Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gentlemen prefer blondes Tories

It's AmIHotOrNot for UK Members of Parliament:
At the time of writing, the ladies' list on sexymp.co.uk appears to indicate that the gentlemen (and others preferring female boudoir companionship) of the internet have a decided partiality for Conservative women.

The top ten contains eight Tories and the bottom ten only one - ratios well in excess of the party's Westminster presence.


The story's not dissimilar on the chaps' list, with seven Tory hunks gracing the top ten: however, Labour have a heavy hitter in there with David Miliband lying at number nine as this is written (well ahead of his brother, party leader Ed, at 52, and prime minister David Cameron at 103).
Well, there you go.  What it means is anyone's guess, but while politicians may lie, the numbers never do.

Cool mashup

Who's the Sad Climate Panda?

The Kyoto Protocols are expiring, and everyone knows that everything would have been super keen except for that evil old ChimpyMcHitlerBurton.  I mean, everyone was on board with it.

So the Right Thinking People® are rolling out Kyoto II.  Now that George Bush is out of office, we're ready to start, err, cooking with gas.  Oh, wait:

Saturday, 28 May 2011 16:58 Agence France-Presse
DEAUVILLE, France: Russia, Japan and Canada told the G8 they would not join a second round of carbon cuts under the Kyoto Protocol at United Nations talks this year ...

Developed countries signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. They agreed to legally binding commitments on curbing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

Those pledges expire at the end of next year. Developing countries say a second round is essential to secure global agreements.

But the leaders of Russian, Japan and Canada confirmed they would not join a new Kyoto agreement, the diplomats said.
But it can't all be lost, now that we have the Lightbringer in office.  The one who said the seas would stop rising and the planet begin to heal.

Right?  Right?
At last Thursday’s G8 dinner the US President, Barack Obama, confirmed Washington would not join an updated Kyoto Protocol, the diplomats said.
Man, that George W. Bush sure is crafty, to get Russia, Japan, Canada, and Barack Obama to sing his tune.  Welcome to the underside of the Obama Bus, greenies!  I expect the new meaning of the term "deniers" will be people who claim not to have voted for Obama.  Hope and Same, baby!

30, 40, 50

I was 31 when we bought our first house.  We did a lot of gardening and improvements, as the previous owners hadn't done much.  My triumphs were a linen closet in an empty space over the stairs, a wine cellar, and replacing the blower for the A.C. unit all by my lonesome.  My lovely bride was impressed that I could go to the electric supply store, bring home what to her looked like some J. Random piece of machinery, and get the house all cooled off.  It's not often I can impress her, so the memory is sweet.

I was 40 when I terraced the yard in our first house in Georgia with dry stacked stone set by my hands.  I added a pond with a waterfall.  It was quite striking and once again I found my lovely bride impressed with what I could build with my hands.

But it took longer than it would have, had I done it a decade before.

Now, in my early 50s, I find that I can do this:

Once again, I am impressed with what I can build with the sweat of my brow, a little smarts and planning, and my two hands*.  But boy, howdy, I'm getting old for this.  Now I understand why the military doesn't let guys my age enlist.  I may have marksmanship skills better than some of the young pups they find these days, but I just can't keep up.  I'd be a menace to the unit.  Oh, bother.

* Alas, this pond doesn't have a Queen Amidala's torture chamber.  Of course, the kids are going to college now, and have better things to do with their time (and my construction materials).

Monday, May 30, 2011

The day is mine, Trebek

Not done, but running.  Needs more water (tomorrow), needs more aesthetic fiddling (no ugly black liner or hose visible), needs water plants (bog irises), needs fish.

Now I need an ibuprofen cocktail, preferably with something lovely as a chaser.

kx59, run and hide from your lovely bride.  I can't imagine what this would have taken in that Texas concrete/clay.

The post title, of course, if from this:

They're going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives. They're going to remember bringing that Marine home. And they should.

Your Memorial Day must-read is at the New York Times.  Srlsy.  It won a Pulitzer prize, even:

The text reads:
When 2nd Lt. James Cathey's body arrived at the Reno Airport, Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac. During the arrival of another Marine's casket at Denver International Airport, Major Steve Beck described the scene as one of the most powerful in the process: "See the people in the windows? They'll sit right there in the plane, watching those Marines. You gotta wonder what's going through their minds, knowing that they're on the plane that brought him home," he said. "They're going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives. They're going to remember bringing that Marine home. And they should."
Long time readers know my feeling towards the media, but this is simply spectacular reporting.  It deserves a Pulitzer.  The slide show at the NYT is pitch perfect, and it's not often that I can say something like that.

Tagged with "biased media" so that if someone hits that tag, they'll find this, which is absolutely not biased.  Bravo to the reporters, and bravo to the NYT for running it.  It appeared originally in the Rocky Mountain News, but props to the Grey Lady for running it.

Hat tip: Mike's America.

Jeff Cooper on the combat mindset

It's not my intent to stand up here and tell the AMA to go fly a kite, but that's my inclination.


"Each one of those markers is a monument ...

Ronald Reagan looked back on our Armed Forces, and asked the question Where do we find these men?  He then answered it: Where we've always found them in this country: In the farms, the shops, the stores and the offices.  The American Armed Forces have always been made from the stuff that makes up this Republic.

But there's a difference between them and the rest of the Citizenry, a difference summed up by the (original) Code of Military Conduct:
I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
Both the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese looked with contempt at the American Fighting Man.  Both of their cultures valued racial purity, reinforced with a psychology of the ubermensch.  Both viewed America - correctly - as a mongrel race.  We were the natural enemy, because our success wasn't just a challenge to their ideology, it was a rebuke to it.

Today we face a different adversary, one who fights from the shadows instead of in Panzer Divisions, but who is no less lethal for that.  This enemy too sees us as corrupt, inferior to his "higher" philosophy.  A rebuke, even.

Both then and now we have had fighting men and women who have shown our enemies that the situation is more complicated, and painful for them.  Men and women who have seen this Republic through some very dark days, but saw that we came out right side up.  A lot of those men and women never saw the conclusion to the conflict, finding instead whatever small comfort in knowing that they lived up to that third sentence in the Code of Military Conduct.

This day, we remember them.

I would say something profound, except it's already been said.

The emphasis here is that the Military and the People are one.  May it ever be so.  And yet there is that sentence, terrible in its import, that separates the People from the Military - especially those who die in the Republic's service:
I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
Again, I think I should say something profound about that sacrifice, but once again it has been said:

Where do we find such men?  Where we've always found them in this country: In the farms, the shops, the stores and the offices.  They just are the product of the freest society the world has ever known.

And they promised that they'd die for us, if that must be their fate.

May this Republic be worthy of their sacrifice, and that of their families.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hard Pan much?

Once again, I find that I cannot understand why Georgia did away with the Hard Labor sentences.  This took all afternoon:

Rough calculations put the final pond at around 750 gallons.  For a while I was thinking that I had oversized the filter and pump.  The pump may indeed be, but the filter is bang on.

The waterfall will be where the pile of rocks on the large flat slab (furthest to the left) is.

Smartest. President. Ever.

The Brits are snickering at him:
The President wrote a heartfelt note in the book during a half-hour visit to the Abbey, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge married last month, but appears to have dated the message "24 May 2008".
I've heard that he's always in campaign mode, but come on ...

