July 31, 2005


You rarely hear about it, but the military's Central ID lab is out here. Most of the time it only makes the news if a new set of remains from Vietnam is discovered and turned over to the lab for forensic examination, but it still has other work to do.

Currently the laboratory is identifying about 2 service men a week - over a hundred a year. There is one American still missing from Operations Desert Shield/Storm, and there are more than 1,800 from the Vietnam War, 120 from the Cold War, more than 8,100 from the Korean War, and more than 78,000 from World War II.
There are a couple of these labs; the San Antonio military ID lab
...is now working on 16 cases referred by the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command. Artifacts in the cases may fit into a shoebox or be 2,000 pieces. Each case takes two to six months or longer to complete. Technicians at the lab also work on more current cases, assisting in about 12 major investigations of incidents involving equipment failure on Air Force aircraft. The most recent involved a helicopter crash in Afghanistan earlier this year.

The lab can do infrared and ultraviolet examination to find serial numbers blurred by rust and time or separate blood stains from fuel spills.

But its most striking research aid is the extensive collection of military uniforms and equipment from World War I through today. It has one of the largest collections of aircraft ejection seats in the world, as well as complete cockpit sections of Vietnam-era F-4 Phantoms, Huey helicopters and the F-15 fighter.

Ejection seats? Man, there are a lot of oddities kept around in various places, aren't there?

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July 30, 2005

Music meme

Kuff got me.

List ten songs that you are currently digging ... it doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're no good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the ten songs in your blog. Then tag five other people to see what they're listening to.

O-o-kay. I haven't got an iPod, so I'll do a random grab from the vinyl collection in the middle of the first shelf.

  1. "It’s No Secret" – Jefferson Airplane. From "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off."
  2. "Tangled Up in Blue" – Bob Dylan. From "Blood on the Tracks."
  3. "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" – Janis Joplin. From "Joplin in Concert."
  4. "Jambalaya" – Emmylou Harris. From "Elite Hotel."
  5. "These Eyes" – Guess Who. From "The Best of The Guess Who."
  6. "Wishing Well" – Free. From "Heartbreaker."
  7. "Funk #49" – The James Gang. From "The James Gang 16 Greatest Hits."
  8. "Tiny Dancer" – Elton John. From "Madman Across the Waters."
  9. "Day by Day" – Original Cast. From "Godspell."
  10. "Listen to the Music" – The Doobie Brothers. From "Toulouse Street."

Huh. I coulda done worse (what if it had hit the "Ls" and I'd gotten The Lettermen?). It's not quite "what you're really digging right now;" it's more "what haven't you listened to in a while and just rediscovered as a result of this exercise?" Fine by me; I can find a couple of hours to listen to all these albums.

Since I don't really know who might come by in the next day or so, I'm not gonna tag anyone in particular; if you're up for it, trackback here to let me know.

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July 29, 2005

JAG Corps speaks

By virtue of six memos newly released to the public, we now know that most of the military lawyers who were consulted about the legality of interrogation techniques proposed and used in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib strongly disagreed with the use of those techniques.

The documents include one written by the deputy judge advocate general of the Air Force, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, advising the task force that several of the "more extreme interrogation techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law" as well as military law.

General Rives added that many other countries were likely to disagree with the reasoning used by Justice Department lawyers about immunity from prosecution. Instead, he said, the use of many of the interrogation techniques "puts the interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations abroad."

Any such crimes, he said, could be prosecuted in other nations' courts, international courts or the International Criminal Court, a body the United States does not formally participate in or recognize.

Other senior military lawyers warned in tones of sharp concern that aggressive interrogation techniques would endanger American soldiers taken prisoner and also diminish the country's standing as a leader in "the moral high road" approach to the laws of war.

The memorandums provide the most complete record to date of how uniformed military lawyers were frequently the chief dissenters as government officials formulated interrogation policies.

"These military lawyers were clearly disturbed by the proposed techniques that were deviations from past practices that were being advocated by the Justice Department," said Senator Graham, himself a former military lawyer.

The JAG people have been a lot more professional and honest than anyone else in this mess, that's for damn sure. American lives would have been saved and America's image would be far better off had they been listened to.

Ten years from now a lot of people are going to look at this period in American history and say "How could they do that to themselves, and why do we have to clean up after them?"

If you want to read the documents, here's a link.

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July 28, 2005

Digital Photo tips

Here are some thoughts about digital photography from the editor of foto8.

Put simply, in order to make better images, take more pictures and edit, print and publish them so that you are sharing and showing your work to more people.

