Archive for January, 2006


But Of Course

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Many people have died in the middle of kinky sex, but that doesn’t make kinky sex the cause of death:

A dominatrix was acquitted of manslaughter Monday in the death of a man who prosecutors say suffered a fatal heart attack while strapped to a replica of a medieval torture device.

The jury in Norfolk Superior Court deliberated for eight hours over two days before finding Barbara Asher, 56, not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and dismemberment.

During his closing argument, prosecutor Robert Nelson re-enacted the bondage session that allegedly killed Michael Lord, 53, of North Hampton, N.H., in July 2000.

Donning a leather mask and speaking to the jury through the zippered mouth, he said Lord flailed about and died while strapped to the rack in a makeshift “dungeon” in Asher’s Quincy condominium. Nelson said Asher did nothing to help him for fear authorities would find out about her business.

“She did nothing, nothing for five minutes,” Nelson said, his voice muffled through the mask.

It was an error, right? After all, manslaughter is accidentally causing a death, not misunderstanding when someone needs medical attention. On the other hand:

Then she summoned her boyfriend, who chopped up the body of the 275-pound retired telephone company worker before they dumped it behind a restaurant in Augusta, Maine, Nelson said. Police searched an Augusta landfill, but his remains have never been found.

Why chop up and dump the body if you did nothing wrong?

Read the whole thing here.


Shaw’s Supermarkets Suck

Monday, January 30th, 2006

So it was a wondrous thing to wake up this morning and find my shower drained CLOGGED. Realizing that I had time before heading off to work, I rushed out to my local Shaw’s Supermarket to buy some Professional Strength Liquid Plumr (sic) Gel to unclog the drain. Unfortunately, I went to Shaw’s.

Shaw’s, like most supermarkets these days, has these self check-out machines, which are great for younger more tech-savvy customers like myself, who deplore having to wait in line behind cotton-haired septuagenarians for whom lifting a Cambell’s soup can out of the shopping cart is a half-hour herculean effort. So I go up, scan my Shaw’s card (which say’s I’m Bob Cringely) and scan my item (of course, there’s no discount). I put the item in the bag and the machine yells at me to remove the unauthorized item from the bagging area, and then starts blinking a red light to call over a store employee.

You know, I’m tired of this crap. Seriously tired. EVERY time I go there this fucking happens. Well, maybe not every time, but it happens often enough to be a serious irritant. I’m using the goddamned machine in order to save myself time and now you’re asking me to wait for a goddamned employee to make his way over to me to punch in a code to tell the machine that I’m not fucking stealing. Of course if I were stealing I would never have bothered with the whole bagging process, but never mind logic. This time, I got fed up.

I grabbed my bottle and went and waited in line behind the kindly septuagenarian. Eventually, I made my way out of the store. Of course, the machine was still blinking red, and no employee had bothered to come over to it to see what was the matter. How efficient.

Here’s a few suggestions for the morons who run Shaw’s:

  • Turn down the motion detector’s sensitivity. The person at the machine is not likely a shoplifter. That person already has their item stashed away in their trenchcoat, and is not likely to be bothering with the self-checkout machine.

  • If you’re really that worried about shoplifters, station a person permanently at the self-checkout machines to resolve problems and to observe, like Home Despot does.
  • Stop treating your customers like criminals. Who do you think you are, the RIAA?

< /end rant >

Previous supermarket rant here.

UPDATE: Thankfully, the Liquid Plumr did its job and the drain is now cleared.



Friday, January 27th, 2006

I’ve been asked by blog fans what my thoughts are on the Hamas elections. Well, here goes.

I actually think it’s a very positive development that Hamas was elected. Let’s just hope that the state department doesn’t screw it up by sticking its nose in there and attempt to restart “negotiations”. Allow me to explain.

Imagine a woman whose husband is a blatant philanderer. Everyone knows, but seemingly she doesn’t. Every clue, every hint of what’s really going on is explained away and rationalized. The weekends away, the smell of perfume on his shirt, every hint she should have gotten she refuses to believe. Maybe she’s even caught him once before and they talked it out, leaving her convinced that it was a one-time affair, that it’ll never happen again.