Yeah, yeah, somewhere in Texas a village is missing its idiot.  Or something.

Maurice Ravel - Rigaudon

Maurice Ravel is best known for Bolero, which is ironic because he considered that to be a failed experiment (he referred to it as "a piece for orchestra without music").  Less well known is that he enlisted in the French Army in World War I.  He was 40 years old, and in poor health.  Instead of flying airplanes like he requested, they assigned him to a truck driving company in the Verdun sector.

Verdun, of course, was where the Imperial German Army determined to bleed the French white.  Ravel lost a lot of friends in action.

But he wasn't considered France's greatest composer for nothing.  During the war, he composed a suite for piano as a memorial for his dead friends.  Its six movements were each for one of his six friends who were killed in action.

Le Tombeau de Couperin seems strangely upbeat.  Rather than sad and dirge-like, it is almost lively.  Ravel was criticized for this at the time; he famously replied "The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence."

This is the fourth of the six movements, Rigaudon.  It is dedicated to the memories of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin.  They served together, and were killed by the same shell.

This Memorial Day weekend, remember the others who never had a Ravel to write for them.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quote of the Day - GOP establishment are idiots edition

This is just about pitch perfect:
The interesting question becomes whether the GOP will, petulantly, scuttle the chances of ejecting BHO rather than fall in behind a potential Palin candidacy. In other words, will the commitment to the traditional, broken, Ruling Class way be stronger in the GOP than the desire to, you know, live up to the party’s ideals?

The fact that this question even forms in the mind is why I’m pleased not to be a registered Republican.
What I find most useful about Sarah Palin's political impact is that it causes people to voluntarily sort themselves into the "Elite Bastards" and "Everybody Else" categories.  If she were to get elected President, this is likely to be her greatest gift to the Republic.


Reading about the bloggers up in Knoxville for the machine gun shoot reminds me of how I was thinking about going, back a couple months ago.  It's only 3 hours or so from Atlanta.

Never mind that today's my anniversary, or that I've been in Austin.  I'm also surprised at just how achy I am from the 15+ hours in the car coming back.  I guess I'm not 18 any more (or even 40, mores the pity).

But dang, it would have been fun.

Carrie Underwood - Just A Dream

One death is a tragedy; a million deaths are a statistic.
- Stalin
Joe Stalin was a cold SOB, but he knew something of human nature.  We simply don't do well with the notion of shared sacrifice.  And so, Memorial Day becomes something very different from the original and solemn Decoration Day, with its mass trips to the cemetery.  It becomes a day of grilling burgers and steaks, opening the swimming pool, and occasionally thinking of those who didn't make it home.

But it's abstract.  As Stalin would say, it's a statistic.

For some, it's personal.  It's their son, husband, daughter, wife that didn't make it home.  Instead of a statistic, it's a brutal tragedy, a grief that may never end.  While Joe Stalin wouldn't care, he would understand.

We should understand, too, and care.  Fortunately, country music has a song for that.  Carrie Underwood is blessed with the voice of the century, which is what won American Idol for her.  She uses that voice, along with an outstanding video production to entirely capture the personal for Memorial Day.  Not "the guys who didn't make it back", but dreams turned to dust.

That's what those men and women - and their families - gave up, in their hundreds of thousands.  Inside the statistics lie a million shattered hopes.  Remember them this weekend.

Just A Dream (Songwriters: Gordie Sampson, Steve McEwan, Hillary Lindsey)
It was two weeks after the day she turned 18
all dressed in white, going to the church that night
She had his box of letters in the passenger seat,
six pence in her shoe
something borrowed something blue
and when the church doors opened up wide she put her veil down trying to hide the tears oh
she just couldn’t believe it
she heard the trumpets from the military band and the flowers fell out of her hands

Baby, why'd you leave me, why'd you have to go
I was counting on forever, now I'll never know
I cant even breathe
It's like I'm, looking from a distance, standing in the background
Everybody's saying, he's not coming home now,
This can't be happening to me
This is just a dream

The preacher man said let us bow our heads and pray
lord please lift his soul and heal this hurt
then the congregation all stood up and sang the saddest song that she ever heard
then they handed her a folded up flag and
she held on to all she had left of him oh and what could’ve been
and then guns rang one last shot and it felt like a bullet in her heart

Baby, why'd you leave me, why'd you have to go
I was counting on forever, now I'll never know
I can't even breathe
It's like I'm, looking from a distance, standing in the background
Everybody's saying, he's not coming home now,
This can't be happening to me
This is just a dream

Oh,Oh Baby, why'd you leave me, why'd you have to go
I was counting on forever, now I'll never know
Ohh i'll never know
It's like I'm, looking from a distance, standing in the background
Everybody's saying, he's not coming home now,
This can't be happening to me
This is just a dream

Oh this is just a dream
just a dream
Not statistics, but people.  Filled with hope for the future and love for their families.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
- Sullivan Belleau's last letter home before his death at Bull Run
Remember them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why did America invent the First Person Shooter video game?

Interesting discussion of cultural influences in the development of video game tropes.

Via #2 Son.

Stand by for incomming transmission ...

... from Borepatch High Command.  Mike Golch emails to point out an outstanding VFW program to collect signatures for thank you cards for hospitalized veterans.  They're trying to collect 50,000 signatures by midnight (tonight) so they can deliver the cards this weekend.

Yes, they'll have you on their email list, but you can always get your email reader to chuck it in the spam can.  This strikes me as a great program to send a well deserved thank you to a bunch of folks who don't hear that very often.

Royal Society: those beastly Deniers are asking for us to show our work

Quick, break out the smelling salts:

Freedom of information laws are being misused to harass scientists and should be re-examined by the government, according to the president of the Royal Society.

Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse told the Guardian that some climate scientists were being targeted by organised campaigns of requests for data and other research materials, aimed at intimidating them and slowing down research. He said the behaviour was turning freedom of information laws into a way to intimidate some scientists.
Those brutes!  I mean, who would have the effrontery of asking a Scientist for his data?  Especially in Climate Science, where it is well known to all Right Thinking People® that the data is classified Top Secret.  Need to know and all that.  But it gets worse:

Myles Allen, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, said he has been involved in many long-running exchanges with people making freedom of information requests for his data. "In the case that went on the longest, I answered all the guy's questions. I spent half a day writing a long email explaining the answers to all his questions, but it wasn't really that which he was after: he was after some procedural questions about IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. He wanted some evidence that an IPCC statement had been changed – it wasn't about science at all; it was about procedure."
The bounders.  I mean, who would ever suspect that the IPCC reports would be filled with lousy science and used for political ends.  Really, it's more than a Scientist can bear.

It's all here, including references to the whitewash investigations of the "Hide the decline" crew that called no skeptical witnesses, and put the obligatory "of course, we should all strive for more transparency" blather in paragraph sixteen.  Somehow, it never gets to the point that if the scientists didn't hide their data, they wouldn't have to answer FOI requests from people looking for their data.  The article hilariously stumbles across this, but seems not to notice:
Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics said the intention of many of those making freedom of information requests was to trawl through scientists' work with the intention of trying to find problems and errors.
Gee, ya think?  Or do these "scientists" not have to worry about pesky little trivialities like getting things right?  Criminey, and Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse wonders why the public doesn't trust the scientific establishment or the press any more?  I guess you don't need to be all that smart to win a Nobel, then.

