

Virtual charter school isn't like that; computer-based does not equal chained to a computer. The lessons and material come in books and boxes. Take yesterday for example;

Little Monkey had three assessments to plow through; two Math, one Language Arts. All delivered on paper, work done with a pencil and scratch paper. Work was done at the dining room table. Breaks were frequent; not as frequent as he would have liked - he is an eight-year old boy.

Older Monkey had an essay to write, due by Wednesday. He laid down the outline, organized his thoughts and he's done for the day.

He did this on a computer, sure. It's the tool he uses to write with. I used a pencil for the rough draft and a typewriter; it's all just tools.

cstock21, you're applying your own frustrations and experiences to a situation where they don't apply. Clerical work is tedious and boring; It always has been. The computer is not the tool of your oppression, the job is.

Think I Should I Worry?

Tech support said 'Run this SQL script, it will fix your production problem. Oh and you should take it out of production first.'

I asked how long it would take to run the script.

'Oh, about 30 minutes', they said. Well, thinks I, that sounds reasonable.

We're now at hour seven and one-half. In my mind's eye their crack tech monkeys did something lame like leave the ';' out' in a commit statement [1] and they missed it and I missed it .. and I've just wasted seven hours of my life.

And yes, I called and I'm waiting for the on-call engineer to return my call.

[1] I know most your eyes glazed over at that statement - it's pretty importatnt in SQL-land; it's like setting a tea kettle on to boil and then forgetting to turn the heat on.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Fooling around with Arc

My new shiny toy is Arc.
This site is about Arc, a new dialect of Lisp. It's unfinished, but usable, so we decided to release what we have so far.
I'm not sure what it's good for ... but it's amazing easy to stand up a webpage in, which is interesting.

Use (quit) to quit, (tl) to return here after an interrupt.
arc> ( defop hello req ( pr "hello world"))
arc> (asv)
ready to serve port 8080

And lo - at http://localhost:8080/hello there is indeed a web page with a simple 'hello world'.

What's at http://localhost:8080/? The words 'It's alive'. Which is all very minimalist and groovy.

Code via YouDevise.

Update - Blogger does something horrible with the output from Arc and wants to ignore the code tags. Fine, be that way - one more straw on this camel's back, you bastards. If you gotta look at the output as it really is, look at my LJ entry.

Virtual Charter School article and unhappy crabby people

NYT: Oneline Schooling Grows, Setting Off a Debate
Half a million American children take classes online, with a significant group, like the Weldies, getting all their schooling from virtual public schools. The rapid growth of these schools has provoked debates in courtrooms and legislatures over money, as the schools compete with local districts for millions in public dollars, and over issues like whether online learning is appropriate for young children.

One of the sharpest debates has concerned the Weldies’ school in Wisconsin, where last week the backers of online education persuaded state lawmakers to keep it and 11 other virtual schools open despite a court ruling against them and the opposition of the teachers union. John Watson, a consultant in Colorado who does an annual survey of education that is based on the Internet, said events in Wisconsin followed the pattern in other states where online schools have proliferated fast.

“Somebody says, ‘What’s going on, does this make sense?’ ” Mr. Watson said. “And after some inquiry most states have said, ‘Yes, we like online learning, but these are such new ways of teaching children that we’ll need to change some regulations and get some more oversight.’ "

Which is indeed what is happening. Hurrah for the democratic process.

But the comments .. oh those comments ..

The answer is more likely to be yes if books were the only thing children learned from in school. School teaches socialization and (we hope) tolerance which is vital for anyone to survive in the real world. It also teaches them that there are other opinions and choices than the ones they are presented with at home. School can be tough, but the life lessons that are learned there are just as important as the classroom curriculum.

— Lady Apollonia, Louisiana

Life lessons like blend in with the herd, conform and stand in lines.

Learning how to interact with other children is as much a part of a child's education as learning how to read.

Sequestering children in basements and teaching them academic fundamentals away from others is harmful. For one day, little Johnny will have to leave the basement and operate in a much bigger world.

— Liz, NY

I don't know any home school or virtual school parents who do this. Liz, you're ignorant. Get out of your house and go meet some kids who learn from home.

Electronic schooling is a destructive force, both for society in general and for individual students. As a college teacher for 40 years, I'd assert that most of the learning experience in a pedagogical setting is based on actual live exchange and interaction between student and student and instructor and students. Internet learning reinforces a distorted model of the world, insures that students are unprepared to succeed in later life, and interferes with the development of healthy rounded personalities.

— Fred Waage, Johnson City, TN

Fred, you're flat out wrong, or at least so the early returns say. Let the experiment run for a few decades and then we'll know one way or the other.

I'd bet on the home schoolers.

The public school system is being undermined in the United States by charter schools, etc. A strong and healthy public school system is absolutely NECESSARY to democracy and economic health for the United States.

