Friday, February 29, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Playmobile Security Checkpoint

Yeah, Really

Photo from the Amazon page. From that same page in the product description:

The woman traveler stops by the security checkpoint. After placing her luggage on the screening machine, the airport employee checks her baggage. The traveler hands her spare change and watch to the security guard and proceeds through the metal detector. With no time to spare, she picks up her luggage and hurries to board her flight!

Gee, I what a great idea! I wonder just what fun little kiddies could have with their own security checkpoint play set?

Seriously. WTF.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Having children is a way to deal with emptiness?

This story came up on Fark. While I'm not one for celebrity gossip, this quote from the story struck me as interesting:

"Having kids is a way of self-medicating," California psychologist Lara Honos-Webb told "In essence a distraction and diversion from the inner feeling of emptiness."

Further on...

Having babies can sometimes keep personal problems at bay.

"[It] keeps you busy if not through adoption, than in pregnancy, you get the oxytocin [often called the 'hormone of love'] bursts," said Honos-Webb. "You get attention from other people and you define your own role all those things manage depression."

Often subclinical depression is not obvious to the person, according to Honos-Webb. "It's difficult to admit those feelings, especially if you have a healthy child and every reason to be happy."

Having children to find happiness is a "recipe for a mental health disaster," according to Honos-Webb, who coins the phenomenon a "Mother Theresa complex." The result can be a failure to attach emotionally, causing eating disorders and depression in the children.

"There is such an imbalance to give and not to take," she said. "On the one hand, Mother Theresa was a saint, but on the other hand, it was a perfect formula for major depression."

So it appears that Lara Honos-Webb is saying that at least some people have children as a response to their own feelings of emptiness, which I read as depression.

Some googling uncovered a BookTour authors page for her. She sells books on depression.

On one hand, I've no desire for children myself and have a difficult time understanding the desire for children in the first place. A desire to have children as a response to mental illness makes as much sense to me as anything else.

On the other hand, Lara Honos-Webb is selling books on dealing with depression ( among other things ). While it's possible that her motives are pure, the cynic in me thinks she's ascribing motivations for having children in order to gain publicity for her books.

Still, it's an interesting notion if only one that I consider as an outsider.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Odds of Dying

The National Safety Council has an interesting page: Odds of Dying.

It lists the odds of dying from various causes and it's interesting to see which activities are more dangerous, vice which activities we think are more dangerous.

For instance, some of the non-gun owners I talk to are deathly afraid of firearms. I'd say irrationally so, but that's me.

Statistically, your odds of dieing in a fall are 1 in 15,614, while your odds of dying in a firearm related accident are 1 in 452,476. In case you were curious, your odds of dying in an assault with firearms are 1 in 25,263.

In other words, if you're going to pick an irrational fear be afraid of the shower.

Obviously, these are just statistics from a broad population, so individual results may vary.

Which is a roundabout way of saying if you're the 1 person who died while a passenger on a streetcar ( odds = 1 in 293,656,842 ) well for you that's a 100% cause of death.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You think a Mormon Candidate Has Troubles?

Tom Bertonneau posted this over on Taki's Top Drawer back in December. I just ran across it, and after I got done laughing I thought it deserved a mention here.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the press; my fellow Americans. Thank you for giving me the opportunity today to speak to you about matters of personal belief.

Recently my religious convictions—those associated with Cthulhu Worship and the Esoteric Order of Dagon—have constituted themselves a campaign issue. Although no other current candidate for a presidential party nomination has been asked to justify his religious beliefs, and although I do not believe that my beliefs require justification, I have decided, in order that I might allay misgivings and settle misunderstandings, to devote a few remarks to the place of Cthulhu Worship in the American tradition.

First let me say that, if I were elected President of the United States, I would regard myself as the leader and chief representative of all Americans, not just of those who happen to be, like me, members in good standing of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Let me add that the basic tenets of the Order are identical with those of many other faiths that have also played a role in shaping the values of our nation—such as the Iroquois war-god cult, the Aztec Huitztliputztli cult as practiced by the ancestors of many Mexican-descended American citizens, Voodoo, and Santeria. According to the Necronomicon of the “Mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred, the first Cthulhu Worshippers came to these shores in the company of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Anyone who has read H. P. Lovecraft knows that the Minions of Cthulhu have played a central role in organizing the religious life of many remote regions of the American Northeast, especially in the hill country of Vermont, and of inaccessible parts of the Mississippi Delta. Indeed, Cthulhu Worship and the Esoteric Order of Dagon have been subject to organized persecution directed from the Federal Government. In 1926, in Innsmouth, Massachusetts, United States Marshals and soldiery of the United States Army and Marine Corps raided Innsmouth, arresting and jailing many citizens. A Navy submarine fired torpedoes into the offshore, underwater crypts maintained by the Order and dedicated to the Holy Mysteries of Great Cthulhu. Charges of cannibalism, virgin sacrifice, and interspecies breeding although whipped up by the yellow press were never proven.

