Collapsing World

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Quote of the day:

"The whole thing felt a little like Burning Man with more money and fewer naked hippies."
--NPR reporter Xeni Jardin, on the atmosphere at yesterday's SpaceShip One flight.

--Watch Mt St Helens go kaboom (again) (maybe). (Thanks, Hek.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The parallax view

The web site Propoganda Matrix has posted a 1939 speech by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propoganda.

Much thanks to Tomato, who knows the implications better than I, for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Quote of the day:

"How can you be so serious on a film where you are dodging explosions and running away with Sir Alec Guinness on this side and an eight-foot monkey on this side, and the eight-foot monkey is the one flying the spaceship?"
--Mark Hamill, on Star Wars fans who nitpick detail.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Israel: America's new pawn in the "war on terror"

--What is the United States doing to put an end to the self-feeding cycle of terrorism between Israel and Palestine? Why, selling Israel five-hundred so-called "bunker-buster" bombs. One wonders how Israel plans to utilize ground- and concrete-penetrating against pedestrian suicide bombers.

Hmm. It wouldn't have anything to do with the recent news that Iran is reactivating its nuclear weapons program, would it? Israel practically invented the pre-emptive strike. Back in the early '80s, they tried to blow up one of Iraq's fledging nuclear facilities. And in an ominous foreshadowing of their new weapons purchase, this article from last month describes how Israel has set its sights on Iran now that Iraq is out of the way.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Fly the friendly skies!

--Soon, Cat Stevens may not be the only person who needs to worry about being flagged as a potential terrorist. The government has ordered airlines to begin handing over their passenger information so that testing may begin on a new terrorist-screening system. The new system, called Secure Flight, replaces CAPPS II, which imploded under the weight of "mission creep". Critics say that there is little difference between Secure Flight and CAPPS, other than the new system no longer screens for outstanding non-terrorism-related warrents. The new system will attempt to verify passengers' identities by comparing airline-provided data with that found in commercial databases (your bank, phone company, mortage company, your grocery store if you use one of those little bar-coded "savings" cards, etc.).

--The projectionist at the Towers screening room would like us to bring to your attention the passing of camp-film legend Russ Meyer. Meyer, 82, directed the trash-classics Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, Super-Vixens, and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! All of his films featured freakishly-busty women and deviant behavior. In this reporter's opinion, Meyer deserves credit as the stylistic predecessor of and inspiration for today's camp-film patriarch John Waters.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Get your bags together...

...go bring your good friends too
"WASHINGTON (AP) - A London-to-Washington flight was diverted to Maine on Tuesday when it was discovered passenger Yusuf Islam - formerly known as singer Cat Stevens - was on a government watch list and barred from entering the country, federal officials said."

A few things here:
If he was on a "watch list" why was he allowed on the plane to start with?
What are the reasons for having him on the list?
Where is Rumsfeld? I want a press conference, with him touting this as a major terrorist apprehension. This could win them the election, if they play their cards right.

The Rocketeer

A motorcyclist was clocked doing 205mph on MN highway 61, near Wabasha. The biker was spotted by a police aircraft, which notified highway patrol. The biker was cited for speeding 140mph over the posted 65mph limit. The citation may be a Minnesota record. Kind of makes you wonder how much he's going to be fined. The article doesn't say, but I believe that 20+mph over the limit is an automatic trip to jail.

The best part? The kid is the son of a sheriff's deputy. Think Dad's gonna bail him out? Me, neither.

Ironically, the incident comes to light only a day after the St. Paul Pioneer Press published an article about the rising number of people caught doing 100mph or more on the state's highways.

Use this Bugmenot link if the above link bugs you for a logon.

The Fall

Mowing the lawn yesterday, I thought how odd it felt to be mulching fallen red, gold, and brown leaves when it was in the 80s. Then I realized that September is more than halfway over, and fall is indeed upon us. I remember Septembers when we already had snow by now.

