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December 28, 2005
December 27, 2005
Again: What we’ve become
Posted by Patrick at 10:50 PM * 90 comments

From the Chicago Tribune (free reg. required; article reproduced for free here):

A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records.

The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they’re in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry’s biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.

Lining up on the opposite side of the defense industry are some human-trafficking experts who say significant aspects of the Pentagon’s proposed policy might actually do more harm than good unless they’re changed. These experts have told the Pentagon that the policy would merely formalize practices that have allowed contractors working overseas to escape punishment for involvement in trafficking, the records show.

Found on MetaFilter. As MeFi commenter “delmoi” remarked, “I’m sorry, this is just hilarious. Kidnapping, then torture, then domestic wiretapping, and now slavery? I’m agog. What’s next, cannibalism?”

I was trying to find a good link to demonstrate that the connection between imperial overreach and human trafficking isn’t exclusively a Bush administration thing, but somehow my heart isn’t in it.

Reality check
Posted by Patrick at 10:22 PM * 141 comments

So I’m googling on strings like “human trafficking” and “Balkans,” trying to piece together a better understanding of the NATO/prostitution scandals of the late 1990s, and Google sends me to this thread on Obsidian Wings, which (as is often the case) is full of awfully good stuff, and someone called “Doug M.” is criticizing OW contributor Hilzoy for giving (in his opinion) a false impression of current conditions in the Marianas, and Hilzoy says you’re right, I should have clarified that, and Doug M. says

Hilzoy, thank you very much. This is the difference between you and, say, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Kudos.

What the foo? Who is Doug M., and why is he slagging me off?

So I search Making Light’s own database and find that “Doug M.” has commented four times over here, all to this thread. Where, in fact, he appears to have started by adding some useful nuance to the discussion, but what really seems to have set him off is that I didn’t come back to the discussion to say yes, you’re right, fair point, guv, I should have been clearer about that.

I also didn’t disagree with him. In fact, I didn’t say anything because I got busy with other life stuff and didn’t actually keep up with the thread. Yes, there it is, The Awful Truth: I don’t actually always manage to read EVERY SINGLE WORD posted to Making Light’s comment section in a timely fashion. Pause for gasp of shock. Pause over.

Doug M.’s final post over here:

Compare and contrast: Hilzoy over at Obsidian Wings posted on this exact same issue. I made much the same points in the comments threads, providing links as I have here.

Hilzoy posted an update noting that things had indeed improved in the NMI, and that her outrage was directed at DeLay’s defense of sweatshop conditions back in the ’90s.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen over here.

There are people on both sides of the aisle who’ve become outrage junkies. Saying “it’s more complicated than that” to those people—on either side—just annoys them; they don’t want things to be complicated, they want their hit of indignation and rage.

Right. Because I DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING WHATSOEVER, it’s fair for Doug M. to attribute to me a set of views and attitudes that, actually, he pulled out of his ass. Views which—let’s be clear—he made up. Views which I don’t hold. Fantasies that he invented.

Also, because I got behind on a 192-message comment thread, it’s reasonable to go slagging me off on other blogs as a Bad Example. Not because I disagreed with Doug M., or said a single critical word—but because I didn’t show up quickly enough to pat him on the head.

Not to put too fine a point on it, somebody here is being a twit, and I don’t think it’s me.

December 26, 2005
Stuffed Squash Deseret
Posted by Teresa at 07:15 AM * 80 comments

Christmas dinner yesterday (glazed ham, two veg., green salad, mince pie) was bizarre: dinner was ready well ahead of schedule, and everything came off perfectly. That included the improvisation du jour: cooking the stove-top stuffing mix inside the acorn squash, a dish that’s very much in the style of la cuisine de Nouvelle Zion.

On the one hand, it’s sort of depraved: stove-top stuffing mix? On the other hand, it’s easy, it’s tasty, it doesn’t dirty a lot of dishes, it makes a nice presentation, and it’s blessedly tolerant: you can leave it on hold between steps whenever you need to deal with some other bit of cooking.
Stuffed Squash Deseret

1 fair-sized acorn squash
1 six-ounce box of cornbread stovetop stuffing mix
1/4 C. butter or margarine
waxed paper

1. Wash the squash. Plonk a few discreet holes in it so it won’t explode. Put it in the microwave and nuke it, perhaps turning it over once or twice, until it softens up a bit. (If it suddenly starts looking bigger and rounder, stop immediately, and give it a few minutes to settle down before cutting into it.)

2. Slice the squash in half from nose to tail. Scoop out all the seeds. Wrap each half in waxed paper, and continue nuking until they’re imaginably edible, but still a bit stiff.

3. Put the stuffing mix in a bowl. Boil the amount of water specified on the package, melt the butter or margarine into it, and pour it over the mix. Stir briefly. When the stuffing is cool enough to handle, pack it into the squash halves, mounding it up over the entire top of the half-squash. Wrap waxed paper around each squash-and-stuffing module and return it to the microwave.

4. Keep nuking until the squash halves are pleasantly soft. Turn off the oven and let them sit until you’re ready to serve dinner.

