Please note: the viewport design is copied from Steve Den Beste's excellent blog, USS Clueless. Used with permission.

Saturday, January 22, 2005  

via The New York Times (registration required)

Does Not Compute


Published: January 22, 2005

Carlisle, Mass. — THE Federal Bureau of Investigation has officially entered what computer professionals call "software hell." After spending $170 million to create a program that would give agents ready access to information on suspected terrorists, the bureau admitted last week that it's not even close to having a working system. In fact, it may have to start from scratch.

Shocking? Not at all. A look at the private sector reveals that software debacles are routine. And the more ambitious the project, the higher the odds of disappointment. It may not be much consolation to taxpayers, but the F.B.I. has a lot of company. Software hell is a very crowded place.

Consider Ford Motor Company's ambitious effort to write new software for buying supplies. Begun in 2000, the goal of the project, code-named Everest, was to replace Ford's patchwork of internal purchasing systems with a uniform system that would run over the Internet. The new software was supposed to reduce paperwork, speed orders and slash costs. But the effort sank under its own complexity. When it was rolled out for testing in North America, suppliers rebelled; according to Automotive News, many found the new software to be slower and more cumbersome than the programs it was intended to replace. Last August, Ford abandoned Everest amid reports that the project was as much as $200 million over budget.

A McDonald's program called Innovate was even more ambitious - and expensive. Started in 1999 with a budget of $1 billion, the network sought to automate pretty much the entire fast-food empire. Software systems would collect information from every restaurant - the number of burgers sold, the speed of customer service, even the temperature of the oil in the French fry vats - and deliver it in a neat bundle to the company's executives, who would be able to adjust operations moment by moment.

Or so it was promised. Despite the grand goals, the project went nowhere. In late 2002, McDonald's killed it, writing off the $170 million that had already been spent.

posted by Gary Williams at 11:20 AM | link |


White House Cuts Hubble Servicing Mission from 2006 Budget Request

By Brian Berger
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 21 January 2005 01:49 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The White House has eliminated funding for a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope from its 2006 budget request and directed NASA to focus solely on de-orbiting the popular spacecraft at the end of its life, according to government and industry sources.

NASA is debating when and how to announce the change of plans. Sources told Space News that outgoing NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe likely will make the announcement Feb. 7 during the public presentation of the U.S. space agency’s 2006 budget request.

That budget request, according to government and industry sources, will not include any money for Hubble servicing but will include some money for a mission to attach a propulsion module to Hubble needed to safely de-orbit the spacecraft with a controlled re-entry into the Pacific Ocean. NASA would not need to launch such a mission before the end of the decade to guide the massive telescope safely into the ocean.

Sources said O’Keefe received his marching orders on Hubble Jan. 13 during a meeting with White House officials to finalize the agency’s 2006 budget request. With both robotic and shuttle-based servicing options expected to cost well in excess of $1 billion, sources said, NASA was told it simply could not afford to save Hubble given everything else NASA has on its agenda, including preparing the shuttle fleet to fly again.

NASA has not yet informed key congressional committees with jurisdiction over the space agency. But congressional sources told Space News they had been hearing since late last week that significant changes were afoot for Hubble.

These same sources, however, said they had not ruled out that the White House and NASA might be canceling the Hubble servicing mission as the opening gambit in the annual struggle that goes on every budget year, fully expecting that Congress will add money to the agency’s budget over the course of the year to pay for a mission that has strong public support.

Regardless of NASA’s intent, one Senate source predicted that the decision would “go over like a lead balloon” for many lawmakers. A House source concurred. “It’s going to really upset the Hubble crowd and that includes some members of Congress,” the House source said.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:31 AM | link |

Friday, January 21, 2005  

via KESQ NewsChannel 3 Palm Springs, CA

Local radio personalities react to FCC chairman's resignation

Michael Powell
He's become a thorn in the side of entertainers around the nation. Today, Michael Powell, head of the Federal Communications Commission, says he plans to step down from his post. NewsChannel 3 found out what local radio DJ's have to say.

He brought record fines against CBS for Janet Jackson's Superbowl "wardrobe malfunction." Michael Powell, the nation's top media and telecommunications regulator, is resigning as head of the FCC.

Here in the desert, Casey Dolan is the morning man at M99.5. It's an edgy radio show that hasn't been in Powell?s decency sights, but where the host is still concerned about free speech rights.

