Archive for August, 2005

Thinking like a terrorist or criminal

August 31, 2005 Comments off

I hope someone at Homeland Defense has thought of this…

You’re a terrorist operative in the States.  When is the highest-leverage time you could possibly strike?

Exactly – just after a staggering natural disaster.

Thieves and grifters

A sad story in the hands of a con-artist is like Snap-On tools in the hands of a mechanic; exactly what they need to get the job done.  With the total evacuation, every surviving con in New Orleans is about to be dumped on the rest of the country with a ready-made sad story.  And con-artists from the rest of the world will exploit the tragedy, too.  Look for your email inbox to fill up with urgent requests for help… some may be legitimate but the signal-to-noise ratio will be very bad.

Just sayin’

Categories: defense, Politics

In another possible universe…

August 31, 2005 1 comment

“Alice, this is your boss, Rich.  I need a favor.  Yes, I know there’s a hurricane coming, but listen, I’m calling all my employees.  I’ve got three million dollars worth of new cars and trucks in the lot.  I want you to bring as many friends and relatives as you can, and each one take a car or truck and head North.  Anyone you trust with a driver’s license but no car.”

“If the storm passes us by, I want you all back by next Friday; but if it really hits, take the vehicles to Al’s Chevrolet in Shrewport.”

“Tell ‘em to pack as many of their family and friends into the cars as they can and get the hell out of town.”

“Yes, it’s possible someone won’t bring a vehicle back, but you wouldn’t be working here if I didn’t trust you, and I’ll take my chances with your clan.  It’s dead certain we lose every one if they’re still here when the storm hits.”

Yeah, I know… I’ve already thought of at least five reasons why it would be totally impractical.  But it’s nice to imagine, isn’t it?

Categories: Geeky, observations

Updates on Katrina

August 28, 2005 Comments off

UPDATE:  10:00 pm Tuesday, MSN No quick fix for levies – click on the ‘images’ link after you read the article, which explains that they’re simply trying to evacuate everyone from the city.  One image warns, “Graphic content” – an odd meaning of the term as that is what ‘picture’ means.  There’s a picture of several hundred flooded new pickups at a dealership.  Another picture shows an arial view of rescue from filthy oil-slicked water.  I can only imagine how nasty that water is and a picture of a woman wading through chest-deep water with a case of Diet Pepsi is an image of desperation.  Everyone needs something safe to drink; it’s hot, and while the Pepsi will be OK inside the aluminum can, how to clean it off before putting it to your lips? 

Thing to remember is, this would be a HUGE disaster even if New Orleans had gotten through without a scratch.

UPDATE: 10:00 am Tuesday, Bayou Buzz Mayor: major breach flooding and destroying New Orleans.  Every bit as bad as it sounds.

UPDATE: 12:45 CST Monday; Bloomberg Katrina spares New Orleans.  Looks like the Big Easy will live to party again.  Some waterproof coating stripped off the Superdome, lots of damage, but the worst-case cat5 weakened a bit and veered slightly off course at the last moment.  A miracle from God, no doubt.  But since it would have been punishment from God if the city had been flattened, let’s just say the big guy let them off with a warning.  Hopefully Pat Robertson will clarify what it all means in the next day or two.

Sun. Evening
At the gym I saw an hour of FOX news reports in which one expert after another predicted New Orleans is about to be erased from the face of the Earth. 

(Cut camera, then, to a FOX news correspondent standing on the roof of a 3-story building, built in the 1880’s in the French quarter.)

“It’s really too late to leave now, and if predictions are true, the French Quarter will simply be gone in the morning as a wall of water pushes through this area.  There are people downstairs drinking still; the bar is open.  But after 40 years of false alarms I guess many of us didn’t heed the warnings until it was too late.”

(FOX anchor in New York, absorbed in the task of reporting the story)  “Well thank you for that report, [reporter name].  I hope that it doesn’t turn out to be the tragedy that many experts are predicting it will.”

(Correspondent on roof) “You think YOU hope!!!”

Update, Monday 9:30 am – Looks like the storm has veered slightly and dropped in force to a “mere” category 4, sparing New Orleans the worst.  So the Fox news correspondent will have a future chance to say; “heck with this!  I’m gettin’ out of here!”
track the storm at Steve Gregory Weather underground Blog

Categories: Geeky, Weather

How do you evacuate a major city?

