Archive for May, 2005

The Donald is right

May 19, 2005 1 comment

I’ve been pretty comfortable hating Donald Trump as an arrogant jerk for a long time now, but he’s right about the proposed “Freedom Tower” in New York City.  It’s ugly and sends the wrong message to terrorists. (Something like; “Ow!  You hurt us!  Look how we’ve put up a broken tower to show how you wounded us!”)  The message it sends to our own people is not much better.  I hated the design the first time I saw it, and it hasn’t grown on me.

One political cartoon after 9/11 pretty much said it for me.  The caption read; “Proposed memorial to those who died at the World Trade Center” and the drawing was of twin towers very similar to the originals. 

Now Donald has seriously proposed something like that: twin towers visually similar to the originals, only more elegant and technologically advanced, not to mention sturdy.  And, (this is my favorite part) 111 stories tall.  That’s one story taller than the original World Trade Center.

It sends the right message to our citizenry: “We will prevail.”  And to the terrorists:  “Screw you!”

Categories: Uncategorized

Glass is death to birds

May 19, 2005 4 comments

In discussions of energy policy I find that radical environmentalists have done their work well; never have I mentioned windmills without someone saying, “But don’t they kill birds?”

The answer, unfortunately, is “yes.”  Early windmills (a notorious example in California comes to mind) were relatively small, turned fairly fast, and killed a basket-full of birds a week.  Even worse in my mind, they were unprofitable.  Not so the new windmills.  They make a tidy profit.  (Before you go hopping around on one foot yelling “subsidies!” remember what it takes to keep access to Middle Eastern oil.  And the climatic penalties of carbon-based fuels are dispersed among all humanity, with the poor most vulnerable.)

Also depressing, the answer to the “question not asked” is that all man-made structures kill birds, and glass-covered buildings are the worst offenders.  Birds are dumb, and have not adjusted to tall mirrors in their path.  Just this morning I encountered the grisly evidence as I arrived at work: a bird of some kind, lying in front of the entrance with compound fractures of the neck and skull.  It must have hit the windows at high speed.  I tossed it into a trash can and went inside to wash my hands.

(That picture is below the “Read More” link, because, while the bird had been beautiful, the picture is not.)

But buildings can be optimized to reduce the impact on birds, and current windmills (because of their enormous size) turn so slowly they kill very few birds – on the order of one or two a year per tower.  Even this number may be inflated; last week I found a dead bird under a tree without a scratch on it.  Did the tree kill it?

Some improvement in buildings can be had by angling the windows slightly inward at the base, so they reflect the ground.  But the effect isn’t very attractive, and anyway it isn’t practical to retrofit existing buildings.  Could there be other ways to prevent bird collisions?  Birds hear pretty well.  I wonder if it would be possible to emplace ultrasonic barriers on buildings that would make them turn away?  Or an active system using some of the new “directed sound” technology that is just coming to market?  That would be a neat research project to undertake.

Star Wars character quiz

May 17, 2005 Comments off

Another Internet quiz.  Why do we do these things to ourselves?  Here’s who I turned out to be:

Pretty funny about the hair – heh.

Categories: Humor

Searching in my imagination

May 16, 2005 2 comments

The year is 2025, I am dead, and MrsDoF is awakened from her slumber by the sound of someone shuffling around in the library and opening the file cabinet.  Silently she dons a fearsome weapon and pads down the hall in her slippers to confront the intruder.

“Not you again!” she exclaims, lowering the barrel and switching on the safety.  “What the hell are you looking for now?”

The ghostly figure mutters a string of profanity that ends; “…it was either under this pile or in with those !#%*!!! papers!”

“Look, it doesn’t matter,” she says.  “You’re dead!  Go back to your rest!  I’m getting tired of this and I have to get up in the morning!”

Yeah, I spent the whole evening looking for a large white envelope containing important financial information.  It wasn’t in the cabinet where it should have been so I dug through hundreds of pounds of magazines and papers all around the house.  No luck.

Of course I looked at it many times before seeing it.  Knowing the importance of the envelope, I’d clipped it on a legal-size clipboard next to the cabinet.  That gave it bulk, solidity, weight, and kept it from getting mixed in with the stacks of other materials around the house.

But I was looking for an envelope, not a clipboard.  That’s the problem with pattern recognition as opposed to higher-order search logic.

Categories: Personal

Why we need cloning technology NOW

May 16, 2005 Comments off

I’ve been building a post in my head for some time to distinguish between a real Republican/conservative in the Eisenhower model, and whatever-it-is that wears that label now.  But that post hasn’t come together yet.  In the meantime, please enjoy this quote from the real item:

Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this—in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything—even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon “moderation” in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
Dwight Eisenhower
letter to his brother 08 Nov 1954

There must be a little bit of Ike frozen in nitrogen somewhere… please, couldn’t we clone him?  The more I read of his writing and speeches the more I realize that it isn’t conservatism or the Republican party I dislike, just the alien brain-slugs that seem to have hijacked both labels.  Real conservatism is a damned good thing.

From Snopes via SEB.


1: Knowing I am planning an Eisenhower series, a correspondent advises, “please make sure to read up on “Rheinwiesenlager”, too.”  This is a case of postwar abuse against German POW’s in Germany after the war, and quite horrific.  Since Eisnehower was alleged to have been involved at a high level it makes his distrust of the military-industrial complex even more intriguing.  Had he had his fill?  Did he feel guilty?  Was he frightened of what continuing war would do to our national character (or what effect it had on his?)

Categories: Politics

Oscar shorts and an old car battery

May 14, 2005 1 comment

We dashed out of the house, having let time get away from us, and dashed from my van to the historic Normal Theater.  It was the 2005 collection of Oscar Shorts, and those are always interesting, sometimes deeply moving.  Here are my notes:

The films Gopher Broke, Two Cars – One Night, and 7:35 in the morning were pretty forgettable, so I’ll dismiss them all in a single sentence.

