Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hooded Mergansers

I chanced upon 4 pairs of hooded mergansers today. They were diving and surfacing nearly in unison in a midtown retention pond. The white patch in the crest of the males was brilliant in the bright angled rays of the low-lying sun, and their yellow eyes flashed like citrine, the November birthstone. As I watched the cavorting mergansers, 26 sandhill cranes flew high overhead in a wavering irregular chevron.

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Demotivate Yourself

Start the day off with a laugh by perusing these demotivational signs that parody the dumb posters you see in offices and lobbies everywhere. You may want to replace the signs in your office with one or more of these side-splitters.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Your Daily Coffee Ration - Save The Planet?

On this day, November 29th, 1942, coffee was rationed in the United States. What would you do without your cuppa java?

This past weekend I bought, for a pitance, 4 steel pennies, despite the passing of Buy Nothing Day. I reasoned that the purchase of those odd zinc-coated steel pennies would remind me that the previous American generation willingly reused and recycled many commodities during WWII, and limited their personal consumption to sustain the war effort, which is a pittance compared to today's deplorable measures of consuption. My Dad and Uncles often talked of dragging wagons and carts around their southeastern Idaho hometown collecting glass, metals and other items that could be recycled and reused to aid the country and the troops abroad.

Question: Should it take a protracted foreign war to convince this country to change its consumption habits? Answer: No, the current state of the world economy should give us pause enough. The status of depleted oil, natural gas, coal, and recent global patterns of the consumption of cement, lumber, raw energy, technology, and other essentials for *unlimited growth* should shock this country into a reconsideration of its fundamental ideas of the "American dream" and our government/business aliance's agenda to spread these ultimately unsustainable ideas into the world, in the name of freedom, commerce, free trade, and shall we say, in the parlance of our Administration,
democracy. Of course, this democracy/unsustainable business meme, spread large in the world already, is already beginning to bite US in the proverbial behind. China and India are happily at the cusp of their long-planned-for bid to become major players in the world economy, and the world is witnessing regional ecologic destruction as these and other up-and-coming nations exercise their growing strength and test their economic muscle. The future looks grim, and US goals and timeworn policies are not the solution.

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Vonnegut Interviewer Missed The Point

David Nason, The Australian's New York correspondent, recently interviewed Kurt Vonnegut Jr., one of this country's older (83) men of letters, and made a mess of most of what Vonnegut said.

Vonnegut's terse observations spoken publicly or in print are frequently cynical and dark, and rarely are they brushed thoughtlessly off the cuff. Such comments are almost always a signal that Kurt Vonnegut has thought about something longer and in more ways than the average person, or in the case of David Nason, foreign correspondent.

Nason asked about terrorists. Vonnegut's response:

  • Terrorists are brave
  • Madness is a matter of perspective
  • It is sweet and honorable to die for one's beliefs
  • Terrorist are fighting for their culture and self-respect
  • The seconds preceding a terrorist's suicide must be an "amazing high" for that person
I sense no value judgements or defense of terrorism in those statements. What did Nason make of the statements? He makes his point by asking us to answer a question (nice rhetorical device, but here it is a copout):
Is the author of one of the great anti-war books of the 20th century seriously saying that terrorists who kill civilians are "sweet and honourable"?

Then Nason makes his summary statement, which doesn't address the question he left floating like a lost balloon:
Vonnegut has been many things: a grandmaster of American literature; a man who worked hard to support his family; a soldier who fought for his country. But
now he's old and he doesn't want to live any more. You only have to read his book to understand that. And because he can't find anything worthwhile to keep him alive, he finds defending terrorists somehow amusing

I just don't see the connection. Vonnegut's statements went over Nason's head. He missed the point.

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Polish Government Lets The Sun Shine In

This past week the newly elected Polish government revealed secret Warsaw Pact documents that depict a hypothetical 7-day nuclear war in Europe. The move signals the new government's desire to separate the country from the cold-war communist past by educating its citizens about Poland's unwilling role in the old regime.

I appreciate this brave move to put the truth into the hands of the Polish people, but I'm reminded that the present administration in this country is hardly forthcoming about anything. The long record of stonewalling the press, the Congress, and the American people is disheartening. Its gotten so bad that every time one of the officials speaks publicly I assume the truth is being hidden under many layers of rhetoric and spin. And I don't like it. The sunshine and the truth seem to have been purposely obscured by fog , and smokescreens, and clouds of white phosphorus, and the smothering blanket of disinformation and deceit.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Suwannee River

The Clog-wife and I took a leisurely drive into Suwannee County (Florida) yesterday.