"Basically, the reason we've descended into chaos is because in the last year we saw a nipple, we saw a bare back before Monday Night Football, and Sponge Bob Squarepants. Something's going on there!"

Satire, of course.

But in all seriousness, as a broadcaster, Dolan says it's the listener's job to decide what they want to listen to and tune out what they don't. He doesn't like the way Powell has cracked down on so-called indecency he and other broadcasters say has chilled their free speech

"For folks who sit at the top of the pyramid to say 'you can do this or that' defeats the whole purpose of it."

posted by Gary Williams at 11:12 PM | link |


Scientists make crucial discovery on Titan

Friday, January 21, 2005 (Huygens):

A European probe to Saturn's largest moon Titan found a strange world that, like Earth, is regularly doused with rain, has riverbeds and deserts, scientists said on Friday.

But Titan's rains are not water. They are liquid methane.

Photographs from the Huygens probe showed a rugged terrain with ridges and peaks and dark vein-like channels, evidence, scientists said, that the surface is eroded in the same way that water acts on Earth.

It wasn't raining when the probe floated down on parachutes and landed on Titan on January 14, but it may have been just days before.

Scientists at a European Space Agency (ESA) news briefing said they were very lucky that the probe came down where it did, but stressed that the information gathered could not be used to generalise about conditions over the whole of Titan.

The Huygens probe sent data to the US space agency NASA's Cassini mother ship above Saturn, which relayed it to the ESA.

The Huygens mission was launched in 1997 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a joint effort by NASA, ESA and the Italian space agency.

It was named after 17th-century Saturn observers Jean Dominique Cassini and Christiaan Huygens. (AP)

posted by Gary Williams at 11:04 PM | link |


Researchers Report Bubble Fusion Results Replicated

Physical Review E publishes paper on fusion experiment conducted with upgraded measurement system

TROY, N.Y. — Physical Review E has announced the publication of an article by a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Purdue University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) stating that they have replicated and extended previous experimental results that indicated the occurrence of nuclear fusion using a novel approach for plasma confinement.

This approach, called bubble fusion, and the new experimental results are being published in an extensively peer-reviewed article titled “Additional Evidence of Nuclear Emissions During Acoustic Cavitation,” which is scheduled to be posted on Physical Review E’s Web site and published in its journal this month.

The research team used a standing ultrasonic wave to help form and then implode the cavitation bubbles of deuterated acetone vapor. The oscillating sound waves caused the bubbles to expand and then violently collapse, creating strong compression shock waves around and inside the bubbles. Moving at about the speed of sound, the internal shock waves impacted at the center of the bubbles causing very high compression and accompanying temperatures of about 100 million Kelvin.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:28 AM | link |

Thursday, January 20, 2005  

via L.A. Times

L.A. Zoo's Newest Addition Isn't Your Average Pangolin

The baby anteater is getting a dose of TLC after its unusual arrival via France and Africa.
By Carla Hall, Times Staff Writer

It's not unusual for the Los Angeles Zoo to get calls about animals confiscated at LAX. There's the occasional smuggled monkey, the reptile without proper papers. Then there was the call last week.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspector had seized a pangolin carried in by tourists returning from Africa. Was the zoo interested?

A rare mammal found in Africa and Asia, the pangolin is essentially a scaly anteater that feeds on ants and termites filched from the earth with its elongated nails and sticky tongue. 'It looks like an artichoke,' said L.A. Zoo keeper Katherine Jaynes, 'especially when it rolls up into a ball to protect itself.'

posted by Gary Williams at 11:42 PM | link |

via North County Times - North San Diego and Southwest Riverside County News

Hawaii's Big Island mayor asks for $2 million to control shrieking frogs

Associated Press

HONOLULU -- A tiny frog with a huge shriek has invaded the Big Island and won't shut up. Big Island Mayor Harry Kim is looking for $2 million to begin controlling the spread of the nocturnal coqui frog, a beloved native in Puerto Rico but considered an annoying pest in Hawaii since hitching a ride over in shipments of tropical plants around 1990.

The frogs have been mating easily -- and shattering quiet island nights -- ever since.