What are the main tenets of Cthulhu Worship? You’ve all heard, I’m sure, how exotic and creepy they are. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Simply put, Great Cthulhu is the mightiest of the Great Old Ones who ruled earth tens of millions of years ago before the so-called Elder Gods ousted them, sending some into eternal exile. The Great Old Ones were, in fact, the creators of the human race, drawing forth the first humans from the primordial slime to serve and placate them in the cavernous underground temples of those days. The Elder Gods confined Cthulhu in a trans-dimensional tomb, based on non-Euclidian geometry, in the stone city of ancient R’lyeh, which they then caused to sink below the waves of what would later become the South Pacific. These events gave rise to the profoundest words of the Order’s liturgy: Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl ftaghn! Or: “In his house at stone R’lyeh, Great Cthulhu lies sleeping.” Another important phrase in our liturgy—“That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die”—is practically a mainstream Christian motif.

John Adams wrote, in a secret note penned at the time of the American founding, that, “Freedom requires Cthulhu Worship, just as Cthulhu Worship requires freedom. Iä! Iä! Cthulhu ftaghn! And so I say to you, the voters, in the same spirit: From the wells of night to the gulfs of space, and from the gulfs of space to the wells of night, ever be the praises of Great Cthulhu of Tsathoggua and of him who may not be named!

Thank you and may God bless you.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

How to Become Emotionless

Ran into this article while looking for something else. Interesting, as most articles I run across about emotions are "how to get in touch with your feelings" claptrap. This seems a refreshing change.

How to Become Emotionless

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Becoming emotionless can be a very useful tactic to deal with problems that might be better handled with less heart and more brain. The following is a list of steps to take in order to remove the heart from the situation, and start using your head.


  1. Meditate. This is one of the better tools to become emotionless. There are several different types of meditation, including Vipassana and Huna, that you can investigate to see which one is right for you. Even the most basic form: closing your eyes and breathing deep, is sometimes enough to loose your emotions.
  2. Dissociate yourself from the situation. You can do this by seeing yourself as an observer of the situation and not an active participant.
  3. Think logically, not emotionally. If you can't dissociate yourself from the situation, then take a more logical approach (i.e. facts/figures) rather than an approach of anger, hatred, fear, etc. Think of the reasons behind the actions and look at things from all sides before making any sort of judgment.
  4. Think of something else. When dealing with a situation that requires the lack of emotion, think of something rudimentary that occupies your mind. A few examples of things to try are: Long division, listing the full names of your entire family, listing all 50 states, naming as many mammals as you can, etc. The key to doing this correctly is to occupy your mind with boringness while remaining aware of the situation and taking it all in.
  5. Realize that you may be wrong. Emotions can cloud our judgment, and there’s always a possibility that you are simply wrong. If you realize this, let it go. Pride will only muck up the situation.
  6. Isolate. This can take a varying amount of time - what matters is that one must be away from society until they no longer feel a longing for a social life.
  7. Deliberate. Think about your past life and what you have done. Reflect on the choices you have made and what drove you to make these choices. Consider whether, in your mind, they were good or bad decisions.
  8. Read. Reading will occupy your mind and keep you from reconsidering your newly chosen lifestyle. Recommended are the works of Nietzsche (Knee-Chuh.)
  9. Create your own morals. After reading the works of Nietzsche, you will have learned that distancing yourself from the herd is your first concern. Common morals in place in our society are based on what is good for the herd, not good for you. Contemplate your choices and decide on a set of morals you believe apply to you. Be aware - creating these morals for yourself means you are, in effect, creating the set of morals you believe everyone else must follow.


  • Breathe. Deep breaths will keep you from reacting.
  • Look them in the eye. Don't look away.
  • If you need a moment, take a time-out. This will help you center yourself and give you a pause to think about things from a position other than your own.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Whenever confronted with emotion take a second and breath in and out and try to clear your thoughts.
  • When chosing a place to isolate yourself, first consider to what extent you want to give up emotion. Should you want to become a stone-cold, emotionless automaton, choose an area you niether hate nor love, an area that does not seem beautiful for you, nor ugly. The median area, the gray area, is the best area. You do not care. To you, there is no black or white.
  • If you still want to feel happy (either this is your choice, or you are too weak to become truly emotionless), choose an area you feel connection to.


  • Be careful! Suppressing emotion is only a tool to be used in specific situations. Do not become so reliant on emotionlessness that you are unable to appropriately deal with emotional situations or so accustomed to emotionlessness that you cannot mentally access or understand your own heart.
  • Don't forget to keep with the program! If you are fighting with your spouse, and are using these techniques to keep calm, it is imperative that you don't ignore them while you're mentally listing off the number of times you've had to throw out a pen because you used every drop of ink.
  • It takes an incredibly strong person to become truly emotionless. Guage yourself honestly and figure out if you can make the sacrifices to reach true freedom from emotion.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

Article provided by wikiHow, a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Become Emotionless. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

UK Doctors: Do as I say, not as I do.

