2005.09.30

Your Attention Please.

23.41.00 - Mark

Edit: Oct 10, 2005 - At least one person who has read this post felt it was a how to on bombing schools. They acted on that misinterpretation and on October 10th, 2005 I was questioned by an FBI agent. Let me make it clear that this post is not a how to bomb schools, its a post on how I would minimize the impact of a bombing if it was to happen. I may explain how to carry out a bombing, but emergency services are constantly developing practice scenarios to learn how to best deal with diasters, and thats what I do here. Skim over that if you want, but make sure to read the last three paragraphs, thats the important part of this post. For more on the questioning, See here


This was written shortly after a bomb evacuation drill at the lovely High School University about 12 hours before the actual blogger time. so enjoy

There is a bomb in the building. Please leave your Intelligence Behind.

I'm writing this minutes after a "Bomb Evacuation Drill" and like nearly everything else in this post 9/11 era it is a prefect example of group think cluster-fucking. Thats not to say that the drill didn't go smoothly, it did for as much was planned, but they aren't thinking about what the effect would be. Let's say I'm a bomber, and thats not too far of a stretch because as I have pointed out in the past its extremely easy for anyone to cook up a bomb (google anarchist's cookbook) make a decent remote detonator (cell phone and some cheap electronics) and combine them to make things go boom. So what exactly happened during this evacuation drill?

Congregations. Each building has a designated location to goto where they call for an evacuation. Thats not one location for each building, its more like three or 4 evacuation locations for all the buildings

If I was joe bomber and wanted to do the maximum human damage possible at High School University, I would build one or two bombs for each location into the trunk of a car (something cheap, like a used Geo Metro, a Kia, or a truck - which oh by the way - would blend perfectly with the types of cars students here are driving) Now park them near the evacuation areas the school has designated (all of them at the edge of a parking lot) On a busy day all the parking spaces are filled so you can't have bodies floating around freely, they're all confined to a certain space. Call in the threat (being specific that the device is in one of the buildings) and when everyone is evacuated, remotely detonate and tada, maximum kill zone. Proceed to watching the TV news coverage while running out of country - say Iraq. So the school's evacuation plan for bomb threats is bull.

Notice I said threats. As I see it the only reason someone would threaten to blow up a building is 1) if they're bluffing and want something out of it or 2) want to inflict maximum damage (as pointed out above). The one type of "bomb threat" that the plan actually works for is of the unexpected i.e. your 9/11s and train bombings, and you'll forgive me if I can't find the 9/11 commission document that talked about the threat issued to us by the attackers around 8am the morning of the attack.

So it fails when the attack is unannounced (most likely), it fails miserably when the attacker wants to do the most damage possible, and it doesn't do anything either way when the threat is a bluff. So what's the point, at least beyond the "feel good" effect? Anyone? Anyone?

Now that I've outlined so much of this I'd really hate for it to come back and bite me in the ass so here's how you get away from this centralization. Train all the teachers and staff to form distributed groups. The campus here (like at most schools) has a shit load of space available so you can very easily spread groups out in parking lots, grassy areas, baseball fields, etc. You can still have a handful sweep the buildings, and really need to (if for nothing else - to look for the bomb) Since the number of groups is significant, you'll see and communicate with the "evacuation cells" when they move back into the buildings (people are nice and stupid, mostly the will follow - especially in groups).

Of course this isn't going to be able to stop a really determined attacker. They will always be able to do significant damage, but as we're learning from middle eastern groups, a single Cell Unit is extremely hard to take down, and the challenge grows exponentially when you try and take down more at once. I don't know why this isn't a normal practice in emergency planning.

Keep in mind this concept is for schools, where the cells are virtually pre-made. The corporate challenges are different, but as the survivors of 9/11 proved, people on the ground organize themselves faster a lot more effectively than the hierarchies you find built into school environments.

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Who is this God Person Anyways?

23.19.00 - Mark

I'm still chomping though this, but a lot of news organizations have been running this wire story, but in typical mass media fashion they don't properly credit the paper or author, which makes it more than a little challenging to find. Fortunately I'm skilled with that which is google so I've tracked it down, and I'm reading it now. I think anyone who has read this blog knows where I stand on religion (the wonders of triangulation) so I won't make this a soap box for my own arguments because I want you to read it and think about it.

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Back to my not so normal self

05.03.00 - Mark


Pre-dawn Lounging
Originally uploaded by Mark_W.
I've picked up a dozen some hours of quality sleep, so I'm no longer suffering from Gully Foyle mixed up sense syndrome. I woke up around 4, picked up a breakfast of last nights Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff, a mug of hot chocolate, while passing on leftover german potato salad. I check some of my RSS feeds, making not that apparently everyone of my favorite bloggers had posted reviews of Serenity after having seen it at midnight showings. I clear out of lot of the others, but I'll hold off on serious reading for a few hours. Having finished my electic breakfast, and not wanting to stare at my laptop for a few hours, I turn on the TV only to realize that the only thing on are those misserably stupid infomercials designed to place victims into a sleep like state, yet leave they cogent enough to call in orders for the cheap plastic products they're hawking. Not wanting to fall prey to the sirens call, I turn to my iPod where waiting for me is the latest issue of Escape Pod, my favorite Science Fiction Audio Magazine, looks like this one is biopunk, so I tune in, and drop into a predawn hammock, that, as always, is supprisingly comfortable.

Like I said, I'm back- to my not so normal self...

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Serenity

15.46.00 - Mark

10 months ago I made my first mention of Serenity, the movie based on Firefly, a short lived Fox TV show cancelled before it could end its first season. While thats common practice at Fox anymore, Firefly was amazing, developing a rabid following that had a decent 3rd party option to the Star Trek/Star Wars debate. I'm sort of sad that it took me 3 years after its cancellation to finally get around to learning about it, especially since I love the science fiction genre. The veer back on point I've been waiting for Serenity to come out for about 10 months (likely more - but I can't quite prove it), well not quite sitting as I've sunk close to $100 (very well spent) into the franchise. And today, finally, I got to see the movie, and it is shiny! I won't go into details other than to say that while the movie can stand on its own, it is made for the fans. If you can, get a hold of the DVDs (beg, borrow, rent, or steal) and watch them before seeing Serenity, because they really do add a whole new layer to the movie. You don't need to go into the comics or anything, but at least a few of the episodes (like the intended pilot - also named Serenity, Out Of Gas, Objects in Space, possibly Ariel and Heart of Gold) If you can't, are too lazy, or poor to get the DVDs, go see the moive. It'll change your mind.