It's drivel of a quite shockingly low caliber.  Sir Paul, I'd like a higher caliber drivel, please.

"I thought you had to be in better shape to be a police officer."

I don't think that I have the guts to try this ...

Via Theo Spark.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Overheard in the Borepatchmobile

#1 Son and I are driving from Austin back to Atlanta today.  In Louisiana, we see a Fedex truck pulled over by two police cars.
#1 Son: He must have been hauling something bad.  Something illegal in Louisiana but legal in the other states.

Me: English Common Law?

#1 Son: Maybe he had an open beer.

Me: That's got to be the fastest way to get fired as a.FedEx driver.  The express lane to fired.

#1 Son: Of course, you can always spend an extra $15 for overnight fired.
The snark is strong in that one.

Posted via Blogaway from my Android phone

UPDATE 26 May 2011 23:26: Safely home inside the Camp Borepatch security perimeter.  Man, that's a long drive from Austin.  Traffic was fine the entire way until the Atlanta Perimeter.  Not at all secure, that Perimeter.  Just sayin'.

Fixed the weird HTML codes, which is a story for tomorrow.  If my posts are late, it's because I'm asleep.

Attention Borepatch readers

The tornado in Joplin, MO has been a disaster.  Midwest Chick has a post that's worth your while.

So that's where Osama really is


Texas Republicans: Big Hat, No Cattle

Well, now, look at this:
As the anti-TSA-groping bill was debated on the Senate floor today, Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) learned he no longer had the 21 votes necessary to pass the bill.

He thought he had 30.

The reason for the drop in support, Patrick said, was Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's intervention -- "peeling off the votes," he called it. However, a spokesman for Dewhurst denied that was the case.


Capitol reporters are tweeting that Patrick says HB 1937 is dead, and the Lt. Gov. has no intention of picking it back up.
Janet Napolitano rolled the Texas Senate Republicans.  There's no way that she'd follow through with her threat - basically to shut down Dallas/Ft. Worth airport and paralyze air travel during a fragile recovery during the run up to an election.  Not even Janet Napolitano is that dumb.

So who got bought off, and what was their price?  Man, the Republicans sure aren't making it easy to vote for them.  Coke party, Pepsi party.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mitt Romney sucks, volume MXCII

The People's Soviet* of Massachusetts may have silenced TJIC, and those are quite some boots to fill.  Indeed, it would take a fool to even attempt it.  OK, then, here goes.

Via the Silicon Graybeard, we find a family facing $90,000 in fines from the Fed.Gov.  It seems that if they don't pay up, they're on the hook for $4 Million in additional fines.

Woah.  What sort of nefarious activity have they been up to?  What antisocial activity makes them such a threat to the Republic that they're staring down the barrel** of Four Large?

Selling rabbits:
I shouldn't joke about this.  Facing a $4 Million dollar fine for selling a few (dozen) bunnies is not funny and could completely ruin this family.  It's not funny.  It's just that it's at least a little better than executing them on the spot, as the police state did with Jose Guerena in Arizona the other day or Erik Scott in the Las Vegas Costco last summer, or (you can insert a list here).
I guess this is the time for me to pro-actively get my TJIC on and say that Catholic Just War Doctrine does not (yet) justify the assassination of Fed.Gov Jack-Booted Thugs® breaking doors down and shooting someone thirty times because they had the wrong house, or thought someone was selling unlicensed rabbits, or something.

Instead, let me offer this up: GOP, you suck and I hate you.  It seems that this particular statute was passed in 1989, in the flush of the Reagan Renaissance™, when Conservatives™ Walked The Earth and Small Government™ was signed into law by George Bush major.  Glad we had the GOP to keep government small and off our backs.  Otherwise, we might have a rabbit infestation, or something.

Oh, and Mitt Romney?  You're the reincarnation of George H. W. Bush.  You suck, too.

As TJIC used to say, before the Massachusetts Super Cranial Beings*** got their panties in a wad, rope.  Some men just need hangin'.

And note to any overly sensitive would-be Philosopher King swooning over my "violent rhetoric", I have two words for you: Bill Ayers.  And then you could go look up Will Rogers: There ought to be one day that was Open Season on Senators.  Good Lord, the Founding Fathers would have wept.  And then they would have been the first to toss the rope over the lamp posts.

And so I say to everyone once again, the problem isn't the Democrats, and the solution isn't the Republicans.  The problem is a permanent Political Class who has contempt for you and me.  Vote them out.

All of them.  And Mitt Romney, I'll take this all back and apologize handsomely if you:
  1. Say that your first act as President will be to apologize to and pardon Mr. and Mrs. Dollarhit,
  2. Say that your second act as President will be to fire the entire FDA Department responsible for this atrocity to American Freedom,
  3. Say that your third act as President will be to fire the U.S. Prosecutor who filed the case, and
  4. Say that your fourth act as President will be to issue a R-gram**** to the entire Federal workforce saying "Cut the Crap"
Yeah, I didn't think so.  Rope.

* Yeah, yeah, I'm told that Massachusetts doesn't have a proper Soviet.  Great.  They have an improper Soviet.

** It's a fine backed up by police with guns.  Guns with barrels.  Duh.

*** You, know, these guys:

**** Look it up, Romney.


This is the world's most famous garage:

It's where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started a company.  You might have heard of it, but it was tough for the wives when they started:

Hewlett and Packard, however, did much of the production work on the Model 200A oscillator at their garage and in their house.
When we started making the audio oscillators, we bought the cabinets but made the panels ourselves. We sawed them out of aluminum and drilled the holes. Then we'd spray-paint them at home and use the kitchen oven to bake the paint.
Lucile was said to have remarked that her roasts "never tasted the same" after they had baked the paint in the oven.
Hard work, and doing basically everything themselves.  But smart, and different, and a focus on quality made the difference - and World War II gave them their chance.

Brains and luck, and you might end up with a market capitalization of $6 Billion or so.  Better than I can do, quite frankly, even on my good days.

From and old email from Dad.  He kept me in blog fodder, although I didn't post quite a bit.  Looking back through my old email folders, I'm glad I started saving his messages.  He's still keeping me in blog fodder.

I guess I'll go through all his recommendations some day, and have to do my own posts.  Man, I'll hate that.

Something strange happened today

I was going through the iPhone, transferring everything off of His Steveness' Domain into the shiny new Android phone when I ran across something that made me stop short.

It was a voice mail from Dad.

Months ago, he called to see how I was doing.  Fighting the cancer that ultimately took him, he was calling to cheer me up.

I'll keep that.

TheOnesDay® humor

It was a freezing cold night in Washington, D.C., despite (or because of) the foot of new fallen Global Warming on the White House lawn.  Even with extra blankets and quilts, it was freezing cold as Michelle slipped into bed.

"My God, it's cold," she said.  Barack put down his New York Times and replied, "In bed, honey, you can call me 'Barack'."

This week's edition of TheOnesDay® mockery has been brought to you by Saul Alinsky.  Remember the Rules For Radicals, folks.  Mockery - it's what's for Breakfast.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Old friend Scotaku hasn't been blogging much lately, and is looking for some encouragement.  Unlike your dilettante host, Scott is an actual writer (you know, books, and everything).  He has some of his stuff posted.

If you haven't been there before, you should stop by.

Remember the High School loser?

Seems the TSA needs a few good men.

Testing ...

This is a test using the Blogaway Android app.

