This Space for Rent

Mar 31, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite stands guard while Silas sleeps.

Trolley picture of the day

Portland Trolley #004 waits for the light to change at Front Street
Blue-Red sits at Front Street this afternoon, at around 5:30pm.

Obnoxious software feature of the day.

For the past week or so, I've been working on implementing a milter library for the next major(ish) postoffice release, and today I've glued together enough of the protocol to be able to run a milter session with the two sample milters I've got set up here (clamav-milter and spamass-milter.) Spamass-milter is pretty much useless, because even though it lists sendmail as a prerequisite, it doesn't list spamd as one, which is somewhat annoying because even though it can run without sendmail (it's doing it here!), it can't productively run without spamd. Clamav-milter, on the other hand, works, but it works in an intensely annoying way; it does not report viruses back to the MTA that's talking to it, for that wouldn't be sporting. What it does do is tell the MTA that the mail message is okay (um, hello?), then hand-generates a bounce message that it then helpfully mails back to the forged address that was given in the MAIL FROM: command.

This is, of course, completely stupid. Virus bots out there don't considerately tell you how to get in touch with the virus writer; crackers may be arrogant children, but they aren't usually stupid enough to put up big flashing "ATTENTION: FBI/CIA/INTERPOL! ARREST ME TODAY!" signs by their houses. No, the contents of the MAIL FROM: line are at best bogus, at worse someone else's, email addresses, and the spam complaint that clamav-milter generates is just some more spam to help clutter up the airwaves.

It doesn't help that the milter protocol is written in such a way that you have to be creative to generate a bounce message (the only way to do it is to have your milter client reply with a 'y' [return status code and message] and hope that the MTA will parse the 5xx part of your 504 YOU'VE GOT A GERM! and understand that the sky has fallen in), but it's still much much worse than useless to have a antivirus filter that allows the virus through and sends a bounce message to the forged MAIL FROM: address that the zombie PC provided.

Hopefully the spamassassin milter will work better (after I install the missing prerequisites, that is...)

update: I was misreading some of the end of message protocol particulars and only picking up the first response. After reading in all the responses until an a/c/d/r/t/y, it properly picked up the "ohmygawdyou'vegotagerm!" message.

It’s the sloganator all over again

The first rule of making an effective commercial is that you don't laugh out loud at the product.

update: The nice people at GM have apparently decided that my advertisement is offensive (this hilariously funny one has not been deleted, but it doesn't mention the teeny detail that it will cost US$7.00 a day to commute to work with one of these monsters.)

(via Redneck Mother)

1 comment

Mar 30, 2006

Annoying sendmail feature of the day

Why is it, when you've got this spiffy little (undocumented) protocol for chatting between a mailer daemon and a sendmail filter program, that all of the packages I've found with precompiled sendmail filter programs include sendmail as a prerequisite?

Sure, the protocol is undocumented, which means that it's at risk of changing, but you really don't need that dependency. Sure, there aren't any other MTAs that support sendmail filters yet, but postoffice 1.3.x will (the ongoing library is up to a whopping 244 lines, and may bloat to about 500 lines by the time I'm done with it), and the wire protocol is simple (if braindamaged) enough so that it can be reimplemented without too much pain.

It's probably foolish to wonder why these dependencies are there; it's Open Source®™© software, so a certain degree of obfuscation is to be expected (and, lemme tell you, sendmail has been around long enough to be one of the undisputed masters of obfuscated code. The person who decyphered the "milter" wire protocol is a far more patent programmer than I am.)

Annoying open source®™© featureette of the day

Since we use R*dh*t Linux at work, we end up using their not-quite-proprietary but documented as if it was proprietary package management software, which isn't completely horrible (at least not compared to the other package management software I've used; I've been able to actually write rpm command files to generate packages, which is not something I've been able to do with some of the other offerings in the package management world), but which has some extraordinarily annoying features. The run of the mill annoying features (it's really slow, even when you're doing nothing more than looking at a list of packages) can be easily worked around, but it's got one feature that occasionally locks the whole shebang up and forces a reboot.

What's this feature? Well, there are many ways to arbitrate access to a multi-user database, and rpm uses what I consider to be one of the worst possible ones: They use something that is hilariously called a "fast userspace locking system call", or futex if you look for the system call that has locked up your rpm -ivh on you. This system call drops a lock into shared memory (or somewhere else) so that subsequent calls will hang on the lock until it is removed, and the really fun thing (that separates it from a simple flock) is that if the process terminates without unlocking this lock, the lock sticks around forever, or until you give the three finger salute to the offending computer.

We have a dedicated build machine that builds proprietary drivers for our Linux distribution (because, as you know, a fixed public driver interface would allow people to build proprietary drivers for Linux, which would be bad) and as part of the build process unpacks kernel and driver source packages, then packs up a finished driver binary package. Periodically (every 6-9 months, we'll find that our build process has come to a shrieking halt because the proprietary driver machine is hung up on a futex lock and no rpms will be packed or unpacked until we clear the lock by the simple process of turning off the machine.

Futexes were introduced to the Linux kernel by a team of coders that is 50% IBM employees. This is worth a few moments of sick humor when I'm rebooting an IBM x346 because that's the only way I can clear an IBM-designed software lock. It's not quite so much fun when I'm rebooting the IBM (aka Lenova) workstation that' I'm running RHEL3 on, because I tend to fill up the screen with xterms and I loathe having to go back and reopen a dozen or so windows just because some stupid badly-implemented kernel locking scheme has gone to hell again.


Aaaiieee!! It burns! It burns!!!

Disney presents Devo 2.0. It's the apocolypse.

(via The Gazetteer)

1 comment

Mar 29, 2006

Pull the other one…

New York magazine has an article about the latest fad in upper class twit style – “Luxury Bathrooms” – and to illustrate it, they show a bathroom that would not look out of place on Rikers Island or in some factory in Queens. Sure, it’s nice and clean, and they did pick nice fluffy bathtowels to decorate it with, but aside from that, the exposed concrete block and mirrors begs the question: Is it luxury, or back on the chaingang?

I can just imagine that bathroom 10 years down the line, when the mold has had a chance to work its way into the concrete blocks, and when a decade of leaking in and around that woefully uncomfortable looking bathtub (I do note, approvingly, that the shower appears to be elsewhere, so at least you don’t have to wrap the bathtub in shower curtains, but that’s really the only thing I find appealing about this bathroom.) I’m old fashioned and I don’t really see the point of making the bathroom into an “oasis” when the primary reason I’d be using it is to use the toilet or to bathe. If I was going to oasis my bathroom, I’d do a japanese style bathroom where the toilet is in a separate room from the bath so that someone can do their business without bothering the people having sex in the bathtub. And I’d probably pay to have someone tile the bathroom walls, because there’s actually a fighting chance of keeping them clean without having to call in airstrikes on the fungal infestations.

1 comment

Annoying Open Source®™© featureette of the day

The program Qemu, which I run in X11 on a R*dh*t server (RHEL3) at work, has the annoying feature that if I accidentally click the mouse inside the emulator window, it grabs the mouse and won't let go until I press a magic ctrl-alt keystroke to let it go. No, strike that, it's not the mouse grab that bugs me, it's that after I do ctrl-alt, it not only gives up the mouse but it manages to hang the virtual keyboard inside the emulator so I can't interact with the virtual machine (and the Linux installation I'm running inside that machine) anymore, but instead have to crash the emulator and start it up from scratch.

When you're in the middle of a two-cd install routine that includes a kernel recompile (which is slooooow; it takes about 4 hours for Qemu to do a kernel recompile on a 2.2ghz Intel P4), it's kind of annoying. It gets even more annoying the third or fourth time in a row.

Sure, it's open source®™© so I could go in and fix it. And then if I was very good I could get it to recompile. Maybe.

Mar 28, 2006

Random picture of the day

The business end of a Giant Pacific Octopus at the Newport Aquarium.

Up to no good

The bears at the Newport Aquarium.