Back in January, I wrote about how the UK national health care plan could lead to government regulation of non-criminal behavior.

This story in the UK Daily Mail illustrates the some are more equal than others attitude so prevalent is some parts of society.

Doctors in the UK have railed against binge drinking, saying it puts an undue burden on the national health care system in the UK:
Doctors warned of a "public health emergency" and demanded that Ministers tackle the problem by raising taxes on alcohol, ending cut-price offers and reducing the drink-drive limit.

However, not only does the British Medical Association run their own bar, but they've applied for a license to stay open later than other bars:
The profession's governing body, the British Medical Association, has applied for a licensing extension to allow drinking to continue until 1am - despite complaints from residents that revellers are already causing problems with noise and public hygiene.

From the comments of residents around the bar, it seems the doctors aren't as responsible as they'd like you to believe:
But at a meeting this month, councillors considering the BMA's request for a two-hour licence extension at the Grade II-listed building - once home to Charles Dickens - heard vivid objections from residents.

One, Sasha Watson, complained that there were "problems with urinating" and late-night revellers "frolicking on scaffolding" on the building.

Another, Colin Wright, said the new licence would "encourage the patrons to drink excessively" and would lead to an "increased risk of crime and disorder".

Lillian Ruff argued that extending hours would see more revellers arriving late at night on foot or by car, creating 'drink-driving implications'.

I suppose I should be used to such hypocrisy by now, but it never fails to irk me.

Happy Caturday

Friday, February 22, 2008

Star Trek: White Rabbit

Very well done... I can't think of how many episodes of star trek you'd have to watch to find just the bits that match up with Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit.

So true...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An inspirational message from Butchie

From Choppingblock

Persitant Sexual Arousal Syndrome

I don't know if this story on ABC News is an investigation into a little known medical condition or another blatant attempt at gathering ratings.

Whichever. It's a fun read.

PSAS, identified and named just six years ago, remains a mysterious condition that thousands of women wish they didn't have. They are constantly on the edge of orgasm regardless of time, place or circumstance. And while this situation might sound desirable, funny or just plain weird it is actually akin to being a prisoner: a nightmarish reality where a woman's body acts independently of her own desires.

ABC News spoke with four women who all experience unwanted sexual sensations. Heather Dearmon, Nancy Austin, and two women who requested anonymity (referred to as Lauren and Emily) all suffer from unintended sexual arousal.

"It's unwanted sexual sensations in your vagina," Dearmon said.

"And sex doesn't help it," Lauren said. "Orgasm doesn't relieve it, sometimes it makes it stronger. This is to me, irritating, torture."

Wow. Sounds bad.

No, the linked article doesn't indicate if there's a way to detect which of the women in the club is afflicted. Pervert.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hillary tells money-hungry Chelsea to get a real job

Oh Gods this is hysterical...

From the Sydney Morning Herald

During a scheduled economic discussion at a restaurant in the US state of Ohio on Tuesday, Senator Clinton rubbished wealthy investment bankers and hedge fund managers, saying they they weren't doing "real work".

Senator Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, works for New York-based hedge fund Avenue Capital Group and previously held a post with international management consulting group, McKinsey and Company

And yes, the pic is from the linked article.

Exactly how out of touch and clueless is Hillary? She's got her daughter to campaign for her and now she criticizes her daughter's profession.

What, she doesn't know what her daughter does? Hillary doesn't think anyone would find out how Chelsea makes her money?

Man gets 8 years for 19th DUI

And of course, the story is from Ohio.
HAMILTON - A Hamilton man's 19th drunken driving conviction earned him eight years in prison and a lecture about his 30-year record, which ranks him among Ohio's six worst drunken drivers.

"You knew a long time ago that you had a problem with drinking and driving and you've never chosen to do anything," Judge Noah Powers told Stephen W. Wolf in Butler County Common Pleas Court during sentencing Tuesday.

Wolf faced up to 10 years in prison as a result of a hit-and-run crash in Fairfield Township last summer.

He's among four Ohio drivers with 19 drunken-driving convictions; two others are tied for the state record of 20 convictions.

Powers also imposed a lifetime driving suspension. But Wolf has disregarded suspensions since at least 1984.

Now 51, Wolf was first convicted of drunken driving in 1978, just before his 22nd birthday. Ohio law then allowed little jail time for repeat drunken drivers. Laws have toughened since.

Damn... so the Ohio state record for DUI is 20 convictions... and two people are tied for first?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

SRM Arms 1216 Shotgun

Saw this on both tactical underground and on The firearms blog.

The magazine seems innovative; given it's design, I suspect it would be a bit more reliable than more traditional designs. One can only hope it makes it out to us lowly plebeians.

Made by SRM Arms.

Castro to step down in Cuba

It's the end of an era in Cuba; Fidel Castro is stepping down in Cuba.

Probably won't mean much really, since it seems his brother, Raul, will likely take over.

Funny though, considering all the ways the CIA tried to assassinate Castro he ends up retiring.

