Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Power of Nightmares

I was just cleaning up my hard drive by deleting some files to make space. I found I had downloaded the 2004 3-part documentary The Power of Nightmares produced by Adam Curtis for the BBC, and I am deleting that. I don't think I ever mentioned it on this blog, but it tracks the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and Neoconservatism as a kind of parallel and symbiotic phenomenon.
(BBC, Wikipedia,, Information Clearing House, Google/YouTube 1, 2, 3)

Waldseemüller Map

Tuesday December 4, 06:31 PM
Map that named America is still a puzzle

The only surviving copy of the 500 year old map that first used the name America continues to be a puzzle for researchers.

The 1507 Waldseemuller map is due to go on permanent display this month at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

Researchers want to know why the mapmaker named the territory America and then changed his mind, how he was able to draw South America so accurately and why did he put a huge ocean west of America years before European explorers discovered the Pacific?

"That's the kind of conundrum, the question, that is still out there," said John Hebert, chief of the geography and map division of the Library of Congress.

The 12 sheets that make up the map, purchased from German Prince Johannes Waldburg-Wolfegg for $US10 million ($A11.4 million) in 2003, have been mounted in a huge 1.85 metre by 2.95 metre display case machined from a single block of aluminum.

The case will be flooded with inert argon gas to prevent deterioration when it goes on public display on December 13.

Researchers are hopeful that putting the rarely shown map on permanent display for the first time since it was discovered in the Waldburg-Wolfegg castle archives in 1901 may stimulate interest in finding out more about the documents used to produce it.

The map was created by the German monk Martin Waldseemuller.

Thirteen years after Christopher Columbus first landed in the Western Hemisphere, the Duke of Lorraine brought Waldseemuller and a group of scholars together at a monastery in Saint-Die in France to create a new map of the world.

The result, published two years later, is stunningly accurate and surprisingly modern.

"The actual shape of South America is correct," said Hebert.

"The width of South America at certain key points is correct within 70 miles (100 km) of accuracy."

Given what Europeans are believed to have known about the world at the time, it should not have been possible for the mapmakers to produce it, he said.

The map gives a reasonably correct depiction of the west coast of South America. But according to history, Vasco Nunez de Balboa did not reach the Pacific by land until 1513, and Ferdinand Magellan did not round the southern tip of the continent until 1520.

"So this is a rather compelling map to say, 'How did they come to that conclusion,'" Hebert said.

The mapmakers say they based it on the 1,300-year-old works of the Egyptian geographer Ptolemy as well as letters Florentine navigator Amerigo Vespucci wrote describing his voyages to the new world. But Hebert said there must have been something more.

"From the writings of Vespucci you couldn't have prepared the map," Hebert said.

"There had to be something cartographic with it."

Waldseemuller made it clear he was naming the new land after Vespucci, describing how he came up with the name America based on the navigator's first name.

But he soon had misgivings about what he had done. An atlas Waldseemuller produced six years later shows only part of the east coast of the Americas, and refers to it as Terra Incognita - unknown land.

"America has gone out of his lexicon," Hebert said. "(No) place in the atlas - in the text or in the maps - does the name America appear."

His 1516 mariner's map, on the same scale as the 1507 map, steps back even further, showing only parts of the new continents and reconnecting the north to Asia. South America is labelled Terra Nova - New World - and North America is labelled Terra de Cuba - Land of Cuba.

"Essentially he's reconnecting North America to the Asian mainland, suggesting a continual world of land mass rather than separated by those bodies of water that separate us from Europe and Asia," Hebert said.

Why the rollback? No one knows.
I don't understand how this map can be displayed in the Library of Congress and how the story can be reported on all the major news services worldwide (AAP, AFP, BBC, National Geographic) without someone (a reputable geographer, maybe?) offering an explanation to resolve the mystery. There are only a few good hypotheses that I can think of.
  • The map is a fraud and was not made at the date which is claimed for it. This seems unlikely if it has been decided to display it in the Library of Congress.
  • The map used sources from the Aztecs, possibly a document which they had acquired from an earlier, higher (mathematically) civilization (Mayan or another lesser-known one). All but a handful of documents from the Aztecs have been destroyed, but we know they had universal male education, probably making them one of the most literate civilizations on the earth at that time, along with the Japanese.
  • The map was produced from Egyptian sources. In this scenario, Columbus and other explorers may have had knowledge of the maps even before they went on their voyages, which were then undertaken to confirm the knowledge revealed from the long-lost Egyptian documents. Egypt had many different eras over the millennia of its existence, and cartography and navigation could have reached a high level during one of these periods, only to be subsequently lost in a famine-driven revolution and purge of the priestly/educated class.
  • The map was reproduced from a map by a much earlier civilization from before the last ice age.
  • Extraterrestrial input. The map was beyond human technology and came from a non-human intelligence.
The Piri Reis map is another map that needs explanation. I think the most likely explanation lies in the fact that human civilization over the last tens or hundreds of thousands of years has been very poorly recorded. If the human species has been fundamentally human since we began using fire, tools, making art and digging graves, that leaves perhaps a million years of human history, of which only a few thousand years, less than one percent that has been fairly well recorded. There seems to be a mental block to recognizing other cultures, imagining the vastness of time and space in human history, and a kind of taboo on imaging that human civilization has had ups and downs in the past, and has fallen at times in the past, just as it is taboo to suggest that future human civilization will have lower populations and lower levels of technology than we have now.

The inability to explain this seems to be an ego problem. It is the same kind of arrogance that finds it incredible that chimps have better memory and visual skills than humans. Look, we are just hairless tail-less fire-monkeys. We have fire, mathematics, and language. For anything else there is probably another species that is better at it. I think Kurt Vonnegut said we were animals that did multiplication or something like that. Put another way, we have symbols and tools. Tools are extensions of our hands which birds, dolphins, and elephants were not so lucky to have. We do barn-raisings better than chimpanzees. Otherwise we are just a slightly more successful animal that has dominated the planet surface for 1% as long as the dinosaurs did.

Update 2008-02-11: The ultimate source of information about the Waldseemüller Map seems to be Library of Congress cartographer John Hessler, who maintains a blog on his research, WarpingHistory.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Since I was a child, I have thought that evolution must have accelerated, due to deaths from alcohol, drugs, firearms, automobiles, obesity, other modern hazards and their combinations (armed fat people on meth driving drunk, for example). However, I would occasionally hear or read some educated person going on about how evolution had now stopped, since nearsighted people could wear glasses and wouldn't be eaten by tigers or fail as hunters (I guess the idea was). I didn't want to reject that idea out of hand, however wrong it sounded. After all, if the infant mortality rate were 50% or higher back in the day, then maybe they were being selected for something like "fitness" whereas in modern times most babies that are born can reach maturity.

It seems like I have waited a few decades for someone to clear up this question. Finally I have some strong new evidence on the accelerated side of the argument. A study published earlier this month (Dec 10) by actual geneticists and anthropologists, not the armchair variety, determined that human evolution has accelerated by up to a hundred times as human populations increase and move into new environments with new diets and new conditions. Authors are John Hawks, Eric T. Wang, Gregory Cochran, Henry C. Harpending, and Robert K. Moyzis. The article mainly refers to changes in human evolution since the beginning of agriculture, not the industrial age, but the same rules should hold true for recent centuries. Math is involved here as well as actual gene frequencies. Recommended reading: The original article at PNAS. John Hawks weblog. BBC. SciAm. U of Utah Press release. Utah pdf. ScienceDaily. LAT. SMH.

