March 31, 2004

Saints preserve us

Batty is home and blogging. She's fuzzy, she says, but improving.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)

A Masterpiece

Godspeed, Alistair Cooke.

About 15 years ago I was asked what I'd like for a Christmas present, and I blithely said, "a shortwave radio," thinking of one of those humongous tabletop models Heathkit used to sell. Knowing full well nobody was going to buy me one of those or anything similar, it was just a throwaway line. Lo and behold, on Christmas Day I opened up a box to find this. It was a real battery hog, and in 1990 it was really hard to find an AC adapter for it, so I stopped using it after a year or so, but in the meantime I had a great time listening to Radio Moscow (that looks to be a successor station), Swiss Radio International, and, of course, the BBC World Service. Because of the time difference, I could get Cooke's "Letter from America" at about 8:15pm on Saturday nights. It was 13 minutes of wry and witty commentary about anything, from politics to culture and back again. From the NYT obituary:

In the introduction to his book "America," Mr. Cooke gave some idea of the range of his essays. "I covered everything from the public lives of six presidents to the private life of a burlesque stripper; from the black market in beef to the Black Panthers, from the Marshall Plan to Planned Parenthood."
He was charming, sly, sardonic, and also emotional (there are highlights from the program at the BBC site which include his broadcast of the RFK assassination; he was at the Hotel Ambassador that night). It was an amazing career. May he rest in peace.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (2)

March 30, 2004


"If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds."

Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu epic recalled by J. Robert Oppenheimer while viewing the first nuclear explosion in Alamagordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945

That seems like an appropriate way to introduce this photo gallery of Chernobyl and its surroundings, taken by a young Ukrainian woman on a motorcycle. It's probably better if you've got a high-speed connection, as the images are big, but even on my 56K dialup you can get the feel of the place. Remember "The Day After?" That's what these look like. (Link swiped from Solonor)

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (4)

March 29, 2004

Tinker, tinker

I finally found a feed display I could work with easily. You have to know which feed you want to take, and it only allows one, but that's good enough for me. It comes from a site called Biz/ed out of England. It's pretty self-explanatory: select the "How can I include the content on my Web site or VLE?" option, click the link, and enter your desired feed. It comes with default options, but don't worry about those, just accept them. Copy them into an editor or notepad; then you can fiddle with the colors and fonts to your heart's content.

As you can see, I used Google's top stories feed. If you're wondering how I found what the URL is for that, go here; it shows you a list of available Google feeds.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:33 PM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2004

Call CNN!

I'm reading Clarke's Against All Enemies. Most everybody knows all the headline-grabbing info in it, but here's an anecdote that doesn't have any political impact but is pretty funny.

In 1993 the Kuwaitis managed to foil an assassination attempt against former President Bush, and the perpetrators admitting being Iraqi intelligence agents. As retaliation, a plan was drawn up to attack the Iraqi Intelligence HQ with cruise missiles from the Gulf. President Clinton was to make a brief announcement on national TV, telling Americans what had been done and warning Iraq about heavier consequences if any further terrorism took place.

Unfortunately, cruise missiles (at the time) had no cameras onboard, so when Clinton asked "how are we gonna know if the targets were hit," the only answer was we won't till the morning after the missile launch, when satellite photos can confirm. He felt that he'd really like to know for sure before telling the country what had been done, but nobody in CIA, DOD, NSA, or any other government agency could assure him the attack had been successful. So Clarke, Anthony Lake, and the CIA man were all glumly wondering how to get Clinton to go on the tube, when suddenly there he was, announcing the action.

The President and Al Gore almost immediately afterwards showed up in Lake's office, where Clinton was asked how he'd decided he could go on without some assurance that the attack had been successful. Clinton said he'd called CNN. The network didn't have any correspondents on duty in Baghdad that night, but a cameraman in their Jordan bureau called a relative who lived near the Iraqi Intelligence HQ, and the relative told him that it had indeed been blown up. Clinton decided that was good enough for him, so he went ahead with the announcement.