We landed in Branford, a small town on the banks of the Suwannee River, which is home to old-time fiddler friend Lloyd Baldwin. We explored the banks of the legendary river from a small memorial park built on the site of an old steamboat landing. The park facility seemed like it was constructed in the 1940’s, to judge from the claustrophobic concrete block picnic pavilions and restroom building.

Picking along the cypress knees and uprooted brick-and-concrete piers of the old steamboat landing, I observed for the first time a
water hickory in fruit. I’ve found the nuts of this waterside species on beaches and strands throughout the coastal plain states, but never had seen them on the tree. The Highway 27 bridge over the Suwannee in Branford has a sign identifying the Suwannee, consisting of the first phrase from Old Folks at Home, the famous Stephen Foster song, and state song of Florida (“Way Down Upon The Swanee River”). Below the phrase was a musical staff and the corresponding notes to those words in the key of C. I sang the music printed on the sign and realized that the note corresponding to the first syllable of “River” should be an “A” and not the “B” printed on the sign. So there’s an embarrassing misprint on the sign. Who do you call? How many other (nit)pickers have noticed the error?

Every year Lloyd sets up his “Fish Camp” in the participants’ campground at the Annual Florida Folk Festival and hosts friends and fiddlers all weekend long at the festival, including the sometime members and fluid roster of his band The Polecats. There is always a coffee can full of peanuts for visitors to shell and eat, and fine music mixed with storytelling and grand mischief until the wee hours. During these long evening music jams, Lloyd takes a rest from fiddling and picks, in the old southern clawhammer style, a banjo he made decades ago. The neck of the instrument is made from a piece of cherry he obtained right there in Suwannee county. You have to respect a man that can build his own banjo.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Buy Nothing Day - Don't Consume Everything

I admit I didn't strictly observe Buy Nothing Day. I present this list of the the items I did purchase on that day or the two days subsequent:

Garden hose, work gloves, Christmas tree ornaments and wrapping paper, four 1943 steel pennies, and a jar of Mayhaw jelly.

The hose, gloves, ornaments and paper were probably all made in China. The pennies and the jelly are all-American.

Hose and gloves I'll use in the yard and garden which contain herbs and winter vegetables that the household will consume.

The Christmas stuff has no intrinsic value and fills no pressing need.

The steel pennies remind me that during WWII folks were willing to save and ration and reuse and recycle, much more than Americans are willing to do today.

The Mayhaw jelly was produced by a small-scale operation in Georgia and sold by a very old man in Suwannee County, FL, from the back of his pickup. Local production and consumption, local economy.

I should ask these questions every time I purchase something:
  • Do I need this?
  • Why do I want this?
  • Who made this, and where?
  • Who profits the most from this purchase?
  • How long until I don't need or want this item?
  • How much waste will this purchase eventually generate?
  • Can this item, its packaging, or its parts be recycled?
  • To which landfill will this item go when discarded?
Reducing the footprint each of us leaves on the earth by consuming less is a good thing. Just remember that in the United States of America our individual consumer footprints are enormous and world-reaching. We should do what we can to avoid trodding on everything there is.

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Flying Spaghetti Monster News

Science Blog has a "living photograph" of the Flying Spaghetti Monster that was created with cultured E. coli bacteria by a team of whimsically clever biophysics students. Not merely a stunt, mind you. Those students employed some innovative and complicated processes involving gene sequencing, engineering, and expression. The article accompanying the photograph at the link above is well worth taking time to read.

Who said science has to be boring? The bioengineers of that silly spaghetti monster image were obviously having serious fun while engaged in a serious scientific demonstration. That is exactly the sort of atmosphere that science teachers and advisors should create for their students, from primary school through university.

[Hat-tip to Sploid.]

Saturday, November 26, 2005

New Hot Air Balloon Altitude Record

Indian industrialist and aviator Vijaypat Singhania has apparently broken the world hot air balloon altitude record, with a flight that took him 69,852 feet above Mumbai, India. The record is subject to verification by aeronautical groups who will examine instrumentation sealed within the balloon's capsule.

Funnymoney quote: "This goes to show to the world that we are not bullock cart drivers."

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Your Two Cents Worth

The cost of a first class postage stamp will soon increase from the current 37 cents to 39 cents.

Dustbury supports a campaign to convince the postal service to issue a stamp commemorating that perennial 39-year old, Jack Benny. Good cause. Put in your two cents worth now by visiting Mr. Hill's post and then signing the petition to which he has kindly provided a link.

Sandhill Cranes And Sundogs

Its a beautiful day in north central Florida. I spent time this morning tending to the flowerbeds, nipping browned flower heads from chrysanthemums and marigolds and removing crisp leaves that have recently fallen from the southern red oak that towers over the front yard and our 1935 shotgun house. I couldn't help but notice the various butterflies working alongside me, and appreciated that our mild seasons here mean we have blooms and butterflies almost year-round.

