05/08/2003

Seen on Slashdot:

“No matter where you go, there you are… about a block from Taco Bell.”

05/07/2003

Whenever I have the need to send a test e-mail message– one that I never want to see again, or one I use to sign up on some lame web site that requires an e-mail to register, I always use the same address:

god@heaven.org

Very clever, eh? (Heaven would be a non-profit organization, hence the .org extension.)

I always felt a little bad for the guy who owned heaven.org, because he would be getting all these random e-mail messages from whoever I happened to sign up with today. But then I checked the domain registry, and it turns out heaven.org isn’t owned by anyone!

Now I’m wondering if I should buy the domain, and what I might put there. The mind reels…

05/07/2003

Isn’t human nature fascinating?

Today I was driving along and I saw the guy in front of me toss his half-finished cigarette out the window onto the road. Now, this is a guy who probably wouldn’t think of tossing his candy wrapper on the grass at the park, but he doesn’t think twice about tossing cigarettes all over the streets.

By the same token, I wouldn’t walk into a music store and shoplift a CD. Yet I download digital music all the time and don’t really think twice about it.

And Laralee’s example: most people don’t dare run a red light, but have no trouble pushing the speed limit by 5 or 10 miles per hour.

Interesting, isn’t it?

04/26/2003

Great bumper sticker:

“If this sticker is blue, you’re driving too fast.”

(The sticker is red, of course.)

04/25/2003

By now most people have heard the story of the $780 million in cash
stashed in various places around Baghdad (including, of all places, a
dog pound).  It’s certainly an interesting tale, and it has apparently
raised an interesting question: whose money is it?

Lt. Colonel Philip DeCamp, the commander of the tank battalion that
occupies the Republican Palace, asserts, “this money belongs to the
U.S. government.”

Lt. Mark Kitchens of Central Command says instead, “all money found is
the property of the Iraqi people.”

I agree with the latter, and find it intriguing that anyone would think
otherwise.  It should be fun to see if the U.S. government attempts to
take the money as its own…

04/24/2003

One of the greatest songs ever recorded by mankind:

U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.

04/17/2003

Remember that scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when Sallah looks down into the big hole, turns to Indiana Jones, and says:

“Indy, why does the floor… move?”

To which our intrepid hero replies, “Ants… why did it have to be ants?”

That’s exactly what our kitchen was like a few days ago. Apparently our house was built on some kind of ant superhighway, because they started trooping through the house like they owned it. The kitchen was the worst– probably because there are always crumbs (darn kids!) laying around. You’d look closely at a spot of black on the floor and it would turn out to be about ten thousand ants swarming over an old Chee-to.

Anyway, the problem was getting to epidemic proportions when I said to Laralee that I’d used enough Kleenex to squash ants, and was tired of hearing the kids rev up the Dustbuster to take out one of the colonies in the family room. I got the can of Raid. It didn’t say anything about ants, but hey, as Laralee pointed out there was a picture of a dead ant right on the can.

I sprayed a couple of the places they were swarming from (under the baseboards, naturally). I figured we might get lucky.

Five minutes later it looked like someone had spilled pepper on the floor. There were dozens of little curled-up shriveled ants laying there, and dozens more kind of wobbling around trying to figure out what the heck hit them. Since that day I haven’t seen a single living ant in the house.

Mwah ha haaaaa!

04/13/2003

Slashdot had some great articles today (maybe Sunday is a good day because lots of people have lots of time to write?). I came across one dealing with a guy who’d created a web site to compare the starships of various science-fiction books and movies. This is, of course, a classic debate amongst fans of, say, “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”.

As usual with Slashdot, the commentary drifted from the original topic and I found a great description of why you never see “realistic” space battles in movies or computer games. Here it is, with minimal editing:

Any ship with more acceleration then the other ship can always escape.

Unless you use an unrealistically slow amount of thrust, you tend to have these ships zipping by each other at the very least hundreds of miles per hour, leaving you with a fraction of a second to meaningfully fire on the other ship, then it’s turn back around and do it again. Since you’re a human you can’t whip around instantly, and it takes time to move the ship, so every time you miss and come around for another pass, you’re going a little faster since you had more time to accelerate.