5. Carefully remove the waxed paper. You can cut each half lengthwise, yielding four substantial wedges of squash-and-stuffing, or slice them into smaller portions as desired, as long as they’re not so small that the components fall apart.
If there are only two of you, eat the other half-squash for brunch on Boxing Day.

I’m thinking it ought to be possible to take the lid off and scoop out one of the larger winter squashes, and use it to bake a stuffing mixture (not instant stuffing, it’d go to mush) when you’re cooking a cut of meat that doesn’t have a body cavity.

[Recipe Index]

December 24, 2005
Christmas, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 11:54 PM *

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, �Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.�

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.�

Luke 2:10
Posted by Patrick at 10:26 PM * 12 comments

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor.
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

ADDENDUM: Hallelujah.

Keeping Body and Soul together
Posted by Patrick at 01:40 PM * 2 comments

The pseudonymous “Jeanne D’Arc” of Body and Soul has been one of the more thoughtful blog writers over the last several years. Now she’s facing tough times keeping the blog going. Like several dozen others, I said if she put up a donations link we’d link to it. She’s relented and done so. If you can spare a few bucks, drop some on her; she’s one we’d miss if she went silent.

In which we are reduced to memes
Posted by Patrick at 12:30 PM * 146 comments

Resistance is useless.

Four jobs you’ve had in your life: day laborer; punchcard-database operator; open-air-market stained-glass seller; science fiction and fantasy book editor

Four movies you could watch over and over: The Wind and the Lion; The Secret of Roan Inish; Raising Arizona; Richard Lester’s Three and Four Musketeers (which is one movie, really)

Four places you’ve lived: Scottsdale; Toronto, Seattle, New York

Four TV shows you love to watch: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; Veronica Mars; Trauma: Life in the ER; any documentary written by Terry Jones

Four places you’ve been on vacation: Mexico City; Tucson; Vermont; Skye

Four websites you visit daily: Unqualified Offerings; Hullabaloo; The Sideshow; Firedoglake

Four of your favorite foods: Caviar; heirloom tomatoes; blue cheese; toast

Four places you’d rather be: London; Scotland; Rome; Istanbul


Okay, okay, as long as it doesn’t have to be the top four of anything, here’s the TNH list:

Four jobs you’ve had in your life: fast-food slavey;* Assistant to the Director of Programs, Council on Foreign Relations; IBM 1110 input-output operator; Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and Early Modern English proofreader

Four movies you could watch over and over: Chushingura (the four-hour version), Black Hawk Down, The Way Things Go, Steve Brust’s edit of Tombstone

Four places you’ve lived: Mesa, AZ; Cambridge, MA; Toronto; Brooklyn

Four TV shows you love to watch: Junkyard Wars; Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; Trauma: Life in the ER; any documentary by Terry Jones or Ken Burns

Four places you’ve been on vacation: Scotland, Canyon de Chelly, Cape Cod, Gettysburg

Four websites you visit daily: Google, Wikipedia, Gmail, Amazon

Four of your favorite foods: citrus, broccoli, roast pork tenderloin, dead-fresh pecans

Four places you’d rather be: Sector General; Tuscany; Valabar’s; behind the wheel of my ‘88 Honda Civic Hatchback, going anywhere

December 22, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 02:33 PM * 51 comments

Random joy: the most physically beautiful commercial I’ve ever seen. Director Nicolai Fuglsig made it for SONY Bravia. There are no special effects. What they did was set up a bunch of cameras, and then, on a sunny day, send 250,000 brightly colored superballs bouncing down the hilly streets of an old San Francisco neighborhood.

There’s 60-second version available in high res and low res, and a 180-second extended version that’s likewise available in high res and low res. I highly recommend the high-res extended version.

What are they advertising? Next-generation television technology. At the end, you get a one-line message: Colour like no other. I’d say they make their point.

December 21, 2005
Oathbreakers, Why Have Ye Come?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:16 AM *

First, the oath of office of the President of the United States:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Next, from the Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution:

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

On its face, President Bush’s domestic spying program, established by him in 2002 and renewed by him at least 30 times since, is unconstitutional. How long does Bush intend to carry it out? As long as Americans are endangered by terrorism. That is to say, forever.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

WASHINGTON — From a standoff over the Patriot Act to pushback from Capitol Hill on the treatment of detainees, secret prisons abroad, and government eavesdropping at home, tensions between the Bush White House and the Republican-controlled Congress have never been more exposed.

Much of the rift is over the exercise of executive power. Some lawmakers oppose the president on the values involved in harsh interrogation of terror suspects. Others are riled that they were left out of the intelligence loop.

Even Republicans who favor renewing the Patriot Act were blindsided by news Friday, later confirmed, that President Bush had authorized secret eavesdropping on international communications from people in the US with ties to terrorists.

“It’s inexcusable … clearly and categorically wrong,” says Sen. Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania, who was not among the congressional leaders Mr. Bush says had been briefed on the program. Senator Specter promises that the Judiciary Committee he chairs will hold hearings on domestic spying by the National Security Agency in the new year.

“We’ll look at what they did, whose conversations they listened to, what they did with the material, and what purported justification there was for it,” he adds.

The objection isn’t that Bush is carrying out electronic surveillance on Americans. The objection is that he isn’t bothering to seek a warrant. The standard, tired, Republican come-back, “Clinton did it too!” is a proven lie.