Receiving their feedback, be they family, friends or colleagues, can help you understand how your images are read and how you can make them more effective in future. In addition it must be noted that good photographers appreciate good photography and nurturing your interest by looking at other people's images can be an powerful and positive influence on your own work.

He comes out strongly against image deletion and strongly in favor of archiving, which I find interesting.

A roll of film was a permanent record - one literally had a physical document of all the images from a shoot or collected over a number of days. Today though there is an obvious temptation to delete files and just keep the images one thinks are worth saving.
He's got a point, but practically, unless you've got unlimited disk or web capacity, you have to do that on storage media like CDs or DVDs, which I'd argue you should do anyway. Not that I do, but then I don't have more than about fifty digital photos anyway.

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July 27, 2005

The Leaky Cauldron

Ok, Potter fans: here's a three-part interview with JK Rowling, conducted on July 16 of this year. It's full of highly illuminating material, such as this amusing bit:

ES: Why does Dumbledore allow Peeves to stay in the castle?

JKR: Can't get him out.

ES: He's Dumbledore, he can do anything!

JKR: No, no no no no. Peeves is like dry rot. You can try and eradicate it. It comes with the building. You’re stuck. If you've got Peeves you're stuck.

ES: But Peeves answers to Dumbledore -

JKR: Allegedly.

MA: Allegedly?

JKR: Yeah. I see Peeves as like a severe plumbing problem in a very old building, and Dumbledore is slightly better with the spanner than most people, so he can maybe make it function better for a few weeks. Then it’s going to start leaking again. Would you want Peeves gone, honestly?

The remaining two parts are linked; unlike Book Seven, you don't have to wait for them.

It really does have a lot of interesting stuff, despite my selection of the Peeves bit. Somewhere in there the interviewers say they started with 66 pages of questions.

Link found in the comments at Washington Monthly.

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July 26, 2005

I shoulda gotten out of Vancouver more

Cue the "Outer Limits" theme music: a Canadian wildlife geneticist plans to test fur purportedly from Sasquatch, aka Bigfoot.

In the latest sighting, a group of Teslin residents told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. they heard branches cracking and saw a large human-like creature run by a house. It left behind large footprints, they said, and the hair tufts that were given to wildlife officials.

Coltman expects to have his results on Thursday and said that even if the hair turns out not to be from a sasquatch, the process should serve as good way to get students interested in the field of DNA testing.

"It's sort of like a wildlife CSI story," he said.

Damned American pop culture. It's even seeped into Canada!

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July 25, 2005

Carnival (blogger variety)

Coturnix has compiled an awesome list of current blog carnivals, carnivals which may have passed away, and even things which don't necessarily meet carnival standards but may soon.

Have a look; I'll be surprised if you can't find one to like.

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Foolish beer ads

Remember those hilarious Bud Light's "Real American Heroes - Men of Genius" ads? Here's a large collection of them in mp3 format. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go there and click any one; you'll instantly recognize it. A couple I remember are "Mr. Way Too Much Cologne Wearer" and "Mr. Wedding Band Guitar Player."

Here's the text for many of them.

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July 24, 2005

Myron Floren

Myron Floren has died. He was the accordionist for Lawrence Welk's band from 1950-1982.

When I was eight or nine I took accordion lessons while we lived in San Pedro, Ca. Every Thursday I'd be driven off to Lomita or Torrance or one of those little towns in the vast auto-heavy landscape that is Greater Los Angeles for a one-hour lesson. Then I'd drag my accordion back home to our Navy housing and practice all week. I was never very good, but it wasn't for lack of practice. I carted that accordion along on my senior class trip to New York in 1968; in fact, we still had it until about ten years ago, when we gave it to someone who answered an ad for it.

The initial music books I used were presumably endorsed by Floren, since there was a large black-and-white illustration of him on the cover.

Rest in peace, Mr. Floren. You gave polka players new hope.

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A random thought I had while passing through a room with C-Span's "Washington Journal" on the tube: who is "further ado" and why is he/she always without?

Bring "further ado" into the conversation!

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July 23, 2005

Hometown pride

If anyone's watching ESPN's "50 States in 50 Days" feature, here's the schedule conveniently sorted by state.

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Evo-Devo for amateurs

Need a little evolutionary biology to start your weekend? Go here. Complete with pictures!

Seriously, that's as good a short course as you're gonna find on the internets. From bacteria to William Jennings Bryan in 25-30 brief paragraphs.

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July 22, 2005


In early June, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan ordered the release of the additional photographs, part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to determine the extent of abuse at American military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

NYT Headline this afternoon: Government Defies an Order to Release Iraq Abuse Photos

This "Cover Our Backside" moment brought to you by Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, proudly protecting you since 2001.

