Monday, December 31, 2001

All right, it's official, I'm concerned

Thanks to Steven den Beste and others, in the aftermath of the Great Blog Breach, I'm now concerned about the future of Blogger.

Don't misunderstand me, I really like this service. It's handy to be able to update my blog from anywhere. I've paid for my ad-free page, and thanks to Glenn Reynolds' suggestion, a number of other people have, too. I just don't want to wake up one day and find my site retired. Evan Williams sacrificed a large portion of his Christmas to get Blogger back up after the hack, and I appreciate it. But if it happens again, will he prop it back up, or will he decide he's lost enough money and move on?

I've really enjoyed having this opportunity to get my thoughts in order. So while I'm not prepared to abandon Blogger, I am looking into ways to continue without Blogger.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

God bless us, every pair

In a sequel to this item, it is my pleasure to inform you of this report in the St. Petersburg Times, that

Leaders of Without Walls International Church in Tampa decided Saturday [12/23] to accept gifts gathered by strippers at a Brandon club who flashed their breasts for a toy donation.

They didn't really want to accept them, but the kids really needed the toys. Well, does any kid really need toys? But I know what they mean. I have kids myself.

How does it go? "God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform." Sometimes sex does make people stupid. I'm encouraged that, at least this time, it didn't make them lose sight of their goal.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

It's Been One Week...

...since Evan Williams listed me as a Blog of Note at, which hosts this journal. In the approximately two months previous to that, I'd accumulated not quite 300 visits. In the last week, I've been hit 3000 times. Not bad for a school-free, gamer-free, SurvivorTM-free blog. If you ever want to find me after I roll off the "Blogs of Note" list, better bookmark me now.

(Oops, now I'll show up in the search engines when people search for the keyword "Survivor". Too bad. Hee hee.)

Is it Osama or Usama?

I think I'm the only one who doesn't think Osama bin Laden appears to be at death's door in his latest statement. (Why do reporters insist on calling it a "home video"?)

"He looks gaunt." He always did. He's 6'4".

"His beard's grey." Yes, it is, in exactly the same places it was the last time we saw him. Try to remember that most of the video we see of him is months or years old.

"His face is pale." Well, yes, but so are his clothes. This leads me to think it's more a function of the color of the lighting than his health.

"He never moves his left arm, and he's left-handed." He always did move stiffly. He doesn't come across to an American audience as exactly the most charismatic speaker the world has ever known.

Come on, people. Just say "I don't know" and move on.

The flip side of Gander is Hicksville?

Well, maybe. Previously I'd commented on the warm welcome and fellowship that so many stranded travellers received in Gander, Newfoundland on September 11.

But I'm so far behind with things that you've probably already seen this story, about the Day's Inn that "accidentally" raised its rates up to triple the posted rate on 9/11. Yeah, they've been fined, and yeah, they've refunded the money, and yeah, they're so sorry, but I'd feel a lot better about staying in a Day's Inn if they could offer any kind of reasonable explanation as to how such a thing could be an "oversight".

Why Blog?

This is why.

Friday, December 28, 2001

Returning to Normal -- Sort Of

Vandals mystify me. Eggs on the car, spray paint on an overpass, hacking a web site, releasing a virus, it all looks the same to me. Are people truly that bored?

This entry is an experiment. As I type, my blog archive appears to be gone, eradicated by a hacker with time on his hands. Blogger (my host) was hacked on Christmas Day, for those of you who don't already know it. So far I'm the only one I know who actually lost content. What a wonderful Christmas present -- a clean start. *ahem*

I suspect that I'm giving the vandal too many column inches by even acknowledging that anything happened -- but it appears I cannot restore my blog, so I may as well explain it.

I had some interesting stuff up here, I thought. Many of you who read it were kind enough to tell me you thought so, too. But because this expletive has hosed my profile, I've had to manually rebuild my archive. Here are direct links to previous weeks, for as long as they last. If they fall out of BlogSpot, I have some other server space I can post them in. But it's a pain.


