Suggestive Scientific Citation of the Day

"Scrotal Inflation: A New Cause for Subcutaneous, Mediastinal and Retroperitoneal Emphysem," G. Bush and R. Nixon, Henry Ford Hospital Medical Journal, vol. 17, no. 3, Fall 1969,pp. 225-6.

from HotAIR: The Science of G. Bush


Dr. Seuss on Homeland Security:

Amid our long and drawn-out fight, Jap loyalists pass out dynamite, recruiting the help of the slanty-eyed sneetches, whose yellow skin soils our Pacific coast beaches. (cartoon)

Now this time around when the threat is jihad, we round up the towel-heads treading our sod. We lock them all up and we turn out the lights and all in the name of protecting our rights. (story)


Merry Christmas, you filthy animals

Hundreds of U.S. Residents in southern California who were born in Muslim countries found themselves herded into holding tanks when they went to register with their local INS office under a new Federal Order. The INS will not discuss how many were detained. It is probable that most of them will be trucked to Arizona for processing.

Don't you just love compassionate conservatism? (Reuters Story on Yahoo! News)


Hunga Rican History Minute

Frederick Karl Pruetzel (Freddie Prinze) was born on June 22, 1954 in New York City. He attended the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, but dropped out to pursue a career as a stand-up comic. Prinze's early material revolved around his unique ethnic heritage. His mother was Puerto Rican and his father was a Hungarian Jew. He frequently referred to himself in his act as a "Hungarican." It was this early ethnic-based stand-up work that led to his big break on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where Prinze impressed both Carson and casting directors. Soon Prinze was cast in the title role of Chico in Chico & The Man. [...] Sadly, he was not prepared for the stresses and pressures that came with the level of fame he had achieved so quickly. Prinze struggled with drug abuse and his marriage failed. On January 19, 1977 Freddie Prinze made what was to become his final public appearance at the Inaugural Ball for President Jimmy Carter. One week later, Prinze wrote a good-bye note and took his own life.

- See what you can learn at TV Land!


Twelve Days of Catechisms

You may have seen the story going around that the Twelve Days of Christmas is a veiled catechism. A lot of things about that story don't make any sense at all. Fortunately I didn't have to do much research...

""The Twelve Days of Christmas" is what most people take it to be: a secular song that celebrates the Christmas season with imagery of gifts and dancing and music.[...]Nonetheless, plenty of writers continue to expound upon "the beauty and truly biblical and spiritual meanings locked away in this wonderful song that puts Christ into Christmas where he doesn't appear to be." Emphasizing that Christ is part of Christmas is a fine thing, but achieving that goal by inventing and spreading phony explanations about purely secular aspects of Christmas is not. And perhaps those who consider this tale (regardless of its literal truth) to be "beautiful" and "inspirational" should consider its underlying message: that one group of Jesus' followers had to hide their beliefs in order to avoid being tortured and killed by another group of Jesus' followers. Of all the aspects of Christianity to celebrate at Christmastime, should this really be one of them?"

From the moderately researched but exhaustively explicated debunking at Snopes.com


Observations from Hong Kong

"When I was being given directions to the tram up the peak, those giving me instructions searched their wallets for a bit to drag out currency. Rather than having presidents or monarchs, the banknotes all have images of banks on them, and my instructions went "Go to the building on this bill, then turn towards the building on this one...". Good that a city knows where its leadership really comes from." - Dan Lyke

Read the rest on Dan's weblog, Flutterby!


Which Problems?

Trent Lott told an audience at Strom Thurmond's birthday party that, had the segregationist Dixiecrat been elected president of the United States that "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."

I can only imagine the problems we WOULD have. (shudder)

Coming Soon: Info on the 1948 Dixiecrat Party Convention Held in Birmingham, Alabama at which Thurmond was nominated with a platform of "We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race."

Thanks to Dan for the heads up.


Oranges and Tangerines

These sweet citrus fruits are described exhaustively by Tony Tantillo. I was going to do some research and write a whole article here a la my Red Velvet Cake investigation, but Tony's already done the hard work. (Unless he's cribbing some uncredited reference...)

In any case, the important thing today is the Clementine. Clementines (Algerian tangerines, if you like to be redundant) are a cross between a Mandarin and a Seville orange. They are small, usually seedless with an intense sweetness and delicate texture. Most are imported from North Africa and Spain. Like Mandarins, they are easy to peel and divide by hand and you don't get your hands all sticky dealing with them. Along with spice cookies and chocolate, they are emblematic of the gifts given to good children of the Netherlands on Sint-Niklaas Day.

Nicholas was a Bishop of Myra, in Fourth Century Asia Minor (modern Turkey). He is the patron of gift-givers (as well as sailors, pawn-brokers and brewers). According to the Dutch story he arrives each year on the night before his feast day (December 6) by steamship via Spain to the port of Antwerpen. He is accompanied by his young assistants, Zwarte-Pieten (Black Petes) who used to be African slaves, but modern theory has it that he is one normal (white) boy who has gotten covered in soot from sleeping by the fireplace. Not sure which is better. Anyway, Sint and Piet(en) embark from their steamer and ride across the lowlands filling up the shoes of good little children with gifts. Among these, of course, are the clementines, chocolates, and speculoos (spice cookies) recalling the biggest-ticket colonial imports (which took basically the same route with the same help).

Of course, Sint-Niklaas or Sinterklaas became, in Niewe Amsterdam, Santa Claus - and the rest is history. Happy Feestdagen!


Of Course the People Don't Want War

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

- Hermann Goering to Gustave Gilbert during the Nuremburg Trials in 1946. Goering was found guilty of crimes against humanity and killed himself hours before his scheduled execution. Gilbert was an Allied intelligence officer given free access to the accused. The above is quoted from his book, based on notes taken during the trials.

Found on Invisible City (Source reported by the oft-useful debunkers at Snope's)


Today is World Aids Day

And also my 30th birthday. I've had a really wonderful weekend. Thanks to all involved. I love you very much.
(And now back to my new toys)


"We have ordained phases for the moon, which daily wanes and end the end appears like a bent old twig -Holy Koran 36:39

Eid-al-Fitr is the celebration marking the end of the Holy month of Ramadan, when fasting gives way to feasting and the inner prayers of the faithful are made manifest in fellowship and forgiveness of grudges. The official passing of Ramadan relies on a sighting of the crescent moon, which can vary depending on your location (as well as weather conditions). This year, you can expect to break your fast on December 6. MoonCalc 5.2 is the program you will need in order to determine in advance when exactly Eid-al-Fitr should be celebrated in your locality. Be prepared.


Dr. Joy, 'shroom angel

Visit the Mushroom Cloud Gallery and think about prophecy. Link courtesy of Mr. Pants.


Make Your Own Grail Diary

IndyGear is your source for all the accessories you will need to transform yourself into Indiana Jones.

Thanks to Dave Smith for the link.


Secret Court Permits Secret Spying on US Residents

A court which holds private hearings with only one side of the argument petitioning has ruled in a classified decision that the justice department can secretly tap your phone or monitor the activities in your home without a criminal warrant and without judicial review.

