May 31, 2003


Bob the Corgi shares hers with Bob Hope (yesterday; no age given); the Ruminator celebrates the big 5-0 today. Go wish 'em both happy days ahead!

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:50 PM | Comments (3)

A galaxy far, far away...

Trekkies, listen up: Lucasfilms launches a subscription service area of called Hyperspace. It will allow you to watch filming of Episode 3 via webcam, among other features.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:39 AM | Comments (2)

May 30, 2003

Thank you, Mr. President!

I wonder how many soldiers, sailors and airmen over in Iraq fall into the $10K-$26K group that just got left out of the child credit tax cut? I made $119 every two weeks when I was in the Navy 30 years ago; sure, the pay has gone up, but not enough to take the corporals, sergeants, and petty officers out of that range. A grateful nation, huh?

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:19 PM | Comments (2)

May 29, 2003

Anatomy of a lie

For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.

Paul Wolfowitz
Vanity Fair interview

For a (fully-sourced) timeline of all those WMD assertions, click here. In the words of Emile Zola, J'accuse! The Bush Administration is guilty of lying to the American public repeatedly, unnecessarily killing thousands of Iraqis, equally unnecessarily killing upwards of 200 American and around 40 British soldiers, airmen and marines, and for what? Liberation? Not hardly; that could have been done in 1991. The enrichment of American oil contractors? I'd like to think not, but... so why? Dreams of American imperialism, as stated in the Project for a New American Century documents? Could be.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:26 PM | Comments (6)

May 28, 2003

Don't they work?

I walked past a T-Mobile store today; guess what sort of phone is hanging on the cubicle walls?

Yup. Corded.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:45 PM | Comments (3)

Money, science and media

You know that $15B program for AIDS the President signed yesterday? A portion of it is supposed to go towards "abstinence" education. This pleases the Family Research Council, which is quite happy that fully one-third of all AIDS prevention funds must go to abstinence education. "Simply tossing out condoms and creating the illusion of safe sex does not work. Teaching abstinence...does." Well, no, FRC. Just in time, here's a Johns Hopkins study of Namibian youth which concludes that "common HIV/AIDS prevention terms (e.g. "abstinence" and "faithfulness") are frequently misunderstood." Oh, and for good measure, the Administration does with this what it's done so often; talks lots of money, budgets little. There's $2B in the new budget, not the $3B that was advertised ($15B over five years).

Scientific American has just handed out its third annual Sci/Tech web awards for the top 50 Web resources for information about science and technology. Winners come from ten categories, including archaeology, astronomy, biology, mathematics, and great thinkers.

Here's the best chart I've seen yet illuminating the changes the FCC wants to make on June 2.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:28 AM | Comments (3)

May 27, 2003

Back to politics

The June issue of the New York Review of Books is out; it contains several thoughtful articles. The Neocons in Power by Elizabeth Drew is a fine narrative of US foreign policy from the start of the Bush Administration, and America Goes Backward by Stanley Hoffman is a recap of all the power the Administration has accrued to itself while curbing civil liberties, fighting questionable wars, and disassociating itself from the world community. I recommend both. In today's NYT, Krugman argues that current fiscal policy is pushing the country towards massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and that the Nyquists of the world like it that way.

Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid — which didn't exist in the 1950's — and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages?


The answer is that it can't. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic. But at some point bond markets will balk — they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control.

Is the average Republican voter (who may also benefit from those programs) really willing to cut off his/her own nose? Time will tell; one hopes enlightened self-interest will prevail over ideology.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:49 AM | Comments (2)

May 26, 2003

Memorial Day 2003

The flag is out, Punchbowl has been visited and decorated with flowers, and the family is on its way over. Every grave at Punchbowl is traditionally marked with small American flags; each has a lei placed around the flag as well. That job has devolved to Cub and Boy Scouts over the years (no, I don't know whether the Girl Scouts are involved).

Today's food adventure will be grilled tri-tip, fresh fruit salad, and fresh Kahuku corn (item 2). Didn't know we grew corn out here, didya?