I have to say that the iPhone interface is a little more polished than Android.  But the utter failure of the iPhone to preserve my app functionality across IOS upgrade offsets lots of polish.

Posted via Blogaway from my Android phone

Finding the unexpected

What makes it unexpected is that we don't expect it:
The Asheville, North Carolina restaurant was one of those common to our post-post-modern world. Open and airy with a wall of windows framing hanging plants. Casual to the point of paper napkins. Sporting a list of local beers and -- surprise -- local wines. Tarted up with the kind of overtly ironic art on the walls where the painter has one statement and one image in his repertoire and repeats it ad nauseam. This time it seemed that the sensibility being trotted out was one of Hieronymous Bosch meets Hello Kitty.
What a fabulous opening.  Of course, long time readers know my opinion of Hello Kitty.  You also know my opinion of folks who want to turn North Carolina into the Massachusetts of Dixie:
This was downtown Asheville in the heart of the freshly gentrified, cosmopolitan zone and instead of pick-ups rattling down the streets, Porsches prowled growling in the night outside the rock-climbing gym. This was an armed cultural hamlet in the New South, guarded by down-home decorating parlors ready to give your custom log-cabin that shabby chic lived-in look; where the sentries were hair salons called "The People" with mirrors in front of each station resembling nothing so much as the guillotines that "The People" of France once used so effectively in solving their aristocracy problem. The difference here was that the new aristocracy of this region was busy admiring themselves in the mirrors of these guillotines with nary a Marat or Robespierre in sight. Instead, downtown Asheville -- or at least some small section at the top of the hills -- was relentlessly promoting our new secular religion of senseless and endless shopping opportunities.
The unexpected comes unexpectedly.  Maybe that is a statement that our imaginations aren't as imaginative as we like to think.  But the unexpected sometimes comes gloriously:

As I got up to leave the family of six at the long table across from me was served with the quick flourish and satisfied air of presentation that is the style of serving these days. The was food steaming in front of them, but none of them made a move towards it. Instead, they talked quietly amongst themselves and seemed to come to a decision. They made their selection from among them. It was to be one of the daughters, a girl of about 17 I guessed. The din in the restaurant rose and fell, but the family of six sat quietly and then bowed their heads as one. Then they said grace.

I stood motionless at my table. I had, I thought, never seen this before in a restaurant. I'd seen it in private homes to be sure, but upon reflection I realized that I'd not seen it there in quite sometime. And I was quite sure this was, for me, a rare event. I'd probably not been paying attention since it no doubt went on all the time, but still it was a startling moment. Perhaps I'd just been too long in Seattle where the only manifestations of spirit are flimsy; where the invocations are raised to a watery Buddhism or bloodless Unitarianism where God is impossibly distant if at all extant. Be that as it may, this simple act of saying grace did not so much shock me as still me. I paused to listen in. And the daughter did not disappoint.

Her's was no gestural grace -- "Bless this food. Amen. Let's eat." -- but an extended meditation on the good fortune to find oneself among family and before a rich selection of food; an acknowledgment of an unusual level of being blessed by God, and a calling down of God's grace on members of the family present and not present, and ending with a wish that God continue to bless the family, the community, the state and the country. Then, and only then, was "Amen" spoken and the meal begun.
This is quite a tale, and exceptionally well told.  We are surrounded by the unexpected, and we keep managing to miss it most of the time.  Our lives are marvels, but we're mostly too caught up in the mundane to marvel.  In this, we're no different from past generations; the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas relates Jesus saying The Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it.

Marvels, all around us.  Unexpected, they take your breath away.  All you have to do is see it.

Where I blog from

RomeoTangoBravo asks an interesting question: so where do you blog from?

I was out all last evening, so posts are late today.  I was going to blog from here:

But it seems that Apple's iTunes authentication has me sideways.  So not only is there music that I can't listen to anymore, but Blogpress is Tango Uniform - that's why posts are late today.  I can handle the AWOL music, but for me, the Internet is the killer app, and so as of today, the iPhone is only a phone.  All Internet and blogging will be from the Android.

But enough ranting on His Steveness.  The question at hand is where do I blog from, and the answer is everywhere.  Literally.

Most is done on the laptop, wherever I happen to be sprawled at the moment.  For example, here's Crash the WonderCat letting me know that I post too often.

Living room, Camp Borepatch.  In the background you see a door to the screened porch, where I do a fair amount, too.  Back in Massachusetts at Chez Borepatch, I also liked to post from the screened porch there.

But as I said, the comforts of home aren't available when you're not at home.  The obligatory airline blogging is described here, highway blogging here and here.

And so, the world is my oyster blog.  And that's why I'm shifting entirely over to Android except for 19th Century voice comms.  Killer apps aren't so killer when availability goes to zero.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lego: is there anything it can't do?

Well, it can go together to build a working Super-8 film projector:

A fully functional Super 8 Movie Projector I built with Kalle using Lego Technic. The only non-Lego parts are the lens, the reel spindles and the lamp.

The projector uses just two engines and is fully featured with automatic feeding, 24 fps, fast rewind and 120m reel capabilities. A decent LED flashlight makes it pretty amazingly bright. :)
He has, err, film of the working contraption.  Cool.

Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!

July 18 is not May 23, even in the Mayan calendar.  But it comes close in the calendar used by the U.S. Army in the second half of the nineteenth century.

On July 18, the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry assaulted well-entrenched Confederate infantry at Fort Wagner, South Carolina.  This has been well depicted in the outstanding film Glory:

The 54th Massachusetts, of course, was a Regiment made up from African Americans.  It was said that those "boys" (as they were called at the time, and indeed were called up until my lifetime) wouldn't fight.

Those Men fought, and fought like demons.  And when the Color Sergent was shot down, Sergent William Harvey Carney caught them before they fell.  He kept them for the rest of the battle, waving them from the parapet of the fortress to rally the troops until the retreat was sounded.  Then he brought Old Glory back to friendly lines.  He never let it touch the ground.

The fastest way to get your ticket punched to the Hereafter during the War Between The States was to carry the standards.  You made the natural rally point for your side, which made you the natural aim point for the other side.  To expose yourself was expected in that maelstrom, but strong men were unashamed to let someone else bear the Colors.

But not William Harvey Carney.

It was a day when racism was easy, and everywhere unashamed.  And so Sgt. Carney had to wait almost 37 years for the recognition that was his due.  Delayed by the odd U.S. Army calendar I've spoken of, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantryabove and beyond the call of duty on this day in 1900.  While his was not the first MoH awarded to an African American, his deeds of valor were the first so to be recognized:
Rank and organization: Sergeant, Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. Place and date: At Fort Wagner, S.C., 18 July 1863. Entered service at: New Bedford, Mass. Birth: Norfolk, Va. Date of issue: 23 May 1900. Citation: When the color sergeant was shot down, this soldier grasped the flag, led the way to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon. When the troops fell back he brought off the flag, under a fierce fire in which he was twice severely wounded.
Delayed, but not denied.

Opus 4000

Next month I'll hit my third blogiversary, so while that new blog small is long gone, it's not like I've been around forever.

But this is my 4,000th post.  I'm a bit of a Chatty Cathy (as if that's a surprise to anyone).  By rough calculation I do around 25,000 words a month, so the total so far should be coming up on 900,000 words (!).


But thanks to everyone who stops by to listen to me go on and on (and on and on and on)!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Oh. That earth shattering kaboom

Nuclear test explosions to Tchaikovsky's 1912 Overture.