But yes Firefly / Serenity good. Go see Serenity. Go watch Firefly. Then go see Serenity again. maybe a third time too....

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2005.09.29

The not so fun side effects of sleep deprivation

12.47.00 - Mark

I'm not getting the REM cycles I need and I know it. Trust me I've been trying to this week but it just hasn't been happening for assorted reasons (at least the crickets are quieting down as it gets cooler) I have every intention of being asleep before 8PM tonight and will kill anyone who dares wake me short of a massive disaster.

However I'm noticing some really weird, very not fun side effects of sleep deprivation.

The first is the headache. When I'm short a few hours sleep I know it because of a general headache, but with as little sleep as I have this week, I'm noticing a special headache. A double headache. It feels like my head is split into 6 quadrants, and two non touching quadrants are hurting, one distinctly more than the other. I don't think I've ever had that happen before

Furthermore my tongue isn't working right, I kind of feel like Gully Foyle from Bestler's "The Stars my Destination" (one of my favorite books) Specifically the scene where his senses are mixed up. When I had some sugar based candies the moment it touched my tongue there was a shocking pain, sort of burning, and as that subsided it tasted rancid and extremely bitter.

I'm also dazed but functional. I was drafted into some stupid task during class this morning, some server configuration, and did it perfectly while 1/3rd (or less) awake.

Strange Strange Things.

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2005.09.27

War!

12.37.00 - Mark

Current (Failing) Wars

War on Poverty (1964)
War on Drugs (1971)
War on Terror (Early 1990's or 2001, depending on viewpoint)
War on Porn (2005)

Anyone else see a problem with the success rate? Do we really need to start another "war" on something that has been part of society for thousands of years?

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There are no Mac Viruses

11.09.00 - Mark

One of the greatest things about being a Mac user is that I don't need to run an antivirus program and sweep for spyware thirty thousand times a day, because there are next to no Mac viruses. Thats not to say there are aren't and exploits, and it's not to say that there isn't malware out there, because well there is. There are in fact Mac Viruses, but there are under 40 of them and pretyt much all of them arn't the networked malware we typically define as a virus. For Mac users not running excessivly strange applications, and being mindful of your documents is usualy enough to keep your system happy (trust me, if there is ever a wide spread/propragating Mac virus that does more than display some stupid pop up, you will hear about it)

Now I can pretty easily explain that on a one to one basis but convincing the mass media is something else, as the guys at Macslash and Wil Shipley can atest to. News outlets refuse to belive/publish the phrase "There are no viruses for Mac OS X" so Wil Shipley, formerly of Omnigroup and now of Delicious Monster (read one really smart guy) is offering a bounty to anyone who can prove that there has in fact been an in-the-wild virus that has infected a default installation of OS X (any flavor) as of a couple days ago.

I'm glad he's doing this, and if there was a way to chip into the pot I probably would, but what seems to be going over the heads of most geeks is that this is not a vius writting contest. If you read the post and then read the comments/offsite commentary (ie those at Digg.com) its mind boggling to see how many people are intrupting "This is research, I want you to prove that its been done" as "lets write a virus, get some cash, and maybe a job with Delicious Monster".

People are stupid. Most of them at least.

Back to waiting to see if NerdTV is release by noon so I can DL it at school.

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Google Tid Bits

10.35.00 - Mark

Stumbled across this blog post on Google Policy and some history. Some of it I knew, but some of the things like how features are adopted and the UI stuff I didn't. I'm not entirely supprised by it, its a very engineer type thing. Anyways cool litte read if you want to waste a minute (and you clearly do because you're reading these ramblings.)

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Yeay!

21.58.00 - Mark

I love my hosting provider. I love them love them love them. They turned 8 years old and rather than giving them gifts, they gave me some, unlimited domains and sub-domains, in addition to everything else they've given me over the last 9 months of hosting, like triple the bandwidth, new software tools, and weekly increasing bandwidth/storage limits. The only problem I've had with them is the LA blackout a couple weeks ago, but hey they got it back up and running in a hurry. So did I mention I love these guys? I really really recommend these guys and if you want some dirt cheap hosting to play with, you can't go wrong with them, especially since the current promotion is 80% off the first year, which on the basic package is $25 (with free domain) Thats a sweet deal. I've casually been working on a redesign, but after some stuff clears up this week I might sink some more effort into that and see about doing more than a cheap redirect (part of which was going to include moving stuff to my linux box and host it over DSL, but no more - at least not for my regular sites). Frankly I'd love to get off Google's locked up blogspot servers (and away from the all the spam-o-blogs). This is making my moves a lot easier, and I love it.

Since I'll be renewing my .mac account (which was recently upgraded as well), I suspect will that account will play host to the majority of my photo collection as well as some of the multi-system syncing I'd like to do. Flickr is cool, but I can only upload a dozen or so photos a month before I hit the free account upload caps, and frankly I've got other places I'd like to spend $25 a year at. I'll post my favorite ones on flickr, as well as the .mac page (assuming this is how I actually restructure my spaces) but I don't think there will be more than uhh 20? flickr photos a month (as opposed to upto several hundred on the .mac account)

Anyways enough on the hosting. I actually have some school work to do.

Dreamhost, the promo code is 888 and entered late in the registration process (one of the last steps.).

Of course now that I've got unlimited domains, give me a yell if you want a real site without the hassle of dealing with server configurations and registrations. $15 - $20 sounds good for a year (with a full domain, less if you're willing to put up with a subdomain on one of my existing domains.)

