Tuesday, March 25, 2008


This week US fatalities in Iraq passed 4000. That doesn't include the large (classified) number evacuated to facilities outside Iraq to keep the body count down. It doesn't include Illegal Combatants from Blackwater or Dyncorp. It's just American servicemen and -women who died in the Sandbox.

Vice President "Swinging" Dick Cheney's only comment was:
The president carries the biggest burden, obviously. He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm's way for the rest of us.
In other words, "Screw 'em. Nobody forced them to go. Just think of how hard the Smirking Chimp has to work ordering them to die."

The Huffington Post has a more fitting memorial - a photomosaic of Bush and McCain made of the faces of the first 4000 who died for that mistake. Every soldier knows he's expendable. None should have to die knowing he was considered disposable.

If any ask us why we died
Say "Because our fathers lied"
--Rudyard Kipling on the death of his son in the Great War

If you're feeling in a musical mood take a listen at Irma Thomas' version of Another Man Done Gone.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Someone in a forum post misspelled "vulture"

Monday, March 17, 2008

Rest In Peace Severian

Severian - A Good Dog

God Made the earth, the sky and the water, the moon and the sun. He made man and bird and beast. But He didn't make the dog. He already had one.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Clearing Out Bookmarks and Fueling Fear

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information. --Donald Kerr Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence November 11 2007

You're paranoid, but are you paranoid enough? --InfoSec aphorism

It's time to get rid of a bunch of tabs on my browser and turn them into some sort of post. So today, for your consideration, here's the first in a series of stuff that should turn your hair white.

The two pictures above are of real toys, Playmobil's Police Checkpoint and Security Checkpoint. read the consumer reviews, but have plenty of baking soda to neutralize them. They're acid enough to etch steel. We've gotten to the point where ubiquitous surveillance is an important part of life that children need to learn about in their vanishing playtime. It's not just the ravings of the tinfoil hat brigade. Besides, as research from MIT definitively shows, tinfoil hats actually make it easier for the government to use its restricted radio frequencies on you.

Update: Some killjoy putz at Amazon removed all the customer reviews.

Very Cool Visuals - Agatized Dinosaur Bone

Some things are worth holding up and saying "Look! See! Isn't this neat?"

These micrographs of dinosaur bones are that cool. (Link goes to the whole set)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Just About the Most Disgraceful Martial Arts Footage Ever

"Respected Karate master" Isao Nakamura Fushiki is refereeing a match in which one of his students is losing. What he does speaks for itself.

According to related articles as translated by Babelfish he works or recently worked for a local University. I'm betting that won't last long.

If the S.O.B.'s organization doesn't and strip him of rank and toss him so hard he bounces twice it's lost all claim to legitimacy.

In any case he needs to be on trial for something on the close order of attempted murder with a deadly weapon.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tiel's First Book is Out

Tiel's first poetry collection - Knocking From Inside - has just been published by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore's The Ecstatic Exchange. It is available for sale on Lulu Press' website. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It's not the usual unedited self-indulgent confession. Her poems are wonderfully crafted and come straight from the heart. They illuminate the search for the Divine in everything from urban crows and silence to Treblinka and the Dead Letter Office of insincere prayers.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Yes, a Spoonful of Vampires Makes the Liver Flukes Go Down

At least that's what I think Mary Poppins would have said about Peeps. On its own it's a good, fun short YA novel. There's a little sexual tension, some violence, engaging characters, decent pacing and dialog and above all it doesn't talk down to its audience. Scott Westerfeld hammers out the same workmanlike prose that characterizes his other novels.

Where it really shines is the science. Science education in America is notoriously bad for the most part, and its treatment in popular culture usually isn't even that good. If it isn't cybermagic it's Cargo Cult Science or soft-pedaled because the witch burners are afraid that asking tough questions will make their Invisible Friend angry. You have to pan a lot of gravel to find the rare Bill Nye or Jared Diamond let alone Steven J. Gould (ztl) - (Unofficial SJG archive) We haven't yet gotten back to the bad old days of the Snopes trial. But we're pretty darned close when legislatures pass laws stating that students can not get marked down for any statement on an exam that stems from religious beliefs. Much as I want the whole world to be touched by His Noodly Appendage, Pastafarianism belongs in the kitchen and pirate ships, not the classroom.

That's why I'm so fond of Scott Westerfeld's YA novel Peeps and its sequel The Last Days.

Peeps starts off with a stock premise. There are vampires. Not many people know about them. Our hero is part of an old, secret government organization that captures and studies them. Then it takes a sharp turn to the educational. Vampirism is caused by a parasite which has profound effects on its host's behavior and biology. The even numbered chapters are entirely factual accounts of the strange and wonderful if disquieting world of parasite biology. The odd (sometimes exceedingly odd) chapters tell the story and use it to illustrate complex principles like optimum virulence, commensal ecological relationships, the profound effects of simple changes, parasite-host and predator-prey coevolution, and multiple-host lifecycles. It's entertaining. There's a lot of good information. It gets past cataloging facts and into the guiding principles. Great stuff even if you're old enough to have Young Adult Readers of your own.

The Last Days isn't quite as good, but it brings the more conceptual material in the first volume into focus. The mechanics of societal breakdown and of host-parasite coevolution get a more dramatic, personal treatment. It's definitely worth a read if you liked Peeps.

I don't think it will get the kids to switch from Nintendo to, well, this. But it's worth a try.

The book owes a lot to Parasite Rex, a debt which Westerfeld proudly acknowledges. If you can make it through Peeps without getting the creeping horrors you should check out Parasite Rex and some of Carl Zimmer's other excellent books on natural history. Just keep in mind that he's on the parasites' side, not ours. Waxing lyrical about the life of the bilharzia worm as a romantic love story and praising the ichneumonids speaks for itself. He claimed in an interview that he'd traveled all over doing the research and had never gotten the tiniest parasitic infestation even though other members in his party did. It's not an accident. The parasites know their own and extend their protection to fellow-travelers and quislings.