Hopefully no fire trucks will intrude.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:05 PM | Comments (3)

May 25, 2003

Hot day, huh?

A Sunday in May, Honolulu, 5:15 pm

A ham slice has been defrosted and candied yams are being readied for the oven. Fresh artichokes have been trimmed and are about to be placed in the steamer. Suddenly, a siren is heard. It seems to be getting close to the house, but sounds are often deceiving. The homeowner goes to the front door and looks out; he sees a yellow fire truck passing by going up the hill. He returns to his kitchen.

Then, loud engine noises are heard outside. The homeowner again investigates; this time the truck which had gone up the hill has returned, and fireman are jumping from it, uncoiling hoses. Then a second siren is heard. A ladder truck appears. More fireman leap from it. The homeowner wants to ask what's going on; he's looking around for signs of fire, but sees none. The firemen are all too busy to answer his questions, even with a directional wave. Then, the homeowner sees a large billowing white cloud of smoke from behind the house across the street. This is suburbia; if it's a house fire, surely the smoke would be black? Still the firemen work with their hoses, attaching them to hydrants, turning the valves. There's no sense of urgency coming from the men; what is going on?

Neighbors begin to congregate outside. They are all watching the cloud of smoke, as is the homeowner. He remembers that behind the neighbor's house is wild brush; could that be burning? It's been an awfully dry spring; the weatherpeople on TV news have repeatedly said "we need the rain." There have been other brush fires around the island recently, none doing serious damage to populated areas. That must be it.

Suddenly the cloud of smoke disappears. As far as the homeowner can tell, none of the fireman on his street have gone anywhere near the source of flames; has it been doused from the other side of the hill? Neither the neighbors nor the homeowner have seen or heard helicopters, often used to fight brush fires in inaccessible areas; perhaps it was a very small fire.

The firemen begin to coil up their hoses and stow them back on the trucks. The neighbors disperse. The firetrucks leave. The homeowner goes back inside, plates the ham, candied yams, and artichokes in garlic butter, and serves up.

How was your Sunday?

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:52 PM | Comments (4)

May 24, 2003

Media, again

One more thing; if the media is so all-fired liberal, why aren't the conservatives up in arms about this possible consolidation? After all, it will just give more power to those "liberal" media companies.

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:47 PM | Comments (0)

Movie explanation, please

I caught the tag end of The Natural this afternoon, after eating KFC with the family to celebrate my niece's 16th birthday (I got her a movie coupon book. She loved it.). I am a long-standing baseball fan, I like Redford just fine, the rest of the cast (Basinger, Brimley, Close, Duvall) is wonderful, and the ending is super; now will someone please explain the whole second act to me?

Thank you.

PS: Yes, I have seen it before; so?

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:31 PM | Comments (6)

May 23, 2003

Who's Abby Cohen?

Sorenstam misses cut; markets rise.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2003

Media or Medea?

Ah, but aren't viewers and readers now blessed with a whole new world of hot competition through cable and the Internet? That's the shucks-we're-no-monopolists line that Rupert Murdoch will take today in testimony before the pussycats of John McCain's Senate Commerce Committee.

The answer is no. Many artists, consumers, musicians and journalists know that such protestations of cable and Internet competition by the huge dominators of content and communication are malarkey. The overwhelming amount of news and entertainment comes via broadcast and print. Putting those outlets in fewer and bigger hands profits the few at the cost of the many.

That's William Safire in today's NYT, agreeing with me (and with CodePink Women for Peace and the National Rifle Association, Olympia Snowe and Ted Stevens, MoveOn and Media Alliance) about the upcoming media consolidation vote (June 2) by the FCC. Read Safire's column, read the other post I've made on this, check the links I've put up, and sign this petition to advise your Congresspeople that you don't want this to happen (unless you do). The public comments are running 90-10 or more against FCC approval, but Chairman Powell seems to be as yet unpersuaded by those numbers.