1 comment

Time for a political posting holiday

The political bile isn't flowing quite as freely as normally, so I'm going to take a little hiatus from political stuff and just write about bears, code, and railroads until the Evil Party (either US or Canadian versions. I'm not picky) does something extraordinarily stupid and/or evil.

I'll probably find something to complain about before Stephen Harper goes back on his word and attempts to use the notwithstanding clause against same-sex marriage in Canada (that will certainly count as evil, but it won't be unexpected evil.)

But until then, it's cute fluffy bunny time!

Mar 27, 2006

File under “Generation, burden of my”

Russell and Silas make a break for freedom.

Blurry long-distance railroad picture of the day

The Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society's Baldwin steeplecab sits by the station in Brooks, Oregon. Picture taken as we zipped by on the way to the Wheatland ferry on Saturday.

Mar 26, 2006

New Code!

When I upgraded postoffice to version 1.2.4, I replaced the internal setproctitleish code with a function called, imaginatively, setproctitle(), which some corresponding code in that would make certain that mine wasn't built when libc had one.

At least that was the plan.

In reality, the changes ended up sitting in separate version control files on the machine where I made the setproctitle changes, and 1.2.4 went out the door with a little setproctitle timebomb in it.

Thus, postoffice, which may have bugs, but may actually compile soon enough to discover them.

Mar 25, 2006

Saturday picture dump

The bridge in Newport, Oregon. Picture taken en passant while on the way to dinner tonight.

Railroad picture of the day

4 P&W/W&P geeps pull a freight north of Corvallis, Oregon on a rainy saturday. The best and I were driving south on 99W and passed the train, did a immediate U-turn, and headed off north after the train. By the time we caught up with the train, the railroad had diverged quite a ways from 99W, so I had to use the telephoto to get a good picture of the train.

Mar 24, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Ever since we've cut down the dead trees in our backyard, Dust Mite has been lurking on the top of the doorframes, waiting for a chance to pounce upon its prey.

Creeping requirements.

On the box, the Turbotax program said

Windows -- 240 MB hard disk space - 128 MB RAM - 98/2000/ME/XP
Close all programs, Insert CD, follow on-screen instructions

Mac -- 165 MB hard disk space - Mac OS X (10.2.8) or greater
Insert CD. Locate the TurboTax folder.  Drag the folder onto your hard disk.

To my increasing irritation, I don't have a Mac. But I do have a machine running Windows 2000. So I plopped the CD into the Windows box and waited to follow the on-screen instructions.


The stupid installer said that it needed administrative privileges to install the program. To discourage windows viruses, normal users on this windows machine don't have administrative privileges. But I do want to run the tax software, so I cd'ed into the cd directory, found the setup program, and did the incomprehensible control-alt-meta-cokebottle-leftarrow sequence that is the Windows version of sudo, fired it up again, and ...


It chirped and whirred for a little while, then popped up a little alert box saying, in effect, "screw the documentation, baby, because now that you've paid US$40 for this software we're going to use it to leverage a whole bunch of new crap onto your machine" by telling me that, for some reason having to do with the e-filing (the e-filing that I will not do until the US government stops pretending they're Ma Bell and charging extra for something that's cheaper for them to process. But I digress) they're going to have to install Microsoft bundle-of-security-bugs 6 onto the machine. Fine. I can always uninstall the bundle of security bugs after I've got the stupid tax software loaded. So, [ok], open my machine up to all the Windows viruses known to man....


... and the stupid installer immediately dumps core and exits.

So now I'm out US$40 dollars, because, in the grand tradition of software, if you're not bright enough to pirate the software first, it's just as if you took that money and burned it in the fireplace (if I had pirated the software first, it would not be an issue because as soon as the stupid software said it required root access to install an accounting program, I would have told it to fuck itself and cancelled my five-finger evaluation process on the spot.)

Let me repeat the Mac installation instructions: Insert CD. Locate the TurboTax folder. Drag the folder onto your hard disk.

Of course, this could also be a lie, and the first thing the horrible program would do is turn up its nose at Safari (or whatever they call the default web browser that ships with MacOS) and demand that the user install the Apple version of Microsoft bundle-of-security-bugs 6 onto the machine. But given the nature of macfanatics, a demand like that would result in a million enraged users sending hatemail and then never buying turbotax again. Which is certainly what I'm going to do. This means I'll need to either (a) do my taxes by hand (shudder. double shudder) or (b) hire a tax person to fill them out for me. ((c), which is "use the H&R Block tax program", is not feasable, because I used that program last year and ended up having to shovel junk icons and programs off my machine.))

Screw you, Intuit. Screw you and the horse you rode in on.


Trolley pictures of the day

After a long drought of not being able to get out of the office during the daytime due to pesky work getting in the way, my office went out to a group lunch in darkest Beaverton. I carpooled out there, but bowed out of carpooling back because the restaurant is about 600 feet away from the Beaverton Transit Center, and I'd not ridden a trolley on that side of the mountain for a while.

When I walked up to the station, an airport train was waiting to depart. I stopped to take a couple of pictures, and as I was taking them, it closed its doors and whisked off to the east. Not a great loss; the nice thing about the tri-met trolley lines is that they run trains on the interurban line every 10-15 minutes even during the off-peak hours, and I knew I wouldn't have to wait very long until another one came along.

The next train that came along was another Airport train, headed for this station. These trains lay over for a while at Beaverton, so there was no point for me to run over and get on it. I took a few pictures (from the same vantage point as the pictures of the airport train; I merely cropped this picture to be wider than the previous one) and turned around to see a Bombardier car leading an eastbound train.

Since I was right near the station, I just sat there and snapped pictures until the train went past me, then I turned and bolted for the station. This is not something that would necessarily work at just any old station, but trains tend to linger at the two downtown Beaverton stations (the Transit Center and the station in the middle of the Beaverton Round (which, amazingly, appears to have been completed now)), so I made it to the train with more than enough time to climb on board and sit down before the train departed.

Mar 23, 2006

Okay, so there’s some use for a chainsaw.

When we moved into our house, we had two cherry trees in the back yard; one long-dead, one in very sad shape but still alive. Over the years, the alive one finished dying and started to shed branches, and while we were still in the throes of arguing about whether or not to hire someone to cut the trees down, the older dead one helpfully fell down to encourage us.

We were suitably encouraged, even more so when sawing apart the fallen tree took me about half a hour per cut. So we hired a tree removal service to come in and convert the other tree into firewood.

Since they do this sort of thing for their job, they don't have the same hangups as I do about not using power tools where musclepower can do the job.

They arrived at 1 minute before noon (they said they'd show up in the morning, and, yes, they did show up in the morning...) and by 2:30, the other tree was reduced to a pile of firewood, the debris had been swept up, and their truck was on its way.

I'm not sure if it will be the best firewood in the world, but it's probably enough firewood to heat our house for a month next winter. And given the way the price of diesel oil is climbing, it will probably also end up being a cheaper way to heat the house.

1 comment

I’m going to start calling Stephen Harper mini-me

... because it's becoming painfully obvious that he wants to be a clone of the Coward in Chief. The latest piece of evidence supporting this theory is the discovery that, lo and behold, there are now Canadian soldiers operating in Vietnam Iraq. Colo(u)r me not surprised; It's not likely Harper can start an unprovoked aggressive war with anyone (unless he calls out the air force to bomb those pesky indian tribes), but you can get (almost; the B*sh junta won't be giving those unwashed Canadians more than a few scraps from the US government teat) all of the benefits of an unprovoked aggressive war just by attaching yourself, remora-like, to the pearly-white B*sh bottom.

And, as a side-effect, that embarrassing "nice" reputation? Play your cards right and that will soon be a thing of the past.

(via My Blahg and They Moved To Canada)

Mar 22, 2006

Why we flight

Americans, especially Catholics, approve of torture

Survey by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Oct. 12-24, 2005; nationwide survey conducted among 2,006 adults

Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?

