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

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Filtczer neeeews 

Some moronic mailbot in New Tazewell, Tennessee keeps sending me news about how to cut my nonexistent mortgage there.

The 'bot thinks the following words won't be caught by spam filters: analyfzed, motrzgage, percepnt, therepfore, curreently, overpajying, thousgands, apprriove, papercwork.

I guess they were right, but I am missing a lot of mail with the word therefore, I'm pretty sure my erudite friends use it all the time.
posted by Tom  # 6/29/2005 01:57:00 PM

Wuxtry! Front page rollover popups! 

This map reveals that on most days there is no such thing as world-wide front-page news.

Ed's bonus: The spellchecker offered Extra for Wuxtry.
posted by Tom  # 6/29/2005 12:39:00 PM

Monday, June 27, 2005

Just one more question 

The Bush nightmare ended on Flag Day 2005. Just about then Americans, each having had some new straw or other placed on their overburdened backs, looked at one another and said, "Huh? This just won't do."

The only questions remaining are:
posted by Tom  # 6/27/2005 01:41:00 PM

One on One 

The First Commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

First Amendment
: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
No one who has taken an oath to defend the Constitution can favor posting the Ten Commandments on public property. Is that blunt enough?

The Supreme Court sort of agrees. Courthouses, no, state capitals, yes. Curious, considering that the specious argument put forth contends that the Ten Commandments are part of the "history of the law". No one has proposed putting the draconic Draco on the courthouse lawn despite his role as "the first lawgiver of Greece". We shouldn't give the Republicans any ideas, though, Draco got to be draconic because he thought all violations of the law should carry the death penalty.
A convenient list of 21 different Bible versions of the Ten Commandments, making 210 commandments in all. That monolith would be bigger than the courthouse.

The Catholic Encyclopedia sorts out some of the versions. Not a mention of Republicanism in the entire discussion.
posted by Tom  # 6/27/2005 01:40:00 PM

Tiny Jake trumps Tiny Tim 

While Jake Shimabukuro's ukulele gently weeps.

Watch it all, considering timbre as you do.
posted by Tom  # 6/27/2005 01:29:00 PM

Throe throwdown 

I'm a great believer in using the dictionary if you want to know what a word means. So is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:
"If you look up 'last throes,' it can mean a violent last throe," Rumsfeld said on ABC's This Week.
Well, Mideast scholar and war critic Juan Cole did look it up, in the Oxford English Dictionary, no less, and pretty much makes it clear that Rumsfeld wouldn't know a last throe if it bit him in the buttock.

Ed's note: My spellchecker never heard of throe.

posted by Tom  # 6/27/2005 09:35:00 AM

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Just the thing for the hottest day of the year 

Confederate Rebel Flag Navy Blue Korean "Mink" Blanket

Via Brother Dave.
posted by Tom  # 6/25/2005 09:45:00 PM

Friday, June 24, 2005

Taxes, jobs, new construction, the might of government, versus dumpy and not-so-dumpy neighborhoods everywhere, courtesy of the liberals 

A bunch of liberals on the Supreme Court just took the foundation out from under my house. Yours too.

The 5-4 opinion, signed by John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer, holds that the government, any government, can declare eminent domain on any property they like, so long as there is any feeble excuse that the government would be better off with something else on the property.

I guess that means my preference for funky neighborhoods with used-book stores, ethnic restaurants, and unfinished-furniture dealers could be advanced by using eminent domain to remove some high-rise hotel. Or, as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor put it:
"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."
Oops, I guess I was wrong about the used-book stores. This ruling is one of those magic issues that absolutely transcends the liberal-conservative spectrum to reveal what lies beneath, the powerful-powerless spectrum, which doesn't run in two directions, from left to right, but only in one direction, from up to down.

Here's the rationale, from Justice Stevens's majority opinion, certainly bald enough:
"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue."
Oh, sure, if the city believes there will be a benefit, that's just fine. In very few municipalities do real-estate developers have more power than people who live in houses the compare unfavorably to a high-rise hotel.
posted by Tom  # 6/24/2005 02:38:00 PM

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Disrespect for the flag and Constitution 

A pretty good take on the recrudescence of the flag-burning amendment.