I love the smell of ground-up dried leaves. It makes me want to take long barefoot hikes in the woods, the cool earth blanketed with crisp leaves that crunch underfoot. The best walks are in the fall, when it's just cool enough to need a light jacket. The bugs are mostly gone, and the wildlife is out on their final forages before winter. The flowers of spring and summer have turned to dried seeds, some strange and alien in their design. (I have a small collection of unusual seeds I've picked up on my walks.) The air has the scent of life reversing, of vegetation feeding the earth in preparation for the spring metamorphasis. The earth becomes alive and overflows its energy into me through my feet.

The smell of autumn also gives me the urge to put my Halloween decorations up. I really wish I could afford some of the goodies for sale here. Namely the $8,500 attack alligator.

There is a company--I forget what it's called--that sells full-size replicas of movie monsters cast from the original molds. Among other things, you can get a 8' alien (or a 12' alien queen). I always wanted to get the alien and hide it up in the tree that stands in direct line with my front door, across the sidewalk. I would have it connected to a series of lines and pulleys, so when the kids were at my door I could tug on a cord and have it silently drop down behind them. Yes, I'm evil, and loving every minute of it.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Those memos, cntd

--Hello, all. I'm in the process of trying to track down confirmation (that is, actual articles) of things I'm hearing on the net. As has now come to light, CBS obtained the spurious documents through disgruntled former National Guardsman Bill Burkett. Hints are being dropped that Burkett was deliberately funneled bogus documents through Bush viper Karl Rove's office. If true, it would not be the first time Rove has attempted such political slight-of-hand to discredit an opponent. During the 1986 Texas gubanatorial race, Rove claimed that his office had been bugged. Supposedly, the FBI found that the bugging device had a battery lifespan of only 10 hours, and privately concluded that Rove had bugged the office himself (this is another point which I'm trying to verify). I would not be at all surprised to learn that Rove channeled obviously fake documents to Burkett with the expectation that their unveracity would be revealed, thus discrediting the democrats. Can't say whether the rest of the White House was in on the plan, but I find it interesting that they withheld comment on the memos until they had been widely exposed as frauds, which means that Bush thought that there was a chance they might be real. That tells me that while the memos themselves may not be authentic, their contents deriding Bush's actions probably are.

--Meanwhile, photographer Eddie Adams has died at the age of 71. Adams is perhaps best known for capturing the moment South Vietnamese Lt. Col. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executed a Viet Cong prisoner on the street.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Dude! Where's my vote!

Stop me if you've heard this one before...I just saw this and had to share.

I'm so torn this year between wanting to vote and do my part...and being reasonably sure that it won't make a damn bit of difference whether I vote or not. Things like this are part of the reason for that feeling of helplessness.

Words, words, words

Hekate points us to A Welsh View, a blog of current affairs from a Welsh point-of-view. There, we found a link to this graph of verbage used in Republican and Democratic convention speeches. What they actually said in their speeches was not nearly as important as the impressions that they wanted us to come away with, which, when laid out in such a manner, is pretty darned obvious.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Quote of the day:

"I don't remember all the students in detail unless I'm prompted by something, but I always remember two types of students. One is the very excellent student, the type as a professor you feel honored to be working with. Someone with strong social values, compassion and intellect -- the very rare person you never forget. And then you remember students like George Bush, those who are totally the opposite."
--Yoshi Tsurumi, former professor, Harvard Business School

Oliver Hammond and the Case of the AWOL Selectric

I've been holding out on the topic of the recently "discovered" memos regarding GWB's National Guard service, mainly because I'd really like for everyone to stop talking about a war from 35 years ago and start talking about the war we're in today.

However, the typewriter-collecting geek in me couldn't leave it alone. It's exciting when people are suddenly talking about typewriters and document forensics. (Okay, it's exciting to me.) So I located the new memos, as well as samples of documents known to be authentic. (USA Today has made them all available.)

