Saturday, January 31, 2004

Human Factors

Adam Greenfield at v-2 Organisation on human factors for munitions:

I'm a great believer in designers taking inspiration from wherever they can, and while I'm far from the only writer who espouses such a viewpoint, I'm reasonably certain that this is the only time you'll have seen a Vietnam-era United States Army-issue antipersonnel mine cited as an example worth learning from.

I've been thinking a great deal, again, about how far we can simplify artifacts of daily use before they become too abstract to be useful. Accordingly, I've been making a list of some of the most elemental things I know, and attempting to unpack just what it is about them that lends itself to such reduction. In this regard, there are three things I like about the M18A1 Claymore, three design factors that can be profitably learned from and their lessons applied to objects not dedicated to the destruction of human beings.

Firstly, the munition bears a gentle curvature, born of the functional need to cast an acceptably wide arc of lethal fragments, that subtly but unmistakably implies the outward region of its effect. While this is undoubtedly driven solely by the practicalities of fragment dispersal, it does guarantee that one glance at the mine is sufficient to comprehend its intended mode of deployment.

As if this message weren't clear enough, the damn thing even says, in language about as stripped-down and explicit as any I can imagine, "FRONT TOWARD ENEMY." Actually, unable to resist tinkering, I'd further disambiguate by relabeling the Claymore FRONT (TOWARD ENEMY).


Since Joe Cobol's in a meta mood tonight, I figured I'd also recommend Kay's "so this is mass communication", a blog about blogs.


I just wanted to offer a recommendation of Jay Rosen's PressThink blog. Lots of good metajournalism if you like that sort of thing.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Sometimes Whales Just Explode

MSNBC reports a Tiapei traffic snarl apparently caused by an exploding whale:

TAIPEI - Residents of Tainan learned a lesson in whale biology after the decomposing remains of a 60-ton sperm whale exploded on a busy street, showering nearby cars and shops with blood and organs and stopping traffic for hours.

The 56-foot-long whale had been on a truck headed for a necropsy by researchers, when gases from internal decay caused its entrails to explode in the southern city of Tainan.

Residents and shop owners wore masks while trying to clean up the spilt blood and entrails.


Thursday, January 29, 2004

It Boggles the Mind

Ah, the hypocrisy at the WSJ editorial page. Apparently they're annoyed that the Senate is looking into those stolen Democratic memos:

A man from the U.S. Senate's Sergeant-at-Arms Office called this week, asking us to give up the name of one of our sources. A formal probe is under way to discover how last November we got our hands on Democratic strategy memos on how to defeat President Bush's judicial nominees. We politely told the gentleman to take a hike.

But we have a question of our own: Why are Senate Republican leaders, specifically Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch and Majority Leader Bill Frist, cooperating with this vindictive little inquisition against their own employees? The scandal is what is in the memos, not how they were leaked. Yet you'd never know that from the way Senators Hatch and Frist have been rolling over for the same Democrats who have been treating them with contempt the past three years.

And as they point out, if your files are stolen, it's clearly your fault:

As for the leaks, it's hard to see how any Senate rule or ethic was breached. The memos were stored on a shared computer network used by Judiciary staffers of both parties according to a design put in place by Democrats when they took control of the committee. Democrats neglected to erect a firewall or password-protect their documents, and in any case staffers were told to keep confidential information on their hard drives. The documents aren't classified and while leaking them may be political hardball, what is the definition of denying appellate judges a floor vote for the first time in U.S. history?

This internal Senate show trial wouldn't even be taking place without the approval of Senators Hatch and Frist, who are showing more tenacity investigating their own staff than they are trying to get judges past obstructionist Democrats. Mr. Hatch has a long history of dancing to Democratic demands. But his fellow Senate Republicans might keep in mind the message they'll be sending to their own staff if Mr. Miranda's scalp gets pinned to the wall for the sake of phony political appearances.

These guys are just sad.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Macintosh History

Folklore is Andy Herzfeld's new site containing stories and images of the early days of the Mac. Well worth checking out. Ah, those were the days.

Monday, January 26, 2004

The Shifted Librarian

Lots of Information Age goodness at The Shifted Librarian.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Mars Rover Back Online

Spaceflight Now is reporting that the Spirit Rover is back online.

With NASA's Opportunity rover on track for an early Sunday "bouncedown" on Mars, engineers said today they have identified the problem crippling the Spirit rover and hope to resume relatively normal science operations in three weeks or so.