Your argument is invalid.

UPDATE 22 May 19:56: Err, 1812 Overture, as Merlin so kindly points out.  The 1912 Overture would involve an event of mass death from that year.  Sort of like this:

But your argument is still invalid.

Alas, no MA Deuce

Or whistling, Dixie or otherwise.  But there is Beethoven (Moonlight Sonata) and a metric ton of slow motion full automatic shooty goodness.

And the first comment cracks me up:
I'd rather hear the guns fire in slow motion then hearing this gay music, music ruined it all! Just my opinion! Why the hell would you put music over the actual sound of the gun!!!!! Stupid
On the contrary, the only thing that would have made this video more awesome is if the shooter had worn a dinner jacket.

Spectacular failure

Some of my friends are scary brilliant people.  Actually, my older brother is like that.growing up in that environment pulled me into orbit around their precocious smart.  For example, a friend and I weren't too keen on reading Steinbeck (*COUGH*)commie symp!(*COUGH*) as high school freshmen.  We asked the teacher if instead we could read Dostoyevsky.  Her reaction was interesting.

Well, when some of these friends got out of college, they landed some interesting jobs.  One of them was at a company doing Artificial Intelligence.  Mind you, this was back around 1980, with computers that were slower than what you're using to read this now.  They knew that the hardware needed Moore's Law to drive it to smaller/faster/cheaper, but were absolutely convinced that we would have thinking computers "in 20 or 30 years".

You'll notice that it's 30 years later, and we don't have thinking computers (or flying cars, for that matter).  I quite simply didn't believe them at the time, although it was a gut feel reaction - I've heard a lot of predictions from technologists based on extending a trend line, and so I developed a healthy skepticism even at an early age.

But this idea of thinking computers keeps coming back.  Even a smart guy like Aretae talks about it:
in 2050, barring the singularity, Robots will do most work, including most work we currently consider to be intellectual work, and 90+% of the population will live largely useless (n the historical sense) lives, because robots can do EVERYTHING better than they can.
I'm very skeptical.  I think that computer security can help explain it.  One area that was hot, hot, hot in the 1990s was "Intrusion Detection" (IDS) - looking for patterns of log messages or network traffic that you would expect to see during an attack.  For example, someone who is probing for services to exploit will have a very characteristic signature that is pretty unmistakable - lots of connections to different services from a single computer.   Nothing actually works like that, and so it must be an attack.

If only we could describe what most of these looked like, went the thought, we could detect attacks as they actually happen.  It was pretty sexy stuff (if you're a security geek).  The problem is that it doesn't work.

We don't understand what's normal well enough to capture it in an automated computer analysis.  As a result, IDS has been shunted off to the sidelines.  While most IDS systems have thousands of signatures, only a hundred or so get turned on.  We used to call these the "Nifty Fifty" - the (back then) fifty signatures that never went wrong.  Now there are a hundred, maybe two hundred.  Of course, no attacker worth his salt will do anything to trigger any of them, and so IDS really isn't very useful.

In technical terminology, incorrectly identifying normal activity as malicious or undesirable is called a "False Positive" situation, ind this is deadly for IDS systems.  Customers would report that they were getting thousands of false positives a day, and so their operators would turn the systems off.  Quite frankly, that's what the "Nifty Fifty" idea was trying to do - ship with most of the system turned off.  Of course, at that point why would you want one at all?

And so to Artificial Intelligence.  Computers do some things really well.  Pure mathematics is simply not worth doing by humans, because computers are so fast and accurate.  But computers are unbelievably bad at pattern recognition, and do not seem to be getting better.  It's not that people don't keep trying, but success is really limited.  The IBM Watson Jeopardy winning computer was really just a voice recognition system married to a database lookup system.  What made it unbeatable was that it didn't have thumbs - the electronic relay it used to buzz in was simply faster than the human reaction time on their buzzers. But Watson couldn't have a conversation with you.  Even a three year old would be a more interesting conversationalist.

And thus my skepticism about AI taking over.  AI's failures in pattern recognition have been persistent, and sometimes simply spectacular:
Automatic image-analysis systems are already used to catch unwanted pornography before it reaches a computer monitor. But they often struggle to distinguish between indecent imagery and more innocuous pictures with large flesh-coloured regions, such as a person in swimwear or a close-up face. Analysing the audio for a "sexual scream or moan" could solve the problem, say electrical engineers MyungJong Kim and Hoirin Kim at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea.


The model outperformed other audio-based techniques, correctly identifying 93 per cent of the pornographic content from the test clips. The clips it missed had confusable sound, such as background music, causing the model to misclassify some lewd clips. Comedy shows with laughter were also sometimes mistaken for pornography, as the loud audience cheers and cries share similar spectral characteristics to sexual sounds.
It false positives on the laugh track.  93 percent may sound like a lot, but it's far short of a usable system.  Consider a company that implemented an anti-porn surfing system that was 93% accurate.  That means 7% of what employees download will be misclassified, and a bunch of that will misidentify innocent content as being porn.  A human being will have to investigate each of these.  You'll need a roomful of HR drones to keep up with the false positives.


The idea that we'll simply catalog "what the patterns are" is seductive, but so far has led to nothing but madness - the patterns have been too hard to classify reliably, other than in extremely limited situations.  Even something as well-specified as computer networking protocols are essentially beyond our scope of understanding, at least from an IDS point of view.  We've tried, with really really smart people (I know these people, and can vouch for their intelligence).

And after 15 years of development, people turn off their IDS systems.  The failure is spectacular, and complete. I expect that people will continue to work on AI, and that we'll continue to be 20-30 years away from "thinking computers".  Just like we were in 1980.

I guess this is a good time for a disclaimer, seeing as I'm making predictions about the advance of technology.  Anyone who does that is a fool, so I've tried to keep this short.  Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, do not remove tag under penalty of law.

Giacomo Puccini - Nessun dorma

Austin seems like the Tuscany of Texas.  Beautiful, rolling hill country.  Towns (well, houses) built on the hilltops, with farmland in the valleys in between.  Local wine that, while I haven't tried it yet, is from a climate that should produce something good.

When you think of Tuscany and classical music, you think of Puccini.  We're not quite to the point of "Puccini = Opera."  Not quite, but close.  His works include La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, and Turandot, some of the most romantic operas ever written.

Nessun Dorma is from Turandot, Puccini's last - and actually unfinished - opera.  Puccini was stricken with throat cancer, and traveled to Brussels for a new experimental radiation therapy.  He never returned to Italy, or finished the Opera.  It seems that he knew his chances were slim, because he left a notebook explaining how to finish it, which Franco Alfano did.  Toscanini conducted the premiere, and stopped the performance at the point where Puccini's music ended saying, "This is where the maestro laid down his pen, but his followers finished is work."  The orchestra then resumed play.  Very romantic.

Jose Carreras has perhaps the greatest operatic tenor voice of our day.  While perhaps best known as the third of the "Three Tenors" (along with Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo), his voice has a purity which is unique.  Like Puccini, he was stricken with cancer (leukemia) ; unlike Puccini, he won his struggle, and nessun dorma became a theme song of sorts for him.  You see, the song ends with a determined - indeed triumphant - "Vincerò!" ("I will win").  Audiences interpreted this as a musical embodiment of the will to live.

