The blog incarnation of the Desperado mailing list, the voice of the apocryphalypse since 1978.

Friday, April 30, 2004

I burst into tears when I read this 

The Sinclair Broadcast Group TV chain isn't broadcasting Nightline tonight because they think it will . . . well, I don't really know what bad thing they think will happen if people hear a solemn reading of the names of American dead in Iraq along with their pictures. They say it is political, whatever that is supposed to mean.

Any parent will likely have the same reaction I did to this paragraph from a story in the Baltimore Sun:

One of the names read will be that of Marine Pfc. Nolen Ryan Hutchings, who was 20 when he was killed by American bombs in Nasiriya, Iraq, on March 23, 2003. His father, Larry Hutchings of Boiling Springs, S.C., said Nightline's plan doesn't bother him at all. "I was going to watch it because my son's going to be on it," he said.

I've read this six times now and I can't stop crying.

Parents in Baltimore, Asheville, N.C., Charleston, W.Va., Columbus, Ohio, Pensacola, Fla., Springfield, Mass., St. Louis, and Winston-Salem, N.C. will not see their children's names.

Laughing through the tears: A Sinclair spokesman asked why Nightline was broadcasting these names when they hadn't broadcast the names of those killed on September 11, 2001. A Nightline spokesman replied that they had broadcast those names on September 11, 2002.

posted by Tom  # 4/30/2004 09:41:00 PM

What about this Medicare reform we've heard so much about? 

My mom (see below) is the widow of a pensioner of the Southern Company, pretty much your classic utility holding company, up to all kinds of capitalist shenanigans, frequently investigated, near-monopoly, but, still, a company expecting its employees to stay with it a long time, in exchange for which, they get a good retirement.

My mom recently received the following message from the pension department (emphasis added):

Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Card

Medicare participants will be eligible to enroll in a Medicare-approved drug discount card program beginning in June 2004. However, for most retirees and their covered family members enrolled in the current Southern Company retiree health plan, the drug discount program will not reduce prescription drug expenditures much, if at all.

Why? Because Southern Company's healthcare providers have negotiated prices for prescription drugs that are already as good as or lower than the prices the drug discount card offers. Therefore, you may gain little or no cost savings by applying for this card, especially after paying an enrollment fee of approximately $30 per year; per person. ... You also cannot obtain benefit from both the new drug discount card and the retiree medical plan for the same prescription.

Keeping in mind, of course, that it is illegal for the federal drug discount card program to use its massive nationwide buying power to negotiate prescription prices. So there it is, one utility holding company is getting a better deal on prescription drugs than the entire US government could get.

posted by Tom  # 4/30/2004 07:05:00 PM

The first place for first aid is the last place you'd want to go for first aid 

From my brother Dave:

First-Aid Page

A few nights ago a quiet evening at home was made considerably noisier. My brother Jim and I heard our octogenarian mother take a fall in the bathroom. We rushed to her aid and discovered that, contrary to our instructions and her
usual practice, she had locked the door. Having watched my share of cop shows, I knew that a single application of the adult male shoulder would be more than enough to burst the door open. Apparently, the builders didn't watch cop shows in 1925, because the door resisted many lunges, kicks, hammer attacks, more kicks and shoves. I don't remember how I finally got the door open. It involved a screwdriver and some Channel-locks, I think.

Fortunately, Mom was not badly injured. A small goose-egg on the back of her head was the only obvious lesion. Her sense of humor remained intact, and she was as lucid as usual.

We thought this would be a good time to check current medical advice about head-bonking. I have an AMA medicine-at-home" book, but of course couldn't locate it. So, to the Internet. Google "first aid", click on a likely page (see above). A bare-bones index page, with some 20 links. Didn't quite have what I wanted, but I clicked on a likely link. Immediately, pop-ups, asking me to identify Meg Ryan, gamble in our on-line casino, should US be in Iraq? Close window, close window, close window. Click again-more pop-ups. Exit quickly back to Google, where I found another page with the desired info.