Strength Through Peace

Whether I use the VoteMatch2000 Quiz (2008 edition) or the Pick Your Candidate quiz it comes up Kucinich. Dodd and Clinton are down a notch, and Gravel, Edwards, and Obama another click down. I am not optimistic about Dennis's chances. I don't think Dodd has appeal either, and Clinton gains a point for being a woman but loses a point for being a dynastic candidate, ridiculing Obama's overseas kindergarten remark, and using the phrase "straight out of the Republican playbook" once too often. I don't want to hear that, "vast rightwing conspiracy", or see her used on Lou Dobbs to support a point of his. I think Edwards will end up on the ticket somehow or another, and possibly Obama or Richardson.

A few days ago I googled Dennis Kucinich and google suggested that what I really wanted was Dennis Kucinich wife. But when I googled him again today that didn't happen. This is an interesting story, though.

First they kicked out Gravel; then they kicked Kucinich out of the Democratic Debates. The DMRegister says Dennis was rejected for not having a campaign office; the Kucinich campaign says it was rejected because the campaign operates out of a private home, not a rented office.

Dennis needs to accomplish something if he wants to leap to the top of the polls. Success in impeaching Cheney, Bush, or shutting down the war in Iraq would shoot him up to the top of the polls. In order to do this, he would actually have to have actions outside of the DC beltway. Motivating 1% of the American people to put down their tools and occupy City Halls, State Capitals, Halliburton and other corporate HQ (that haven't been moved to Dubai), and universities, this would lead to an end of the war within weeks as forces moved home to re-assert control of state and city governments, re-open universities, and take back the corporate headquarters. Basically 1968 all over again, but people don't care as much as they did in 1968 because there isn't the death toll of that time or the draft. The post-9-11 psychology takes time to process through, too.

Somehow, Dennis Kucinich looks Chinese. It's probably a past life of his. He would have been a Taoist poet and government official. He also reminds me a little of Popeye for no good reason that I can think of other than being small of stature, being vegan and therefore presumably liking vegetables including spinach and rhyming with "spinach". "We'll vote for Kucinich, 'cause he eats his spinach; He's Dennis the Congressman." Dennis may not get strong by having a peace platform, but may need to show some strength first to get peace that would then allow him to get stronger.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Friend or FoE?

Friends of the Earth Japan is still doing Tokyo-area hikes, I see. These are nice for meeting new people and getting to know some places for hiking around Tokyo if you are capable of waking up early on Sunday mornings.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Babyfinder and Owl Dreams

I usually find there are easily a dozen or or so bloggable moments in a day, things worth recording and expanding on. Many of them may be reactions to news that could just as easily be written by someone else. Others are more unique. I haven't been able to write at a fraction of the rate I would like to. My blogging tapered off in July as I got busier at work. Then, in the summer holiday, I attacked my to-do list, which didn't really include blogging. When I went back to work, I was too busy for blogging again. That's why I never have got around to writing about this dream. It is probably the most memorable dream of the year; actually I can't remember many others right now. It either woke me up or just stayed with me when I woke up. It was unusually vivid. About a week later I read a news story about US soldiers in Iraq finding a baby, but the circumstances were very different: under a piece of sheet metal on some rocks after the parents were killed by ethnic conflict. Still later I saw a television documentary abut progeria. Then, in the fall, a student asked me to help her with a speech about a girl with progeria. Memory of the future? At the very least, these things made the dream more memorable.

In the dream, I was walking up to a convenience store across a row of parking spaces. The place resembled West LA near the 405 where the Persian neighborhood around Westwood meets the Japanese on Sawtelle with the Mexican and American background, but with a bit of a Detroitized abandoned feel. As I got closer, I saw something crawling toward the store's glass about two spaces from the door. At first I thought it was an animal, but as I got closer, I saw it was like a human baby. Strangely, it had the body proportions of an older child, but about the size and mass of a small baby maybe six months old, or of a large cat. The heel of its foot had gotten stuck in some tarry asphalt that had been used to patch some small hole in front of the store. It was pulling its foot and fussing with it as it tried to get the tar off. I picked it up as I walked up, and turned it over so I could see its face. The body seemed emaciated, which was the first shock, but the face was another shock. The tiny face was almost alien, but was recognizable as a middle-aged Asian woman. The hair was black and a little on the big side (Kim Jong Il?) and there was a streak of white coming back off the forehead locks. The eyes were mean, squinting, ornery, and distrustful-looking. You could almost understand why the parents might have dropped it out of their car. And if the girl had been abandoned then it was natural that she would be distrustful. I tried to make sense of what I was looking at and decided it was some kind of freak of nature, probably a baby girl suffering from progeria, accelerated aging. I carried her in to the convenience store and found they had running water in a sink and cottony paper towels right around the corner to the right inside the door. I used the towels to try to clean most of the tarry stuff off of the girl's heel. The cashier guy seemed Iranian and was trying to be cool but watching me fairly closely; he would be able to file a police report. I was thinking about it because I had this idea about finders-keepers and was thinking that I would have to bring the police into this but also thinking that nobody would ever love this little girl who probably would not even live long, so that I should be the one to care for her. I was thinking that I might be able to persuade the police to let me keep her, but I knew that wasn't likely and she would be in a hospital or institution of some sort. In this timeline the convenience stores also served as restaurants. People would buy food and then go to sit down and eat it in an adjoining indoor area that was a little like a food court or a garage but really a floor of a seemingly abandoned building. There wasn't any electricity, heating, cooling, lighting or sanitation in there but it was just there for you to use if you wanted to get out of the sun or rain. I was thinking about whether to go in there to wait for the cops but it seemed like the cashier wasn't really going to call the cops but would be the type to answer questions if the cops came around asking them so I might as well call them myself. It seems I woke up before anything else happened. Possible dream interpretations: The baby was actually an alien making me think it was a baby and want to take care of it -OR- as one dream interpretation site said, the baby represents the self. (Doesn't everything in a dream represent your self?) The tar-heel thing represents either North Carolina or any experience that leaves an indelible imprint. Scene from a future war where genetic weapons induce accelerated aging?

Second memorable dream of 2007: I was flying or maneuvering through some kind of cubistic grid or matrix, perhaps tree branches, minding my own business, when I was suddenly attacked from the left by a large gray owl, about 3 feet or nearly a meter tall. I'm not sure if it killed or ate me. (Am I a bird?) This woke me up. My interpretation: avoid libraries. A deranged senior may attack me from out of the shelves.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Collagist Charles Farrell

I found the collage art of Charles Farrell the other day, on Blogger, during a google search. Preliminary estimates show that his pictures may actually be worth twenty-three thousand words, far more than the usual one thousand. I met the artist formerly known as "Chuck" when I was a teenager, knew him in Iowa City and New York City and haven't heard from him since.