"We made good progress overnight and the rover has been upgraded from critical to serious," said project manager Pete Theisinger. "We have a working hypothesis we are pursuing that is consistent with many of the observables and consistent with operations that we performed on the vehicle last night. It involves the flash memory on the vehicle and the software used to communicate with that memory."

Engineers do not yet know whether the problem involves the flash memory, which works much like the memory cards used in digital cameras, or the computer software that controls it. In the meantime, Spirit has been successfully instructed to bypass its flash memory, thereby eliminating the problem that was causing the computer to constantly reset itself, and the rover is now in a healthy, safe and commandable condition.

And people wonder why I always get edgy when the hardware guys want to use Flash memory. This sort of problem always happens at the least opportune time.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Testing Java Databases

Andrew Glover's written up an excellent introduction to the dbUnit database testing framework for Java. If you use JDBC and Java, check it out.

Charlie Pierce on the SOTU

Charlie Pierce offers the following gem over on Eric Alterman's Altercation site:

I loved the Democratic response to Chock Full O'Swill the other night. Next year, though, I think they should move it out of Madame Tussaud's.

However, I would like to dispense with all the post- (and pre-) mortems and salute an Unknown Kid In A Ski Cap. Full in the knowledge that the Pundit Class would wreck caucus night for me, I stuck resolutely to CSPAN's 1 and 2 for live, un-Matthewsed coverage. C1 was in the 23rd
precinct in Dubuque, and Our Hero was there on behalf of Dennis Kucinich.

At a desperate moment, a Gephardt woman came over and tried to enlist him. He wouldn't budge.

Finally, the Gephardt woman desperately played her last trump card --I believe it was the Four, actually -- and argued electability. The kid shook his head, "Lady," he said, "you're worse off than we are."

She walked away sadly, but Our Hero was juiced, having won the Brawl In The Hall. Sensing a Kucinich Moment, he went racing off to find his fellows who'd already signed aboard other campaigns in order to bring them back to the Kucinich side. Note to whoever is the nominee: Find this kid and put him to work. His optimism is true and right and glorious, and he doesn't need 15 speechwriters and his Daddy's bagmen to summon it up.

And, of course, there's the latest installment of When Presidents Argue:

"Tonight I ask you to codify this into law, so people of faith can know that the law will never discriminate against them again."
(George Bush, January 2004).

"What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society?...in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people."
(James Madison, June 1785).

But what the hell did he know? David Frum never called him a leader.

P.S. Why doesn't the phrase, "weapons-of-mass-destruction-related program activities" become as big a national punchline/millstone for the guy who said it as, "no controlling legal authority" was for that other guy? Are there any books you could recommend on the topic?

Friday, January 23, 2004

Rush Limbaugh Offers to Plead

According to MSNBC, Rush Limbaugh has offered time in rehab in exchange for dropped charges. It doesn't look like it's a happening thing.

Plame Grand Jury

Well, no relaxation for Bush insiders. According to Time, testimony has begun before a grand jury:

Sources with knowledge of the case tell TIME that behind closed doors at the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse, nearby the Capitol, a grand jury began hearing testimony Wednesday in the investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak and other journalists.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Just Relax

Now here's a bunch of folks who've got it together.

Dour Donkeys

Tea to go with your gloom cookies. *grin*

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Time Warp

Ah, the memories!


Ward Sutton's Sutton Impact has a great cartoon comparing LBJ to George W. Bush. Thanks go to The Rittenhouse Review for the pointer.

Iowa Caucus Results

The Iowa caucus results are in and as usual, Josh Marshall has some informative things to say.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Lotus Elise is Coming to the US

I've been advocating to friends at GM's Saturn division that the they should see about licensing the Elise design from Lotus and bringing it to the States. Heck, GM's already licensed it for their Vauxhall division to much success and fanfare. Alas, according to the New York Times, GM has already missed its window:

The Lotus Elise, a sleek British roadster, has been available in Europe for several years, but because the car was never exported to the United States, American sports car enthusiasts could only look across the Atlantic in envy.

That will change this spring when the 2005 Elise, certified for American safety and emissions standards, goes on sale in this country.

Lotus says drivers can expect acceleration from 0 to 60 miles an hour in under 5 seconds and a top speed approaching 150 m.p.h. The Elise has a chassis of aluminum alloy and lightweight steel and is powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder Toyota engine, with 16 valves and dual overhead camshafts.