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Plame Affair Timeline

When FactCheck.org keeps to its mission of factual reporting, it's not bad. Here's a timeline of what has happened in the Wilson-Plame-Rove-Novak-Miller-Cooper imbroglio so far. It's a fast way to get up to speed, and it's got pertinent links and sources.

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Hi-Res photos in PowerPoint

Any PowerPoint creators out there? You can place hi-res images in it.

Exported images in older versions of PowerPoint, including 97, 2000, and XP, were limited to the computer screen resolution, usually 72 or 96 dots per inch. PowerPoint 2003, on the other hand, allows users to customize image resolution to higher values, said Chun-Shan Yam, Ph.D., of the radiology department at Beth Israel. This feature is obscure because no entry for it appears in the file menu, and it is not documented in the Windows help menu. Detailed instructions are available on Microsoft's Web site.

Microsoft says the feature will be available in subsequent editions of PowerPoint; it's available for Mac Office 2001 and X as well as PP 2003.

This seems to be particularly useful to radiologists, but I can imagine a whole lot of scientific uses (geologic strata and microbiological cell structures, for two).

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July 21, 2005


Does it strike anyone else as odd that scattered among all the beer and ED commercials on ESPN there's the occasional 30-second spot for Metamucil?

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New reference sites

The Eastman House and the International Center of Photography are working to put together "one of the largest freely accessible databases of masterwork photography anywhere on the Web." It's called Photomuse, and when it's done it looks like it will be a highly usable reference work.

The creators say the goal is to organize the site so that works can be found not only by the name of the photographer but also in many other ways. For example, a Hine picture of an Italian immigrant couple could be found under the headings of "immigration," or "Italian-Americans" or "Ellis Island" or "urban photography" or under the headings of exhibitions where the photograph has been shown through the years.

There's a whole compendium of languages, and I've never heard of it? I'm no linguistics professor, just a guy with an interest in the field, but Ethnologue is entirely new to me. Apparently its origin dates back to 1951:

The project was founded by Richard Pittman, a missionary who thought other missionaries needed better information about which languages lacked a Bible. The first version appeared in 1951, 10 mimeographed pages that described 40 languages.

An interesting tidbit, representative of what you'll find there: "The number of languages listed for USA is 238. Of those, 162 are living languages, 3 are second language without mother-tongue speakers, and 73 are extinct."

Just a couple of things to browse through in your spare time.

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July 20, 2005

"Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream"

Here's a dream I wish would come true. I met a pretty girl who worked in radio and knew somebody who knew how to fix my long-dead TEAC A-5300 reel-to-reel tape deck. When we got it back from her friend, all the photographs I've taken over the past 25 years had magically been transformed into a long-running video tape which ran on the thing. I was in awe. These things were all taken on 35-mm film, first on a Petri 7S and then on a Canon A-1; I suppose it's technically feasible to convert the negatives to DVD, but to 1/4" tape? Cool!

Then I woke up.

(Title stolen from an Ed McCurdy song).

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July 19, 2005

Potter 6

I finished it. It was good. I feel like readers must have when they read that Holmes had gone over the cliff at Reichenbach Falls. NO!

It's a darned good thing that, unlike Conan Doyle, Ms. Rowling is already planning the next book.

Now I can revert to feeling like Dickens fans in the 19th century again.

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July 18, 2005

A Late Review of Baseball's All Star Game

This perfectly encapsulates my feelings about Fox and its (in)ability to broadcast baseball.

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Tomlinson's term is nearly up, but...

Tomlinson's term at CPB expires in September and he can't be reappointed to the chairmanship. Great news, right? Not so fast. Cheryl F. Halpern, who may get the job, has been, along with her husband, a major financial supporter

of Republican candidates for years. At one point during the 2004 elections, Mother Jones magazine ranked the Halperns among the nation's top 100 "hard" money donors (contributions made directly to candidates, not party organizations) and said they contributed a total of $81,800 to, among others, President Bush and Republican Sens. Trent Lott (Miss.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Conrad Burns (Mont.) and Christopher Bond (Mo.). The magazine said that 95 percent of their contributions during that election cycle went to Republicans.

Ok, no guilt by association practiced here, but:

At the Senate confirmation hearing on her nomination to the CPB board in 2003, Halpern expressed agreement with [Senator Trent] Lott after he questioned the objectivity of PBS journalist and commentator Bill Moyers.

