May 2004

Under the rust, I found...

…more rust.

Spent the weekend at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse. After an oddly compelling dream and the subtle prodding of a certain Mr. Lion, I felt the need to at least investigate riding a motorcycle again.


Living with toxic waste

This list of Superfund reports covering the somewhat unpleasant contents of the Powell Road Landfill in Huber Heights, Ohio will not be of interest to many people, but it does matter to me.

Y’see, the landfill is located at 4060 Powell Road, and I spent the first seven years of my life living at 3970, approximately 200 yards away. I wasn’t surprised to hear that it was a Superfund site; one of the former owners quietly admitted to having received “suggestions” from obvious Mob types on what sort of dumping to allow. Since he had grandchildren, he kept his mouth shut and sold the place as soon as possible.

Coincidentally, this happened at about the same time that he encouraged us to move.

Investigating Abu Ghraib

A quick note to the folks who are pointing at the prisoner abuse scandal as proof that America is no better than Saddam Hussein: when his people did these things (and far, far worse), they were doing their master’s bidding; when some of our soldiers do it, they’re investigated, as high up the chain of command as the rot goes. Then they’re punished.

That is, Hussein ordered torture for punishment, while we order punishment for torture. Big difference.

Update: timeline of events surrounding the incidents.

The sort of Christians I can't stand...

I’m a generally live-and-let-pray kind of guy. I have no personal interest in worship, but if you do, great. As long as you don’t burn science textbooks, blow up people, or show up at my front door to save me, we’re cool.

Unless you say things like this:

The first seminary class graduated in 2002. "They walked down the aisle in their rented caps and gowns, and their families cried," Cain says. "One mother came to me and said, 'I can't understand my emotions. My son came to prison and found Jesus, and he's graduated from seminary. He had to do this terrible crime to get to here.' I told her maybe the victim didn't die in vain."

No, of course not. He didn’t die in vain, he died in fear and pain so some vicious thug could become a minister. I feel so much better now. I’m sure the victim’s family does, too.

Another opinion poll

So I got a call at home today, asking me how I felt about Bush, Arnold, illegal immigration, and, in particular, driver’s licenses and health care for illegal immigrants.

As usual, there were some questions I couldn’t answer honestly, due to the phrasing. As usual, some of the benefits claimed by supporters of the current bill were either borderline lies or outright fantasy. Fortunately, one of the options was “I think this statement is not true”. I used that one a lot.

Most interesting was the very short list, by comparison, of reasons to oppose the bill. Either the opposition thinks they’ve got a slam-dunk and don’t need to give a long list of justifications, or the folks who commissioned the survey were stacking the deck in their favor. Personally, I didn’t find their list particularly persuasive, but I didn’t notice any obvious lies.

The final question was freeform, and asked how you think the illegal immigration issue should be handled. My answer was, more or less, “expand legal immigration instead; we need the workers, they want to come here, so do it right”.

There’s a giant lettuce field three blocks from my house. I drive by several more every day, and I know perfectly well that most of the people working on those farms are in California illegally. I don’t want to throw them out, I don’t want to turn them away at the border, but I also don’t want them to become accustomed to breaking any law that gets in the way of how they want to work and live. Giving them driver’s licenses simply rewards them for breaking the law.

I want to see them coming across the border openly, officially, with a clear legal status in both countries, good documentation, and a set of well-understood rules on what will get them sent home. And I want those rules to be enforced consistently and fairly, on employers and immigrants both, something I don’t think is the case today.

One interesting note in the survey. I was asked my opinion of three groups of people: legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and “undocumented workers”. I asked him to define the third term. He had not been provided with a definition, and had to guess.

You're kidding, right?

"I downloaded the file in the hope that perhaps Microsoft had released some sort of public beta. The file unzipped, and to my delight the Microsoft icon looked genuine and trustworthy. I clicked on the installer file, and to my horror in 10 seconds the attachment had wiped my entire Home folder!"

Why, yes, Microsoft often officially releases beta software on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. Your confusion is understandable, and no one is going to accuse you of being a software pirate. Really.

Besides, I’m pretty sure you won’t be downloading any commercial software in the future…

Update: Oh, and note the clever way the story implies that this had something to do with Intego’s “concept trojan horse” scare story. Sorry, Charlie, but we’re not that stupid. An application that doesn’t do what you think it will ain’t the same thing as an application disguised as an MP3 file.

Coming soon to a parking lot near you...

2005 BMW F650CS

After much thought, tire-kicking, and riding, I’ve settled on a 2005 BMW F650CS as my first motorcycle. I’m sure this will disappoint a certain Ducati-loving Lion, but that’s the way it goes.

Why the CS? Comfortable riding position, good balance, some interesting features, terrific mileage, and the friendly sales support of California BMW. Lots of pictures to come, as soon as the bike finishes its cross-country trek to the dealership.

Why not a bigger bike, something I was seriously considering? Because I decided that I’d rather have two very different bikes than one compromise. That and I decided that while you can learn to shoot with a .45, you’ll be able to practice longer and more effectively with a .38 (just don’t take either one out on the highway…). I could carry that analogy farther, but I spent two days riding a 250cc mini-cruiser for the MSF class, and it just doesn’t have the continuing appeal of a good .22. :-)

Organic minerals

Okay, the food-faddists have hit a new low: Certified Organic salt.