Congress isn’t happy with the whole thing:

“I believe the Congress — as a coequal branch of government — must immediately and expeditiously review the use of this practice,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine.

Snowe joined three other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel, in calling for a joint inquiry by the Senate judiciary and intelligence committees.

Bush and his top advisers have suggested senior congressional leaders vetted the program in more than a dozen highly classified briefings. Several Democrats agreed said they were told of the program, but did not know the full details and had concerns.

West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, on Monday released a letter he wrote to Cheney in July 2003 that, given the program’s secrecy, he was “unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities.”

Why not seek warrants? Perhaps because no court would grant them. We’ve seen these abuses in the past: Wiretaps on civil rights leaders, political opponents, anti-war protesters. That’s what the Church Committee found. That’s what the FISAC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court), a secret court whose purpose is to grant warrants for just such wiretaps as Bush claims he wants, was established to prevent. We know that not all those unwarranted wiretaps were against overseas communications involving foreign nationals: Purely domestic calls were intercepted too.

Today’s news is that one of the judges (U.S. District Judge James Robertson) on that secret court has resigned in protest.

Dick “Vice President for Torture” Cheney and Alberto “Cell Without A Number, Prisoner Without A Name” Gonzales like the program. They also like holding US citizens incommunicado, without charges and without counsel, for years. The excuse that “time is of the essence” in getting unwarranted phone taps is false: Under current law the President would have 72 hours retroactively to seek a warrant. All he’d need is a few signatures, and there’s no reason to believe that he couldn’t get them if the requests were even marginally legitimate.

Even the right wing is in an uproar. The Chicago Tribune, under the headline “So Much for Protecting the Constitution,” says:

The facts of this case: In early 2002, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to monitor international telephone calls and international e-mail messages without any showing of probable cause to believe that a participant in the communication was involved in unlawful or terrorist activity, and without obtaining a search warrant from a court of law. This action was a direct violation of federal law and the United States Constitution.

Nonetheless, Bush has the audacity to assert that his authorization of NSA surveillance of American citizens on American soil was “lawful.” It was not. It was a blatant and arrogant violation of American law. If Bush wanted the authority to undertake such surveillance, he should have gone directly to Congress and sought such authorization, publicly. He did not do this, because it would not have been granted. So, instead of acting in accord with his pledge to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he acted surreptitiously and unconstitutionally. What is revealing about Bush’s view of the terrorists is that he apparently believes they assume we act within the bounds of our own Constitution. So, he decided, we’ll trick them. We won’t.

President Bush believes that whatever he thinks is necessary must be lawful, whether it be domestic surveillance by NSA, or torture, or denying the Guantanamo Bay detainees the protections of the Geneva Conventions. Bush is a man of faith, not a man of law. That is a problem.

Don’t be too hard on the Democrats and others who supported Bush back in 2001 and 2002 and have since had second thoughts. As noted in Scrivener’s Error:

Certainly some Democrats voted in favor of attacking Iraq, and of granting essentially dictatorial powers to the President in response to a perceived assault on American sovereignty. They’re going to have to live with those votes. That does not, however, mean that we ignore the questions they raise now, when they know more of what is (and was) going on, on the basis that they already voted once. It means even less that we can criticize them for raising those questions now when new (or at least new to them) information has changed their minds. That is precisely the opposite of the rule of law.

There is still one remedy left to us. Despite the sour taste left by the frivolous use of this article by the Republicans a few years back, the Constitution, which Bush swore to preserve, protect, and defend, provides:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

December 16, 2005
Cold Blows the Wind Today
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:43 PM * 438 comments

The temperature on my front porch when I went out on a pre-dawn ambulance call yesterday morning was twenty below, and today I’ve got freezing rain and sleet, with a forecast of four-eight inches of snow on top of it, so it’s time for my annual Hypothermia talk.

Guys, hypothermia can kill you deader’n dirt, and it can kill you fast.

Some things to remember if you’re planning on outdoor activities like hunting or hiking:

First, there is no such thing as “warm clothing.” Hang the nicest fleeciest Gortex ‘n Hollofil parka on a clothesline overnight with a thermometer inside it, and in the morning that thermometer will read the same as the air temperature.

All that clothing can do is slow down how fast you lose heat. Sometimes the clothing you need to wear is a “cabin” with a pot-bellied stove.

Non-survivable conditions are just that: non-survivable. Listen to the locals. They’re the ones who are going to have to go haul your dumb ass out if you run into more trouble than you can handle.

While no clothing is warm, some clothes will chill you down faster than others. Cotton is about the best for buying you a ticket home in a body bag. Wool stays warm even when it’s wet.

Hypothermia and dehydration go hand-in-hand. Drink lots of water! Beer is not a substitute.

If the question ever arises in your mind, “Should I turn back now?” the answer is “YES!”

Dress in layers. Carry more food than you think you’ll need. Carry more water than you think you’ll need. There are some very nice, very light, very small tents on the market. They won’t help you in non-survivable conditions, but they’re a big help when conditions are marginal, the sun’s going down, and you’re deep in it. The question in your mind when you’re packing should be “Can I manage overnight with what I’m carrying, if the temperature is twenty degrees lower than forecast, and it’s raining?”