I'm imagining the faces of all those high-powered intelligence guys when they realized the President of the United States asked for and got confirmation of US military action from the press.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:35 PM | Comments (5)

March 26, 2004

Good thoughts needed

Keep Batty in your thoughts. Check Jon's place for up-to-the-minute details. The doctors don't think it's too serious, but they kept her overnight.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (5)

March 25, 2004


Who knows a good script to add news headlines down there on the left side of this page? Presumably it would pick up RSS feeds from a preselected news source, but I could then change the source to one I'd rather use. Anybody care about seeing news stories (with links) on the side?

So far I've found Feedroll, which gives you the choice of several NYT sections and other news providers, JSM, which looks like a generic script, and Freesticky, which seems to have a zillion paid/unpaid choices.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:00 PM | Comments (1)

Bali Hai?

Ha! Take that, all you Mainlanders! Honolulu voted sexiest city in U.S.! Unfortunately, we ain't so good at meeting new prospects, so come here for honeymoons or trysts, but forget finding new romance. Hell, I coulda told them that. In related news, the Westin Maui has hired a Director of Romance. Yessiree bob, we take love seriously out here!

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:50 PM | Comments (1)

March 24, 2004

Sponge news!

It's a miracle!

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:52 PM | Comments (1)

Glued to TV

hilogo.gif v. michlog.gif

5 minutes. ESPN2.

Alas! 73 - 88

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:55 PM | Comments (1)

March 23, 2004

Back to reality

If you know a vet (particularly a Vietnam or Vietnam-era vet as I was) who's wondering which candidate to support in November, point him over to this post by Billmon. I read the same quotation he cites, but I didn't make the logical jump he does. He points to a remark by some Bush spokeperson saying all Kerry does is talk about his Vietnam experience, and who cares? Billmon takes offense, and so do I. Go over there and read why.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:55 PM | Comments (3)


Forget all that terrorism stuff; on the eve of The Players Championship, the most important question of the day is: Has engagement ruined Tiger Woods? Look at the record: only five wins last year, and no major championships! To (mis)quote Mars Blackmon, "It's gotta be the girl!"


Posted by Linkmeister at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2004

Spinning around

In the Administration's efforts to discredit Richard Clarke's accusations about terrorism pre-September 11, they say some odd stuff. Cheney on Limbaugh today:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I wasn't directly involved in that decision. He was moved out of the counterterrorism business over to the cyber security side of things, that is he was given a new assignment at some point here. I don't recall the exact time frame.

Q Cyber security, meaning Internet security?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, worried about attacks on the computer systems and the sophisticated information technology systems we have these days that an adversary would use or try to the system against us.

Q Well, now that explains a lot, that answer right there explains -- (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, he wasn't -- he wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff. And I saw part of his interview last night, and he wasn't --

The guy who's in charge of counterterrorism at NSA wasn't in the loop? Then I would accuse you and your boss, Mr. Cheney, of absolute incompetence, except that that's a damned lie anyway. As Josh Marshall points out, Clarke wasn't assigned to cybersecurity until after 9/11. In fact,

"On October 16, 2002, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Director of Homeland Security Governor Ridge announced the appointment of Richard A. Clarke as Special Advisor to the President for Cyberspace Security."(PDF)
Now the way I read a calendar, Oct. 16, 2002 is 13 months after Sept. 11, 2001, so Clarke was still in charge of counterterrorism, and thus was indeed nominally "in the loop."

Cheney is a liar or a fool or both. Personally, I lean towards liar; I don't think he's quite a fool.

Posted by Linkmeister at 04:38 PM | Comments (2)

March 21, 2004

60 Minutes

In case you missed what the domestic audience is talking about today around the water cooler, here's a link to the main CBS 60 Minutes page with the pertinent information about Richard Clarke's charge that President Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others ignored his warnings about al-Qaeda before 9/11. Here's part one of the video. Here's part two. Here's a more complete story in printable format. I don't know if a free transcript will be made available. Update: Here's a transcription from audio.

Here's some of the article:

After the president returned to the White House on Sept. 11, he and his top advisers, including Clarke, began holding meetings about how to respond and retaliate. As Clarke writes in his book, he expected the administration to focus its military response on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. He says he was surprised that the talk quickly turned to Iraq.

"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

"Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking.