It is virtually impossible to tail someone. If you’re matching their thrust vector, you’re not pointing at them– you’re pointing in the same direction they are. Now, if you had a gunner this might be OK, but when you’re both piloting and gunning, this doesn’t work.

It takes time to learn how to land on things! Typically to get somewhere in an airplane-like space simulator you point your ship at it, apply maximum boost, and stop when you get there. Do that in a real simulator and you’ll whack into the object (or miss it) at a significant fraction of the speed of light. You have to learn to turn at “midpoint”, which, inconveniently enough, is also when you’re going the fastest and this is fairly hard for a human to do correctly. (If you’re on autopilot, it’s easier, but if you’re on autopilot you’re not really playing…) Turn around a little too soon, and you have to creep up on the target object, which might literally take several minutes or even hours. Turn around a little too late and by the time you realize it you’re on an unstoppable collision course. *Whack*.

“Random” encounters are impossible without cheating. I would routinely see enemies boost across the system, probably hitting the 1/3 light speed, on an intercept course, and the instant they reached me, “suddenly” they’re on basically the same vector as me so they can fight me. Reality is they should have zipped across my radar so fast it would be unlikely I would even see them.

Space is big. By the time ships are moving in real Newtonian mechanics and not taking years to get from Earth to Mars, you’re incapable of handling the scales as a human. The computer cheating helps but not enough (and it’s frustrating as all computer cheating is). A tactics-level simulator might be cool, but flying around in Newtonian space is no fun at all. If it was, we’d have more simulations based on that.

Also note this demonstrates space piracy is virtually impossible unless your acceleration is on par with your maximum speed, because you just can’t intercept ships to save your life. (Literally, in some cases.)

04/08/2003

I’m glad my name isn’t…

…Asif Iqbal, for example. That’s the name of a suspected terrorist being held at Guantanamo Bay for over a year, and also the name of a guy who lives in New York and does a lot of business flying. He has to get clearance from the FBI *every week* when he boards planes, because he’s on the TSA’s “no fly” list.

Or at least his name is.

We’re seeing a host of problems with the new TSA list, which is only a precursor to the impending evil of CAPPS II. All sorts of people– grandmothers, teachers, even Pentagon consultants– have unfortunate names that tag them as terrorists in the database. The biggest problem, of course, is that once you’re on the list you really can’t get off. Letters to congressmen, the TSA, or the FBI don’t do any good. One government official suggested to one of the unlucky people that he should change his name. Whee!

At this rate, soon everywhere we go we’ll hear someone say (with an eastern European accent, of course) “Your papers, please.”

04/07/2003

I’m helping a friend set up a web site, and he was registering the domain in the Netherlands (which is where he lives). The registrar was griping about something, and I’m sure I could figure it out if I could just read Dutch:

“Het registratie bureau nederland doet een zone transfer en kijkt op de
servers of daar een file staat voor deze domein naam, helaas is dit
waarschijnlijk bij deze nameservers neit toegestaan, en zal het
nederlandse registratie bureau u aanvraag hierop afwijzen, gaarne
contact opnemen met de eigenaars van deze nameservers en vragen of zij dit corrigeren.”

Whee!

04/06/2003

I don’t think my diet will be the subject of a bestselling weight-loss book any time soon. Here’s an excerpt of my actual menu last week:

THURSDAY
Breakfast: bowl of dry Rice Krispies and orange juice.
Lunch: pepperoni pizza Hot Pocket.
Snack: chocolate eclair.
Dinner: homemade pepperoni pizza.
Bedtime snack: chocolate eclair.

FRIDAY
Breakfast: bowl of dry Rice Krispies and orange juice.
Lunch: pepperoni pizza at Woody’s.
Snack: chocolate eclair.
Dinner: pepperoni pizza from Domino’s.
Bedtime snack: chocolate eclair.

SATURDAY
Breakfast: bowl of dry Raisin Bran and orange juice.
Lunch: leftover pepperoni pizza.
Snack: chocolate eclair.
Dinner: roast beef sandwich.
Bedtime snack: chocolate eclair (the last one, sadly).