How this page got near the top of Google's rankings escapes me. The information was scant to begin with, the intrusion of any, but especially purely commercial, non-medical pop-ups was exasperating. A complete waste of my time, and a possible danger to the intended recipient of first aid. When one is seeking first aid help, there is usually some sort of emergency at hand. How many people would stop to check out an on-line casino while Junior lies bleeding?

This page should go.

posted by Tom  # 4/30/2004 06:11:00 PM

Happy Anniversary 

Happy Anniversary tomorrow to the well-padded flightsuit that brought such deserved attention to the President's war successes, both as a war president and as a fighting pilot.

Mission accomplished, good little warrior costume.

"Note: Top Gun Bush does not talk."

posted by Tom  # 4/30/2004 05:48:00 PM

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Dickie and Georgie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G 

It isn't clear whether the Vice President will be covering for the President or vice versa when they go hand-in-hand for their hour-long, unrecorded, unsworn "testimony" before the 9-11 commission today. The immediate theory was that the President was just too dumb and uninformed to be exposed all on his lonesome to harsh questions he couldn't answer. The backup theory was that by going in with Bush, the Vice President would be insulated from harsh questions we know he is perfectly capable of answering.

It may not matter either way. While Bush and Cheney scramble up a tree to escape that mean old bear, the commission itself has given many indications that it is less interested in scoring points than it is in fulfilling its mandate, that is, figuring out what led up to the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and what might be done in the future to prevent such attacks.

It is clear that there is plenty to talk about. To be totally negative about all this, the FBI is a hidebound, bureaucratic public-relations machine with crime as its topic, the CIA is a self-satisfied statistical-analysis bureau with hardly a real undercover, life-in-danger spy anywhere on the payroll, the Clinton administration took a few hits at the terrorists, but hardly took them out, and the Bush administration was so sure of itself that it shut down the Clinton operation and went directly to work on the important task of cutting taxes. While there were threads of information that might have been tied together, nobody did tie them together. While there were actions that could have been taken to tighten internal security, nobody took them. There were numerous serious attacks before September 11 -- the U.S.S. Cole, the first attempt on the World Trade Center, and the Oklahoma City bombing -- but there was no national sense of urgency. Let's blame them all for this, and include ourselves among the complacent, indifferent, and ignorant.

The real problem for the Bush Administration is that on September 12, 2001, the entire world, civilized and uncivilized, was on our side and ready to back effective action against our attackers, but on April 29, 2004, it has all been squandered, not by the CIA, not by the FBI, not by the Clinton administration. Cheney may make a ventriloquist's dummy of Bush today or Bush may "beard" for Cheney today, but tomorrow (for forty years' of tomorrows) we are all, civilized and uncivilized, going to be living with the consequences of their decisions and actions. If the Commission addresses those questions, then Bush and Cheney may be up that tree for good.

posted by Tom  # 4/29/2004 10:57:00 AM

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


A 15-year-old boy has been caught by the authorities -- his art teacher, principal, local police and the freakin' SECRET SERVICE (!) -- for drawing weird pictures. When I was 15 years old, that's pretty much all any of us boys did. Serpents and skulls, wavy-edged daggers with blood dripping from the tip, bats, soldiers in foxholes, evil words, guts, pustules, girls with big tits in compromise, pretty much the same stuff you'd find if you grabbed a high-school sophomore's notebook this afternoon, or in 1970, or in 1988, or who knows when. As literary characters 120 years ago, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were fascinated with pirates and robbers, and the eponymic novels about them are also filled with pirates and robbers.

It is amazing to me that a high-school teacher and principal wouldn't know this. Or maybe not.

The Secret Service decided there was no "case", but the school went ahead and punished the kid anyway.

posted by Tom  # 4/28/2004 03:20:00 PM

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Next thing you know, President Bush will accuse Kerry's daughters of running wild 

The bad news is that our President is stupid. The good news is that so are the rest of his people.