Now, as much as I know about typewriters, most of my knowlege is constrained to pre-WW2 manuals, and I'm really no expert on typefaces. There are plenty of others studying the memos' typeface, so I decided to focus on the less-minute clues to be found in the documents' writing style.

--The first thing I noticed is that the "new" memos have been photocopied repeatedly. These are probably fifth-generation copies. Small distortions, magnified in each successive copy, have made the typeface so fuzzy that IMO we'll probably never be able to accurately identify what model typewriter created it. I believe this to be done on purpose to make positive identification more difficult. Photocopies of papers known to be authentic are much clearer and have obviously been copied fewer times, despite by their nature having been disseminated among far more people. (It's also worth noting that the authentic memos show consistent dark areas in the lefthand margin where they were hole-punched for storage in binders. The new memos have no punch-holes.)

--Authentic memos use abbreviated months and years, with no leading "0" before single digits, ie: "5 Sep 73". This usage is consistent across different types of documents and different authors. The new memos do not abbreviate, ie "01 August 1972". Likewise, titles such as "Lt Col" (authentic) are spelled "Lt. Colonel" (new). (Only on official reviews did Killian spell out the word "colonel"; even then, he omitted the "." follwing "Lt".) The questioned documents abbreviate "Fighter Interceptor Group" as "Ftr Intrcp Gp" (and once as "Grp") whereas Killian and other officers (including Bush) consistently used "Ftr Intcp Gp". Nowhere is "Group" abbreviated "Grp".

--Killian's signature is indented almost to the right-hand margin in the questioned documents. In the authentic documents it is left-justified. Why would he change the layout for these particular memos? Funny, but that layout does match MS Word's "modified block" letter template...

--Although blurred, the typeface of the questioned document dated "18 August 1973" appears to be different than that of an authentic document dated "5 Sep 73". In turn, the "5 Sep 73" typeface matches that of authentic documents dated prior to August, 1973. The typeface across all of the questioned documents appears to conform. Likewise, documents from the offices of Col Killian, Col Bobby Hodges, and Major William Harris use a uniform typeface. In the case of these papers, the copies are clear enough to tell that the documents were typed on different specimens of identical model typewriters, suggesting a basewide standard for typewriters. This casts further suspicion upon the new memos. The typeface in question may be reproducable using a certain typewriter of the era, and the Army may have had that typewriter in use, but whatever it was does not appear to have been in use on that base. (This whole part is a matter of conjecture, as again the quality of the questioned documents is too poor to judge their typeface with certainty.)

All of these clues, combined with what some of the other folks have uncovered, lead me to believe that the newly-discovered memos are fakes--bad fakes. Whoever made them didn't even bother to make sure that they matched publicly-available Killian memos. The news networks seem to have become so dependant upon ratings-grabbing stories that they don't bother to fact-check anymore. This is why I'm getting more and more of my news from the BBC and the Guardian.

Perhaps Don Foster can run the papers through his analyzing engine and submit his opinion for public consumption.

Also of note:
Expert Cited by CBS Says He Can't Authenticate Papers

Typist Says Memos are Accurate but Fake

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The good monkey

Stopped by Taco John's. It appears they have a new mascot, a nameless sombrero-donned monkey. I couldn't help but think of Taco Bell's ridiculously successful, much-maligned chihuahua mascot of a few years ago. TB eventually dropped the dog partially over complaints from some members of the hispanic community that the chihuahua--whose catchphrase was a heavily accented "Yo quiero Taco Bell"--was a racial stereotype. Taco John's, obviously wanting to avoid such a charge, chose...a monkey. The black guy behind the counter, noticing me staring at the monkey, said with a grin, "Isn't he cute?"