Another mutual friend from that time, Dan Perkins, is in the public sphere with his comics, but whatever happened to Peter Williams? Austin… Baltimore… The Bees (?) … Jesus Was Just ET… Impossible Industrial Action… "with known waste reserves rapidly dwindling"… Illinois… 647 E. 11th St NY, NY 10009: none of these terms seem to go very far on Google. I last heard from Peter in the late 1980s or 1990.

It'd been about 25 years since I had seen or heard from Charles Farrell. It's fascinating what changes and what stays the same. You don't need to know the artist to appreciate the art, so check it out. Similar artists:

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Hey! - what'd they do to my banner? When did that happen? Happy Holidays to you, too. Turn your back for a second and some googlebot crops your banner. Why do I have to keep changing the code just to keep it the same?
Update 1:45 a.m. Less fugly-bugly werkaroun implemented.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Months on Mars

I was looking at the Mars Rovers page the other day and came across this classroom activity:

Mars Calendar Project

Learning Goals: Students will learn how time is measured on Mars by creating a Martian calendar.
Overview: Students are grouped and given ideas on how the Martian calendar would differ from that of Earth’s.

  1. Mars rotates slightly slower than Earth — one Mars solar day, or sol, equals 24.6 hours or 24 hours, 40 minutes.
  2. Mars orbits the Sun in 687 Earth days or 670 Mars sols.
  3. Mars’ rotational axis tilts towards the Sun at an angle of 25 degrees. Earth has a similar tilt of 23.5 degrees. This tilt causes the seasons on both planets.
  4. Mars has two moons. Phobos travels around the planet 3 times in one sol. Deimos travels around Mars once every 30.3 hours.

From this information, the groups will design a Martian calendar.

It is important to take into account such questions as:
• Will you use days, weeks, months?
• What makes a month a month on Mars?
• What will you call a month?
• Will there be a leap year? If so, when will it fall?
• What about Earth holidays? Mars holidays?
• When will the calendar begin (i.e., when is year “0”)?

I was interested in whether I could use it sometime although I do not teach science classes (it's not really just a science question anyway) so I was saving a copy of it and decided I should try it before I consider asking someone else to try it. I got a little obsessed with it then for a while and this is what I came up with. I'm sure there are some other Mars calendars out there somewhere but this is my first impression. It's a little sketchy. FWIW.


Sols are divided into 24 Martian hours or “horas” of 60 Martian minutes or “minuta” of 60 Martian seconds “secunda?” each. The units of time will be given slightly different names to distinguish Earth time units from Martian ones. It is based on the close similarity of the Martian sol to the Earth day. This makes people feel more comfortable. Each minute is just 1.6 seconds longer, each hour only 1.6 minutes longer, so we just feel it is a little off from Earth. Digital watches need to have a "Mars" setting.

Weeks are of seven days, in keeping with Earth traditions. These will become out of synch with Earth days. To keep the difference to Earth clear, they could be called Sunsol, Mercsol, Venussol, Earthsol, Marssol, Jupitersol, and Saturnsol. this celebrates the sun and 6 inner planets, renews a tradition, and keeps Sunsol and Satursol as familiar anchors at the week’s ends.


There will be 10 months of 67 days each. These will not be called months since they are not based on the moon. They should be called "deciannums" or something like that. Perhaps decigaod? (from the Russian word for “Year”) would do.

The months will be named for the Russian numerals 1 through 10 in honor of Russian attempts to explore the red planet: adeen, dvah, tree, chetyreh, pyat, shest, sem, vosem, devyat, desyat. Or maybe not. Whatever. They need tweaking so maybe we can just take the first three letters or so. Dates will be expressed either as the day of the year as if a fraction as in Sol 167/670, or with the month system. The expression “01-09-62-Sunsol” would mean Year One, Deciannum 9, Sol 62, a Sunsol, easily converted and recognizable as the 665th day of the Martian year ((9x67)+62).

Although it creates a long month, base 10 is handy and it creates 10 months of equal length, as opposed to the possible (nightmare) alternative of 20 months of different lengths (33 and 34 days). Since there is no moon, months have no real reference. Also, it would be hard to even name and remember the names of 20 months. Many things are kept the same, but this is one difference people would have to adjust to (different months, longer seasons, a longer year). For the more "everyday" units of time of up to a week, the Earth traditions are (nearly) followed.

That means every 67-sol month will have 9 weeks plus 4 sols (that final week having at least 2 holidays).

The year will begin on the day of the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. The first day of the sixth month will therefore be the day of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. Solstices and equinoxes will be holidays. Spring equinox would fall near 3/33 (the 33rd day of the 3rd month, and autumn equinox near 8/33).

The 66th day of each month will be a day of celebration, and the 67th day a day of quiet reflection on the past deciannum (or whatever it is called).

Saturnsols and Sunsols may be holidays as on Earth. However, people may have their own days off and develop their individual holiday patterns, partly because of the demands of rotational scheduling.

People will maintain an awareness of the Earth calendar and celebrate many holidays of Earth, the home planet, synchronously.

The day of closest approach to Earth will be celebrated with many activities and exchanges of messages with Earth and celebrations of Earth cultural heritage.

The days when Earth is behind the sun and out of contact will also be some kind of a holiday since communication with Earth is not possible (or difficult, at least until a network of sun-orbiting communication satellites are established); at this time it is important to commun(icat)e well with one’s local fellows. Local Martian cultural heritage, autonomy, and unity is celebrated on these days.

There will be a similar festival for the closest approach to Mars’ other neighbor, Jupiter, which shall be celebrated by Jupiter-viewing parties.

Local meteor showers and other annual celestial events will be celebrated -- probably by tunneling deep underground-- but also perhaps by viewing parties.

Year One will be the first year of human landing and living on Mars.

Events such as the date of the first human birth on Mars, and the date of the first human death on Mars, will become holidays.

Mars, like Earth, will have 24 time zones, based on a yet-undetermined Greenwich point which would probably be the first long-term human settlement.

Not much attention will be paid to Phobos and Deimos in the design of a calendar as they are quite unlike Earth’s moon.

Leap years would be added if the moment of the winter solstice were not going to fall on the first sol of the year. A day would be inserted or removed from the 10th deciannum (decigaod?) as needed.
Afterthoughts: OK, now I've googled around. I realize my 7-sol week makes a non-perpetual calendar, but I like it that way. There needs to be some chaos. However, some other good ideas were to use a 24-month calendar of 28 sols, with leap year day variations in the final month. Two justifications for hanging onto a 28-day month are that the Earth and its moon may be visible, and the human menstrual cycle. Twenty-four also echoes the 24-hour day. It is also familiar, and the Martian year can be divided into two earthlike years. For example, the year could begin with Janearly, Febearly, and Marley, while the 13th, 14th, and 15th months could be called Janulate, Feblate, and Marlate. I would suggest getting rid of the broken ruins of Latin Roman months like Sept, Oct, Nov and Dec unless they mean 7, 8, 9, and 10 again.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Fear of Speaking

I noticed some time ago that the Prelinger Archives have made it easier to embed videos. At one time, it (the code for embedding, I mean) wasn't there. Hmmm… Is this working?