Having alerted the nation to John Kerry's dereliction of duty in the Vietnam war, we can now expect revelations by Bush that Kerry has cut veteran's benefits, gutted environmental laws, sent ignorant political operatives to run Iraq, denied Consititutional protections to accused criminals, corrupted the Supreme Court, and thoroughly blown the war on terror.

I hope it all works out well for them.

Kerry's rope-a-doping of Bush is working. It helps immensely that he is roping a real bunch of dopes.


Monday, April 26, 2004

Black thoughts, black thumb 

At last, my garden is at its peak, the plants I have are buried in mulch and mud, the plants I dream of are safe between the covers of the catalogs. Unfortunately, the bleeding heart has kicked off the actual growing season, or, as I call it, death valley.

In my gardening, I’m sure I’ve killed more plants than I’ve grown, all the ones I planted that never grew, the weeds I’ve pulled up, the perennials I’ve pulled up thinking they were weeds, the trees I pulled as weeds.

On the other hand, I think the golden dandelions look just great when they pop up next to the purple grape hyacinths. Somehow the neighbors never mention this.

If it’s green and in the yard, it’s grass.

Grass, a plant that grows sparsely in lawns, luxuriantly in flower beds. That makes me think my plan to replace all lawn with flower beds may not work.

I haven’t gotten beyond taking “invasive” as a recommendation for a plant. Lilyturf, ivy, aluminum plant, periwinkle, anything but grass.

Daylilies and hosta, even a fool can't kill them.

The most reliable plant I have is the gloriosa daisy. It blooms every year. I just never know where it’s going to show up.

I hate a damn tulip. One year of cliche beauty, seven years of dopy fat leaves poking up without a flower in sight. Got plenty of those.

Should have planted daffodils; if I could find a daffodil that wasn’t bone vulgar.

Or iris. Odd fact: multiple iris plants are iris; multiple iris flowers are irises.

The butterflies and the hummingbirds don’t seem to know what is supposed to attract them.

It isn’t really gardening when I do it, even when it’s successful, it’s just yard decoration. I do enjoy the dirt and the crude carpentry.

posted by Tom  # 4/26/2004 02:12:00 PM

12 Angry Men Do the Macarena 

Movie writer Eve Golden came up with a cute variation on the old double-feature gag. I got it from much-forwarded mail, but I don't know where it originally appeared.

The Nia Vardalos Victor/Victoria Likes It Hot Game

Nia's new movie, Connie and Carla, neatly splices Some Like It Hot (show-biz
folk have to take it on the lam after witnessing rub-out) with
Victor/Victoria (women find success as faux drag queens). Soooo, I;ve been
trying some of my own:

The Bride of Frankenstein Happened One Night
Wisecracking reporter hitch-hikes through Transylvania with the zany Bride
of the Monster. Comic high point: The Bride flags down cars by removing one
of her legs and waving it around.

Nazis run a showboat in the 19th-century South. Musical highlights: "Ol' Man
Hitler," "Cain't Help Killin' Those Jews of Mine."

M is Coming to Dinner
Crusty upper-class family is appalled when their daughter's fiancé turns out
to be a deranged German child-killer.

The Grapes of Rouge!
Starving Okies flee the Dust Bowl and head for Paris, where the Joads find
work headlining as can-can dancers. "Wherever there's a midget painting
whores, I'll be there . . ."

Meet Me In St. Valentine's Day Massacre
The Smith family comes to an unhappy end when Father takes a new job and
relocates them to Chicago.

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Doubtfire
Divorced man dons drag to trail his wife to Italy, but gets involved with a
sleazy young gigolo.

The Sunshine Boys of Brazil
Zaniness ensues when two aged Hitler clones get together for a TV reuinion.
"Again with the heiling?!"

Fried Soylent Green Tomatos
A housewife who is unhappy with her life befriends an old lady in a nursing
home-then she learns the secret of the home's kitchen . . .