Total public

Total Catholic

Don’t know/refused




White Protestant

White evangelical

Don’t know/refused





Don’t know/refused



The least evil category here are the secular Americans, but we're still evil. And it freaks the hell out of me that 71% of the polled Catholics are in favor of torture.

This is what empire does; it slowly strips the layers of decency off people until they are nothing more than a mob howling for blood and spectacle. Over 65% of the polled christians now approve of the methods the Romans used to murder their messiah.

This is consent of the governed, and it's why despotic governments can continue to rule; the unacceptable slowly becomes the acceptable, and, as long as you're not one of the scapegoat classes, the lies, the tortures, the mass murdering, why, they aren't as important as what's in the circus tonight, and maybe if you're lucky they'll let you have a chance at putting the boot in tomorrow.

(via Body and Soul)


Remind me again why I bolted from Wisconsin like an olympic sprinter….?

... Oh, right. LaCrosse is, in many ways, a horrible conservative pit (it used to be a grim joke amoung the few liberals there that LaCrosse was the only place in Wisconsin where the city was more conservative than the surrounding farmland), but the huge mass of doctors and academics living there kept the more vociferous bigots down to a low mumble. Viroqua, which is a pretty little hilltop town just south of LaCrosse, doesn't have that sort of filter, so the bigots can outshout the progressives pretty much at will.

Wisconsin is a lovely state, in a lovely part of the world, but the sort of ascendent screaming bigotry that's slowly overflowing it means I'll never go back there.

Rise and scowl!

(It's morningtime at Chateau Chaos)

Mar 21, 2006

Aaargh, just aargh

I try not to pay attention to moderate Democrats, but occasionally I do manage to get roped into reading an article one of them writes. There's an article in tapped that, try as I might, I can't help but read as an apologia for Maximum Leader Genius, because it's questioning the obvious incompetence of the B*sh junta's unprovoked aggressive war against Iraq.

One thing in particular calls for comment: Obviously, letting the looting go on didn't work out well. But consider the alternative. What? That it's possible that an invading army might end up shooting looters? It's only been known for about 5500 years now that if you loot, you might end up dead. Thats why the Army and the Marines were able, in the early days of the quagmire, to stop looting by simply driving their tanks and armo(u)red cars up to a facility they wanted to guard. Later on, after it had become painfully obvious that orders had come down that it was okay to let gangs sack and burn Baghdad, just as long as you didn't touch the oil ministry or Hussein family estate in the middle of town, sure, of course you'd see looters destroying buildings right across the street from a collection of bored American soldiers.

Mao said that power grows out of the barrel of a gun, which may or may not be true all the time, but it's certainly true when you're conquering a country. A competent invasion would have shipped in masses of military police to back up the armed forces and lock the city down until the native police had been coaxed back into their precinct houses, and if 20 or 30 looters had been blown away during this curfew, well, it would have been lost in the fatalities that happened when you rolled the tanks into town.

As it is, they "saved" 20 or 30 looters at the expense of allowing pretty much every little street gang and armed militia a chance to start carving out little fiefdoms of their own, which is something that ANYONE with even the slightest knowledge of history (hello, Somalia!) could have figured out. It's only not incompetent if you're claiming that the plan was to convert Iraq into yet another failed state like Afghanistan or Somalia.

How to annoy a liberal computer geek in one easy lesson.

From The American Prospect's weblog Tapped, right above the "powered by movable type" banner, it says

Tapped best viewed with
Microsoft Internet

I was looking at Tapped because someone linked to yet another centrist Democrat apologia for Maximum Leader Genius (which I will comment on soon), but this cute little notice on the sidebar deserves its own comment.

Most of the places where I have to deal with IE favoritism the penalty for not running IE means that I end up not getting viruses, trojan horses, or streaming pornographic movies splatted up on my tube. Here, the penalty for not running IE means, um, maybe that I don't get ads on the page? (No, it appears that not running IE means that I can't properly run some sort of javascript cookiebot. What a shame.)

I'd better switch over to Internet Explorer on my Linux workstation, because how could I live without my daily ration of stupid tracking cookies?

Oh, wait, Internet Explorer doesn't run on Linux. Darn.

Bringing democracy to Iraq, one household at a time.

But the 2006 elections will make it all better!

Mar 20, 2006

Sometimes, the side-effects are just as interesting as the item being studied

A bunch of people have commented on an interesting study being done by scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center, which adds additional reinforcement to the Big Bang theory of how the universe was formed. They've measured waves in the infrared radiation that permeates the universe, and figured that, yes, as previously predicted, that these waves seem to indicate that the universe expanded from a marble-sized item to roughly the current size in about a trillionth of a second.

It's pretty neat that we can be sitting in the middle of all this and actually get some idea of how it all happened (and, really, the "G-d said so" people are completely missing the boat here. If there is a creator of all things, it's much more elegant that it should create everything in such a way that intelligent creatures can look at the world and determine how it was made. The "there must be a G-d because the universe allows us to exist" argument is painfully circular, but it's the only argument that tends to make me consider that there might actually be a divine presence responsible for it all) but the really neat thing about it, from my terribly geeky and warped by many years of space operas viewpoint, is that this means (again) that the speed of light is not constant, and that, assuming we can figure out the teeny difficulty of how to deconstantize it without either using more energy than is available in the universe or killing ourselves and destroying our planet/solar system/galaxy/universe, the world has, once again, gotten a lot smaller.

Boy, it would really suck if we discovered this just as the planet fell into runaway global warming.

Oh, dear

I thought I was joking when I said that Stephen Harper had mistaken the Cliffs Notes version of the Evil Party plan for destroying America for the actual plan and was thus doing everything wrong as fast as possible. I began to have some doubts about the "joke" part when I read that Harper had muzzled his cabinet, B*sh junta style, and that the Liberals had decided to do the centrist Democrat shuffle by cravenly supporting the Afghanistan deployment, no matter what, because it's the "responsibility of the executive" (It's flattering that the Liberals should admire the United States enough to want to emulate the now traditional ritual mass suicide of the opposition party, but I have doubts about the long-term success of this new tradition), but when I read that Canadian troops, like the American troops before them, have to spend their own money on gear because the stuff supplied by the government is not up to snuff, I begin to think that that's exactly what the Harper government is doing.

The mind, it boggles. Perhaps the CPC is worried that appearing to be an intelligent government will encourage immigration, and they want to back the leaders of every other English-speaking country in the world up in their new production of "We're all bozos on this bus!" (a free production, but we've nailed the doors shut so you can't leave before the final act is over.)

Or perhaps they're just stupid and they don't know they're lying. Alberta is, after all, right up next to the Rocky Mountains and they know there is a little more Canada on the other side of those mountains, so there's *got* to be an easy way to get there from here.

(links via Sinister Thoughts and pogge)

Mar 19, 2006

Spooky Project of the week

The glass pieces in the middle of the circular table, lit by blue LEDs under the tabletop. (The LED that came with the glowy yo-yo is red, so the light that came up through the glass pieces was uniformly red. Better on the spooky department, but not quite so good on the "have the light be the colo(u)r of the glass" department.

The fuzziness in the picture is because I don't have a very fast lens on the pentax, so an almost-no-light picture is a case of <cli ...(15 seconds)... ck>, which is long enough for even the most steady camera hands to wobble the camera (note that the table is quite tall; my tripod is not quite tall enough to look down on the table at the correct angle, and for a non-portfolio picture I'm not going to set up a platform to mount the camera tripod on. So I try and hold my breath and hope that my middle-aged tremors aren't enough to mess up the focus too much.)

Project of the week (if you ignore the 4 month gap in the middle of the project)

Last summer, I picked up part of a telephone cable spool from SCRAP, and decided that it would make a good tabletop for a circular table. After waffling for a couple of months about what it should look like, I finally built the table frame and started to cut out around the various mounting holes in the table so I could put some decorative pieces of glass into the middle.

This was last fall, and the season which follows fall is winter, aka "Orc gets sick for four months" season. So, aside from whining, not much got done on that project for a long long time (except for moving it when the basement flooded) until yesterday, when the bears wanted to work with clay in the basement, thus forcing me to move the cleaned up piles of junk out of the way so they could reach their workbenches. Part of those piles of junk was the table, so I decided I'd finish the silly thing off and be done with it.