Here's a horror story that's been cited repeatedly on PBS, in Senate committee hearings, and on ABC News (incidentally, so far, ABC is the only network which has devoted even a minute to covering the upcoming vote on its nightly news broadcast):

" Minot, N.D., when a freight train derailed and released a dark cloud, officials sought to spread the alarm via radio stations only to discover that at six of them – all owned by Clear Channel – nobody answered the telephone for 90 minutes. Hundreds were hospitalized. Pets and livestock died."

That dark cloud turned out to be ammonia.

Let's let a Business Week article have the last word:

Among other things, Powell would allow more cross-ownership of local TV stations and newspapers by the same companies. He also would let a single company own TV stations covering 45% of the national viewing audience, up from 35% now. Powell plans a vote on June 2, and the three-person Republican majority on the commission seems certain to approve the proposed changes.

This isn't good policy. The U.S. needs greater concentration of the media market like a fast-food junkie needs more fat. What we read, hear, and watch is already determined to far too great an extent a half dozen giant conglomerates: AOL Time Warner, Viacom, Walt Disney, News Corp., General Electric, and Bertelsman. Yet Powell has held just one official public hearing on the proposed changes. And the specifics of the revisions being considered haven't been made public.

It's a lousy idea, and it should be stopped.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:37 AM | Comments (5)

May 21, 2003

Privatize health care? Sure, that'll work...

A Congressional aide said White House officials had made it clear that "they really must have an unequal drug benefit."


Under Mr. Bush's proposal, people in the traditional Medicare program would receive drug discount cards and protection against very high drug expenses. People in private plans would get comprehensive drug benefits worth about twice as much as the assistance given to people in traditional Medicare.

Far be it from me to accuse the Administration of favoring the comfortable over the poor, but it seems to me...fortunately for those who think equal treatment from the government is the right thing to do, there are a lot of Congressfolk who think this is wrong. There are also a few who see nothing at all wrong with unequal treatment:

Senator Santorum said he would go further than the Bush proposal. Congress, he said, should gradually end the traditional Medicare program as an option for new beneficiaries in the future, leaving them to choose from a variety of private plans. "I believe the standard benefit, the traditional Medicare program, has to be phased out," Mr. Santorum said.

Right. We've all seen how well deregulation and privatization works in the energy industry, the airline industry, the telecom industry, and so on ad infinitum.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:28 PM | Comments (3)

May 20, 2003


News item: Reebok gives LeBron James $75M shoe deal.

Hey! How about us office workers? My chair is made by Global Industries, but I could be persuaded to switch to Herman Miller. I'd use Steelcase quite happily. The phone is from Lucent; the OS is Windows.

Guys? Guys! I'm over here! Sign me up!

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

Prescription fun with threat level Orange

By virtue of being the widow of a retired Navy officer, my mother is eligible for free prescription drugs. To get a new prescription filled, I have to go up to Tripler Army Medical Center (as oddly painted a hospital as you'll ever see--click the link). Shortly after September 11 I had occasion to go up there to pick up a prescription, and nerves were pretty frayed. They pulled every car over to a parking lot, had the trunks opened, ran mirrors under the chassis, and did visual searches on the passengers. Yesterday I needed to go up to Tripler again, but neglected to take Mom's military ID card, causing me to forego the trip. Imagine my dismay, then, to learn that the threat level had moved up to Orange today. I envisioned a repeat of the earlier experience, but apparently the Army has done some serious threat assessment towards potential targets. The only noticeable difference today from the entry to the base a month ago was Army sentries at the gate verifying IDs, rather than the civilian rent-a-cops they'd been using then. To make it even better, I pulled into the (often full) 5-story parking structure, found a space on the first level, and walked up to a pharmacy window completely devoid of customers. Who could ask for anything more?

Compare this to my experience yesterday at Kaiser. Last Thursday I called in a prescription refill and was told (via the automated system) that I couldn't have it till my doctor had authorized a new prescription (for a cholesterol pill I've been taking for three years), but that I should be able to get it Monday the 19th. Right. I get there and the pills are nowhere to be found. So I ask that they call the doc and then call me when it's ready. Today, 24 hours later, has the doctor authorized it yet? Nope. Grrr.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:53 PM | Comments (2)

May 19, 2003

"On the street where you live"

Spruance Road, Palos Verdes Drive, Kelton Avenue, Dodson Drive, Turner Road, Cherry Avenue, Drachman Street, Water Street, Kahapili Street.