Let someone know where you’re going, and when to expect you back. Give the local rescue squad something to work with.

The buddy system isn’t just for Girl Scouts. If you go into the woods, take a friend. When his teeth start chattering, his lips turn blue, and he starts acting goofy, you’re hypothermic too.

A GPS and a cell phone are no substitute for a map and compass (and know how to use them, too, bucko).

Carry a whistle. Make sure your kids carry whistles. We’ve had some very sad cases.

Stay safe. Mother Nature doesn’t give a flip if you live or die.

Copyright © 2005 by James D. Macdonald

I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

Creative Commons License
Cold Blows the Wind Today by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Index to Medical Posts

Open Thread 56
Posted by John M. Ford at 04:14 AM *

Because, ninety years ago today, Albert Einstein Published the General Theory of Relativity.

Or maybe because the last OT was over 600 messages. (It’s not closed, so someone can still have message 666, if the General Theory doesn’t do anything in your non-Euclidean eldritchy frame of reference.)

December 15, 2005
Odd cheat, now binned by vicar*
Posted by Teresa at 04:00 PM *

So there’s this book, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, sells like hotcakes, yadda yadda. I can’t stand it. It’s just too dumb.

For instance, you’ve got this French scholar dying of a gunshot wound. He has an important secret he wants to convey to his granddaughter. She’s a professional cryptographer. They’re both into complex word puzzles.

What does he leave her? Anagrams. In English, not French, so Dan Brown’s readers can figure them out and feel clever.

The anagrams are OH LAME SAINT, O DRACONIAN DEVIL, and SO DARK THE CON OF MAN. The characters figure out that these are anagrams of THE MONA LISA, LEONARDO DA VINCI, and THE MADONNA OF THE ROCKS.

That’s harder than you might imagine. If they’d made the obvious assumption that a dying man whose primary language was French would make up French anagrams for his French-speaking granddaughter, they could have wound up deciding that O DRACONIAN DEVIL meant something like ACE DINDON LAVOIR, meaning “swell turkey launderette,” which would have thrown the plot for a loop.

Know why you don’t use anagrams to encrypt messages? Consider the clue OH LAME SAINT. If you know it’s an anagram, and you know the original message was in English, the messages you can derive from rearranging its letters include Anaheim slots, Ashmolean IT, sloth amnesia, seaman litho, Althea Simon, Eliot Ashman, Athena’s moil, Thalia’s omen, Hi to Ameslan, Anatole Shim, silent Omaha, and heal a Monist. If you already know enough context to be sure that none of those are legitimate interpretations, you hardly needed a clue to start with.

O DRACONIAN DEVIL could prompt you to investigate the Laodicean Dr. Vino, or Arcade VII, London, or odd Alicia Vernon, who may have loved ocarina din and divine canal odor. Alternately, it could be a cryptic instruction to void one cardinal.

SO DARK THE CON OF MAN is my favorite; i.e., it’s the dumbest and unlikeliest anagram, and it gives the most ridiculous results: fathead conks moron, smooth naked Franco, Madonna’s Coke froth, hacker moons fantod, fetch Dakar monsoon, Fords choke Montana, Anton faked chromos, fresh Dakota noncom, Honda stock foreman, and conform, naked shoat!

Don’t even get me started on the business with the Fibonacci sequence. This book is full of seriously bad cryptography.

For more fun with anagrammed names, you might want to look up Dead Kitchen Radio, a thing I did years ago on GEnie in which every line, including the title, is an anagram of “Keith R. A. DeCandido.” If what you want is an anagram generator, I recommend the Internet Anagram Server, a.k.a. I, Rearrangement Servant.

Addendum: Lloyd Burchill, in the comment thread, pointed out a charmingly sharp-tongued piece by Geoffrey K. Pullum in Language Log: Renowned author Dan Brown staggered through his formulaic opening sentence.

The simple fact is that if you are ever mentioned on page 1 of a Dan Brown novel you will be mentioned with an anarthrous occupational nominal premodifier (“Renowned linguist Geoff Pullum staggered across the savage splendor of the forsaken Santa Cruz campus, struggling to remove the knife plunged unnaturally into his back by a barbarous millionaire novelist”), and you will have died a painful and horrible death by page 2, along with several curiously ill-chosen clich�s and mangled idioms.

And he can back it up, too.

*An anagram of “The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown.” A guy named Lawrence Alexander worked that one out by hand.

December 14, 2005
Musical self-defense
Posted by Teresa at 03:32 PM * 64 comments

In this season when Christmas carols so often turn up in irritating or inappropriate contexts, I find it cheers me to be able to piously sing this to the tune of “Good King Wenceslas”:

Meum est propositum in taberna mori
ubi vina proxima morientis ori.
Tunc cantabunt laetius angelorum chori:
Deus sit propitius isti potatori, isti potatori.

Poculis accenditur animi lucerna,
cor inbutum nectare volat ad superna.
Mihi sapit dulcius vinum de taberna,
quam quod aqua miscuit praesulis pincerna.

Jejunant et abstinent poetarum chori,
vitant rixas publicas et tumultus fori,
et, ut opus faciant, quod non possit mori,
moriuntur studio subditi labori.