Attorney General John Ashcroft hailed the decision as a revolution in the way domestic surveillance operations are conducted and promised to waste no time in hooking up your house with all sorts of high-tech audio-video equipment.

More reaction in a report by the AP's Gina Holland:

Viet Dinh, a special assistant attorney general, said last week that the government would not be heavy-handed. "We have absolutely no interest in gathering information simply for the sake of gathering information," he said. But Michael Greenberger, who worked on counterterrorism projects in the Clinton administration's Justice Department, said, "The minute you start hearing prosecutors say `I'm not going to abuse the right,' citizens' ears ought to perk up." Greenbeger, who now teaches law at the University of Maryland, said he was concerned that Americans will be monitored with little evidence they are tied to terrorists. "The first response would be `That couldn't happen in America.' Under this court's decision, it could happen."


The Pentagon routinely lies to Congress, and to us, to get its way.

The operations of private P.R. firms hired by the CIA and the Pentagon to manage Psy-Ops operations at home and abroad are revealed in this story reported in the Asia Times. The fabricated stories of baby-killing and troops massing against Kuwait as a run-up to Congressional action on the Gulf War is absolutely horrifying, and the bungling efforts of these firms makes "Wag the Dog" seem much more documentary than spoof.


Thai Elephant Music

Read all about it. - via the good Dr. Menlo


Rumsfeld Plans to Encourage Terror Attacks

This article from the Los Angeles Times describes the activities of the P2OG, a proposed new "Super-Intelligence Support Activity" force:

"Among other things, this body would launch secret operations aimed at "stimulating reactions" among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction -- that is, for instance, prodding terrorist cells into action and exposing themselves to "quick-response" attacks by U.S. forces."

Anybody remember Operation Northwoods? This was a plan presented by the Joint Chiefs to the Kennedy Administration in 1963 to stage some terrorism, providing a "helpful wave of national indignation," and thereby justify an invasion of Cuba. "The whole point of a democracy is to have leaders responding to the public will, and here this is the complete reverse, the military trying to trick the American people into a war that they want but that nobody else wants," writes James Bamford, whose book Body of Secrets revealed the 40 year old plan.


Wellstone was "a hunted man"

"Sure, the Bush Administration is targeting Paul this year, but Paul is never a shoo-in. Paul's a controversial guy. He's the little guy who takes on the big guys. That is not something the political process is designed to reward these days. If you take strong stands you put yourself at risk--and Paul takes more strong stands on more issues than just about anyone else."

- Myron Orfield, Minnesota state senator, quoted in The Nation, May 9, 2002. Senator Wellstone died in a plane crash on October 25. The cause of the crash has not been discovered.



Some people aren't too distracted to keep updating their websites. If you're interested in sports or sprawl, visit Travacado's Thoughts (on this very server)


More John Morse is

An easy interface to find out who, what, when or where anything is (according to Google) is Googlism.com.

Also, I should mention that John Morse is now a homeowner, as well. Most of you should be receiving a PDF with new address information in your email. If not, then you can reach me at dystopos-at-yahoo-dot-com and I'll get one out to you.



Microsoft unveiled a counterstrike against Macintosh's "Switch" campaign. Unfortunately they were unable to find anyone who had a positive experience moving from a Mac to a Windows platform, so they hired a PR firm to fabricate an ad, which they illustrated with a photo from a stock photography catalog. Here's the story from WIRED. (Most of the links to MS sites are dead now)


I find myself in almost total agreement - in mind and heart, with this rich and comprehensive summation of what's going on this past year in this country.


Pax Americana

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman connects the Bush administration's foreign policy agenda to much more boldly-worded reports written in 1992 and 2000 by a group of strategists -- many of whom have found positions in the White House or Dept. of Defense. The gist is that the world has been laid at America's feet and we're going to pay the cost and reap the harvest of running the globe as an American empire. Scary stuff. Nobody mentioned it in the campaign...


White House Joins Fight Against Electric Cars

"I am disappointed that the federal government would intervene with our efforts to protect our air quality."

- Governor of California, Gray Davis


Not easily to be put down - More from The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

"...the Arabs had tasted freedom: they could not change their ideas as quickly as their conduct; and the stiffer spirits among them were not easily to be put down....Suppression charged them with violence. Deprived of constitutional outlets they became revolutionary. The Arab societies went underground, and changed from liberal clubs into conspiracies....who swore to acquire the military knowledge of their masters, and to turn it against them, in the service of the Arab people, when the moment of rebellion came."

- T. E. Lawrence, 1926


Hurricane Party

A peculiar institution, native to New Orleans, and absolutely characteristic of life there. Listen to this commentary by a Times-Picayune columnist on All Things Considered last Thursday (Thanks to Pete Rasche for the link). Something about that news program -- they always seem to get things right. Have you ever seen a network news story on a subject you knew something about and noticed how their treatment always seemed so far off-base? NPR tends to go to better sources and listen to them more closely to get the attitude as well as the facts.


Riding with spur and rein over our doubts

"We were a self-centred army without parade or gesture, devoted to freedom,
the second of man's creeds, a purpose so ravenous that it devoured all
our strength, a hope so transcendent that our earlier ambitions faded
in its glare.

As time went by our need to fight for the ideal increased to an
unquestioning possession, riding with spur and rein over our doubts.
Willy-nilly it became a faith. We had sold ourselves into its slavery,
manacled ourselves together in its chain-gang, bowed ourselves to serve
its holiness with all our good and ill content. The mentality of
ordinary human slaves is terrible--they have lost the world--and we had
surrendered, not body alone, but soul to the overmastering greed of
victory. By our own act we were drained of morality, of volition, of
responsibility, like dead leaves in the wind.

- T. E. Lawrence, Introduction, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

This observation from Lawrence's own experience fits neatly with the thesis of a recent book (Holocaust: A History by Debórah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt) which attempts to place the Holocaust within the social context of modern Europe. (Salon interview)


Statesman Smurf

Montana's Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate has gone and turned himself blue by drinking silver solution as a preventative for Y2K-spawned disease outbreaks.


Short-Term Memory

"The UNSCOM team, explained the New York Times' Barbara Crossette in an August 3 story, was replaced "after Mr. Hussein accused the old commission of being an American spy operation and refused to deal with it." She gave no hint that Saddam's "accusation" was reported as fact by her Times colleague, Tim Weiner, in a front-page story three years earlier.

"As recently as Sunday, Iraqi officials called the inspectors spies and accused them of deliberately prolonging their work," the Washington Post's Baghdad correspondent wrote recently in a story casting doubt on the Iraqi regime's intentions of cooperating (9/8/02). Readers would have no way of knowing that the Post's Barton Gellman exhaustively detailed the facts of the spying in a series of 1999 articles.

"Iraq accused some of the inspectors of being spies, because they remained on their host countries' payrolls while reviewing Iraq's weapons," the Boston Globe's Elizabeth Neuffer wrote recently, in an oddly garbled rendition of the charges (9/14/02). She could have boasted that her paper's own Colum Lynch (now with the Washington Post) was widely credited with first breaking the story of UNSCOM's spying in a January 6, 1999 front-page expose. But she chose not to.

FAIR Action Alert via Robot Wisdom


What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

Paul Limbert Allen takes on the mystery in this amusing conjecture published in Harper's Magazine. I love irrationality and paranoia...