Aside from the noise, the frogs have a voracious appetite for spiders and insects, competing with native birds and fauna. And coqui frogs are adaptable to many ecosystems and breed heavily in Hawaii, experts said.

posted by Gary Williams at 11:19 PM | link |

via The Register

Satellite snaps huge, penguin-killing iceberg

By Lucy Sherriff
Published Thursday 20th January 2005 21:32 GMT

Iceberg B15a
crashes into Antarctica.
Source: NASA
An iceberg the size of Long Island is smashing into the continent of Antarctica. Caught by both the Terra and Aqua satellites heading straight for the Drygalski Tongue (the floating extension of the Drygalski Glacier), the iceberg looked set for a head-on collision. But at the last minute, just two and a half miles from the glacial tongue, it stopped, most likely grounded on a sandbank.

At just over 80 miles long, the iceberg is playing havoc with the normal ocean currents that clear pack ice away from the antarctic shore in its summer months. The sea ice has remained intact well into January, adding tens of extra miles of marching for penguins, who need to get to the sea to find food for their chicks.

However, as the iceberg appeared to ground itself, there was a sudden break-up of the sea ice in the area (see picture). This does not mean the chicks are saved, however. Researchers had been worried the penguins would have to eat all the food they had gathered in order to survive the march home. This is less unlikely now that the ice has broken up, but the chicks are still imperilled.

posted by Gary Williams at 6:07 PM | link |

Sri Lankan software developers create "crisismanagement" utility

From Declan McCullagh's Politech

[Politech] Sri Lankan software developers create "crisismanagement" utility

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Sahana: Open Source Crisis management software built by Sri
Lankan developers
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2005 12:25:05 +0800
From: Yusuf Goolamabbas <>

Declan, Maybe interesting for the politech list

In case subscribers of your list who may not be aware of Apache Software
Foundation member Sanjeeva Weeravana's blog

He points to the release of Sahana an open source Crisis management
software written by Sri Lankan developers in the aftermath of the

The blog is interesting reading to see how software companies change
their hard-sell behaviour in crisis situations.

Regards, Yusuf

Politech mailing list
Archived at
Moderated by Declan McCullagh (

posted by Gary Williams at 2:26 PM | link |

Wednesday, January 19, 2005  

My New Blog: Beginning ChucK

I decided I wanted to write some stuff about the ChucK music language/compiler/synthesizer, so I started a new blog today. To visit Beginning ChucK, click here.

posted by Gary Williams at 6:54 PM | link |

via Sky Showbiz

Britney Out In Baby Store

Britney Spears has been out shopping in a baby store - and reportedly told staff she is nine weeks pregnant.

The scruffy Toxic babe - who wore a skimpy pink top with no bra - was snapped in trendy Babystyle in downtown LA.

It would hardly be a surprise, as Britney has hinted many times over that she's desperate to have hubby Kevin Federline's baby.

Shop staff claim she revealed she is more than two months pregnant - but no official announcement has been made.

posted by Gary Williams at 4:17 PM | link |

via Google Blog

Preventing comment spam

If you're a blogger (or a blog reader), you're painfully familiar with people who try to raise their own websites' search engine rankings by submitting linked blog comments like 'Visit my discount pharmaceuticals site.' This is called comment spam, we don't like it either, and we've been testing a new tag that blocks it. From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel='nofollow') on hyperlinks, those links won't get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn't a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it's just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.

We hope the web software community will quickly adopt this attribute and we're pleased that a number of blog software makers have already signed on:

Brad Fitzpatrick - LiveJournal
Dave Winer - Scripting News
Anil Dash - Six Apart
Steve Jenson - Blogger
Matt Mullenweg - WordPress
Stewart Butterfield - Flickr
Anthony Batt - Buzznet
David Czarnecki - blojsom
Rael Dornfest - Blosxom
Mike Torres - MSN Spaces

We've also discussed this issue with colleagues at our fellow search engines and would like to thank MSN Search and Yahoo! for supporting this initiative. Here are a few guidelines for anyone else who wants to join the cause.

posted by Gary Williams at 4:02 PM | link |

via Zippy The Pinhead

Comic Of The Day

posted by Gary Williams at 11:10 AM | link |

via The New York Times (registration required)

Capital Weaves a Steel Cocoon for a Big Party


Published: January 19, 2005

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 - As the capital prepared to celebrate President Bush's inauguration, the city appeared on Tuesday more like a place under siege. Hour by hour the city of grand buildings and marble statues seemed to disappear behind curtains of steel security fences and concrete barriers.