Nobody would tell this woman that she is well off in her relationship, that she should stick it out. The healthy thing for her to do would be to see her husband for what he is and move on. Imagine then that the woman came across his personal pornographic photo or video collection of him and his various partners, or imagine she comes home one day to find him in the midst of a cocaine induced orgy with 17 French hookers. She would, faced with such incontrovertible evidence, no longer be able to fool herself into thinking that her husband was loyal. She would be forced to confront the reality, that her husband is a philanderer. And she would have to take action based on that newfound reality, that action likely to be a divorce.

And so it is between Israel and the Palestinians. By electing Hamas, the Palestinians have expressed themselves in a way that cannot possibly be mis-interpreted. No more will gullible Israelis be able to delude themselves into believing that the Palestinians want peace, that their dispute is one over the placement of a border between the two peoples. Rather, it is clear who the Palestinians are now. They are a terrorist people, and their government has become a terrorist state, bent on the destruction of Israel. It is healthy that Israel be forced to confront this reality. It means that Sharon’s policy of disengagement, divorce if you will, cannot help but go forward. It means that everyone in the world, not just Israel, now knows exactly who the Palestinians are, what they stand for and thus how to deal with them.

If I can elaborate just a bit, what we are seeing here is an endemic problem with dealing with Arab states, namely determining who they really are. It seems as if nearly every Arab dictatorship on the one hand professes to be with the United States in the war on terror, while simultaneously preaching hatred of the United States to their own populace. It is difficult to deal with such countries in a straightforward manner, as many players on the world stage willingly delude themselves into believing the public pronouncements so as to avoid conflict. That is why it is so refreshing to see the Palestinians stand up and declare who they really are, for all the world to see.

The only thing that could really screw things up here would be Nobel prize chasing US State Department or UN diplomats, who may try to intervene and perform marriage counseling as it were. The result of such counseling will only be to turn the honest terrorist state into one which becomes skilled at being two faced so as to appease those willing to delude themselves that all is well again. Let us hope that the Hamas government is too radical to want to take such advice.

Update: It appears Mark Steyn agrees, “In 2002 the New York Times published a photograph of Palestinian suicide bombers all dressed up and ready to blow, and captioned it “Hamas activists.” Take my advice and try not to be standing too near the Hamas activist when he activates himself.”

Update 2: So does Jeff Jacoby.

Update 3: Christopher Hitchens has a good take as well. Dennis Prager agrees as well.


I’ve Been Infected

Thursday, January 26th, 2006



(via emergent chaos)



Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

I’ve been reading about this whole Blackberry shutdown thing, and a thought occurred to me. Property rights, in a Lockean sense, derive from use of the property. Make improvements and use the property, and you have rights. Abandon the property, and you cede it to squatters, no matter what the “title” you hold says. This is actually the way real property law works in the United States today.

We need something similar for virtual property, in this case, what’s commonly referred to as “Intellectual Property.” The problem that I see is that people are patenting things, in many cases unserious things and whatever pops into people’s heads, and are then just sitting on the patents. This is much like what happened to Research in Motion (the company that makes the Blackberry), who “squatted” on “intellectual property” that the courts have held was owned by somebody else.

Since the phrase in the constitution granting the power to grant limited exclusivity to ideas reads, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;” we must ask ourselves at this juncture how the Blackberry suit helps promote the “Progress of Science and useful Arts”. Does it at all? After all, whatever the claim against Research in Motion, it was they who commercialized the concept, took it to market, and made it a part of our common lives, not the parties suing.

Which is not to say that the patent-holders don’t deserve something for their troubles. They did after all, invent something and did get it filed with the patent office. But do they deserve to hijack an enormously successful company, an entire country used to using its products? Is this what the founders had in mind?

I tend to think not. And in fact, what is at dispute here is not whether or not Research in Motion owes the money, that has already been established by the courts. Rather, what is at stake is the size of the damages. So tell me, is there a reason why patents not commercially realized should not have some sort of damage cap applied to them? If you could establish that no serious attempt was made by the patent holder to commercialize the patent, or license it or sell it, and that the party violating the patent didn’t steal the technology from the party suing, but instead separately discovered it by means of concurrent evolution, should not the damages be capped in some way so as to allow business to continue on?