Given Castro's penchant for military intervention I can see why they tried, of course.

Some will try to find some good in Castro's reign. I can't see much, myself. Neither can those who go to great lengths to leave Cuba:
The Cuban exodus has lasted almost half a century and has brought more than two million Cubans of all social classes to the United States. Others have emigrated to Spain, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, and other countries. It still is standard procedure for the Cuban government to strip almost all property from most of those leaving the island. Many prominent Cubans, including artists, professionals, sports stars, etc. traveling abroad, have chosen to defect and seek asylum in other countries.

Hell, even Human Rights Watch doesn't have much good to say about Cuba under Castro:
Cuba remains a Latin American anomaly: an undemocratic government that represses nearly all forms of political dissent. President Fidel Castro, now in his forty-seventh year in power, shows no willingness to consider even minor reforms. Instead, his government continues to enforce political conformity using criminal prosecutions, long- and short-term detentions, mob harassment, police warnings, surveillance, house arrests, travel restrictions, and politically-motivated dismissals from employment. The end result is that Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law.

Doesn't seem like much will change for Cuba, but one can always hope.

Missing a cat?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Is Gandalf gonna hafta bust a cap in dat ass?

British Soldiers arrested for selling machineguns and grenades to gangs

From the UK Daily Mail

British soldiers arrested for 'selling' machine guns and grenades to gangsters
Last updated at 12:26pm on 18th February 2008 Three soldiers have been arrested on suspicion of stealing machine guns and grenades from their base and selling them to gangsters.

A 36-year-old sergeant and two lance corporals - a man of 27 and a 26-year-old woman - were arrested when police raided their barracks in Canterbury, Kent.

The NCOs from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are said to have been raking in a fortune stealing guns, rifle ammunition, grenades and flares from Howe barracks - then selling them to criminal gangs in Scotland.

According to an army insider there were police squad cars all around the barracks and they then raided two homes in the married quarters and a flat in the barracks, as well as the sergeants' mess.

Four civilian men who are alleged to have bought stolen ammunition were also arrested in Glasgow in a carefully co-ordinated raid.

They are expected to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court today.

It comes as the Argylls prepare to deploy to Afghanistan.

An MoD spokesman said: "The MoD can confirm that Kent Police have arrested three soldiers from 5 SCOTS on suspicion of the theft and supply of munitions.

"The arrests took place in Canterbury, where 5 SCOTS are based. Royal Military Police officers were in support. The MoD is co-operating fully with Kent Police as they pursue their investigation."

A Strathclyde Police spokesman said: "We can confirm that on Friday 15 February as part of an ongoing joint operation between Strathclyde Police and police forces south of the border, a number of people were arrested at addresses in Strathclyde and the south of England in connection with the theft of munitions and the subsequent supply of those munitions to people in the Strathclyde area.

"A total of four men aged 27, 25, 25 and 20 are the subject of a report to the Procurator Fiscal for a variety of offences under the Firearms Act and the Explosive Substances act."

Given the UK arsenal, I'd expect the troopers were selling off HG85 fragmentation grenades, SA80 rifles, and perhaps either Browning Hi-Power or SIG P226 handguns.

Since the article mentions rifle ammo, perhaps pistols weren't involved. Which also makes sense; while pistols are used in military service, they're used in considerably less numbers than rifles.

The 5 SCOTS, or the 5th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland is an air assault battalion.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Blow-Up Doll Stands in for Groom

Of course, it just had to happen in Ohio...

Article here.

Blow-Up Doll Stands in for Groom

Feb 15, 10:33 PM (ET)

GROVE CITY, Ohio (AP) - If one bride felt lighter than air in her wedding gown, her groom certainly felt like air itself as 19 couples renewed their vows near Columbus.

Sheila Smith's husband, Bob, had to go away on business and couldn't make the Valentine's Day recommitment service at Grove City United Methodist Church. So friends brought a life-size inflatable doll to serve as a stand-in.

They dressed Blow-up Bob in dress pants, a shirt and tie, and taped on a head-shot photo of the real Bob Smith.

His wife was blown away, because she thought she'd only be serving as matron of honor for four of her friends. After Sheila Smith phoned her husband to tell him about his air-filled alter ego, she wiped away tears as she told how he laughed so hard he couldn't speak.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

A treasure trove of Lovecraft...

Stumbled upon the wikisource archive of H.P. Lovecraft writtings today.

More than just a collection of his stories, but also some of his letters, poetry, even his will.

Considering almost all of his work is public domain now, I expect there's a few collections like this. This one seems a bit more complete than others I've seen.


"Child Man"
or the misandry of feminism

I've been holding off writing about this topic. I wanted some distance between the emotional response I felt and a calmer analysis.

Back in January I heard a story on NPR called Young Men Stuck in Adolescent-Adult Limbo. It stemmed from an op-ed piece, "The child-man" by Kay Hymowitz who was the invited guest on NPR.