Far overhead I heard the dry rattling calls of sandhill cranes. I have heard and noticed groups of 10-20 cranes passing overhead at intervals for the past couple of days now. The out-of-state migrants are arriving to spend the winter among the local populations of the Florida subspecies
that don't migrate. The arrival of the cranes is an annual event worthy of remark in The Clog Almanac. Last year a lone Whooping crane was viewed by hundreds of birdwatchers and curious passersby as it foraged with dozens of sandhills in a large pasture managed by the University of Florida Beef Unit. If the whooper returns this year, you'll hear about it.

The arrival of cooler weather also means its sundog season. Yesterday I observed a 22-degree halo surrounding the afternoon sun. Today I witnessed a very bright 22-degree sundog to the left of the sun, its outer edge so brilliant that it hurt to stare at it. I'm sure I'll be posting more about sundogs and other related optical effects caused by sunlight refracting through oriented ice crystals within the clouds.

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Santa Watch: Trouble In Europe

Santa Claus is in the European news already, and the news isn't good.

A German group is encouraging Germans to shun Santa Claus because the jolly old soul is a fabrication that Coca-Cola conjured up to sell its product. The group claims that Santa-as-marketing-tool only commercializes the Yuletide, and urges countrymen to go back to St. Nicholaus who represents selflessness and compassion and other Christmasy ideals. The group has been pamphleteering and handing out stickers depicting a Santa with a red bar over his face that reads "Weinachtsmannfreie Zone" (Santa-Free Zone). The movement has also spread to Austria.

Santa Claus was fired from his job at a Dutch shopping mall after he spanked a child who pulled on his fake beard. Santa thought that if the child pulled the fake beard off all of the other children waiting in line would have been traumatized. Hey Santa, didn't you consider that hitting a child in front of all those children would be even more traumatic?

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Pat Morita, "Man Who Catch Fly With Chopstick Accomplish Anything" Dead At 73

Actor Pat Morita has died.

Morita was best known for his role as Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid". A generation of film-goers and martial arts students remembers the "wax on, wax off" exercise used to help the character Daniel-son to succeed in life
and win a karate championship.

I always felt that Mr. Morita was a humane old soul whose character was expressed in the roles he played. We should all miss the presence in the world of a personage like him.

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Magician Penn and Commentator Buckley Juxtaposed

I hope you listen to National Public Radio. If you do so, as often as you should, it is likely that you have been fortunate to catch a broadcast or two of This I Believe, a series wherein folks of all stripes record short statements or conversations about what is really important in their lives. Very frequently the respondents expose stripped-down and essential details of their lives and beliefs that are very poignant and germane to the life-experiences of all of us.

Two views by notable personalities expressed in the series explore a personal belief/disbelief in a God: Commentator-publisher William F. Buckley, Jr., and Penn Jillette, the larger, outspoken half of the magic/comedy team Penn and Teller.

Buckley quote: "
This I believe: That it is intellectually easier to credit a divine intelligence than to submit dumbly to felicitous congeries about nature."

Penn quote: "
This I believe: I believe there is no God."

Read the statement-essays of both men, then ask yourself and ponder some hard questions about what it is that you believe and why. The insights provided by your honest answers might inform your future in ways you can't imagine now.

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North America's Oldest Bird Tracks In Utah

I possess a few shale slabs bearing 2 different sizes/types of fossil bird tracks. I collected these rare curiosities years ago near Soldier Summit in Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah, where rocks of the famous Green River shale are exposed. The rocks and tracks are Eocene in age ~50 million years old.

Now paleontologists have discovered more fossil bird tracks in Utah, this time from mid-Cretaceous rocks near Moab. These new fossils are about 125 million years old, which places them among the dinosaurs, and the oldest bird tracks known from the continent.

A super exposition of the geologic time scale can be found at Wikipedia.

Photos of Eocene fossil bird tracks (scroll way down) from Soldier Summit are found in this interesting article, which goes into great detail to show how creationists have grossly misused the sedimentary and fossil record of the Green River formation in attempts to prove the occurence of a global (biblical) flood.

The matter of Moab: You need to visit. Make it your base for visiting the many wondrous state and national parks, redrock canyons, and sweeping desolate vistas, all within a day's driving distance of the town. The opportunities for serious sightseeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, boating, photography and other activities are endless, including camel trekking. Along about February/March high pressure cells over the region make for clear skies and achingly beautiful sunlight that plays on the variegated redrock cliffs and canyons that crowd the vistas in every direction. Exchanging a few winterbound days in your home for a few days in this spectacular landscape should be first on your list of New Year's resolutions. It may be the most important decision you make all year.