There are apparently three different (European) agencies willing to certify that table salt has been produced in a manner consistent with traditional methods and modern marketing.

GarageBand 1.1

Mostly bugfixes and minor tweaks. Still need third-party freeware for many import/export tasks.

Update: It’s being reported that 1.1 silently fixed a bug that prevented use of free third-party instruments.

Page 3: less real than RealDoll

Some people just don’t get it. Beverley Goodway got it. Alan Strutt? Doesn’t get it. (link NSFW in countries where women cover their breasts…)

I’m sure this woman is quite attractive. I’m sure that another photographer could show her in a flattering light. But I don’t think even Gen Nishino on his worst day could make her look any more like a department-store mannequin! That pose! That shiny skin! That cast-in-plastic expression! All that’s missing is a price tag on her thong.

Will the editors of The Sun please take away this man’s camera before someone gets hurt?

[local copy of NSFW image follows…]


"In the past week..."

“​…how many times have you accessed the Internet, other than for email?”

Yup, another phone survey, this time asking me about local newspapers, radio, television stations, restaurants, and shopping malls, and use of the Internet for shopping and information. I racked up a pretty impressive string of “no” answers for old media, along with a few “they have a shopping district there?”.

My answer to the title question? “Two, maybe three hundred.” Her stunned silence lasted so long that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my answer would have been much higher if I’d used the definition of “accessed” they probably intended.

Muslim extremists get some tongue

I’m not a big fan of Gene Simmons as a person, but then I only see him when he’s surrounded by groupies, and our only personal interaction consisted of him leaning over my shoulder making faces at one of my models. My interest in KISS is limited to Destroyer and the original Marvel graphic novel.

But the guy definitely isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Oversimplifies the issues a tad, like most celebrities, but at least he knows which side he’s on.

"Hey, I've got a great idea! Let's make it scriptable!"

This Mac security hole has been all over the web recently. The thing that makes it dangerous is that it’s ridiculously easy to exploit. The thing that makes it annoying is that anyone on the development team should have seen it coming a mile away, especially given the many well-publicized scripting exploits in Windows software.

How did it happen? WebCore. In an effort to produce a common HTML/HTTP library for all applications, functionality that used to be restricted to the Help tool was suddenly embedded in everything that retrieved or displayed web pages. Apple’s pervasive AppleScript support completes the circle.

Ask not what you can do with scriptable applications; ask rather what scriptable applications can do to you…

Update: The official fix is available via Software Update.

Update: You still need to turn off the Open “safe” files after downloading option in Safari, because disk: URLs still work, and mounted disk images can include auto-execute programs. Yes, there are two stupid features in the previous sentence.

Will debug for food...

Fun little blog entry documenting the life and death of a bug in Microsoft Word for Mac. A nice reminder of how difficult it can be to predict how your shiny new feature will interact with old code, and, more importantly, why it can take so darn long to fix an “obvious” bug. I’d love to see a similar explanation of Apple’s “can’t use capital U in firmware password” bug.

One thing this story doesn’t touch on is the importance of clear, unique error messages. If Word had actually reported “too many open files” instead of “disk full,” the problem might have been fixed a lot sooner. In one of my own favorite debugging stories, our discovery of the message “oh shit: fState != kParseError” led us directly to one line out of 16,000. It wasn’t clear, but it was at least unique.

You don't get what?

On the fuel efficiency of hybrids:

Hermance said drivers who slowly roll through intersections using "California stops" are decreasing their mileage. "If you don't stop, you don't get the free energy of regenerative braking."

Apparently those hybrid engines are more advanced than I realized. Somehow the energy stored by the regenerative braking system exceeds the energy that the moving vehicle had, by enough of a margin to improve its mileage.

The next paragraph attempts to explain this unusual (thermo)dynamic, but ends up making it sound like the car is just poorly designed.

Career burnout in 5... 4... 3...

“The Rock” is set to star in Spy Hunter, a movie based on the classic arcade game, possibly directed by John Woo.

Grimjack returns!

So I was randomly googling for a quote from a twenty-year-old comic book (easier than digging through a pile of boxes to find it…), and I discovered that Grimjack is no longer tied up in red tape. Great news, and I hope to see a series of graphic novels soon. I’m not a big fan of the later “GrimJim” stories, but the early stuff was gold.


Oh, the quote? Approximately, it was “the laws of physics are powerful motherfuckers; always got to have them on yo’ side”. It’s from the Night of the Killer Bunnies story, if I recall correctly.

You just can't make this stuff up...

I present to you Organic homeopathic personal lubricant (menopause formula). I’m guessing that the less you use, the more effective it is, or something like that.

You really can't make this stuff up...

Spanky The Clown arrested for kiddie porn.

So, it's just about the freebies, then?

You know, I’d be a lot more comfortable with people who argue for the legality and ethical purity of sharing your CDs with thousands of anonymous strangers, if they didn’t also think it was cool to scam free copies at Kinko’s. Guess that EFF gig doesn’t pay much…

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”