In it, Hymowitz argues that men today, especially the 18-34 age group, are in a permanent state of adolescence. She sneers at men who play video games and watch cartoons instead of doing things she'd rather they do.

From the original op-ed:

Consider: In 1970, 69 percent of 25-year-old and 85 percent of 30-year-old white men were married; in 2000, only 33 percent and 58 percent were, respectively. And the percentage of young guys tying the knot is declining as you read this. Census Bureau data show that the median age of marriage among men rose from 26.8 in 2000 to 27.5 in 2006 – a dramatic demographic shift for such a short time period.

That adds up to tens of millions more young men blissfully free of mortgages, wives and child-care bills.

Men aren't getting married and having kids like they used to. Therefore, they're still children in her opinion.

Of course, as a feminist the same rules don't apply to women. From the same op-ed:

With women, you could argue that adulthood is in fact emergent. Single women in their 20s and early 30s are joining an international New Girl Order, hyper-achieving in both school and an increasingly female-friendly workplace, while packing leisure hours with shopping, traveling and dining with friends.

So what are men doing while women are "emerging"?
Same op-ed again:

Single young males, or SYMs, by contrast, often seem to hang out in a playground of drinking, hooking up, playing Halo 3 and, in many cases, underachieving. With them, adulthood looks as though it's receding.

Obvious eh?

If women are putting off getting married and having kids, they're joining the New Girl Order.

If guys are putting off getting married and having kids, they're drunk horny slackers.

Beyond the obvious double standard and bigotry towards those with the wrong chromosomes, there's this from the op-ed:

For the problem with child-men is that they're not very promising husbands and fathers.

Which brings the situation into focus. Apparently, once the New Girl Order is done shopping, traveling and splitting up the check with her girlfriends she wants to come home to a guy who's paying the mortgage and raising the kids.

Gods, no wonder the marriage rate is declining. Reverse the situation for a moment, if that helps you understand: would any of the New Girl Order wait at home with the kids while Dad was out at a sports bar with their friends?

Isn't that exactly what women were complaining about for years, that men treated them as maids and nannies they didn't have to pay?

Now, guys are expected to shoulder financial and child rearing responsibilities so the New Girl Order can be "empowered"?

Note that it's not even a reversal of roles; men are expected to maintain their financial responsibilities ( i.e. paying the mortgage ) while also taking on the traditional role of women, or at least paying someone else for child care.

Gee, why wouldn't every guy jump right on that?

In many ways, the feminist movement of the 60's did some good. Recognizing that in the workforce what's between someone's ears matters more than what's between their legs was a step forward. I work with a number of people, men and women, who are competent, some even exceptional, in our field.

Yet, there are perhaps unintended consequences. Just as women have discovered they can achieve financial independence through a larger participation in the work force, men have discovered they don't need to lead a life of quiet desperation in service to wives and children.

Feminism helped create the modern America. Feminists shouldn't be surprised at men who've adapted to the modern world and no long seek traditional roles.

After all, it's not like feminists want to return to a bygone era themselves.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy VD

From Chopping Block

Cthulhu Statue

I found this lovely on the Raging Gaijin site.

Beautiful work. The patina is excellent, giving it that "ancient horror from beyond" look.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The real reason for alien abductions

From Lio

Note that this also explains cattle mutilations. Cattle can't wash clothes, so obviously this angers the aliens and they respond accordingly.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Just in time for VD...

From the Onion...

Online Dating Helping Pathetic Women Get Their Hopes Crushed More Efficiently

Using Vim and GPG

So today while things were a bit slow, I decided to play with Vim and GPG.

Some of you will know what I'm talking about.

For others ( who don't like to follow links ), Vim is a text editor and GPG is public key encryption software.

Text editors just edit text; there's not much in the way of layout options, but they're very good at manipulating text in interesting ways. Vim is a favorite of mine since I find it quite powerful and it's available for just about every platform I work on.

Public key encryption software is a bit more complicated. At it's core, it's way to use encryption between two people who've never met. A very simplistic analogy is a box with two keys; one locks the box, the other unlocks it if it was locked with a particular lock key. These boxes are universally available, for free.

When you want to communicate securely, you first go to the box dealer and get two keys ( one that locks any box and one that unlocks boxes locked with the first key ). You give the lock key to all your friends and encourage them to give it to their friends. You even hang a copy of your lock key on the bulletin board of the coffee shop you hang out in from time to time.

Now, someone wants to send you a message and they don't want anyone else to read it. First, they go to the box dealer and get a box. Then, they take a copy of your lock key ( say, the one you hung in the coffee shop ) , put the message in the box and lock it with your lock key.

Since these keys come in pairs, their own unlock key doesn't work. No one else's does either; to unlock the box, you have to use the unlock key that corresponds to the lock key.

This someone now mails the locked box to you as they would anything else.

You get the box, perhaps delivered with some catalogs, bills, and other junk mail. You take out your unlock key and unlock the box, then read the message.