The headline:
I'd better not see one Republican using flag napkins at a Fourth of July cookout

Why the flag-burning amendment is unnecessary, illegal and unconstitutional
The punchline:
It's a tragic day for our country when the flag means more to certain people than the Constitution does.
There's a solid argument between those two. More from me on this later.

posted by Tom  # 6/23/2005 02:15:00 PM

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Lying isn't news, but maybe the truth will be 

After a thrilling buildup about the craven complicity of the media in the triumph that is the George W. "W" Bush administration, ace fulminator Mark Morford at sfgate.com concludes:
So then, the question is not merely when will the stack of lies, of abuses become so high, so unstable, so inexcusable that the entire nation finally takes notice and the whole house of cards comes crashing to the ground in a big nasty soul-jarring spirit-cleansing patriotism-redefining whoomp and smothers the whole lot of them, but rather, can it be soon enough?

posted by Tom  # 6/22/2005 11:54:00 AM

Monday, June 20, 2005

Salt Buddy, meet Mud Buddy 

In its final season, SCTV ran a commercial for Salt Buddy, "When you need a friend to cover for you."

The idea was that if you were claiming to have been in Minneapolis meeting with money men when you were actually in Aruba meeting with your honey girl, you could spray Salt Buddy on your shoes, reassuring your wife that you had been in the frozen north ruining your shoes with ice melter.

Now, via Brother Dave, Mud Buddy:

By Shelley Emling
Cox News Service

LONDON - Maybe your rugged SUV never goes anywhere wilder than the mall, but you can look like a wilderness adventurer with Spray-On Mud.

For owners who don't want it to look like they're driving an unnecessary gas-guzzler, a little splash signals that the vehicle spends time tackling the back country.

The product is the brainchild of Colin Dowse, a businessman from Shropshire, England, a village close to the Welsh border.

"Spray-On Mud is an urban camouflage designed to give the impression that you are a serious off-roader," he said.

Dowse, a Web designer, came up with the idea about a year ago while sharing a few pints with friends at a local pub.

It's genuine local dirt -- strained to remove stones and other debris -- mixed with water and a secret ingredient that Dowse says helps it stick to a vehicle's bodywork.

But don't use it to obscure the numbers on one's license plate, he warns on his Web site -- that's a fineable offense.

Dowse said he can barely keep up with Internet sales of the product at $14.50 a quart.

"We're selling it from Japan to New York,'' he said. ``It's also getting very, very big in Germany, which is kind of strange bearing in mind that they like to keep their cars a bit cleaner than we do."

Distribution is to begin in the United States and Canada within a few months.

Ron DeFore, communications director at the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America, a non-profit consumer group in Washington, said he wouldn't be surprised if the product sold well in America.

"There are some who would buy this product to show how macho they are," he said.

But he also fears that the product could fuel more SUV-bashing.

"Some will hold this product up as evidence that there's a bunch of people out there who aren't taking these vehicles off-road and therefore don't really need them," he said.

posted by Tom  # 6/20/2005 02:46:00 PM

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Chris Wallace, shit, shows his ass 

Chris Wallace, true media whore thinks about torture at Guantanamo Bay when he wants to simulate passion for his Republican clients:
I'm not saying, you know, there aren't legitimate questions there, is that someone is chained to a floor and forced to defecate on themselves, and has loud rock music playing. Excuse me? I mean, you know, Auschwitz? Bergen Belsen? The Soviet gulag? I think they would have been very happy to be allowed to defecate on themselves.
The folks here assist Chris Wallace (Mike's son, if you can believe) in squeezing out his steaming heaps of insight by reaming him out a new poop-chute. Please go there and read. As it turns out shitting on yourself was part of Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen, and the Soviet gulag too. And Wallace is Jewish.

Here's hoping we all get a chance to shit on Chris Wallace and those he defends.

posted by Tom  # 6/19/2005 02:33:00 PM

Saturday, June 18, 2005

RSA encryption like Samson's Hair 

Like Samson's Hair RSA Encryption is a source of weakness as well as a source of strength, according to this note in Rant Central:
Looking at the girl in the red dress

With the Sony PSP being all the rage, there's naturally some effort to hack it, as was done for previous PlayStations. An article on Tom's Hardware laments that the datastream is encrypted using "really strong RSA encryption". Don't stop there, boys... call the bluff!

It's true that RSA with a 2Kb key will keep you busy for a few solar life cycles, but these guys are forgetting something. RSA is slowwww. So RSA is rarely, if ever, used to encrypt a payload. Instead, RSA is used to encrypt a session key that is used with a faster symmetrical engine. That is where you attack the system. The underlying algorithm might have a leak, or there may be weak keys used.