Piece by piece, the huge security plan that officials promised would be the tightest ever in post-9/11 America emerged, temporarily inconveniencing local citizens and visitors.

The authorities estimate that a half-million people or more will come into the city for the swearing-in at noon Thursday at the Capitol, and later, for the parade along Pennsylvania Avenue. On Thursday night, thousands of people are expected to attend formal inaugural balls, private parties and elegant dinners that will culminate the celebration.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, disruptions were the norm. Utility crews with acetylene torches snarled traffic as they welded shut manhole covers along the route of the inaugural parade. Drivers found no-parking signs, temporary street closings and public warnings that 100 blocks of city streets near inaugural events would be restricted.

posted by Gary Williams at 9:57 AM | link |


Serialization Seems An Appropriate Approach

If Barbellion is the first English writer to consider short chronologically arranged excruciating self-revelations his lifework, serialization seems an appropriate approach. I plan to post regular entries to the hideously named Barbellionblog. (Dating can only be approximate in some cases.) As each book comes fully online, I'll repackage it in its original form at the Repress. For now, I leave you with the first page of the first volume:

‘I returned, and saw under the sun, that the
race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the
strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet
riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour
to men of skill; but time and chance
happeneth to them all. For man
also knoweth not his time; as the
fishes that are taken in an evil
net, and as the birds that are
caught in the snare; so are
the sons of men snared in
an evil time, when it
falleth suddenly
upon them.’

posted by Gary Williams at 1:17 AM | link |

via whiskey river

Open Those Eyes

'Striving to leave the wilderness
You become part of what's wild.
Striving to cease grasping
Is, itself, grasping.
So how do you gain control and get beyond desire?
Open those eyes ... the ones that were born in your own skull.'
- Hsu Yun

posted by Gary Williams at 12:53 AM | link |

Tuesday, January 18, 2005  

via The Smoking Gun

Richard Hatch Hit With Tax Evasion Rap

January 18, 2005

IRS says 'Survivor' winner didn't report his million dollar prize

JANUARY 18--Richard Hatch, the first winner of CBS's 'Survivor,' was charged today with failing to report his $1 million reality TV windfall to the Internal Revenue Service. The below two-count criminal information, unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, charges Hatch with filing a false 2000 tax return that omitted his seven-figure 'Survivor' winnings. The nudity enthusiast, 43, is also charged with filing a false return for 2001 (he allegedly did not report $321,000 paid to him by a Boston radio station). If convicted of the felony charges, Hatch could face a maximum of five years in prison for each count and could be hit with a $250,000 fine. Hatch is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in Providence federal court January 24. (6 pages)

1/18 UPDATE: Hatch agreed to plead guilty to two counts of tax evasion in a non-binding agreement filed in Rhode Island federal court today. Prosecutors say they will recommend a reduced sentence for the 'Survivor' winner as long as he does not opt to change his plea to not guilty.

posted by Gary Williams at 6:11 PM | link |

via Intelsat

Intelsat Reports Loss of IS-804 Satellite

Many customers already restored to normal operations
Pembroke, Bermuda, 16 January 2005

Intelsat, Ltd. announced today that its IS-804 satellite experienced a sudden and unexpected electrical power system anomaly on January 14, 2005, at approximately 5:32 p.m. EST that caused the total loss of the spacecraft. In accordance with existing satellite anomaly contingency plans, Intelsat is in the process of making alternative capacity available to its IS-804 customers. The satellite, launched in 1997, furnished telecommunications and media delivery services to customers in the South Pacific. Intelsat and Lockheed Martin Corporation, the manufacturer of the satellite, are working together to identify the cause of the problem. Intelsat currently believes that there is no connection between this event and the recent IA-7 satellite anomaly as the two satellites were manufactured by two different companies and their designs are different.

A number of Intelsat-operated satellites in the region are being utilized to restore service to affected customers, and many end users of IS-804 capacity are already operating normally using replacement capacity. Intelsat has also begun working with other fleet operators where necessary to ensure the quickest possible restoration of service for customers.