"I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection."

Clarke says he and CIA Director George Tenet told that to Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Clarke then tells Stahl of being pressured by Mr. Bush.

"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'

"He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

I have never seen an Administration so single-mindedly determined to fight the wrong enemy. As Clarke also said in the interview:

I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they [got] back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back. They wanted to work on the same issues right away: Iraq, Star Wars. Not new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years.

Posted by Linkmeister at 08:26 PM | Comments (1)

The dryer ate my...sponge?

I threw a couple of sponges into the wash while doing laundry this weekend, and I got back one and a half sponges. Half of one of them has disappeared without a trace. Checked the lint trap; zero green residue. Checked the washer's tub; zip fragments. Checked the entire dryer compartment; nada. Checked all the clothes while folding; nothin'.


Update: Mystery solved! It had migrated into the right leg of a pair of Mom's sweatpants, and she discovered it after wearing them all day!

Posted by Linkmeister at 05:24 PM | Comments (7)

When he was very young

The other day I mentioned I had bathroom tile issues; we've had a couple of guys come out to the house to look at the job. We replaced the tub about six years ago, and in the process the bottom row of tiles had to be removed in order to squeeze the new one into the space. Apparently the replacement tiles were glued onto drywall instead of a new layer of cement, as the rest of the wall is. Well, as you can imagine, in an enclosed space like that the dampness finally got to the glue holding the tiles, and they're starting to come loose.

So guy #1 comes out, takes out a quarter and taps all the shower walls, and decrees that they sound hollow. They're obviously all just glued onto drywall and must be torn out and replaced; he can do it for $3,500. I point out that it's only one row of tiles that's coming loose, so it seems unlikely that the entire space should be demolished like Veterans Stadium, but he's insistent. Ok, I say, we'll let you know.

Guy #2 comes out the following day. He's done tile work for us in the past (we're talkin' 20-30 years ago; we had no idea whether he was even living, much less still in business, but we had an old business card, so we called the number), and he answered the phone himself. He remembered the house; he'd done the tile work for the original builder of the entire subdivision. He wanted to come see what had happened to that neighborhood project he'd done back in 1969-1970, and he agreed to come look.

Well now. This is a man who was born in Oklahoma in 1926; he's been in the tile business since 1946, all over the Southwest. He did contract jobs for all manner of places, including Los Alamos during the post-war years when the H-bomb was under development. He got started talking about his life, and we just listened for two hours. During the Depression his house had been blown away by a tornado in West Texas, so they rebuilt in a half-dugout (walls and a tin roof, as he described it). He'd been an Army guard in the first days of post-war Japanese occupation; he'd seen Hiroshima three months after the bomb was dropped. He got out of the Army and went back to Oklahoma; he used his GI Bill guaranteed home loan benefit to buy a house, started a tile business, and eventually began doing work from Wichita all the way south to Texas. Then he got a contract to build a tile mosaic for a hotel swimming pool on the Big Island, came out to do the work, and his wife and kids joined him three months later. His daughter announced after a few weeks here that she was now six, so Daddy had to find a place for them to live so she could go to school, and they've been here ever since. He's semi-retired, but his tile business is thriving, run by one of his sons.

I was wishing I'd had a tape recorder going. Listening to folks that age tell their stories is a wonderful thing.

Oh, about the tile job? He says that one row just needs to be patched; "pay for the materials and we can do it in a day."

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:26 AM | Comments (5)

March 20, 2004

Blog stuff

Now this is interesting. A guy at MIT did a survey of bloggers.

Here we report the findings from an online survey conducted between January 14th and January 21st, 2004. During that time, 486 respondents answered questions about their blogging practices and their expectations of privacy and accountability for the entries they publish online
The results are fascinating. It's worth a look.

While tinkering with the template you see before you, I found a few new blog tools; here are a couple. Mandarin Designs has lots of tips, from beginner level up to guru. Color Schemer allows you to test color combinations, and will suggest several based on the RGB or hex code you select, too. Both were very helpful.

Mom saw a comic strip this morning which prompted this thought: Wouldn't it be nice if you heard an option at the end of a voice mail system which said "If you plan to remain our customer, press 9?"