I enjoy the work of Centron Productions, which was, like William Burroughs, out of Lawrence, Kansas. Something in the water, I guess, kinda like Hope, Arkansas. They seem to have made three films on public speaking, which could be useful if you want to make a speech the way people did 50 years ago in 1957. You can hear the whirring of the projector in some of these, which is either very cool and nostalgic, or rather annoying, depending on your outlook. I wonder if those wavelengths could be isolated and removed without too much trouble.

Update: Removing the embed code because it isn't working right and is annoying when it briefly autoplays.

Mister Cheney demolishes the case for invading Baghdad

In April 1994, Dick laid out his top 10–or at least 4– reasons for not invading Iraq. He should properly be wearing a turban and sit in front of a crystal ball in this clip, for his prognostications were right on the mark.

What I heard:

  • US would be alone with no support from Arab allies.
  • Problem of what to replace the government with
  • Problem of Iraqi national integrity vis-a-vis Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and Turkey
  • Casualties
Was he saying what he believed then and not in the 2000s? Or did he just parrot the Bush 41 line then and do what he really wanted with 43? Or did the opportunity to squirrel away billions of dollars in war profiteering for himself and his buddies in Halliburton present an irresistible business opportunity?

Brazzaville Tour Bus

Friday, November 30, 2007

We will, we will shoot you.

I had been looking for this image for a while before I found it on Indrani Soemardjan's fLIckr page (in July). It is considered a Stick Figure in Peril as well as a Sign. It is one of my favorite signs of all time, along with the oversized hangman's noose poster that once welcomed people to Malaysia by reminding them of the local death penalty for carrying drugs. I guess I like it because of the multilingualism, the naked threat of state aggression, and incongruity of the juxtaposition of the two. It is nice of Indrani to make it a less restrictive (CC) license, since it is a photo of a public sign, after all. I might have my own copy on film somewhere.

It's been a good long while since I saw this sign in Singapore. I remember this sign as black or red on a white background, with the unarmed stick man being shot in the back and raising his arms as if startled to be shot without warning. That could have been an earlier version of this sign, or the original brain cells that held the memory may have been replaced and passed the memory on in altered form. Did my memory morph, or did the sign?

The Indrani family blog got a spate of hits during a moment of fame when Rani posted her failed attempts to create a (surplus) breast-milk-based cheese. That's probably been attempted before if not blogged. Actually, since that time, I have heard of an organization in California that donates mothers' milk. I think I may have seen it on cbs news. I wonder if it is Laughing Mothers' Milk. It sounds like Concerned Citizens's Milk to me, probably sour.

"Protected Place" might be translated better as "Secure Area". Of course, if you are being threatened with being shot, either in the back or in the chest, you don't really feel either secure or protected.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nezushiki photos

I'm enjoying over 1000 pictures singlemindedly taken of Nezu by Nezushiki. These are scenes and places that I often see and walk by (like the VW!), as I walk in Nezu one to three mornings every week. Nezushiki has a great eye for the place.
I often walk up S-zaka in front of Nezu Jinja and always see this door. The great old house has holes in the windows and walls. The owner usually has communist party posters on the wall outside, a nice old commie, I guess. I've taken this shot of Nezu Jinja's inner gate over the wall many times until the foliage got too high this year. I like the stationmaster's aquarium in Nezu station. Gonna start counting and naming those fish.
Other ones I like (but sometimes don't recognize the location):
oMatsuri masks
old warning signs on an old wall regarding Earthquake, fires, and other safety measures.
Jan 21 2006 snowfall
funky sidestreets and alleyways
baikinman in stone in front of a…temple?
Most of these pictures have been viewed once??? That's a shame. Mottainai! Thank you, Nezushiki!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blogger's Template

I found that the (not-so-)new non-standard drag-and-droppable Blogger template is not as unfriendly as I thought. The only really unfriendly thing it does is drop most of the stuff in your sidebar when you upgrade, but not because it is a straightjacket format with incomprehensible code. Just to be mean and force you to think about cleaning up as a default setting, I guess. Everything is pretty straightforward, even the code. They just added the drag-and-droppable layer for ease-of-use and that complicated the underlying code a little, but they let you get in to tweak it.

Right now I want to do something about the font(s). I have a thing about ones, lower-case els, and upper-case Is being distinguishable. They should not all look the same, in fact, they should look different as if the reader were Mr OCR himself. The badly-designed grapheme sets reminds me of a typewriter that my grandmother had where the l also functioned as the 1. (111Ill lIl1s this is a test)

Update: I thought it was going to be Courier, but it looks like I should stick to Georgia or Verdana with the occasional resort to Trebuchet for the purposes of distinguishing I, l, & 1 as in the admittedly highly hypothetical and unlikely case of publishing and interview with a musician called 1Ill1 of a band called the KimJongIl1s. Those are just the fonts Blogger lets you choose now, but I assume it should be possible to change it to Lucida Sans Typewriter – a champion at this particular task despite some strangeness – by editing the html directly. Later. I'd like to meet Lucida-san and thank her personally for designing it right, maybe find out where I can buy her typewriter.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Blog-Ger Temp-late

I took some inspiration from a hexagonal lined paper at Incompetech and made a new header banner. That was one of the things holding me back from upgrading my template. The weatherpixies, clocks, counters, and anything else I can scrape out of the ruins of the old html will be back if and when possible.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Do no evil. We have server farms for that. (GoogleWatch'07)

I was shocked last month to find out that when I clicked the "Share this calendar" button in Google Calendar, a personal e-mail, in the first person, appearing to come from me, was written to the person I designated without any dialog box or confirmation of any sort by me.

I just received a similar notification and it seems that the poorly worded and implemented old message may have been retired; Google Calendar has changed their old obnoxious first-person impersonation notification e-mail to one less offensive. Either that, or their invitation e-mail from members to non-members is written by a moron, (engineer;-), or cyborg, and their letters from members to members are written by a human or more sophisticated cyborg. Either interpretation could be correct, and I wouldn't know for sure unless I sent a test invitation to someone to find out.

Note also the abrupt change from first person to third person, as if the google microchip implanted in my brain wasn't satisfied with just forcing me to write and send the mail, but had to override and repeat in its own voice that the being formerly known as "I" was recommending this service.

The old message:

Subject: XYZ recommends that you use Google Calendar
Date: October 11, 2007 6:53 PM JST

I've been using Google Calendar to organize my calendar, find interesting events, and share my schedule with friends and family members. I thought you might like to use Google Calendar, too.
XYZ recommends that you use Google Calendar.

To accept this invitation and register for an account, please visit:


Google Calendar helps you keep track of everything going on in your life and those of the important people around you, and also help you discover interesting things to do with your time.
Here's the newer style message:
Subject: J has shared a calendar with you
November 10, 2007 10:10 PM JST


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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Manhole Covers

I stumbled across the links to manhole covers at Pink Tentacle the other day. I was happy to see the fLickR photo pool. I have taken a few such photos myself, but I always felt a little stupid doing it, like a tourist who photographs all the post boxes, fire hydrants, telephone poles, and so on.

Two photos I had taken were at Tokyo University, where the waterworks bear the imprint of the Imperial University, or Tei(koku)Dai(gaku). That runs top to bottom, and Ge-Sui (Under-Water) runs right to left, imperialist style.