Quite romantic all around, if you think about it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

And so the Rapture passed us by

And all Right Thinking People™ are yucking it up about the whole thing.  And I have to admit, you do have to question the sophistication (let alone the reasoning ability) of people who think that a Lightbringer can work miracles, usher in a new post-racial time, close down illegal prisons in Guantanamo, end the endless wars in the Middle East, finally make us proud of our country, stop the seas from rising, and let the Planet begin to heal.

Even if it is in their Holy Scripture.

I mean, srlsy, what sort of naif would believe something that far fetched?

First, we kill all the lawyers

The world in general, and my industry (high tech) in particular is filled with people who think that a Better Mousetrap will change society.  Engineers are prone to the technocrat's disease: it's elegant, and insanely cool, and wildly useful to society, and so it's obvious that it will not just be built, but will dominate the market.

You'd think that one look at Microsoft® Windows® would disabuse them of that notion, but the attitude is perennial.

Via The Antiplanner, we find an example that encapsulates this fallacy to a T.

This has no hope of ever being fielded in quantity.  The reason is Lawyers.  Audi spent years defending itself against frivolous suits claiming unexpected acceleration.  It was all driver error by elderly (i.e. failing faculties) yuppies (i.e. sense of entitlement; ignore the "y" in yuppie) SWPL types.

And even so, it destroyed the Audi 5000 brand.  And this wasn't a one-off situation, a "black swan": the Fed.Gov just put Toyota through the wringer for precisely the same thing.  Of course, it was all driver error, too.

But Borepatch, I hear you say, if you could eliminate driver error, that would solve the problem, wouldn't it?

Nope.  This isn't an engineering problem.

Consider a hypothetical future, where engineers design self-driving cars.  There's little doubt that these cars will be safer than today's cars.  There's also no doubt at all that the design and implementation of the new system will have defects.  This is, after all, my chosen profession, and we can take it as a give that software have bugs, and that some of those bugs will be horrendous.

Now add lawyers into the mix.  There's typically little money to be made chasing wrongful death lawsuits caused by reckless or intoxicated drivers.  The insurance payout is in part designed to make this the case, and unless it's a business involved, the return on legal hours invested in a lawsuit simply doesn't pay.

So the current high rate of death is a given, but cannot be compared to our hypothetical future.  When a software bug causes a fatal crash - and it's not a question of "if", it's a question of "when" if millions of driver-less cars end up on the road, the legal calculus changes.  Now there are deep pockets (Toyota's), and you have an actual error due to their design or implementation failure.  A jury will want to find for the plaintiff.

Enter Game Theory.  If Toyota is smart, its Product Managers will be performing Annualized Loss Expectancy (ALE)  calculations as to expectation of legal outcome.  The profit from the expected potential additional vehicle sales is almost certainly swamped by potential losses from litigation.

The benefits of the hypothetical system accrue to individuals (people who do not die in accidents caused by drivers, and their dependents) or society (higher capacity factor for existing roads).  The losses are concentrated (people who die in accidents caused by software bugs, and the auto manufacturers after the heirs of the deceased win lawsuits).

In short, why on earth would a rational company invest in this technology?  Sure, it has real benefits.  Overwhelmingly good benefits, in fact.  But qui bono?

The only thing that would change this calculation would be for government to shield the manufacturers from judgement.  I'm not at all sure that this would be A Good Thing, as it is somewhat of a disincentive for product quality investment.  But it doesn't appear that the Fed.Gov is interested - after all, they just put Toyota through the wringer for something that wasn't Toyota's fault.  And The Antiplanner himself captures the problem with the current ruling class and their attitude towards SWPL prestige projects:
Apparently, all it takes is a totally unrealistic vision to persuade people supposedly as sophisticated as the editors of the LA Times. The truth is bullet trains are far more expensive than airlines (75 cents vs. 15 cents a passenger mile); Amtrak’s safety record is far worse than the airlines (1.4 vs. 0.1 passenger fatalities per billion passenger miles); and cleaner depends on the energy source (and powering trains with renewable energy won’t help much if all those trains do is displace some other energy consumer who therefore relies on fossil fuels). As for “reducing reliance on gas-guzzling automobiles,” the state’s own extremely optimistic numbers show that California high-speed rail won’t displace more than 2 or 3 percent of the state’s auto driving; and by the time it is built, autos won’t be guzzling that much gas anyway.
But they don't think about this, and don't want to: Don't bother me with your pesky facts, I'm building the New Progressive Jerusalem.

The ruling class is happy with their false, feel-good stories.  It's not an engineering problem, it's a philosophical world-view problem, and it won't be solved by private enterprise.

Quote of the Day - Roissy edition

Surprisingly, not at Roissy, but over at Sonic Charmer's place:

This all goes along with my theory of Ideologies As Sex Fantasies, which I’ll state more briefly here (from a guy’s POV):
  • Theocrats/fanatics want society to let them own women for exclusive sex. Their main worry is being cuckolded.
  • Socialists want to shape society so that it supplies them with easy women. Their main worry is not being attractive, successful etc. enough to get any sex.
  • Classical liberals/conservatives want society to stop shoving sex in their face. Their main worry is their daughter turning into a slut.
Women have not-identical but complementary for being attracted to one of the above ideologies, of course.
The comments are spirited, but interestingly do not address that last point on women's views.  Maybe it's because all the commenters are male.  I'm not sure if any of my lady readers want to go edumacate them or not.

Note to readers unfamiliar with Roissy: likely most women and a large number of men will be appalled at his posts.

Jimmy Baldwin - Peace, Love & Chicken Fried Steak

All we are saying, is give chicken fried steak a chance.

Texas has a lot of bands, and a lot of singers.  Austin in particular is blessed with an abundance of local artists, most of whom people in the other, lesser States never get a chance to hear.  That's a shame, really.

Jimmy Baldwin serves up a tasty song here, with his trademark humor.  He's worth searching out, because he's not your run of the mill cowboy singer/songwriter.  You'll find mariachi flavors sometimes, or even reggae.

Think globally, listen locally.

Usually I put the lyrics here, but Jimmy kindly put them in the video.

(image source)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Want more traffic on your blog?

Sure you do.  My buddy Mark Curphey tells you how.

Quote of the Day - Police SWAT edition

It's no longer correct to call it the "militarization" of the police when the Rules of Engagement are tougher for the Marines shooting at terrorists than for cops shooting at you.  Alan nails it:

Yeah, something is not right when the police in the US have looser rules of engagement than the army in a war.

You know what that’s called?

A police state.
Just don't do anything illegal, and just don't be there when the cops make a mistake and come to your house instead of the one they meant to, and you don't have anything to worry about.

Uh oh

Item the first:  SCADA exploit demo canceled:
Security researchers decided to cancel a planned demonstration of security holes in industrial control systems from Siemens following requests from the German manufacturer and a security response team.


They shared their research beforehand with Siemens, ICS-CERT (Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team – a division of the Department of Homeland Security), and the Idaho National Lab. Siemens asked the two researchers to hold fire on the talk, which covered possible mechanisms to attack industrial control systems along with a practical demonstration.
SCADA systems control gobs of the systems that make our modern lives possible: oil refineries, electric power generation, that sort of thing.  The SCADA systems were what the StuxNet worm attacked, taking the Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges offline.