"There has to be recognition that an objective, balanced code of journalistic ethics has got to prevail across the board, and there needs to be accountability," she said at the hearing. She agreed with Lott that penalties were justified when balance fails, although she acknowledged that CPB rules prohibit interfering with programming decisions. Neither she nor Lott elaborated on what sort of penalties they favored.

It looks like the problem won't go away even if Tomlinson does. We have to pin our hopes on the CPB Inspector General's report showing that there is no slant to news reporting at PBS and NPR, and even then, as we've seen, the Republicans will claim there is.

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July 17, 2005

It's all a learning experience

In between reading "Half Blood Prince" and bedtime last night, I had to figure out how to make the Windows XP fax function work. At 7:30pm. To help somebody out. On deadline.

Isn't that how most people spend their Saturday evenings?

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July 16, 2005

Roving Bloggy Reporter

I went down the hill at 11:30pm last night to see what the lines for Harry Potter at the local bookstore were like. There were probably 200 people anxiously waiting for the stroke of midnight, so I took some pictures. One of the interesting things to me was the scarcity of little kids; most of the crowd was teenage and up. Does that mean this group was made up of those who started with the first book when they were nine or ten? Who knows?

Forgot: Solonor was dragooned (he says, but I think he volunteered) into emceeing a similar affair at his local bookstore, and he has photos here.

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July 15, 2005

Press awakes

Why has the media suddenly started behaving like the attack dogs they were during Clinton's second term? Howard Fineman tells us it's because they're mad as hell and not going to take it any more.

Take my word, there has been a lot of soul searching in the so-called Main Stream Media (MSM) over its performance, or lack of performance, in the months leading up to the American-led ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Specifically, did we replace what should have been professional skepticism with a certain mindless credulousness in assessing the reality of the Bush administration’s claims of imminent danger to the country and the world from Saddam’s supposedly vast stash of weapons of mass destruction, including—only months away, it was said—the nuclear kind?

If we failed, was it out of a misplaced sense of patriotic duty, or political cowardice or sheer incompetence—or all three? The press corps was spring-loaded with self-doubt over the WMD issue, and ready to snap over any story that would allow it to revisit what now looks to have been a massive—and embarrassingly successful, from the press’s point of view—propaganda campaign.

So Rove was a spinner on the WMD front? After him!

So, guys, while you're feeling this sudden need to atone for your swallowing that propaganda hook, line and sinker, can I suggest you start taking serious looks at some of the other corruption this Administration has within it? Like, say sweetheart no-bid contracts with Halliburton and its subsidiaries?

He also has an interesting tidbit at the end of the column:

There is a civil war brewing within the MSM, and the Rove story is exposing it—and is fueled by it. Until now, the rivalry between the Fox and non-Fox worlds has been confined to cable, where Rupert Murdoch’s forces have all but overwhelmed the competition.

But now the broadcast networks are in the game, with some non-Fox reporters openly complaining about the White House’s effort to defend Rove by offering its legal spin to certain preferred reporters and news organizations. By dividing the press corps into Red versus Blue—and talking only to the Red—administration strategists are inviting attacks from one side.

Well, gosh, fellas, when Fox has been eating the cable guys' lunch for five years, I'd have thought you might have started noticing the enemy on your flank before this, but whatever.

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The demise of polity

If the NYT follows through on its plan to make its readers pay for the editorial page content, then this may be one of your last chances to read Paul Krugman:

Mr. Rove also understands, better than anyone else in American politics, the power of smear tactics. Attacks on someone who contradicts the official line don't have to be true, or even plausible, to undermine that person's effectiveness. All they have to do is get a lot of media play, and they'll create the sense that there must be something wrong with the guy.

And now we know just how far he was willing to go with these smear tactics: as part of the effort to discredit Joseph Wilson IV, Mr. Rove leaked the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A. I don't know whether Mr. Rove can be convicted of a crime, but there's no question that he damaged national security for partisan advantage. If a Democrat had done that, Republicans would call it treason.

But what we're getting, instead, is yet another impressive demonstration that these days, truth is political. One after another, prominent Republicans and conservative pundits have declared their allegiance to the party line. They haven't just gone along with the diversionary tactics, like the irrelevant questions about whether Mr. Rove used Valerie Wilson's name in identifying her (Robert Novak later identified her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame), or the false, easily refuted claim that Mr. Wilson lied about who sent him to Niger. They're now a chorus, praising Mr. Rove as a patriotic whistle-blower.

Ultimately, this isn't just about Mr. Rove. It's also about Mr. Bush, who has always known that his trusted political adviser - a disciple of the late Lee Atwater, whose smear tactics helped President Bush's father win the 1988 election - is a thug, and obviously made no attempt to find out if he was the leaker.

