Monday, September 29, 2008


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Just a thought, but why not...

Instead of putting George W. Bush's face on Mt. Rushmore, let's put it on the 20 billion dollar bill. Good for a cup of coffee in all 49 states (after Alaska secedes from the union.)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm frenzied out...

Time for a little gaming! My 14yo tells me the three most popular Final Fantasy games are VII, IX and XII. Having played XII to the end, I can well believe it. And IX is already mindblowing, and I've scarcely gotten to the Oglop Regent's throne. Haven't played VII yet, but maybe — down the road.

Oh, yeah. My absentee ballot came in the mail today, so I filled that in and sent it back. I voted early. For Joe Biden and Barack Obama, my first and third choices.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Early voting (post flood) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

The Linn County Auditor's Office has moved out to Westdale Mall because of damage from the flood this Spring. The earliest anyone can cast an absentee ballot is this Thursday, September 25.

Today is the first day of Autumn, 2008! Can November 4th be far behind? A season of beautiful distractions even in full partisan howl — the Cubs are going to be in the World Series, college football is in full flourish, Michelle Wie has breezed through the first half of LPGA Q School like the champion she is, cardigans are back, and the good movies come out from now through New Year's — the summer silly season is over.


Oldness and coldness

I seem to have avoided wisdom in this life, getting older imperceptibly until it was too late. I wonder what I've learned?

I think I must be one of those strange cosmic criminals you see on Dr. Who, a cybernaut too British to be cool (although like Dorothy I was born in Kansas), and here I am — lying low in Cedar Rapids.

Nice Youtube, good Youtube... ('Ere now, what's all this...?)


Sunday, September 21, 2008


Apparently, there's a data encryption package called "Mujahideen Secrets 2" out there, used by Al Qaeda. That's a bit more than I wanted to know, but it gives one insight into the terrorist mindset — they're isolated and pig-ignorant by choice, and paranoid as heck.

Considering what's available just by searching Google, you wonder why they'd bother trying to roll their own. Maybe Al Qaeda hasn't got their heads around the concept of "open source"...? Or is it something as simple as the language barrier? They can't read the technical literature?

If we can't find the human resources (and gays need not apply) to translate Arabic, Urdu or Farsi into English, imagine the language difficulties Al Qaeda's got! Traditionally, when we've got someone on our side who's fluent in Chinese, say, and who happens to be Chinese, the first assumption made by "Intelligence" is that our translator may be more than sympathetic to China. If you demonize your enemy, anyone who's enough like your demons to think like your demons, is half a demon. It's got to be ten times worse for religious fanatics.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

John McCain's Swamp Politics, contd.


Light Blubs


(AP) has the story.


Friday, September 19, 2008

I.T.L.A.P.D. (RRR...!)

Avast, ye lubbers! Consid'rin' o' the trubbles i' Puntland o' late, it's gettin' 'arder to take All T'ings Piratical as nonsensic'ly, me 'earties, as may't be deservin' of.

Dotzin Somalie, ye 'oomin cruft.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Meet Wilma, Neanderthal!

National Geographic News says this photo is a reconstruction in part from "ancient DNA" evidence of a Neanderthal woman named Wilma, after Fred Flinstone's wife. I dunno, she seems a bit gracile to me. Why do Neanderthal women look like WWF prettyboy maulers? And would she have had a name, or an elaborate declension of her kinship, such as *woman-from-three-valleys-over-who-came-with-two-kids-sarah-hidescraper-palin-related-to-moose-mastodon-killer-uncle-cold-stream-thunder-butt-mountain-shaker-big-mouth?

Update: NatGeo is all hot to prove Neanderthals and CroMagnons interbred, for some reason. Their big "smoking gump" evidence is the FOXP2 language gene, identical in both kinds of humans. Hardly proof. Whenever you have a bright, shining bit of genetic material like that, entailed in sophisticated behaviors like language, you first assume common ancestor who also had the FOXP2 gene and its precursors, and several million years to polish the trait — in other words, Homo erectus. You don't assume that our ancestors and Neanderthals would "interbreed" at the drop of a knapped flint, when our word for them was probably troll, orc, goblin, etc., and their word for us was probably lunch.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another Strangely Relevant Narrative

This is the "Lane Mastodon" 3-D comic from Infocom's Leather Goddesses of Phobos text adventure (1986). It's not as interesting as Sarah Palin's engagingly tense narrative, naturally, since it contains no prevarications, lies or fibs — on the other hand, it's completely made up. (Gosh, how does that work?)