The one that follows that says Tokyo Imperial University, fully spelled out, with the character Den, for electron, 'lecticity, lightning, etc in the middle.

I thought that it was interesting how the waterworks of empires always survive the empires. That may hold for some electrical systems, too. Not sure how PVC piping will affect that equation.

I see that Pink Tentacle's post was picked up by BoingBoing. My two ¥en: search google images for the Japanese expression (mannho-ru no futa), マンホールの蓋, instead, to get away from the derivative links and get closer to Japanese sources of such photographs.

I am uploading two other contributions here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Autistic Hiker

Autistic hiker back with family in W.Va.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It was the wilderness — a cascade of mountain laurel and rhododendron flowing over loose rock and steep cliffs — that posed the greatest danger to a missing autistic hiker. But in the end, that dense foliage kept Jacob Allen safe.
Autistic Hiker. Would have been a great name for a band. In concert October 19. SOLD OUT.

Update: Autistic Hitchhiker?

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Based on Black Water by Patrick Simmons (The Doobie Brothers)

Well, I GOT TO IRAQ and she’s ready for FIGHTIN’
MESOPOTAMIA callin’ my name
BLACKWATER keeps rollin’ on past just the same

Old BLACKWATER, keep on rollin’
MERCENARY moon, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me
Yeah, keep on shinin’ your light
Gonna make everything, AL-SISTANI
Gonna make everything all right
And I ain’t SHOT no SUNNIS

Well, if IRANIANS, I don’t care
Don’t make no difference to me
TAKE OUT that streetcar that’s going TO town
And I’ll be SHOOTIN’ ev’rybody DOWN all ’roun’

Old BLACKWATER, keep on rollin’
MESOPOTAMIAN moon, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me
Keep on shinin’ your light
Gonna make everything, AL-MALIKI
Gonna make everything all right
And I ain’t SHOT NO SHIA

I’d like to HIT some funky CIVILIAN VEHICLES
BABYLON’LL take me by the hand
By the hand, take me by the hand pretty SADR
Come and dance with SISTANI all night long
BABYLON’LL take me by the hand
By the hand, take me by the hand pretty BADR
Come and dance with MALIKI all night long
I want to ………… you all night long

60 MINUTES: Colbert

There are many comments posted complaining of the advertisements interspersing these videos, but I didn't see a single one, perhaps because of using a Mac or my foreign IP address.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Shins

The Past and Pending

So Says I

Phantom Limb

Thr3e vid3os from thr3e albums. I love the influences James Mercer cites:

"It was an attempt to do traditional Pop/Rock songs," says Mercer. "I was listening to The Beatles, and I was so impressed with those little gems of songs, and the crafted way they put things together. I wanted to try and do that. I'd always listened to a lot of Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Cure. I loved Echo and the Bunnymen in high school, particularly Ocean Rain. All that reverb and stuff, I love it."

… Too bad I cannot find a decent live video version of Girl on the Wing, but there is this dodgy video of the first 1:20 of the song combined with another that picks it up from about 1:00. Not much for a video editor to work with there.

Monday, September 17, 2007


An online word-frequency check. I have the same information in book form, but having it online is more convenient. Apparently this was the coolest thing in 2005. Enter Explanation The actual search page
This will be a good tool to use alongside Vocab Profiler .

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mt Fuji in Engrish

Attached to the door of the toilet stall at the fifth station on the north side of Mount Fuji, a lovely sample of Engrish. Eight sentences, actually comprehensible, although it sometimes accidentally says the opposite of what it is trying to say, and sometimes you have only vocabulary to guess the meaning, no grammar at all. Two of my favorite expressions: DIES FROM THE STRONG WIND WHICH DOES NOT ATTACH ANTICIPATION, and the unnecessarily superfluous redundancy of INSUFFICIENT SHORTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY.

The Planet Formerly Known as the Planet of the Great Apes -OR- The Great Ape Society

"Great apes are our closest living relatives and very special creatures," Russ Mittermeier, head of IUCN's Primate Specialist Group, told The Associated Press. "We could fit all the remaining great apes in the world into two or three large football stadiums. There just aren't very many left."
It's a bold and imaginative new plan, but housing all of the world's remaining great apes in football stadiums is probably less effective than protecting their existing habitat. We know they like football, OK, but would they be able to use the toilet facilities without creating a filthy human-like mess? How would they pay for concessions like hot dogs, nachos, candy and peanuts? How would they be treated for the resulting obesity and health problems? Can vendors provide their traditional diet? What teams would be willing to take to the field for the ape audience in the stands? Who would they root for? Too many questions remain unanswered, Mr Mittermeier. I know you have good intentions, but if we are to take the desperate measure of forcing our ape brothers and sisters to abandon their traditional habitat and integrate into human society, shouldn't we take their special needs and abilities into consideration?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Waterboardin' USA

It's not torture if I say it ain't!
Those conventions are so old and quaint!

Thanks, Harry!

This was a lot of fun, but actually, Harry's work doesn't really benefit much from all the extra production to make it into video on MyDamnChannel. He has so much great material (which is not musical, but voice and imagination) that just needs to be re-packaged to keep it alive. The episodes of "41 Calls 43" or "Dick Cheney…CONFIDENTIAL" that are in his Le Show should be edited out and archived somewhere, maybe even made into a CD if that's what people want, but at least be archived so they don't vanish or get buried inside a week's radio episode.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Earth, Wind, and Water

I keep watching the projected amount of rainfall from the current typhoon (#9) increase, from 200 mm to 250 mm, to 300, 400, and now 500mm, half a meter. Typhoons usually whisk by us pretty fast by the time they get to this latitude, but this one is being blocked by two areas of high pressure. We have had 2 days of rain already, so another 18 inches or so on top of that could be a problem. Fifty meter per second winds don't sound good either.

Better than the swarms of earthquakes we had in mid-August, a few dozen of which were in Chiba or close enough to feel.