In this example, the "lock" key is called a public key, the "unlock key" is a secret key, and boxes are the GPG program. Sending the box is email, but the transport method isn't that significant.

With me so far? Ok. So, I wanted to use my favorite text editor to write a message without leaving any traces on my computer and GPG it.

First, I invoked Vim with this command from a command prompt:

gvim -n

The "-n" bit says "don't write anything to the hard drive unless I tell you to". Perhaps you might think that most programs don't write anything to the hard drive unless you tell them to, but that's not always the case. In Vim's case, it opens a "swap file" whenever it's invoked. It does this so if something bad happens while you're using it there's a chance the data is still recoverable.


Usually this is a good thing, but when you want to send something only your intended recipient can read it's not a good idea to leave unencrypted data laying around. People would have a very hard time breaking GPG, but they don't have to if you're going to leave the message for anyone to find.

So, with Vim open, I type my message. Once done, I enter the command:

:%! gpg -q -e -a -s -r

Whoa. WTF is that??

Ok, the ":%!" says "take the stuff I just typed and send it the application I'm specifying next". The application, in this case, is GPG. The options to GPG break down like this:
-q = quiet mode. Just do what I tell you and shut up about it.
-e = encrypt.
-a = ascii output. In other words, make the output consist of letters, numbers, and a few symbols that are safe to send in the body of an email message.
-s = sign it. Digitally, this is optional but allows someone with your public key to check to ensure it's really you that sent the message.
-r = recipient. Who gets this, specified by email address.

A prompt pops up, asking for my GPG pass phrase. I enter it and the contents of my Vim window are replaced with the ASCII encoded encrypted message. From there, it's a simple cut-and-paste into the email body.


Once that's done, I exit Vim with:


Which means "Close Vim, abandon everything I just did and yes I really mean it so don't ask". Since there was no swap file generated on opening, there's no trace left on the machine of the text you wrote; only the encrypted version remains.

Anyone else remember cyberpunk?

Specifically the sci fi genre typical of which is William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy.

One of the particular items of cyberpunk fiction that caught my interest as a youth was the idea of the Orwellian power of the heads of society, but the twist was it wasn't governments that had become Orwellian but multinational corporations.

Great fiction. It's become fact.

This article in Conde Nast Portfolio details the post cold war and post 9/11 rise of the corporate intelligence agency.

Largely overlooked in the furor was the role that Wal-Mart's internal security department had played in digging up the salacious details. This department, a global operation, was headed by a former senior security officer for the Central Intelligence Agency and staffed by former agents from the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other government agencies. (See our Spy Slang guide) A person familiar with the episode said in an interview that an ex-C.I.A. computer specialist was involved in piecing together the email evidence—which included copies of Womack's private Gmail messages, provided by his estranged wife—and that another former government agent had supervised the overall investigation.

This isn't to say this activity is illegal; far from it, it seems that for the most part this activity is well within the law.

For instance, installing a keyboard monitor on corporate owned hardware is hardly an invasion of privacy. Most people, as a condition of employment, agree to such monitoring anyway. If that happens to capture your gmail password..

Similarly, techniques like this:

At Diligence, a New York private-investigation firm founded by former C.I.A. and British agents, ex-intelligence officers have taught newcomers how to construct false identities by using fake business cards, creating phony websites, and directing incoming calls to cell phones reserved for each separate identity. "You are establishing a cover, like in the C.I.A.," said a former Diligence employee, adding that there are people who know investigators only by their phony identities.

Aren't illegal. While there are laws against fraud, they don't apply if you're not trying to get any money from the target of your deception.

I'll expect you've heard of dumpster diving. Not popular, but at least some consider it effective, albeit a bit sleezy:

Even some of the legal methods are controversial within the industry. Certain old-school firms won't stoop to dumpster diving or stealing garbage—which is usually legal as long as the trash is on a curb or other public property—because they consider it unethical.

Outside of techniques, this really caught my eye:

"The private sector has virtually all the same techniques as the government," Devine told me. A favorite haunt for former American spies is the elegantly appointed dining room of the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner in McLean, Virginia, a short drive from the cafeteria they used to patronize at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley.

Perhaps Gibson got it right. It seems that the private sector now has an intelligence capability focused on their needs. That makes me wonder how much else of Gibson's vision could, or will, become reality.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fun with the bleep

The Count Censored

Apparently the only addition is select words were bleeped out with the standard FCC compliant bleep. Amusing to see what words the brain fills in.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Conspiracy theory and general freakishness

A mailing list I'm on posted a link to this gem, the beyond weird site.

It's a collection of weird writings on a variety of subjects, from UFOs to occultism, hauntings and black magic.

Just to be clear, I'm endorsing none of that. However, if you've an interest in esoterica as I do you might find something of interest.

If nothing else, it's a laugh.

Happy Caturday

Friday, February 8, 2008

Why the youth vote doesn't matter

Obama Girl didn't vote.

On Tuesday night, City Room ran into Ms. Ettinger at an election-watching party in Greenwich Village and asked how things went at the polls.