A couple of hours of sanding and finishing later, here it is; a circular table made of the finest Pigs Eye oak (pine plywood, with a "oak" stain) and glass tile from SCRAP. The tabletop is a nice piece of pine plywood from a spool of telephone or electrical wire, the apron (which you can't see) is made from palletwood, and the legs (one of which is my now-signature crooked leg) are 2x2 pine that I actually bought new. The pieces of glass are grouted into the table with a tan-colo(u)red putty which actively refused the stain, but which is close enough to the "oak" stain to look like a kludge instead of a design decision (sigh. They didn't have a black wood putty at the hardware store :-()

Tonight, I'll take a picture of the glass tiles with a light shining up from under them. On one of our recent trips to SCRAP, I picked up a couple of little plastic yo-yos with led lights inside them, and if I fit one under the table (and figure out an inobtrusive way to turn the lights on and off) it will glow up through the glass in a nicely spooky manner.

Mar 18, 2006

It’s like the gulag version of a easter egg hunt!

You just never know when a new torture center will spring up. And this one, shoot, the American Imperium got it for free; elite Special Operations forces unit took one of Saddam Hussein's former torture centers near Baghdad Airport and made it their own...


Mar 17, 2006

Idle hands are the Devil’s tools (part 2)

Going back to the two-story (+basement) houseplan, I've fattened the house one direction, but squashed the house in a different direction, and come up with a version that's got more bedroom space, and a larger enough kitchen to properly support a downstair staircase that splits, one half going forward into the entry hall and the other half going back into the kitchen. Plus, by sacrificing the minimum 10x10 bedroom size, I can put 4 bedrooms into the second floor (or, as is more likely, 2 bedrooms plus a library plus an office with a daybed, given that the bears do not think much of this idea of sleeping by themselves.

One of the differences in this plan is I've rearranged the downstairs so that I can put a large span beam across the middle of the building, and then arrange it so that the joists that hold up the second floor are no longer than 13 feet. And, because we have children, I've arranged it so that there are no strawbales in the bathroom, but just regular old fiberglass (or something else that won't instantly rot in the presence of water being sloshed out of the bathtub); it's lagniappe that fiberglass is thinner and I can push the bathroom out to an ideal 8x8 size (yes, it will be smaller because inside walls have a nonzero width, but for the purposes of the quick sketches I'm making the ideal sizes are close enough for my purposes.)

I do not think that the roof of this plan will look quite so craftsmany as some of my previous roofs. This house is square enough so that a more prairie-style roof looks better than the steeply peaked 1.5 story roof I had on the 20x26 variant.

If I put a sunroom on the front of this house (instead of (or in addition to) the side) so that the main door was tucked away beside the porch, this house would start to look very similar to the prairie-style (but not designed by any of the famous prairie-school designers) house that I lived in when I was growing up in LaCrosse. (The funny thing to me about the whole bungalow/prairie style revival is that a huge number of the houses in my part of LaCrosse were prairie style, craftsman, and bungalow houses, so I grew up thinking that that's the way all houses looked. Imagine my surprise when I started visiting the suburbs and got to see how people designed houses after 1910.


Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Best places to live in Canada

There's always British Columbia...

The joy of real estate shopping

We've finally got enough money to start thinking about buying a chunk of land somewhere for a summer camp, and aside from the expected debates about location (I am, not surprisingly, really keen on land north of the 49th parallel; the best would rather have land that's closer to P*rtl*nd, so that the trips up to build the camphouse won't be a Canadian Death March. My suggestions of "We could move south build a camp close to Montreal (rubber-tired metro, ex-CN suburban electrification, commuter trains) Toronto (metro, trolleycars, commuter trains) or Halifax" have, oddly enough, not been greeted with great enthusiasm. There's something about a 2500 mile drive to the summer camp that raises the suspicion that the plan is less of a summer camp and more of a permanent residence in a free country, but I'm not sure why) I've come to the distressing realization that the real estate agents in Washington State really don't want you to be able to look up their offerings on the computer, but instead want you to sign some sort of real estate contract with them before they'll let you at their MLS listings in any sort of usable manner.

We're not sure whether we want small buildable lots or acreage (or if we can even afford acreage; if, for example, I wanted to buy a chunk of land on Vashon Island [convenient to Seattle, at least until the PNW economy collapses to the point where they can't run the ferryboats anymore], I'd be looking at at spending at least US$20,000/acre. It gets cheaper further south, but the lot sizes get larger, so unless you're a .com millionaire or a member of the Weyerhauser family, the purchase price gets a little iffy) but the online searches aren't going to go out of their way to make it easy to find the land. One of the big real estate companies has a feature-ridden website that gives you a nice map where you can click on a region and get a list of houses for sale, but if you want to look for land it gives you the much friendlier "city:" text entry box, since, presumably, nobody would be interested in looking for land for sale unless they already knew exactly where that land was located.

My grand scheme is to get some land and build a summer camp on it for under US$70,000; a nice little earthy-crunchy strawbale house would be a nice thing to get away to on those hot (and, thanks to global warming, getting hotter) summer days and it would still let us roll our house onto the market and (maybe; Vancouver, BC is a strong preference for the members of my family who don't like snow, and it's a town that's got a very west-coast style housing bubble going on) buy a house north of the 49th parallel after the best and the CIC agree that life would be better in the land of long o's. But that pretty much means that the land would have to be <US$30,000 to leave me even close to being able to pay for permits, a basement, and the huge pile of wood, strawbales, galvanized metal, and plaster I'd need to build a summer house.

Perhaps it's time to buy another lottery ticket. It would certainly be easier than trying to roll some of my IRA money into a self-directed IRA which could buy the land, then lease it to me (a terrific opportunity for a split personality), because that's the only other way I'll be able to break the US$30,000 barrier.

And I know just the skit that the Navy can use.

A Navy boss revealed he aimed to set up therapy lessons to change “old-fashioned” attitudes in the Senior Service.

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Adrian Johns said his staff were investigating “drama-based training resources” to help alter crews’ perceptions of shipmates.

(-- the The Sun, via Joe. My. God.)

Cut to sergeant with eight soldiers.
SergeantSquad. Camp it ... up!
Soldiers(mincing in unison) Oooh get her! Whoops! I've got your number ducky. You couldn't afford me, dear. Two three. I'd scratch your eyes out. Don't come the brigadier bit with us, dear, we all know where you've been, you military fairy. Whoops, don't look now girls the major's just minced in with that dolly colour sergeant, two, three, ooh-ho!

Mar 16, 2006

Will! Will! Don’t forget to breathe, Will!

