Sunday, May 31, 2009

Killing Abortion Doctors

If you accept as genuine one of the central arguments of the right-to-life folks, that abortion stops a beating heart, doesn't assassinating a doctor do the very same thing?

Music and Life

Via PreciousMetal - for my daughter, who graduates from Ohio University in two weeks. Stop worrying and enjoy the music, Bear.

Fall of British Empire Caused by Cheese Rolling?

An empire, by definition, is simply raw power, typically via the control of wealth and resources by a very small group, that unjustly places a burden on the populace for the benefit of those who own that control.

The decline and fall of the British empire can be attributed to many factors - greed, poverty, denial of basic human rights - that resulted in a populist backlash.

Or it could be that the British are brain-damaged from their traditional cheese-rolling. I'm not an anthropologist, so I'll let the video speak for itself.

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

Friday, May 29, 2009

Food Cart Fantasy

Serious Eats posted an interesting question on their site:

Ok, so my husband and I were in NYC last week, and saw all the food carts, 80% of which seemed to be halal food carts (gyros, chicken over rice, etc.). The remaining were hotdogs, several ice cream trucks, a couple of Jamaican, and a couple dessert trucks. I think there may have been a crepe cart. So I started thinking if I had a cart/truck, I would have a baked potato truck. So what would your truck of choice be?

Reading through the comments, baked potato cart seemed to be a fan favorite, along with things like soup and asian specialties. But one jumped out and grabbed me by the throat - a chips and dip cart!

Best Paula Deen Impression Ever

Army Hacking Sir!

Where's Sergeant Hulka when you need him?

It seems that Turkish hackers breached two U.S. Army web servers and redirected traffic to other pages, including those with anti-American and anti-Israeli messages.

The most recent breach was on Jan. 26 when a server at an ammo plant in Oklahoma was compromised. The other reported breach occurred in Sept. 2007 and involved an Army Corps of Engineers server in Virginia.

Authorities believe that SQL injection attacks were used in both cases, which is not surprising given how often we've seen this in the past, but with vulnerable SQL installations well known, it's surprising that the DoD hasn't mandated vulnerability assessments of Internet-facing servers, using both internal resources and security firms contracted to assess from the outside looking inward.

The reports claims that it's unknown if sensitive information was accessed as a result of this breach, to which I wonder what the heck the Army is doing putting sensitive information on Internet-accessible points of presence without having a robust testing program in place and a layered control approach.

Perhaps President Obama's cyber-security czar could ask the Army that very question.

Report: Turkish hackers breach U.S. Army servers , via CNET

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Microsoft DirectShow Vulnerability Announced

Microsoft has announced via security advisory, blog posting, and other forums that they are working on a fix for a vulnerability in the QuickTime parser in Microsoft DirectShow.

Attackers could craft and deliver a specially-crafted video file, either via email or by posting on a web site, and use the file to exploit the vulnerability and take complete control of your computer.

Microsoft reports limited attacks so far, and notes that the flaw affects Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. Vista and Server 2008 are not impacted.

At least three workarounds are available. If you're in the habit of watching online video, or have preview pane enabled in your mail reader, you'd be wise to implement one of the workarounds until a patch is released.

The bad news is that certain browser plug-ins could be attack vectors, and it's possible to make direct calls to DirectShow specifically, even if QuickTime is installed. QT itself is NOT vulnerable.

Honey Baked Ham Cupcakes

I like ham. I like cupcakes. And I like pineapple.

Ergo, Honey Baked Ham cupcakes are the perfect food.

The only thing I think I like more is a website called cupcake project.

Obama Needs a Coin Bank

If only the federal government would have taken all the loose change out of their pockets each night when they were getting ready for bed and instead of tossing it in an old coffee mug on the dresser, fed it into this coin bank, we wouldn't have needed a stimulus package to get our economy out of the ditch.

Think about it - all the missiles being bought, foreign government payments, refunds from attorneys after they've provided really bad torture advice - there has to be some spare coin laying around.