BUtterfield-8 Mile
A beautiful New York party girl struggles with her anger through rap music.

How Green Was My Valley of the Dolls
At the turn of the century in a Welsh mining village, the Morgans raise a
family of sexy, pill-popping, coal-mining sons. "God? It's me . . . Gwilym .
. . Gwilym Morgan!!!

Kissing Franken Stein
Doctor Frankenstein creates a bride for his Monster, but is dismayed when he
falls instead for his hunchback assistant, Fritz.

posted by Tom  # 4/26/2004 01:40:00 PM

1st, 2d, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th 

My brother sent me a quote from an article in the Boston Globe about the detainees in Cuba:

The closer another country's legal system is modeled on the US
constitution, the less likely it is to be able to use evidence gathered in

Am I naive to think that there are plenty of Republicans, living in Red States, flying flags, grilling in the backyard, supporting our troops, admiring and supporting an adventurist, imperial foreign policy, who nonetheless don't think that the President should be allowed to scoop up people, American citizens or not, in the United States or not, and lock them up forever without a single hint of anything resembling legal rights, due process, or common decency? Keep in mind that the President thinks any opposition is supporting the enemy.

All ten amendments in the Bill of Rights are anathema to this administration, although they will continue to pretend to favor the 2d for a while yet. But when the clampdown comes . . .

posted by Tom  # 4/26/2004 01:16:00 PM

Sunday, April 25, 2004

What kind of bumper does this sticker go on? 

Dummranger came up with this one the other day.

Fundamentalism: Good for Christians, bad for Muslims

posted by Tom  # 4/25/2004 11:08:00 AM

Friday, April 23, 2004


There's room for everyone at the table. Given a choice between a phony cowboy and a real aristo, when the cowboy is poisoning the well for the next forty years, there's a welcoming place for the undecided voter.

posted by Tom  # 4/23/2004 08:36:00 PM

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Bush's Ranch? The Lazy W 

Maruth the Crankpot, my Blogspot brother, has a blog called W.T.F. Is It Now? which is notable for impolite and childish characterizations of President Bush, or as Maruth calls him, Emperor Bunnypants, Smirky McGolfcart, or Il Ducebag.

Maruth really hit the crankpot over the weekend, though, with his name for Bush's ranch: the Lazy W.

(As cowboy fandom knows, there really was a Lazy W ranch whose brand was a stretched and relaxed "W".)

posted by Tom  # 4/15/2004 11:55:00 PM

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A sobering question for serious times 

Ranger Rick wants to know:

Which side do you think Bush is going to back when there's a civil war in Iraq?

posted by Tom  # 4/14/2004 11:05:00 PM

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Careful selection of defaults as an aspect of UI design 

I get most of my atmospheric news from a cute little OS X toolbar item called WeatherPop. It picks up the weather off the Internet every 15 minutes and puts the temperature and a graphic of sky conditions up in the toolbar. WeatherPop also has a screensaver that shows the sky in "Boston". The screensaver is kind of crude in that the moon reporting is unreliable and the skyline is generic, but the sky itself is uncannily the same as the sky outside my window. Light rain shows little drops, sunshine is bright, overcast is rendered accurately, et cetera.

When WeatherPop loses connection with the Internet (and this is the point of this little post), the sky is black with frozen rain slashing down and a temperature of zero.

posted by Tom  # 4/11/2004 03:28:00 PM

Everything about lettering a comic except how to letter  

The Blambot Nexus: Hand Lettering!
posted by Tom  # 4/11/2004 12:16:00 PM

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Some words about the "war president" 

Just in case you're running low on words to discuss the plans and policies of the "war president", here are a few extras to be applied as you choose.