At Least Christian and Islamic Fundamentalists Agree on the Problem...

"What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.[...]The ACLU has got to take a lot of blame for this. And I know I'll hear from them for this, but throwing God...successfully with the help of the federal court system...throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad...I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."

- Rev. Jerry Falwell, appearing on The 700 Club with Pat Robertson on September 13, 2001.

"America is the head of heresy in our modern world, and it leads an infidel democratic regime that is based upon separation of religion and state and on ruling the people by the people via legislating laws that contradict the way of Allah and permit what Allah has prohibited. This compels the other countries to act in accordance with the same laws in the same ways… and punishes any country [that rebels against these laws] by besieging it, and then by boycotting it. By so doing, [America] seeks to impose on the world a religion that is not Allah's…America, with the collaboration of the Jews, is the leader of corruption and the breakdown [of values], whether moral, ideological, political, or economic corruption. It disseminates abomination and licentiousness among the people via the cheap media and the vile curricula."

- excerpt from "Why We Fight America" by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, a high-ranking deputy and spokesman for Al-Qa'ida who has been indicted for his role in the bombings of the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998.

(Take this quiz to see if you can correctly ascribe quotes from Falwell, Robertson & Bin Laden.)


Pot Calls Kettle Black

"And I'm deeply concerned about a leader who has ignored all -- who ignored the United Nations for all these years, has refused to conform to resolution after resolution after resolution; who has weapons of mass destruction." - George Bush, speaking to Muslim and Arab-American leaders last Tuesday at the Afghan Embassy in Washington D.C.

Official Transcript


Above our poor power to add or detract

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

- words of President Abraham Lincoln at the November 19, 1863 dedication of a Soldiers' Cemetery at Gettysburg, recited this morning by New York Governor George Pataki immediately before the reading of the names of those killed one year ago in New York City.


For the Record

Don't pretend you didn't know it was coming...

Turkmen-Afghan-Pakistani Gas Pipeline Accord


Mystery Link

Not sure what this is all about yet. It is definitely worth a look.
Know Your Rights

You might think that the Bill of Rights limits government intrusion, but with the USA Patriot Act and various administrative policies, your rights may have changed without your consent. Here's an Overview courtesy of the Associated Press. (In Newsday)


On Freedom of Speech in the USA

from Bill Mauldin. Back Home. (New York: William Sloane, 1947)

"I was losing papers at a terrific pace. During one period my loss averaged one paper a day. The syndicate stopped trying to reason with me and started butchering the drawings as they came in. In the five years I had been in the army, working part time for the 45th Division News for three years and full time for Stars and Stripes for two years, I had turned out hundreds upon hundreds of cartoons, most of which took one kind of dirty crack or another at the army and its ways. The army is by necessity a totalitarian system, which makes no pretense of allowing freedom of speech or behavior; yet in five years only three of my drawings had been stopped. Each of the three contained background sketches of equipment I had noticed in the field overseas and hadn't known was new stuff that, for security reasons, could not be described in words or pictures. I remember one of the pictures was of a new tank destroyer. In other words, my army censorship had been for stern and logical security reasons, and never once for policy. Several gents of high rank had tried to have the cartoons emasculated, but there were always other gents of equal rank who felt the stuff I was doing was justified.
In the first year after my discharge from the army and my introduction into civilian life in the land of the free and the stronghold of the independent press, I had done about two hundred drawings -- only a fraction of my army production -- and more than forty of the two hundred had been censored by the syndicate.


Things You Could Be Happy Never Thinking About

A Brief History of Natural Sausage Casings
The USA Badminton Hall of Fame
A lengthy review of Beethoven's 4th starring Judge Reinhold
Two Sci-Fi Poems recited by William Shatner at a mid-70's appearance at Hofstra University


Pointless Exercises in Geometry

Researches at TheForce.Net have succeeded in establishing the size of the first Death Star as a sphere with a diameter of between 160 and 165 kilometers. The second Death Star is believed to have been scaled up by a factor of about five. This can all be demonstrated by applying rigorous analytical techniques to sources of varying reliability. This is information you will need the next time you have to figure out how long your squads of short range fighters have before your secret base will exposed to the full power of the enormous battle station.


Sports News

Wil Wheaton kicked the crap out of Barney the Dinosaur.

Photos (Don't miss this one)
And a first person account. (Check the comments)

The event was put on to benefit the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They deserve your support. Don't take my word for it, read Wil's speech.


The Swiss Cheese Defense Strategy

More from Tom Tomorrow: The INS policy of fingerprinting visitors from selected middle eastern nations is another example of missing the point. Nando Times quotes an INS spokesman as saying, "The terrorists were able to exploit what they perceived as weaknesses. We can make sure that won't happen again."

Just thinking out loud here, but if you wanted to prevent what happened last year from happening again, wouldn't you put Saudi Arabia on the list? After all, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
Homeland Security Starts in Ozark

According to this article which I only discovered through Gumbo Pages, who got the link from Tom Tomorrow, Governor Siegelman has activated a tank unit from the Alabama National Guard to mobilize for an undisclosed two year homeland security mission.


Desktop-Sized Satellite Photos

A few minutes here and I'll wager your desktop will get re-wallpapered.


Undermining Homeland Security

"Kerckhoffs's principle applies beyond codes and ciphers to security systems in general: every secret creates a potential failure point. Secrecy, in other words, is a prime cause of brittleness—and therefore something likely to make a system prone to catastrophic collapse. Conversely, openness provides ductility.

[...]Indeed, as a recent National Research Council study points out, the extra security supposedly provided by biometric ID cards will raise the economic incentive to counterfeit or steal them, with potentially disastrous consequences to the victims. "Okay, somebody steals your thumbprint," Schneier says. "Because we've centralized all the functions, the thief can tap your credit, open your medical records, start your car, any number of things. Now what do you do? With a credit card, the bank can issue you a new card with a new number. But this is your thumb—you can't get a new one."

- From The Atlantic


While I've Been Away

Since I was last here there has been a trip to New Orleans, a chest cold, and a new ISP. But what I've really been doing is watching movies. All are recommended, in order from least to most enjoyable:

Arlington Road
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist
The Mosquito Coast
The Green Mile
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai


Glue Advice

This to That tells you what adhesive to use for any two materials that you select. Brilliant.

Swiped from Boing Boing: A directory of wonderful things.
Life Mirrors Satire

Check out this Onion article from January 1991.

"We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two," Bush said. "Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

Thanks to Robot Wisdom for the reminder


Price List for Musical Acts

Ever wonder how much it would cost to book Bel Biv Devoe for your next birthday party? Would you be surprised to know you could get Bela Fleck and the Flecktones for the same low, low price of $15,000? Quadruple that for Beck or the B-52's. Get out your credit card and start your own City Stages by clicking HERE.


Where's George?