I don't know about you guys, but I am so sick and tired of these lying, thieving, holier-than-thou, right-wing, cruel, crude, rude, gauche, coarse, crass, cocky, corrupt, dishonest, debauched, degenerate, dissolute, swaggering, lawyer shooting, bullhorn shouting, infrastructure destroying, hysterical, history defying, finger- pointing, puppy stomping, roommate appointing, pretzel choking, collateral damaging, aspersion casting, wedding party bombing, clear cutting, torturing, jobs outsourcing, torture outsourcing, "so-called" compassionate-conservative, women's rights eradicating, Medicare cutting, uncouth, spiteful, boorish, vengeful, noxious, homophobic, xenophobic, xylophonic, racist, sexist, ageist, fascist, cashist, audaciously stupid, brazenly selfish, lethally ignorant, journalist purchasing, genocide ignoring, corporation kissing, poverty inducing, crooked, coercive, autocratic, primitive, uppity, high-handed, domineering, arrogant, inhuman, inhumane, insolent, know-it-all, snotty, pompous, contemptuous, supercilious, gutless, spineless, shameless, avaricious, poisonous, imperious, merciless, graceless, tactless, brutish, brutal, Karl Roving, backward thinking, persistent vegetative state grandstanding, nuclear option threatening, evolution denying, irony deprived, depraved, insincere, conceited, perverted, pre-emptory invading of a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11, 35-day-vacation taking, bribe soliciting, incapable, inbred, hellish, proud for no apparent reason, smarty pants, loudmouth, bullying, swell-headed, ethnic cleansing, ethics-eluding, domestic spying, medical marijuana-busting, kick-backing, Halliburtoning, New Deal disintegrating, narcissistic, undiplomatic, blustering, malevolent, demonizing, baby seal-clubbing, Duke Cunninghamming, hectoring, verbally flatulent, pro-bad- anti-good, Moslem-baiting, photo-op arranging, hurricane disregarding, oil company hugging, judge packing, science disputing, faith based mathematics advocating, armament selling, nonsense spewing, education ravaging, whiny, unscrupulous, greedy exponential factor fifteen, fraudulent, CIA outing, redistricting, anybody who disagrees with them slandering, fact twisting, ally alienating, betraying, god and flag waving, scare mongering, Cindy Sheehan libeling, phony question asking, just won't get off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling, two- faced, inept, callous, menacing, your hand under a rock- the maggoty remains of a marsupial, oppressive, vulgar, antagonistic, brush clearing suck- up, showboating, tyrannizing, peace hating, water and air and ground and media polluting which is pretty much all the polluting you can get, deadly, illegal, pernicious, lethal, haughty, venomous, virulent, ineffectual, mephitic, egotistic, bloodthirsty, incompetent, hypocritical, did I say evil, I'm not sure if I said evil, because I want to make sure I say evil…

EVIL, cretinous, fool, toad, buttwipe, lizardstick, cowardly, lackey imperialistic tool slime buckets in the Bush Administration that I could just spit.

(link to Will Durst's Alternet column via Alternate Brain)

1 comment

How to run a school district, the Oregon way

Let's close 20% of Portland's elementary schools! And, of course, the school board representatives have to bite down hard and recite the usual nonsense story about oh, no, we're not doing this to save money, it's to make a better educational experience™ (and at the end of the day they'll go home and do what everyone else will do; they'll start looking around frantically for a neighborhood private school they can send their kids to so they won't have to bus their kindergardeners 2 miles to the local mini-version of American Megaversity) because it would be impolite to point out that the city schools are being systematically starved to death by the legislature because, after all, they're in Portland, and it's the Oregon Way to hate Portland.

I wonder what it would be like to live in a country that isn't systematically bankrupting itself? It would certainly be nice to send the bears to a school that has even the slightest chance of staying open more than two years.

Mar 15, 2006

So I lied about not taking time-waster quizzes.

Via Parts -n- Pieces, it's the personal dna time-waster quiz.

Reserved Experiencer

It appears to be a very good test at miscalculating gender roles; it claims I'm 58% femme, 18% masc (and this after being a lumberjack! and all), which seems somewhat, um, interesting. I'd like to see what they consider to be masculine or feminine traits.

No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.

President Bush plans to issue a new national security strategy today reaffirming his doctrine of preemptive war against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons [...]

Phillip II is no longer the benchmark for imperial pigheadedness; The United States is now carrying the tradition of American Exceptionalism™ into the competition for upper class twit of the year, and despite valiant efforts by the crowned heads of Europe, is pretty certain to take the gold, silver, and bronze metals (which will then be given to his good friends in the Saud family for a few more gallons of oil.)


What is the single word most frequently associated with George W. Bush today?

1 comment

Mar 14, 2006

Not getting it, Stupid Party style

On what to look for in a presidential candidate (this from a NYTimes article about Mark Warner):

From this vantage point, Warner's meeting with Korge was an unqualified success. "In my opinion, he's the one to watch as an outsider in this race," Korge told me. "He seems presidential. He's a big guy." (By this he meant, literally, that Warner is well over six feet tall, with a well-coiffed head that requires extra-large baseball caps.)

Because, heavens, nobody will vote for you if you're a dumpy inbred scion of a family of upper class arms dealers or (worse yet, if you're a fat old government minister from Montana). No, no, "pretty" and "tall", those are the only important features in a presidential candidate.

Aaargh. I'm switching my voter registration to the Evil Party; they won't call me in the morning either, but at least they'll leave US$200 by the bed after they've finished fucking me.

(link to NYTimes article via Body and Soul)

Mar 13, 2006

Unclear on the concept.

As it should be clear to anyone who has two neurons to rub together, Maximum Leader Genius is not the best-loved unelected despot that the United States has ever had. So, why does the Democratic leadership continue to treat the unelected coward as if he's got massive public support or even the moral right to continue to squat, like a ripe and runny turd, in the White House without even so much as a peep of disapproval from the allegedly-equal legislative branch of the government?

One would think it's a no-brainer. The asshole violated the constitution when he did blanket spying on American citizens, so the very least you can do is censure the son of a bitch for it. But, no, it wouldn't be prudent to support censuring the admitted criminal in the White House. (The Evil Party is, of course, supporting the criminals, because, shoot, that's what they do. It's their nature to be amoral at best, so you can't be surprised when they help the Coward in Chief commit treason; I expect(ed) better from the Democratic Party, which is why I don't support them anymore.)

These days I'm getting about 4 mailings a day from Democratic Senators and Representatives, all begging for money to help them continue to "fight the Republicans." Headlines like Democrats distanced themselves Monday from Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold's effort to censure... makes me wonder just what they consider "fighting" to be. Does "fighting" mean that they don't use their tongues when they kiss Karl Rove's pearly white asshole, or do they just say to themselves "we aren't enjoying this! No, really, we aren't!" while they're rimming him?


New Code! (ultra-trivial edition)

I've pushed magicfilter up to version 2.3.g for trivially simple reasons. A while ago, I modified it so that if you had an appropriately modern libmagic.a on your system, magicfilter would build against that instead of building its own (old) version of libmagic, and a while after that I tweaked the make install rules and ended up breaking the install rules on systems with libmagic.a's.

So, New Code!, if by new code you include tweaks to and the makefiles.

Mar 12, 2006

Thank goodness for autofocus

The lorikeet on my shoulder was assisting my picturetaking by going "smoochsmoochsmoochsmoochsmooch" into my ear the entire time.

(picture by the best)

One railroad picture deserves another

The Zooliner, when suitably cropped, looks almost like it's going through the countryside instead of simply looping around the Zoo.

Railroad picture of the day

Washington Park & Zoo #3 sits in the upper Zoo yard. I'm not exactly sure what the WP&Y uses this engine for; it might be sitting here as an emergency engine in case the Zooliner or the Oregon Express dies out on the line.

Give us the birdfood and nobody will get hurt

A lorikeet at the Washington Park Zoo.

Mar 11, 2006

Project of the day

When the dead cherry tree in our backyard fell over, I decided I would hack it up into shorter chunks suitable for firewood. I quickly discovered that, despite the tree being dead for at least 8 years (more like 15 years; the tree was an almost limbless snag when we moved into the house in 1997 -- and the only limbs it lost after that point were the ones I've sawed off) it was still most certainly not rotten. Today, I thought that it might be a good plan to saw off a slice of the tree with the new saw, and so I spent about a hour sawing slowly through the treetrunk so I could get a 3 inch thick disk of wood for a rustic tabletop.

Normally, the "project of the day" would be the entire table, but sawing off this chunk of hardwood was, um, a little bit more physical labour that I was expecting to do. Tomorrow, if I have some energy left after rolling the two pieces of log away from where the playhouse is going to be, it might be a good day for finishing the wood so I can attach some suitably rustic legs to it.

Mar 10, 2006

Photo of the day

The afternoon cloudbreak came earlier than usual today, and I managed to catch the sun peeking around a cloud when I went up to the credit union this afternoon.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

He's a lumberjack and he's ok.

Who needs to buy a chainsaw when you can buy a 32" handsaw with a proper crosscut blade? It could be said that the saw is a little bit too big when you can wedge yourself into the handgrip, but a dust mite has dreams of glory.

