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Journal: SCO declares "Law of Gravity" void

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
The SCO Group intensified its war against Linux today, issuing this public statement:

The "law of gravity", for which Isaac Newton claimed credit, is in serious violation of our rights. Secret details hidden deep in our software will, if we ever choose to reveal them, prove that we own prior rights to this so-called "law."

Therefore, all parties making use of said "law of gravity" without paying compensation to SCO, are violating the US Constitution, as well as copyright, antitrust and export control laws.

Lawsuits against Isaac Newton and his heirs are in progress.

City officials in Newton, Massachusetts, and attorneys for Nabisco's Fig Newton division, acknowledged receipt for demands from SCO for unspecified damages.

Slashdot readers chose to look on the bright side. Said EnlightenmentFan, "If the law of gravity is uneforceable, I won't have to shell out money for airplane tickets."
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[Note: I thought fellow Slashdotters might enjoy this, from my blog.
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News

Journal: Right-wing millionaires warn of left-wing elites 8

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
Voters beware!--a powerful elite controls the media, forces its ugly values into the classroom, and sneers with disdain at the average working American. That's the big Republican meme these days. And who are the "elite" they hope voters will rise up against? (Hint--not the millionaires who run our country.)

We are the evil "elite." Young couples marching for peace with their babies in strollers. People of color sending kids to college. Four-eyed professors who drive rusting Volvos. People who don't get their news from Fox and their values from Rush Limbaugh.

When Democrats said the Bush tax cut was big for billionaires and lousy for most of us, Republicans were outraged. Bush called it "the typical class warfare rhetoric, trying to pit one group of people against another."

But pitting one group of people against another is almost a family value for the Right. Southern Democrats pioneered the trick, holding onto power by keeping blacks from voting and keeping whites afraid of voting by blacks. (Republicans try to be subtler with the white-versus-black trick.) The big thing now is promoting "family values", with the implied threat that if Democrats get elected your baby sister will star in lesbian porno.

When Pennsylvania's Sen. Rick Santorum compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery, many people were outraged by his effort to spread--and benefit from--division and hatred. Dean, Kerry, and Lieberman spoke out against it. Republicans saw the liberal outrage as a PR bonanza --"proof" that the left is elitist and anti-family:

Conservative Republicans, including former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, rallied to Santorum's defense. 'I think that while some elites may be upset by those comments, they're pretty much in the mainstream of where most of the country is,' Bauer said.

In the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto gloated the Democrats' reaction could cost them votes:

Many Americans have deeply held religious or moral objections to homosexuality, and it would not be unreasonable for them to take the Democrats' attack on Santorum as an attack on their own values.

So, in conclusion

  • It is evil, divisive, unAmerican class warfare for economists to point out that the Bush tax cuts benefit billionaires.
  • It is noble and heartfelt to assert that American family life will be destroyed unless the law forbids "bad" sex between consulting adults.
  • And the "left-wing intellectuals," the "self-styled experts," the "Hollywood elites" who think homosexuals should be treated like human beings--we will be painted as the real enemy of American voters.
User Journal

Journal: March 19: Replying to Bush's speech before he makes it

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
Mr. President; the war you have worked so hard for has begun. Brave young soldiers are putting their lives on the line against Iraq. My heart goes out to them--and I am deeply grateful for their courage and dedication even though I oppose you, Mr. Bush.

You claim to believe in the God of Christianity. I claim not to believe in that God. And yet tonight I am praying for you to the God I do not believe in--just in case He exists. I pray that God, in the final judgment that you claim to believe in and I claim not to believe in, will not hold against you the torment and misery you have unleashed--that you and your advisors have spent great and concerted effort to unleash.

I am not praying for Saddam Hussein-- I am sure he is every evil thing you claim. But tonight I am praying for my countrymen, and for the Iraqis about to die in torment, and I am wishing that I believed in the God I am praying to.