What's up with those? They are the names of the streets I've lived on since 1959. Before that it was mostly military bases, although there were a couple of years in Charleston, SC and in Falls Church, VA when we lived off-base as well, but I was between 1 and 4, so I'm not accountable for remembering those.

Where'd you used to live?

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:42 AM | Comments (15)

May 18, 2003


I wonder how the Pope feels about sharing his birthday (he's 83 today) with Dwayne Hickman (that would be Dobie Gillis; he's 69). I don't imply there's any comparison between the two; the coincidence just struck me as amusing.

Another milestone: Les Miserables closes today on Broadway. Know the story; never saw it ('course, I can say with equal sorrow that I've never seen Miss Saigon or Phantom, either).

Here's a somewhat persuasive article about the William Bennett gambling fiasco arguing that it's the revenge of Tupac Shakur, since the hip-hop culture that Bennett railed against has become so ingrained in American society. Rich makes no case that that's a good thing, but he's a realist; it's there--deal with it.

Ever wonder how a Steinway gets built? (Warning: that's part one of a series!)

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:48 AM | Comments (2)

May 16, 2003


The State of Hawai'i faces a $100-$400M budget deficit this year. Why then have they not cashed the income tax check I wrote to them on April 19? This is not to say it was large enough to cover the deficit, but still. I've had this kind of problem with checks to government agencies before, and I don't understand it. After all, the first rule of cash management is "make the deposit," at least in every business I've ever worked for. Dummies.

What's a body to believe? Three headlines from Biospace today: Drinking Gives Pause To Thinking (BBC News), Too Much Booze Damages Key Hormones (HealthScout), and A Drink A Day Improves Overall Heart Health (Reuters).

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2003

Gender matters

If an American woman has a baby boy premaritally she's 42% more likely to marry the father than if she gives birth to a girl, according to this study. Plenty of speculation as to why that may be is included in the article; I have no opinion.

More baby news, coincidentally: Jacob and Emily were the most popular baby names in the United States for 2002 reigning for the second year in a row. BabyCenter, L.L.C., the leading online resource for new and expectant parents, compiles an annual list of the hundred most popular baby names.

Paging Jules Verne: Journey to centre of Earth proposed. I loved the concept of that movie; the Norwegian (?) explorer's diaries providing hints to those who come along behind; the skeleton of the same explorer found miles underground, etcetera.

Apparently the FCC thinks TV station consolidation is just fine, but radio is not. The inconsistency is not explained.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:43 AM | Comments (2)

May 14, 2003

Dis 'n dat

Go read Vonnegut on Twain, Lincoln, and "shock and awe".

Here's Molly Ivins on the Texas legislature. And here's further news about the FCC media consolidation vote. It probably will not be delayed, despite objections from some Senators and the two Democrats on the panel.

World's smallest seahorse discovered!

What do Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave have in common? They all got started at Stax Records in Memphis. The grand opening of The Stax Museum took place ten days ago.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2003

The FCC and you

The two Democratic FCC commissioners are not happy campers. They contend, and from this article one would have to agree, that Chairman Powell is behaving unilaterally (has he been hanging out with Bush/Rumsfeld instead of his father?) and not allowing enough public comment. Apparently ignoring the complaints, today details of the rules change surfaced. Here's a summary of the rules that are expected to be changed, and here's another take on it.

The scenario this allows already is in effect out here; one corporate entity operates two separate local TV stations under a waiver. It's not Fox, but it could be; that's why I'm against this decision. Do we really want a media market where we get the same editorial voice from several different stations? Paul Krugman thinks not, and so do I.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2003

The Eyes of Texas...