It’s a marvel I don’t have greasy hair, heart problems, and weigh 220 pounds…

04/06/2003

This evening I was wandering around the house, picking up random toys and doing the usual nightly cleanup. I heard the Dustbuster roar to life… MWRAAAAAR… and figured Laralee had found some cracker crumbs to vacuum or something.

Everything was quiet.

MWRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR.

Quiet.

MWRAAAAR.

This repeated a dozen times before I decided I’d better figure out what was happening. It turns out that Alex and Kyra had taken it upon themselves to clean the house of ants. It’s some kind of spring migration season, so we’ve seen handfuls of ants parading boldly around the house for the past week or so.

They were going around the downstairs, looking for these teensy ants crawling around, then snagging them with the Dustbuster.

MWRAAAAAAAAR.

04/05/2003

Boy, it seems like the first bowl of Raisin Bran out of the box is always devoid of raisins. I guess they all settle into the middle, and that means no one wants to be the first person to load up on Raisin Bran.

Surely twenty-first-century technology could come up with a solution to this pressing consumer problem…?

04/04/2003

Two weeks ago a man named Mike Hawash was arrested by the FBI as he arrived at work; at the same time a team of agents raided his house (while his wife and kids slept) and seized computer equipment and personal files. For these two weeks he’s been locked in solitary confinement in a federal facility, with only limited access to his family and lawyers.

Oh, and he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Friends and associates say the only reason they can fathom for this is that three years ago Mike donated $10,000 to a charitable organization called the Global Relief Foundation. It’s a Muslim group that funds the construction of mosques and schools in the U.S. and medical facilities in the West Bank (Hawash was born in the West Bank but is a U.S. citizen).

While it’s hard to know whether Hawash was doing something more sinister, I find it alarming that he’s been held for two weeks as a “material witness” to terrorist activities but no charges have been made. (Note, for the record, that last year the GRF charity was accused of “links to terrorist organizations”– a charge it has denied– but even so that was years after the donation in question was made.)

What the heck is happening around here? How far will the government go in this mythical war on terrorism, and how much will the public watch in silence?

04/02/2003

It’s been a busy few weeks, which probably explains my scarce journalling. Today, though, I have to climb back on my soapbox and shout about the idiotic legislators in Colorado and eight other states who are proposing new laws that will actually make it illegal to operate a network firewall or, in fact, most technologies used to connect to the internet.

The law is intended to combat cell phone “cloning” and network “hacking”, but the language is so broad that it would include network address translation (NAT) technology that’s the basis of all firewalls, cable modems, and even home networks. Anything that “conceals the source” of a network transmission would be a crime.

I can’t seriously believe that firewalls will become illegal. They’re a generally-accepted security measure used by hundreds, of not thousands, of corporations in the state.

Under the legislation, cable modems would also be illegal because they perform NAT by giving you a (usually) 10.x.x.x address on the LAN and a routable IP on the external interface.

Finally, even using Windows’ Internet Connection Sharing would be illegal, since it too uses NAT. That would affect dial-up users as well as the DSL, cable-modem, and T1 crowds.

So basically, it could affect nearly everyone in the state who gets on the internet. How could you possibly enforce such a law? There would be an amazing outrage if the cops started shutting down ISPs, companies, and (heaven forbid) home users for these violations.

I suspect one of two things will happen: (1) the legislators will come to their senses and either rewrite the bill, or kill it; (2) if it passes, it will be unenforceable for the reasons I’ve mentioned. Either way, I don’t see much reason to worry that my livelihood is in danger.

All the same, it’s staggering to think about how these new laws continue to erode our freedoms and– in this case– do so in a way that’s not well-considered and will have implications far beyond their intent. Give me a break.

03/19/2003

Now that all the snow has stopped falling, it’s time to clean up. This turned out to be that really wet, slushy, heavy snow. Great for making snowmen, terrible for shoveling out of the driveway. Two of our enterprising neighborhood kids came over and offered to shovel the snow, but they gave up after about ten minutes.

Later, Laralee and I both found out why. That stuff was really really heavy. After several hours (two by her, a half by me) we had most of the driveway cleared, and tomorrow our backs will probably be thanking us.