[Later: I was able to recover and re-post this week's comments, which you'll see below. If anybody linked directly to any of those messages pre-hack, those links won't work, but they'll at least bring you to this page. I also made hard links to the archives that Blogger is no longer automatically minding for me. All's relatively well that ends. Hackers are still jerks, though.]

[Later still: Had an "a-ha" moment. Now, if anybody linked to these messages pre-hack, those links will still work. No, really, it was nothing, all in a day's work, service with a smilie. :) ]

Censored Comics

It will attract my attention when other people decide what I may be allowed to see. Don't get me wrong, though: Newspapers have a right to choose what they publish. (Freedom of the press belongs to him who owns one.)

But when a headline reads Albuquerque Journal pulls comic strip for sexual content, who would suspect that the strip in question is Funky Winkerbean?

Les and Lisa Moore have decided that the time is right to have a baby. So far, so good. It worked for Gasoline Alley, Blondie, and For Better or For Worse. But Les and Lisa are having, er, fertility issues. The center of the controversy is a three-day sequence beginning on December 20, where Lisa coyly informs a nervous Les that "I took my temperature like the doctor said to, and I think I'm at my peak." On the 21st, they are shopping for a mood-setter, a romantic video. "You like *her*? Since when?" Les responds, "You know, this isn't turning out to be one of your better ideas."

Ah, but on the 22nd, the strip opens with Les and Lisa in bed, covers drawn, shoulders bare, with a sated Lisa asking Les, "That wasn't so gruelling, was it?" Suddenly I think I know what the Albuquerque Journal is nervous about.

Fortunately, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is not so shy, and the strips can be read on their web page -- even if you live in Albuquerque. (The official site is ten days' delayed, but these strips should be coming up there next week.)

Personally, I found the strips in good taste, and captured a feeling I know from experience. Sex is scary, even with one's loving partner, when you know you're making a baby -- even if you intend to get pregnant. Perhaps especially so. Is it out of bounds to say so in a comic strip?

So, what did they think Sally Forth was talking about that day she told her husband, "We were putting beans in the jar: Now we're taking them out"?

So, given that these strips are viewable on the web, is there any point to the Journal's decision not to run them?

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Put that down, you don't know where it's been

The charity of strippers embarrasses church
Without Walls leaders must decide whether to distribute toys collected at a Brandon strip club.
TAMPA -- Every year the Without Walls International Church holds a toy drive for needy children, and this year the church was thrilled [when WXTB-FM DJ] Bubba The Love Sponge Clem promised "a truckful" of toys.
Thrilled, that is, until discovering Friday the toys had been gathered by strippers at the Deja Vu nude club who agreed to flash their breasts in return for a toy donation.
"We certainly don't stand for that at all," church spokeswoman Jennifer Mallan said. "We wouldn't condone anything that has to do with something offensive ... something that degrades women."
The WXTB-FM 97.9 (98 Rock) disc jockey had urged listeners to join his toy drive and go to the strip club in Brandon on Friday morning.
...[Mallan] said she will meet with church officials about whether to accept the toys, which are supposed to be delivered today in time for a Christmas charity event at 2 p.m. More than 1,000 parents have registered to get toys for their children.
Well, what do you suppose will happen if they don't? Will the church have enough to go around without them?

Does anyone have an update on this? I'm consumed with curiosity how they resolved this moral issue.

Monday, December 24, 2001

You're a Mean One, Father Grinch

What? "Suspended Priest 'Does Not Believe in Xmas'"?

Oh, okay, I see. I think. This has to be one of those "Don't Take Christ Out of Christmas" rants we sometimes get around this time of year. So I read on...
DUBLIN (Reuters) - An Irish Protestant minister who does not believe in Christmas or that Jesus was the Son of God has been suspended from his post for three months to "reflect on his statements.''
Now, correct me if I'm mistaken, but don't we have a word for men of God who don't believe Jesus was His son? We call them "Rabbis".