Seriously I'm done now

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2005.09.26

They're figuring out my secrets

20.44.00 - Mark

Some people might wonder why I'm not a fan of this fear-mongering the Bush Administration is doing, or why I really oppose things like the DMCA, and the answer is pretty simple. They make me a criminal. What those laws and policies do is not protect us, but blind us, but stopping people with inquisitive natures (like myself) from finding out the weaknesses they are too lazy to properly fix. Security though obscurity does not work, because there are always going to be people who are intrigued by the obscure. And don't tell me that I'm worrying about nothing, I suspect that there are a lot of geeks like this guy, who are detained for having a deeper relation with technology and information than most. And don't tell me that it can't happen to me because I'm in the States and not in the UK. Our cultures are not all that dissimilar.

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Broadband Complaints

20.27.00 - Mark

Today a UK ISP launched 24Mbps service for 24 pounds a month. By contrast, average consumer broadband in the states cost $50 a month (about 24 pounds) and gets 256kbps. ($60-$75/month might get you up to 3Mbps).

Thats bullshit.

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I Really Hate Crickets

18.40.00 - Mark

The fucking things are screwing with my sleep cycle. Last night I don't think I was out long enough to hit a single REM cycle, and the fucking things are still going. Doesn't help matters that the Mayberry Day thing was exhausting as hell, directly and indirectly. Matt, who must have worked a good deal more than 24 hours in three days, was flat on his ass this morning, and everyone in the house knew that there wasn't any point in his going to school. I wasn't as lucky needing to go in for math class, the inane "internet multimedia class" (read: lets all learn to use flash like 2nd graders) and go into my Art class, which is just as bad but thankfully not as long. The only thing that got me though class was by spending 5 bucks for a coke, a couple breakfast burritos, and a hashbown at McDonalds on the way out of town. I honestly can't believe how nasty those things are. The only redeeming value of them is they are so filled with the bad stuff that they force your metabolism to keep your body awake, which was about the only reason I ever go to McDonalds now.

An interesting side note, between cycles with my eyes closed, I skimmed though Make Volume 3 (I really need to subscribe), and one of the columns was on hacking your sleep cycle. The one page column didn't go into extreme detail, but it did point me to a neat, NC based blog called Circadiana which covers one thing. Sleep. The same guy runs a Political Commentary by equating it to science blog that also looks interesting, but I'll need to be a lot more functional before I do some serious backreading at either blog (although I have read enough of each to stick it in the RSS reader.)

I may try a couple of the hacks mentioned there (the sleeping blog), as well as pull from a list I've made from reading other life hacking blogs (43folders and lifehacker - sorry you'll need to dig up your own links today, I'm too tired) I know I can get something to work. I need to. I suspect it won't be until after I bug bomb the fucking basement to exterminate all the fucking crickets.

So Yeah. Anyways. (a few more hours and I'll reattempt obtaining those precious REM cycles)

Waking a person unnecessarily should not be considered
a capital crime. For a first offense, that is. -- Robert A Heinlein

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Distractions

01.20.00 - Mark

Yet Another Worth1000 Contest this time its Reality Manga.

Boston.com's Top 50 SciFi Shows Decent list, I've heard of all but a couple of them, seen most, and enjoyed nearly all of the ones I've seen, but who ever wrote the list, probably wasn't a real scifi geek. I mean Doctor Who is still on the air (even if it did break off during most of the 90s), and some of the included shows well, aren't really scifi. The author is blurring comics and scifi. I mean nearly all of it is great TV, but I don't think I'd lump Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman in with Firefly, Sliders, MST3K, and Star Treks.

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2005.09.23

If Karma Exists....

22.31.00 - Mark

If karma exists, it owes me right now.

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Welcome to Mayberry

16.37.02 - Mark


Mayberry Days Squad Car
Originally uploaded by Mark_W.
Its that time of year again. Time to break out the vending trailers, hang the local banners and raise the flag of Mayberry. Its Mayberry Days again in Mount Airy North Carolina (home to Andy Griffith and inspiration for Mayberry) This little weekend festival was dreamt up several years before I arrived in NC, but in an area where the textile based industry disappeared overnight, tourism is a powerful catalyst for economic recovery, especially when an area has direct access to a friendly cult-like following like the Fans of Mayberry.

Last year we had thousands of Andy Griffith and Mayberry Fans come running into town to see the man himself and while its unreasonable to expect that turn out again this year (no Andy) there are still plenty of people packing into the local hotels and restaurants from all over the country.

After class today I went wandering around downtown with my new camera and snapped a few shots which I just uploaded a few to my flickr account I'd say that there are at least 100 people out this afternoon and considering that it's 96 degF and 2PM on a friday afternoon, that's a pretty good turnout. I'll likely walk around again this evening or tomorrow and see if the crowds grow, and I'm sure it will.

Mayberry Days is the first of two major fall festivals for the area, and the larger of the two, Autumn Leaves, will start in a few weeks as the trees start shedding their leaves for reasons other than a lack of moisture. I'll probably enjoy that one a lot more (plenty of food and larger masses of people)

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2005.09.22

Grrr

01.18.00 - Mark

I was going to post about how some of the lessons learned from Katrina are already being applied to Rita, then throw a low blow at FEMA and the Bush Administration, but it took 30 minutes to load the blogger interface. Now I know why - its because I have a series of legal video files downloading/seeding on my linux box (nerdtv, and systm). Supposedly this is a "broadband connection" labeled DSL but in reality its glorified always on dialup. I know I ranted on this the other day but real broadband is at least 3Mbps unmetered with no upload/download caps (European standard), and the cutting edge stuff in South East Asia is 10Mbps now, and they're looking at 1Gbps in urban areas by the end of the decade. The flaky service that my ISP is calling broadband is billed 256kbps, and has a combined throughput cap that is simply put annoying as hell.

I understand that there are some technical and bureaucratic difficulties, and I understand that I'm not the average consumer but damned it, I want real broadband, not this glorified POTS connection. And Sprint I know damned well you're the only people limiting me to 256kbps, a flick of a switch and I could see a 6x speed bump, and it wouldn't cost you a single cent more than my current connection.