The joy of Open Source&reg™© software.

On Linux boxes, I've been taking full advantage of the logical volume manager drivers that come with recent versions of the kernel so I can do backups that remain logically consistant without having to take down the entire system for the duration of the backups (on FreeBSD and old versions of Linux, I have to use rsync to a different disk or system, but that takes long enough so that the contents of the offending filesystems can change during the rsync.) The lvm code was nice and stable, and worked across several versions of the system without fuss, muss, or bother, so I could just leave the code running and not worry about it.

At work, we've been using R*dh*t Linux (in particular, the hideously expensive RHE Linux), so we occasionally have to roll kernels when our hardware vendor comes out with a new something-or-another that they'll only support on the latest RH kernel of the week. A couple of months ago, we rolled up to the RHEL3 update 6 kernel (which has some features, like a malfunctioning USB stack, that I fixed by myself while fighting with what I only call "technical support" because the name I want to use is unprintable, even for me) and, during the excitement of the upgrade, managed to turn off the snapshotting.

On tuesday, we turned it back on, and the backup immediately failed. In the mount of the snapshotted filesystem. Not because the mount failed, but because it was in an UNINTERRUPTABLE DISK WAIT (complete with the obligatory kernel panic, which didn't manage to kill the machine, but which did manage to lock the superblock on the offending filesystem so that I couldn't sync and reboot.) Hmm, okay, perhaps it's time to roll up to a 2.6 kernel (because those are supported too, and since they're more recent we don't have to do any driver backports.) *Well*, apparently one of the features that Linux 2.6 has is that the LVM code has been completely rewritten (by R*dh*t, which bought Sistina [the prime maintainers of the LVM code for many years] a few years ago) and some of the features in it don't actually work any more. Like, um, snapshots.

WTF? WTF-FF? The stupid LVM code worked for us for TWO YEARS before we were encouraged to upgrade to the EL.37 (codename: TestlessinNC) kernel, and now it looks like the maintainers have promiscuously rewritten it so that it DOESN'T EVEN WORK anymore, so our only upgrade path is to abandon the whole damned thing altogether.

G-d, I love open source code. "OH NO, it looks like people are using our code to do production work!" "Well, we'd better rewrite it then. We can break all the interfaces and stop supporting half the features, and that will show them."

<wham!> <wham!> <wham!> <wham!> (pounds head against table)

1 comment

Mar 09, 2006

Great moments in military strategy, Evil Party style

Imagine that it's 2007 and you're an Iranian general somewhere in the south of Iran and part of the forces under your control are two or three of the new Persian nukes that Iranian engineers have managed to whip into shape for being the payloads on some of the recently developed Iranian IRBM's. For some reason, you're down in the radar room and you get to watch, in realtime, a flock of missiles materialize out in the middle of the gulf and start heading, in that sort of distressingly fast way that nuclear missiles do, in your general direction.

If those missiles are heading towards your missile base, you're likely to be part of a rapidly expanding ball of plasma in about 90 seconds. But, since the likely owner of those missiles is the Great Satan, who has conveniently been making "we're going to get you because we're an insane superpower!" noises ever since they replaced their government with a powermad junta, your new missiles are launch-ready and can, if you push the launch button now, be 5 miles up and heading for, oh, somewhere interesting before the Great Satan's missiles vapourise you.

Not much of a decision, is it? Die cowering, or die fighting. The button is pushed and three American military bases (the damned Kuwaiti base is saved because the stupid missile split apart during launch) are glassed 90 seconds after your military base, Tehran, and a dozen other Iranian cities die.

BUT WAIT! You're leaving out one important thing! It's possible that those missiles are actually armed with non-nuclear warheads, and you're going to be starting (for a change) a nuclear war with the United States for no good reason. So, are you going to decide differently? Pfft, of course not. The United States has thousands of nuclear weapons, and every single submarine is carefully loaded with those missiles at the (distressingly out of range, but perhaps North Korea can reach them during the second round of the Last War) Trident Refit Facility at Bangor. The cosmetic rearming of a few missiles with conventional bombs is obviously just a propaganda ploy, because nobody would waste a ballistic missile on something that can be easily carried by a jet. Push the button? Hell, yes.

(cheerful vision of the future courtesy of the US Department of Defense, via The Nation)

The founding fathers knew that when you dispensed with the rule of law, the inevitable outcome was injustice

An editorial from the New York Times, reprinted without (much) comment:


A case of mistaken identity's turning an innocent person into a prisoner-for-life was supposed to be impossible. President Bush told Americans to trust in his judgment after he arrogated the right to arrest anyone, anywhere in the world, and toss people into indefinite detention. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld infamously proclaimed that the men at Guantánamo Bay were "the worst of the worst."

But it has long been evident that this was nonsense, and a lawsuit by The Associated Press has now demonstrated the truth in shameful detail. The suit compelled the release of records from hearings for some of the 760 or so men who have been imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay. (About 490 are still there.) Far too many show no signs of being a threat to American national security. Some, it appears, did nothing at all. And they have no way to get a fair hearing because Gitmo was created outside the law.


Other cases included prisoners who owned a particular kind of cheap watch supposedly favored by Al Qaeda. An Afghan was accused of being the former Taliban governor of a province and subjected to a pretzel logic that would make Joseph Heller cringe. He said he was a different person entirely and asked the tribunal to contact the current governor and verify his story. The presiding officer refused, saying it was up to the prisoner to produce the evidence. The incarcerated Afghan then pointed out that he was being held virtually incommunicado in a United States prison in a remote corner of Cuba and not allowed to make calls. The presiding officer assured the prisoner that he would have plenty of time to write a letter — during the year of continued detention before his case might be reviewed again.


Prisoners do not see the evidence against them and barely have access to legal counsel. Now, thanks to a horrible law sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Carl Levin, a Democrat, they have virtually no right of appeal. The law even permits the use of evidence obtained by torture.

If the stories of the chicken farmer and the men with the wrong watches are new, the broad outlines of this disaster have long been visible. It is shocking in itself, and in the fact that average citizens have not risen up to demand that these abuses come to an end. The founding fathers knew that when you dispensed with the rule of law, the inevitable outcome was injustice. Now America is becoming the thing they sought to end.

Mar 08, 2006

Taking pictures where I can

Rain, work, and living in Southeast Portland doesn't leave me with many opportunities to take interesting pictures, so I have to grab my pictures where I can find them. The Ross Island bridge is always a good place for pictures if I don't mind having window reflections in the images; for the last couple of days, the rainclouds have broken up slightly around 5pm and give me some nice views of the nasty development that's going in at the north end of Macadam (a place which sucks dead bunnies through a straw transit-wise, and which will generate some scary Los Angeles-style congestion when it's built out (no, I don't think one Astra every 10 minutes will help with that congestion, and neither will the aerial tramway to OHSU))

But, be that as it may, I can get some pretty pictures as I go across the bridge, and on Wednesday I got a picture of the Zidell Marine marine crane, and the sunlight breaking through the clouds and shining on two of the ugly condominium towers that are spoiling the view to the south.

Constitutional crisis averted, thanks to quick congressional action!

The B*sh junta has been spying on American citizens for the past five years, for nothing more than political reasons (the excuse is to "protect us against terrorism", but given that the US government was spying on Osama's boys well before the destruction of the WTC, but did nothing with that information except tell senior cabinet members to stop flying on commercial airlines, you can see how much I believe that excuse), so when that information was leaked recently there was a bit of a commotion over the teeny detail that it was, um, just a teeny bit unconstitutional.

Ooops. Now, the traditional way of legalizing wildly unconstitutional behavior is just to pass an amendment to the constitution that supercedes that clause, but that sort of thing takes some time and is fairly obvious when you're doing it. So you can understand that Maximum Leader Genius was in a bit of a bind here; his poll numbers aren't that good, after all, and if members of the loyal opposition stops taking their soma and starts speaking out against this illegal act, it might cause even more damage to the poll numbers (and these numbers aren't just cosmetic; since the Evil Party has no principles except avarice and a desire for power, low poll numbers mean that even the most compromising homosexual man-on-dog photographs may not be enough to force your supporters to go your way.) But what do to?