"None of us knew whether she had inherited the capacities of the Q, but recently they've begun to emerge, and uh, as an expert in humanity, I was sent to investigate."

"You? An expert in humanity."

"Not a very challenging field of study, I grant you."

     — Q and William Riker


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Security Tools for Ubuntu

Whaddaya know? There's a TrueCrypt for Linux! And the secure-delete package available in Synaptic has srm, secure remove with Peter Gutmann's algorithm (not to mention steghide and mcrypt...). Whee! All the stuff you need to get your Linux laptop impounded by TSA airport paranoia steam!

Update: Even though TrueCrypt uses Sarah Dean's OTFE library, it has implemented a few non-essential gotchas for careless or casual users. For one, the TrueCrypt GUI violates "plausible deniability" by providing three over-the-shoulder mounted volume types (Normal, Outer and Hidden). For another, ~/.TrueCrypt/Default Keyfiles.xml and ~/.TrueCrypt/Favorite Volumes.xml contain unencrypted, readable text which helpfully records the pathnames of your "secret" files. And again, only one fs type (FAT) is supported. The implications for "plausible deniability" are left as an exercise for the reader. LUKS, anyone?

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Drone Bees: Wandering Minstrels of the Clade

Yep, male bees, the archetypal Utilitarian definition of a useless load on a productive economy.* But Nature seldom (or never) makes a long-lasting mistake, so if you are a Darwinian evolutionist (like yours truly), you gotta axe yourself, what are we missing here? E. B. White suggested ecstasy but the bees know it goes deeper than that. Bear in mind, bees have been around since the mid-Cretaceous (140-150 million years ago), so we may suspect that most features of their social behavior have successfully withstood an immensity of Time. That includes drones!

Modern apiculture has gone out of its way to reduce, minimize and preferably eliminate altogether the random genetic contribution of casual, footloose drones — exempting only those sacrificial domesticated males absolutely required by commerce for artificially inseminating queen bees. The upshot is, half the genetic component of all commercial beehives in North America is a weak, disease-prone, self-incestuous clade ideally suited, at best, for the fumble-fingered bee breeder's laboratory in Florida or Georgia. Not Iowa, not Minnesota, not Phoenix or Billings.

But evolution is a mysterious spirit which expresses the yin, not the yang. The gaps, the niches in the ecosystem are more important than the plastic DNA which fills them in. By snipping the genetic feedback loop between commercial honeybees and their peculiar local conditions — a catastrophic apiculturalist's foulup affecting only drones, since nectar and pollen gathering worker bees are not sexually active, whilst queens are artificially inseminated — what you get is a dangerous dance on a razor's edge. The "niche" may deform and get even sharper around the edges! Ignore change, and a tightly focussed, ruined or non-resilient species can quickly vanish.

Far from useless, drone bees are the hive's wandering minstrels in tune with the local ecosystem. Robust drones are the genetic vector that has allowed "killer bees" to spread from California to Florida, and from Brazil to Texas in less than 35 years, for example — and small wonder, since drones are the way honeybees adapt to changing conditions. So, for example, the answer to Colony Collapse Disorder may very well turn out to be more drones per hive per decade, not less!

&DaggerJust supposing all this time, bee breeders have been selecting for an attenuated effeminate drone that smells like a queen bee. Voila! Come spring, the drones do their droney thing and breeze out of the hive to visit the romantic liason corners of the local environment, while unbeknownst, a few myriads of confused workers, smelling their queen and laboring under the delusion that the hive is swarming, follow the drones to oblivion. Of course, this scenario only works if CCD happens after the first drone brood of the Spring matures — there are no drones in overwintering hives (and no drones in commercial hive starter packages, either, for that matter!)

Actually, if you search the literature, there's been a lot of research on the short-term question whether artificial insemination degrades or improves the honeybee, mostly wrong ;-)

*Sure, this might seem like a retirement rant, but bear with me here...

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Palin: "Small Potatoes"

Liberal media are buzzing about a Wasilla, AK right wing blogger named Sherry Whitstine who said Sarah Palin was John McCain's "worst mistake" and "small potatoes." There are two blogs that might be the one in question. One is a nice bed & breakfast vector on Cottonwood Lake, an unlikely-seeming candidate since it lacks politics altogether.

The other is a slightly bipolar conservative spew which is thoroughly anti-Palin and occasionally correctly spelt, here, but which I'd suspect on internal evidence is close but no cigar. Syrin is locally informed and worth the read, but seems to be a kid.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

This quacks me up!

And I'm not even a big "Get Fuzzy" fan.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Be vewy, vewy quiet...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where's the pork?

