Monday, March 31, 2003

Hee hee hee

Thank you, Acidman.

I know, I know, it was days ago, but gold is where you find it.


[Edit: So, okay, it's a doctored photo. Still, the best humor has a kernal of truth to it...]

On the Rifeness of Stalkers

sugarmama has posted a few times lately on the several stalking incidents to which she's been subjected, and how it's constantly a factor in the measures she takes online and in the real world for privacy and security.

In my own experience, there's been little that's similar, but there was one prospective girlfriend a year or so ago who, after a date or two and an introduction to my dogs at my place, left a plate of cookies and a rose on my front step one morning. Thoughtful, but a smidgen freaky, though ultimately harmless and non-threatening.

So my question is this: is stalking of one stripe or another (intrusion on one's personal life, unbidden and unwelcome) very common? My own experience with stalking is limited (as the pool of women-I've-dated is), but I hadn't thought it was as common a thing as it's seeming to be.


Once More Into the Breach

This seriously hacks me off.

At the risk of getting into another political debate for which I'm ill-informed (I have a bad habit of believing secondary sources), this guy Arnett has gone on TV and told the Iraqis that they're doing just fine, that American plans are in disarray, and that an increased body count might get us to call off the war.

First, we're in Day 12 of the operation and control (by some estimates) 95% of Iraq. Second, in every engagement we've had, we've shown a propensity for inflicting stiff casualties on the enemy and taking extraordinarily light casualties in return. We've lost--two dozen? three dozen?--soldiers in the course of killing and/or capturing and/or routing thousands of Iraqi regulars and irregulars. The remainder are in and immediately around Baghdad, and because it's taken 12 days instead of...what? six? ten? we're in operational shambles? I find this hard to credit.

And now we have a reporter of supposed high stature telling the Iraqi leadership that we're confused, and that more body bags == more chance we'll give up and go home.

Very helpful, guy. Thanks a bunch. I'm sure the Iraqis will sing your praises for decades for this one.

For more information and an IMO very succinct analysis of what could go wrong and be made worse because Arnett has decided to become a useful idiot, check Steven den Beste's take.


Saturday, March 29, 2003

A Busy Twelve Hours

Nifty People Talking About Nifty Wine
After work yesterday I headed over to the house of a guy by the name of Dan, who is the vice-president of the James River Homebrewers, to check out what turned out to be the inaugural meeting of the Richmond "Wine-making Interest Group."

Dan has won all manner of awards for his wines, and we got to sample several of them, and some vintages brought by friends of his, both in and out of the homebrew club. From a Chilean Chardonnay to some strong good ol' Virginia country wine made with native Concord grapes, everything was just outstanding. Bob from the local WeekEnd Brewer beer- (and wine!) making shop showed us some problem wine a customer had given him to diagnose, redolent with the odor of old sweat socks, that was markedly improved by adding a tiny amount of carbonate solution (damn, don't remember what-carbonate). I didn't know you could do that!

Beer offers a lot less flexibility and forgiveness than wine, it seems... In a way that figures, because malt sugar is one of the most biologically open substances out there; it's effectively agar. A wine "must" (the equivalent of a beer wort) has so much acidity and other bug-retardant stuff in it that your average wine yeast has a much less competitive row to hoe.

Cool. :-)

Geek Moment
I've been keeping up with the pseudo-blog site ongoing (linked at left), which is written by Tim Bray, one of the primary creators of the XML eXtensible Markup Language. I've been using XML heavily for the past month or two at work, and happened across this site in the course of my learning travels.

Tim seems to be a regular guy who also just happens to be this brilliant programmer and interesting thinker. As an example, his article "On the Goodness of Binary Search." I knew it was possible to code up a binary search in a very few lines, but seeing it done airtight, brutally efficient, and non-recursive was good for my soul. :-)

Another thing I like about Tim is that he's not one-dimensional. He's just finished rereading the Histories of Herodotus (which I haven't yet, but per Matt I probably should soon), and frequently comments on the war (he's rather anti) and things as diverse as gardening and the archiving of old family photo-slides.

Anyway, good material at a good price (bulk-priced electrons and one's free time). I love living now.


Friday, March 28, 2003

New E-mail Address

It's taken me a while, but I've finally lost my cool when it comes to spam e-mail. There's a new outfit called Mailblocks that is finally doing a good job when it comes to e-mail filtering.

Here's my new address:

Feel free to send me a test message if you like, to confirm everything's working.

I will be updating my Blogger template here to reflect the change, but don't worry: will be a valid address for ever and ever (or at least as long as stays in the webmail business). If you don't remember to use the Mailblocks address, the message will still get pulled over by an automated process that runs every twelve hours.

The tech they use is a simple idea called a whitelist, which is really just a list of everyone from whom I want to receive e-mail. I've already added pretty much every e-mail address I could find (96 so far) from people with whom I have corresponded over the past few months.