Being the kind of guy I am, I was curious how much snow we shoveled. Our driveway is about 70 feet long, and we cleared about 12 feet across. The snow was at least one and a half feet deep (more in places). Multiplying that out, it comes to 1,260 cubic feet of snow. And compacted slushy snow weighs around 30 pounds per cubic foot.

All told, we shoveled 37,800 pounds of snow from our driveway alone!

That would make quite a snowman.

03/19/2003

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Some people in the Denver area– like those stuck at the (closed) airport, or the truck drivers stuck on the side of the (closed) highways– probably aren’t enjoying this week’s winter wonderland much. But I’m loving it. We’ve got well more than a foot now, and I think the drifts in our driveway would submerge Zack.

It’s good not only because we need the water, but because this entire winter has been somewhat of a disappointment in terms of snowfall. A nice blizzard now and again does wonders for the spirit.

When you work at home, that is…

03/18/2003

Get out the duct tape (again) because now we’re at threat level ORANGE PLUS! That’s right, campers, this is even worse than last time– which was just plain old carrot orange.

Of course any idiot with the IQ of cabbage could tell you that as we prepare to attack Iraq there’s a greater threat that someone might hit back. But looking more closely at the new threat, there are a few items of note. These are all quoted from an article on MSNBC:

“[Tom Ridge] said that, so far, the intelligence community hadn’t identified any specific threats to the nation.”

Hmm. Good thing we’re bumping the threat level, then. At least last time he said that the intelligence community had indications of something going down. This time there’s nothing really specific– maybe he had gas or something and took it as a sign.

Mr. Ridge continued with, “There is bound to be disinformation. Don’t react to rumors. We will strive to get the facts out there as fast as we can.”

Yeah, like the way they’re always getting the facts out to us. I don’t think I’ve seen many facts at all when it comes to this ridiculous Threat Level ballyhoo. It’s all mamby-pamby “well, maybe something’s going to happen” nonsense.

In an amazingly prophetic statement, Ridge also said, “We know we have been attacked before. We know that our interests have been attacked abroad. And we should prepare for potential attacks, either here or abroad at this time.”

Thank you, Nostradamus. So we’ve narrowed it down to a POTENTIAL attack, either here or abroad… in other words, something MIGHT happen SOMEWHERE in the world.

Finally, “U.S. counterterrorism officials say the most specific information points to possible attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East.”

Holy cow– now I understand why these guys are getting paid the top dollars while I just sit around poking holes in their Threat Levels. Only a Nobel laureate could come up with logic that says someone might attack our soldiers marching into combat!

It’s certainly general knowledge that I openly mock the Threat Level system for its meaningless colors and lack of hard evidence, but even those who support the system for its ability to keep us “on our toes” (and buying plastic sheeting) must see this sort of rhetoric from Tom Ridge and others in the administration as nothing short of laughable.

Sigh.

03/17/2003

Woo hoo! It looks like we’re finally going to be getting some real snow around here… according to the National Weather Service’s winter storm warning:

A MAJOR WINTER STORM WILL BRING VERY HEAVY SNOW TO THE EASTERN
SLOPES OF THE FRONT RANGE…THE FRONT RANGE CITIES…AND THE PALMER
DIVIDE. THE SNOW IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE FALLING INTO WEDNESDAY…
AND POSSIBLY INTO THURSDAY MORNING. A WINTER STORM WARNING IS IN
EFFECT THROUGH WEDNESDAY FOR THESE AREAS. TOTAL STORM ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 5 FEET ARE EXPECTED IN THE MOUNTAINS AND FOOTHILLS…WITH 1 TO 3 FEET IN THE FRONT RANGE CITIES. AT THIS TIME IT LOOKS LIKE THE WORST OF THE SNOW AND WIND WILL BE TUESDAY NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY.

03/13/2003

Sunny. Seventy degrees. No wind.

Sounds like a good time to go out and play ultimate. So La and I packed up the kids and went to a park at lunchtime to play some pickup with about a dozen other people. It was a lot of fun, but only served to demonstrate (not surprisingly) how terribly out of shape I am.

Still, we’ve got to go and get ourselves back in shape for the all-important summer league. Hopefully the weather will hold for all Thursday lunch games…