I've been saying for a while that it's a target rich environment, and this shows that people are paying attention to the problem.  It's a Good Thing that the researchers talked to Siemens and held their fire.  But there will be a ton more of these, and I expect that our infrastructure is fragile and will break quickly and hard when the first of these gets into the wild.

Stock up on food, water, ammunition, and Krugerrands.

Item the second: Explosion of malware aimed at Macintosh:
Yesterday I spent several hours going through discussions.apple.com and collecting requests for help from Mac users who have been affected by this issue. I found more than 200 separate discussion threads, many of them from people who have been tricked into installing this software and are desperately trying to remove it. It started with four posts on April 30; this past weekend there were 42 unique, new discussion threads on this subject.
A little while ago someone released a malware development kit that made malware for the Mac.  There's been a huge spike in reported Mac pwnage.  Apple is doing what Apple always does about security problems: sweeping them under the rug:

Apple officials have instructed members of the company's support team to withhold any confirmation that a customer's Mac has been infected with malware or to assist in removing malicious programs, ZDNet's Ed Bott reported on Thursday.

He cited an internal document titled "About 'Mac Defender' Malware," which was last updated on May 16 and says that the trojan, which surfaced earlier this month and masquerades as legitimate security software for the OS X platform, is an "Issue/Investigation In Progress."


"Porn sites just started popping up on my MacBook Pro," one user wrote. "Is this a virus? I have never had a virus on a Mac before and I have been using Macs for years. Please help!"
Apple fanboys, Borepatch's First Law applies to you: "Free download" is Internet-speak for "open your mouth and close your eyes."  Any web page you visit or email you read that tells you that you're infected is flogging malware at you.  Don't click it, don't download it, don't let it install.  Windows users already know this.  Welcome to the club.

Apple really has the worst attitude about security of any company I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot.  It's pathetic that their customers will get more help here than from Apple.

Item the third: Mobile malware is exploding, too:

SUNNYVALE, Calif., May 10, 2011 — In a global mobile threat study released today, Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR) found that enterprise and consumer mobile devices are exposed to a record number of security threats, including a 400 percent increase in Android malware, as well as highly targeted Wi-Fi attacks. Through close examination of recent malware exploits, the study outlines new areas of concern and delivers clear recommendations on essential security technologies and practices to help consumers, enterprises/SMBs, and government entities guard against mobile device exploits.


The report, "Malicious Mobile Threats Report 2010/2011" was compiled by the Juniper Networks Global Threat Center New Window (GTC) research facility, a unique organization dedicated to conducting around-the-clock security, vulnerability and malware research tailored specifically to mobile device platforms and technologies. The GTC examines increasingly sophisticated attacks from 2010 and 2011, such as, Myournet/Droid Dream, Tap Snake and Geinimi as well as the pirating of the "Walk and Text" application, new threat vectors for mobile cybercrime, and the potential for exploitation and misuse of mobile devices and data.
Juniper makes some righteous corporate firewalls.  They know what they're talking about.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Well done.  So very well done.

Bravo, sir.  Full marks.  And it reminded me of this, from the days before the TSA ruled the airways:

Externalities and the State

If you hang out in Intellectual Pin-Head places like I do (err, so you don't have to), you'll pretty quickly run across the idea of "externalities".  Wikipedia has a decent-ish article on the issue:
In economics, an externality (or transaction spillover) is a cost or benefit, not transmitted through prices,[1] incurred by a party who did not agree to the action causing the cost or benefit. A benefit in this case is called a positive externality or external benefit, while a cost is called a negative externality or external cost.
Not many discussions on positive externalities, because quite frankly you don't see many of them.  But Progressives love negative externalities, and will tiresomely roll them out as examples of failures of the market system and justification for an ever expanding Government Sector.

And in all honesty, the market economy doesn't do a good job of factoring in non-price signals.  Pollution is a good example of this - it's nasty and unpleasant, but has often been a sign of cost avoidance where the polluter benefits at the expense of people who have to put up with the yuckiness he leaves behind.

Fair enough.  However, Progressives never consider the two word argument that cuts the heart out of their argument for expanded Government:

Sovereign Immunity.

It's hard to sue the Government, by intent.  The argument is that nuisance suits would interfere with the legitimate functioning of the Apparatus of the State.  Imagine someone bring suit because, say, the Government held Enemy Non-Combatants without trial at a location outside the United States.  Err, or something.  You get the idea.

But here's where the externality rubber meets the road: if the Government cannot be held liable for even gross misfeasance, who bears the cost of that misfeasance?  The answer, of course, is us:

The personal financial information of up to 210,000 unemployed Massachusetts residents may have been stolen in a data breach caused by a virus discovered in state labor department computers four weeks ago, officials said yesterday.

Names, addresses, and Social Security numbers, among other data, may have been taken, said John Glennon, chief information officer for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

It raises a few questions: Why did it take the Department of Labor FOUR WEEKS to report this? I would imagine that anyone that had their information stolen has already found out about it - because their identities are now trashed. How did the virus get into the database? Is it a case of incompetent employees opening files they shouldn't? Holes in security that should have been patched?
About right, there.  Who knows - maybe someone at the Office of Labor and Workforce Development surfed to the wrong pr0n site and got some nanst malware which swiped the data.

Now riddle me this: if this had been a private company - say a hospital - not only would it be liable for a class action tort, but possibly some of the folks would be looking a prosecution for violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.  The cost of settling this - or of paying the judgement - would result in a price signal to the market, resulting in (long term) better security of the organization.

In other words, liability ensures that there is no externality. 

What about the Government?  What liability do they have?  In a word, none.  Go ahead and try to sue, this will be bounced from the Commonwealth's courthouses faster than you can say "pwned".  So who pays the costs of the breach?

The people whose information was compromised, that's who.  They're the ones that bear the full cost of information theft, frozen accounts, cleaning up a damaged credit history.  The State skates away scott free, courtesy of Sovereign Immunity.

And note to Progressives everywhere: the people bearing the full cost of dealing with the Government's incompetence are unemployed.  That means that probably they're poor.
So Sovereign Immunity screws the poor, by passing the full cost of incompetence-related externalities on to them in their moment of maximum financial need.  That's one righteous "progressive" vision there, Scooter.

But yeah I know, somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot.  Or something.

Rational public policy theory thus says that most government functions should be outsourced, so as not to be protected by Sovereign Immunity.  Companies will bid on the contracts, pricing in the externalities.  Social Welfare will be maximized by minimizing the number of Government Functionaries.  Q. E. D.

So the take away from this (overly long) post is that 99% of all jabber you hear about "externalities" is precisely that - jabber.  The speaker is either ignorant of the externalities associated with their proposed Governmental Power Grab (and it's always about increasing Government power, isn't it?), or they're ignorant. 

In which case, they're a credentialed (but not educated) idiot.

And before you go thinking about how I'm being so mean to the Democrats, what makes you think that I'm not including Republicans, too?

Is it gay or not?

Definitely gay:
Also, as it is probably far more acceptable for men in West Virginia to hold guns than hands, I will assume the term 'shooting me in the face with your .32' is not a euphemism.
.32 ACP is totally gay.  Just sayin'.

Apologies to everyone from West Virginia, but the thread is pretty funny.

The Battle of Ilerda

In 49 B.C. Julius Caesar besieged five legions of the Pompeian faction in the town of Ilerda, a major stronghold in Hispania Tarraconesis.  Ilerda was familiar with military action, being on a major branch of teh Ebro river.  Both Hannibal and his father Hamilcar had passed that way leading armies in the two centuries preceding.