Oh, boy. You like political theater? Texas State House Democrats walked out en masse yesterday, objecting to a redistricting plan being "rammed down their throats" by the majority Republicans. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall in the (Republican) Speaker's office, and in Tom Delay's office in DC when he got the word (it's widely believed in Texas that this plan was drawn up by Delay and his staff). More coverage here, and for a play-by-play, go here. The latter of those has links to the Texas papers, including editorial cartoons. This is an amazing thing to see. The best line I've read so far? New Mexico Governor Patricia Madrid:

Her comments came after Gov. Rick Perry's office asked New Mexico whether it would allow Texas officials to make arrests in that state. Madrid said the question is being researched. But she wasn't taking it all serious.

"Some are speculating this request from the Texas Governor's office concerns an effort to locate missing Texas House Democrats," Madrid wrote. "If so, Texas should understand that since ski season is over, the Santa Fe Opera has not begun and President Bush was just in town, I don't think they are in Santa Fe now. Nevertheless, I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the look out for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy."

Talk about trying to fight the tyranny of the majority!

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:59 PM | Comments (1)

When politicians shouldn't stay bought

Dear Representative:

I fully understand that you really represent the National Rifle Association, not the members of this district, and that without the support of the National Rifle Association, you would not have been elected and certainly will not be re-elected. Nonetheless, it seems a bit of a stretch to vote for HR 1036. This bill, as you know, fully immunizes an entire industry from all liabilities which might be incurred in the use of its product. If you immunize one industry, where does it stop? Shall the auto industry be immunized for product failure? Shall the meat packing industry be immunized for allowing bacteria to contaminate the food we eat? What if I give advice to my clients which turns out to be wrong? Should I not be immunized for calamities resulting from the client taking my advice?

Even if you're bought and paid for by an interest group, you have a responsibility to think about what you do. I recognize that thinking about the long-term implications of your vote may be a new concept; think of it as a learning experience. Who knows, you might even get to like it, and it might start a trend among your fellow legislators.

Joe Sixpack

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2003

Weapons of mass distraction

Somebody please explain the cavalier attitude towards looting at nuclear sites described here. The Administration declared Iraq's possession of nuclear WMD as the primary reason for war, but it seems decidedly unworried about the stuff. At the same time Powell is decrying the possibility of North Korea selling weapons-grade materials, the known sites in Iraq are left inadequately patrolled? Is it any wonder its war motives are doubted?

Doubts about the existence of Iraq's WMD will only be furthered by this news:

The group directing all known U.S. search efforts for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is winding down operations without finding proof that President Saddam Hussein kept clandestine stocks of outlawed arms, according to participants.
Um, reminds me of a line from a 1960s song: "What's it all about, Alfie?"

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:55 AM | Comments (2)

May 10, 2003

Mother's Day 2003

Since my sister has to work at her restaurant on Mother's Day (tomorrow, boys and girls; have you bought a gift/sent a card yet?) we had an early outing today at the eastern end of Waikiki. The Hau Tree Lanai at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel is an outdoor restaurant right on San Souci beach; the hau tree in the name grows right in the middle of the restaurant, and it really is one of the places Robert L. Stevenson loved while living in the Islands back in the 1800s. In fact, he wrote the following in the hotel register: "If anyone desire such old-fashioned things as lovely scenery, quiet, pure air, clear sea water, good food, and heavenly sunsets hung out before his eyes over the Pacific and the distant hills of Waianae, I recommend him cordially to the 'Sans Souci.'"

I can't attest to the sunset, since reservations were for 12:30 pm, but all the rest is true.

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:12 PM | Comments (1)

May 09, 2003

Courting the media

It's first-and-21; your odds of scoring have dropped. What do you do? Why, try to change the rules so on your next four tries you automatically shorten the distance to the goal, of course. At least, that's what Senator Frist and President Bush want to do with judicial appointments. First try, you'd need 60 votes; second try, 57, and so on. Here's a summary of some of the constitutional issues involved in changing the rules. Gotta love the concept; if the results aren't to your liking, then it's because the 200-year-old rules are outdated. Oh, by the way, the Democrats have confirmed 123 of 125 judges sent to them, but you won't hear that from the media unless it's a direct quote from Sen. Daschle.