I couldn't help but wonder how cute he would find le monkey if it were being used to sell, say, fried chicken, with a word balloon coming out of his mouth saying, "Come 'n' git yo'self some Kentucky Friiiiied Chick'n!" No doubt something would be said about that! How about a chihuahua selling fried chicken? That would probably be ok, if a bit odd (though no more odd than using a monkey to hawk tacos). I guess it all comes down to context. Associating a monkey with tacos does not invoke the racial stereotype that would come from associating a monkey with fried chicken or watermelon. A chihuahua is a stereotype when it is associated with tacos, but not fried chicken. So, in a nutshell: chihuahua + tacos = bad, monkey + tacos = good, monkey + fried chicken = bad, chihuahua + fried chicken = good. However, one constant exists across all examples: food from any of those places = bad.

Feed the tree

This is just about the coolest burial method I've seen. The body is placed in a biodegradable "coccoon", in the fetal position, and buried. A tree is planted over the coccoon as a living memorial. One is reminded of the Peruvian mummies, placed in the fetal position within woven reed sacks. Given the proper conditions, the Italian "capsul mundi" could result in similar mummies for future generations to find.

Annoyingly, the page loads about as slowly as one of their trees grows.

Nipped from bOINGbOING.

Bring the boys back home

Why isn't any of this in the American papers? I suppose it's easier to believe that we are undertaking some sort of noble mission when one doesn't have to look at the product of our work and the streets slick with blood. Does anyone truly believe that Iraq is now a sovereign country when the American military rules the streets? Seeing this sort of thing sickens me. We've got a bunch of machine-gun wielding, scared, inexperienced kids in the middle of chaos, and their instinct is to shoot at anything that moves. The people in that picture looks like they're just teenagers. I don't see any weapons. Their clothes look like they might have come from J.C. Penny's. At least 47 more civilians dead this morning because of another car bomb. Our government says we won't leave Iraq until we've established "security". Don't they understand that our presence is why these civilian massacres are taking place? We've done whatever it was we came to do. It's time for us to get out so the people of that country can go back to living instead of just surviving.

Monday, September 13, 2004

...and death below.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, boldly taking a stance where no other politician dared, has outlawed necrophilia. Two questions immediately spring to mind: 1) this wasn't illegal before? 2) Is this going to become a campaign issue? "Vote Republican: the anti-necrophilia party."

Death from above

These hurricanes that have been power-washing Florida and the outlying islands are horrifying in the amount of destruction left in their path. But they look really cool from the air. NOAA has a wallpaper-worthy archive of high-resolution satellite photos from the last five seasons.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

North Korea says that a huge explosion that resulted in a massive crater and a 'peculiarly-shaped' cloud was not the product of a nuclear test. North Korean officials say the blast, which occured on Nationalist Day, was the demolition of a mountain. Which begs the question: what kind of explosive does one use to blow up a mountain?

Add to the mystery reports that the White House recently received intelligence that North Korea was preparing its first nuclear test, and the fact that the 2.5 mile wide cloud appeared in an area close to known missile bases. Now, I'm no math whiz, but it seems to be that if satellite photos of Iraqi trucks carrying unknown cargo equals weapons of mass destruction, then one would think that the White House would be making a bigger deal out of this.

I don't want to sound like an unpatriotic evil-doer here, but have you noticed that there are certain places in the world where the United States refuses to tread? GWB claims that we need to fight terrorists on their home turf so that we don't have to fight them here. So why have we not gone into Israel to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Why haven't we gone into Russia to put an end to their spate of Chechnyan terrorist attacks? Why have we not "liberated" North Korea from their lunatic dictator? What do these countries have in common that differentiates them from others we've invaded liberated? They are all known to have nuclear weapons. So we'll rush into a country which we know can't hurt us very badly, but if they have a powerful army or nuclear weapons, we stay the hell away and persue "diplomatic" solutions. Remember when Bill Maher lost his show at ABC for calling the practice of lobbing missile from thousands of miles away "cowardly"? Well, I hate to tell you this, but only beating up on those smaller and weaker than us while conceding to those of equal strength is pretty damned cowardly.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Some Numbers, and a Bonus Conspiracy Theory

The total of Americans killed in the 18-month-old war so far: 1,0031

The total of Oregonians killed in the 18-month-old war so far: 23

Oregon Population: 3,559,5962

United States Population: 290,809,777

This means that Oregon represents 1.22% of the United States Population and yet 2.29% of all deaths in Iraq3.