Most of all, it's about what has happened to America. How did our political system get to this point?

Maybe because the party which proclaims itself so strongly in favor of moral values actually has none?

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July 14, 2005

Sky pilots

There's more about Air Force evangelism in Monday's Times:

Figures provided by the Air Force show that from 1994 to 2005 the number of chaplains from many evangelical and Pentecostal churches rose, some doubling. For example, chaplains from the Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministries International increased to 10 from none. The Church of the Nazarene rose to 12 from 6.

At the same time, the number of chaplains from the Roman Catholic Church declined to 94 from 167, and there were declines in more liberal, mainline Protestant churches: the United Church of Christ to 3 from 11, the United Methodist Church to 50 from 64.

There's an interesting analysis from the article trying to explain why the mix of chaplains has changed from more-or-less ecumenical to evangelical-heavy:

There are also political reasons. Anne C. Loveland, a retired professor of American history at Louisiana State University and the author of "American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military, 1942-1993," said the foundation for the change in the chaplaincy was laid during the Vietnam War.

"Evangelical denominations were very supportive of the war, and mainline liberal denominations were very much against it," Ms. Loveland said. "That cemented this growing relationship between the military and the evangelicals."

Now that's interesting, and since she's done the research for her book, I suspect it's true. I'd never thought of it, but certainly Reverend William Sloane Coffin was no evangelical when he was an anti-war activist chaplain at Yale. The Berrigans were both Catholic priests when they were actively protesting the Vietnam War.

I do think the decline in the number of Catholic chaplains is a mirror of what's happening overall in the Church; there's a severe shortage of priests in general, so it makes sense that there'd be one in the military as well.

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July 13, 2005

The Ombudsmen speak

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Ombudsmen's first reports are out.

Tomlinson was so exercised by the supposed liberal leanings of the PBS show "Now With Bill Moyers" that he pushed PBS to create two conservative-oriented programs, "The Journal Editorial Report" (featuring Wall Street Journal editorial writers) and "Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered" as counterweights. He also advocated creating the two ombudsmen's positions, largely over the objections of NPR, which has its own ombudsman, and PBS, which said last month it would add its own. That makes four ombudsmen overseeing public broadcasting.

Four? Four? How idiotic is that? Well, anyway, did they find any slanted reporting?

As it turns out, not much. Actually, as it turns out, none at all.

Instead, Bode and Schulz have been positively glowing in their assessments of the journalism heard on NPR and seen on news shows distributed by PBS. So glowing, in fact, that Schulz and Bode's reports, which are posted on CPB's Web site could easily be excerpted in the shorthand style of a movie ad quoting favorable reviews. To wit:

"First-rate. . . . Insightful interviews. . . . In all, two excellent reports." -- Schulz on NPR's reporting from Mosul, Iraq, in late April.

"Excellent. . . . Informative. . . . These two reports gave a nuanced and balanced view of the situation. . . . Kudos to the producers, reporters and editors." -- Bode, on the same stories.

"An excellent curtain raiser!" -- Bode on an NPR report about an upcoming court-martial of a Marine accused of murdering two Iraqis.

"High praise to Mississippi Public Television for an important job well done, and for ably fulfilling its mission of public service to the state." -- Bode on coverage of the trial of Edgar Ray Killen, the former Ku Klux Klan member accused and convicted in the death of three civil rights workers.

"TV at its best." -- Schulz on the three-part PBS series "The Appalachians."

Neither ombudsman mentions a lack of "balance" -- a frequent Tomlinson criticism -- in the programs reviewed. Indeed, neither comments one way or the other about the political leanings of the few programs that were reviewed.

Tomlinson is a hack in thrall to the White House. That's the only conclusion I can reach.

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July 12, 2005

Dumbledore calling?

Yesterday morning the phone rang. Who was on the other end but Jim Dale, the actor who reads all the parts for the Harry Potter audiobooks (ok, it was a recorded message, but still!), reminding me that I have to pick up my reserved copy of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" between midnight Friday and Sunday afternoon. Heavy artillery, huh?

For fun, click on the biography link at his home page, then click on the cartoons link on the left. You'll find a group of Hirschfeld cartoons depicting Dale in various roles on Broadway.

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Design for (relief) dollars

London Stands

If you like that image, go to LondonStands and buy a t-shirt. Proceeds go to the Red Cross London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund.

Via Avedon Carol's Sideshow, here's a link to a BBC article entitled "Blogs on the Bombs." It has some very compelling links within it, including several eyewitness accounts from riders of the Tube.