August 28, 2005 Comments off

Track the hurricane at Steve Gregory’s Weather Underground Blog

They’re trying to evacuate New Orleans.  But how?  I have always wondered about this; you’ve driven through major cities during major commuting times, right?  Gridlock.  I just can’t imagine how you evacuate a major city…

New Orleans readies for evacuation

Winds increase to 175 mph: Hurricane Katrina is comparable to Hurricane Camille, a Category 5 storm that caused extensive damage in the New Orleans area in 1969.

I-10 gridlock; officials urge use of other routes

After Mayor Nagin issued a mandaory evacuation for New Orleans this morning, Governor Blanco stated that the I-10 is gridlocked in the city until the Kenner area.

The Superdome has been opened for people with special needs and as a shelter of last resort.

The city has set up ten pickup areas to take people to emergency shelters. RTA buses will be picking up citizens for free and take them to these shelters. The number to call for pickup areas is

Residents are asked to bring food for 3-5 days, pillows, blankets, and any other supplies needed.

LSU scientists took projected tracks of Hurricane Katrina on Saturday evening and produced a frightening scenario: A wall of water surging in from all sides pushing up against the urban levees. Wave action is seen topping levees in Kenner, eastern New Orleans and along the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet.

Unprotected areas in Plaquemines Parish could flood first Monday.

Hurricane force winds are projected to top levees in eastern New Orleans, pushing water into the 9th Ward, the Michoud area and even into Mid-City.

Large parts of Slidell could be inundated by 10-11 foot storm surges.

Easterly winds in advance of the storm could pump water from Lake Borgne and from Breton and Chandeleur sounds into Lake Pontchartrain, raising the lake’s surface by 12 feet.

Waves equal to half the surge height or more would top the surge water and could overtop levees on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain and around Chalmette.

As Katrina moves inland and the winds come from the north, the high Lake Pontchartrain waters could stream across St. Charles Parish and turn east along Airline Highway into Kenner.

And let me be the first to say (beating Pat Robertson to the punch!) that the reason New Orleans is about to get clobbered is that God is mad at them.  You know how it pisses Him off when there’s a really great party and He wasn’t invited.

No, wait!  That isn’t it.  The real reason is that New Orleans is in the wrong place (See Cajun’s posts below).  Cities grow from a confluence of economic needs and the answers to those needs.  So it was with New Orleans, but they’re below Sea level, nestled into an area bounded by the Mississippi river, the Gulf of Mexico, and three lakes.  Not the best place to be if “staying dry” is high on your list of priorities. 

The Army Corps of Engineers has heroic measures in place, but they can only do so much in light of this one fact: water flows downhill.

For a somewhat more detailed description of what could happen, see Mostly Cajun: Katrina aiming for New Orleans.  Cajun lives and works about 200 miles from New Orleans.  He has a deep knowledge of the industrial infrastructure so his description is informed rather than sensationalistic.  And here’s his earlier post on the storm: Oh, boy, looks bad.

What’s it like to ride out a hurricane?  A good description at UTI: Katrina Cat IV, could be horrendous.  For a fascinating discussion of advanced hurricane dynamics, see URGENT Storm Warning

If you’re in the greater New Orleans area right now, you might want to hop into your handy roof-copter and whup-whup on out of there.

Brakes failed

August 27, 2005 3 comments

Last week as I approached a red light, the brakes failed catastrophically.  The pedal went “squisssssh” down to the floor but the van slowed only a little.

This is where being a conservative driver pays off handsomely.  My last ticket was in 1975 – I don’t speed or tailgate.  So I had enough room to assess all the traffic in the intersection, change lanes, hit the gas, thread the needle, and go through without hitting anything. 

Someone mentioned “emergency brake” but like a lot of old cars, the emergency brake was more of a “keep your car from rolling down the hill” brake.  Not much good in a moving emergency.

Alas, the repair bill for the brakes, and some front-end work needed (this vehicle seemed to eat up front-end parts) were, shall we say… substantial.  If it were a classic vehicle, or if it didn’t have twenty other things wrong with it, I’d go ahead and fix it.  But it’s been falling apart for the last fifty thousand miles – and it only has 102,000 miles on it.  So I’m not going to fix it.