Don't let that big RSA sign scare you off. Look for the weakest link.

posted by Tom  # 6/18/2005 11:13:00 PM

Not a product endorsement 

Club Gitmo T-shirts

Brother Dave comments, "I guess Rush needs the XXXXL."

posted by Tom  # 6/18/2005 10:34:00 PM

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Even real conspiracies have conspiracy theories 

My greatest beef against the administration of President George W. "W" Bush is and has long been that he has turned me into a paranoid conspiracy theorist, despite a lifetime of sober disdain (the disdain, that is).

Brother Dave, on the other hand, has long been on the watch for the Illuminati, the Merovingians, the Holy Grail, ODESSA, and the like.

Today, Brother Dave provides word on a political conspiracy that runs so deep into the heartland of the real America that it has arrived at a crummy motel in my own hometown.

"Cha Ching" From ¢¢¢ to $$$: How the Bush Crime Syndicate Funneled Foreign Cash Into the U.S. Political System

Florida Investigator Who Got Too Close to Florida "Coin Gate" Silenced by Jeb Bush's Gangsters

Wayne Madsen

FLORIDA PANHANDLE, June 10, 2005 -- Experienced federal investigators, acting independently, have discovered a covert funding channel used by the 2000 and 2004 Bush-Cheney campaigns and the administrations of Jeb Bush in Florida and Bob Taft in Ohio to illegally funnel foreign and other questionable money into Republican coffers.

Ever since the brutal death of Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) investigator Ray Lemme in July 2003, the focus of investigators in Florida and Georgia has been on the political scandal Lemme was uncovering. After his official investigation of contract fraud, money laundering, illegal immigration, and election fraud was shut down on orders of Jeb Bush, Lemme continued to investigate the use of FDOT to launder cash for the Bush Brothers and their allies. Lemme's focus was on the use of the Florida turnpike system to launder cash for the Jeb and George W. Bush campaigns. It was an investigation that would ultimately lead to Lemme's body being discovered in a motel room bath tub in Valdosta, Georgia. A two-state police cover up of Lemme's death, threats directed at Florida and Georgia investigators, and a virtual media blackout indicates that the GOP administrations of Jeb Bush and Georgia's Sonny Perdue wanted the Lemme story to go away -- and fast.

The reason for the cover-up of Lemme's reported "suicide" is simple. Investigators have now discovered that foreign cash, including Chinese, Saudi, and Nigerian money, was laundered via the biggest state-run cash cow in Florida -- the Florida Turnpike system. Because most of the transactions involving Florida's toll roads involve cash and huge amounts of it, it was easy for foreign and other questionable money to be laundered via FDOT.
Read the rest here. Granted, it's a bit Mena Airport/Vince Foster, but still, given the historical context, worth watching.
posted by Tom  # 6/16/2005 12:14:00 PM

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Baby, let me be your salty dog 

From the Matron of Honor:
I bought a box of boutique salt at the supermarket. It is stamped "organic Australia" and there is a use-by date (12-12-07). It makes the claim that this salt tastes better than other kinds. What will happen if I let it go past the use-by date? It was only in the ground for 227 million years.
From the Bible:
"Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" Matthew 5:13.
From Brother Dave:
Bible salt was not sodium chloride, which never loses savor, but sodium acetate, which does.
Or, maybe it was all asphalt.

posted by Tom  # 6/15/2005 05:45:00 PM

Maybe it's that "miaou" business? 

Cats, British cats, that is, may do strange things to their owners, study says:
Infected men, suggests one new study, tend to become more aggressive, scruffy, antisocial and are less attractive. Women, on the other hand, appear to exhibit the “sex kitten” effect, becoming less trustworthy, more desirable, fun-loving and possibly more promiscuous.

posted by Tom  # 6/15/2005 02:01:00 PM

Evolution, not intelligent design, produced the pocket watch 

This once muted post, now subjected to the blaring trumpet section of this mighty fine web log, courtesy of the author, JLR:
One thing that has puzzled me about the intelligent design movement is its ignorance of how actual design happens. They claim that the existence of a pocket watch in a field implies a watchmaker, but it in fact doesn't - it implies the existence of thousands of watchmakers and a vast industrial system for making watches. It isn't an argument for God, but a nice example of how artifacts themselves evolve.

No one person invented the pocket watch. It came about gradually, through hundreds of small innovations. No one person even invented its core mechanism, the escapement. It first appeared in monastery clocks in the 13th century, was substantially improved by Huygens and Robert Hooke in the 18th, and has been tweaked ever since. There are dozens of hits on escapement even in the current US patent database, 700 years after its invention.