Issued at Occurred at Region Name Magnitude Maximum Seismic Intensity (JMA)
17:11 JST 18 Aug 2007 17:07 JST 18 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M4.0 3
17:04 JST 18 Aug 2007 16:55 JST 18 Aug 2007
17:00 JST 18 Aug 2007 16:55 JST 18 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M5.1 4
13:40 JST 18 Aug 2007 13:36 JST 18 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M4.6 4
05:59 JST 18 Aug 2007 05:54 JST 18 Aug 2007 NIIGATA KEN CHUETSU CHIHO M2.2 1
05:16 JST 18 Aug 2007 05:11 JST 18 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M2.6 2
04:56 JST 18 Aug 2007 04:52 JST 18 Aug 2007 CHIBA KEN NANBU M3.4 3
04:43 JST 18 Aug 2007 04:38 JST 18 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M2.5 1
04:40 JST 18 Aug 2007 04:36 JST 18 Aug 2007 NEAR MIYAKOJIMA ISLAND M3.8 1
04:36 JST 18 Aug 2007 04:30 JST 18 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M2.7 2
04:19 JST 18 Aug 2007 04:14 JST 18 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M4.8 5-
19:14 JST 17 Aug 2007 19:08 JST 17 Aug 2007 TOCHIGI KEN NANBU M2.5 1
19:11 JST 17 Aug 2007 19:05 JST 17 Aug 2007 NEAR NIIJIMA AND KOUZUSHIMA ISLANDS M2.0 1
09:48 JST 17 Aug 2007 09:43 JST 17 Aug 2007 AKITA KEN NAIRIKU HOKUBU M3.3 2
02:16 JST 17 Aug 2007 02:10 JST 17 Aug 2007 TOCHIGI KEN HOKUBU M3.4 2
00:30 JST 17 Aug 2007 00:25 JST 17 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M3.4 2
00:26 JST 17 Aug 2007 00:22 JST 17 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M4.3 3
09:26 JST 16 Aug 2007 09:22 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M4.7 3
08:37 JST 16 Aug 2007 08:32 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M4.5 2
08:35 JST 16 Aug 2007 08:30 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M3.2 2
08:24 JST 16 Aug 2007 08:20 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M5.0 3
07:51 JST 16 Aug 2007 07:47 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M4.5 3
07:46 JST 16 Aug 2007 07:41 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M4.0 2
06:26 JST 16 Aug 2007 06:20 JST 16 Aug 2007 IWATE KEN NAIRIKU NANBU M2.9 1
05:09 JST 16 Aug 2007 05:04 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M4.0 2
04:26 JST 16 Aug 2007 04:15 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M5.3 4
04:19 JST 16 Aug 2007
04:15 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M5.3 4
03:37 JST 16 Aug 2007 03:32 JST 16 Aug 2007 IRIOMOTEJIMA ISLAND REGION M3.8 1
00:17 JST 16 Aug 2007 00:11 JST 16 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M2.7 1
20:39 JST 15 Aug 2007 20:34 JST 15 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M3.8 1
19:40 JST 15 Aug 2007 19:34 JST 15 Aug 2007 IWATE KEN ENGAN HOKUBU M4.2 2
18:48 JST 15 Aug 2007 18:44 JST 15 Aug 2007 TOKACHI SHICHO CHUBU M3.4 3
18:16 JST 15 Aug 2007 18:11 JST 15 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M2.6 1
12:13 JST 15 Aug 2007 12:09 JST 15 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M3.0 1
11:13 JST 15 Aug 2007 11:08 JST 15 Aug 2007 OFF MIYAGI PREF M3.8 2
09:28 JST 15 Aug 2007 09:23 JST 15 Aug 2007 E OFF AOMORI PREF M3.8 1
07:43 JST 15 Aug 2007 07:38 JST 15 Aug 2007 OFF JO-CHUETSU NIIGATA PREF M2.5 1
03:44 JST 15 Aug 2007 03:39 JST 15 Aug 2007 AKITA KEN NAIRIKU NANBU M3.0 1
02:48 JST 15 Aug 2007 02:43 JST 15 Aug 2007 NARA KEN M2.7 1
02:33 JST 15 Aug 2007 02:28 JST 15 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M2.8 1
21:38 JST 14 Aug 2007 21:33 JST 14 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M3.0 2
16:52 JST 14 Aug 2007 16:45 JST 14 Aug 2007 OFF IWATE PREF M3.6 1
13:22 JST 14 Aug 2007 13:14 JST 14 Aug 2007 W OFF SAKHALIN M5.9 2
15:53 JST 13 Aug 2007 15:47 JST 13 Aug 2007 SE OFF TANEGASHIMA ISLAND M4.3 1
12:39 JST 13 Aug 2007 12:34 JST 13 Aug 2007 OFF MIYAGI PREF M4.0 1
11:21 JST 13 Aug 2007 11:16 JST 13 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M2.6 1
09:35 JST 13 Aug 2007 09:30 JST 13 Aug 2007 E OFF CHIBA PREF M3.0 1
07:27 JST 13 Aug 2007 07:22 JST 13 Aug 2007 NEAR NIIJIMA AND KOUZUSHIMA ISLANDS
M1.9 1
06:28 JST 13 Aug 2007 06:22 JST 13 Aug 2007 SE OFF TANEGASHIMA ISLAND M3.8 1
15:22 JST 12 Aug 2007 15:17 JST 12 Aug 2007 NEAR OKINAWAHONTO ISLAND M4.0 2
10:02 JST 12 Aug 2007 09:56 JST 12 Aug 2007 OFF FUKUSHIMA PREF M3.8 1
08:19 JST 12 Aug 2007 08:13 JST 12 Aug 2007 NEAR IZU-OSHIMA ISLAND M2.0 1
01:58 JST 12 Aug 2007 01:49 JST 12 Aug 2007 HIROSHIMA KEN HOKUBU M2.6 1
01:54 JST 12 Aug 2007 01:48 JST 12 Aug 2007 E OFF OSUMI PENINSULA M4.3 1

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Yule Tide Watch

Monday, August 13, 2007: Makuhari Costco. Christmas trees and ornaments sighted. They could have been there for a month for all I know, because I haven't been to Costco for a while. Note that this is only seven weeks after the June 25 "Antichristmas", and leaves an ample 133 shopping days (or shipping days –or just days) before Christmas. Costco is a wHoleSlayer, so they need to sell these things to other businesses so that other establishments can have these decorations up by late September.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

George Carlin stand-up

Presidential candidate George Carlin on the YouTube-CNN debates. Actually, he is not a Presidential candidate, and being 70 (??) would probably make a better Supreme Court Justice, in my opinion. However, I would like to see him go head-to head with Mike Gravel in a debate. Carlin goes a little overboard with how he loves disasters (hasn't suffered enough?) and his language seems too f*ing obsessively f*ed-up at times, but he is surely one-of-a-kind and a bit of a philosopher, social critic, and teacher, as well as a nut and perhaps our greatest living stand-up comedian.

Downsizing and reform of the Ten Commandments

That's classic.

Life is worth losing (recent)

Great introduction. This is a long show.

On Pride and the Pledge of Allegiance

Crappy video but the audio is OK. He makes a good point about pride. Is it true that only the US, Nazi Germany, and Mussolini's Italy have had a "Pledge of Allegiance"?

Earth-sheltered house

This earth-sheltered low-impact home was built in Wales. I like what the builder said: "built mostly from imagination, optimism and rubbish…" Actually, for people who live in the country and have a little extra land, it would be worthwhile to experiment with various construction techniques and build some test houses. He didn't need much money to build it.

I was thinking that different places would have different ways of using the local materials most effectively to make homes that shelter people from the local climate. In the central areas of North America, and places that have extreme cold and heat, earth-sheltered housing makes a lot of sense. There is a similar tradition in the plains --the sod house-- some of which have been preserved and updated, such as this site in Saskatchewan. The Addison sod house is also at wikipedia. Wikipedia's earth-sheltering page is good, too, and points out some potential problems like condensation.

Other places have different ways of sheltering and adapting to the local climate. Places with monsoon rains have stilt houses, which should be adapted for New Orleans and incorporated into the building codes there. Japanese traditional houses also do not use earth-sheltering, possibly due to earthquakes.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Information Architects Web Trend Map 2007v2

This is NOT the Tokyo subway map. You don't have to know Tokyo to use this.
The clickable start page with the snap-shot previews is amazing. Bookmark it!