First, an old word combining two other old words, one meaning "marshy or boggy spot, esp. one covered with a layer of turf which shakes or yields when walked on" and the other meaning "a piece of wet, swampy ground; a boggy place in which one may be engulfed or stick fast", to yield the meanings "a piece of wet and boggy ground, too soft to sustain the weight of men or the larger animals; a quaking bog; a fen, marsh" and "Anything soft, flabby, or yielding" and "a position or situation from which extrication is difficult":

quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire quagmire

Then there's this one, from a Latin word meaning "having one's faculties deadened or dulled" which came, in more modern times, to mean "emotionally or morally dull or insensible; apathetic, indifferent":

stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid

Then, should we need a more sophisticated analysis, an old Scottish word meaning "Of things: Ineffective, feeble, futile, valueless. Of persons, their actions and attributes: Destitute of vigour, energy, or capacity; weak, helpless":

feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless feckless

And, an Old English word that adds further nuance, meaning "without help or remedy; incurable, remediless, helpless" and "void of boot or profit; to no purpose, without success; unavailing, useless, unprofitable":

bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless bootless

All definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary.

posted by Tom  # 4/10/2004 11:54:00 AM

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Comic-Book Imperialism 

Back in November 1950, "Conquest" was the first story in the first issue of Two-Fisted Tales, generally acknowledged to have been the greatest war comic ever published. It was written and edited by Harvey Kurtzman, a combat veteran who, like so many combat veterans, hated war, and who is generally acknowledged as the greatest writer and artist in comic-book history.

In "Conquest", grinning, boastful, technologically advanced Spaniards conquer Indian Mexico. I won't quote the whole story, or even clearly mark the deletions (for, in truth, the story has become, 54 years later, a story about the War in Iraq, and unmarked deletions seem just about right). Exclamation points in the original!

Come back with us . . . Back to the sixteenth century! In the New World we find ourselves in an age of discovery and conquest! It is in this age that Capt. Juan Alvorado, by commission of the Spanish king, sails his ships into the Gulf of Campeche off the coast of Mexico . . .


"We have won the city without the loss of a single Spaniard! Now that we have broken the backs of the savages, let us reap the spoils of conquest!"

"Forward, cavaliers! Loot! Plunder! Anything is ours for the taking!"

"See, Lieutenant Velasquez! This is how you deal with savages! You strike a terrible surprise blow, and before they can recover their wits, you crush them!"

And so, the city is occupied. Embrasures are cut into the terraces of the Teocalli. Cannon are mounted to command the main avenues. And the city is gripped firmly in the mailed fist of the invader!

"Captain, sir! The Indian king has come out of hiding and wishes to see you!"

"Captain Alvorado! You have come to our peaceful city bringing death and destruction to my people! Why have you come here? What is it you want of us?"

"We come from a noble country across the sea! A country that will teach your people about civilization! But meanwhile, our country needs gold! Gold enough to fill this room! And there will be no trouble if you help us get it! Tell me, king! Do you think you can co-operate?"

"You are like insects swarming on honey! You are flies who think you have conquered the fly trap!"

"Come! Come! No metaphors! Will you help us or won't you? What is your answer?"

"Here is my answer!" PTAH! [The king spits in his face. Alvorado runs him through.]

"Let this be a lesson in good manners for you uncultured dogs!"

"Captain! Captain! Come quickly!"

Following the excited courier up to a guard post, Captain Alvorado and his officers come upon a spine-chilling sight!

"What has happened here? Where are the guards from this post!"

"They have been kidnapped! And look! Look, captain! The fires are burning on the sacrificial altar!"

"My men? Sacrificing my men? Call out the cavalry! Sound the alarm!"

The gates are thrown open and the cavalry sweeps into the streets across the dark square, only to be met by a hail of spears, arrows and stones from the terraces above them.

"Back, back to the fort, cavaliers! We will deal with them in the morning when the daylight comes!"

In the morning, the foot-soldiers and the arquebusiers sally forth, but the city is deserted!

"Set fire! Set fire to everything! Leave not a single timber standing!"

But even with the city in ruins, the Indians continue their phantom night attacks. The enemy is invisible and is only encountered from ambush! Weeks pass!

"The men are tired! They want to go home!"