At least they aren't blocking ports like some asshat ISPs (which would really tick me off).

Before anyone criticizes me for being a spoiled bandwidth junkie, I remember surfing AOL in the middle of the night with a long distance 9600bps connection, as well as years at or below 56k POTS.

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2005.09.21

The Tech Commandments

15.50.00 - Mark

Pay attention to the the 7th commandment, else thy shall recieve my wrath. (click on the thumbnail for the full sized Joy Of Tech Comic)

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2005.09.20

I hate crickets.

14.58.00 - Mark

The basement seems to be infected wiuth the damned things, even a fan and some loud music isn't drowning the damned bugs out. What worse is that they're hiding underneath the cement, and its impossible to get at the fucking things to kill em'

Grrr.

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2005.09.19

I'm a statistic!

21.12.00 - Mark

As best as I can figure I was part of the most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. What perturbed me is that 1) they recognize two political parties (guess which two), 2) they barely recognize non-christian religions, and 3) even after you've finish the poll they won't (or can't) tell you who sponsored the poll or what its for. I've taken the damned poll, I'm not going to change my answers. Anyways between those questions combined with the processed answers, and listening to this IT Conversation on how southeast asia is kicking our ass in terms of science and technology I'm partially ignoring John F. Kennedy's suggestion that I ask what I can do for my country and instead am asking some things of it.



I'm sure there are some more things I would like from my country, but if you start working on this list, I'll see about working on yours.

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The Power of Feeds Comples You

20.46.00 - Mark

To my almost, but not quite entirely, imaginary readership, subscribe to the feed. All my wonderful insights, del.icio.us linkage and flickr powered fun has converged into one feed at feedburner. So just subscribe. OK?

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Dude, You ordered from Dell

13.38.00 - Mark

I usually hate Dell on all counts. The products they build are junk, the advertising campaigns are annoyingly unimaginative, I've heard countless horror stories about their technical support, the Dell mall kiosks are staffed by useless flesh pylons, and their website is painful to look at, let alone navigate. However last week I did manage to navigate it (or rather found a deal site that did most of the navigation for me) and ordered a Canon SD300 ultra compact digital camera (read: the size of an altoids/penguin mints tin) for some obscenely great price (nearly $100 off Amazon's price). The fact that it is last generation certainly played into it but screw it. Its still a decent digital camera for a great price (and if I don't like it I can sell it off for a profit and get a newer one)

However to get away from the fact that it was a great price (one credit to dell) Dell Ships fast I ordered late Thursday night, received order confirmation Friday morning, got the memory card Saturday and the Camera this morning. That was free shipping too, not overnight or otherwise expedited. I'm happy (which means I'll be writing an Educational and/or Political post in a while)

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2005.09.17

Propriters of good taste

22.12.00 - Mark

Don't you just love religious fanitics, first they make a big stink about how the Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" was in horrible taste and they only get away with such things because of liberals with insufficent morals. In their minds the people who show vulgar images should be drawn and quartered. Well at least liberals and those of us with "bad ethics and morals" aren't parading around a fleet trucks with pictures of fetuses in an effort to sway others into our view points. In my mind this is like burning a flag to make political statements. Its your 1st amendment and basic human right to do so, but it is somewhat hypocritical and is only damaging your position of "higher moral grounds".

Sick freaks.

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2005.09.16

I hate Bad Science

16.02.00 - Mark

I hate Bad Science. What is bad science?

From Wikipedia

"Bad science" usually refers either to substandard scientific methods or to findings that have been arrived at by such methods. Occasionally what is meant by "bad science" is something equivalent to pseudoscience or junk science. The term is also sometimes applied ironically to research that, even if conducted in a scientific way, appears to have been inspired by a false assumption or a trivial question and concerns matters that look humorous when depicted as science.


I'm usually pretty good about staying away from bad science, I'm fairly critical so its generally not hard for me to recognize bad science, either because I have seen or heard of it being debunked, or because I know what types of questions to ask. Unfortunately its been hard for me to avoid it today.

The first occurrence was during my math class, and we're learning (or in my case relearning) how to graph systems of inequalities, as well as how to find min and max points on a graph. So at one point the teacher proposes an always welcome real world application. In this case improving gas mileage. Good example I think, if you look at the speed and aerodynamics of the vehicle (among other combination) you can find the point of maximum gas milage. (snap back to reality) What's better class? Driving with the A/C or driving with the windows down?

Duh, windows down. Not only have the mythbusters proven it, I plotted a few dozen fill ups and noticed a significant drop in MPG when filling up after an Air Conditioned run to Winston Salem (~8 gallon trip) than driving around town to back and forth between school. My evidence isn't scientific, as there is no control, and there isn't an experiment log noting speed and state of the drives between fill ups, but I know the difference (Again back to reality) "Class, at highway speeds (55MPH) drive with the AC on, otherwise the drag is too great"

Yummy, unsubstantiated "facts". Bad Science. Grrr. I could prove it wrong, make a strong argument and all that, but you know, class was ending and what's the point of arguing a tangental point? Its one case of bad science and its better to let it slide. If only I knew what was ahead.

After using my uncomfortable 2 hour break to talk about some shortwave radio stuff with a friend and getting around to watching the first episode of Nerd TV (PBS's first TV show to be solely distributed online) I proceeded to my Art Appreciation class. Something about my art teacher - he loves the movie "What the bleep do we know", which is the ultimate example of bad science. For those with a decent understanding of physics, or science for that matter, this so called documentary is to quantum mechanics, neurochemistry, and psychology as "Intelligent Design" is to Biology (read its a half baked attempt to piece together bits of real science to prove your point, in both cases to tie together scientific theory with theological beliefs)

We watched it today

Tackling it as a documentary, viewers have no idea who the (bleep) they're listening to. People portrayed as experts could be anybody, MIT graduates with half a dozen PH.Ds, garbage men stuffed into suits, cult leaders calming to channel 35,000 year old warrior spirits from Atlantis. Anybody, and because most people don't know any better they'll assume these people are qualified to talk about the things they're saying. The few people who actually seem to make sense are edited awkwardly, as in mid sentence. It looks and sounds like the AV equivalent to Photoshop forgeries.