[Disclaimer: I am a plant paleontologist/evolutionary biologist by choice and by training, and have absolutely no ties to creationism, intelligent design, the Park Service, nor any business in Moab, Utah.]

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SONY Messed With Texas

Texas became the first US state to sue SONY for violations of state spyware prohibitions.

Here is a the actual lawsuit, filed by state Attorney General Greg Abbot in the District Court of Travis County. The petition is only 8 .pdf pages long, so you might as well read it. You may benefit from the explanation of Sony's XCP copy-protection strategy, and how each content-protected CD contains a proprietary media player and hidden DRM files that are surreptitiously installed on a consumer's computer when he or she agrees to the lengthy end users' license agreement that pops up when the CD is loaded into a computer.

Damages: In addition to attorney and court fees, the suit asks for $100,000 for each violation of the state's new "spyware" laws.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

White Phosporus Chillingly Explained

The Guardian's George Monbiot recently posted an article about the United States' use of high-explosive assualt weapons containing white phosphorus in the battle for Fallujah. Monbiot presents a chilling quote from a 2000 Marine Corps Gazette article that describes the explosive aerosol cloud that thermobaric fuel-air weapons produce and the range of damages observed:
"This cloud is then ignited and the subsequent fireball sears the surrounding area while consuming the oxygen in this area. The lack of oxygen creates an enormous overpressure ... Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death. Outside the cloud area, the blast wave travels at some 3,000 metres per second ... As a result, a fuel-air explosive can have the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon without residual radiation ... Those personnel caught directly under the aerosol cloud will die from the flame or overpressure. For those on the periphery of the strike, the injuries can be severe. Burns, broken bones, contusions from flying debris and blindness may result. Further, the crushing injuries from the overpressure can create air embolism within blood vessels, concussions, multiple internal haemorrhages in the liver and spleen, collapsed lungs, rupture of the eardrums and displacement of the eyes from their sockets."
I searched the Marine Corps Gazette archives and I believe the article Monbiot quoted is the following: A "Crushing" Victory: Fuel-Air Explosives and Grozny 2000. Lester W. Grau and Timothy Smith. Volume 84(8): 30-33. August/2000. (The telling scare quotes were intentional by the article's authors.) My search only returned a very brief abstract so I was unable to confirm this article as the source of the quote. Copies of the article can be purchased through the Gazette, but you might acquire them through your library's interlibrary loan system for free.

Look for the typical and tiresome legalistic and semantic wranglings in arguments over whether the US violated international laws and conventions governing the use of incendiary and chemical weapons by using white phosphorus in Fallujah. You're likely all too familiar with similar wranglings in the recent battles over enemy combatants' status and rights, and the methods used to interrogate them.

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You Only Have To Ask

Those lucky astronauts aboard the International Space Station have already seen the new hit Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, thanks to NASA and Warner Brothers. When American Commander Bill McArthur asked Mission Control about seeing the movie, calls were made, keys were punched and, Presto! Like magic, Houston transmitted the film so McArthur and Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev were treated to the new blockbuster.

If you know the right people, you only have to ask. But that's got to be one expensive pay-per-view bill, Bill. Did you save a copy to your laptop like a good space pirate?

If I were up there with time on my hands, I'd insist on watching the BBC's hilarious Red Dwarf series, whence this quote:
"How did I end up on a ship like this? On a ship where the fourth most popular pastime is going down to the laundry room and watching my knickers spin dry?" - Kochanski, Duct Soup

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Little About Everywhere

Planning a trip to Tokelau? Say, for instance you are wondering if there is anywhere to dock your research vessel among the atolls, which lie more or less midway between New Zealand and the Hawaiian islands, in Oceania. You might as well start with a visit to the on-line version of the World Fact Book, where you'd quickly learn that only offshore anchorage is available.

The site is a goldmine of information, and not just for us factoid-hounds and trivia-buffs. Happily, just a click away from anywhere.

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First Frost

The cold snuck in on cats’ feet during the wee hours and left us with the first frost of the season this morning. Car windows iced in, lawn grass all hoary and crunchy, unnecessary animation suspended. So we’re wearing coats this morning in north central Florida and thinking “Hot oatmeal would be good for breakfast.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Just Shocking, But Only In Florida

A naked Florida man was tasered in the carbuchos, after going house to house breaking windows and asking women to touch him *innapropriately*. Granted its hard to taser a naked guy who is jumping around alot in the chest, or face, or back, or other less private place. Whoops! Got him. Ouch. . Kneel on his neck. 'Cuff him. Great. Now he's in jail. Hope for his sake that he's got some pants on now.