Oh, well. It doesn't say anywhere that I have to understand anything. Happy World Mercantile Day, everybody.

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Gander, Newfoundland

Maybe I'm the last to hear about this. I wouldn't have known about it if mine hadn't been one of several dozen addresses on a mass e-mailing from a friend. I typically regard these skeptically, and a few minutes of research on or typically proves me right. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this story is dramatically, wonderfully true. The full story is in the New York Times of November 18. More details are at A summary follows:

Shortly after 9:30am on September 11, numerous westbound transatlantic flights were told that American airspace was closed, and to put down immediately wherever you can. For many of those flights, "wherever" was the town of Gander, a well-known (among those who need to know such things) refueling stop and one of the few airstrips in the area large enough to land a 747. But they normally get them one at a time: On 9/11, 37 planes landed there.

It took many hours just to deplane everybody: Thousands spent the night on the planes. This little town of 10,000 people found itself with over 6,500 unexpected guests, with no luggage (for security reasons, luggage wasn't released when the passengers were) and no projected departure time.

The good people of Gander, as well as nearby Lewisporte and the surrounding area as far as Twillingate, came through, with lodging, food, clothing, medical services -- whatever was needed.

No one could ask for better neighbors.

This is the best we can do?

According to, this is the funniest joke in the world. You'd better prepare yourself.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are going camping. They pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes wakes Watson up.
"Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce."

Watson says, "I see millions of stars, and if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life."

Holmes replied: "Watson, you idiot, somebody stole our tent!"
All right, the joke is pretty funny, but anything would be a letdown after an introduction like that.

But surely we can do better.

Saturday, December 22, 2001

It was time.

Welcome to the all new (well...) ad-free me. I've convinced myself that I'm going to keep doing this, so paying for the service (as Glenn Reynolds reminded us) was the Right Thing to Do. Thanks to all for the encouragement.

Thanks, as well, to Evan Williams at for providing this handy weblog service, and for listing me as a Blog of Note. I'm just cynical enough to suspect a connection between that and having just paid for ad-free service, but no less appreciative.

And to all you people who are seeing this because I am a Blog of Note, Hello! Pull up a chair. As they say, if you like what you see, tell your friends. If you have something to say about it, tell me. The address is right up there.

Thank You, MSNBC

I am learning so much about what life is like in Afghanistan. Not just that "the people are poor", which is generally all that the humanitarian organizations have traditionally wanted to tell us before picking our pockets, but what life is like. For example, they had hydroelectric dams, which generated reliable electricity for a significant fraction of the country ... but they (or their armed tourists) looted the power plants and stole the wires for scrap metal, and now they have one power plant, that sorta works, some of the time.

The more I learn about that part of the world and its people, the more I respect everything that allows me to sit here and chat about it. The technology, the culture, the value we place on individual achievement, all that I take for granted, they don't have. The USA might as well be on the moon for them, and the idea that anything we think or do has anything to do with them must seem as unlikely... as the reverse seemed to us on September 10.

Even (especially!) the assumption that government derives its power by consent of the governed. Afghanistan doesn't have that. (However distrustful I may get of government agencies, I know that the occasional *bang* I hear outside my window is only a vehicle backfiring, and the water in my tap is safe to drink.)

The important part of the press coverage of this adventure *ahem* is not the war news, but the stuff that fills time around the war news. The wider dissemination that gets, the more we may realize just how rich we are.

(Further reading: P. J O'Rourke, All the Trouble in the World.)

Monday, December 17, 2001

The FBI's Magic Lantern

I can't imagine why the FBI has publicly revealed this, but they are developing a trojan-horse-like program with which they can "infect" a computer they suspect is being used for illegal purposes. This program will allow them to monitor communications and computer usage.

The big deal with this one is that they don't have to achieve physical access to the computer they want to monitor. They can e-mail it to you, just like the authors of "ILOVEYOU" and "nimdA" did. Think of it as slipping your landlord a fifty to let the FBI into your apartment.