At this site you can enter the serial numbers off of all your money and then come back and see where it went after it left you. So far I've got four "hits"

Slightly addictive. Marginally discouraged by the feds.
Alabama Man

Hey Kids! Do you like Chinpokomon? Then you're gonna LOVE Alabama Man!
(Not all people from Alabama are wife-beaters)


New Virgins in a Box update

Google has dropped Dystopia Box from its listings for "Virgins in a Box"


Lightning Field

In 1977. in backcountry New Mexico, Walter de Maria created a horizontal plane of 400 evenly spaced points, held aloft on stainless steel poles averaging over 22 feet high. At sunset and sunrise the gleaming metal is lit in a grand breathtaking sweep. It is considered one of the most important pieces of Twentieth Century art. The site is surrounded by distant mesas and otherwise featureless except for a small cabin.

De Maria, I would say, envisioned how the earth and the sky would interact with the work. I would venture that he didn't spend a lot of time thinking about how other people would engage the piece, except perhaps the people who installed it for him.

The site is owned and maintained by New York's Dia Center for the Arts So it's up to them. The choices are to A) Leave it alone and unprotected to the ravages of time, accessible to anyone who goes looking for it, or B) Open an office in the nearest town and hire caretakers to shuttle people back and forth and prepare vegetarian dinners and keep the gates locked.

Currently, in order to visit you have to make reservations to stay in the cabin.. They charge you $110 per person for an overnight visit. They fix you that vegetarian dinner and leave some breakfast stuff for you. You share the cabin with up to five other people. You are left alone except for a shortwave radio in case of emergency. They say it costs them $300 per person to host you, so they're being very generous.

I wonder how they settled on option B. Maybe it has to do with controlling the copyright on photographs of it? (No photos are allowed -- of the piece OR the cabin. Sets of 8 slides can be purchased for $30 for non-commercial use.)


Every bit as incompetent as any male-owned firm

The law firm of Powers Phillips P.C. in Denver presents us with an astonishingly irreverent and laugh-out-loud funny web page which skewers the firm, but while doing so, fosters enormous sympathetic identification. Plus there are links to their "Bitches From Hell" newsletter.
A Smattering of Recipes

From "The Settlement Cookbook" compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander, 23rd edition, 1940

Catnip Tea
Pour one pint of boiling water over one level tablespoonful of catnip leaves, allow to steep for five minutes, strain and serve.

Oatmeal Gruel
1/2 cup course oatmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 cups boiling water, milk
Add the oatmeal and salt to the boiling water, and cook 3 hours in a double boiler. Strain and dilute with milk or cream. If rolled oats is used, cook 1 hour.

Lime Water
Pour 2 quarts boiling water over an inch cube unslaked lime; stir thoroughly and let stand overnight; in the morning pour off the liquid that is clear and bottle for use. Keep in a cool place.

Coffee Jelly
3 teaspoons (14 grams) gelatin, 1/2 cup cold water, 2 1/2 cups hot coffee, 2 saccharin tablets, 2 tablespoons (30 grams) whipping cream
Soak gelatin in cold water a few minutes. Add coffee, speck of salt and saccharin, dissolved in a little water. Stir until gelatin is dissolved. Place in molds in refrigerator several hours to harden. Garnish each serving with 30 gms. cream plain or whipped. Makes 4 servings.

Mock Turtle Soup
1 calf's head, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 medium onion, 1 cup strained tomatoes, 1 large carrot, 2 tablespoons flour, browned, 2 tablespoons butter, juice and rind of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 cup Sherry
Cover head with cold water. Bring to boiling point. Add salt, pepper and vegetables. Simmer for three hours. Strain. Melt butter, andd flour, and 1/4 cup soup or milk. Add this to soup. Add lemon and Sherry. Serve with face-meat and sliced eggs.

Haggis (Scotch)
1 lb. steel ground oats, Salt to taste, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, 1/2 lb. minced suet, 1/4 lb. liver, 1 onion
Parboil liver, grate when cold, mix all ingredients with water into a stiff paste, tie in pudding cloth 3/4 full or in a thoroughly cleaned sheep's paunch. Put it in boiling water, boil three hours.

Hot Bacon and Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Cut wheat bread 1/4 inch thick in slices lengthwise. Toast on one side. Spread thick on untoasted side with peanut butter. Sprinkle top with bacon which has been fried crisp and put through meat grinder. Before serving put under broiler. Cut into strips and serve with cocktails.

Soak 2 tablespoons granulated gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water 5 minutes. Place 2 cups sugar and 3/4 cup water in saucepan and cook until it "threads," pour onto dissolved gelatin, let stand until partially cooled, add few grains salt, a few drops of peppermint or wintergreen and a little green or red vegetable coloring. beat until white and thick. Pour into granite pan thickly dusted with powdered sugar and set in a cool place to harden. Turn out, cut into squares and roll in powdered sugar.

Red Beet Port Wine
5 lbs. beets, 1 gallon water, 2 1/2 lbs. sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Grind beets with skins on. Boil with water until tender. Strain through cloth. Add sugar and pepper. Boil 15 minutes, then cool. Spread 1 ounce of yeast on piece of toasted white bread. Place on top of jar, yeast side up. Let stand 12 days in warm place at room temperature, then strain and bottle.

Dandelion Wine
1 gal. dandelion flowers, 1 gal. boiling water, 3 lbs. sugar, 3 oranges, cut in small pieces, 3 lemons, cut in small pieces, 1 oz. yeast
Pick dandelion flowers early in the morning, taking care not to have a particle of the bitter stem attached. Pour boiling water over the flowers and let stand three days. Strain and add the rest of the ingredients; let stand to ferment three weeks. Strain, bottle.


Grilled Watermelon

Shocking as it may be, grilled fruit is a wonderful summery way to enjoy a holiday afternoon. Just dice up some bananas, pinapples, plums, peaches, and watermelon into chunks big enough for a skewer but small enough to put in your mouth. Pop them on the grill for about ten minutes, brushing on a dressing of honey with lime juice and chopped mint, and enjoy - ideally with a bowl of not-too-salty home-made vanilla ice cream and a smattering of good chums.

Afterwards, go watch pyrotechnics.


and justice for all

Did God ordain our Union of States? Does God endorse the manner in which we, as a nation, occupy the earth? If Americans have the right to believe otherwise, then it is hypocritical to pledge allegience to "one nation under God" at the same time that you pledge allegience to "liberty and justice for all."

Frankly, I think the whole thing is problematic propaganda. True allegience to God would, in my view, disqualify you from most of what the Pledge promises. Only if your national affiliation trumps your other affiliations could the pledge to the US flag be made sincerely.

Incedentally, here are Dwight Eisenhower's words on accepting the 1954 addition of the words "under God" which have recently been found unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:

"In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."

-from Hall of Heroes

Also, Thomas Oliphant of the Boston Globe has a good story on the history of the pledge and its author (Thanks to Travis for the link)


Oxymoron of the Day: "Microsoft Works"

Here's Mr. Gates asking some rhetorical questions to get you excited about the next big Windows upgrade:

"Why are my document files stored one way, my contacts another way, and my e-mail and instant-messaging buddy list still another, and why aren't they related to my calendar or to one another and easy to search en masse?"

Ooh-ooh! I know! I know! Is it because you drove all your competitors out of business and then didn't provide what people truly wanted?

Read the full article in The Register


Do you deserve a free pie just because you waited for it?