Hey, you other ex-perps caught shoeless and pants-less: Where can I get some of those complimentary orange jail flip-flops? Tell me about those one-size-fits-all jail pants with the stripe down the legs that just won't stay up. I heard that those saggy-baggy "My caboose is yours" jail pants are fashionable streetware. Whasup wi' dat?

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Hot Shorts

OK. Every one of you ladies with the proper form, delicious definition, and the nerve, run and buy these, and wear them NOW, and always. Forget winter. Forget modesty. Forget everything. This garment is not for jogging, not for dance try-outs, not for ladies-only health clubs, not for YOU or your *sisters*. This garment is for, uh, men, like me. Don't lie to yourself. You never lie to yourself about these things, do you? You don't lie, do you?

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Birding for Lunch

Yesterday I went birding for lunch at Chapman's Pond in Gainesville, where over 150 avian species have been sighted by birders who frequent the site.

My visit was rewarded in a strange way. It began to rain and wind gusts from the west drove stinging rain across the pond and right into my face. Not generally a pleasant sensation, but, having come through a Florida summer, it was nice to have a reminder of the cold weather to come, the sort of weather you tend to forget about when the temperature and humidity are in the 90's. Nice to imagine for a second that you are much farther north than where you are, and call to mind certain fond memories of a northern town or shore you visited in a former self.

Lunch was short and I had a pressing appointment. Still I managed to quickly log these species, in the driving rain on a day made for ducks:

American Bittern
Belted Kingfisher
Snowy Egret
American Egret
White Ibis
Sandhill Crane
Common Moorhen (Gallinule)
American Coot
Lesser Scaup

The Scaup I'm not positive about. There were about a dozen, all females. Most of the secondary feathers of these drab brown birds were white - observed as the birds stretched and flapped their wings as they preened in the rain. I didn't have binoculars so didn't notice the light ring around the base of the bill or other field characters. I may have to visit again today with some magnification so I can say for certain. And maybe ID the raft of ducks out on the pond I couldn't begin to identify in the misty curtains of rain. Perhaps the male counterparts to all the female scaups.

[Update: 11/23 - a fellow birder told me Lesser Scaups have been sighted at the pond in the last few days]

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Carnival Of The Recipes

Carnival of the Recipes #66 is hosted by Rocket Jones this week. You might swing by to find an idea for something new to add to your traditional holiday meal. You might even enjoy this sidedish, a Clog Almanac *Original* that appeared in these pages a few days ago.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Florida 511 Service Launched

The Florida Department of Transportation launched its 511 service this week. Now Florida travellers can access up-to-date reports that will make their peregrinations safer and quicker. The service was implemented with $10 million in grant funding from the Federal Highway Administration.

The service will alert drivers to the locations of highway repair work, lane and road closures, and other problems that cause gridlock. The service provides alternate routes and other information that will assist travellers in avoiding unecessary delays, and will make disaster evacuation more efficient.

The service can be accessed by telephone while you're on the road. If you're planning travel in Florida, you can also access all of the pertinent information on-line as well, at

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Sony Rogue Rootkit - Perspectives Emerge

Bruce Schneier has some very interesting perspectives on the Sony rootkit saga in a nice roundup at Wired News. Foremost is his observation that anti-virus software applications from major companies, like Symantec and MacAfee, didn't detect the rootkit period, or that those companies didn't warn customers about the problem if they did know about it. Schneier suggests that collusion between the wolves and the sheepdogs has occurred, and points out that the sotware patches from Sony and the anti-virus companies that came so late in the game were merely undersized bandaids. Money quote:
"The story to pay attention to here is the collusion between big media companies who try to control what we do on our computers and computer-security companies who are supposed to be protecting us."
Oh, Schneier smiles and winks at Macintosh users and frowns broadly at Microsoft.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

National Geographic's Rabelaisean Editorial Policy

The words "fart" or "farting" appear at least 3 times in this article describing researchers' discovery that herring communicate in the dark via flatulence.

The scientific finding is noteworthy, but so is the use of those words in an article published by the National Geographic. Not all of the uses of those words in the article were in quoted material.
The Clog Almanac suspects the editorial staff must have been reading a little too much from Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel lately, and have become, well, desensitized to such amusing language.

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Sony Rootkit Global Infection Maps

Dan Kaminsky at Doxpara Research is probing the extent of the SONY rootkit problem using cache-snooping techniques and has discovered 568,200 name servers with cached DNS queries related to the rootkit. When the Sony software installed on a computer attempts to contact the mother ship, it has to phone home via a Domain Name Server query. The query resides in the cache of the name server that handled it. Along comes Mr. Kaminsky who tickles the cache, asks it if it has witnessed any queries related to the rootkit, and, Presto!