No one person even could invent a pocket watch. Its features are determined by a constant interaction between its makers and its users. Even simple things like how big it should be cannot be known in advance. Some users like it large so that it can be shown off or is easy to read, and some like it small to minimize weight. Some makers find it cheaper to build large because the tolerances are looser, and some to build small to save material. Even Robert Hooke, one of the smartest people of all time, didn't come up with the final form of the escapement, and that's only one part of a watch.

Watches aren't examples of blinding flashes of inspiration. They change gradually over time from one shape to another as their mechanisms change and tastes change. Hmmm, a constant play between form and function, with popular features getting fast widespread adoption - what other process does this remind one of?
Not by me, by JLR.
posted by Tom  # 6/15/2005 01:12:00 PM

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Well, who is the kid, then? 

Billie Jean is not my lover
She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one
But the kid is not my son
Billie Jean is not my lover
She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one
But the kid is not my son
She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son
She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son
Billie Jean is not my lover
She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one
But the kid is not my son
She says I am the one, but the kid is not my son
She says I am the one, she says he is my son
She says I am the one
Billie Jean is not my lover
Billie Jean is not my lover
Billie Jean is not my lover
Billie Jean is not my lover
Billie Jean is not my lover
Billie Jean is not my lover

posted by Tom  # 6/14/2005 01:32:00 PM

Monday, June 13, 2005

Leo Fender beats Bill Gates, Bill Joy too 

What we can learn from the Fender Stratocaster. A design professional ruminates:
Today, a vintage 1954 Stratocaster in mint condition can bring tens of thousands of dollars on the collector's market—not bad for a guitar that cost under $300 brand new. What's more, a modern guitarist could play that old 1954 guitar on his next hit record and it would still sound great. Did the Stratocaster evolve and improve? Sure. But it was designed to be great from the start.

So, what does this have to do with building software-enabled products?


All the principles that made the Stratocaster successful can be applied to the design of software as well: It should be built as efficiently as possible without sacrificing quality. It should be easy to use. It should satisfy the goals of its customers. It should be easy to maintain, upgrade, and customize. It should exhibit the highest quality possible at its price. It should be aesthetically pleasing. It should inspire loyalty.
Link via Brother Dave.

posted by Tom  # 6/13/2005 02:11:00 PM

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Bet you can't eat just one . . . thousand 

Don't Tell Me How to Do My Job

Girl: And to think I wasn't sure what was going on with him! Then last night I was like why would someone care so much about my underwear if they didn't want to get into it?

Guy: That's a great question.

Girl: Isn't it?

Guy: That should be on OverheardInNewYork.

--Perry Street
Copped via the Village Voice.

posted by Tom  # 6/11/2005 05:11:00 PM

Headbusting hypocrisy 

This is from here:
I'm not sure I have anything to add at the moment to the growing chorus of outrage at what we've collectively allowed to happen just off our shores. But there is some mix of grim appropriateness and shameful symmetry to the fact that we've chosen the one piece of territory in the Americas free of free elections, civil rights and civil liberties to build our own human rights free zone.

-- Josh Marshall
Just to review the bidding:

  1. We invaded Cuba to bump out the Spanish, whom we replaced in running the country.
  2. We took a naval base as a prize and kept it even after we were bumped out in our turn.
  3. The base now holds a prison where we keep, torture, and kill people we couldn't even keep if we were obeying our own laws.
  4. But we don't have to obey our own laws because the taking, keeping, torturing, and killing are not happening on actual American dirt.
  5. And, as for the prisoners we are shipping to the Uzbeks for treatment probably even more disgraceful treatment. What prisoners? I see no prisoners.

Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!

posted by Tom  # 6/11/2005 01:01:00 PM

They got a name for him down in Texas 

Mean Mean Howard Dean has the sissies of Washington in a swivet because he called President George W. "W" Bush both a loser and a liar, later pointedly retaining the latter epithet while apologizing (mildly) for the former.

I'm just sort of skyballing here, but wouldn't Red and Blue America unite in saying "Yeah!" ("You damn betcha!") if Dean pulled this one?
"That is to say, he's little pissant."

posted by Tom  # 6/11/2005 12:47:00 PM

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Easy, sure, but think of the implications 

I can't think of anything easier than filling in for wax dummy Larry King, but, on the other hand, it means you'd be filling in for Larry King.