Posted by Linkmeister at 07:37 AM | Comments (3)

March 19, 2004

Who are those guys?

Who were these folks?

  • Heinrich Schliemann
  • Howard Carter
  • Louis Leakey
  • George Hull
  • Hiram Bingham

Answers below.

  • Schliemann Discoverer of Troy
  • Carter Discoverer of King Tut's tomb
  • Leakey With wife Mary, discoverer of Lucy in Olduvai Gorge
  • Hull creator of the Cardiff Giant
  • Bingham Discoverer of Machu Picchu

No, I don't know why I thought of this.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (7)

March 18, 2004


As part of PBS' local pledge drive, American Masters showed a rerun of an April 2003 program last night; it was a profile of Joni Mitchell (those of you saying, "but she's Canadian!" are quite right...I wondered how she qualified too). I missed some of the gossip back in '69-'70; I had no idea she and Graham Nash were lovers. Apparently she wrote the "Blue" album post-breakup. If you're "of a certain age" and you missed it, it may be re-broadcast in your area, and it's worth your time.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:46 AM | Comments (2)

March 17, 2004

Odds and ends

Are you ready for a Swiss Army pocket knife with a USB Memory card? I don't currently have a USB port, but I want one of these when I get one!

Do all those pharma ads work? "In the week following the Super Bowl, 34 percent of new patients requested Cialis compared with 21 percent for Levitra. In the week before the Super Bowl, Levitra had 25 percent of requests and Cialis 23 percent."

I don't know about you, but I often see links which read "" which, when clicked, take me to a site which I would guess normally has a much longer URL. I've wondered what it is, but hadn't bothered to investigate. Now, thanks to Wired, I don't have to. It's an interesting and potentially quite useful idea, I'd say. Basically, it cuts those humongous URLs down to a much more manageable size, making for easier linking. It has over 2 million sites in its database. Here's the site if you'd like to check it out.

Google goes local. You can search by city, state or zip to find items within those parameters. I've got a bathroom tile issue, so I looked for "tile contractors Honolulu" at the new site, and I got a bunch of local suppliers with addresses, phone numbers and websites (if one exists). It's easier and better than the Yellow Pages, I'd say.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:26 AM | Comments (2)

March 16, 2004

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

It's NCAA Tournament time! On the men's side (you heard it here first):

Badgers, Bearcats
Blazers and Blue Demons
Blue Devils and Broncos
It must be the season

Broncos, Buccaneers
Bulldogs and Cardinals
Catamounts, Commodores
Their fans lovin' it all

Cougars, Cowboys
Crimson Tide and Crusaders
Demon Deacons and Eagles
Hope it ain't "see ya laters"

Falcons, Illini
The Flames and the Friars
Forty-Niners and Gamecocks
All sayin' "we're triers"

Gators and Knights
Hawks and Hornets too
Huskies and Jaspers
Shoutin' "we're just not through"

Jayhawks and Longhorns
Miners, Mountain Hawks
Musketeers and Orangemen
Yellin' "you bet we rock"

Panthers and Pirates
Racers and Cajuns
The Rams and the Rattlers
No, they ain't done playin'

Red Raiders, Roadrunners
Salukis and Spartans
Spiders and Tar Heels
Not yet the Doc Maartens

Terrapins, Tigers
The Utes and Wildcats
Wolfpack, Yellow Jackets
Say "We'll throw in our hats"

For this is the time
When the Madness begins
When 65 goes to 1
And somebody wins!

Bad doggerel solely the responsibility of the author. No real poets were harmed during the writing of this material.

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (8)

March 15, 2004

Monday mutterings

Here's a retrospective look at Mars in science fiction, evolving as new discoveries about the planet were made. There are some good books (and some not-so-good ones) mentioned in here.

In other scientific news, Elizabeth Blackburn, one of the scientists recently dismissed from the President's Bioethics Council (see below), has written a letter (pdf) explaining her concerns about her dismissal and replacement with those whose views are more amenable to the Administration.

The Annals of Improbable Research folks (you know, the people who hand out the IgNoble Awards) now have a blog. No comments (yet), but we'll see. It's as zany as their annual awards are. (Link swiped from Al).