The really cool thing is the series of global maps Kaminsky has generated by geolocating the server IP data. The maps graphically show the extent of the infection worldwide. The most recent set of maps for the US, Europe, and Japan are here. has a nice overview on the continuing saga.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Thanksgiving Asparagus and Wild Rice Pilaf Recipe

Here is an easily doubled asparagus and wild rice side dish that would add wonderful variety to any Thanksgiving spread:

Asparagus Spears and Wild Rice Pilaf

4-5 bunches fresh Asparagus spears
2 C wild rice
2 fresh carrots
2 large french shalots
4 medium garlic cloves
3T lightly-toasted sesame seeds
salt/pepper to taste

Steam rice (covered) on low heat until well-cooked (firm and chewy, but
not mushy). Wild rice requires a longer cooking time than white or brown rice varieties, so exercise patience.

Julienne carrots into 1-inch (~2cm) lengths.
Finely chop shalots and cloves of garlic.
Soften all gently in an oiled skillet until just tender.

Sesame Seeds
Toast raw sesame seeds in a skillet over low-medium heat until golden-brown. Sample frequently to make sure flavor is not too dark or burnt-tasting. When desired flavor is achieved, remove seeds immediately from the skillet and spread on a cool plate. (Hint - you may elect to intensify the flavor of the seeds with a few drops of dark sesame oil dripped into the hot pan)

Drain steamed rice and fold in carrots, garlic and most of the toasted sesame seeds, reserving about 1 tsp of the seeds to sprinkle over finished dish.

Asparagus- trim spears and remove scales; steam entire bunch upright in a large covered pot until bright green in color and just becoming tender (2-3 minutes). Drain spears, place in a covered chafing dish with 2-3 pats of butter. Toss lightly when butter is melted.

Arrange buttered asparagus spears on a bed of the wild rice pilaf. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the assembled dish. Serves 8 as a side dish and will leave guests asking for more. This recipe is easily doubled. You may need to reheat the assembled dish slightly to bring it up to serving temperature.

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Fade To Green: A Surprising Illusion

Life may not be what it seems. Maybe the primary function of our brain is to order life's illusions into something that our consciousness can manage. Here's a grand illusion that eclipses even the one that makes you believe you can eat everything you put on your Thanksgiving plate the second time around.

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United in Death, November 18

The Clog Almanac's United in Death series continues with this list of notables who all died on a November 18th.

1886 -
Chester A. Arthur - 21st US president
1922 -
Marcel Proust - renowned French author
1962 -
Neils Bohr, Danish physicist/Nobel recipient
1969 -
Joseph P. Kennedy - ambassador, dynasty patriarch
1978 -
Jim Jones - Peoples' Temple mass suicide, cult leader

Can you imagine any of these fellows sitting down for a
Coffee and Cigarettes vignette?

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Got Snow?

My brother, who doesn’t work for the Salt Lake Tribune, reported that Brighton Ski Resort opens its ski season today, with a natural and artificial snow base of 20 inches.

When I lived in Utah during the 80’s my skiing and rock/ice-climbing mates and I always hoped the resorts would open before Thanksgiving, and sometimes they did. If they didn’t, we’d sneak in with our 3-pin cross-country skis and practice telemark turns down slopes and trails that hadn’t yet been groomed to opening-day standards.

I miss the first snow of the season. Living in Florida tends to warp reality in terms of season- and weather-awareness. Here I am, blithely planting pansies, marigolds, strawberries, winter salad greens and garlic sets while folks in northern climes are hunkering down for winter – tuning up the snow blower, shrink-wrapping their water-ski boats, weather stripping door jambs and windows.

Did you get snowed on last night? James Lileks did, and he has a great post on the topic today at
The Bleat. And don’t miss the frozen Jack Nicholson screenshot atop the page (from The Shining, of course).

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Better Living Through (Food) Chemistry

Jones Soda of Seattle, Washington is marketing a smoked salmon pate'-flavored soda as part of its annual variety sampler, to go with favorites such as turkey and gravy, corn-on-the-cob, and pecan pie sodas. Now isn't that just damn skippy? Why not lay in a case or two for the holidays?

The Clog Almanac wants to know when Jones Soda will come out with an oyster soda. To our palate there is no finer flavor than that obtained from the marriage of that delicious shellfish and the salty liqueur bathing its uncooked tender flesh.

You might be aware that the tiny Olympia oysters grown and harvested in Washington state are legendary among oyster lovers. Enjoy this article from the Oct26-Nov1/05 issue of the Seattle Weekly and you'll be Jonesing for oysters, if you aren't already.

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Carnival of the Vanities #165

The Carnival of the Vanities #165 is up today at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles.