I wonder if Bob Costas will have those weird things on his shoulders.

posted by Tom  # 6/09/2005 01:03:00 PM

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Howard, BTW, could take Mallard apart with one wing 

This morning's letter to the morally corrupt Boston Globe:
The Globe should put on a contest where we can all vote on just which one of the many Mallard Fillmore cartoons about torture is the funniest. Boy! It's tough, but the two most recent ones about prisoners at Guantanamo Bay being forced to look at pictures of Donald Rumsfeld naked -- those two were just great! Torture is inherently funny, of course, but Mallard is a master at making even the inherently funny even more hilarious.

posted by Tom  # 6/08/2005 02:03:00 PM

What's that have to do with the price of tea? 

Snagged via a passing reference in Billmon's Whiskey Bar web log:
Anyone who doubts that terrorists could smuggle a nuclear warhead into New York City should note that they could always wrap it in a bale of marijuana. – Graham T. Allison, "Nuclear Lessons." The Boston Globe Op-Ed Page (27 October 1999).
Indeed. How much has the price of pot – bulky, stinking pot – gone up due to the increased attention to borders, smuggling, suspicious characters, box cutters, airline traveler's shoes, curbing civil liberties, torturing Arab taxi drivers? You'd think, wouldn't you, that it would have. Has it? I doubt it.

posted by Tom  # 6/08/2005 01:44:00 PM

A moment in the twilight zone 

I recently acquired a $15 pair of handy-talkies (beltclips and batteries included) to use as an upstairs-to-downstairs mobile intercom. We're still developing our communications protocols, but I leave one unit with the Little Woman (Mrs. Desperado) and take the other with me.

I was down in the basement when the handy-talky beeped. I looked around, didn't see it, and trotted upstairs to see what was up. Nothing much, so I took the other handy-talky back down with me to use its CALL button to search for its missing mate.

Beep! Ah, it's over there. I go over there. Beep! Just a little further. Beep! It's across the room! Okay, over there and Beep!. Huh? Maybe it's down under the table? Beep! Nope. Over by the other work bench. Beep! Back across the room! I thought it was low tones that were nondirectional, not high ones. Beep! On top of the cabinet? No. Beep! Over on the table saw? Nope. Beep! Could I be having an encounter with a mischievous poltergeist? (This was a serious thought. You have to consider all the possibilities.) Beep! Over there! Beep! Over here! Beep! Nowhere!

This can't be happening! Fans of non-poltergeististical explanations will be glad to know that it was not, in fact happening. Remember those beltclips? The damned thing was on my belt, out of the way, behind my back, dutifully beeping just off to my right for five minutes no matter where I turned.

posted by Tom  # 6/08/2005 01:12:00 PM

Monday, June 06, 2005

Swallows come back to Yorba Linda 

I was away, but the championship headline coverage of Watergate last week goes to our own Boston Herald:
Meanwhile, proudly flaunting their decades of corruption, Pat Buchanan, Peggy Noonan, Gordon Liddy, and, most notably, Ben Stein (who is apparently deeply invested in his manly menopause) all choked on it. (No links, please, we're Googlers.)

posted by Tom  # 6/06/2005 01:47:00 PM

Sunday, June 05, 2005

They knew what they were doing, but they didn't care and ought to pay 

John Conyers gives a shout out for finding out whether the George W. "W" Bush administration is corrupt, stupid, or both:
We have reached a point where all but the most delusional enthusiasts of the Iraq war have now acknowledged that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion and likely for over a decade preceding the war. Fox News and the President were slow to acknowledge this fact, but now have.

Unfortunately, it seems this rare consensus has lulled many into failing to ask the follow-up question: why were the President and other high-ranking administration officials so definitive in their statements that Iraq possessed WMD? This question is not of a merely historical significance: we deserve to know whether these statements were the result of a "massive intelligence failure" as some have contended or a deliberate deception of the Congress and the American people.

Essentially, the question boils down to what lawyers call "mens rea". Before a defendant can be convicted of a crime the judge or jury must find not only that the defendant committed the wrongful act but also did so with a state of mind indicating culpability. In the case of a fraud, the jury must find that there was intent to deceive. In the case of Iraq, the weight of evidence continues to accumulate indicating that the American people and Congress may well have been the victims of a deliberate deception.
Continue reading in the Huffington thing, via Brother Dave.

posted by Tom  # 6/05/2005 06:04:00 PM

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Or, just read your paper and watch your news 

Fallacies all arranged conveniently.

posted by Tom  # 6/02/2005 01:56:00 PM


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