Oh, no, the FBI would never abuse this tool. ``Like all technology projects or tools deployed by the FBI it would be used pursuant to the appropriate legal process.''

Well, fine, but the above statement was delivered as a response to the question "Would it require a court order to use it?" Response it may be, but it ain't an answer.

This also puts the anti-virus companies in a difficult position. Such a trojan clearly falls into the realm of destructive and invasive programs that anti-virus software is designed to disable. Would an existing product catch it? Do the anti-virus companies have an obligation to update their product so that it will? Can the FBI, in the name of the War Effort, forbid the companies from doing this?

Will the FBI be able to preserve the secret of their "back-door"? Will other hackers be able to discover and exploit it? And if they do, will the FBI insist that this door be left open regardless?

Am I too paranoid? Is there such a thing as "too paranoid"?

Have I used too many question marks in this comment?

Friday, December 14, 2001

"Cavemen with AK 47's" has decided that this letter (adult language warning!) is probably a fake. In my opinion, Snopes is using "false" when "not proven" would be more appropriate.

You may have heard it: It purports to be a letter from "Saucy Jack", an American soldier on duty in Afghanistan, describing living conditions there -- and "how the war goes" devoid of any possible network news spin. You may find yourself wanting it to be true.

I refer you to it primarily for the imagery of the phrase "cavemen with AK 47's", which "Jack" uses to describe the belligerent, unsophisticated people of Afghanistan. This, sadly, is consistent with what we have seen of them on American television. Yes, everyone seems to carry guns over there (and that much, I have heard from a reliable source, is quite true), but they're as likely to swing them club-like by the barrel as to actually fire them at anybody.

But whatever else one can say about the Afghans, they are -- must be -- adaptable and tough. The fact that people do still live in Afghanistan is ample proof of that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Bad Headline, Good News

Bookstore assailant gets shelved
CARLISLE -- When a would-be robber walked into Erin Moul's used-book store and demanded that she open the cash register, she told him, "no."
When the man persisted on Tuesday, she showed him why she wasn't going to open it -- the 9mm pistol she pulled from her purse.
This is the kind of encounter that simply doesn't get counted when the gun control crowd is advocating the abolition of the second amendment.

If you should happen to find yourself in Cover to Cover Books in Carlisle PA, buy one. Buy several. Good deeds should be rewarded.


I just got my 200th hit. It took two weeks from #100. Somehow I don't think I'm responsible for's bandwidth problems, but thanks for visiting anyway. At this rate, I'll be in the rarified atmosphere of in... oh, 2025.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

Please, No Moore No More

Is anybody paying attention to Michael Moore anymore? Here's a typical scrap from his most recent online comments:
And please, dear friends, let's look at the bright side for once: The last time a Bush took us to war and got a 90% approval rating, he was toast and a ghost the following year. You can't get better than that.
The President has done pretty much everything you've been saying he should do. What does it take to satisfy you? Never mind, I think I know. He has to apologize to Al Gore and pack his bags. Nothing less will do, will it?

Moore hasn't had time to post to his website lately, probably because he's rewriting his new book, Stupid White Men and Other Excuses for the State of the Nation. (Gee, I wonder what it's about.) There are an "unspecified number" of copies (Moore himself has used the number 100,000) sitting in a warehouse somewhere. The original release date was September 11. Apparently events of the day have convinced him that possibly as much as half of the book requires revision and rewriting.

Given the remarks that remain on his web site, I'm pretty darned curious to know what he thought was so outrageous that it had to be changed.

I'm also wondering how many new faces and fresh voices are watching their advances disappear -- or never being considered for publication -- while ReganBooks throws away 100,000 hardback copies of an embarrassing book.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

The Afghan Economy

I've commented before that on September 11, we didn't know much more about Afghanistan than the average Afghan knew about us. (That is to say, most of what both of us knows is wrong.) But I didn't know just how right I was until I stumbled across this story from, dated now but still moving.