'The loss of a satellite is an extremely rare event for us, and our first priority must be restoration of service to our customers,' said Conny Kullman, CEO of Intelsat, Ltd. 'Intelsat remains firmly committed to the region that was covered by IS-804, and all necessary effort and assets will be allocated to ensure Intelsat satellite coverage throughout the Asia-Pacific region.'

posted by Gary Williams at 5:07 PM | link |


AI Bots Pick The Hits

Wolverine Inspector writes "The Music Industry uses a product called HSS (Hit Song Science) made by Spain's Polyphonic HMI. According to The Guardian "while no one's talking about it, it seems that the whole record industry is already using AI to choose hits. From unsigned acts dreaming in their garage, to multinationals such as Sony and Universal, everyone is clandestinely using a new and controversial technology to gain an edge on their competitors."
Even though it costs about $5,200 US/$6,500, many artists are starting to buy it to help them write succesfull songs."

posted by Gary Williams at 4:54 PM | link |

via WorkingForChange-The science of comedy

The Wit Of 2004

I think the only natural joke set-up of the whole year was the time President Bush told the Amish in the Midwest that God speaks through him. A thousand instant punchlines occur, for instance: Darn, I thought the Almighty knew how to pronounce the word nuclear.

posted by Gary Williams at 3:52 PM | link |

via Dilbert

Comic Of The Day

posted by Gary Williams at 1:39 PM | link |

via European Space Agency (ESA)

More of Titan’s secrets to be unveiled on 21 January

18 January 2005

ESA PR 04-2005. One week after the successful completion of Huygens’ mission to the atmosphere and surface of Titan, the largest and most mysterious moon of Saturn, the European Space Agency is bringing together some of the probe’s scientists to present and discuss the first results obtained from the data collected by the instruments.

After a 4000 million kilometre journey through the Solar System that lasted almost seven years, the Huygens probe plunged into the hazy atmosphere of Titan at 11:13 CET on 14 January and landed safely on its frozen ground at 13:45 CET. It continued transmitting from the surface for several hours, even after the Cassini orbiter dropped below the horizon and stopped recording the data to relay them towards Earth. Cassini received excellent data from the surface of Titan for 1 hour and 12 minutes.

More than 474 megabits of data were received in 3 hours 44 minutes from Huygens, including some 350 pictures collected during the descent and on the ground, which revealed a landscape apparently modelled by erosion with drain channels, shoreline-like features and even pebble-shaped objects on the surface.

And here's the audio...

The Huygens probe used an on-board microphone to transmit the sounds of the descent on Titan. Scientists hoped to record distant thunderstorms and other weather data as the probe descended on it's parachutes through the cloudy atmosphere of the distant moon. The sounds have been recorded as an MP3 (444Kb): available here (right-click and SAVE LINK).

posted by Gary Williams at 1:09 PM | link |

via NASA

Get Ready for the Largest Demolition Derby on the Planet

Scientists say Slow-Motion Collision Near Antarctic Research Station Imminent It is an event so large that the best seat in the house is in space: a massive iceberg is on a collision course with a floating glacier near the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica. NASA satellites have witnessed the 80-mile-long B-15A iceberg moving steadily towards the Drygalski Ice Tongue. Though the iceberg's pace has slowed in recent days, NASA scientists expect a collision to occur no later than January 15, 2005.

Note: Iceberg B-15A is approximately the same size as Long Island NY (!).

posted by Gary Williams at 5:20 AM | link |

via HOT AIR: Postal Experiments

Postal Experiments

by Jeff Van Bueren San Francisco, California

Having long been genuine admirers of the United States Postal Service (USPS), which gives amazingly reliable service especially compared with many other countries, our team of investigators decided to test the delivery limits of this immense system. We knew that an item, say, a saucepan, normally would be in a package because of USPS concerns of entanglement in their automated machinery. But what if the item were not wrapped? How patient are postal employees? How honest? How sentimental? In short, how eccentric a behavior on the part of the sender would still result in successful mail delivery?

posted by Gary Williams at 4:38 AM | link |

via Committee to Protect Bloggers


The Committee to Protect Bloggers is devoted to the protection of bloggers around the world. In a host of countries around the world bloggers are routinely imprisoned for their activities. The blogging community should not leave the responsibility for their well-beingin others' hands.

The Committee has four primary spheres of activity.

  • CPB will serve as a clearinghouse for information on incarcerated members of our community, as well as those whose lives have been taken from them because of their enthusiasm for the free exchange of information that blogging allows.

  • CPB will serve as a pressure group to force unrecalcitrant governments to free imprisoned bloggers, and make restitution for tortured and murdered ones.