Unicuique proprium dat natura donum,
ego versus faciens bibo vinum bonum
et quod habent purius dolia cauponum;
tale vinum generat copiam sermonum.

Mihi nunquam spiritus poetriae datur,
nisi prius fuerit venter bene satur.
Cum in arce cerebri Bacchus dominatur,
in me Phoebus irruit et miranda fatur.

Tales versus facio, quale vinum bibo,
nihil possum facere, nisi sumpto cibo.
Nihil valent penitus, quae jejunus scribo,
Nasonem post calicem carmine praeibo.

A translation can be found here.

December 13, 2005
One sane man
Posted by Patrick at 01:24 AM * 288 comments

Jon Carroll:

Even if I were positive that we were executing only guilty people, I’d be against the death penalty.

December 09, 2005
Found rant: in re PQN
Posted by Teresa at 06:13 PM *

PQN, Print Quantity Needed, is being touted in some circles as the hot new thing in self-publishing. Others, notably our own Jim Macdonald, think it’s the same old thing:

More and more authors react to the letters “POD” the way Dracula reacts to the Cross, so the POD publishers needed a new TLA PDQ. “PQN” is it.

HapiSofi, whom I’ve excerpted here before, lit into the subject at Absolute Write:

“PQN” is a meaningless term. POD meant something specific: you could print books as needed without incurring additional setup costs. That was definitely something new under the sun. But PQN? Everybody “prints quantity needed.” They just use different methods to do it.

We “printed quantity needed” when we hand-fed single sheets onto a page of hand-set hand-inked type, then phoned out for stir-fried Anomalocaris with sesame noodles. We “printed quantity needed” when we bolted metal stereotypes onto press rollers, ran off pallets full of extra F&Gs, and had cold roast dinosaur on rye in our lunchboxes. And we “printed quantity needed” when digital typography was keystrokes saved to a punched paper tape then output to photographic paper, our repro was pasted down with hot wax on sheets of cardboard, and we went to the diner across the street for our crispy giant ground sloth nuggets with a side order of fries.

Robert Sheckley
Posted by Teresa at 02:39 PM * 44 comments

Ach, Robert Sheckley’s dead. This doesn’t come as a surprise—he’s been very ill—but it’s much regretted.

Me been feciting.
Posted by John M. Ford at 01:55 AM * 24 comments

Some more stuff is up.

Now with the notorious Janus sonnet and a map inspired by Neverwhere, by Neil’s permission and with a share going to benefit the CBLDF.

Give one of the big guy’s elves a night off.

December 07, 2005
Their plan for you
Posted by Patrick at 09:56 PM *

Tom DeLay’s House Republicans: the party of slavery.

There’s no more accurate way to put it. More here.

Later, DeLay would tell the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin that the low-wage, anti-union conditions of the Marianas constituted “a perfect petri dish of capitalism. It’s like my Galapagos Island.”

“Low-wage, anti-union” doesn’t begin to summarize a situation in which people are locked up behind guarded fences, forced to work 70 hours a week, and in many cases, forced into prostitution. But hey, it sure sounds like the Confederate ideal.

I hope you’re confident that the people now running our country won’t eventually decide this would be an appropriate way to treat you. Please, share your confidence with the rest of us. Use a number 2 pencil. Be convincing.

You know, I didn’t used to think that evil consisted of particular people rolling out of bed every morning, looking at themselves in the mirror, crying out Yar har har, what eeeeeeeevile thing shall I do today, and then setting forth with a spring in their step. I’d like to thank Tom DeLay’s Republican Party for convincing me otherwise.

UPDATE: Interesting and evidently well-informed discussion of recent Marianas political history here, here, and here.

When Johnny strikes up the band
Posted by Patrick at 04:35 PM * 13 comments

Just weeks from the release of our forthcoming CD Some Other Place, Whisperado plays tomorrow night, Thursday, December 8, at 8 PM, in the performance space upstairs at the Pussycat Lounge, 96 Greenwich St, two blocks south of the World Trade Center site. Yes, that link is Not Safe For Work; no, we’re not playing background music for pole dancers; and no, you won’t have to walk through the strip club in order to see us. You will have to pay $8, though, and be at least 21 years old. That’s the breaks.

If you’ve been thinking of trying to get to one of our gigs, this would be a good time to do it. As a music venue, this place has a decent reputation and of course bands get rebooked when they get people to show up. More to the point, we really have finally finished the process of recording, mixing, and mastering a six-song CD, and we’re pretty charged up, so with any luck we might actually be good. (You know, for rock-and-roll values of “good.”) And ask yourself, how often do you get to hear a political blogger sing a self-penned song about economics called “Invisible Hand”? In the heart of the financial district, no less. New York City, it’s like a neverending tapestry of life itself.

Remember Pearl Harbor
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:56 AM * 153 comments

7 December 1941:

0342: USS Condor, a minesweeper, sights periscope in restricted water off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Sends message via blinker light to destroyer USS Ward.

0610: Japanese carriers turn into the wind and commence launching aircraft.

0637: USS Ward fires on and sinks Japanese midget submarine in Pearl Harbor approaches.