The Clog Almanac thanks the Dr. for including therein a link to this post about blog tags, which appeared in these pages earlier this month.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Iran Government Hardens Against Cultural Reforms

The new Iranian government is taking a severe stance against cultural reforms achieved under the previous government.

So who and what are in the sights of the new Minister of Culture, hardliner Mohammed-Hossein Saffar-Harandi? Here's a partial list: books and book-censors; cinemas, theaters, films and film censors; newspapers; cultural associations.

One expects writers and intrepid Iranian bloggers to round out the list. Who else might be intimidated or silenced? Teachers and professors? Moderate or secular political candidates? Civil servants? judges?

Restricting the tenuous freedoms and cultural opportunities that the Iranian people have experienced is an ill-omen, with disturbing implications for the future.

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News Feeds Breed Non-Sequiturs

Amusing non-sequiturs that pair an organization's news page subtitle with the headline of the first news item pepper the Breaking News page at WeBlogALot. A few examples from today's aggregate are quite funny when read as a single news headline:

Bad credit mortgage - Bush Arrives in Japan to Start Asia Trip
Long term care insurance - Teen murder suspect faces extradition...
Instant car insurance quote - Karachi car bomb kills 2: police
Baldness stories - NFL: Cowboys strike late to silence Eagles fans
Mortgage amortization - NBC cancels Stewart's show
First mortgage - McNabb hurts groin

What did I tell ya?

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61 in '61: Roger Maris Then And Now

Roger Maris was voted the American League MVP for the second time, on this day, November 15, in 1961. That year he hit 61 home runs, breaking Ruth's record on the last day of the season.

Mr. Maris, in the form of a TOPPS baseball card, occupied a hallowed spot in the top drawer of my dresser when I was a wee child in Boise, Idaho. As I recall, his card was second in the deck, behind Mickey Mantle, just ahead of Whitey Ford, Willie Mays, and Al Kaline.

Fast-forward ~40 years: I have had dealings with Roger Maris Jr. over the past couple of years here in Florida. He is a straight-up centered gentleman who enjoys and appreciates Nature, and he is one of those unique family men that finds time to sponsor and coach a kids’ softball team every year. I believe that says a lot about a man’s character.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Carnival Of The Capitalists

The Clog Almanac welcomes all visitors from The Entrpreneurial Mind, host of this week's Carnival of the Capitalists, which linked to this post. And a warm welcome as well to those who found this site via other means. Your patronage is appreciated. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Price Of Liberty: $5 And A Pint Of A.A.

Five dollars and a pint of Ancient Age whiskey are apparently the price of a vote in Liberty, KY. A Casey County man was found guilty of buying votes despite his lawyer's reasoning that he was only participating in good old-fashioned (read "good ol' boy") electioneering. A damning taped conversation submitted as evidence records him offering to buy votes from the parents of two siblings from whom he'd previously bought votes with cash and whiskey.

Juicy details of the trial appear in this article from the Danville Kentucky
Advocate Messenger.

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Chinese Olympic Mascots, Money, and Pollution

Senior Chinese officials unveiled the "Five Friendlies" this past Friday, mascots for the Beijing Olympics to be held in 2008. The unveiling of the stylized panda, swallow, Tibetan antelope, carp, and olympic flame took place in an elaborately staged event at a Beijing sports arena.

Celebrity actor/filmmaker Jackie Chan made a surprise appearance at the gala, and even claimed later that he had guessed the identities of 2 of the 5 - the panda and the Tibetan antelope - on a bet. Tsk tsk Mr. Chan.
The Clog Almanac wagers that betting isn't a friendly or sanctioned olympic activity.

The marketing blitz for the Five Friendlies includes postage stamps and over 300 other licensed products. Sales of these items began yesterday and are expected to produce hundreds of millions $US. The Beijing games are estimated to cost around 38 billion $US.
The Clog Almanac wonders if the mascots are more about money, and the marketing of China and Chinese patriotism than they are about the spirit of the games.

A promise to clean up the dismally unhealthy air pollution in Beijing was part of China's bid for the 2008 games. So far the promise is unfulfilled. As the 1000-day clock until the games ticks down, air pollution in Beijing is getting worse as coal-fired plants ramp up for the winter, and as an additional 1000 cars per day flood the streets of the capital. That's 1,000,000 more cars in Beijing by the time the Olympics begin.

The Clog Almanac has two bothersome questions about the Tibetan antelope mascot:
Did anyone ask the Tibetans beforehand if their antelope could be co-opted by the Chinese for the Beijing games? How much Olympic licensing money will Tibet see in the end?

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Gardener And The Boiled Peanuts

"There is no sadness at the coming of Autumn. All flags are flying at journey's end." - Anonymous

I breakfasted on boiled peanuts again. But I get ahead of myself.