"Milk-fed coward! Have you turned woman? We are the conquerors here! We came for gold and until we get it, lots of it, we're not leaving!"

"Arm yourself! Thousands of them streaming out the jungle! The savages are attacking!"

"Stand back, you heathens! Listen! I am your conqueror! My country will send many more soldiers to punish you! Stand back, lest I cut you all to pieces!"

But Juan Alvorado is too frozen with fear to use his sword and his last sight on earth is of the terrible Maquahuitl war club which comes crashing town on his head as he leans against the sacrificial altar of the Indian Sun God! And so the violent career of Juan Alvorado, the conqueror, is ended! His body lies broken at the base of the temple, where, from the highest parapet, it has been thrown! Peace descends on the city, and the invaders lie rotting in the sun like so many dead flies! For they were indeed flies, conquering flies, flies who had conquered the fly-paper!

Now, of course, the Spaniards historically managed to hold on to Mexico for another 300 years, until 1810, but the point here is that Harvey Kurtzman was smarter than Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Cheney, Richard Perle, and George W. Bush combined.

Comic books are obviously not the place to look for foreign-policy critiques, and there are some plausible reasons -- hardly ever advanced by the Bush administration -- for attempting to break the pattern in the Middle East and preserve the independence of Israel against its even more reactionary enemies. And comic books certainly don't offer any guidance on just exactly where we go from here.

I don't know where we go from here, but my mind was formed not only by my fine Big Ten education and an avid attention to war and politics over many years, but also by all those comic books I read. Sorry, but I don't want to be on the imperialist side, particularly if it is an incompetent imperialism guided by nothing more profound than corporate profits and election tactics.

posted by Tom  # 4/04/2004 11:38:00 PM

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Four-legged fossil fish with forearm 

A missing link per www.sciscoop.com.

NSF - OLPA - PR 04-035: New Fossil Links Four-legged Land Animals to Ancient Fish -

I couldn't resist the alliteration, however inaccurate.

posted by Tom  # 4/03/2004 09:37:00 PM

Thursday, April 01, 2004


John Gruber's Daring Fireball, a blog of "Mac Nerdery", features today "Ronco Spray-On Usability":

This is funny.

Eric S. Raymond -- the renowned Linux/Open Source evangelist/essayist -- couldn’t figure out how to connect to a shared printer.

Raymond and Gruber both conclude that Linux and its tools need better UIs, but other than that they are worlds apart.

Raymond started with an established network with two machines on it, one with the desired printer attached, but couldn't get to the printer from the other machine. Gruber glosses:

LINUX ADVOCATE STRUGGLES TO CONFIGURE PRINTER -- ha-ha. Even funnier considering past statements from Raymond regarding Linux-vs.-Windows usability; e.g. the forward for the book Everyday Linux, wherein he wrote:

Conventional wisdom has it that Linux is doomed to a niche role on the desktop because it’s too difficult for Aunt Tillie to run. But the days when Linux was really more complex to administer than a Windows machine are long past us. In the last three years the open-source community has made enormous strides in simplifying installation and normal housekeeping and presenting it through graphical user interfaces — to the point where it’s really quite a bit easier over time to maintain a Linux box than a Windows machine, whether you’re an expert techie or not.

I mean, come on, it's funny that the guy who wrote that couldn’t connect to a shared printer.

The unfunny part came when Raymond starts bloviating about how "the hard part is done" and "now it's time to pop a nice interface on this baby". Gruber replies:

Well, allow me to retort.

UI development is the hard part. And it’s not the last step, it’s the first step. In my estimation, the difference between:

▪ software that performs function X; and
▪ software that performs function X, with an intuitive well-designed user interface

isn't just a little bit of extra work. It’s not even twice the work. It’s an entire order of magnitude more work. Developing software with a good UI requires both aptitude and a lot of hard work. Raymond acknowledges neither.

I won't continue the paraphrase, but this is one telling article.

posted by Tom  # 4/01/2004 09:16:00 PM


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