The Roman Civil War was a nasty, winner-take-all affair.  The Republic had grown so big, so fast, that republican virtues were overwhelmed by the vast amounts of money to be made by military conquest.  And so the fracture.

Winston Churchill once said, "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."  And so with Caesar.  His Gallic Wars was a sensation in Rome, and it is possible that the most famous words ever written in Latin are Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.

He continued writing throughout much of his remaining military career.  Most of what we know of the battle of Ilerda comes from his commentaries.  As such, you need to take it with a very large grain of salt: Caesar wrote at length of his clemency towards the opposing commanders Lucius Afranius and Marcus Petreius, although they seem to have died several years after the battle.

Then things settled down for a long time in Ilerda.  The Moorish conquest and subsequent reconquesta mostly bypassed the region.  One of Europe's early Universities was founded there in the thirteenth century, just as the Little Ice Age was about to decimate the European population.  Then more quiet.

Until now:
A judge ordered the removal of 45 wind turbines on the grounds that planning laws were violated. There was no “general municipal plan” establishing a “reserva del suelo” – i.e. the land was not legally declared appropriate for the erection of wind turbines.
Note to Progressives: Live by SWPL, die by SWPL.  You like "renewable" "green" power.  You like ancient landscapes of Romanesque churches with undespoiled views.

Pick one.

Oops, you also like technocratic legalistic rule by an untouchable elite.  The untouchable elite just told you to tear down that "renewable" "green" power, because your technocratic elite are a bunch of incompetent nincompoops, who can't even work the rules they set up to control the rest of us.

Who's a Sad Panda?

You know, some days, getting out of bed in the morning is a pleasure. Oh, and Progressives?  You expect us to let you run things when you screw up basic things like this?  Please sit down in the back of the room and shut up.  Grown-ups are talking here.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TheWonsDay® humor

Your weekly installment of mockery.  This one rings true:

Q. What's the only thing thinner than President Obama's resume?

A. His skin.

If you have a Playstation Network account, update it right now

And by "right now" I mean RIGHT. NOW.
Just two days after the PlayStation Network was restored after a near month-long outage, the PSN password page has apparently been exploited. According to reports, the exploit allows other users to reset your account password using only your e-mail address and date of birth. This personal data was made available to hackers during the initial PSN attack.
Reader Joseph emailed me this (literally) breaking news news.  Sony's Playstation Network (their online multi-user game playing via the Internet setup) got pwned, and hard.  Hackers pwned it, hard, stealing just about all subscriber information Sony had.

The good news is that it seems that the credit card numbers were stored encrypted, meaning that (hopefully) the Bad Guys may not have them.  The bad news is that the Bad Guys have everything else, including your password, the answer to your security question, etc.

Playstation Network users need to log on and change ALL their personal information that they can, because automated attacks using the information already compromised are going on right now.

Spread the word about this to your gaming friends.  This is no joke.

The unbearable lightness of being Mitt Romney

The 1988 film The Unbearable Lightness of Being shows life behind the Iron Curtain, during and after the Prague Spring of 1968.  The dramatic tension in the story comes from Tomas' (the main character's) inability to change his psyche when dealing with other people.  This naturally causes him no end of complications with his wife, but no less trouble with the Communist authorities.  While well educated and privileged in his country, be cannot change and play the political game that it would take for him to have a comfortable life.  Basically, he is true to himself in rejecting the "go along to get along" that he needs.

Mitt Romney is, in a sense, the mirror image to this.  His entire life has embodied the "go along to get along" dynamic.  As a result of this (as well as his own privileged upbringing and admitted intelligence and drive) he has advanced to be the CEO of companies, the Governor of a State, and a candidate for President.

But as with Tomas, he cannot change his spots, either.  And therein lies his trouble.

Mitt Romney represents the Technocratic Elite.  He is similar to another famous technocrat from an earlier age, Herbert Hoover.  A graduate of Stanford, Hoover became a mining engineer and (as a civilian) guided the Marines to save the American community trapped in Tianjin in the Chinese Boxer rebellion.  Personally honorable, as he later put it his "first time with greatness" involved chasing former President Benjamin Harrison who had failed to pay admission to a Stanford baseball game.

Of course, Hoover was not a successful President.  While not the disaster that liberal teachers (redundancy alert) make him out to be - to make Roosevelt look greater in contrast - nobody can claim Hoover's administration to be a success.  You see, the technocrats had no solution to the troubles of the day.  Like Tomas in the story, and Romney today, Hoover could not change his technocratic spots, either.

Romney's problem is that the credibility of the Elite has collapsed.  Indeed, the technocratic institutions that dominated the post-war period are all sagging.  The idea that the "Best Thinkers" can think up solutions to the problems of the day seems quaint, a relic of the Father Knows Best television era.  The idea that the modern Academy produces the best thinkers is enough to make you laugh:
The Instapundit has been thrashing the higher education bubble meme for this little while, most recently lining to a longish piece in New York Magazine, The University Has No Clothes.  As you, Dear Reader, will be aware if you’ve been paying attention the Buckethead clan is homeschooling its youngins.  So the idea of college and education and assorted issues is important to us.  I have mixed feelings about college education.  It is in theory capable of providing the sort of knowledge that simply cannot be gotten any other way.  And we all like to think of it that way.  But the reality is something more akin to a four to seven year long, savagely, offensively expensive binger with a light frosting of vocational training and (for the lucky or skilled) a creamy filling of consequence- and moral-free sex.  At the end, you are tossed into the world with a credential of dubious and rapidly diminishing value and a mortgage for an expensive house you can’t live in or sell.
The problem is that two generations of increasingly entitled Academics have used the Universities as a public cash cow to be milked for their own psychological and material benefit, and the public has noticed:
Part of the growing disrespect for—and ambivalence toward—higher education is a result of the slackening of academic standards and the proliferation of college course and degree offerings in subjects viewed (fairly or unfairly) as frivolous by the public. Part is bred by familiarity; as more and more adults have had at least some college education, they have less reason to view universities with the reverence inspired by the unknown and unattainable. Part of the disrespect is fostered by the higher education establishment itself, which by means of “adjunctification” has made work for professional academics insecure and unrewarding. And part of the disrespect stems from academics themselves, who have helped to dismantle (for good and for ill) the aura that once surrounded their profession by, for example, dressing more and more like their students.
The intersection of out of control University costs with tightening State budgets is showing the contempt of the Universities for the public exchequer: when budget cuts are mooted because the public does not see enough value in the current University, the response of the Education Authorities is to propose eliminating the Computer Science department.

And this is the Technocratic Elite that is supposed to lead us?  Even assuming an elite that did not assume a droit du seigneur to rape chambermaids, or that many of the academic credentials of governmental officials are bogus, today's public simply won't buy the notion that the "right sort" of "smart" people are fit to lead.

And Mitt Romney pretty much represents the Technocratic Elite.  The Wall Street Journal's brutal description of Romney as "Obama's running mate" hits quite close to home.  Not because of the similarities between ObamaCare and RomneyCare, but is a shared world view that society can and should be lead by a technocratic elite.

Like Tomas in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Romney can't change who he is.  But he's the opposite of Tomas, willing to go along to get along, as long as society gets nudged in the right direction by the right people.

Stick a fork in the Romney campaign.  It's done.