Well, the Evil Party may have found just the solution. First, hand over some tasty port operations to good friends of the family, and then while people are getting all agitated about that, have your minions in the Senate lightly edit the fourth amendment by passing yet another "GET OUT OF JAIL FREE" law for you.

The modified Fourth Amendment is as follows:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

“Homeland Security” as only the B*sh junta can do it

The Department of Homeland Hysteria could spend money on, I dunno, security measures and disaster preparedness, but that doesn't really help support the B*sh junta. So, instead, how about just setting up a lobbying organization to make it easier to shovel money to pro-torture churches? This has the big advantage over doing security and disaster preparedness in that if you do the job you're supposed to do, nobody will hear about it, but if you instead arrange to let more GOP-friendly organizations have their chance to suckle at the government teat, you will ensure a steady stream of (a) kickbacks and (b) excuses for the next time a a city is destroyed by a natural disaster or a terrorist uses passenger aircraft as guided missiles.

And don't forget that you can carefully tailor payola to go exclusively to sycophants. If you foolishly try to get the job done, you'll need to hire qualified employees and then you're going to end up paying money to Democrats, which will not get you repeat invitations to the all-you-can-carry pillaging of the American economy.

(via Canadian Cynic)

Mar 07, 2006

Oh, yes, that’s certainly the way to bring a new era of responsibility to Canada

So there's a pesky ethics investigation against your prime minister? No problem, we'll just sack the ethics commissioner!

I must say I'm impressed. It's as if Stephen Harper is using the Cliff's Notes version of "cloning the Evil Party for Dummies" as his handbook for how to govern Canada, but mistaking the notes for the entire text, and thus doing everything wrong as fast as he can go. If not for the spectacular success of the American Evil Party at taking a completely incompetent government and turning it into a religious icon, I would say that Harper is trying to redo the VW bug vs. PC comparison of 1993 ("what's the difference between a VW beetle and the Progressive Conservative Party?" "The beetle has four seats."), but given the experience of the United States I'd think that the CPC is simply trying to get all of their sleazy, incompetent, and illegal scandals out in the open early in their term so that the electorate will forget about it by the time the BQ decides to shiv the Tories for not splitting the union quickly enough.

The oncoming doom of Roe v. Wade in the United States gives a cautionary note for the now so softpedaled that you can barely see it promise to do a (nudge nudge wink wink) free vote to strip civil liberties from same-sex couples; the Tories might be telling the barking lunatic wing of the party to sit tight and wait for a few "reforms" to be made (converting the Senate into an elected chamber, which would convert an almost-harmless rubberstamp into a massively undemocratic boatanchor that would be owned by the party that controls the rural provinces, strikes me as the most whoppingly dangerous reform if you prefer a democratic republic to what the United States is becoming) at which point they can go on an orgy of rights-stripping.

I suspect the "the beetle has four seats" lesson may be a little too recent for that sort of stunt to succeed. The complete collapse of the PC is a lesson that there aren't that many "safe" seats even for an established political party, so the Evil and Stupid Party strategy of carving out safe districts and fighting over the borders might not find fertile ground on the free side of the border.

(via Tilting at Windmills)


Mar 06, 2006


(image and link via Kameron Hurley)

Mar 04, 2006

The sad thing is that I’m not even surprised at this

A horrifying story, via The Story So Far...

Bowman claims that this lawsuit is a pack of lies, which is a claim that can be pretty easily proven or disproven in a court of law. The thing that gets my blood to simmering lightly is that the legal action is a discrimination lawsuit, not a charge of manslaughter or negligent homicide. I guess that in West Virginia a gay man doesn't really count as human, so if one of them dies under suspicious circumstances, about all you can do is sue the murderer for discrimination in a federal court.

I see (but will not link to) that the racial purity wing of the Evil Party is rallying around the police chief, because it's meeeean to take someone to court because he let a man die. Again, this is not surprising -- by now, a spittle-flecked rage is my normal reaction to reading the news -- of course Evil Party sycophants will jump up and down and cheer like Romans after a good round of watching the lions disembowel a bunch of Christians, because their idea of "tolerance" is the same sort of "tolerance" that the Khmer Rouge had for the educated and urban classes in Cambodia.

Banning same-sex marriage is just another part of this eliminationist scheme. Every little wedge they can drive between gay people (excluding the deeply closeted quislings who run the Evil Party) and "real people" makes it just that much easier to prepare their final solution to the icky gay problem.

Mar 03, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite inspects the lego factory. Tch, tch, not wearing a safety helmet will get you in trouble with the OSHA inspectors.

Not as earthy-crunchy as thou (a post that has nothing to do with politics!)

I've been trying to think of ways of doing a faster and cheaper summer camp, because it doesn't look like it's particularly easy to find cheap land anywhere near where we live (land in southwestern British Columbia is, um, not particularly cheap; I guess it's the effect of it being about the only part of Canada that doesn't get regularly snowed on. Okay, BC isn't particularly near where we live right now, but I'm in the throes of trying to remedy that situation.) One of the ways of keeping the summer house price down with expensive land is to simplify the house by making it a single-story structure, and building it on a slab. While I was thinking about single-story bungalows, I remembered a couple of designs out of one of the Stickley reprint books I bought last year, and decided to go back and take a look at them.

One of the plans turns out to be better suited than I thought; it's one of Stickley's more rustic designs, intended to be built from stone blocks. Stone blocks are not the most wonderful building material, because they're really heavy, want to collapse into piles of rubble at the slightest earthquake, and don't insulate worth a plugged nickel. But they do have the feature that if you're going to have any sort of insulation, the walls need to be nice and thick; thick enough, as a matter of fact, to be about the same depth as, ahem, strawbales. My, that's a happy coincidence; if I used this Stickley plan, I wouldn't have to heavily modify it (or modify it at all) to make the frame of the house either (a) a nebraska-style structural strawbale frame, or (b) a post and beam structure with strawbale infill.

And it's pretty, in the sort of rough way a good summer camp should be. I'd want to make part of the veranda into a glassed walkway, so people could walk between the bedrooms, the bathroom, and the living room without going outside (since it would be a mountain cabin, there is no way that I would only use it during the summer, and the idea of having to go outside to reach the bathroom at ohdarkhundred when it's COLD and SNOWY is right out. But other than that the plan doesn't need much work. If I built it as post and beam, it would probably satisfy the local zoning people who might get fretful about a nebraska-style house in a humid climate, and I might be able to be able to get if off the ground for less than CAD25,000, or ~CAD30/square foot (assuming that I do the bulk of the work myself, with slave labor from the bears.)

Move the mouse over the plan to see the modified version

Plus the idea of doing a real Stickley plan as a strawbale house has a certain appeal, if only the appeal of watching the too-much-free-time architectural snobs go into a spluttering rage over the alterations. Panelling the roof with PV panels and a solar water heater would probably cause head explosions, too.

Postscript: the best isn't quite sure about this plan, because she thinks the bedrooms might be dark caves if they only have north-facing windows. A solution to that might be to use glass brick as part of the central wall between the bedrooms and the hall (and *kaboom* goes the head of another architectural snob), which will bring some south-facing light into the bedrooms without exposing the occupants to the view of people walking by outside.


Well, that was fast

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the target of a conflict-of-interest investigation over the CPC's poaching of ex-Liberal David Emerson. The surprising thing about it isn't that Harper's being investigated (doing shady political deals has become a very popular conservative [ For purposes of objectivity, I will admit that Tony Bliar is every bit as sleazy as a Republican] pastime in the English-speaking world), but that he's been tagged with an investigation so early in his, ahem, glorious term in office. I guess that this is the undesirable side-effect of Canada having a functional government instead of the ongoing train wreck that is the American Imperium.

(Edmonton Journal link via My Blahg)

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Traditional show trials, just like the ones that Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili used to order!