Anissa Mack's installation/performance piece "Pie for a Passerby" makes a quiet statement about neighborhood and home and raises a loud ruckus about individual entitlement.

From The Washington Post via Pigs and Fishes


The Skinny on Modern Bourbon

From the Washington Post:

Maker's Mark is owned by Allied Domecq, the London company that also owns Beefeater gin and Dunkin' Donuts. France's Pernod-Ricard owns Wild Turkey. Jim Beam is a subsidiary of the Illinois-based Fortune Brands, which sells everything from plumbing fixtures to golf balls.

Dunkin' Donuts!!? Sheesh.


Virgins in a Box update

Dystopia Box is now the FIRST hit when you search Google for "Virgins in a Box"


If everyone lived like me, we'd need 3.3 planets.

Take the Ecological Footprint Quiz from earthdaynetwork and Redefining Progress.


Eija-Riitta Eklöf-Berliner-Mauer

This woman believes she has married the Berlin Wall. Since 1989, she is a widow.

"I am objectúm-sexual that is to be sexually and emotionally attracted to objects; in my case The Berlin-Wall and other constructions. I am married to the Berlin-Wall (and have been since 1979). Hence my married name (Berliner-Mauer), which means Berlin Wall in German.

"It is the actual Wall I love, not the border - like some intolerant people seem to think. They fail to see difference between the Wall and the purpose, which are two completely different things. If you fail to see that - well, too bad!"


"Haben Sie auch Schwarze?"

Der Spiegel is reporting that during a meeting with President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, our President blurted out the question "Do you have blacks, too?"

Here's a translation courtesy of GWBush.com

Washington - It was Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor, who helped her boss out of the embarassing situation. During a conversation between the two presidents, George W. Bush, 55, (USA) and Cardoso, 71, (Brazil), Bush bewildered his colleague with the question "Do you have blacks, too?"

Rice, 47, noticing how astonished the Brazilian was, saved the day by telling Bush "Mr. President, Brazil probably has more blacks than the USA. Some say it's the Country with the most blacks outside Africa." Later, the Brazilian president Cardoso said: regarding Latin America, Bush was still in his "learning phase".

(see also this article in the Financial Times)
Class War in the TV News - A former reporter's stories from the front.

For the TV news reporter, the quandary is this: how to produce a news product for the mass of citizens who actually watch the newscast, and buy the products advertised — while simultaneously nudging the rich and trendy with a wink and a smile, as if to say, "Don't pay any attention to that. Really, we're just like you."



See, it's a picture of a toaster constructed out of 2500 pieces of toast. Property of MAMBA (Museo de Arte Moderne Buenos Aires)


I Like Ike

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired -- signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, [and] the hopes of its children.

- President Dwight D. Eisenhower. "Chance for Peace" Address, delivered to the American Society of Newspaper Editors and broadcast live over television and radio from the Statler Hotel in Washington D.C., April 16, 1953


Information Design

Edward Tufte, champion of elegance in the presentation of information, moderates a message board covering intellectual ideas in information design. A rich resource indeed.
Slide 4 of 6

Review of Key Objectives & Critical Success Factors

* What makes nation great
- Conceived in Liberty
- Men are equal
* Shared vision
- New birth of freedom
- Gov't of/for/by the people

- from The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation by Peter Norvig


Anacreon in Heaven

"It was then that I decided that there is only one song you play when trying to establish your bona fides with a U.S. customs official..."
- Joey DeVilla's customs ordeal
Music Fest

The Birminghamster is devoting a special issue to City Stages 2002. Stay tuned for reports from the festival.


How Long Will You Live?

This website will calculate for you, based on your answers to a few questions, the exact second you are statistically likely to pass away. I've got until January 23, 2055 at 5:55:27 PM. Mark your calendars.

Now I shall tell of the city of Zenobia, which is wonderful in this fashion: though set on dry terrain it stands on high pilings, and the houses are of bamboo and zinc, with many platforms and balconies placed on stilts at various heights, crossing one another, linked by ladders and hanging sidewalks, surmounted by cone-roofed belvederes, barrels storing water, weather vanes, jutting pulleys, and fish poles, and cranes.
No one remembers what need or command or desire drove Zenobia's founders to give their city this form, and so there is no telling whether it was satisfied by the city as we see it today, which has perhaps grown through successive superimpositions from the first, now undecipherable plan. But what is certain is that if you ask an inhabitant of Zenobia to describe his vision of a happy life, it is always a city like Zenobia that he imagines, with its pilings and its suspended stairways, a Zenobia perhaps quite different, a-flutter with banners and ribbons, but always derived by combining elements of that first model.
This said, it is pointless trying to decide whether Zenobia is to be classified among happy cities or among the unhappy. It makes no sense to divide cities into these two species, but rather into another two: those that through the years and the changes continue to give form to their desires, and those in which desires either erase the city or are erased by it.

- from Italo Calvino. Invisible Cities (Le cittá invisibili). translated by William Weaver. (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974)


Mnemosyne presents "a machine-readable collection of fabulous animals," or Bestiary.


Pawns for Sale

If you're missing the Clue candlestick, ran out of Yahtzee score sheets, or just want to stock up on Monopoly money, then you can order replacements for a few bucks directly from Hasbro.



I got my thousandth hit today. You guys are great. Both of you.



Abat-sons are devices which reflect sound in a particular direction. Typically they take the form of large louvers which direct the sound of tower bells toward the ground. In general use, any louvers in a bell tower are commonly called abat-sons, whether they are designed to redirect sound or merely to prevent water.

With this entry, I predict I will become the web's leading English-language authority on abat-sons.


Some Beverage Origins:

Hires Root Beer - 1876 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coca-Cola - 1885 - Atlanta, Georgia
Dr Pepper - 1885 - Waco, Texas
Barq's Root Beer - 1898 - Biloxi, Mississippi
Pepsi-Cola - 1898 - New Bern, North Carolina
Faygo - 1907 - Detroit, Michigan
Orange Crush - 1906 - Chicago, Illinois
Cheerwine - 1917 - Salisbury, North Carolina
A & W Root Beer - 1919 - Lodi, California
Nehi - 1924 - Columbus, Georgia
7-Up - 1929 - Saint Louis, Missouri
Royal Crown Cola - 1933 - Columbus, Georgia
Dad's Root Beer - 1937 - Chicago, Illinois
Frostie Root Beer - 1939 - Catonsville, Maryland
Grapette - 1939 - Camden, Arkansas
Sun Drop - 1951 - Saint Louis, Missouri
Mountain Dew - 1954 - Johnson City, Tennessee
Tab - 1962 - Atlanta, Georgia


In a Box

Dystopia Box is currently the third hit when you search Google for "virgins in a box."


It's not Camping if You Have AC and Cable

We had a wonderful weekend at De Soto State Park and the Little River Canyon. You can check out my photos in my Yahoo! album (the De Soto folder). We saw the stragglers among migrating geese, plenty of circling hawks, all sizes of fluttering butterflies, some very focused darting trout, hovering fat carpenter bees, lurking gray spiders, skittering lizards, lingering dogwoods, radiant azaleas, budding magnolias, rushing water, and blazing sun. On Saturday we went adventuring at De Soto Falls.

And we ate like kings all weekend.