User Journal

Journal: The War Over Iraq 2

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
The war against Iraq may or may not have terrible consequences. But the war over Iraq--the division of people into angry factions--that's terrible now, and shows no signs of getting better.

Who is a traitor? Who only cares about oil? Who secretly likes Saddam? Who doesn't care about innocent people dying? My guess is that very few partisans of either side fit such ugly stereotypes. But that doesn't stop the insults flying, back and forth, as if it made sense to reduce large groups of people to hideous cardboard caricatures. And in the vast echo chambers of partisan politics, well-meaning people are pushed into being more extreme, more angry.

I have strong feelings about war with Iraq. I'm sure you do too. Each of us is entitled to try to convince other people our thinking is right. We're entitled to feel frustrated if our arguments fail. We're also entitled to huddle with our friends--but we're wrong if we spend that time savoring our hatred of those who disagree.

If anyone wants to start a peace march to end the war over Iraq--I'll gladly join you.

User Journal

Journal: My almost-20-year-old cat Sylvester 1

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
Picture a pot-bellied penguin. Or maybe a fat old British clubman in tails. Add a generous white mustache, slightly askew, as if he's had tee much martooni. That's my cat Sylvester.

I first saw him 19 years ago, lying hopeless and sad in a tiny pet-shelter cage, so his "official" Valentine's Day birthday is a fiction. He was so timid when he came home with us that he hid behind the refrigerator for 5 hours. Now he is confident of welcome in any lap of any guest. Unfortunately, he has a special liking for laps that belong to allergic guests.

Oh, I wish he would start eating all of his dinners and all of his breakfasts again. Today alone he has been offered 1) catfood, 2) chicken, and 3) a usual fail-safe, pate. He just doesn't want it. So often these days he just doesn't want it. He has been in our family so long, and he still seems so happy aside from not wanting to eat. Forgive me for posting this, but I did try to warn you with the title.

User Journal

Journal: Does my immoderate lifestyle block Moderation? 26

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
I never get mod points, though my karma is Excellent (aw shucks). Heliocentric says /. disapproves of users who "load the site" by checking out the front page too often. I admit to checking it out maybe 10 times a day...

Thinking about why this is, I realized that my life is a little strange. I check email at my kitchen computer before I even make coffee--love those wireless networks. When it's about time for bed, my husband and I are hollering to each other from our respective studies, where each of us is sitting in front of--you guessed it--a computer. Yes, we do take breaks for life, family, even non-computer-moderated fun.

But the computer is not just our work life--it's a big part of the fun we have and the ideas we share with each other.

Anyway, one of my ideas of a break from work is checking to see if something interesting is up on Slashdot. I didn't realize this might be a bad thing...I'm not one of those guys who think up funny ways to yell "fp"! (Though I get a chuckle out of reading their posts.)

One other bad thing I might be doing--I usually check out the "Messages" about friends journals before reading any news stories. In fact, by the time I've read and responded to journals, I am often hearing that little voice say "Get back to work" and I end up just skimming the titles of stories and not reading any.

Anyway, I really like living the life I do, and I don't see changing it to get mod points.

The Media

Journal: Astroturf: Good, bad, and ugly

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
There are two kinds of organized mailings, both called "Astroturf" because they imitate grassroots support.Both kinds involve lots of folks sending on a form letter they got from some group they support. But one kind is meant to be informative, the other is meant to be deceptive.

Informative astroturf sends a lot of the same form letters to some politician so that politician can count up how many people support the point of view.

Deceptive astroturf disguises its form letter as a personal, heartfelt opinion, sending one copy (each signed by a different person) to each of many newspapers or individuals. The recipients aren't meant to guess they are reading a PR firm's carefully-worded message. Propagandists call this way of disarming suspicion the "Plain Folks" effect.

There's a very big irony in the recent exposure of deceptive Republican astroturf by bloggers and by Mike Magee at the Inquirer.