If you were an inventor, a good inventor, but a seriously poor business man, and you invented the Blackberry only to have another company invent it separately and do well with it, would you not be happy with a $500k licensing fee from them? Maybe from each company that’s violating? Would not Research in Motion be happy to pay the fee and move on with their lives? It seems to me the only party to lose out here would be the lawyers.

I know that there are complexities here that would need to be hashed out, but the general principle holds, that inventors who fail to put their patents to use should pay a price for abandonment, and the rest of society shouldn’t be held up at gunpoint when the original inventor decides eventually to cash in.

So tell me, what am I missing?



Saturday, January 21st, 2006

Differences in brains:

Bill Clinton said he felt others’ pain. But a new brain-scanning study suggests that when guys see a cheater get a mild electric shock, they don’t feel his pain much at all. In fact, they rather enjoy it.

In contrast, women’s brains showed they do empathize with the cheater’s pain and don’t get a kick out it.

It’s not clear whether this difference in schadenfreude — enjoyment of another’s misfortune — results from basic biology or sex roles learned during life, researchers say. But it could help explain why men have historically taken charge of punishing criminals and others who violate societal rules, said researcher Dr. Klaas Stephan.

But how does this explain Lynndie England?

Read more here.



Saturday, January 21st, 2006

Run windows on OSX for Intel with OpenOSX.


Patriot Search

Friday, January 20th, 2006

You may have heard about Google resisting the absurd justice department porno request:

In resisting the Justice Department, Google, in a written response to the department in October, described the agency’s request as “overbroad, unduly burdensome, vague and intended to harass.”

Google said in that letter that complying with the request would require a “disproportionate amount of engineering time and resources” from Google and could endanger Google’s “crown-jewel trade secrets.”

The Justice Department subpoenaed Google in late August to provide all Web-site addresses that could be located through Google’s search engine and submit a list of all search queries handled between June 1 and July 31. The request was in connection with the department’s efforts to defend the Child Online Protection Act, a 1998 law that has been challenged in the courts. The law is designed to shield minors from exposure to sexually explicit material online.

So if you, like me, are upset about not having your search requests turned over to the federal government in a fishing request for porno searchers, now there’s Patriot Search, a search engine that turns everything over to the feds as a matter of course.

Use Patriot Search!


Schrödinger’s War

Monday, January 16th, 2006

Let’s say there’s a war going on somewhere far away, so far away that most of the voting populace has no ability to observe the goings on first hand. In effect, the war exists in a black box, and few can actually see what’s going on inside.

And let’s say there are a significant number of detractors of that war, detractors who have pinned their fortunes, political, monetary or otherwise, on the failure of that war effort.

And one has to presume, of course, that those who got the country into the war have an opposite vested interest, in seeing it succeed.

Now let’s say that the war goes well. Those detractors who can get first hand accounts of the war will undoubtedly see this. But what are they to do?

What they need to do is describe what’s coming out of the box as signs of the failure. Troops are coming home? That’s because the situation is hopeless. Etc…

Likewise, if the war is going poorly, those supporters would have to do the opposite. This would be akin to Caligula returning to Rome claiming to have conquered Neptune.

So how is one to determine what is actually happening inside the black box, in Schrödinger’s War?

Time is the ultimate truth teller here. Claiming victory in a war that has been lost will be obvious over time, as there will either be no spoils of war or no conquered territory/new allied country to refer back to years later. Likewise, claiming that troops are being recalled because the situation is hopeless when years later a country that was once belligerent and caustic is now peaceful and productive will be obvious with time as well.

Of course, it doesn’t help that many people have only a black box of history (Schrödinger’s History) to refer to in comparison. If you ask most people how many Americans died in the Korean War, I suspect that you’ll get made up numbers or maybe even blank stares as to the existence of a war fought by the United States on the Korean peninsula. In light of that, it’s even easier for those who would spread falsehoods to portray even accurate information as good or bad depending on their cause.

Regardless, I would have liked for our democracy to be functioning better than this. Logically, EVERYONE should have a vested interest in victory, even if they disagreed about going in in the first place. The fact that we don’t is what has given us this Schrödinger’s War.


Vintage Mac Museum

Friday, January 13th, 2006

Visit the Vintage Mac Museum.