“I didn’t get a chance to vote today because I’m not registered to vote in New York,” she said.

So where is Obama Girl registered to vote?

“New Jersey.”

Um, but didn’t New Jersey also hold a primary?

True. The problem, she explained, was that she was sick in New York City and was unable to get back across the Hudson River to the polls in Jersey City.

“I was in Arizona for the Super Bowl — every time I get in the airplane I get sick,” said Ms. Ettinger, who did manage to make it to the Svedka Fembot election returns party at Chinatown Brasserie. (The Fembot campaign for the White House, the Svedka marketing manager assured us, is not a commentary in any way on Hillary Rodham Clinton, who defeated Mr. Obama in both New York and New Jersey.)

Ms. Ettinger said she had dragged herself out Tuesday night under duress only because she was scheduled to perform at the Bowery Poetry Club. The previous day she had hit the streets of New York to interview voters, where a Daily News photographer snapped her picture on Park Avenue.

And how did she feel about missing the opportunity to cast her ballot for her one and only? “I’m a little upset but I really couldn’t help it today,” she said mournfully.

So that's it then.

Apparently, as long as you have good feelings and make an exciting, fulfilling video it's ok not to follow through with actions that really matter. So long as you have a good excuse.

Is it any wonder pundits laugh off the youth vote? Look, do whatever you like to support your candidate, but remember that it's vote totals that matter in the end. If you don't vote, don't expect your candidate to win. And no, it doesn't matter how you feel about that.

The truth about semi-automatic firearms

I saw this over at the Firearms Blog. Really well done, it shows in simple terms the difference between a fully automatic assault rifle and a semi-automatic rifle. It also shows how the features of some semi-automatic rifles, while changing the appearance, don't change the nature of the rifle.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cocaine Submarine

I've seen these before, but they usually rate a second look.

With huge profits as the lure, drug traffickers in Colombia use every possible method to ship their cocaine to market. And, if the latest trend is any sign, they're as ingenious as ever.

Colombia's navy has been detecting the increasing use of submarines to transport tons of cocaine.

Everyone seems to know there's money in drug smuggling. That the smugglers are making their own submarine service shows both how much money there is as well as how determined and inventive the smugglers are.

This item, from the same story, is also interesting:
"This craft comes with a fiberglass cover, on the outside and on the inside," says Lt. Manuel Higuera.

Indeed, that's what gives the vessel a leg up over the Navy. With little metal to speak of, it's hard to detect with sonar.

I wonder if that was on purpose. Fiberglass can be easier to work with than steel and can take fewer men since it's much lighter. That it's harder to detect on sonar could be a side effect or a design consideration. No idea really, but it's an interesting question.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the Year of the Rat! May good fortune smile on all.

Rat years are a strange one if you're a cat owner. While there is a Tiger in the zodiac, there's no house cat. The all knowing wikipedia has two versions of the story as to why that is:

According to one legend, in the sixth century B.C. the Jade Emperor invited all the animals in creation to a race, only twelve showed up: the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Lamb, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig, and according to their places in the race, the Jade Emperor had given them each a number starting with the Rat who was the winner of the race.

Many legends arose from the Race of the Chinese Zodiacs. One told of the reason why cats and rats shall always be enemies: He and the cat (at the time good friends) were poor swimmers, so they asked the ox if they could stay on top of his head to cross the river. Along the way he pushed the cat off of the ox's back. And the cat, incapable of swimming, lagged behind. The rat stayed on top of the ox's head until the ox was almost at the finish line. And as the ox was about to cross it, the rat jumped from the ox's head and became first place. And the cat and rat have been enemies ever since.

Another legend tells that the cat had asked the rat to wake him up the day of the Race. The rat agreed, but on the said day, he did not wake the cat in his greed to win. When the cat finally woke up and got to the racing ground, he found the race to be over. The cat then swore revenge upon the rat.

So either the cat was betrayed by his friend the rat, or the rat took advantage of the cat's laziness to win the race to the Jade Emperor. No matter how you look at it, rats and cats just don't get along.

Should be an interesting year.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cthulhu Buddha

Now this is fraking cool...

...Cthulhu... by ~Santani on deviantART

Cthulhu in a Buddha-esq pose. One may not find enlightenment, but it will lead you to a higher knowledge.

Damn... anyone else hungry for calamari now?

NYT on Genre fiction

As seen on Charlie Huston's site, the New York Times has an article up on genre fiction, with this gem:

The distinction between highbrow and lowbrow — between genre writing and literary writing — is actually fairly recent. Dickens, as we’re always being reminded, wrote mysteries and horror stories, only no one thought to call them that. Jane Austen wrote chick lit. A whiff of shamefulness probably began attaching itself to certain kinds of fiction — and to mysteries and thrillers especially — at the end of the 19th century, with the rise of the “penny dreadful,” or cheaply printed serial. The market and public appetite for this stuff became even larger in the early years of the 20th century with the tremendous growth of pulp magazines, which specialized in the genres and eventually even added a new one: science fiction.