Murdoch promises he won't "discriminate" (meaning withhold programming from cable companies), thus forcing their customers to buy DirectTV. The benefit of such discrimination would go to the owner of DirectTV, and guess who is trying to buy it? In related media news, the FCC's Powell is being questioned about a possible deal made with another broadcaster to get its support for new ownership rules he's supposed to issue soon.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2003

Science yes; theocracy no

I wrote about this problem here; now Nick Kristof has picked up on it.

How can scholars investigate how AIDS spreads without using words that make the religious right blush?

Perhaps this seems like an obscure issue. It's not: the fundamental question is whether elements of the Bush administration are politicizing science, using budgets, advisory committees and the fear of embarrassment to chill the way science is conducted in America.

"I would recommend avoiding all electronic communication to any N.I.H. office," one scientist warned in one of many e-mail notes buzzing among AIDS researchers. "Phone communication does not appear tapped at this time. Even so, I am advising staff to speak `in code' unless an N.I.H. staff member indicates you can speak freely. In short, assume you are living in Stalinist Russia when communicating with the United States government."

Kristof concludes:

The bottom line, though, is that Mr. Bush must make it clear that he is on the side of scientists, not the witch burners. He can't stay on the fence. Too many Americans have already died of AIDS to allow promising fields of research to wither because some Americans get the willies when they see terms like "anal sex."

To which I can only add, the sooner the better, Mr. Bush. Your restrictions on stem cell research have already alienated the American scientific community; if you don't address this quickly, the consequences could be far worse.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:56 PM | Comments (2)

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Ain't the internet wonderful? Here's a site devoted to images of pay phones. I was looking for an image because it occurred to me that with the proliferation of cell phones, the pay phone may be going the way of the dodo or passenger pigeon. For those of us without cell phones, that would be a bad thing. What happens to society if you have to own a piece of technology to be part of it? This is a part of the "digital divide" discussion that I've never seen talked about. All you keen observers, look for pay phones while you're out and about; they can be the clamshell variety, the wall variety, or the standalone booth variety. Are you seeing fewer than you used to? Report back. Prizes will be awarded.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:06 PM | Comments (7)

May 07, 2003


Wow. Apple says in its first week it has sold one million songs through iTunes.

Here's a hypothesis I'd never heard before: language spreads as agriculture does. I guess I changed out of that anthropology major a semester or so too soon.

I'm sure the scientists are careful, but using Ebola to treat cystic fibrosis sounds scary as hell to me.

And finally, peanut butter takes its rightful place at the National Institute of Standards and Technology as one of its Standard Reference Materials. Pass the Jif.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:57 PM | Comments (3)

May 06, 2003


carloan.jpg Hallelujah!

I can hear my father now: "Don't spend it all in one place." It would be $235 a month. Hey, bank! Now the credit card balances can may WILL start declining!

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:31 PM | Comments (3)

Hush hush

I'll bet you thought "minders" were peculiar to Saddam Hussein's regime. Ashcroft demands that any prosecutor who goes up to the Hill to testify must be accompanied by a DOJ staffer.

The Justice Department's Office of Legislative Affairs has, by order of the attorney general, instructed all members of the Justice Department to inform that office "ahead of time and as soon as possible" before they participate in any briefings on Capitol Hill or engage in "substantive conversations" with members of Congress or their staff on Capitol Hill.
Every Justice Department employee is to be tracked to make sure — said the directive — "that the Department speaks with one voice on Capitol Hill. ... Please let us know when you receive a phone call from, or plan to place a call, to House and Senate staff and members of Congress."
"Moreover," the memorandum adds, "in almost all cases ... we will accompany you to briefings."
So much for Congressional oversight. It's an odd coincidence of history that this attempt to stifle whistleblowers surfaces on the very same day that transcripts from the McCarthy hearings are released; how far apart are Missouri and Wisconsin, anyway?

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:58 AM | Comments (1)

May 05, 2003

Shattered Illusion

I get a weekly notification from Popular Science telling me what's in the current issue; it always has a question attached. Today's was:

Is it true that unused batteries last longer if you keep them in the freezer? If so, why?