The irony is the Bush team is sending out astroturf with intent to deceive--after denouncing and refusing to consider more than 700,000 messages sent to them in an open, appropriate way by members of environmental groups--because they were form letters and not "original."

Check out this New York times story, sent to me by my environmentally-friendly daughter Mickey. Registration (free) is required, so let me just quote for you the astroturf-relevant bit:

"... the [Clinton-era] Forest Service actually relied on public comment when it developed its "roadless rule," intended to protect 58 million acres of undeveloped national forest from most commercial logging and road building. It drew 1.6 million comments, the most ever in the history of federal rule-making. Almost all the comments -- 95 percent -- supported the protections but wanted the plan to go even further, which it eventually did.

But the Bush administration delayed putting the rule into effect and sought more comments, receiving 726,000. Of those, it said that only 52,000, or 7 percent, were "original," meaning that the administration discounted 93 percent of the comments. The rule is now being challenged in court."

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Update: Paul Boutin's excellent blog just got updated with links to deceptive astroturf online as far back as October. Meanwhile, Mike Magee got in trouble and issued a funny apology for referring to these mass-mailings as "spam." Really, Mike, just because they are mass-produced mailings with intentionally deceptive statements of origin...

The Media

Journal: Bloggers and Google "out" astroturf 5

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
In the language of propaganda, it's called the "Just Plain Folks" effect. Letters to the editor, signed by a real person from a home town near you, have a certain down-home credibility--and don't PR moguls know how to play that tune!

Too bad for those moguls--bloggers with Google just leveled the playing field!

The blogs got the story first, and the first news article was Mike Magee's in The Inquirer. Running a Google search turns up 31 identical letters praising the latest Bush tax cuts in identical language. Every single one denounces Democrats' "class warfare rhetoric"; every single one praises Bush for "genuine leadership." Of course, that count misses newspapers whose letters to the editor don't appear online. Could this be one enthusiastic person sending out a lot of letters? If so, it's hard to see why that letter got signed with 31 different names.

Magee's article hints at a spam-generating engine run by the Republican National Committee. Yup, he got that in one. I invite you to try your own experiment. Go over and sign up as a potential "team leader," then check out the form email letter they want you to send. Well, dog my cats, it is identical to the letter bloggers have noticed turning up in papers from Boston to Galveston.*

The blog world caught on last month to a similar scam. Last month's mass-produced letter got into 34 online papers, according to ME Cowan. These letters identically celebrated Republican success in the 2002 elections by praising "the historic majorities achieved by President Bush and Republicans" and lamenting that Bush initiatives had been "stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate."

Shooting down well-financed-fakers is exactly the kind of stuff we all hoped the Internet would help us do. Woo hoo!

* p.s. Magee's latest article includes a screenshot of the HTML form that generates this letter.

The Media

Journal: Rants, damned rants, and the "War on Terror" 4

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
Let's start with some personal disclaimers. I am American, lifelong Democrat, former student activist, blah, blah, blah. I am outraged by the way Bush's crew is pushing my good-natured, powerful country away toward militarism and away from its former goals of social justice. I hope that my fellow-Democrats will quit trying to act like Republicans long enough to kick those fat privileged buttheads out in the next election.

Even so...I was far from pleased when a London friend sent me that John le Carre piece so that I could understand "what Europe is thinking." LeCarre starts by announcing "The United States has gone mad" and becomes more spiteful and condescending as he goes on. I have to say, my first reaction was "If this is what Europe thinks, they can piss up a rope."

So I stupidly got into an email debate with my friend, sending her a link to the Lileks response just as intemperate as LeCarre but containing a few more facts. And I got back a forwarded letter from Michael Moore citing the half-million dead Iraqi babies (Osama claimed it was a million) the US personally caused via embargo.

What struck me in all of this is how pundits on both sides are preaching to the converted. Each side has its own little prize factoids, and (since neither side is listening to the other) nobody on side A gets to hear that side B disputes those sacred factoids.