Flutterby leads the way to the latest technology in automatic hog splitting.


The Mosquito Hawk

You've seen them, those big, gangly, ridiculously long-legged bugs that look like mosquitoes on stilts. What little anecdotal information I gathered on them at Boy Scout camp led me to believe that they are hunters of mosquitoes, but this turns out not to be the case.

What we are seeing (and occassionally ducking out of the flightpath of) is a crane fly. (see bio at bugbios.com) The common crane fly around here is of the family Tipulidae. The adult flies live for only a day or two - long enough to mate, but not long enough to eat. Hopefully they ate enough while they where larvae to keep up their stamina. The larvae are fat gray-brown beasts that roam around in decaying organic matter, like in the top few inches of your yard. They are a favorite snack of songbirds.

In England, these flies are known as "Daddy Long-Legs," which are not the spindly spiders which we have here, and which are also known as mosquito hunters. While they might eat a mosquito now and then, they apparently prefer other spiders, which they kill with their venom.

It has been said that Daddy Long-Legs are the most venomous spiders on earth and that we people are lucky that their mouths are too small to bite us. There is some truth to that rumor. They are venomous and their mouths are too small to bite a person, but there is no evidence that their venom is any more or less poisonous than is needed to kill the small insects and spiders it eats.

Oh, and technically, the Daddy Long-Legs, while an arachnid, is not a spider because it has a penis. (Hence, I guess, the name "Daddy")
Frans Masereel: The greatest woodcut artist of our time.


The Spirit of Wisdom (first part)

A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. It stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice: "Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth! Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces; unnoticed, they perish forever. Are not the cords of their tent pulled up, so that they die without wisdom?"

Job 4:12-21


What the American Flag Stands For
by Charlotte Aldebron (age 12)

The American flag stands for the fact that cloth can be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or to leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell just how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment. Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly and sheltering him from the rain.


Good Times.

We took advantage of the extra hour of daylight by cooking out: Steaks, Sausage, Baked Potatoes, Corn on the Cob, and Ice Cream with Brownies.


Via Pop Culture Junk Mail: The online text-based version of Pong!



The brilliant Rob Cockerham has put together a monumental investigative report which has identified the common source of all those "WORK FROM HOME!" and "LOSE 40 LBS IN 40 DAYS" signs posted up all over the place. Absolutely brilliant. Rob is an alter role model. He does the things I want to encourage my friends to do.

Some of my friends already do stuff like that - I just want to encourage them.


Find the Boeing

So now I find out that we can't even be sure that an actual airplane hit the Pentagon. This guy's site is far from conclusive, but some of those pictures are unusually free of airplane-scale destruction and debris. And then there's the changing stories. The changing stories always bother me -- probably because they make visible too much of the grime surrounding the fact-reporting process. I remain unconvinced, but I'll keep my ears open for any other scurrilous rumors.

One unequivocally good thing at least, there's a link to some really gigantic jpeg's that the army provides on this website. There's something mesmerizing about scrolling across this many pixels of anything, let alone the pentagon in flames.


Tonight I've become an apprentice glass artist. I'm terribly excited about colors.


Straight Edge

I wandered over to see Fugazi Monday night at Sloss Furnaces. Not a bad show at all. One thing caught my ear, though. Everytime Mr. MacKaye stopped the music to lecture some kid about being considerate to the people around him or to lambast his detractors, there was wild cheering from the crowd. It occurred to me that a lot of people were there to be scolded. I guess if I called it a gimmick, I'd get scolded too.

By the way - Fugazi is entirely correct to gripe about Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster is terrible. It's worth avoiding them if possible.


DVD Extras

Why do we need DVD extras? Didn't all those people in the credits put all their hard work into creating a finished product? Aren't we happy enough not having to peek behind the curtain and second guess the final edit? Are we at a point where we're unwilling for any accomplishment to be left as such? Is the viewer necessarily so fascinated with the machinations of movie production?

I watched Stand By Me tonight, followed by the "making of" documentary which was basically interview clips intercut with scenes from the movie and a few production stills. It revealed very little except that everybody was very pleased and we all miss River Phoenix. During the viewing, I decided how I would change things for DVD's in general and Stand By Me in particular. Generally, I would wish to give the film itself more prominence relative to all the extras, and then maintain the clear position that the extras are for better understanding the production and context of the movie and are not in any way a part of the movie. So here are some quick suggestions:

1. No soundtrack loops, derivative artwork, cute cursor effects or animations with the menu. Just describe the selections in some ugly green-on-black DOS-type format with highlited text. Less is more. I've never seen this part of a DVD done nearly as well as the lamest actual title sequence. Ideally the movie should start automatically when you put in the disc unless you start mashing buttons to do otherwise.
2. Include searchable references as much as possible, and to the exclusion of sappy interviews. If we're so interested in the production, we'd get a lot more out of a prop list with sources and costs of every item than a warmly lit close up of Corey Feldman reminiscing about how Rob liked to mix it up on the set.
3. And... while I'm at it. Instead of interviewing the now-grown up actors of Stand By Me for a pointless self-serving documentary, wouldn't it be cooler to send them off on a little unscripted "Blair Witch" style adventure to exhume River Phoenix - let them really hash out their career frustrations and personal baggage within the same general framework as the movie? I would watch that.


I've been sorted

A couple of friends of mine are interested in the Kiersey Temperament profiles (Anybody ever tell you that you were an INTP?) Due to copyright restriction, the test is not available freely, but AdvisorTeam will give you 70 short questions and provide a half-complete result for you. According to my responses, I'm an Idealist (NF). If I paid for the full results, I could find out that I'm either a Healer (INFP), Counselor (INFJ), Champion (ENFP), or Teacher (ENFJ). I suspect that I'm an INF something, so if anyone needs healing or counseling drop me a line


Laissez les bon temps roulez

I spent this weekend in New Orleans and had a fantastic time with good friends. You can check out some pictures in my Yahoo! photo albums. Contact me for better resolution versions or other pictures.

Part of our trip was a pilgrimage to various shrines of New Orleans eating. Chuck Taggart publishes what I would imagine is the most detailed and honest compendium of Lousiana cuisine and classic cocktails. The time you spend poking around this site will be richly rewarded.


And God granted him that which he requested - I Chronicles 4:10

This disturbs me a bit.

I know that Wilkinson probably has the theology more or less right - that praying for success is inextricable from praying to serve God's purposes - but still, it's hard to deny that the anomalous success of the books is due to the apparent sanctioning of greed and selfishness. Even if there is a lesson to learn, it's far from the most important lesson of scripture.


Stunningly beautiful. (I especially like the ice.)
Another tidbit about the Attorney General: Ever since his first term as Senator from Missouri he has had his head anointed with vegetable oil, in the manner of King David, as he took office [article]. After his confirmation as Attorney General, Justice Clarence Thomas did the honors.


The Princeton Architectural Press has just published a beautiful book on The Auburn Rural Studio. The photographs are really fantastic - better than any I've seen of these projects and of the Hale County setting. It also makes the Walker Evans / William Christenberry connection that is intrinsic to my interest in the place.


