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Comment Bomb Threat at Bomb Drill (Score 1) 186

Actually, the HHG0A was ideal. Sucker the bomb squad in, make them think it's a false alarm and then kill them as they stand around the HHGOA laughing.

Years ago, there was a mass casualty drill at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Near the end of the drill, someone put a large bag in the decon area. I don't know if this was something the Feds did as part of the drill or if someone just left a bag in the wrong place.

Someone attempted to declare an emergency and cordon off the area. By that point, most people were exhausted and sick of the drill--and they simply ignored the cordon. The drill fell apart at that point. They "knew" it wasn't a bomb.

I was cold, soaked from d-con and only wearing a pair of swim trunks when I walked past the suspicious bag. I remember thinking that if someone had wanted to kill a whole lot of EMS, police and fire (even most of the victims were off-duty public safety), a bomb in that bag would have done it. And at that point, I didn't care.

That's exactly the sort of stuff that gets you hurt or killed.

I'm in a new line of work now.

Comment Re:Wouldn't it be crazy... (Score 3, Interesting) 110

I did a calculation a while back, assuming that the rule of thumb on earth held on Titan: reaction rates drop 50% for 10 degree drop in temperature. Using an estimate for the time required to develop life on Earth, the calc indicated it would be unlikely to have developed on Titan within the lifetime of the universe.

Of course, there are quite a few problems with that analysis:
  1. Different chemical system might make the reaction rate different.
  2. That's a long way to push a law that obviously fails at the freezing temp of water.
  3. If life formed on Earth much sooner than the estimate I used, again the number might be off.

Then again, what would be the information molecule? DNA is a polymer with subunits that can encode information. There aren't a lot of methane-soluble polymers that would make for good information storage.

Then again, maybe I'm not thinking outside the box and something radically different would be used.

Life on Titan is unlikely, but I think we'd be making a big mistake assuming it's impossible.


Submission + - Hydrocarbon Rain Swells Titan's Lakes (

Rob Carr writes: "According to the Cassini team, 'Recent images of Titan from NASA's Cassini spacecraft affirm the presence of lakes of liquid hydrocarbons by capturing changes in the lakes brought on by rainfall.' The northern lakes are now larger following a period where hydrocarbon clouds covered their skies. This change adds to the evidence these areas are indeed hydrocarbon lakes. But this discovery raises several more questions: where is the methane in the atmosphere coming from and, how long can this complex hydrocarbon cycle on Titan go on? The new evidence emphasizes the need for another mission to Titan."

Comment Re:They could also tell a lot about (Score 1) 62

  1. Not all environments provide unlimited food at all times. Don't forget, in Australia, parrots are often considered agricultural pests. Until significant farming took place, they didn't have such an availability of food as they do now. Macaws in the Amazon have to eat clay to be able to deal with the toxins in their environment. Picking undigested food out of their poop may provide an advantage, the clay having leached many of the toxins out already.
  2. Many parrots are ground birds (African greys have a digging instinct that's hysterical) or live in such large groups that poop is unavoidable (budgerigars).
  3. Our African greys are fastidious about their poop, although they're surprisingly fond of getting their poop on other birds or humans (my grey targets me--never does it to my wife, of whom she's jealous.
  4. There are significant variations between individual birds, various species,health and possibly even "pecking order" in the flock.

Note: If you own a pet bird, cleanliness of the bird and the bird's environment is very important. In this discussion, I've mixed a combination of wild behaviors with what parrots often instinctively do in captivity. Poop does provide healthy bacteria, but it can also provide a vector for diseases. Except for rare cases like treatment with powerful antibiotics or hand-feeding from day 1, keep all dirt to a minimum to keep your parrot and you healthy.

Comment Re:They could also tell a lot about (Score 1) 62

Our two African greys don't seem to like regular TV. They may need HD, too.

The cockatoo loves TV. He will watch Barney the dinosaur until my eyes and ears bleed, and hates raptors on Animal Planet. Strangely, he likes Corwin Presents, except for that episode with the anaconda.

He hates the weather channel, too, but he was rescued Hurricane Andrew. Not a fan of big winds.

Comment Re:They could also tell a lot about (Score 4, Interesting) 62

Parrots can engage in corporophagia--they eat parrot poop. If they didn't digest the food completely the first time, they'll get it the second. Their guts are short so their food has a short residence time. The things you do for flight!

It's also how they spread good intestinal bacteria among the flock. If we are forced to hand-feed a parrot chick from day one, we mix some of the mother's feces in the formula for the first week or so. Survival rate improves dramatically, although feeding a bird the size of your little fingernail is still iffy (parakeets and bourkes).

If the recent information on termites is correct, sharing feces may be one strategy for forming societies.

Finally, if you really want to get freaked out, read about treating intestinal infections with feces transplants.

Comment Nothing new, IMHO. (Score 4, Insightful) 95

That works out to five articles a day. Most journalists spend days or weeks on one article, doing research and interviews, if needed. A person banging out five a day won't have time to do anything else (kiss the marriage goodbye, if applicable).

I don't see how a person can do five a day, and have some semblance of quality content, unless they are very knowledgeable and can produce fresh articles every time, in which case they could most likely get a position with one of the print publications. The people being hired are 'bloggers, and most 'bloggers are not professional journalists. I know, I 'blog :) A very small percentage of 'bloggers are what I would consider professional, IMHO.

Another aspect is the pay. A person submits 150 articles a month, for $1000.00. That works out to $6.66 an article. What is the salary for a writer over at the Post, or Times? At that pay rate, dinner will either be beans and rice, or rice and beans, every night.

Most topics of discussion are news driven. I can check the referring search terms in Chatmag, and tell what's hot by the number of hits to a particular term. Keeping up with the hot topics is not an easy task, and in some cases, it takes some guesswork to determine what will be hot in order to provide links to those discussions. They can pay for articles, but will they be something people want to see, or just take up server HD space?

According to Alexa, has 1% of total viewers to Still a large amount of eyeballs on pages, but will it work in the long run, I doubt it.

This whole thing is another example of Web 2.0 mania. What is it they are trying to do? Create an article and open it for discussion. That is being done now, in hundreds of thousands of discussion forums. The format is slightly changed, rather than posting a topic and commenting, a short article is created, and discussed. There is little difference between the two, and in the end produces the same result. Nothing new has been invented.

Comment Re:Architect or Alchemist (Score 1) 308

Your last sentence is key.
Historically choice was a fiction. You did what you were born to do. In the peasant world the 'geeks' would have been those lucky enough to be guildmen.

Even then your life and livelihood was totally dependent on the whim of inbred nobility and their ability to control the mercenary companies in the region. Even the mercenaries may have been once "free men" pressed into service at one time or another.

You did what you did to survive. The notion of choice is a modern conceit.

If I could choose I would choose to be king.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Vigilante Web Site

Vigilante Web Site harming legitimate law enforcement efforts to stop online predators. Chatmag opposes "vigilante" site.

The web site which purports to "out" predators of underage children hampers law enforcement efforts to track down online predators.

Journal Journal: Rejected Article: Gaggle Sues Google 2

According to articles on the Prague Post and MSN's Money Central, American Blind, AXA, Geico, L.L. Bean, and Louis Vuitton are suing Google over keywords that produce advertisements on a Google search page. The paid advertisements do not change the results of the search, but they do result in advertisements placed on the boarder of the search
User Journal

Journal Journal: Contacting SPEWS

We've posted our opinion regarding the Administrator of SPEWS. Contact information for Terry Gilsenan is available by Whois or

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