Made by Oliver Reichenstein at Information Architects.
Read about it at:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bush visits Iraq

George Bush was walking through Baghdad.

"What a majestic surge!"
"What a powerful shock!"
"What awe!"

As he was walking beside a burnt out Humvee, he heard a click behind him. He tuned around and found himself staring down the barrel of a gun held by an Arab. The Arab yelled out, "Prepare to die, Infidel!"

Bush cried out, "Oh my god!"

Time stopped.
The Arab froze.
The war zone was silent.

As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky.

"You have used my name without permission. You said you consulted with me when you didn't. Now everyone thinks I am responsible for this mess. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament?

The neo-con looked directly into the light, "It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask You to treat me as a honest Christian now, but perhaps You could make the Arab a Christian?"

"Very well," said the voice.

Stunned and relieved at the benevolence of the Creator, Bush decided to make an additional request. "Excuse me? While you're at it, dear lord, is it asking too much to make him an American, too? I really, really will consult with you next time, I promise I will."

"You test my patience with your requests. Yet, the power of repentance and forgiveness is unlimited. I shall grant your request, and go one further. Let him be a Christian, an American, and a woman. These things usually come in threes."

The light went out. The sounds of machine guns and carpet bombing resumed. A sharp boot kick to the chin knocked the crouching neo-con onto his side. He tasted the unexpected taste of "doo-doo" sticking to his beard. "You got dog shit on your boots, bitch!" he shouted, but only gibberish came out. He could have sworn that he didn't have a beard. He realized that he was naked, and that a dog collar was clasped tightly around his neck, as he looked up at the vacant face of Lynndie England.

World Without Fire Monkeys

I must have this book: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. Google-fest follows.
Scientific American
Check out the illustrated flash timeline with audio commentary, video, and who might replace us.
Daily Mail
Here On Earth (Radio Without Borders) Wisconsin Public Radio (realmedia audio interview)
Alan Weisman profile at Homelands
KQED interview Northern California
KBOO interview (Oregon)
2005 article for Discover magazine was the seed of the book.
Barnes & Noble with reviews
Excerpt (at Kevin Kelly Cool Tools)
EatLiver (graphic above)
New Scientist story from October 2006 on the same topic
Spiral Research (cool Japanese ruins site via mentalfloss)

I originally heard the author on BBC Newspod. He suggests a one-child-per-family limit on global family planning as a way to get human populations back near one billion in a century, as opposed to the UN projection of 9 billion at century's end.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


From the upcoming CD. This isn't necessarily a political setback for algore3. DUIs were important millstones in the careers of Pridnit George "W" Bush and the cardiological cyborg Mistercheney. Let's not forget that Laura Bush (Welch) hit and killed a classmate in her H.S. driving years. (Funny how she is never asked about that, but Obama has to answer for every… never mind.) If his father, algore2, is correct, having been a (Prius-drivin' weed-smokin') outlaw during the dark carbon era could be a political plus in the coming turbulence of peak oil.
(Original photo credit to Christine Cotter of IAT. Rudely appropriated for re-mixing without permission. Thanks also to t.A.T.u. for the inspirational album title.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Kagurazaka Matsuri

Tokyo July 27, 2007

These are cellphone quality videos uploaded to YouTube. I stumbled onto this. It's very energetic considering the heat. I was glad to get the audio: drumming, flutes, and voices. This effectively simulates the perception of a drunk myopic viewer. Extremely impressionistic. Best viewed with Firefox, on a Mac, with a squint, and 2 or more beers. Embrace the lo-fi low-res suck. Some like it pixelated. (My phone is limited to 50-second 3gp (176x144) clips of about 300k.)

The one on the bottom is pasted together from the clips. File size swelled to 53 MB from the original 2.+ MB of the clips, but it seems to have smoothed out the pixelation when it scaled up. Too big, though, and I might have to delete it. Anyway, enjoy! FWIW!

All things must PASMO.

The now archaic technology of the magnetic cards, PaSuNetTo and io. How soon we forget. The IC cards (rfid-based suICa and Pasmo) are more secure but lack the postcard-like designs of the magnetic era. I accidentally have a telephone card in there, too, but I have no way of knowing if they are still used, having not used a public phone in Japan for years as far as I can remember. Leaving home without a cellphone is like leaving without cash or pants these days. I don't miss the way payphone receivers came scented in tobacco, beer, sake, halitosis, vomitosis, fish, phlem, and other aromas. The magnetic patterns were easily forged and sold by illegal Iranian immigrants in the parks for years.

These cards have the original, unretouched scratches intact. Now that they are uploaded I can get rid of them. By the way, I have noted a decline in manners since Clifford the Big Red Dog began his appeal to commuters.

Friday, July 27, 2007

iPhone iCracked, iHacked, iJacked

That's interesting. Get in through the wi-fi and browser. (Who wudda ever thunk that?)
And an interesting quote, too. Looks like they have Apple's number. (Microsoft in drag. Only smaller. Hippy geeks versus the nerdy geeks(?) but these days it's all corporate.)

Does this add credence to Apple's position that 3rd party applications are not allowed on the iPhone for security reasons?
We don't think so. Almost all of the security engineering effort on the iPhone seems to have been spent protecting the revenue model, rather than protecting the user (which is, of course, an entirely understandable position). For example, a constrained environment is used to prevent users from loading new ringtones onto the phone, but the applications are not run in a constrained environment to contain damage caused by hackers who exploit them.
That's a really nice example to support the point.

Are these people for real, though? These look like names that I would have made up.
Who are you guys?
We're Charlie Miller, Jake Honoroff, and Joshua Mason, members of the software security team at Independent Security Evaluators, an information security consulting firm. Matt Green, Avi Rubin, Sam Small, and Adam Stubblefield were also involved in the project. If you're good at doing this kind of analysis, we're hiring.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Popcorn Geomancy

We people-of-the-corn use corn in all of our important rituals, such as foretelling the future. Many popcorns in this batch were fused together, indicating either love, war, the collision of Earth with another planetoid, or the convergence of technology. The oddest one was this sword-wielding popcorn. The sword is of a decorative West Asian style, and the width of the blade indicates the large number of deaths in the coming conflagration. (Or it could be a ski.) Persia and Saudi Arabia are indicated. We can also see that many babies will be born with doglike mouths and double-rows of reptilian-like teeth, indicating the use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, an impression strengthened by the appearance of skin boils. A war seems to last 8 to 10 years before attrition forces a settlement. A man with a sloping forehead and strange, powerful buttocks will be involved. Not sure who that is, as the creation of an Interpol Buttocks DataBase (IBDB) for the identification of bad guys has been a low priority, even with the lobbying efforts of Jim Baker. It's probably Putin or his successor, setting a trap for the Americans and British. Several ninja-like characters will be looking on, watching closely but staying extremely Swiss.

This is the popcorn talking, not me. I'd like nothing better than for the Bush administration to be slowly brought to justice and disempowered, if not necessarily disemboweled. I expect so, too. The popcorn says otherwise, that Iraq was just a warm-up, but that's just one popcorn talking, a minority report. Perhaps it has nothing to do with Bush but is a spontaneous explosion (in the smoldering post-traumatic geopolitical wreckage left by Bush). Each kernel represents an alternate future. The future is still unpopped. Consult your local maize for further information. The medium is the message.