Last night I watched a canned special on the History Channel called "Secrets of the Ancient World: Ancient Inventions" which ran through a half dozen or so discoveries of ancient technological apparatus and speculated on unanswered mysteries such as the construction of the pyramids and the Nazca lines.

While looking for a good link to put here, I discovered that the US Patent and Trademark Office publishes an internal newsletter called "The PTO Pulse" which is all kinds of fun to browse through. Copies going back to 1998 are on line. This issue from April of that year contains a more intelligent review of the TV special than I would have written.

Incidentally, if you want to check out the Nazca lines (the giant animal and geometric terraglyphs in Peru), I recommend you get in touch with my friend Ingrid in Lima. She wrote her thesis on responsible cultural, ecological and agricultural-based tourism in the Nazca region. I bet she could set you up with a hot-air balloon or something.



Until they figure out how to batter and deep fry pork ribs, this is the best we can do.


Sour Grapes

Some scholars of ancient semitic languages have been stealing the thunder from the more militant Imams. Here's a juicy excerpt from a Yahoo! News article discussing a radically revisionist assertion in a new book, The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran, written under the pseudonym Christoph Luxenberg:

"[...]So, for example, the virgins who are supposedly awaiting good Islamic martyrs as their reward in paradise are in reality 'white raisins' of crystal clarity rather than fair maidens.[...]the famous passage about the virgins is based on the word hur, which is an adjective in the feminine plural meaning simply 'white.' Islamic tradition insists the term hur stands for 'houri,' which means virgin, but Mr. Luxenberg insists that this is a forced misreading of the text. In both ancient Aramaic and in at least one respected dictionary of early Arabic, hur means 'white raisin.'[...]Mr. Luxenberg has traced the passages dealing with paradise to a Christian text called Hymns of Paradise by a fourth-century author. Mr. Luxenberg said the word paradise was derived from the Aramaic word for garden and all the descriptions of paradise described it as a garden of flowing waters, abundant fruits and white raisins, a prized delicacy in the ancient Near East. In this context, white raisins, mentioned often as hur, Mr. Luxenberg said, makes more sense than a reward of sexual favors."

See also this article on, what else... Infidels.org.


The Opposite of Opposite

I remember hearing in school that one of the few words in the English language that is its own antonym is "cleave," which can mean either to adhere to or split from. Surprisingly, I learned today that one of the synonyms for cleave is ALSO its own antonym: "laminate," which can mean either to split into layers or to put together in layers.

Why all the confusion in our language about whether things are coming together or coming apart. (And, now that I'm up to my neck in this, why would you use "come" for both together and apart?)


If you're like me, then you really appreciate a good cathartic, down, low-key but earnest song. Here are my favorite artists in that vein:

6. Morphine
5. The Tindersticks
4. Serge Gainsbourg (& Mick Harvey doing Gainsbourg songs)
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
2. Nick Drake
1. Leonard Cohen

It appears that male vocalists dominate this field. I'll throw in Portishead, even though I think I like it for different reasons.


Obscure thought for the week

Fish poo is part of God's perfect creation. Bread loaves are man's imperfect invention.
Drawing arbitrary lines in the war on terror

"Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you."

- Attorney General John Ashcroft quoted by syndicated columnist Cal Thomas


Read this April, 1997 letter to Governor George W. Bush:

"Dear George,

You will be meeting with Ambassador Sadyq Safaev, Uzbekistan's Ambassador to the United States on April 8th.

...Enron has established an office in Tashkent and we are negotiating a $2 billion joint venture with Neftegas of Uzbekistan, and Gazprom of Russia to develop Uzbekistan's natural gas and transport it to markets in Europe, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. This project can bring significant economic opportunities to Texas, as well as Uzbekistan. The political benefits to the United States and to Uzbekistan are important to that entire region.

...I know you and Ambassador Safaev will have a productive meeting which will result in a friendship between Texas and Uzbekistan.




The Regressive State

A survey published in today's Birmingham News reveals that most Alabamian's identify education as by far the most important issue facing the state. Those surveyed also agree that finding additional funding for schools is critical to improving the quality of education. Furthermore, most respondants are of the opinion that sales taxes, as opposed to property or income taxes, are the most equitable and reliable source of such funding. The fact that these assertions are demonstrably false doesn't say much for educational levels in the state right now.
"Perfection is a trifle dull. It is not the least of life’s ironies that this, which we all aim at, is better not quite achieved."

- W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up, 1938


Underground System

Set the foot down with distrust upon the crust of the
world --- it is thin.
Moles are at work beneath us; they have tunneled the
With separate chambers; which at an appointed knock
Could be as one, could intersect and interlock. We walk
on the skin
Of life. No toil
Of rake or hoe, no lime, no phosphate, no rotation of
crops, no irrigation of the land,
Will coax the limp and flattened grain to stand
On that bad day, or feed to strength the nibbled root's of
our nation.
Ease has demoralized us, nearly so, we know
Nothing of the rigours of winter: The house has a roof
against -- the car a top against -- the snow.
All will be well, we say, it is a bit, like the rising of the
For our country to prosper; who can prevail against us?
No one.
The house has a roof; but the boards of its floor are
rotting, and hall upon hall
The moles have built their palace beneath us, we have
not far to fall.

- Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1939


You won't believe this:

Neil Bush, fellow Tulane alumnus, former chief of the Silverado Savings & Loan, and presidential brother, was in Jidda, Saudi Arabia last week giving the keynote at an international business forum sponsored by the Saudi Binladen Construction Group (yes, THAT bin Laden - Osama's dad's company). Former President Bill Clinton was also a speaker. But this isn't the scary part, the scary part is that such a curious appearance intersects with another curiousity...

Neil was in the middle east seeking investors for his new company, an educational software firm called "Ignite!" which stands to profit enormously from the "No Child Left Behind Act" signed by older brother George W. Here's what Neil had to say about the trip: “What am I supposed to do? Nothing in life? Every country has a concern about the education of its children—and I’m happy to cooperate with them. I don’t see a conflict.” - [article]

I wish there was some sort of alternative way he could spend his excess energy and ambition, but apparently he can either finagle a huge payoff from attracting foreign governments to invest in a software-selling scheme that dovetails conveniently with new federal mandates, or he can do nothing. Why couldn't he just market his own brand of beer?

Oh, and speaking of marketing...Happy National Consumer Protection Week!
The Worst Offense is a Bad Defense

So, $3.2 million out of the inadequate portion of the "war on drugs" budget earmarked for treatment and prevention was blown on a couple of Superbowl ads telling you that buying drugs is financing terrorism. Well, I'll let other people argue the case that decriminalizing drugs would seriously undercut the black-market's profit margin and save us the few billion dollars we were going to spend arming commandos, coddling informants, and buying Latin American elections. Instead I'll point out that the money trail to al-Qa'ida branches off in three main directions. One of them was the Taliban's control of the world heroin market - but they banned opium growing last year - so that would have dried up pretty quick anyway. The second is Mr. bin Laden's share of his family's enormous fortune amassed as a near-monopoly contracting company whose major clients have included Halliburton Oil (Mr. Cheney's company). The third is from redirecting funding for honest charity and aid. The easiest portion to redirect is that intended to support fundamentalist Islamic education and social institutions - which are largely funded by the Saudi government from their vast wealth accumulated in oil production. So, in addition to just saying "no" to drugs, you might also consider saying "no" to Cheney and "no" to that new SUV.