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2004

Little help here?

Is the type face too small? Are the links easily found in the text body? All suggestions gratefully (if not gracefully) accepted.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:27 PM | Comments (18)

March 12, 2004

Hurdy Gurdy

You may have seen that odd-looking musical instrument that Sting played (well, held) at the Academy Awards. If you're like me, you wondered what the heck it was. Turns out it was a hurdy gurdy.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the instrument. If you want to see what they look like more closely, go here and poke around.


Thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I open my eyes to take a peep
To find that I was by the sea
Gazing with tranquillity.
'Twas then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love,
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love.
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, gurdy he sang.
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, gurdy he sang.
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, gurdy he sang.
Histories of ages past
Unenlightened shadows cast
Down through all eternity
The crying of humanity.
'Tis then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Comes singing songs of love,
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Comes singing songs of love.
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, gurdy he sang.
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy.
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, gurdy he sang.
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, gurdy he sang.
Here comes the roly poly man and he's singing songs of love,
Roly poly, roly poly, roly poly, poly he sang.
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, gurdy he sang,
Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, gurdy he sang?

From the website, here's a fun story about the song and its author; if the site is to be believed, Donovan collaborated with George Harrison on the lyrics. Jimmy Page of Led Zep has played a hurdy gurdy too.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:26 PM | Comments (5)

March 11, 2004

This is discouraging

The most depressing thing I've heard today about the bombs in Madrid (beyond nearly 200 innocent people killed) was this statement from a member of the Spanish Parliament (paraphrasing): "It was logical to think it was ETA, since the type of explosive was the kind they usually use."

Think about it.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:37 PM | Comments (2)

Thursday (de)tritus

The digital cable is back (sorta); now it reverts to Channel 3 about once an hour for no apparent reason.

Ashcroft's Dept. of Justice can't have patients' medical records. DOJ wanted abortion records from Planned Parenthood's affiliates, ostensibly to defend itself against lawsuits resulting from the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. A District Judge in San Francisco said it had no need for those files; it could defend itself without them. Tuesday DOJ said it's dropping its demand for those records.

De Tocqueville called Americans "a nation of joiners," so it shouldn't surprise me that there's an American Academy of Actuaries, I suppose. The Academy has just issued Volume 2 of 3 election guides; this one focuses on questions about the 43 million Americans without health insurance. The previous one covered Social Security reform.

I found a couple of new science blogs: Pharyngula is written by a biology prof in Minnesota, while The Loom is written by Carl Zimmer (whom I've referred to before). Zimmer is a science writer whose work has been published in Science, Newsweek, and Discover, among other places. He has a new book out; it's entitled Soul Made Flesh. The subtitle tells it all: The Discovery of the Brain and How It Changed the World. I look forward to reading it.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:24 PM | Comments (1)

March 10, 2004

21st century conveniences, huh?

I think I'll become a Luddite. Today our digital cable TV signal is broken, and my 'Net connection crashes every five minutes. I wonder if there's a future in replicating cave art?

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:37 PM | Comments (5)

March 09, 2004

Dean at Gridiron

Howard Dean gave a speech at the pre-Gridiron lunch the other day. It's been on C-Span, and you should try to see it if you can, but here's the part I find most compelling:

We have an enormous problem in this country. And I’m not here to beard the Washington establishment, but I’m going to tell you -- people in this town do not get it. They don’t understand it -- and people in many places on the East Coast and the West Coast don’t get it. Because the bulk of our manufacturing is not all concentrated in the Midwest, but the economies in the Midwest are the least diversified. And they depend heavily -- the best-quality jobs in this country, between the Rockies and the Alleganies[sic], depend on big corporations paying those good wages, much better than the local small businessperson can pay, and better than the farmer can make. And we’re losing that.