— ShowMe - Missouri, Missouri

I sort of agree with the fellow from Missouri about public schools; if we're going to have a representative democracy then we should provide schooling so that people don't grow up to be serfs but free citizens aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Charter schools are public schools done different. Once upon a time a public school was a one-room school house funded by the township. Later we consolidated the one room school houses into county-wide districts. Charter schools are just change, is all.

Life is about change. Embrace it.

I sympathize with parents who don't want to put their kids through some of the really crappy-quality public schools that are out there, run by petty credentialist bureaucrats. But the move to quasi-home schooling for everyone who can afford it is only going to make the situation worse, and leave out the kids whose parents don't have the money or time to home-school them.

— csdiego, Washington, DC

Time is something no one ever has enough of. Money .. hey guess what? Charter schools enable parents with smaller incomes to attend better schools. Ditto charter virtual schools.

Yes, you have to have 'a' parent at home, which will leave some parents out in the cold. Others ... my wife was teaching school and her take-home was just enough to pay for the car to drive to work and day-care to watch the kids.

Home schooling (virtual charters were not an option back when) was a fiscal gain for us.

Note that it's Saturday and I'm schooling the monkeys right now (we're breaking for lunch). Why? My wife is the primary educator here - she's got gobs and gobs more patience than I do. But the monkeys took a break on Tuesday, her part time job requires that she spend today driving all to heck and gone across the state .. so today is catch-up and Dad is tagged with proctoring.

The point is we have 'a' parent dedicated to this but you can time-share.

Absolutely Stupid, Dumb, etc.. How can a child possibly learn ina structured mananer at home ? There are too many opportunities to play the wii, nintendo, etc. aand skip the Math book or reading. The child also misses the social learning opportunities associated with a public school. What kind of parent would do this to their Children ? We should have laws that forbid these kind of decisions by irresponsible parents. These parents should be charged with Endangering the welfare of a Child !!

— Len, Connecticut

Len, you're an idiot. Step a little closer and say that to my face.

A large percentage of children are home schooled by materials that are religious in nature, which is not permissible for public school support. These children may be isolated socially, and may be cut off from

supervision in case they are being neglected or abused

at home.

— EMBondar, Grand Island, NY

Were you reading the article? The material is provided by the public school, it ain't religious in nature, it's what their peers are getting at the bricks and mortar school. Except it's better.

Update: changed the title so it wouldn't look like a 'me too' spam blog. I hate those things.

Friday, February 01, 2008


"The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage, is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there." --GEORGE ORWELL

Cloverfield - no spoilers


It's good. Go see it.

Unless it's not your cup of tea - you know who you are.

The nausea-inducing aspects of the film are way overblown, I think. That said it's presented as if it's filmed by an amateur with a home video camera so .. ymmv.

The theme playing over the credits (ROAR!) is worth sticking around for.

on the confederate flag

on the confederate flag
by kelly zen-yie tsai

i heard the boy
on the tv
say it was a part
of his culture
that he was proud and
well hell, how could
i argue with that?

he posed in front
of his used car in
a dusty field and looked
the camera straight in the eye

his sandy blonde
hair cut sharply
above his eyebrows

i had some cousins
that grew up in Atlanta
and i rememeber
that Texan Korean
comedian from way
back in the day named
something like
Henry Cho

i know that Chang & Eng,
the first Siamese twins,
owned a plantation in North Carolina
at the turn of the century after
Ringling Brothers emancipated
them from their freakish

they even married
white women and owned
slaves of their own

whether you were
white or black depended
on what state you lived in,
who you were, what you did,
what you knew.

while Chinamen
hung from ropes
squeezed ‘round their
necks in California

haven’t you ever
heard “he doesn’t
have a Chinamen’s
chance before?”

i don’t know if there’s
a Vietnamese dude in New Orleans
who tacks that criss-crossed
craze of red, white, and blue
next to his GuanYin, hands outstretched
offering mercy over ceramic bowls
of incense, oranges and rice

or a Chinese kid in Houston
bumping Paul Wall on his
his low-rider speakers with
two flags pasted together
dangling from the rearview mirror:

newly arrived to this legacy

i am nothin’ but a yankee
yellow gurl who could never
understand why the dukes of
hazzard painted that cross of
stars over their side doors that
they slid so easily in and out of

just a yankee yellow gurl

witness to all the Chicago stories of
Northern migration and dogbites
taken from uncle’s legs, firemen’s
water hoses forcing apart children’s hands,
hand-me-down-sense impressions of
great-grandmothers on Arkansas chicken farms
who lived through days of slavery

i see these sewn into red black and green
emblazoned on foreheads, on wrists, on waists,
on legs, on ankles, on feet, clutched in hands
bouncing to the beats built to tear down all walls with heat,
to keep from ever daring to close anyone back in.

so when the boy on the tv
talks about culture, talks about
pride, i want to lean through the glass,
grab him ever so gently by the collar,
and ask:

but my dear, which culture, what culture?