They mess up several scientific principles, at least from what I gathered, and then discredit the viewers (or potential critics) opinions because "we need to open our minds"

Some of the examples are preposterous, such as the meditation and crime rates. They claim meditation lowered the crime rate of Washington DC, but that is un founded claim. My first reaction was along the lines of biased findings, where by looking to prove your point you find trends that might not exist, but a better way to debunk it would be by asking for a control group. I can just as easily and accurately say that my productivity today is higher than it was yesterday. Well how can we compare that. In terms of blogging I'm more productive by writing this post, which is longer and more tought out than yesterdays. However yesterday I cooked a meal, caught up on several hours of audio, spent more time in class, and discussed the Bush speech with several people. Without an accurate measure of productivity, and a baseline to measure from, I can claim the world and still manipulate it to be true (like the movie does)

Another movie example is water crystals, my teacher is particularly interested in this segment, because, well I don't know why. In the clip from the film, we are shown three or four pictures of water. A "control" sample, a sample than has been blessed, a sample where kind words were written on the bottle, and sample where derogatory terms were written on the bottle. We see water crystals ( they don't care to explain the water was frozen) as photographed though a microscope. We see pretty shapes of shaved ice, ie Snow. What does every school kid know about water crystals no two are the same (not entirely true, but for this purpose it is) So the viewer is being told than kind words and blessings produce a smoother shaped snowflake, and most will buy it. Some of us with higher IQs will realize that yes, we're looking at snow, and yes the crystals are different, but 1) was it a double blind study? 2) was it subjected to peer review? 3) if 1 or 2 was rue, were the results duplicated, if not can they be? The answers, from doing a little research are 1) no 2) no, and 3) no, it would be impossible to duplicate the efforts.

Wikipedia has a great write up on What the bleep do we know, as well as some of the studies and sources the movie uses, like the water crystals Plenty more can be found with decent google searches

You can find those things yourself. Frankly I'm too tired to deal with any more bad science, and the (bleep) idiots who need to get a (bleep) clue.

I can't wait until Monday. I'm going to have a handful of papers to throw at this one. Math might not have been worth the fight, but this one is, he's already teaching the class at too low a level (one homework assignment involves crayons) and that needs to change.

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2005.09.15

Error, Failed to establish connection

10.57.00 - Mark

I'm slowing working on getting my linux box set up to work as a server in additon to all the other fun duties I'm trying to assign it. I'd be working on it right now but when I was opening ports, I told it to open FTP ports, which would be fine - except I'm running SFTP, which runs on another port.

Connection Failed

If I was sufficently motivated I could probably get into my router settings and be able to open the right port, but no, not worth the effort, I'm not even sure I could propperly boot strap my way into the network on the handful of ports that are open.

Connection Failed

With nothing to do, I'm sitting in class sitting in the umpteen-thousandth lecutre on how to code HTML (some thing I can just about do in my sleep) Some people in the class need it (most don't) so I'm being quite, feeling my brain try to temporarly shut down enough high level neurological pathways to lull me to sleep. When I get home, I won't fight it. Sprawling out in the hammock and taking a nap in the warm September sun sounds real good right now.

You wouldn't believe how many senseless typos I've made while cassually typing out this post.

Connection Failed

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2005.09.14

Google Blog Search

10.10.00 - Mark

Google Blog Search Beta Cool, but if there isn't already, there needs to be an opt out for reasons like this.

I'm fine with being indexed (yes I'm in there), the ones that show my genius along side the dumb ones I would probably delete if I wasn't so lazy, however I'm fully aware of the searches, try to keep tabs on what information I let slip out, and dopn't post about any illegal things I'm obviously not doing (keep in mind that everything is illegal to some degree somewhere)

But not everyone is as savvy as I and most other bloggers are. Some people like the linked example above clearly aren't aware of the public nature of websites and blogs and therefore treat it like a private journal. More so on the free sites and services like blogger and livejournal that allow a limited ammount of control to the users, and none at all when it comes to server files, like robots.txt and .htaccess.

Google Powered Blog Search Engine Good. Technorati can get pretty damned slow
Google Powered Blog Search Engine that doesn't have a way to opt in or opt out of the index - bad, and I foresee a sotorm of activity over it in the coming days.

Update 4:19PM : Opps. Had I not been in class when I posted I probably would not have looked at the the Google Blog Search FAQ which among other things explains how to opt out. What sort of perturbs me is the lack of indexing of no feed blogs. There are a lot (although diminishing number) of worthwhile blogs that don't use RSS or Atom. I can get the logic - most goofing off type of users don't enable rss , at least at blogger. However the ones that aren't aware of a feed that might have been enabled and don't want to search need to mess around with template settings and similar "techie things" So I was wrong, but I might not be completly wrong. Besides, its hard to go a week without seeing something along the lines of google must be stopped...

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2005.09.13

Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?

12.20.00 - Mark

I think its pretty clear to readers that I don't like the idea of war.

Thats not to say I won't support our troops and all that jazz, but I'd rather it not be necessary. That said This is really rubbing me the wrong way. This nation has a lot of certified Big Friggin' Guns at its disposal should diplomacy fail, or when the latter isn't given much of a chance to run its course. I think a large part of the population is starting to realize that the preemptive strikes Bush Jr. launched several years ago are failing. Miserably. So how come the government is drafting policy that will enable us to go from peaceful talks to pieces of radioactive debris flying about our atmosphere in the course of hours?


I think that our non-nuclear arsenal is more than enough to let us blow off everything below our beer bellies, and while I'm still not exactly thrilled about one man (George W or any other) being able to launch a preemptive strike, thats one of a few measures I'll come close to supporting in the name of "national security".