McCain's campaign has sunk to the damn lies level, which means (as we already knew) he's sold his soul to the filthy demon K'Arlroav'Abub. Gee, and I thought the Whore of Babylon was a woman. It's just a sick old man with one last party in his pants.

Say wha...?

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sarah Palin's Massive Expense Padding

"Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover expenses while traveling on state business." — MSNBC

(Check out the writhing jaw muscle. This broad has a barely concealable temper, which means she can be goaded into self-imploding during a debate.)

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Monday, September 08, 2008

"What is it exactly that the Vice President does every day?"

Well, starting Inauguration Day (January 20, 2009), she'll be Cindy McCain's new maid.

No. Really. She's not qualified for anything else. We're talking real government here.


Sunday, September 07, 2008


Saturday, September 06, 2008

You don't have to believe me, but...

Interplay's splash tune for Fallout 1 and 2 begins with Motoi Sakuraba's theme for Tri-Ace's Star Ocean game!

This is a later rendition of the Interplay splash for Fallout 3 (presumably), but you can still hear the oldschool Star Ocean in there.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

The Man in the Ruby Slippers

Ultimately, of course, aside from the irreparable damage she's done to Alaska, Sarah Palin is just Dogmeat and John McCain is just the Man in the Ruby Slippers. Feed the frenzy, Sarah. What else have you done to damn yourself to the footnotes of history?

McCain looks every inch the proud bomber pilot, I'll have to admit. With any luck at all, he'll outrun the firestorm before it engulfs him. But John McCain has never been lucky. My guess is, he'll be shot down by friendly fire from his own right flank.

Clap, America! Clap, if you'd like to send them both home...


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Quickstruttin' on the GOP Cinderella Runway

Palin watching is not really my cup of radioactive albatross bile, but I thought it was interesting that the Associated Press described her script last night as smiling and sarcastic. I read a few quotes. Hmm...

Actually, there's more McCain Steam than Barracuda, there. Her handlers seem to be squeezing her, stepsister-like, into Newt Gingerich's crystal combat loafers — but seen from a distance, the pretty picture is just another hastily-drawn, stinkbomb lobbing back bencher who can't keep her own house in order, who joins the hunt under indictment. Cute.

Unrelated addenda:

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, "Sarah has been clocked at 275 words a minute with gusts up to 340."

Barry Goldwater was a friend of mine, in the restrained and subdued sense that I enjoyed his P.O.V., and I used to keep a copy of Conscience of a Conservative (by no means confusing that term with "neo-conservative") on the back of my toilet tank for light reading in moments of quiet reflection.

That's the difference between Democrats and Sarah Palin. We love books and recycle effluents. By most accounts, Palin loves influence and recycles librarians. As Mayor of Wasilla, AK, she tried to flush the career of Mary Ellen Emmons, the courageous City Librarian at Wasilla's tiny public library. Emmons was "insubordinate," because she dared to resist Palin's plans to ban library books on religious grounds.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A shortcut to mushrooms


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How to run Windows XP inside Ubuntu

Beats me.

I found the Windows XP Pro and Home full install .iso's here, but nothing seems really ready to cook that stuff in an emulation layer; for one thing, vague assurances to the contrary, those Microsoft images (with valid Microsoft SHA1's and MD5's) still enforce mandatory activation after 30 days.

So far I've tried Wine (a.k.a. "Grape Juice" or more likely "Vinegar" by would-be users familiar with it), CrossOver, VMWare and VirtualBox. No soap, each for its own maddeningly idiosyncratic reasons, at least not on a Dell Inspiron 1525. [UPDATE: Curiously enough, Fallout 1 & 2 both seem to play nice with CrossOver 7 for Linux. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel also ran, but does not install seamlessly — it leaves a few toolmarks. (Of course, no one plays that one anyway.)]

QEmu does work pretty well, if you can overlook the lethargy not to mention the missing CD drive, sound and internet in the installed OS. That, and the fact that qemu-launcher is plain and undocumented, so you will have to generalize from experience in order to use it.

Because of the Windows activation problem, still unresolved, there's no point wasting my time explaining how "plain and undocumented" really works, but give yourself all morning to install and all afternoon for disappointment, regrets, fury and weeping in your beer.

On the bright side, QEmu implements some simple tricks, like mouse grab, that are supposed to work in VirtualBox, but don't, so the feature is not impossible to implement. Of course, there's always the dual boot, separate partitions option... not my first choice.

There are good and valid reasons to run Windows, of course, no matter what one might think of it privately, the main one being that a lot of truly excellent software was written for that and not for Linux.

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