This city, and the people in it, both Republicans and Democrats, have got to understand the extraordinary pain that’s going on in America. And you’ve got to stop paying lip service to it. Because they’re beyond that. And the things that you saw in our campaign show, more than anything else, that people want to hope again. They want to be empowered; they want really to have local control, not just people who’ll talk about it, but then take it away when they get into power because, after all, local control is good when somebody else is in power, but not when you’re in power in Washington. (Italics in original)

Go read the whole thing.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:51 PM | Comments (4)

Colleges at risk

The battle against censorship and heavy-handed intrusion from Congress goes ever on. Professor Juan Cole is asking for action protesting aspects of a bill making its way through Congress. From a USA Today editorial:

Michigan and dozens of other universities have expanded their Middle Eastern studies using a $90 million-a-year federal grant program designed to increase the number of Arabic translators and analysts the government can hire. But some squeamish members of Congress who don't trust what university professors teach about Middle East politics jeopardize the efforts.

In response to complaints that some professors are spreading anti-American or anti-Israel ideas, Jewish groups and conservatives have called for a government-mandated panel to oversee the programs and ensure students are exposed to balanced views on the Middle East. Michigan and other involved schools now warn that such intrusion into their academic affairs could force them to sever ties to the programs.

In yet another editorial, the Village Voice explains how this legislation came about:

"This is part of a wider campaign to intimidate," asserts Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Chair of Arab Studies at Columbia and head of its Middle East Institute. "It won't work with my generation, but it will discourage younger scholars from going into the field. One of the objectives is to put the universities in an impossible position—either to accept partisan intrusion into academic affairs or just not take the money." According to Amy Newhall, executive director of the Middle East Studies Association, the effect will be counterproductive: fewer and fewer students studying Arabic, Pashtu, Turkish, Urdu.

Professor Cole has addresses and telephone/fax numbers of the members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has purview over this thing (HR3077). Here's a link to Thomas, the search tool for Congressional legislation. Type HR3077 in the search box, then select the version that's been referred to the Senate.

If you think Congress should let universities do what they do without attempting to legislate what the curriculum should cover, you should read his post and take action. Neither of my Senators is on the committee, or I'd be burning up the fax line. He has a link to a description of just what it is that Mid-Eastern Studies departments do, too. It's quite an informative post about a lousy idea. You'd think, in an era when we need all the Middle East scholars we can find, this sort of nonsense would be laughed out of the halls, and maybe it will be, but did the authors of this bill check their common sense at the door? It's bad enough our military fires Arabic translators because they're gay. Now this?

Posted by Linkmeister at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

Politics and Sept. 11

Jimmy Breslin doesn't think much of President Bush's ad campaign.

The ad is nothing more than another George W. Bush fraud. First, arriving at the trade center, he was led by a flunkey to a retired fire fighter, Bob Beckwith, who had come down three days after the attack to take a look. Bush's flacks had Beckwith stand on a destroyed fire engine and Bush came up next to him and Bush put an arm around him and, two heroes, Bush called out "we're tough" to the television cameras.

He had all he wanted out of the place. A picture.

When Breslin is in full righteous rage, he's a magnificent writer, and this column is one of those times. He goes after both Bushes, Giuliani, and that tame police commissioner who came out for the cameras to say the ads were appropriate. Be sure to read to the end; his last line is a masterpiece.

In a related story from the NYT, Elizabeth Bumiller notes: "Mr. Bush was remarkably acquiescent, they added, during the two to three hours of camera work it took to get his lead campaign commercial ready to broadcast..." (My italics)

Ah, but only one hour for the 9/11 commission.

Posted by Linkmeister at 09:45 AM | Comments (2)

March 06, 2004

When's Opening Day?

You may have heard of the multiple choice test(?) that was given to University of Georgia basketball players; now is your chance to take it yourself. Samples:

2. How many players are allowed to play at one time on any one team in a regulation game?
a. 2
b. 3
c. 4
d. 5

7. How many points does one field goal account for in a Basketball Game?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

In the same spirit, then, I give you the Linkmeister baseball test:

In a baseball game, a triple is worth how many bases?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

Where do the New York Yankees play their home games?
a. Dodger Stadium
b. Yankee Stadium
c. Fenway Park
c. Wrigley Field

Was Babe Ruth?
a. a baseball player
b. a misspelt candy bar name
c. Ruth Bader Ginzburg's childhood nickname
d. a large blue ox

Winners receive season tickets to the 2004 Hawaii Islanders AAA baseball team's home games.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:41 AM | Comments (7)

March 05, 2004

Friday folderol

Krugman reviews the new books by Susskind and Phillips.