As a side node, during the cold war only two nations had the ability to really carry out a preemptive strike - the USSR and ourselves. Both nations wanted to stick around so we fell onto MAD. Supposedly we want to maintain the ability to launch "preemptive strikes" to protect ourselves. When our enemy is hundreds, thousands of small cells of up to a dozen people many of whom are more than open to the idea of suicide, how is a strong offense going to help us? I'm thinking that our ability to conduct a preemptive strike is only going to cement the view of the United States as a global bully. How about a nice solid defense - like the one experts have been calling for since at least 9/11/01?

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Wonders of North Carolina

17.55.18 - Mark


Young Deer by the Road
Originally uploaded by Mark_W.
This is a pretty much unprecedented sort of gooey feel good post. Considering how bad things seem to be in our country I'll just play the dissident card, this country needs some feel good content about now. So...

I'm constantly surprised by the region I live in, and today is no exception. It's the middle of September and 93 degree. Despite what many would call painfully high temps (get over it people, you can't control the weather) its been a pretty pleasant day. It, combined with the clusterfuck of a situation on the southern coast it makes me glad that I'm in the situation I am. Despite all my problems with High School University, I'm still learning (I think) and the load isn't that heavy. I'm close to my family and we've not scraping by to survive. I've got some good friends distributed as they may be and I live in a beautiful area that can come up with pleasant surprises, like wandering dear and comfortable 90 degree September days.

I'm having fun playing with linux and there are a sting of movies that I'm looking forward as well as new seasons of some of my favorite shows. I'm feeling good about myself, and I hope everyone can find something to be not be miserable about. These times seem to require it.

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2005.09.12

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Rocket, Black Hole...

12.56.00 - Mark

I just saw this item pop up in one of my RSS feeds.

Its an enhanced version of Rock Paper Scissors (everyone's favorite example of practical psychology) mapped out to include 15 items. My family has had something similar for nearly 10 years, which my Dad and I stated in a line either at an amusement park or in line for the opening of an over-hyped celebrity restaurant (in southeast Iowa) Ours is a lot more fun lasers, mirrors, rockets, an air force, black-holes, among other items. Unlike the linked to RPS15 our version isn't exactly mapped out with clear winners. as I remember it the winner was whoever could make the best argument for their victory that round (except black hole which resulted in the complete and total destruction of a game, unless it was blacked by a rock).

I'm old today [sunday], reminiscing about mutated versions of rock paper scissors (and having remember stuff about the flood of '93 earlier - I'm fairly sure my brothers don't really have memories from 1993)

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Stupid is as stupid does...

12.38.00 - Mark

The less said about this the better.

That's not actually true. That and I'm too tired to type up what I really want to say about it, besides I'm sure one of you can do a better and more humorous rant on it than I can right now.

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Damn You Los Angeles

17.51.00 - Mark

For the unaware, LA has been hit by major blackout this afternoon. Normally this would not concern me because frankly I'm in North Carolina 3000 miles away.


Except my hosting provider is in Los Angeles.

and their network is down.

so my websites and a handful of my email accounts are down

And the guy behind Majdelene.com was just trying to show off the site. One of the affected sites being served in LA

He's pretty understanind, but ya know. I don't like getting phone calls about problems. Especially when they're problems I can't do anything about (and was mildly caught off gaurd by)

I'd be more pissed but I got one of my rebate checks 6 weeks earlier than expected (Seagate rules), my latest batch of comic books shipped today, I'm listning to some great music by Michelle Malone (the 2 cds I ordered from her site arrived today) and I'm loving the If Goths Ruled contest over at worth1000.com.

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2005.09.11

Dude

02.48.00 - Mark

I just found my GPS unit.

I'm only posting it now because its funny (to me at least) on so many levels. I won't say where I found it and under what circumstances (that would revel something about my personal nature I'd rather not have online), but I've been wondering where it got off to for close to a year.

Its sort of paradoxal, I usually don't mind when I find things when I'm not specifically looking for them, that tends to remind me to do something, however when I've been looking for it for this long, it has really pissed me off, but at least I have it again.

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Pains of Cross Platform Computing

14.41.00 - Mark

Part of me is going nuts.

I'm making efforts to use my linux box as a regular computer (because I can't seem to get my damned video capture card working the way I need it to for it to work as a PVR box). If I was doing this with windows I would have passed the going nuts part and would be having a hard time typing this out the use of my straitjacket encased upper body. Thankfully I'm working on linux, and have tried to use open source software on my Mac.

My browsers are easy to move across (I have firefox on both, but mainly use Safari on my mac - the functionality is virtualy identical however) other tools are identical on both systems such as Azureus (bittorrent) and video clients (VLC). I've got a basic understanding of some of the command line tools and server software that occur on both platforms, like FTP, SSH, Apache, Mysql and others.

Some of my personal preferances are easy to move acorss the OS gap with a little tweeking - I have a folder of background images I pull from every 15 minutes. That takes a couple of clicks in OS X, but in Linux I had to dig up and modify a script and set up a cron task. Not impossible to geeks and anyone who wants to learn, but not easy enought for your average computer user.

However.

There are some things that are infuriating. One is the keyboard. keep in mind I'm a long time Mac users and perfer my keyboard to a mouse any day. I grew up on hotkeys and damn it I want my command modifier (the control key on non-mac keyboards) next to the space bar where my thumb can easily reach it, not hidden underneath the base of my left pinky/palm. Not supposedly its possible to change this with xmodmap or something like that but I've been working on the problem for hours and I can't get any potential solution to work.

Another fustration is moving files between systems easily. Now I'll admit that I haven't fully investigated this one, but I'm an RSS junkie. I haven't installed an RSS reader onto my linux box quite yet, but I know that I need a way to sync my feeds from one system to another. This isn't really anyones fault, but its an annoyance I'd rather not have to deal with. From the inital reseach it looks like I need to set up my iBook, with its aggerator NetNewsWire, to upload its information to a sever, then pull it down with an aggerator on the linux box, then see about resyncing the information to the server. I'm not really looking forward to that headache.