Some Things a Search for Reticulated* Foam Will Get You:

1. Pond supplies
2. Microwave absorption
3. Buffing pads
4. Puppet construction
5. Wound closure devices
6. Static dissipative swabs
7. Boat cushions
5. A fuel-cell powered mock hamster marketed for sexual intercourse

* "Resembling network; having the form or appearance of a net; netted; as, a reticulated structure." Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998


Crows: We Want To Be Your Only Bird.

"I think this slogan is worth repeating, because there's a lot behind it. Of course, the crows don't literally want (or expect) to be the only species of bird left on the planet. They admire and enjoy other kinds of birds and even hope that there will still be some remaining in limited numbers out of doors as well as in zoos and museums. But in terms of daily usage, the crows hope that you will think of them first when you're looking for those quality-of-life intangibles usually associated with birds."

Ian Frazier. "Tomorrow's Bird." Doubletake. No. 22 (Fall 2000)


Today I went to the mall.
There have been several developments since the last time I went to the mall. I'll try to list them here:

1. There's a rock-climbing wall with power winches to boost the efforts of the weaker kids.
2. There's a Thomas Kinkade store. (I'd never heard of him until Christmas and now I can't escape him)
3. More than half of the Mole Hole is given over to "Christmas Village" collectibles and accessories - some of which are not very Christmasy (Haunted Houses and Summer Camps and UFO's)
4. In general, teenagers come in groups of 3 girls per guy. I don't remember this being the case when I was a teenager.
5. There's a store where you can sort of construct your own teddy bear. This isn't so much a craft project as dividing the shopping experience into smaller units.
6. Mobile phones are apparently very high profit items because you can get them from kiosks, electronics stores, camera shops, music stores, and department stores.
7. Like automobile models, mall shops tend to move up the price and luxury scale over time. Banana Republic used to be sort of kitschy and now it's molto elegante. Other shops seem to be doing the same thing.
8. There's some sort of NASCAR theme park thing going on. I have not investigated.
9. The Hoover Police Department has joined the US Postal Service as government agencies with mall locations.
10. For some reason (personal security? employer's labor market?) teenagers now give away free samples in teams of two or more.


"This country and its institutions belong to the people that inhibit it."

- Billie (Judy Holliday) in "Born Yesterday"


"Initiative comes to thems that wait."

- Alex (Malcolm McDowell) in "A Clockwork Orange"
Red Velvet Cake

When my brother got engaged and our family invited his fiance's family over for dinner, my mom made red velvet cake - from a mix. I started idly wondering about what red velvet cake is supposed to be. I've done some research and have developed a theory. Any further evidence is always appreciated:

James Beard's book American Cookery describes three kinds of red velvet cake varying in the amounts of shortening and butter used. All of them use red dye for the color, but it is mentioned that the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk tends to turn the cocoa a reddish brown color. Furthermore, this article states that before the availability of more alkaline "Dutch processed" cocoa, this reddish tint was more pronounced. It cites that tint as the source of the Americanism "Devil's Food" for cocoa-flavored cakes. Apparently "Red Velvet" was merely another term for Devil's Food. The site lists several variations: Demon Cake (Hershey) - 1934; Real Red Devils Food - 1945; Satan Cake - 1930’s; Mahogany Cake (no date); Red Velvet Cake (no date); and Oxblood Cake (no date).

The use of red dye to make "Red Velvet" cake was probably started after the introduction of the more alkaline cocoa in order to reproduce the earlier color. It is also notable that while foods were rationed during the second World War, some bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of cakes - and boiled grated beets or beet baby food is still found in some red velvet cake recipes. Red velvet cakes seemed to find a home in the south and reached peak popularity in the 1950's - just before it was determined that red food dye was a carcinogen. The resurgence of this cake might partly be attributed to the film "Steel Magnolias" in which the groom's cake (another southern tradition) is a red velvet cake in the shape of an armadillo.

The history of red velvet cakes is, perhaps mistakenly, attached to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. An early version of the infamous "Neiman Marcus cookie" legend has it that a woman asked for the recipe to the delicious red velvet cake she was served at the hotel restaurant, only to find that she had been billed $100 (or $250 or $250) for the recipe. Indignant, she spread it to all her friends as a chain letter. This genre of legend dates to at least the 1940's as a $25 Fudge Cake served to a passenger on a railroad during the days of elegant rail travel. The association with the Waldorf is doubtless merely a jab at a pretentious institution, much like Nieman Marcus (which never sold chocolate chip cookies until everybody started coming in to ask about them).

In a poorly researched article on the Beard Foundation website (without any reference to Beard's own reference book) a representative for the Waldorf says that they don't have anything in their archives indicating that they served any red velvet cake in the 40's or 50's, but that they gladly accept credit for inventing it. My theory is that it was never "invented," but only became distinguished from generic chocolate cake by ambitious bakers determined to preserve the red color of old-style "Devil's Food." Red velvet cakes are now culturally associated with southern food and with soul food. (A much-reproduced recipe from a cookbook published by the National Association for Negro Women is about as authoritative as one can find). Therefore I reject the Waldorf's claim to this cake and put credit back in the hands of our fore-mothers where it belongs.


Meet the Genuine Progress Indicator:
The GPI measures not just the actual amount of money changing hands within our borders, but tries to account for the effect of those transactions in securing the public welfare. After all, what good is a "healthy" economy if all the money is used to tear down trees, market cigarettes, pump toxins into the environment, and siphon cash from gambling addicts into organized crime?

"If our political leaders focus solely on trying to spark GDP growth they risk exacerbating the negative social and environmental costs that the GPI measures but the GDP ignores."

- Craig Cheslog of Redefining Progress, the orginators of the GPI

Here's the Press Release with a link to the .PDF version of the report.


Here's a petition asking George Lucas to give Episode III to Peter Jackson.
Nation's Chief Enforcer Puts Private Interests Above Rule of Law

"Any discretionary decision by your agency to disclose information protected under the FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information."

- Attorney General John Ashcroft in a Memorandum for Heads of all Federal Departments and Agencies issued 12 October, 2001


Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Inspiring architect, educator, MacArthur fellow, and good ol' boy Sambo Mockbee died of leukemia last Sunday. His was the second guest lecture I attended while a student at Tulane School of Architecture. The first one went over my head, but Mockbee hit me straight between the eyes. His architecture is humorous, direct, and soulful. His educational mission was passionate. He founded the Rural Studio at Auburn in 1993. He and his students have spent the years since then living among the people of Hale County, Alabama and doing architecture as a real and physical process. They experiment with cheap materials and create wonderful environments for living which are donated to the community. In Mason's Bend, an isolated little cluster of shacks and trailers, they have constructed three remarkable houses custom-tailored to their deeply impoverished owners' needs. Students in the Rural Studio gain a working understanding not only of building, but also of service and community.

From Sam Mockbee I began to appreciate that architecture is neither an art nor a science, nor something in between, but a service and a discipline inseparable from its cultural context and from the issue of public welfare.

For more background, check out the link above as well as this interview and these two articles.