Little Terrorist was quite funny, terrifying, and touching and sad.  A little Pakistani boy stumbles through a minefield to find himself pursued by soldiers in India.  Religious and cultural barriers make it difficult for a Hindu schoolmaster to help him return to his home.

Birthday Boy visits the solitary play of a Korean child in 1951 – and the tragedy he can’t comprehend. 

Ryan just blew my mind, and was worth the price of admission all by itself.  The 14-minute Canadian animated film portrays a once-brilliant animator interviewed as an addict on skid row. What’s striking about the piece is the visual conceptualization of both the interviewer and animator’s psychic injuries, and what remains of them.  The images rang completely true for me.  You just have to see it to believe it.

Wasp is a live-action portrayal of a really, really bad mother in London.  Hardened social workers will probably find this familiar turf, but many viewers exiting the theater found it rather shocking.  Perhaps they don’t read newspapers.

The final lesson of the evening is: the 8-year-old battery in my van has the power to (a: ) keep the headlights burning for two hours while we’re in the theater, or (b: ) start the engine, but not (c: ) both of the above. 

Categories: Movies, Reviews

“Old Paint” goes out to pasture, but he’ll be back

May 13, 2005 2 comments

The customer’s computer was a smoking hulk, burnt by lightning.  I found his hard drive, containing precious data, intact, and mounted it as a second drive in the new computer he purchased.  The rest of the computer, charred wires and all, we placed by the back door to be put in the dumpster.  After work that day, I put it in my car.  It was just perfect.  I think the year was 1998.

Everything but the sheet-metal case went right in the trash.  Combining a new power supply with scrap components from junk computers, and a PII/266 motherboard I’d bought from a customer who was upgrading to the new Intel PIII processor, I assembled one of innumerable “FrankenPuters” that I’ve built over the years.  This one was for me.

Fast-forward to May, 2005 – I’m still using the same pile of junk parts and it still works perfectly – but a little slowly.  Time for an upgrade.

I no longer work at a computer store, so my endless supply of junk parts has dried up.  I think I’ll buy actual, new parts this time… but I’m keeping the scorched metal box they all fit in.  It’s butt-ugly, and I kinda like it.

So I’m typing on a borrowed computer while “Frankie” is on my repair bench.  In few weeks I’ll have collected enough parts to put it back in service as a battered-looking, 8-year-old, “New” computer. 

  • PC Power & Cooling power supply

  • Asus motherboard
  • … and probably a dual-drive SATA RAID storage system, and a gig of RAM.
  • … and a Plextor DVD burner for data archiving
  • I really don’t care about video cards – if the motherboard doesn’t have it built-in, I’ll use one of my old Matrox Millennium 4mb PCI video cards.  They’re reliable, stable, compatible, and I don’t play video games.
  • I also don’t care about sound – if the motherboard doesn’t have it built-in, my PCI Sound Blaster will be fine.

The power supply is an under-appreciated component.  If you really want a reliable computer, you’ll pay extra for one that provides stable power over a wide range of utility power fluctuations. 

More details later but I’ll put ‘em below the “read-more” link ‘cuz heck, most people couldn’t give a rip about some geek building a computer.  Especially since I like to build for stability over performance – the “Hank Hill” of computers.

Categories: Geeky, hardware

Clarity on the cluster

May 12, 2005 7 comments

Like most public issues, the evolution/creationism issue is really a cluster of issues that get all cross-linked in discussion so it’s nearly impossible to make progress.  In this case there are layers of scientific, constitutional, pedagogical, philosophical, and religious issues and most discussions bounce around among them.

Here’s one neatly defined philosophical issue from the cluster: “Fairness,” which is a code-word for “Me too!  It’s not fair to give evidence-based science more respect in the classroom than you give our religious myth!”  It’s amazing how far the creationists (and creation-in-drag “Intelligent Design” proponents) have gotten with this whiny tirade, and here’s a delightful answer to it:

“Conservative Christians are demanding that creationism be taught with evolution out of fairness.  I’m all for fairness.  I’ll be happy to let them teach creationism in my science classroom, as soon as they let me teach evolution in their church.”

Marc Bonem, Arlington Heights
Chicago Tribune 11 May ‘05

Categories: Education

Seasons of the prairie

May 10, 2005 Comments off

Last week it was pleasantly cool and even chilly here in Illinois.  Today it is summer – hot and sweaty.  Right now it is evening and I stepped out on the front porch with my son’s laptop to try his wireless network card.  Got my first 20 mosquito bites in about 1 minute and beat a hasty retreat inside.

Mosquitos!  “Intelligent Design,” my ass.

(Mosquito bites are no longer a trivial matter here since West Nile virus arrived.)

Categories: Personal

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 8, 2005 2 comments

It’s Mother’s day for 11 more minutes, so here’s a poem from today’s paper that I thought captured the true spirit of the holiday:

I’m homeworked out, I’m overbooked
and now it’s Mother’s Day
I have to make a card that says
what Mom knows anyway…

to catalogue and edit to
a dozen lines or fewer
the long parade of reasons why
I’m so indebted to her,

to recognize she’s stayed with me
and largely kept her cool
since back when all I did was eat
and pee and poop and drool,

to note how she survived, no, make that
guided my ascension
through phases too expensive or
undignified to mention.

But mention it I must because
a couple industries
have built one day in May into
a grove of money trees.

I’ll thank my mom,
I’ll sacrifice
my precious
weekend hours,

then thank
those profiteers
who hustle
greeting cards and flowers.

- from FRAZZ by Jef Mallett


Categories: Humor