The idea that if something is easy to read it must have been easy to write is so much crap. As if running a thesaurus through a tree shredder to generate dialog makes a better book than continually writing and editing your work so that it's accessible to as wide an audience as possible. Both require work, but in the second case the product has half a chance of being read.

Not that one should dumb down or PC one's writing so that the average five year old can find it mildly amusing. However, if you presume your reader has dual PhDs in English literature and Russian history, you've got to realize you've limited the appeal of your work.

It strikes me that those who most rail against genre fiction are those who are unable to publish books most people would like. University professors and their ilk. I can understand their frustration; they devote years of their lives to furthering their academic career, kissing ass and changing their writing style to match the expectations of those higher on the ladder only to find their books never see the light of day outside of classes they teach.

Must be hell.

Obviously, they've worked hard, so it must also be the readers fault. Silly plebs; they just don't know what's good for them.


If genre fiction is what sells, it's because people like it. Full stop. Now, you can say that the average person buys crap, and from a quick browse through the romance section I'd be hard pressed to argue.

Thing is, that's a matter of taste. Everyone has different likes and dislikes; choosing to like one doesn't invalidate other choices.

So sure, if you prefer your prose blessed by an ivory tower, go for it. Just keep your mouth shut when the rest of us decide a blood soaked pulp novel is more the thing. Once our favorite authors have been dead long enough, we'll see which ones history remembers.

Until then, it's just a matter of taste.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Man Indicted in Machete Killing

From the AP

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (AP) - A man accused of hacking his wife to death with a machete and leaving her body in her bed was arraigned Tuesday on a second-degree murder charge.

Thomas Delenzik was ordered held without bail during a hearing before state Supreme Court Justice Robert Doyle.

He was arrested Jan. 24 after his wife, Myong-Ok Delenzik, 46, was found dead by her daughter.

Police initially said that Delenzik, 42, and his wife were arguing over his refusal to take an undisclosed medication, but Assistant District Attorney Nancy Clifford said Tuesday that the argument centered on her anger over his unemployment and her threats to leave him after 19 years of marriage.

"We are not aware of any mental illness," Clifford said.

Delenzik's court-appointed attorney declined to comment.

Just another case where the absence of firearms does not equate to the absence of violence. Perhaps if his wife was armed with something other than attitude she might be alive today.

In any case, restricting the tools available to commit violence just caused the attacker to use different tools.

Monday, February 4, 2008

So ok... I couldn't resist

Max.. part deux...

Here's a few new pics of Max...

I think he looks kinda odd in this pic... almost like he's standing guard.

This one is the classic zoom in as he's looking up. Extra cute, although I can attest that nose is much colder than in looks.

Fat people and smokers save health care costs


From the AP:

LONDON (AP) - Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn't save money, researchers reported Monday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

"It was a small surprise," said Pieter van Baal, an economist at the Netherlands' National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, who led the study. "But it also makes sense. If you live longer, then you cost the health system more."

In a paper published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers.

When I wrote here that health practitioners attempting to restrict access to care based on behavior ( as some doctors in the UK would like ) only works if the doctors are unbiased and right 100% of the time... well, here's where they're wrong.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Clinton health care plan: we're taking your money

From the AP

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to have workers' wages garnisheed if they refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed during a television interview, she said: "I think there are a number of mechanisms" that are possible, including "going after people's wages, automatic enrollment."

Clinton said such measures would apply only to workers who can afford health coverage but refuse to buy it, which puts undue pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms. Under her plan, she said, health care "will be affordable for everyone" because she would limit premium payments "to a low percent of your income."

I've wondered how those advocating universal health care coverage planned on paying for it, and suspected something like this.

Additional taxes seem the only way the massive social spending the Democrats have planned can have any funding. It's not like they're going to cut spending; social programs are in large part the reason for their existence. Without the government providing benefits, people might try to help themselves. That is anathema for them, since they seem to believe the purpose of government is to lead it's citizens, rather than create an environment for their citizens to make their own way.

Seems inevitable that any national health care plan will also seek to regulate personal behavior, similar to how some doctors in the UK would like to. For those who would support such actions, remember that only works if the doctors are right and unbiased 100% of the time. For a humorous look at when they're not, see the movie The Road to Wellville keeping in mind the movie didn't invent the "health practices" advocated by the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

What really irks me is the attitude I see here. It's "We're you're betters. Give us your money so we can tell you how to live your life."

That's not what I want from my government. I want to be left alone, to live my life in peace. I don't desire control over others and don't wish to be controlled.

Seems that's becoming less and less of an option.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

How to dress and clean a rabbit

No, this has absolutely nothing to do with putting cwute widdle fwuffy bun buns in a pwecious outfit.

It's how to prepare a dead rabbit for roasting, stewing, or whatever.

Fearsclave's article on dressing and cleaning a rabbit

Happy Caturday

Friday, February 1, 2008