Wouldn't it be useful if side A would talk to side B in measured, rational terms, aimed at convincing side B that side A has useful information B should consider? Does it ever occur to side A that, much as its own partisans enjoy hearing side B denounced as idiotic liars, the only way to change anyone's mind is to speak in terms side B is willing to listen to?

Here are some of the lies that keep getting repeated as truths. This is not a complete list--god, I don't have that much time to waste--both sides are guilty in this!

  • From the left: Half a million dead Iraqi babies (Osama claimed it was a million)
    Long, detailed, and closely annotated, this March 2002 refutal contends that sanctions may be responsible for an excess mortality of 100,000 Iraqis of all ages in the ten or so years since the Gulf War. The author (Matt Welch) claims that similar refutals appeared in Slate, The Guardian, and even The Nation.
  • From the anti-Israel left: 4,000 Jews stayed home from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
    This story blaming Israel for 9/11 got wide circulation, and even made its way into a poem by New Jersey's poet laureate. It just ain't so. Not to mention that this claim doesn't fit very well with Bin Laden's proud claim of credit for the attacks....
  • From the right: Iraqi soldiers dumped Kuwaiti infants from incubators during Gulf War I.
    This fabricated lie, widely disseminated by PR agency Hill and Knowlton, was cited by both Bushes as evidence of Iraqi evil. Fact: not one hospital can corroborate this touching story, provided to the press by a single tearful girl, whose anonymity hid the fact that she had no Kuwaiti hospital experience, but was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US.
  • All too true: That recent Onion article "Bush on North Korea: 'We must invade Iraq' "
Spam

Journal: Spam, phone spam, and "wasting time" in the public interest 4

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
My hat is off to those who spend time stopping spammers, or making trouble for misleading telemarketing companies. But I don't think everybody who gets a spam email or call is morally obliged to drop everything and go after the perpetrator.

Ideally, better laws will shut these parasites down. It took a century to stop factories from pouring toxic waste into rivers, and even longer to stop cities doing the same thing with untreated sewage.

On Sunday, I was heading toward NH to have lunch with my brother when I saw a dazed driver wandering out into Route 93 from his newly-smashed car. In a situation like that, nobody would complain about "wasting time" to lend a hand. The problem was clear, what I could do about it was clear, and the stakes were very high. If spam were like that I wouldn't whine about wasting my time to stop it. But as it is, I just delete the ads for Viagra and horny teen farmgirls, or hang up on the autodialer, or reply to "How are _you_ today?" with "Please put me on your don't-call-list."

Yes, I did get the guy off the road, eventually, but I was darn glad when the ambulance arrived to take over.

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal: Two Towers, LOTR, and funny stuff 2

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
Just saw TTT for the second time. Wow.

Peter Jackson has messed some stuff up--Faramir is a jerk who kidnaps Frodo? The ents carefully decide not to go to war and then go anyway? I thought the dwarf-tossing bit and the Legolas-surfs-down-the-stairs* were jarring. Even so, I think Jackson has created a major work of cinema magic. It was magic for me anyway--of course, YMMV.

Here are three of my favorite, somewhat-related funny websites

  • Props to Josh Greenman, Nick Nadel and Jason Weiner and Modern Humorist for the ultimate LOTR DVD set to die for. I especially want to hear those extra commentary tracks from "foam technician Ray Massa" and "some European guy who once bought one of Viggo Mortensen's paintings."
  • Saruman's diary, cheerfully embroiders on the Tolkien saga to give you the bad wizard's POV on the Ent siege of Isengard. "I fear I drank too heavily, and spent a large part of the night (at least, the part I can remember) tracing the lines on the floor with my fingers. I've spent most of the day with a desperate hangover."
  • If you are still tempted to follow in Saruman's evil footsteps, check out Peter Anspach's list of 100 tips for the evil-overlord career. Not just for LOTR fans--this list contains much advice that may also be useful on the BOFH career path, for example # 7:
    When I've captured my adversary and he says, 'Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?' I'll say, 'No.' and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say 'No.' "

Are there links I should have included but didn't?