0702: Opana Point radar station reports 50+ incoming aircraft.

0715: Ward’s report reaches Admiral Kimmel, who decides to wait for verification before taking action.

0720: Ft. Shafter operations center interprets Opana Point radar report as expected flight of bombers from the US.

0733: Based on decrypts of Japanese diplomatic traffic, US Chief of Staff General Marshall sends a war warning to General Short, commanding the Hawaiian defense zone. The message is sent via commercial telegram.

0753: First wave of 183 Japanese aircraft, led by torpedo bombers, arrive at Pearl Harbor.

0854: Second wave (170 aircraft) arrives.

1000: Japanese aircraft return to their carriers.

1145: General Marshall’s message from Washington, warning that the Japanese have broken off talks and this may mean war, arrives at General Short’s headquarters in Hawaii.

1300: Admiral Nagumo decides against launching a third wave and turns his carriers back toward Japan.

US losses: 2,403 (including 68 civilians) killed, 1,178 wounded. 20 ships damaged or sunk. 188 aircraft destroyed. Fourteen individuals win the Congressional Medal of Honor. US Navy loses more in one morning than they’d lost in all of WWI.

Japanese losses: 55 aviators, 9 submariners killed, 1 captured. 29 aircraft fail to return. 5 submarines sunk.

Franklin Roosevelt addressed a joint session of congress on 8 December:

Yesterday, 7 December 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government had deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives were lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.

This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounded determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, 7 December, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

December 05, 2005
A Visit from Saint Nicholas
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:47 PM * 101 comments

Tonight is St. Nicholas Eve.

Tonight we leave out our shoes, in hopes that St. Nicholas will leave a chocolate or other small gift. Tonight St. Nicholas rides his white horse, giving presents.

St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, is the patron saint of New York City. (That’s why, in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Santa Claus arrives last in the train. It’s a patron’s celebration.)

St. Nicholas, as well as being the patron saint of New York City, is the patron of Greece, Russia, the Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Lorraine, the Diocese of Liège; many cities in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Belgium; Campen in the Netherlands; Corfu in Greece; Freiburg in Switzerland; and Moscow in Russia. He is patron of children, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, thieves and murderers, among many others. He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need.

St. Nicholas is a saint in the Catholic and the Orthodox churches, and is honored among Protestants. When the Twin Towers fell, they fell on St. Nicholas’ Orthodox church, which held some of his relics. Those relics were never found, and are now mixed with those of other New Yorkers from that attack.

When you see a statue of a saint with three children in a tub at his feet, that’s St. Nicholas. When you see the three gold balls on the pawn-brokers’ signs, those too honor St. Nicholas. Those balls represent the three golden balls that St. Nicholas threw through a window to pay the dowries of three young ladies who would otherwise have met a bad end. The story says those balls fell in the ladies’ shoes or stockings hung by the fire to dry; the oranges that are traditionally put in Christmas stockings are symbolically those same golden spheres.

We should not speak here of Black Peter, who accompanies St. Nicholas on his rounds. Black Peter beats bad children with his cane. You were wondering what candy canes were all about, eh?

But we have all been good. We have put out our shoes.

Life imitates high school (chapter 5,271,009)
Posted by Patrick at 11:32 PM *

I have no idea who’s running this or what it amounts to, but we appear to be a finalist for “Best of the Top 250 Blogs” in something called “The Weblog Awards.” Right now we’re holding up the rear with a massive two (2) votes. If you feel motivated, go show the flag.

Delia’s Gone
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:06 PM *

Ninety-nine years on a chain gang?
Why, judge, that ain’t no time.
I got a brother in New Orleans
Got nine hundred ninety-nine.

Today’s happy news is that long-time scammer Martha Ivery (aka Kelly O’Donnell) of Press-Tige Publishing, pleaded guilty to seventeen counts of huggery, muggery, and buggery (aka popery, mopery, and dopery).

Seriously, she pleaded guilty to fifteen counts of mail fraud, one count of credit card fraud, and one count of bankruptcy fraud.

Who is this Martha Ivery? She’s the author of Make Millions From Your Kitchen Table:

Editorial Reviews
Ms. Ivery is an author, psychic and spiritual counselor giving workshops on empowerment and spiritual development. This book is the best I’ve seen on educating oneself on how to achieve their financial goals. Martha also writes from first hand experience through her psychic book. This book is filled with instructions on how to develop the use of information available to all of us.

Al. C. Ward/Producer
With Make Millions From Your Kitchen Table you will discover how to use the valuable information on having a business at home, and develop the ideas in this book to make a positive change in your life.

Robert Stein, author of The Vengeance Equation
Make Millions From Your Kitchen Table reveals exciting insights into developing your potential to earning money at home without leaving it. It opens you to new depths of awareness in the working world.

About the Author
Martha Ivery has written several self-help books, geared towards helping the reader grow in many aspects, whether it be from a learning experience or direction im mastering a comprehensive direction for their lives. She is the author of What’s Your Psychic I.Q? published by Prima Publishing, and several other children’s titles, including: Welcome To Camp Horrorwood for all those kids who like to tell stories while sitting around a campfire.