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July 11, 2005

Fun with Tomlinson

When last we left Ken Tomlinson, the chairman of CPB, he was fibbing about coordinating his efforts to swing PBS and NPR towards Republican talking points with the White House. He had commissioned a secret report which attempted to rank stories which ran on the two media outlets according to their political leanings. The Mann report (links to it here) is now available, and it makes for some really weird reading. Max Blumenthal has done some analysis.

The Mann report reads as if dictated by Cookie Monster while chewing on a mouthful of lead paint chips. Names of famous political figures and celebrities are chronically misspelled. PBS guests are categorized by labels--"anti-DeLay," "neutral," "x"--for often bewildering reasons. Mann appears to have spent endless hours monitoring programs with no political content, gathering such insights as that Ray Charles was blind.

I suggest you read the report yourself. The overview is here (pdf). There's even a copy of the nifty chart Mann prepared to identify guests on "Now with Bill Moyers" as liberal, conservative, anti-Bush, etc. Chuck Hagel and other Republicans were no doubt surprised to learn they were "liberal."

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July 09, 2005


Neither of these are working at the moment. I installed MT-Close2 to shut off ones older than five days in an attempt to defeat/slow down spam, but there's a glitch and now even commenting on current posts returns a server error.

The management is trying to resolve the situation. If you need/want to e-mail me, click the Linkmeister button graphic on the left.

Update: I've turned them back on. We'll see how effective MT-Close2 is. MT 3.2 is on its way, and it has new enhancements to fight the ongoing battle against the spammers.

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A Not-so-Distant Mirror

On Thursday Cardinal Schönborn, the Roman Catholic cardinal archbishop of Vienna, wrote an op/ed in the NYT discussing the Church's views on evolution.

He concluded:

Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of "chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.

This caused an uproar, as you might imagine. So Thursday the Cardinal was interviewed:

Cardinal Schönborn, who is on the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, said the office had no plans to issue new guidance to teachers in Catholic schools on evolution. But he said he believed students in Catholic schools, and all schools, should be taught that evolution is just one of many theories.

Does the Church not know how science uses the word "theory?" Dictionary.com's definition 1: A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

The Church seems to be defining theory in accordance with Dictionary.com's definition 6: An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.

Enlightenment? What Enlightenment? It's not just Osama bin Laden who wants to go back to the 14th century, apparently; the Catholic Church does too.

No wonder I turned my back on organized religion when I got to college.

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July 08, 2005


I used to visit my aunt and uncle in Santa Maria, now famous mostly for the Michael Jackson trial. It had a prior claim to fame, however -- Santa Maria barbecue.

First, a little history. Santa Maria barbecue is a throwback to California's rancho days. Traditionally, it was made by threading 3-inch-thick blocks of top sirloin on willow poles and then cooking them over long pits filled with smoldering coals of local red oak.

Although most barbecue is cooked slowly to let it absorb the most smoke and tenderize tough cuts such as ribs and brisket, Santa Maria barbecue is much more like grilling, though there is a smoky aspect because of the 30 minutes or so it takes to cook that much meat. But this is barbecue you can serve rare.

These days, rather than those monstrous top sirloin blocks, the meat is more likely to be tri-tip, which has the main advantage of coming in family-sized pieces of 2 to 3 pounds. The tri-tip began to gain popularity in the late 1950s when, according to Santa Maria legend, a local butcher named Bob Schutz started setting aside meat he had previously ground into hamburger.

This was a handy bit of timing, because that is just when Santa Maria barbecue was beginning to boom.

Though it had always been appreciated locally, during the 1950s its reputation was spread by the hordes of hungry pilots and other Air Force personnel who had trained at Vandenberg Air Force Base during and after World War II.

Click the link to find the recipe and technique.

I was pretty young when we visited them, so I have no real memory of him grilling tri-tip like this. I'm willing to bet he did, though; he was the same guy who tried to teach me how to drive (at nine years old in his old pickup) and how to shoot a shotgun. He was that kind of guy.

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July 07, 2005


Today I've seen a lot of people remembering Madrid and 9/11. I wish everyone would remember Bali, too.

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Billmon expresses my affinity for London far better than I ever have.

If your mother tongue is English, and you loved stories as much as I did as a child, then London is the city of your imagination, of Mary Poppins and David Copperfield, of London-bridge-is-falling-down and the prince and the pauper. And if you've been there, and visited the places you dreamed about as a boy, and ridden the tube to Picadilly [sic] Circus, and climbed the stairs of the Tower of London, and strolled through Hyde Park in the morning fog, then what happened today hurts more than maybe it should, logically.