Sunday, January 18, 2004

Terrorism Scenarios

Tim Oren at Due Diligence discusses developing scenarios for tracking progress in the War on Terror. He breaks it down thusly:

I. The Covert War: Relative Success of Terrorists vs. Opponents

Ia. First Extreme: Containment: The terrorists are unable to cause significant casualties to US or major allies during the next year. [I'd extend that time period now.]

Ib. Second Extreme: Vulnerability: The terrorists are able to strike multiple times in the next year, creating at least hundreds of casualties in the US and allied states.

II. The Overt War: Struggle for the Heart of Islam

IIa. First Extreme: Marginalization: The terrorists are unable to disrupt or take control of any new states, and are forced to the margins of the states in which they are able to survive.

IIb. Second Extreme: Fragmentation: Islamic extremists control, or completely destabilize, at least one of: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia. At least 25% of Middle East Muslims are willing to back armed action, including terrorism, against the US and its allies.

Scenario List

Scenario 1. Rebirth. The combination of Containment and Marginalization. This is the goal scenario for the US and its partners.

Scenario 2. The Iron Hand. The combination of Vulnerability and Marginalization.

Scenario 3. New Crusade. The combination of Containment and Fragmentation.

Scenario 4. Universal War. The combination of Vulnerability and Fragmentation. This is the goal scenario for the Islamic extremists.

Thought provoking and definitely worth a read.

Nick Bradbury Interview

The fine folks at since1968 have published an interesting interview with Nick Bradbury of Bradbury Software, the author of FeedDemon and TopStyle.


The BBC has posted handy instructions on using thier site with RSS.

Technology Predictor Success Matrix

Tim Bray's written an interesting article on what he thinks are the success factors that separate the winning technologies from the losers. As Tim says:

Here?s how it works: The first essays list some major marquee technologies dating back over the past couple of decades, divided into two groups of a half dozen each. One group is technology winners (examples: Java and the Personal Computer), the other is the losers (examples: Ada and Interactive TV). Then, an essay introduces a list of nine factors which might plausibly be useful in predicting the success of new technologies.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Every OS Sucks

Geeks with guitars. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Code Complete 2

Steve McConnell, author of the excellent Microsoft Press book Code Complete has made the draft manuscript for Code Complete 2 available online. Check it out.

Software and Skins

deviantART is a nice little site with software and UI skin downloads.

Seems nicely done and certainly worth checking out.

Local News?

I don't consider this quite the crisis that some folks do. But it's...tacky.

As Susan C. Ryan of the Boston Globe points out, a certain local radio personality's been covering the cold weather from the frigid depths of Florida.

On one of the coldest mornings of the year, veteran WBZ Radio anchor Gary LaPierre couldn't get over how frigid it was outside.

"Would you believe it's 5 below zero right now?" he told listeners yesterday at 6 a.m. "The only thing worse than the actual temperature right now is having the wind chill factored in."

What he didn't mention was that he was actually in northern Florida, where it was a balmy 50 degrees.

I've got nothing against people working remotely, heck, I do it myself when I can. But please, be honest with people.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Cold Weather Continues

It's not a big surprise for readers here in Boston, but the sub-zero temperatures are continuing. One bright spot were the school closings this morning that pushed back some morning meetings I had planned. Instead I managed to get out to the barn and get the horses out for a bit of a leg stretch as well as chip ice out of pretty much everything.

Ah well, at least it should warm up into the 30's this weekend. That'll feel like summer has arrived.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Well it looks like someone spoke too soon. Again.

For those who've been wondering when I'll be admitting that Iraq was harboring dangerous WMDs right up until the invasion, the time hasn't quite come.

According to Fox News:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Mortar shells found in southern Iraq by the Danish military do not appear to contain chemical weapon agents as originally suspected, Fox News has learned.

After a 16-man team from the Iraqi Survey Group (search) was sent to the scene to examine the mortar shells, tests of five of them yielded no traces of chemical agent, a Danish military official told Fox on Wednesday.

Monday, January 12, 2004


U.S. Bombs Britian

Sunday, January 11, 2004

New Souls Off to the printers. Again.

After another round of prepares work to resize the book, Donna Barr's latest collection of Stinz and Bosom Enemies stories, New Souls, is off to the printers. Live and learn they say. In any case, I'm gonna get a beer.

Cold Snap Continues

If we're lucky it'll creep over 1F today. Miraculously, the horses at the barn seem to be doing fine, though it's still too cold for riding. (Ok, it's too cold for ME to go riding.) Anyways, I've given up on freezing and have ordered up a fur hat.

Barbie Lobster!

I grew up on the ocean and did my time on lobster boats, but this one's certainly new to me.

It's a strange world out there.

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