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* Funny, because I thought the special effects horse-mount Legolas did was cool.

Toys

Journal: Reuters, CNN swallow Segway/Amazon press release

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
CNN just published as a front page story this Amazon press release. Reuters must not employ any of those hard-driving investigative reporters we loved in old 30s movies.

For example the "story" "reports"

  • "pre-orders already place the high-tech scooter in the top half percent of sales" Yeah? Each Segway costs $5000, while the average Amazon item costs maybe $50. So if Amazon sells 100 Segways in a month, it's in the same percentile as a book that sold 10,000 copies in the same month--that's pretty impressive sales for a book, pretty lousy sales for an item that got the publicity buzz Segway did.
  • "It's selling better than many of our digital cameras" Yeah? And is Amazon the only retailer selling digital cameras, the way it is the only retailer selling Segways? In fact, do you know anybody who would go to Amazon to buy a digital camera?
  • "Frazier declined to provide actual pre-sale numbers" I am sure the carefully phrased hype provided is much closer to what CNN readers care about.

What got left out of the "news story" is also interesting. There is no mention of the financial stake that Amazon has in pumping up Segway sales by releasing phony hype aimed at making the product look more popular than it is.

Some local Clark Kent did inject one note of reality in the final sentence: "in San Francisco a debate is raging over whether the human transporter should be allowed on that city's streets. " That debate stopped raging a week ago. According to the Dec. 20 SF Chronicle , after extensive public discussion 9 of 11 supervisors have voted to ban the Segway, enough to overturn the mayor's veto if he decides to try one.

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal: Good advice from...Microsoft? Ho ho ho!

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
Have you even given somebody "the gift from hell"? No, I don't mean re-formatting your mom's hard disk by mistake, I mean (for example) giving your nicely-rounded Aunt Lou an autographed copy of _Buns of Steel_. It seemed to you like such a thoughtful gift--until she opened it in front of everyone and then-- why did she run out of the living room crying? We nerds often end up asking questions like this.

Anyway, there is actually some intelligent but funny advice at MSN (shudder)

Boy, I wouldn't dare post news like that outside my journal.

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal: Social life for nerds: the missing manual 10

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
It amazes me to see wizards at Java, Perl, and Unix who cower like tiny forest creatures when faced with a chance to make friends or get a date. So bring your magic wand over here and get ready to learn some new spells.

1) You're not in junior high school any more. You are in a big world with people of many ages, many interests, and many sexual orientations. Most of these people don't know that you puked on the teacher's shoes in first grade, so you get to start fresh with at least some of them. (If you are in junior high school, my list won't help you. You are in hell, my friend, so stay clear of the bullies and make friends with your computer. Life does get better.)

2) Social skills are learnable and doable. You wouldn't expect to learn Microsoft Foundation Classes without a book--would you? To become a Certified Nerd Social Success, plan for some reading, some practice--and some failures.

3) Most advice books, like most other books, are crap. The library is better than the bookstore for finding good ones. Steven Covey (7 Habits of Highly Successful People) is good. The Harvard Negotiation Project guys (Getting to Yes, Difficult Conversations) are good.

4) If you want people to be interested in you, be interested in them. If someone is talking to you, don't sit there thinking, "I hope she likes me--do my armpits stink?" Listen to people, think about why they are saying what they are saying, ask questions, and think about what you want to say yourself.

5) Common interests help get relationships started--but to make relationships grow, the main thing is time spent together. If you feel isolated, get involved in a long-term collaborative project with other people who interest you. For example, work on the website of some interesting group or help out at a local school. (This is also a good way to troll for a job.)

6) Get other people involved in interesting stuff you do by asking for their advice. Find out what they are good at and ask them to tell you more about it.