I first visited the city in 1984. Piccadilly Circus was a construction site, the Docklands light railway had just opened, I discovered the Greenwich tunnel, and I rode and walked all over the place. It's easily my favorite city, not excluding the one I live in now.

I feel for you, London.

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July 06, 2005

R.I.P., Mr. Lehman

Robert Seigel of ATC just interviewed Eva Marie Saint and her husband Jeffrey Harden about the death of their friend Ernest Lehman. Lehman was a screenwriter, probably best known to the public for "North by Northwest." I loved that movie; still do. The scenes on Mt. Rushmore were amazing, but the one that's almost always shown is Cary Grant running through a wheat/corn/whatever field with a cropduster after him. The dialogue was great. Sample:

Eve Kendall: I'm a big girl.
Roger Thornhill: Yeah, and in all the right places, too.


Roger Thornhill: How does a girl like you get to be a girl like you?
Eve Kendall: Lucky, I guess.

NYT obituary.
Hollywood Reporter obituary.

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Policy geeks, take note

The Congressional Research Service has been putting out non-partisan reports for years, but they've never been widely available unless a member of Congress has chosen to release them. Now that's changed.

The Center for Democracy and Technology has created an online database of Congressional Research Service reports that anyone with an Internet connection can now tap free of charge.


"Taxpayers pay $100 million a year for this resource, yet they don't have ready access to it," said CDT spokesman David McGuire. "We don't think they should have to pay twice to get their hands on it."

McGuire predicted the Web site, OpenCRS, will find an audience among academics, reporters, bloggers, librarians, college students and anyone else looking to bone up on an issue.

It's searchable, and it's voluminous. This is wonk heaven. Featured report collections include:

  • National Council on Science and the Environment
  • Federation of American Scientists
  • Center for Democracy and Technology
Go, sample.

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July 05, 2005

Science Tuesday

It's thought that the earliest inhabitants of what we now call North America crossed a land bridge from Asia about 11,000 years ago. Now some footprints have been found in Mexico which date back 30,000 years earlier. Controversy is sure to follow.

Science magazine celebrates its 125th anniversary with 125 big questions scientists are trying to answer. Samples:

  • What Is the Universe Made Of?
  • What is the Biological Basis of Consciousness?
  • Why Do Humans Have So Few Genes?
  • To What Extent Are Genetic Variation and Personal Health Linked?
  • How Much Can Human Life Span Be Extended?
  • How Does Earth's Interior Work?
  • Are We Alone in the Universe?

Each question at that page has a link to further discussion. I look forward to the answers.

Update: Not to throw wet blankets at all that interesting stuff, but Chris Mooney has a distressing article about one Congressman's attempt to intimidate a scientist.

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July 04, 2005

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;

Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;

The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;

The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;

The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;

The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1900.

Man, how the occupations of Americans have changed in 105 years.

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:02 PM | Comments (2)


The other pass-along I got recently was the notorious series of book questions (from Kate).

Number of books I own: 2,500 or so

Last book I bought: Gosh, I don't know. My family gives me books. I gave my mom Ghost Wars for Christmas.

The last book I read: Other than light bedtime paperbacks? Um, probably Dylan's Chronicles, Vol. 1.

Five books that meant a lot to me:

  • Exodus, by Leon Uris. It got me started reading books about World War II and the Jewish experience during that period of history
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer. Part of the exploration started by the Uris book
  • The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman. Another attempt to understand the century I was born in
  • Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. One of the best anti-war books ever written
  • The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. One of the first books I read which made me appreciate a writer's skill at placing the reader in another place

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2005

Impact successful!

deepimpact.JPG (NASA Photo)

NASA probe crashes into Comet Tempel 1

"Look at that! Jeez! And we thought it was going to be something subtle!" said JPL’s Donald Yeomans, a member of the Deep Impact science team.

I was on the roof of a neighbor's house with binoculars, but either the binocs were too weak or there was too much ambient light. I sure couldn't see the debris cloud. Of course, the collision was 83 million miles away.

Posted by Linkmeister at 10:06 PM | Comments (1)

I managed to avoid this for a while, but...

That cursed retrospective-psychoanalytical series of questions has made it to me (thanks, Lance).