  • CPB will bring to bear the formidable communicative power of the blogosphere to keep pressure on governments to stop

  • CPB will act as direct agents in negotiations to free imprisoned bloggers.


posted by Gary Williams at 3:39 AM | link |

Click for larger in separate windowvia Picasa: Create for pictures! Personalized desktop, screensaver, collage, movies

Make picture collages.

Select a group of pictures, chose one of the beautiful templates, and Picasa will create a collage that expands your creative horizons. Picture pile it. Make a multi-exposure image. Create a contact sheet. Done? Simply save your collage to a folder, as a new desktop background or as a screensaver.

posted by Gary Williams at 3:27 AM | link |

via Chief Blogging Officer

John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith
... meets The Crying of Lot 49

If you think it's a walk in the park writing one of these damn things every freaking day -- or, well, almost every freaking day -- guess again. Take today for instance. Please.

I woke up at 3am with this song going through my head. And right away, I knew I had to blog it. How did I know this? Search me. It's one of those things that comes with long practice. Tacit knowledge, it's sometimes called. Yeah... that's it... tacit knowledge...

posted by Gary Williams at 2:10 AM | link |

via South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Band 50 Foot Wave copes with some bad timing

NEW YORK - Rock singer Kristin Hersh had something else entirely in mind when she named her new band 50 Foot Wave.

Sometimes there's just not much you can do about bad timing.

posted by Gary Williams at 12:10 AM | link |

Monday, January 17, 2005  

via The Register

VXers hit new low with tsunami-themed worm

By John Leyden
Published Monday 17th January 2005 17:10 GMT

In other virus-related news, malware authors have created a mass-mailing worm that poses as a plea for donations to victims of last month's Asian tsunami disaster. The VBSun-A worm prompts users to open an attachment which furthers the spread of the worm as well as initiating an attack on a German hacking website.

'Duping innocent users into believing that they may be helping the tsunami disaster aid efforts shows hackers stooping to a new low,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. 'This gruesome insensitivity is a despicable ploy to get curious computer users to run malicious code on their computers.'

posted by Gary Williams at 10:35 PM | link |


Pentagon Faults Iran Raid Report

Mon Jan 17, 2005 01:57 PM ET

Seymour Hersh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Monday criticized a published report that said it was mounting reconnaissance missions inside Iran to identify potential nuclear and other targets.

'The Iranian regime's apparent nuclear ambitions and its demonstrated support for terrorist organizations is a global challenge that deserves much more serious treatment than Seymour Hersh provides in the New Yorker article titled 'The Coming Wars,' the Pentagon's chief spokesman, Lawrence DiRita, said in a statement.

Hersh's article, published on Sunday, was 'so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed,' DiRita said.

Hersh reported that President Bush had signed a series of top-secret findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces military units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as 10 nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

Update: Here's the link to the Hersh New Yorker article.

posted by Gary Williams at 2:40 PM | link |

via BAD SIGNAL mailing list

Life Among The Iron Man Planetary

bad signal

For those of you keeping track at
home, the script for PLANETARY
#23 went in last week. It's called
"Percussion", and it's about The
Drummer. It's also about what
Elijah Snow is really up to. #22, by
the way, explains why Elijah hasn't
been telling certain people he has
William Leather in custody -- John
told me the other day that that
issue is at the printers.

I'm into the fourth IRON MAN
script now -- I've been deliberately
staying just a script ahead of Adi
Granov, so I can keep tuning the
script to his strengths as I discover
them. Rich Johnston tells me there's
some stink about the solicitation
schedule on IRON MAN being extended
again, and all I can tell you is that
it's news to Adi and I. Adi's going
slower than he expected because
he's trying to get it right, and I
think maybe I broke him by making
the first episode 32pp long, but
we're moving along. As I said to Rich,
it sounds like bad information to me.
And the pages are gorgeous.

And to forestall any more email on
the subject: no, there are no second
issues of any of the Apparat books.
I thought you all understood that.
The four books were it. William at
Avatar has tried to get an Apparat
2 out of me, but I don't think I have
it in me right now. I'm just happy I
did it at all, at this point. I haven't
seen the printed books yet, and
feedback was light, but I'm glad
they exist. No matter the source
of their inspiration, they were
original works, and original works
are necessary.

I need to go and see if I can turn
DEAD CHANNEL into a novella now.