By the way, if you still have the (soon-to-be) banned microwave variety, you should know that popcorn is a health hazard. (I have a supply that will last until winter). The volatile butter flavorings cause lung disease and the components of the bag migrate into the corn and are highly carcinogenic. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature. All those medical complications and it doesn't even get you high, well, not really. Try removing it from the bag and popping it in a well-ventilated area. Get a Fresnel lens and make solar popcorn to reduce your carbon gore-print.

Final prediction: popcorn will be found to contain neurotrophic proteins.

Caesar Salad on the Table

I tend to get wind of most breaking news when I look at one of my computers and see the news scrolling, or spinning by on the RSS-reader screensaver. In the future, when someone asks how I learned of, oh, say the brutal lynching of the president or whatever spectacular news the near future holds, I will most likely have seen it go by on the screensaver. Once in a while a badly-worded headline rolls by like the one above, a headline that causes a surge of hope to rise in the chest, but which is just as quickly extinguished as one reads past the first three words. You really have to read beyond the first three words to get the whole story. It just goes by so fast. I guess I should have known better. Harry Reid doesn't run the Senate that way. And what would Julius "W" Ceasar be doing on the Senate floor, anyway? That's more like a place where you would find Mr Dick Cheney when he crawls out of his hole. If the Senate were to act, they should act against the VP first. The succession has got more complicated since the first century BC. This picture isn't from March, either, but is from June.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bastard Spawn of Floor-cleaning Automaton and Taser Threatens Human Race

These are the good old days. Carly Simon said so. Since we know that the present will someday become the Good Old Days, I sometimes conduct thought experiments to visualize what kind of abominable technological or social development would cause these to be remembered as the Good Old Days. In order to do this, imagine something that seems bad now, and then imagine what permutation of it would cause you to remember this badness with fond nostalgia 50 years from now.

For example, roadside bombs are a problem for troops in Iraq. "Why, I remember the good old days, when alls we had to worry about were them dumb roadside bombs! They usually had a wire or somethin' attached, and you could see 'em before they blew! Sometimes they were detonated by cellphone, but at least we usually had body armor, kevlar vests that the family would send from home. They waren't nuthin' like these damn smart heat-seeking mines now, the ones that sense you, follow you home, leap off the ground and bore up through any available orifice before applying a software patch to your central nervous system causing you to go on a killing rampage when in the presence of a large number of your comrades, before exploding. Those things are downright nefarious! And where the hell are they comin' from at a time like this when we ain't even at war?! Maybe they're left over from the last war, but I think the robot companies are just pumpin' 'em out to drum up business for their other products. Oh, what I wouldn't give to just hold a good old-fashioned improvised explosive device in my hands today!"

Reality has a way of racing ahead of the most fevered imagination at times. Perhaps when the last human supporter of George W. Bush has vanished, military robo-tasers could patrol the world to keep the wetware in line.

From the Los Angeles Times

Taser-armed robots are in the works
From the Associated Press

July 2, 2007

BOSTON — RoboCops and robot soldiers got a little closer to reality last week as a maker of floor-cleaning automatons teamed with a stun-gun manufacturer to arm track-wheeled robots for the police and the Pentagon.

By adding Tasers to robots it makes for the military, Burlington, Mass.-based IRobot Corp. says it hopes to give soldiers and law enforcement officers a defensive, nonlethal tool.

But some observers fear that such developments could ultimately lead to robots capable of deciding on their own when to shoot and kill.

"It's one more step in that direction," said John Pike, director of, an Alexandria, Va.-based military research organization.

"It is not the first step in that direction, but I think at some point toward the end of the next decade, you're going to start seeing RoboCops or a Terminator," Pike said, referring to a pair of 1980s robot-themed sci-fi films. "We may see autonomous robots capable of inflicting lethal force."

Jim Rymarcsuk, vice president for business development at IRobot, said notions of armed robots acting on their own were far beyond what the company envisioned for the partnership announced Thursday
with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International Inc.

"Right now, we have no plans to take any robot with a lethal-weapon approach to the market," Rymarcsuk said. "For this system, and all systems we have looked at, there is a human in the loop making the decisions. This in no way is giving the robot the capability to use force on its own."

Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed. The companies said they had developed a model that would be demonstrated at a Taser-hosted conference in Chicago on July 9 and 10. The model pairs IRobot's existing PackBot Explorer with the Taser X26 in what IRobot calls "the first robot of its kind with an on-board, integrated Taser payload."

There's no word when the system will be offered for sale, or for how much.
I wonder how the demonstration went. I haven't read or heard anything about it, but that doesn't necessarily mean all witnesses were killed.

The following article is from Softpedia.
If Armed Autonomous Robot Kills Humans, Who's Guilty of Murder?
- Armed autonomous robots cause real concern and raise interesting questions
By: Lucian Dorneanu, Science Editor

Last week, a company announced plans to produce autonomous robots equipped with Taser guns, which will be sold to law enforcement agencies in the US. They will be used for crown control and against civilians, a situation that raised concerns and gave birth to some interesting questions.

If such an armed autonomous robot accidentally kills a man, who will be charged with murder? Its makers, the police, no one?

The US military already uses PackBot, made by iRobot of Massachusetts, to carry lethal weapons and
there are already 5,000 robots used by the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from about 150 in 2004, most of them being used to search caves and buildings for insurgents, detect mines and ferret out roadside and car bombs.

But when it comes to US citizens, things get a little complicated. This move to arm police robots with stun guns has been condemned by weapon researchers and not only from the US.

These new robots are not designed to kill, they will only be equipped with Tasers, an electroshock weapon, an incapacitant used for subduing a person by administering electric shock that may disrupt superficial muscle functions.

While usually not lethal, Tasers can accidentally kill people. Thought to be reliable and non-lethal by most police agencies, between June 2001 and June 2007, there were at least 245 cases of deaths of subjects soon after having been shocked using Tasers.

7th of July 2007, 10:54 GMT
From New Scientist:
Armed autonomous robots cause concern
10:32 07 July 2007

A MOVE to arm police robots with stun guns has been condemned by weapons researchers.
On 28 June, Taser International of Arizona announced plans to equip robots with stun guns. The US military already uses PackBot, made by iRobot of Massachusetts, to carry lethal weapons, but the new stun-capable robots could be used against civilians.
"The victim would have to receive shocks for longer, or repeatedly, to give police time to reach the scene and restrain them, which carries greater risk to their health," warns non-lethal weapons researcher Neil Davison, of the University of Bradford, UK.
"If someone is severely punished by an autonomous robot, who are you going to take to a tribunal?" asks Steve Wright, a security expert at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK.
Even if not fully autonomous, Taser-bots remotely controlled by pranksters wouldn't be much fun either. It's easy to predict a spate of robot assassinations by humanists not wanting to take a chance that the floor-cleaner or lawn-mowing bot doesn't have a "stinger" on board. Corporations will have to take defensive measures to defend their bot-swarms, building in metal-detectors and behavioral analysis software to enable them to detect and self-defensively taser anti-bot humanists before they take the hardware offline.

Ah, I miss the good old twenny-ohs already.