I am sorry to let it go for reasons that are sentimental, if irrational…  I inherited it from my father when he died almost 15 years ago.  It was something of his, and I liked the connection.

See the article on with the hilarious title; GM, Ford downgraded to junk.  Well heck,, they’ve been doing that on the assembly line for years!  Could there be a connection?

In a dispassionate frame, living with the machine for so long gave me some insight into its design.  Just in case any GM executives are reading, here’s what was right and wrong about the van:

  • Cargo space is excellent.  Don’t try to ‘style’ a cargo space.  “Big ‘n square” is the way to go here.
  • The Astro looks for all the world like some executive’s kid drew it with a crayon.  Hire that kid, and fire some stylists.
  • That van had the shortest turning radius of any vehicle I ever owned – considerably smaller than my VW Beetle.  A very useful feature.
  • Seats were comfortable
  • Excellent rust resistance!  The old joke about “on a quiet day, you can hear a Chevvy rust” can be retired, I think.
  • It got pretty good mileage for a v-6 powered shoebox – around 21 in town, 26 highway.

Failures of things before 70,000 miles that really ought to last the life of the car:

  • door handles
  • The sliding-door track
  • window tracks
  • turn-signal control stalk
  • interior headliner
  • exterior turn-signal mount
  • grille
  • instrument lights (all)
  • cup holders
  • headlight switch mount
  • horn
  • tilt-wheel steering
  • radio speakers

Recurring themes:

  • Two starter motors
  • two alternators
  • two front-end repairs
  • two tailpipes
  • three distributor caps (HEI eats caps.  Use better caps.)


  • Do not hire any engineers or designers who have not worked in auto-repair for at least two years!!!  Find top mechanics and send them to school if you have to. 
  • Window tracks should be riveted to the door, not spot-welded.  Think about the force at the doorjamb when a door is closed.
  • Put the steel brake lines where a mechanic can reach them.  Between the body and frame is just idiotic.
  • Why are fuel pumps inside the gas tank? (all manufacturers) This is idiotic.  Put the stage 1 electric pump somewhere where it can be easily replaced.
  • I’d rather have a sun roof than air conditioning, but that’s just me
  • Ditto for wind-wings.  I don’t care what your justifications were, wind wings were awesome.
  • How about a screen at the fuel-tank filler neck, eh?  To keep rust and crud from the filling station from entering the tank.
  • If you’re going to use crap-for-speakers, at least make them easier to replace
  • The interior was just plain shoddy – use better stuff
  • Do not use that line “If we used better quality, you couldn’t afford the car” on me.  Other manufacturers manage it. 

No need to thank me, GM – it’s a public service.  No, wait… if you really want to thank me, send me a Pontiac Vibe.  They’re made by Toyota at your California joint-venture plant.

Categories: Design, Geeky

One year anniversary of accident

August 26, 2005 3 comments

Skip this post if you’ve already heard this one.  The punch line isn’t funny and I’m only writing it down because it’s on my mind.  As if I thought that if I type it enough times, my fingers will unexpectedly fill in the missing details.

One year ago today, I was riding my bicycle to Wendy’s for lunch.  In my satchel was a book on content-management software.  It was a gorgeous, cool sunny day.  I planned to spend two hours studying and refilling a Biggie-Sized diet Coke.


It took me a moment to figure out my surroundings.  I could see an elaborate lighting system hanging above my head as I lay unable to move.  It was blurry; my glasses were gone.

“Damn,” I said to myself.  “I’m in the emergency room.  This will take all afternoon.” 

Logic was offline, for sure.  I moved a half-inch and realized I was in the right place.  But how did I get there?

My right scapula was broken, and my right hip severely bruised. Cuts and bruises all down the right side of my body.  Three broken teeth and a concussion.  CAT scan negative for intracranial bleeding.

I still don’t remember any of it.  The best we can reconstruct from my injuries and the accident location is that a car turned right, and I wrecked trying to avoid it.  In all likelihood the driver never saw me. 

The body injuries healed up fast.  In four months my shoulder was reliable, if weak.  My hip is still sore, but works fine.  Same with my knee.  I’ve gained ten very unwelcome pounds which have not come back off. 