It could be a race between the national debt clock and the feds filling up their coin banks. Once a month, we could unlock the bottom of the bank and put the unemployed to work rolling quarters.

It's a win-win.

Coin Bank makes saving money an art form , via Dvice

Meerkat Manor, Stardate 2432.4

My daughter was mesmerized by the Animal Planet series Meerkat Manor. I thought it was akin to watching organized rat families being cruel to each other while attempting to avoid death by predator, so as you can tell, she's a lot more empathic than me.

Got that from her mother, I guess.

She would be thrilled with these doodads - little knitted meerkats decked out in Star Trek duds.

The red shirt always bought it. Why, Bones? Why?

Tiny knitted meerkats in Star Trek uniforms , via BoingBoing

99 Nose Balloons Go By

All of my kids hated that little snot sucker that parents use to siphon the boogers from their little nasal passages until the tots are old enough to grasp the concept of nose blowing.

I believe the official term is "nasal aspirator", although that moniker doesn't add much to make the device appealing.

So it's nice to see someone has come up with a creative gizmo to help kids clear out their plugged-up ears, and that it doesn't involve an oil-derrick style contraption attached to their head.

Nose balloons provide a mechanism for kids to puff air through their eustachian tubes, which helps to keep the middle ear clear. I wish I had one of these in my 20s, when I had so much middle ear trouble that I ended up with a permanent tube installed via surgery.

At least kids in my day understood the concept of "hold your nose and
blow." Kids today have it so easy.

Nose balloons for snot-headed kids, via BoingBoing

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Twig & Berry Maintenance

Baby Timer - Brilliant!

It's comforting to know that just as I've aged enough to not have to worry about having a new baby to look after, technology has come along to solve one of the problems that's been confounding sleep-addled parents for decades - it's time for what for the baby??

When did he/she last eat, or poop, or have a diaper change? Is he/she due for meds, or a nap? Keeping track of all this is a logistical nightmare, especially after a few weeks of interrupted sleep patterns, and it's silly to write it down, because you would undoubtedly forget where you put the paper, or you would use it to wipe up a spill of one kind or another.

Enter the Itzbeen baby timer, cleverly and literally named. Plus, it lights up so you can find it when you're stumbling around at 4 AM.

Itzbeen baby-timer remembers four important childcare facts , via BoingBoing

Giant Taco Salad Inventor

Ahh, nostalgia. A 12,000 calorie salad.

"Is your taco salad healthy? Of course it is. It's a salad, isn't it?"

Experience and Bias in Judges

As I listen to those on the far right side of the political spectrum play what few cards they have to counter Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's experience and philosophy, I'm taken by how much is being made of her 2001 statement, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

No less than political dinosaur and serial philanderer Newt Gingrich has called Sotomayor a "reverse racist", because that's easier to do than to try to understand the sentiment behind her comments.

Newt probably doesn't have much experience in that area, given the plethora of white men from predominantly privileged backgrounds that make up most of the judiciary. Perhaps in Newt's eyes, if you've seen one rich white guy, you've seen them all. He's not quite sure what to do with a Latina from NYC.

We all have flavors of bias that come from our upbringing, family, and life experiences. To deny that such bias exists is foolhardy. We're a product of nature and nurture.
Judges have several tasks, but as Mark Thompson notes, ...judging, even on the appellate level, isn’t just about interpreting the law - it’s also about interpreting and understanding the facts of a given case and determining which facts are and are not relevant to a given interpretation of the law. In this arena, having a judiciary that is more in touch with the people they are judging is definitely important.

Getting judges with a variety of backgrounds and life experiences seems a much better way to ensure that the judiciary adequately mirrors the very people who stand in judgment. With so much at stake, relegating such power to a narrow band of social and cultural perspective seems antithetical to justice.

Many men and women have graduated from law school and passed the bar exam, and have had fine careers as lawyers and legal scholars. A smaller group has demonstrated the enhanced qualities needed for judicial excellence. Fewer still have ascended to our highest court.