Wanna know what a chemist thinks of hydrogen fluoride? Try this. It's even worse than the hydrofluoric acid some of us may remember from high school chemistry classes.

The US Patent Office may get to keep all its fees, if this bill makes it through the Senate. It made it through the House by a whopping 379-28 vote. I wrote about this down here. The bill prohibits Congress from skimming the fees, as it has regularly been doing.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:48 PM | Comments (2)

March 04, 2004

Scientists Strike Back!

Here's more about the Treasury Department's interpretation of "editing" for publications from embargoed nations (see below).

Most scientific societies are defying or ignoring the rule, which applies to all US publications. Theoretically, their refusal exposes their editors and officers to fines of up to $50,000 and 10 years or more in jail, should the government decide to prosecute, which so far it has not done. A number of technical and general publishers are considering suing to overturn the long-overlooked federal regulation behind the ruling, and many scientific groups are considering donating substantially to that cause. But a Treasury Department official in the center of the fracas told The Scientist that he favors a new reinterpretation that would please all sides.

So the scientific community thinks this is a) asinine and b) unnecessarily restrictive.

Then there's the stem cell debate, in which there's new news from yesterday:

There are even fewer stem cell lines than Bush thought when he issued his policy on August 9, 2001; scientists are unhappy and so is Congress. It looks like only 23 lines may be useful, rather than the 70 or so he claimed when he denied federal funds to any more. There is no thought of changing policy, the Administration says. Now a scientist at Harvard has developed 17 new lines, which may put more pressure on the Administration to allow federal money to be used for research, particularly since he's going to give them away. Here's a pretty good overview of the ethical aspects of this issue, as distinct from the political.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2004

Wednesday whimsy

To mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, Spanish scientists translated genetic code into musical notation.

The result, a CD called “Genoma Music” is varied and musically pleasing—a sort of New Age expression of what happens when each of the four chemical units of DNA, also known as A, G, T, and C—is translated into a musical note. Thus, C = do, T = re, G = so, and A = la.

Cool! You can find the CD at Genoma Music. You'll hear the music when you go to that page.

Here's a story about Downing Street's "blog"; it's actually a transcript of the daily briefing given by the PM's official spokesman, but it has comment capability!

Want to take a virtual tour of ocean floor thermal vents? Go to Magic Mountain! This one's 150 miles west of Vancouver, BC, not in Southern California.

Posted by Linkmeister at 11:47 AM | Comments (1)

March 02, 2004

More scientific outrage

Remember those 60 scientists who objected to the politicization of their field? Here's another good article about the subject from the Washington Post. The headline alone alerts the reader: Beware 'Sound Science.' It's Doublespeak for Trouble.

It all sounds noble enough, but the phrases "sound science" and "peer review" don't necessarily mean what you might think. Instead, they're part of a lexicon used to put a pro-science veneer on policies that most of the scientific community itself tends to be up in arms about. In this Orwellian vocabulary, "peer review" isn't simply an evaluation by learned colleagues. Instead, it appears to mean an industry-friendly plan to require such exhaustive analysis that federal agencies could have a hard time taking prompt action to protect public health and the environment. And "sound science" can mean, well, not-so-sound science.

That was published in the February 27 edition, so it may not be long for the free viewing; the gist may be found here at the author's blog.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2004

Kidnapped, by GWB?

Obviously I wasn't there, but when the guy you're ostensibly rescuing from the mob immediately says you kidnapped him, and your word has proven to be suspect about previous foreign adventures, do you think just saying such a claim is nonsense will really quiet the critics?

I learned something in that latter article, too; the guy who's the Undersecretary of State for Latin America used to be an aide to Jesse Helms, former Senator (R-NC), who never saw a dime of foreign aid he thought was well spent. Odd choice, although no more odd than Elliott Abrams, John Poindexter and John Negroponte.

Update: Billmon at the Whiskey Bar has a much more detailed analysis, including a little background on Roger Noriega, the former Helmsman.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:31 PM | Comments (3)