The last major irratance I have is the lack of a quicksilver like piece of linux software. Quicksilver, for those who don't know, is an amazing piece of software for OS X that can best be described as a high level graphical command line interface. It can, when combined with some of my other software titles, control audio and video, open and append information to documents, open recent files and locations, even send basic emails or blog posts. Its an amazing program that I'll install on any Mac I have to use on a regular basis. However as I mentioned, I haven't found a linux based equvilent. Which is somewhat sad, and yet another item to look into.

Anyways I'm off to go improve the functionality of my linux box some more.

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2005.09.09

Fighing Back

19.03.00 - Mark

Microsoft, like the RIAA, has a bad habit of suing customers. What both are starting to learn is that it can, and will backfire.

A 21 year old biochemistry (not law) student filed countersuits against microsoft and won on his own.

That is one very cool story.

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2005.09.08

Katrina Linkage

22.07.00 - Mark

Assorted Articles:
Wired piece on the (failing) attempts ot set up a low power FM radio station at the Astrodome Its a shame they're having to put up with so much bullshit like having to collect 10,000 radios and bureaucrats that "did not see the utility [of a low power FM station]."

The potential for biological agents to leak from Level 3 Biological Research Labs Fun stuff like Anthrax, HIV, Plague...

Let's shoot at unarmed refugees The chaos as described by EMS workers (not local)

Paypal freezing accounts accepting Katrina Relief donations Not entirely unexpected. Paypal seems to be a necessary evil of online money exchange. (they're not a bank, they're not a creditor, they seem to refuse to play by the relevant laws for money handling)

Katrina Refugees and Volunteers Locked out of evacuation centers Some care to explain this one? I'm guessing they've seen been let back in

Bush declares national day of prayer My personal beliefs (or lack thereof) aside, how the hell is this going to make up for the general incompetence being demonstrated by FEMA? Encourage us to do more than pray and thing good thoughts. The only reason we should be discussing religion during this fiasco is because churches are big, heavy, strong buildings that are designed to stand for decades. A secondary consideration for religion would be for the many well intention individuals who tend to follow such things (not that they're being allowed to do anything which brings be back to my first point)

Notable FEMA Screwups (possible hearsay) Working water purification systems, naw, we don't need up, clean up, no thanks we'll just burn everything up once everyone leaves, wastes of money sure pass them on. Heads will be rolling when this starts blowing over.

We're spending over $1billion dollars a day on Katrina Relief, I don't mean to be stingy but this nation does not have that money available.

Remember, even while we're screwing up, lets look good doing it This shouldn't need to be said again, but this is not one big ass PR event, its a disaster. treat it as such.

That means firefighters need to be wearing FEMA shirts other wise its not supportive of the federal aid. I must have missed the memo that outlined how running into burning buildings doesn't look good enough.

I didn't miss the one forbidding photos of the dead. I sort of agree with this one, I don't think anyone derived enjoyment from seeing the pictures of people jumping from the twin towers 4 years ago, or watching the same video of the impact and the collapses. However the 1st amendment says the press can take and publish those photos. The American people deserve to see the true impact, if we don't want to see it there is radio and the written word.

FEMA Camp or detention center. This is pretty scary, we're dealing with American citizens who have already been screwed by their government's incompetence, we don't need to and should not treat them like criminals or terrorists. That site has been taken to stand by but there's at least one other that is drawing similar parallels. There's some talk that Raven Knob and Mount Airy will be/have submitted the paperwork to take in 100-250 people (its leaning more towards 100 but I know that it could support 150 with the existing permanent structures) I know a lot of people that wouldn't stand for the CRK facilities to be humbled to a concentration camp. (That's not to say I don't want CRK to host Katrina Survivors, I do, but as fellow humans, not victims that need to be sequestered away)

In a disaster, disregard authority (Not necessarily Katrina centric, but relevent) Its not a call for anarchy, but in many cases, the masses know more than designated authorities about a situation. Again We're not dumb, we're just lazy.

Tales from the astrodome A piece written by a documentarian who made her way into the astrodome

An amazing video of the New Orleans from last week Ariel photography, and really moving. In the last half of the 11 minute video there's video of a blackhawk helicopter rescuing people from rooftops. Its well worth the 100mb download (smaller and larger versions available)

Go fuck yourself Mr. Cheney (story). Its pretty damned clear that people don't approve of this administration's handling of the Katrain fallout. To skip to the video

The polls back that statement up. Bush's approval rating is below 40% on everything except the so called "War on terror" (and thats barely a majority). Have I mentioned that heads will roll?

There are already people calling for the firing of FEMA director Michael Brown, which would go a long way towards making a terrible situation better. The situation is a catagory 5 clusterfuck and the only leadership to speak of is coming from independent volunteers who are taking matters into their own hands (and thats not saying much). Brown was fired from his last job (for incompetence no less), there's no reason he shouldn't be fired now

Its not going to happen or rather it stands as good a chance of happening as Selling the Ranch, for the clueless that would be none what-so-ever.

Must read Blogs:
The Interdictor the last ISP running in New Orleans. Those guys are tough, also exempt from the mandatory evacuation (personal mandate from the mayor to stay online.) This post in particular is a great piece, but its one of a few Read back a few days.

Jacob Appelbaum Tech Volunteer/Blogger. I started read his posts when he was in Iraq, now he's in Texas/Louisania. Very political, but very honest. His Flickr Photoblog

Joel Johnson A freelance writer and technologist. He's traveling with Jacob. Little less political but still honest. He isn't posting as much to his site, instead it seems to be going to gizmodo and Wired.

Will Hawkins A Houston techie working to set up and maintain a computer lab for refugees, as well as a wireless network

Boing Boing has some amazing Katrina coverage. Not just things the above bloggers are posting, but also news bits about how the out of state refugee centers look and feel like concentration camps and detention centers

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2005.09.07

Again with the Calvin and Hobbes

18.11.00 - Mark


Calvin and Hobbes First Published 9/07/1994


I almost need to make this a post template as much as I'm posting Calvin and Hobbes Strips. On the other hand you have to admire the freshness of its political content after 11 years...