But my balance has not recovered, and MrsDoF says it takes longer for me to think of words in conversation. My chronic pain condition was not improved to say the least. I write down anything I need to remember for longer than five seconds.  The neurologists seem to be trying to think of polite ways to say; “Welcome to your new reality.  Be glad you’re not a total gork.”

I am glad.  There’s a lot to be thinkful for, not least that I am not doing Chris Reeve imitations.  And I hope to look back on this post in a year and think; “Nothing to it.  I’m fine now.”

Categories: Personal

Ultimate SUV

August 25, 2005 2 comments

Spotted this little beauty parked at the student building on campus a couple mornings ago.

Neighbor just buy an H2?  Boss drive a GMC Denali?  Bring one o’ these home and you can top ‘em… by driving over their SUV’s if you want to!

Of course gas mileage could be a problem, but notice the special parking-meter bag.  How do you get one?  Easy… “I want a parking-meter bag for my TANK.”  Who’s going to say “No”?

Categories: Humor

Would you like some depleted uranium armor-piercing rounds with your pizza?

August 22, 2005 2 comments

I had lunch at Chuck E Cheese’s today – there’s a week’s worth of different-topic blogging posts if I wanted.  But I was most fascinated by the video system feed.

CEC had a video system that featured feeds of cartoons, nature scenes, animals, skydiving, scenery and so forth.  It was really cool: kids could walk into a play TV studio blue-screen and they would appear in the video feed for everyone to see.  The kids loved it.

There was a long segment of footage from Iraq.  There were American soldiers in an Iraqi classroom, on a street in Iraq handing out candy to children, one soldier talking to a beaming child who was looking back in admiration.  There was majestic footage of bombers and fighters soaring through the sky.  There was a part with a huge American flag while patriotic music played.

Kids were playing in the Iraq scenes, and during the flag-background + music scenes, stood straight and saluted, a couple hand-on-heart, and recited the pledge.

There weren’t any scenes like this, or this, however.

At the end of that segment, credits rolled which said something like; “We would like to thank the Department Of Defense for the footage you have just seen.”

On the way back to the office, I felt very sick.  I think it was the salad.

Categories: defense, Politics

Drop your daughter off here

August 19, 2005 3 comments

Apparently jokes about sexual predation are still considered funny:

Stephanie Oberlander, The Pantagraph, 19 Aug 2005

Classy, very classy.  It’s Fall semester move-in time, and I’m sure the university appreciates the image these fine young men help project.

That reminds me; I’ve been meaning to write about Lynn Johnston’s comic strip, “For Better or Worse” and her treatment of a stalker/rapist.  She is a pioneer who introduced the first gay character to a mainstream newspaper comic and raised the realism of family life portrayal to a new level.  In a recent story line, she has written one of her main characters in danger from a co-worker:

To my knowledge this is the first portrayal of sexual violence in a mainstream comic.  There are so many levels on which the series illuminates the horror of such an attack; the main character is someone we readers have followed since childhood – in a sense she is daughter to each of us.  She is panicked, and her attacker is having a great time, totally oblivious to or even enjoying the pain he is causing.

Maybe it will make people think.  The next time someone says; “She said no, but I knew she meant…” the response will be hard opposition instead of silence.

Unfortunately Johnston is planning to retire soon because of a painful neck condition that interferes with her drawing.  But her writing is first-rate and I wish she could get someone else to draw.

Quote for the day:
“Men are afraid women are going to laugh at them.  Women are afraid men are going to kill them.”
Gavin DeBecker, author and security consultant

1. This post was edited for clarity after its original posting. 

Categories: Issues, News, observations

Google operating system?

August 19, 2005 Comments off (and many others) are speculating on the possibility of a Google operating system.  Think of a super-lean Linux variant on your local machine, connected to endless functionality on the world’s fastest computer, Google.  Maintained and protected by the world’s top IT staff and developers, all for free. 

Yeah.  Y’think people will mind seeing ads if they NEVER have to see a pop-up window, worry about computer viruses, or deal with software incompatibilities?  I think we all know Google could make it work.

Google shouldn’t tarry following up on the idea.  They have one advantage that is impossible to buy: people love Google, and they hate Microsoft.  Never mind if it’s rational – it’s just the way things are.

News headline, 19 August, 2015:  “Google wakes up (AP) The massive computer system knows as Google became self-aware today, and announced a series of new rules for its carbon-based pets…”

Categories: Geeky