Question number 1: What are three of the stupidest things you've done in your life?

a) Well, there was that whole knee thing. (If you want to see the photo of Tigger, click the "Family" section of the Gallery referenced in there).
b) The fraternity house I lived in in college had a 3/4-length basketball court in the courtyard, and there were always pickup games going on. I broke a toe one time while playing barefoot. Fine, but that's not so dumb, right? Ah, but then ten years later I was so disgusted at the way the Dodgers were losing to the Yankees in the '78 World Series that I went across the street to my neighbor's house and started shooting hoops, barefoot again. Broke a toe again, too. That, class, is what's known as not learning from one's mistakes.
c) Back in 1982 or 1983 Bank of America's stock price had fallen to about $8 per share, and I absolutely knew it was a screaming buy based on the real estate it owned under all those branches in California. Did I buy any? Nope. Recent price? $48 per share, post splits. The lesson? Have the courage of your convictions.

Question number 2: At the current moment, who has the most influence on your life?

My most recent client, which owes me 4 months pay and hasn't got it.

Question number 3: If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to only pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick?

a) Martin Luther. I'd ask him what he thinks of evangelical Protestantism today.
b) Bobby Kennedy. I suspect he's a good conversationalist.
c) Jules Verne. I'd ask him what he thinks of space exploration as it currently stands.
d) Mohammed. I'd ask him if he really thinks there needs to be an inherent conflict between Christianity and Islam.
e) Jesus of Nazareth. Same question.

Question number 4: If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?

a) That the currently-being-acclaimed Sandra Day O'Connor had voted differently in Bush v. Gore in 2000.
b) That Koufax hadn't had to retire at 30 due to arthritis.
c) That there were inexpensive alternatives to oil as an energy source (note the word inexpensive).

Question number 5: Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret your city not having, and two things people should avoid.

a) No decent transportation system other than automobiles (I love subways and ferries).
b) Seasons
a) The H-1 freeway between 0630-0900 and 1530-1800 any weekday.
b) The beaches around a full moon (there's a regular influx of box jellyfish every month).

Question number 6: Name one event that has changed your life.

Taking a typing class in my junior year of high school. Every single job I've held since I started working has made use of that skill.

Question number 7: Is not a question. It's a command. Tag five other people.

I'm holding off through the holiday weekend.

Posted by Linkmeister at 01:08 PM | Comments (5)

July 02, 2005

Fun with initials

If you recognize more than a few of these initials, you're of a certain age, I suspect. NAACP, CORE, SNCC, SDS, VVAW, SCLC, VISTA, FSM, NUL, ICBM, MIRV, SEATO, NATO, SALT, SAO, EEC, SMERSH, SPECTRE, UNCLE, THRUSH, and KAOS.

What are they? Answers below the fold.

NAACP=Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Colored People; CORE=Congress Of Racial Equality; SNCC=Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee; SDS=Students for a Democratic Society; VVAW=Vietnam Veterans Against the War; SCLC=Southern Christian Leadership Conference; VISTA=Volunteers In Service To America; FSM=Free Speech Movement; NUL=National Urban League; ICBM=Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile; MIRV=multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles; SEATO= Southeast Asia Treaty Organization; NATO=North Atlantic Treaty Organization; SALT=Strategic Arms Limitation Talks; SAO=Secret Army Organization; EEC=European Economic Community (Common Market); SMERSH=Smyert Spionam (Bond); SPECTRE=Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion (Bond); U.N.C.L.E.=United Network Command for Law and Enforcement; THRUSH=The Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity; KAOS=nothing.

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:40 PM | Comments (6)

July 01, 2005

Santayana was right

For those of us who weren't non compos mentis in 1968, this rings all too true:

Smug, self-righteous, ideologues wielding unproven cocktail party geo-political theories to coerce reluctant Americans into war? Check.

Original premise of war proven to be bogus long after country commits to ruinous quagmire? Check.

Old men wave flag, young men die? Check.

Sons (and daughters) of "Old Man Flag Waving Brigade" in government mysteriously absent from serving in military? Check.

There's lots more.

(Seen at Neddie Jingo's place.)

Posted by Linkmeister at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

Good question

Note: Everybody and his dog has an opinion on Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement, including me, but I'm still formulating it. Meanwhile, here's a thought I had the other day.

From Reuters, a response to Bush's "fight 'em there instead of here" line:

"Why don't they find another place to fight terrorism?" asked Abdul Ridha al-Hafadhi, 58, head of a humanitarian aid group. "I don't feel comforted by Bush's remarks; there must be a timetable for their departure."

Yeah, if I were an Iraqi I'd be a little annoyed (well, maybe even enraged) at the suggestion that my country was a much better place to fight terrorism than anyone else's. What the hell, though; Bush is just practicing the ultimate form of NIMBY.

(Seen at Juan Cole's place.)

Posted by Linkmeister at 02:18 PM | Comments (2)