Sent from mobile device
probably from the pub

posted by Gary Williams at 2:11 PM | link |

via The New York Times (registration required)

How Top Spies in Ukraine Changed the Nation's Path

Published: January 17, 2005

KIEV, Ukraine, Jan. 16 - As protests here against a rigged presidential election overwhelmed the capital last fall, an alarm sounded at Interior Ministry bases outside the city. It was just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 28.

More than 10,000 troops scrambled toward trucks. Most had helmets, shields and clubs. Three thousand carried guns. Many wore black masks. Within 45 minutes, according to their commander, Lt. Gen. Sergei Popkov, they had distributed ammunition and tear gas and were rushing out the gates.

Kiev was tilting toward a terrible clash, a Soviet-style crackdown that could have brought civil war. And then, inside Ukraine's clandestine security apparatus, strange events began to unfold.

While wet snow fell on the rally in Independence Square, an undercover colonel from the Security Service of Ukraine, or S.B.U., moved among the protesters' tents. He represented the successor agency to the K.G.B., but his mission, he said, was not against the protesters. It was to thwart the mobilizing troops. He warned opposition leaders that a crackdown was afoot.

Simultaneously, senior intelligence officials were madly working their secure telephones, in one instance cooperating with an army general to persuade the Interior Ministry to turn back.

The officials issued warnings, saying that using force against peaceful rallies was illegal and could lead to prosecution and that if ministry troops came to Kiev, the army and security services would defend civilians, said an opposition leader who witnessed some of the exchanges and Oleksander Galaka, head of the military's intelligence service, the G.U.R., who made some of the calls.

Far behind the scenes, Col. Gen. Ihor P. Smeshko, the S.B.U. chief, was coordinating several of the contacts, according to Maj. Gen. Vitaly Romanchenko, leader of the military counterintelligence department, who said that on the spy chief's orders he warned General Popkov to stop. The Interior Ministry called off its alarm.

Details of these exchanges, never before reported, provide insight into a hidden factor in the so-called Orange Revolution, the peaceful protests that overturned an election and changed the political course of a post-Soviet state.

Throughout the crisis an inside battle was waged by a clique of Ukraine's top intelligence officers, who chose not to follow the plan by President Leonid D. Kuchma's administration to pass power to Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich, the president's chosen successor. Instead, these senior officers, known as the siloviki, worked against it.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:02 PM | link |

Pharma Watch

PharmaLies: Listerine Is As Good As Flossing

Back to the usual routine of lying for a living. The Great Health Swindle part 237: Pfizer’s advertising claims that Listerine is as good for your teeth as flossing are, well, just a load of mouthwash:

[Judge] Chin found that Pfizer's claims were not just implicitly false or misleading but literally false. He said the clinical studies "were not sufficiently reliable to permit one to conclude with reasonable certainty that Listerine is as effective as floss in fighting plaque and gingivitis," ruled Chin. "What the two studies showed was that Listerine is as effective as floss when flossing is not done properly."
The judge was not persuaded by arguments that the tests accurately depicted the fact that many people do not floss properly in the "real world."
"Although it is important to determine how a product works in the real world, it is probably more important to first determine how a product will work when it is used properly," the judge wrote.
In finding that Pfizer's claims were implicitly false, the judge also cited consumer research studies … that showed that, notwithstanding the Pfizer's disclaimers, a large number of consumers who saw Pfizer's ads believed using Listerine could essentially replace flossing.
"Pfizer's ads are clearly suggesting to consumers, through its overall words and images, that if they do not have the time or desire to floss, they can rinse with Listerine instead," Chin found.

posted by Gary Williams at 3:45 AM | link |

via In the Pipeline

More on Titan

As a chemist, I can't help but be fascinated by the photos from Titan. Shorelines, watersheds - uh, make that 'ethanesheds'? - pebbles (made of ice) that seem clearly to have been eroded by flow or tumbling. . .it's great stuff. The line I heard about Titan being a huge Urey-Miller experiment that's been running for a billion years seems about right, and that means that there could be all kinds of odd stuff piled up on the surface. Chemistry isn't fast at 180 Kelvin, but a billion years is a mighty long time. I just hope that the rest of the data (the mass spectrometry and so on) comes out soon.