You may have already seen it. In a surreal variation of "Jack and the Beanstalk", Afghans spend their last few afghanis (the local currency) on a flashlight bulb and battery. They take the makeshift light into the mountains, and anchor it to create the illusion of life, so the Americans will bomb the place. Then they can trek back up there the next day, harvest the scrap metal from American munitions, and sell it for some real money.

Let me try to establish a scale. "A kilo of the bomb metal is sold for about 500 afghani (about a Pakistani rupee)", the article says, enough to buy a piece of bread. The exchange rate (as of this morning, from is 4,750 afghanis to the dollar: 500 afghanis would be about eleven cents.

Let's see, that 25 million dollar reward we were offering for the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden converts to... over 118 thousand million afghanis.

Heck, why don't we just drop money? It'd be cheaper to drop a sack full of quarters, and we'd throw the local economy into utter chaos. I mean, more so.

Can any of us really, emotionally grasp being so desperate as to try to attract bombing in order to collect the shell casings?

Think of that the next time you're trying to decide whether a penny is worth bending over to pick up.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Holiday Crunch

The closer it gets to Christmas, the less time I'll have for these comments. I promise I won't forget about them if you don't.

Live, from Kandahar, it's CBS Smackdown!

From the moment I heard that Dan Rather was going to interview Donald Rumsfeld, I felt certain there would be at least one classic Rather Moment in it. Proving that he knows what his audience wants, he delivered it with the first question.
Rather: Is it true that the U.S. military is indeed close to moving another force into this country possibly around Jalalabad and the Tora Bora cave section?
Rumsfeld: We don't announce anything with respect to prospective deployments.
Rather: I'm going to take that to mean that at least it may be under consideration.
Rumsfeld: It would be a mistake to take it as anything other than a standing Department of Defense and Don Rumsfeld policy that it puts people's lives in danger if we speculate about what might or might or might not happen in the future.
Rumsfeld 1, Rather 0.

Well, once they established once and for all just who's driving this interview, it ended uneventfully.

(Thanks, Oreta.)

Monday, December 03, 2001

So That's "It"?

You remember, "It", sometimes called "Ginger", that maybe-scooter that was all the buzz for about fifteen seconds back before the Election That Wouldn't Quit?

Well, the secret of It is finally Out. And since I never developed excessively high expectations for It, I have to say It actually looks like a clever little gadget. The combination of a small, powerful power source, and sophisticated gyroscopics that actually work to keep you on It, appears to result in a genuine New Thing.

I still think It's going to look pretty silly when Atlanta's Finest start taking to the streets on It -- er, Them -- early next year, as they've announced they will. I wonder what It's top speed is? If an officer has to pursue a suspect on foot, can he do so aboard It? And if he hops off to give chase on those not-quite-obsolete feet, will It still be where he left It when he goes back for It?

On the other hand, if you stole It, you couldn't ride It without people knowing where you got It.

(Yeah, I know the inventor calls it Segway. It's more fun to call it It. Besides, "Segway"? If this thing's gonna fly, it's gonna need a new name.)

MORE ABOUT SEGWAY: Hmm. Max capacity 250 pounds. That *ahem* lets me out.

17 mph. That is faster than a four-minute mile, so a policeman riding a Segway could, theoretically, outrun a running man. Assuming the man could stop laughing long enough to run effectively. But then what?

Runs for 2 hours on a 6 hour charge. This is the kind of nonsense that is killing electric automobiles.


Why would anyone buy that when they could afford this?

Saturday, December 01, 2001


"While the rest of the country waves the flag of Americana, we understand we are not part of that."--Mayor Bill Campbell of Atlanta
Quoted in the Washington Post, and requoted at, and now here. Although Mr Bill has said and done some awful things in office, I had no idea until now that he doesn't consider himself an American citizen, and that recent unpleasantness near Battery Park had nothing to do with him.

I repeat it just to let you know that he doesn't speak for me. And, for what it's worth, he's only got another month or so in office. Good riddance. You know what they say about people who aren't part of the solution.