Yesterday I planted some blooms to add color to the beds in front of the house. First, a multi-hued spate of pansies to soldier on as winter frosts dispatch the less hearty troops; then blue
Salvia to add a vertical component and for their lovely color; and Mexican heather (Cuphaea) for year-round color and perennial greenery. Last of all I put in some bold splashes of color: Vivid scarlet geraniums and yellow and orange tiger lilies.

This morning I went outside early to review my handywork and to make sure no possum or armadillo had rooted the new plants from the ground or trampled on their tender shoots. It was very cool outside and I got quite chilled (now come the peanuts).

Nothing warms the hands and soul like a big bowl of piping hot boiled peanuts. I bowed to this great Southern tradition and stood at the kitchen window shelling and eating them, and sharing the briny nuts with our 3-legged Corgi Fergus.

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Kurt Vonnegut 1998 Commencement Address

Yesterday was the birthday of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., our generation's Samuel Clemens, in my opinion. I occasionally revisit Vonnegut's 1998 Rice University commencement address to savor its wit and simple honesty. Its a short speech - enjoy it.

Mr. Vonnegut's website is well worth taking the time to visit. You can even buy a T-shirt or piece of original art.

The apocryphal MIT sunscreen speech was actually an article that appeared in the June 1, 1997 Chicago Tribune, authored by Mary Schmich.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Five "Friendlies" - Chinese Olympic Mascots

China unveiled its 5 *carefully* chosen 2008 Olympic mascots today, the "Five Friendlies".

One wonders if any of the mascots will be accused of being gay, like the British Teletubby Tinky Winky? I must admit that I've been extremely non-plussed by any of the recent cartoonish Olympic masocts to date. They just don't grab one's attention. At most they highlight cultural differences in tastes in a rather unproductive manner and detract from the spirit of the events.

Why have a mascot, period? No mascot has yet to garner international appeal, much less a spot in a widely syndicated cartoon series. Olympic mascots should go away quietly. That would be a very friendly international gesture.

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Giant Knuckleball (Meterorite) Unearthed in Kansas

Kansas, the state that IS flatter than a pancake, has produced a unique 1400-lb piece of rock from space. The meteorite, found 7 feet undergroud by space-rock sleuth Steven Arnold of Arkansas, is classified as an oriented pallasite, the 3rd largest of its kind ever found. These conical iron-nickle meteorites have crystals that are aligned because the fiery rock mass plunged through Earth's atmosphere without spinning or tumbling.

"Flies through the air without spinning or tumbling": That's a knuckleball, friends.

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SONY Suspends Antipiracy Measures For Now

Perhaps it was the outcry echoing around the blogosphere: SONY-BMG has agreed to suspend the inclusion on audio CD's of its controversial anti-piracy software that have proven to be a big burr under its corporate saddle and a boon to hackers.

Behold the power of blogs, again.

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Carlos Fuentes 1928 -

Today is Veterans' (Armistice) Day. It is also the birthday of Carlos Fuentes, the imaginative Latin-American author who is annually short-listed to receive the Nobel Prize for literature. Though he spent precious few years of his varied life in Mexico, he is considered a Mexican writer and a treasure.

Book collectors would do well to acquire pristine copies of his works. Surely they will appreciate when he is awarded the prize; and immediately upon his death.

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Nitty-Gritty of SONY Decloaking Patch - Warnings

This link-rich post, by Mark Russinovich is a now week old, but is now required reading for those who need to know the nitty-gritty about DRM files on SONY media and the ramifications of trying to reveal and get rid of the hidden junk they plant on the computer that runs them.

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Deep Links has a must-read article for those curious about the flap about Sony-BMG copy protection measures that can infect you computer with nasty pieces of hidden software. The article includes lists of specific CD's, and tips on recognizing labeling cues that indicate the files are present on a given CD.

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Natonal Geographic Unveils Fossil Godzilla

Who could have guessed that Godzilla was an ancient marine crocodile?

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Trojan Afoot Exploiting SONY-Bmg DRM Technology

The first trojan that exploits SONY's DRM technology has been discovered in the wild, reports The Register. Lots of comments over at Broadband Reports, which you might page through, if only to remind yourself of common/risable spelling errors on the geekweb.

Yes, there are lawsuits afoot as well, since you asked.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Life In The (Immigrant) 'Hood

The Wall Street Journal's online Opinion Journal ran this great article by Joel Kotkin that digs below the surface of the recent riots in France.

Kotkin discusses various aspects of the French socioeconomic system that underpin the unrest and despair in the immigrant banlieus: short work weeks, early pensioning, institutional welfare, tax burdens on young workers, lack of job creation, and emigration of skilled workers to the UK, Ireland, and the US, among others.

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