7) When someone hurts you, expect your inner troll to yell, "That hateful jerk is hurting you on purpose!" or "You hopeless creep, nobody will ever like you!" Stay calm, think of kinder possibilities, go to a cheerful movie--and try again. Relationships are like puppies. If a puppy pees on the rug, you don't shoot it and hope for a better puppy some day--at least, not if you hope to end up with a long-term, lovable dog.

8) You, as a nerd, are an interesting person with a lot of abilities and a lot of cool stories to tell. You are exactly the friend or lover some people are looking for, so throw back your shoulders, take a deep breath, and get ready to help them find you.

9) While you've got your shoulders thrown back and your chest full of air, take a look in the mirror. Tell yourself, because it's true, that the zit on your nose or the 50 pounds you've been meaning to lose will not make a bit of difference to the right person. But in finding that person, you want to look clean and confident. Wearing a crumpled shirt from the laundry bag tells people, "I'm not worth much to myself." You are worth a lot, so look as if you thought so.

10) Go get 'em, wizard!

Any of you other nerds want to join me in giving advice to our younger brethren?

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal: Genius inventor of death ray has been kidnapped!

Journal by EnlightenmentFan
If you do a search thru imdb.com for "kidnap" in a plot, you find literally thousands of movies, but very few where bad guys kidnap one of us nerds. Much more often, a nerd kidnaps someone else.

So here I am, an hour of "research" later. (Research is what you get to call googling if you intend to write about fictional scientists kidnapped by evil dudes.) Figuring that you who read my journal may be as crazy as I am, here are some movies etc. that share this theme.

The Powerpuff Girls - Powerpuff Bluff (Price: $11.99) ...In "Mr. Mojo's Rising," the girls must rescue the professor when he is kidnapped by an evil megabrained monkey.
(http://power-puff-girls.8m.com/video.html)

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"Clash At Demonhead" (Nintendo Entertainment System)
The storyline is that there's a brilliant professor who has figured out how to make a doomsday bomb capable on incinerating the whole planet. Aliens kidnap him and, as the professor explains when you rescue him, placed him under a hypnotic spell to force him to develop a working version of the doomsday bomb. (http://www.hypnosisinmedia.com/Miscellaneous/ComputerGames/)

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>in Wild Wild West -- didn't somebody kidnap Salma Hayek's father, who later turned out to be her husband...?

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Crystal Hunt(1992)
Stunning martial arts fights highlight this rip-roarer in which a woman hires a noted professor to help find a crystal which can heal her ailing gangster father. When the professor is kidnapped, she joins forces with a policewoman and her associate to find him. Carrie Ng, Sibelle Hu and Donnie Yen star. 90 min. Dubbed in English.
(http://www.moviesunlimited.com/musite/product.asp?sku=539965)

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Three kidnapped geniuses on same webpage! (http://www.videos.net/marketplace/cl_serials.htm)
Manhunt Of Mystery Island (1945/15 episodes)
The inventor of a scientific breakthrough that could end the world's energy crisis has been kidnapped. (219 m.) K-NT2637 - $29.98

The Clutching Hand (1936/15 chapters).
Scientist with formula for synthetic gold is mysteriously kidnapped. K-UE1729 - $29.95

King Of The Texas Rangers (1941/12 chapters)
Saboteurs go after top secret formula. (195 m.) K-NT2199

/////Anarchy Online [massively multiplayer online rpg] plot twist (http://www.anarchy-online.com/content/story/present/articles/omnitek/old/kidnapped.html)
Prominent Omni-Tek Scientist Kidnapped: In a brutal attack last week, Dr. Jameson Helbron was abducted from a secret laboratory, deep in the hills of Clondyke. .Omni-Pol is optimistic that Dr. Helbron will not be harmed, as one official said, "By the way the clanners attacked, it is clear to us that they wanted Dr. Helbron alive. No body was found at the scene and the doctor did not appear at the terminal that contained his insurance data."

I like the plot with the evil megabrained monkey. Too bad I already have a /. alias.

It is easier to write an incorrect program than understand a correct one.

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