"What you and I mean by torture could be different," Brownback told defense lawyer Major Tom Fleener.

He said "a red-hot needle in the eye" constitutes torture but was not ready to commit to a prohibition in advance of the trial.

It's just like the old days, except that now we don't even have to subscribe to Pravda to read about the majesty of the law, Soviet style.

(via Left I on the News)

John McCain == Another useful idiot for the B*sh junta

Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.


"Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts."

The Imperial policy on torture remains unchanged: Maximum Leader Genius can do whatever he wants to anyone, and there's nothing that US law can do to prevent this. And John McCain, everyone's contrarian darling who will do anything, no matter how demeaning, to have a chance at the White House, will cheerfully support pretend laws that say "Gosh, torture is bad bad bad and we shouldn't do it, but, golly, it would hurt the war on terror™ if there were any limits to Stalin's Lord Emperor B*sh's powers."

"Oh, but wait for the 2006 elections!" Yeah, right. I've been hearing that little hopeful refrain ever since Jan 20, 2001, but the Evil Party has pulled a rabbit out of their hat (either aggressive war, voter fraud, or good old fashioned hatred and bigotry) every single election since then, so I'm not particularly hopeful that the traitorous scum will be marched to the gallows after the polls close on this November 2nd.

(via Yowling from the Fencepost)

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I [heart] The Editors

Because right now, America tortures people. You live in a country where the President has declared an effectively permanent state of war, and can, and does, as a matter of policy, and on a global scale, engage in torture. Morally, practically, spiritually, profoundly: this is wrong. It is worth being upset about. It is worth overlooking the use of literary devices you don’t agree with. It is worth forgiving minor policy disagreements. It is even worth telling people you otherwise agree with that, when they defend, excuse, or minimize the situation, they are wrong - morally, practically, spiritually, profoundly, even - and they, through deed or inaction, disgrace America. Because they do.

Submitted without comment

The First Amendment to the US Constitution:

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.

(Missouri) House Concurrent Resolution 13 (proposed by a member of the Evil Party):

Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

Mar 02, 2006

Picture of the day

Mount Hood, taken from the #19 bus as it crossed the Ross Island Bridge at ~5:15pm today.

A new study from the Department of Obvious Conclusions.

Showing that, shockingly, sick employees feel pressured to go to work, even if they've so sick that they can't get anything done at work. More than half of the people surveyed in this study say they're worried about their work not getting done, but old fashioned guilt (over being sick. It's a funny world when you feel guilty about being sick) and worrying about not being paid or, worse (?) yet, being fired for being ill.

I can certainly see why an employer would want to have a sick employee in the office. Not only don't they get any work done (thus blowing deadlines), but they run the risk of infecting everyone else, thus ensuring that nobody else gets any work done (and, needless to say, you can kiss their deadlines goodbye as well.) But the important thing is that when the überboss looks in, all the employees will be lined up at their desks, looking sick but busy (or sick but unconscious, but that means they'll be at their desk where you can see them) and thus it will look busy, which is more important than actually being busy.

It's the same mentality that says it's okay if the US loses the war against Iraq, just as long as nobody actually mentions that the US is losing. Abstract things like the bottom line, why, it's not nearly as important as the daily routine of manager-fluffing, because it requires a long attention span and long attention spans aren't what makes the American Economy™ tick.

Oregon is stupid (an ongoing series)

The local newspaper is all atwitter because the Oregon economy got better last year, and as a result of that, US$666 million in tax revenues will be returned to the taxpayers nevermind that the state is in the middle of a huge financial crisis which is, among other things, starving the urban school districts to death. A sensible state would take a large chunk of that tax money and shovel it into a schools trust, where it could help support Oregon schools in perpetuity, but, alas, the anti-tax loonies (who really really want to live in Venezuela, but don't want to go to the trouble of learning how to speak Spanish) are sitting like Wormtongue by the ears of the gullible taxpayers and have been whispering "We don't need schools! We don't need police! We don't need anything except highways! And, thanks to revenue sharing, Portland will pay for your highways!" for long enough that they can reliably get 60% of the electorate to sign off on whatever sort of suicide pact they put on the ballot.

So I might get $1000 back on my Oregon taxes. Whoopee. That will almost make up for the pots of money that the best and I have donated to our local gradeschool (and it doesn't even make up for the approximately $2500 we've paid in tuition so #1 son can go to full-day kindergarden at this public school.) It's government by idiots, steered by public relations, and benefiting nobody except rich absentee landowners.

The joy of home ownership

Yes, that's the dead cherry tree (100 years old, half rotten, other half most certainly not rotten) that used to stand in our back yard. This morning, after a front came through, it decided that standing was too tiring, and lying down would be a better plan. So down it came, shedding its top when it hit the T-1 bundle that the phone company has running down the middle of our block, then carefully threading the needle between the holistic medicine/acupuncturist's office (the pink building) and the gardener's shed that the Sellwood "World Trade Center" placed on the only non-paved part of their lot.

My grand plan of sawing the tree into small easy to move parts came to an abrupt end when the tree shifted and grabbed the sawblade between a couple of thousand-pound chunks of non-rotten cherrywood, so it remains out there, waiting for me to get a 1 or 2 ton jack so I can apply some gentle persuasion to pinching parts of the tree.

(And, no, I wasn't using a chainsaw. I'm old fashioned that way, though the absolute and complete lack of reasonably-sized forestry saws of either the push or pull variety is making me think that this might not be a good plan. One would think that in Oregon, a state that, despite the best efforts of the voters, still retains a few large trees, you might be able to find a saw that can cut through a 24" treetrunk, but no, the closest I've been able to find without trolling for antiques is a piddly 36 inch woodcutters hacksaw, which is great for cutting down 6-12" saplings, but not so good for a tree that's any larger than that.)

Next week: forestry with napalm and dynamite!


Mar 01, 2006

That muffled detonation you just heard? That was my head exploding.

Okay, so

  1. The B*sh junta knew about Katrina
  2. The B*sh junta got phone calls about Katrina
  3. The B*sh junta got memos about Katrina
  4. And there are videos showing people warning Maximum Leader Genius about what Katrina would do.

It's just like the Bin Laden Determined To Attack memos. It's just not important unless there's money to be made from the event.

Redneck mother is wondering why we haven't impeached the Coward in Chief. I know of 55 (62 if you want to include the 7 quisling Democrats) reasons why we haven't impeached that bastard; the Evil Party won't impeach their puppet if the only people at risk are the lower classes (and by lower classes they mean people who make less than US$400,000/year.) I don't think that impeachment would be enough; perhaps an independent commission should be formed instead?

Theocracy Ho!

The latest bagman sent Focus on the Family a "thank you" letter after being appointed to the Supreme Court. Lovely. "Thank you" letters like this are usually promises that can be redeemed for valuable government favoritism sooner or later (in this case most likely when the South Dakota abortion ban makes it up to the US Supreme Court, but I'm sure that there are a few anti-gay laws that will need to be rubberstamped by the judicial arm of the Evil Party.)

And people wonder why so many pro-choice liberals are angry about NARAL and Planned Parenthood asking them to send thank-you letters to Lieberman and Chaffee for giving Scalito a free pass to the Supreme Court?

(link via firedoglake)


An unexpected benefit of using firefox and adblock

After bunging all the popular ad-spewing domains into the circular file, the A-list weblogs I read become so ad-free that I tend to forget that they're ad-infested, and am only reminded when the owners of those weblogs feel obliged to promote some of the ads over to the editorial section of their web pages. I don't know how long this will last before the advertising agencies start giving Special Treatment to their ads to foil adblock (the Amsterdam junket ads appear to have already done this, because when I reflexively adblocked the scarlet pixels, a couple of the sellout weblogs became instantly unreadable because they were picking up their background image from the ad, leaving nothing but dark green letters on a light green background. It's not so bad when I can't read a social weblog, but if, say, Atrios started doing something like that I would be a very unhappy camper because I'd have to start writing my own firefox extensions to more creatively block the offensive ads.)

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