It's not true. According to Technical Service Manager John Hadley at Rayovac in Madison, Wisconsin, unless you're living in a jungle environment with extreme heat and humidity, keeping your batteries in the freezer may do more harm than good. Batteries convert chemical energy into electrical energy. Inside a battery, a chemical reaction takes place that generates electrons.

Every battery has a positive and negative end, which is why, if you put a battery in your flashlight upside down, it won't work. The electrons generated by the chemical reaction build up on the negative end and flow into the flashlight, lighting it up. Extreme cold "reduces the ionic energy flow and slows down the reaction," according to Hadley. Batteries that are kept in the freezer should be warmed to room temperature before use, which is time-consuming and inconvenient. And even if the outside of the battery doesn't feel cold, Hadley says, the chemicals inside may not yet be warmed up, and the battery won't operate at full power. Extreme heat, on the other hand, can reduce battery life by accelerating the chemical reactions inside the battery. In addition to the desired reaction that produces power, other reactions, called oxidation reactions, take place in the battery on a smaller scale. Oxidation reactions, like those that cause iron to rust, can use up the active ingredient in the battery and reduce its life.

People may have started putting batteries in the freezer before the days of air conditioning to protect them from the summer's heat. Modern batteries, Hadley says, can withstand temperatures up to 160 degrees Farenheit with relatively little loss of power, so they should be fine in your kitchen drawer for several years.

Well, hell. This means I can free up some space in my freezer, but I have to find another place to store batteries. Twenty-five years of belief destroyed in three short paragraphs.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:28 AM | Comments (13)

May 04, 2003


Compare and contrast: Krugman's column in the NYT Friday and James Glassman's column for Tech Central Station. The topic is CEO perks and pay.

Civil liberties: Let's have the Pentagon and the CIA prowl through Americans' private documents and lives--a great idea! Oh, and have you heard about Choicepoint? It's a data collection firm in Georgia which has come under fire for buying personal data about Mexican citizens and selling it to the United States government. Now Mexico is furious, because that data may have come from voter information files, which are kept much more secret in Mexico than in the US.

How far will the pro-extractive forces in this Administration go? Well, read how an upcoming exhibit at the Smithsonian has been changed and judge for yourselves. Denials abound, of course. And on Friday, Interior issued a rule saying some 250 million acres of land will no longer be considered wilderness. That means oil, coal and other development may be allowed on some of the country's most beautiful places (see photos in the article).

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2003


Ok, I have officially declared it to be spring. All hail Sarah of Glen Road Girls!

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:21 PM | Comments (7)

May 02, 2003

Cover up?

The re-election campaign might be tarnished if certain info is revealed, so hide the data behind classification (and re-classification). That, at least, is the appearance given by this dustup between the Executive and Legislative branches. The dispute centers around a "more-than-800-page secret report prepared by a joint congressional inquiry detailing the intelligence and law-enforcement failures that preceded the attacks" of September 11.

The report names names, gives dates and provides a body of new information about the handling of many other crucial intelligence briefings—including one in early August 2001 given to national-security adviser Rice that discussed Al Qaeda operations within the United States and the possibility that the group’s members might seek to hijack airplanes. The administration “working group” is still refusing to declassify information about the briefings, sources said, and has even expressed regret that some of the material was ever provided to congressional investigators in the first place.
This has angered legislators on both sides of the aisle, and they're now demanding action. Some of the material has already been released to the public but is now deemed too "sensitive," which is about as asinine as anything Richard Nixon and CREEP ever thought up.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2003

Happy May Day!

Double orchid lei May Day is Lei Day in Hawai'i...

Here's an interesting idea: price music by age/length of song. It arises from a discussion of Apple's new iTunes service; why should a 10-second Eminem cut cost the same as a 25-minute classical piece?

Only 7.4 percent of online consumers who noticed these systems (recommendation software like Amazon's) said they often purchased recommended products..." Ain't it the truth. I bought an Anna Quindlen book for my mother as a gift to my sister a year or so ago; ever since I have gotten Chicken Soup books as possible books for me. Now it appears that some of the companies are (gasp!) adding human intervention to their systems. It's an interesting discussion of AI and its pitfalls and advantages.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)