So here comes my far-out conspiracy theory.

Oregon has kind of been a thorn for Ashcroft. He doesn't seem to like the idea of our Death With Dignity Act4, perhaps in favor of a Death in a Foreign Country Under Horrible Circumstances Act. The State has managed to fight and finally overturn his attempt to block the act, and I think it is fair to say that he's probably not too happy with this.

So, who's to say that these guys don't hold a grudge? That the disproportionate number of Oregonians sent, and subsequenty killed, in Iraq was not coincidental.
Maybe someone thinks that the best way to get back at Oregon is to kill it's children.

It's just a theory.

1Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
2Figures taken from the 2003 US Census
3All numbers assume my math is right
4American Medical News article / Register Guard editorial

Grandpa's stuck up on the roof.

Quote of the day:
"I feel for those people, but I think some of their relative is still in our attic."
--Barbara Vreeland, of Forest Grove, OR, who had an urn of cremation ashes crash through the roof of her house. The deceased's family had been attempting to scatter the ashes from an airplane when they lost their grip on the urn while holding it out the plane's window.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

"Do not try to find us."

--Paris police discovered an underground movie theater hidden among the miles of catacombs that wind beneath the streets of Paris. There was a well-stocked collection of films, from 1950s classics to current releases, as well as a bar set up in a niche. However, when police returned with electritians to trace the theater's power source, all of the equipment had been hastily removed, replaced with a note which read "Do not try to find us." A group called "The Perforating Mexicans" has claimed responsibility for the cinema. This reporter, in addition to being very sorry that he did not get a chance to visit this cinema, believes that Dave Barry would agree that The Perforating Mexicans would be an excellent name for a rock band.

--Wanna see $260 million go splat?

--This datafountain is very cool. It uses fountains of water to display the exchange rates of yen, euros, and dollars. Its inventor imagines incorporating other "implicit data" into our surroundings as natural, aesthetically pleasing forms such as water and light. On the one hand, I would love for the environment I live in to be less hard, cold, and technological, and more like nature. On the other hand, will this eventually lead to a "clockwork" environment where even so-called nature is a computer-driven "representation" of nature.

--Quote of the day:
"Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again. That we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States..."

--Dick Cheney, borrowing a persuasion tactic from John Gotti.


THIS video* takes the words from my mind. Someone tried to tell me once that it was hard to speak in front of all those people, some people aren't good at it. Someone once told me that the stumbling was just an act, to lull his enemies into a false sense of security.

I think he's just stupid. But hey, maybe that's just me.

*6mb, but worth it even on dial-up
** Thanks, Sam

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Anyone interested in crime?

Want to know about your favorite serial killer? Maybe a weird crime has caught your eye?

Then you should go visit The Crime Library.

You can even send an e-card adorned with a wide variety of criminals.

"Our Choice is Clear"ly being manipulated

Got this in the mail yesterday. (How we got on Bush/Cheney's mailing list is beyond me.) What it is is a form to request an absentee ballot from the county. What it looks like is a ballot encouraging the recipient to vote for Mr Bush. (What you don't see, because it wouldn't all fit on the scanner, is the section deriding John Kerry's policies and character.) The county election office's address is on the front. I'm all for encouraging as many people as possible to vote one way or another, but I am left with distaste at this flyer's implication that it is somehow an endorsement by the county for George Bush.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Educating the masses

Afghanistan is preparing for its first democratic election. Polling stations are being prepared (separate ones for men and women), and the public is being educated on how to cast their vote through a series of cartoons and illustrated posters. Another problem is in finding enough people to man the voting centers in a country rife with illiteracy.