No, I'm not sure if that commentary was on the comic, our political systems, or both. I think I'm going to have to go with both.

Edit: I want this. I don't know when I'll be able to afford it however.

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2005.09.06

Check your facts.

18.29.00 - Mark

What's so hard about fact checking? I'm sick and tired of being sent useless (and often groundless) internet memes from people who should know to check the facts with a VALID source.

The most recent example, that damned "Put your cell phone on the do not call registry!" chain letter (I hate chain letters in their own right, I don't need to see the message half a dozen times and the 30,000 people who have recieved it at least once)

It wasn't true in 2003
It wasn't true in 2004
It isn't true in 2005
It won't be true in 2006

Don't tell me to do something I very clearly do not need to do.

Snopes is a great reference, along the lines of wikipedia great but far more focused on myths and urban legends. Or, you could go directly to the source, in this case the FTC and the Do-Not-Call-Registry (yes it works with Macs - see following rant) Its right there on the FAQ (emphasis mine)

10. Can I register my cell phone on the National Do Not Call Registry?

Yes, you may place your personal cell phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. The registry has accepted cell phone numbers since it opened for registrations in June 2003. There is no deadline to register a home or cell phone number on the Registry.

You may have received an email telling you that your cell phone is about to be assaulted by telemarketing calls as a result of a new cell phone number database; however, that is not the case. FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers. Automated dialers are standard in the industry, so most telemarketers donít call consumers on their cell phones without their consent.


The snopes article with the offending message. And please, check your fracking facts.

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Never Fear, FEMA is here!

17.28.00 - Mark

Oh wait I should fear. FEMA, which has been de-clawed, neutered and otherwise bastardized after 9/11 and the anti-terror legislation hasn't been doing their primary task (at least the tasks it was charged with when it was formed). So I'm not sure I'd really want them around when I'm plagued with disaster (at least not in it's current form). I still want government help when such bad things happen, but to get that help I need to be able to communicate with the, which as a Mac/Linux user I can't. FEMA, like nearly all of the other governmental agencies out there is windows only. Stupid Stupid Stupid More coverage.

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2005.09.04

Walking and Cycling 101

22.52.00 - Mark

The latest course offerings at you local schools.
Walking 101
Cycling 101

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Volunteer?

22.06.00 - Mark

I'm playing with the idea of volunteering my time to one of the relief organizations. I know I should, I'm fairly certain I want to, but the hypocrite and procrastinator in me say I won't because of school and distain for how the organizations seem to be handling the situation.

I don't know. This whole ordeal is exposing the worst of this country, I want change, and it seems like its time to do more than just putting my (little) money where my mouth is. Speaking of money I'm off to donate some.

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2005.09.03

Tales from NOLA

20.36.00 - Mark

This is pretty damned moving. Be grateful we have blog, wikis and citizen journalism, some of these stories would never make it outside of New Orleans.

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Goodies

17.50.00 - Mark

A friend offered me a ride down to the Shelby Hamfest a while back, and I took it up today. I got back a little while ago and managed not to do too much damage to my wallet, barely more than $100 worth actually, a fact made more amazing when I list everythign I picked up, Like a black and white wireless camera, battery charger and 8 NiMH batteries, a couple computer cables, some assorted food items, an old newton eMate300, oh and a brand new-in-box 512MB iPod Shuffle.

If you read closely (because I specifically wrote it in there) and you happen to be an Apple Geek your jaw probbaly dropped at the emate 300, even if you aren't into the old Apple Newton gear your jaw should have dropped at the iPod shuffle.

I don't know of any place other than a hamfest that I could have purchased everything I did for as little as I did. $15 wireless security camera (I seem them regularly for $25 + shipping) $25 eMate (its a freakin' eMate!) $$20 for batteries and a charger, and the most amazing part $50 for the iPod Shuffle! This goes for $100 new 50% off (and $20 less than he was asking no less!). My friend (who would like to see me get into Ham radio) treated me to some food and admission, but even if I had to pay that my bargins would have easily made up for it. If I was more into ham radio, or serious electronics I'm sure I would have apperciated more of what was there, but it is in no uncertain terms an amazing event. If you like Radio, Broadcast, Computers, Electronics, Military Surplus or just some amazing deals. Go To A Ham Fest. Period.

I don't know what could possibly get me off this buzz ruight now.

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2005.09.02

Holy Shit, I Was Right, Sortof

16.56.00 - Mark

A while back I posted one of my better posts titled Test Drive A Mac Today in which I suggested Apple retailers restart an old advertising program Apple had where you could test out a Mac and if you liked it, buy it. Well, it seems like Apple is playing with the idea again, too bad the only had it up for 12 hours. But wow, I speculated on the tech industry correctly! Now I'm going to speculate that its going to tie in with next week's announcement of an Apple Video device.

I wonder if this means I should start charging you for my insights, despite what is clearly a low average it still seems to be better than some "technology analysts". I won't do that (yet), but you can click on the ads to send some my way.

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Flying Spaghetti Monster

14.27.00 - Mark

Everybody loves a good internet meme (let's empathize good here, most popular internet are not good) so I'm happily following Pastafarians and Flying Spaghetti Monster updates. I'm not religious but I can appreciate the values of the Pastafarians. Here' s a quick primer. The ever enlightened Wikipedia has a long and insightful article on Flying Spaghetti Monsterism

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2005.09.01

Gas Lines

20.37.55 - Mark


gaslines
Originally uploaded by Mark_W.
I needed to put a few gallons into the car tonight, and decided (like nearly everyone else in town) to wait in line at the only station still advertising gas for less than $3 (2.89, 2.99, and 3.09) Perfect waste of time. By the time I got there the 2.89 pumps had been dry for hours and the 2.99 go-go juice had just been taped out. The guy closing the pumps said there had been lines dozens of cars long all day today and yesterday (they apparently ran out yesterday as well). What they may be loosing by keeping the price down, they've got to be making up for in volume. There's another picture of the gas line on my flickr account

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