But that’s not all:

Between 1998 and 2003, Writer Beware received scores of complaints about Martha Ivery, a.k.a. Kelly O’Donnell. Ivery ran several fee-charging literary agencies (Kelly O’Donnell Literary Agency, Inc., O’Donnell Literary Services, Inc., Writers Information USAgency), as well as two vanity publishing operations (Press-Tige Publishing and New Millennium Publishing). It was a soup-to-nuts operation: writers came in through one of the agencies (which charged “marketing” fees and pressured clients to accept paid editing services) and were then passed on to one of the publishing companies (which charged several thousand dollars). The connection between the agencies and the publishers wasn’t revealed; to further the deception, clients were encouraged to believe that the Kelly O’Donnell who ran the agencies and the Martha Ivery who ran the publishers were two different people.

Writers who paid fees to Ivery—whether for agenting, book doctoring, or publishing—frequently didn’t receive the promised services. Manuscripts submitted for agenting were never sent to publishers, or were placed with vanity publishers (including the fraudulent Commonwealth Publishing, which paid kickbacks to agents who persuaded their clients to accept expensive vanity contracts). Promised editing was never completed or was poorly done. Books contracted for publication were never produced, or if produced, weren’t marketed. In addition to whatever fees had been agreed upon, Ivery bombarded authors with demands for even more money for nonexistent services: publicity, warehousing, even a Press-Tige cruise (not surprisingly, the cruise was canceled and authors never got refunds).

Ivery was notable for her attempts to intimidate dissatisfied clients and people who attempted to expose her activities. Authors were told that she would “blacklist” them so that publishers wouldn’t look at their manuscripts. Writer Beware staff received death threats. She was also adept at fabricating outlandish excuses to explain her habitual nonperformance. For instance, in the aftermath of 9/11 she variously claimed to have been “seriously burned” in the disaster, or to be in mourning for relatives who’d been killed. She had numerous heart attacks. She frequently got cancer. As both Martha and Kelly, she died several times. Of course, with so much to remember, once in a while she got her lies mixed up. One pesky author, shocked to learn of Martha’s sudden and tragic death, was later somewhat taken aback to receive a call from her.

Ivery was on just about every scam-agent and bogus-publisher list, but that didn’t stop her from snagging over half-a-million dollars from hopeful writers.

Thomas Capezza of the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the judge the government was prepared to prove at trial that Ivery defrauded about 200 people of between $650,000 and $700,000.

Capezza told U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. that Ivery offered a litany of excuses to writers as to why their books were never published, from problems with illustrations to computer viruses. She told one author his work was on its way to the printers aboard one of the planes hijacked in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said.

(Remember Yog’s Law, kids: Money flows toward the author.)

Great was the rejoicing when the news of Martha’s full-power noseplant got out:

You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen!

Kelly O’Donnell/Martha Ivery/6 other aliases has just pleaded guilty in Federal Court to ALL 17 COUNTS OF FRAUD (INCLUDING BANKRUPTCY FRAUD) SHE WAS CHARGED WITH!

Sentencing was set for April 28th, 2006. Victoria and I are planning to be there in court that day.

Folks, this means JAIL TIME. Several years of it. We’re hoping for about five.

Kelly/Martha scammed, as best we can estimate, over 500 aspiring writers out of over half a million dollars. She got paid for books that never came out, books she was “agenting” that were never sent anywhere, a fake writing cruise to Hawaii, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, credit card fraud, and the forementioned bankruptcy fraud.

How much time will Martha (aka Kelly) get? There’s been some speculation about that. She could get nearly twenty years. But the judge might have pity on her. She might only get seven-plus. (Take heart, Martha — it’s only hard time for the first year. After that it’s just time.)

So say a sad farewell to Martha (out on bail until sentencing), and don’t pay to get published. Like Rocky said: “That trick never works.”

December 04, 2005
Open thread 55
Posted by Patrick at 06:19 PM *

Haines asked:
— Do you pay rent for this tower?
— Twelve quid, Buck Mulligan said.
— To the secretary of state for war, Stephen added over his shoulder. They halted while Haines surveyed the tower and said at last:
— Rather bleak in wintertime, I should say. Martello you call it?
— Billy Pitt had them built, Buck Mulligan said, when the French were on the sea. But ours is the omphalos.
— What is your idea of Hamlet? Haines asked Stephen.
— No, no, Buck Mulligan shouted in pain. I’m not equal to Thomas Aquinas and the fiftyfive reasons he has made out to prop it up. Wait till I have a few pints in me first.

Meanwhile, in the world
Posted by Patrick at 12:10 PM * 31 comments

An exchange in the comments section of Don’t Bomb Us: A Blog by Al Jazeera Staffers:

Anonymous: Though you broadcast these screeds in detail because it is “news” that you have a “duty” to report, when I search the Al Jazeera site for the phrase “honor killings” I get nada. Not a single hit. Don’t you think that the murder of women throughout the Islamic world by their uncles and fathers and husbands because these women have the audacity to date who they want or express what they think is newsworthy?

Mohammed [of Don’t Bomb Us]: You make mention that our website does not mention “Honor Killings”—that is true since we don’t use American English—we use English English. Try your search using “honour” instead—or just click here for Google results.