As a way of ensuring each person votes only once, voters' thumbs will be marked with endelible ink. This has made some citizens concerned about becoming targets for Taliban sympathizers.

To help ensure security, the ballot boxes will be shipped off to Denmark, where they will be counted. '"This country has never experienced elections before," Mr Azam says. "The results may take two to three weeks."' Hey, compared to our elections, that's no time at all to find out who your president is!

Oh, and where are these ballots being printed so that Afghanistan can enjoy the democracy that the United States brought to them?



--I've discovered the joy of surfing bOINGbOING as if it were a miniature Google by plugging random words into their search engine and seeing what entries come out.

For instance, here are the results for the word "skycap".



--As a result of that last search, I discovered Rob's Amazing Poem Generator. Ok, it's not that amazing, because I wrote one of these myself back in college. The difference was, that one was written in spitbol for a DOS environment, and Rob's runs on the web, which makes it a much more convenient application. Actually, none of Collapsing World's posts make very good poetry. Maybe you can find something that works better.

MX1000: Affordable Firepower

Two things make THIS a must have:

1. "In practice, you can experience the benefits of this improved accuracy by mousing over surfaces other than a standard mousepad–a glossy magazine, a shiny wooden floor, even your shirt."

Because I want to be able to mouse on my shirt.

2. "Note: According to a Logitech spokesperson, the laser has surpassed class 1 safety standards, so it should not be harmful to the human eye. He went on to say that a lot of time was spent, on the engineering side, to ensure that even if the laser were altered, it could not be made harmful."

Because of that note, I want one. Because I bet I could make it harmful - as a projectile if not as a laser.

Note from Oliver:
All I have to say is this:

On democracy

Quote of the day:

"In Russia, democracy is who shouts the loudest. In the U.S., it's who has the most money."
--Russian President Vladimir Putin

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Your papers, please

There is a movement afoot in my state, led by our governor, to repeal the restriction that prevents police officers from asking for proof of citizenship status without cause. This follows the recent arrest of a man in North Carolina who was videotaping skyscrapers*. Suspicious, police detained and questioned the man, who, as it turns out, was in the country illegaly, for which he is being charged. Officials are touting it as a foiled terrorism plot and an example of why police should be able to demand proof of immigration status at their discretion.

On the surface, this seems to be common-sense. A person here illegaly cannot expect the same rights as legal citizens, including the right to privacy. The problem arises when determining what situation justifies querying citizenship status. I do not like the idea that the police, a la Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, can stop me on the street and demand to see my citizenship papers.

But I'd never be asked that, would I? I'm white, and no cop will ever stop a white person and ask to see their papers. Anyone even slightly dark-skinned, on the other hand, will become instant targets of suspicion. (Ok, they already are, and have been for decades. However, now a person who may have once been guilty of only "driving while black" can now expect to be suspected of being a terrorist as well.) It's already happening. A Seattle photoblogger has been harrassed twice by police while photographing a local landmark. Ian Spiers is half-black, which gives him a light skin tone remarkably similar to a Middle-Easterner. Suspiciously, none of the white tourists who were photographing the same landmark were bothered.

"Homeland security" is not an excuse to hassle people on the street, legal or not, if they are not doing anything that violates the law. As much as the people in charge would love to ride their delusional wave of power, we are not a police state.

* For the record, here is a .pdf document outlining what any person may legally photograph.

Pentagon 9/11

My first post here, and I'm determined to get Oliver on the "Watch List". As if he wasn't already there. This video was interesting very much because I can recall watching the coverage all that morning and thinking some of the same things this brings up: Where is the debris? Shouldn't you be able so see something? Shouldn't there be MORE?

I thought that I just didn't know enough about that kind of thing to know any better, but if there were others who DO know more about these things who thought the same, maybe I wasn't so far off.