One of the things that's struck me is the additive effect of small details of chemistry and physics. Think about it - if you were given the Earth's atmospheric composition, temperature, axial tilt and other variables, you could deduce a lot. You'd predict oceans and seasons, clouds and rain, and much else besides if you thought about it long enough. But could you predict the fantastic variability of the colors in sunsets and sunrises? The billowing shapes of cumulus clouds piling up into a thunderhead? The hundreds of patterns of frost, or how ice looks forming around the sides of a fast-running stream?

posted by Gary Williams at 3:20 AM | link |

via whiskey river

I needed an amulet last week

I needed an amulet last week
To help me work at my painting studio.
Be a Mad Monk
I wrote
Thinking of Shih T'ao and Jung Kwang.
How can I be a mad monk
When I am applying for office work
And paying bills?

You may not know what
You are,
But you can know that
You are
The old books tell me
As I sit in my kitchen
Scrawling poems in the near dark.
- Tanya Joyce

posted by Gary Williams at 3:05 AM | link |

via InformationWeek

Army to Hackers: We Know Where You Live

Jan. 13, 2005

The executive producer of 'America's Army,' the free online game funded by the U.S. Army, is hopping mad at hackers.

The executive producer of 'America's Army,' the free online game funded by the U.S. Army, is hopping mad at hackers who have taken advantage of the game's security holes, saying, 'the Army is angry, and we're coming for you.'

In a posting to the game's official forum, Phil DeLuca, said that hackers infiltrating the game were not only 'breaking the EULA you're misusing Army property ' and, worse, you're misusing US Army computer programs and equipment.'

DeLuca's post, which has since been removed from the site, went on to say that 'we know who you are, and can track down where you play from.' He also went so far as to cite 20th century tensions between Japan and the United States to lambaste who he called 'the bad guys.'

posted by Gary Williams at 1:29 AM | link |

Sunday, January 16, 2005  

via Mandarin Design Daily: The MEG Blog

Using Opacity Borders

Today's Meg tip at Mandarin Design is how to use the opacity filter (in IE, Mozilla and FireFox...) to put an inset border in an image. It occured to me to do an offset border, that was half-in and half-out of the image, but I ended up with an overlapped border that stuck outside the image. So I got out my CSS help file and found the border-left-width border-top-width border-right-width and border-bottom-width params, which you have to use with border:style color to set the border to solid and — in this case, orange to offset the blue picture — color.

What I discovered in fiddling with the code is that the order of clauses apparently matters (at least in FireFox — I haven't tried this with any of the other browsers). Here's what you get:

Here's the code (notice that I've moved the border clause in front of the side designators — the first time I did it is the second image shown here, with the side designators in front of the border). Anyways, here's the code:

<!-- Outer Div -->
<div style="width:256px;height:200px;
background:url( repeat;
border:1px solid black;">
<!-- Opacity Border -->
<div style="width:231px;height:175px;
border:solid orange;
filter:alpha (opacity=50);
-khtml-opacity: 0.5;"></div>

<!-- End Outer Div -->

<!-- Outer Div -->
<div style="width:256px;height:200px;
background:url( repeat;
border:1px solid black;">
<!-- Opacity Border -->
<div style="width:231px;height:175px;
border:solid orange;
filter:alpha (opacity=50);
-khtml-opacity: 0.5;"></div>

<!-- End Outer Div -->

posted by Gary Williams at 7:04 PM | link |

via High Altitude Glider Project

High Altitude Glider Project: Fourth Launch

August 24, 2002

View From 50,000 Feet

Successful High Altitude Flight

For this launch, the altitude goal was 18.5km, or just over 60,000 feet. This altitude was achieved relatively close to the launch site, and an hour or so after launch the glider released itself from the balloon. It dropped into controlled and well-trimmed flight immediately after release this time, correcting the expected few degrees of gyro drift from the ascent with no problems whatsoever (field photos).

Maximum G level during the pullout only reached 2.5g's, and maximum true airspeed about 380 kph (205 kts). After pulling out into level flight at about 57,000 feet, the glider was commanded to do a panoramic photo turn (the circle on the chart below), and then return home. Cruise airspeed was 230 kph (125 kts) or more.

posted by Gary Williams at 1:52 PM | link |


Of The Orange Moon


The images above are panorams formed by combining images from the Huygens lander last night of the orange moon of Saturn, Titan. The images form a picture that's more than 1400 pixels wide; I've broken the picture into three pieces, that fit onscreen here. To see the entire panorama, along with more information of the Huygens finds, click here (and scroll down to the bottom...)

posted by Gary Williams at 2:55 AM | link |

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