You see, sometimes little cultural misunderstands can cause such a big fuss.

Let’s keep talking. Enjoy the weekend…!

Rather more polite than I would have been.

Elsewhere, Mohammed demonstrates the vast cultural gulf between the West and the mysterious, perfume-scented, treacherous East, so different from ourselves:

Off-topic but news none the less: Mozilla is releasing Firefox 1.5 tonight! Can you even remember life without tabbed browsing? I wonder how this will affect development of Flock—the Web 2.0 uber-browser that I’ve been playing with to post to “Don’t Bomb Us” (yes, I’m a geek. Now if only Management would trade in my Thinkpad for a PowerBook…)

Worth a look. In 2005, there’s no remaining excuse for getting all your news from American media.

December 02, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 04:26 PM * 113 comments

Larry Hammer’s playing at Words of One Beat again, over on his LiveJournal. The game is to write entirely in words of one syllable; and so he posted:

Had we but all the world, and time, These coy ways, Miss, would be no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the East Ind stream’s bank-side
Shouldst find red gems: I by the tide
Near York would moan of love. I would
Love you ten years ere came the Flood,
You should say “No,” if you should please,
Till Jews to Christ go on their knees. …

That last couplet isn’t quite up to the original; but what are the odds that anything would be?

We’re having fun. Patrick has weighed in with:

At the round Earth’s made-up sharp bits Blow your horns, winged ones, and rise up
Rise up from death, you great past all we can count, of souls
And to each your own corpse, spread out, please go! …

My own entry there is half a cheat, its art in the choice of the original:
When I have fears that I may cease to be Ere I can write out all that’s in my brain, …

Today, your Christmas stamps; tomorrow, your children’s hearts and minds
Posted by Patrick at 03:47 PM * 88 comments

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on those persistent rumors that the United States Postal Service, in thrall to the orbital mind control lasers of the secular conspiracy, plans to discontinue traditional Christmas stamps:

Patrons looking for a new religiously themed stamp this year are getting leftover Madonna printings from last year, touching off a wave of reports that the Postal Service was planning to discontinue religiously themed Christmas stamps.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Diana Svoboda, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh district. Next year’s printing will include a new Madonna and the price stamped over her left shoulder will explain why a new one wasn’t printed this year: Rates are going up to 39 cents per letter Jan. 8. […]

The time being the cyber era, and the culture being skittish, the theory of the vanishing Christmas stamp has taken deep root in the American imagination, alongside complaints about school pageants with new words to “Silent Night,” possibly sung under a “unity tree.” […]

One [web site], called “Darleen’s Place,” carried a vivid account on Nov. 24 in which the author’s mother asks for the Madonna stamps, and the clerk pulls out the previous year’s issue and tells her, “These are all I have and they’ll be the last you ever see.”

“Mom asks, ‘What do you mean?’ He explains the USPS will not be issuing any more ‘religious’ stamps.”

The encounter also has the clerk informing Darleen’s mom that he is not permitted to say “Merry Christmas.” […]

A similar story turned up on a Web site run by right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin. A reader there reported calling the postal service’s public line and being told that religiously themed stamps were being discontinued “to avoid any legal constitutional issues.”

This was startling news to Mark Saunders, a postal service spokesman in Washington. He’d just finished mailing a news release that announced the design for next year’s Madonna stamp.

Mind you, the dark forces behind the Post Office do plan to pollute America’s precious bodily fluids next year with DC Comics stamps. You know it’s all downhill from there and in 2007 and 2008 we’ll be franking our postal mail with images of Michel Foucault and Lou Reed.

Dressing Down (and Sidewise)
Posted by John M. Ford at 03:50 AM *

I suddenly get the sense that my timing on this could not possibly be worse, but after much promising thereof, The Techstore has now been expanded to offer a much broader range of Imprinted Stuff for the existing designs (Harry of 5 Points, Infernokrusher, and Entropy Sonnet), with more Stuff in preparation. There have been a couple of design modifications — because of a request, most of the women’s shirts are now backprinted only. We’re working on a front emblem, but the current monogram, with the inscription me fecit, is out for reasons obvious to anyone with even a slight bit of Latin.

About sizing, we are unable to assist, but this is all more Gene Kelly than Fred Astaire tailoring anyway.

December 01, 2005
Catalogue retail
Posted by Teresa at 10:45 PM *

This one’s been bugging me for twenty years. Is there some reason retailers can’t just tell you the actual physical dimensions of a piece of clothing? For instance, they’ll tell you that a sweater is technically a size 16, but then say it “runs large for that size.” You’re already having to hunt down their sizing chart to find out how big they think a size 16 is, but determining the size of something that “runs large” is impossible.

How big is “one size fits most”?

Day before yesterday I was considering ordering some long plain black dresses (my wardrobe staple) from an online vendor, but was stymied when I realized that the length of every article of clothing they made was described as “hangs 33 inches from your natural waist.” This was impossible. I phoned to ask how long they were. No one at their ordering center knew. Before the call was done, I’d been bumped to two more corporate centers. I still didn’t know how long their dresses were, but I had the consolation of knowing that they didn’t either.

I’ve run into this over and over again. So let me repeat: is there a reason for it?

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.