Having a brilliant legal mind tempered with the background of Sotomayor seems to be the best of both worlds. Let's celebrate our differences and use them to enhance and protect a more perfect union.

RSS Coasters

No, that's not a metaphor for bloggers who use their feed readers to glean content from other web locations in order to post it on their own site, but that's a good guess.

These are bar coasters with an RSS theme, for a truly geeky cocktail hour.

Why? Because trying to explain how RSS works to your non-techie friends requires at least a couple of stiff drinks, that's why.

Feed and drink with these RSS-themed coasters , via ForeverGeek

I Don't Miss the Floppy Disk

I'm starting to feel like a crusty old codger starting stories like this, but here goes...

Back in the day when floppy disks were used to load software on a computer, it could take hours and hours just to install something - if you were lucky enough to not have some sort of fatal disk error or a sticking / corrupted floppy.

I remember installing Harvard Graphics for Windows 3.0, and it was so immensely huge that the installation came on twenty-six 3 1/2 inch floppies, or something like that. The odds that all 26 would work flawlessly were somewhere between slim and none.

Why do I bring this up?

Only to point out that the Rosetta Disk, a 3-inch nickel disk, contains 13,500 pages of the world's languages, and you need a 500x microscope to read a single page.
We've come a long way in 20 years.

I wonder if all the knowledge in the world can be written on a chip and implanted in my brain before I die?

13,500 Pages of Data Etched on a 3 Inch Disk , via Geekologie

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pygmy Jerboa: Wasn't This a Character on Bugs Bunny?

Big Head, Small Hair

I've been losing my hair since my mid-20s, and it's caused very few problems for me. In fact, the biggest complaints I've had are:
  1. Big, fat raindrops hurt when they thwap into my skull
  2. There's only one Wii character icon that's balding - you're either a chrome dome or you have hair on the sides with the landing strip of bare in the middle
But the Japanese have been on the case, undoubtedly so assuage Wii players like me, and have discovered via mouse research a gene that appears to control "cyclical hair loss".

The same gene apparently exists in human skin samples, so it's possible that the research could eventually lead to experimentation with "Hair Club for Mice" that might someday be applicable to yours truly.

I'm not sure how I feel about having mouse hair, so let's hope the science progresses nicely.

Japanese Study: Balding mice could contain the culprit for hair loss

Star Trek Undies, Anyone?

I don't remember these being around when I was a kid in the 60s, but it's entirely possible that they fall under the "massive amount of events I've repressed from my childhood" category.

It's too late for me now. And $75? C'mon, dude.

Dammit, Jim! I'm a boxer-brief man!

Highly Questionable: Retro Star Trek Drawers , via Geekologie

Slap Your Face on a Sawbuck

This is pretty funny. No wonder workplace productivity is in the dumper.

Have you noticed that American currency is pretty boring compared to paper money around the world?

Having Fun with Money at Work

Why We Stare

One of the hardest things to teach young children is the practice of not staring at something that's unusual, especially as it relates to other people.

Kids are naturally open and curious, soaking up new information, so when they see a person that's not exactly like them, they treat it as an educational opportunity.

As it turns out, staring at facial deformities is the brain's way of determining if being in close proximity to that person is safe or unsafe.

When the pieces you supply match nothing in the gallery of known facial expressions, when you encounter a person whose nose, mouth or eyes are distorted in a way you have never encountered before, you instinctively lock on. Your gaze remains riveted, and your brain stays tuned for further information.
So looking is completely normal.

Now if we could just teach them not to comment on what they see in a voice that can be heard for miles.

Why it's hard not to stare at facial deformities, via BoingBoing

Free Viagra Helps Jobless Rise and Shine

Becoming unemployed can be crippling to a person's self-esteem, especially for those who consider their jobs to be a large part of who they are as a person.

Worse yet, some men have a large stake in being able to achieve (and maintain) an erection, as it serves as a symbolic demonstration of their worthiness and vitality.

If you're out of work and limp-noodled, help is on the way.

Pfizer has committed to giving away some of their most popular medications, including Viagra, to the unemployed. If you lost your job since January 1, and were taking a Pfizer med for at least three months prior, you could qualify for free prescriptions for up to a year.

I'm sure this has very little to do with Pfizer looking to garner goodwill with the Obama administration to help ensure they don't get rogered as a result of the upcoming health care task force.

Free Lipitor, Viagra, 70 other drugs for jobless, via The Huffington Post

Monday, May 25, 2009

You Named It What? - Product Naming Gone Awry

Naming a new product can often be challenging, as marketing folks attempt to grab the attention of potential buyers while using monikers that will strike enough interest to get consumers to try something new that they might otherwise overlook.

That said, time and cultural differences take their toll on a chosen few, so it often becomes a question of whether these product names were ever a good idea in the first place.

12 Most Unfortunate Product Names , via Oddee

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

On behalf of a grateful nation.

Toddler Larry King

We took Sunday lunch with our good friends at their humble abode today. The sun was shining, it was hot and humid, and all was right with the world.

They have a delightful son who is 3-ish. He's cute as a button and a pretty smart little dude, and I always accuse him of stealing my pants as I chase him around tugging at his garb. I'm sure that will be funny right up until the time that he shivs me.

Anyway, he had a slight issue with his physical development, so he takes injections of growth hormones, and he's really started to beef up. Since he's starting from behind, it will probably take awhile, and like most kids his age, different parts of his body are changing at different rates. For example, his upper body is a bit further along than his lower half.

I hooked up a wiggly sprinkler contraption for him to run around and through while we were there, and he had quite the time, a joy that was contagious. There's something about watching a happy child that spreads like the pig flu.

At some point, he ditched the bathing suit and went au natural, and the contrast between his skinny, still smallish legs and his developing torso was striking. Add to it the typical curved back and forward-jutting belly of all toddlers, and I suddenly had a clever thought.

This must have been what Larry King looked like as a toddler!

Republicans Couldn't Win at H-O-R-S-E

As I read the news stories and blog postings detailing how the Republican party has gone face-down in the cake, it reminds me of being in elementary school, the beginning of recess, and the agonizing process of choosing teams.

Rush Limbaugh would choose Dick Cheney over Colin Powell. Karl Rove would pick Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell. Tom Ridge thinks Powell has a powerful drive to the left side of the key.

Forget the fact that Limbaugh is a bloated, Viagra-possessing buffoon and that Cheney has had four times as many heart attacks as Limbaugh has had successful marriages. Colin Powell was the guy who, in an Iraq War I briefing, famously said, "First we are going to cut it off, and then we are going to kill it."

Now that's some competitive spirit. I want Powell on my team.

Exactly how many times do you think the team of Limbaugh, Rove, and Cheney could run a fast break before the game was called due to morbidity? And to flog this dead horse even further, how long can the Republican party stake their claim to revival by imitating a group of third graders on the playground?

It's clear that the game has changed, but it's not a sudden shifting of the winds. For some time, people have grown weary of wedge issues and sanctimony, but the tipping point was the double-barrel blast of an economy that shit the bed and a war filled with lies and torture.

Gays aren't really scary, it turns out. Illegal aliens aren't trying to date Meghan McCain. Trickle-down economics turns out to be exactly what George H.W. Bush said it was, as his son stuck pins in the voodoo doll and we all felt the pain.

It doesn't matter who the Republicans pick for their team right now. They don't know how to play!

I wouldn't normally do this, but I'm going to throw a lifeline to the GOP. Go pick up a copy of The Littlest Leaguers - Learn How To Play Basketball, and familiarize yourselves with some basic concepts. I see there's a section on rebounding.

With lessons in teamwork and good sportsmanship too, learning to play basketball has never been more fun than with The Littlest Leaguers.

If they pay attention and work hard, maybe they'll even get to go out for ice cream after practice. I hear Norm Coleman is flush with coin.