If you're not on my Mailblocks whitelist (though if you're reading this, you probably are on it, unless I've messed something up) and you e-mail me, then you get back a message that challenges you to solve a very simple puzzle that only a human can solve easily, like reading the word or number in a slightly distorted picture of that word or number. Trivially easy for a person, very hard for a computer. If you solve the test, then you're very likely a human being, Mailblocks will add you to my whitelist automatically, and I'll receive your message and all messages from you from then on.

...Unless I think you're an irretrievable jerk or an overly motivated marketer, in which case I'll add you to my blacklist, the purpose of which is pretty obvious. Mwa ha ha ha. :-D

I've been testing this system for the past few days, and nobody's complained or indeed even noticed, so I think it's a keeper. Not a single morsel of spam in three days; stands to reason, given the means of limitation, but still a real breath of fresh air.


Tickled my Geek funny bone...

In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was UNSIGNED, and the main(){} was without form and void...


Thursday, March 27, 2003

Good quote found quoted on Slashdot

"You know that times are strange when the best rapper in the world is white, the best golfer in the world is black, the Americas cup is held by landlocked Switzerland, the French are accusing the Americans of arrogance and Germany is steadfastly refusing to go to war."
Ain't it the truth...


Wednesday, March 26, 2003

First Grain, Now Grape

I had a singular experience the other day (last Thursday, if I recall correctly). I had run out of beer in the house (everything else was in immature bottles or fermenters, and I'd consumed all the store-bought stuff), and I decided, what the hell, I've got a few bottles of wine in my cupboard, let's break those out and see what's up.

As I've mentioned before, over the past few months I've been trying to educate my palate in the complexities of beer, with some modicum of success. Imagine my delight to discover that the education worked for wine as well. One of the bottles was a nondescript Turning Leaf Merlot from 1998, one was a TL 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon, so they were five-year-old and six-year-old bottles. For reds, possibly a good thing, possibly a bad; I've had reds go bad in five years before. The Merlot was a very nice: mellow, but still interesting. The Cab Sav was, regrettably, vinegar.

There was also a bottle of '99 Fetzer "Barrel Select" Chardonnay, and that was where things got really interesting. Historically, I've never been much of a white-wine enthusiast; the splashy character of reds were more my thing. But either that was an exceptional bottle or I've taught myself to taste differently: the Fetzer was wonderful. Buttery; woody; satin on the tongue.

Okay, okay, I get it, world: wine is fun, too. :-D

So, the next bit is predictable... Once life settles down I'm going to grab some equipment and some ingredients and try making a batch of wine. The trick is that winemaking requires even more patience than beermaking does... A batch can take two months to get to the point of bottling!

I know. Y'all can feel my suffering out there. ;-)


Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Dating Disenchantment

sugarmama has waxed a trifle sour on dating and its various less-than-savory permutations, eventually coming to the conclusion that unless and until she ever says it's OK again, then never again.

I understand the frustration behind her conclusion: dating can really suck. Especially because in the process you're opening yourself to appraisal by the other person, allowing him/her to intrude on your carefully balanced life, and then, like a pall over the entire experience, is the question of bedroom gymnastics, as to whether, and when, and even why. When you're female I have to imagine a lot of this is magnified; after all, the biological stakes are higher, and by and large males are trained to care less about the process and its consequences.

I'm reminded of a great bit of wisdom my mom handed me several months back: if you have to deliberate this deeply, then it's not (it can't be) a "right" person; and more to the point, if you're constantly getting in situations where deep deliberation is necessary, then it might be time to revise your approach, probably along less of a "type A" track. This is difficult to apply if you're the type who's wary of letting anyone close to you (and who isn't, after about age 27?), but it's a useful yardstick: if you're really into a person (as opposed to trying and trying to see something in them), then a lot of the stupid details just fall away.

I actually had a less-than-salutary dating experience this past Friday evening. It's tempting to place it all the way within the realm of "unmitigated disaster," except that I was able to learn from it, and am actually feeling pretty good about myself and my conduct in the face of it all. Sorry not to go into too many details, but I'm trying to bear in mind that this is a person who's more than capable of finding this page, and hell, may even be a regular reader. :-) Sometimes people just aren't compatible, no matter how much they may want to be. Brush off and move on.

But I guess my point is that sometimes the good people find you, and if they don't, don't beat yourself up about it. Sounds like sugarmama's no-dating policy might be a pretty good one, at least until someone taps her on the shoulder and makes her day.


Sunday, March 23, 2003

And now for something... completely different

Since upyernoz keeps spanking me in debate about the world's political situation, I am retreating to less vulnerable ground.

For example, beer. Chuck asked earlier in the week about Rich's Vindication IPA, which just completed its fourth week of aging. I tried it on Friday night, and oh my God is it going some good places. Call me, Chuck; you gotta try this stuff.

For those of you who might be new to my moderate obsession with the making and understanding of beer, Vindication IPA is a beer in the style called India Pale Ale, which is made with "pale" or lightly roasted malted barley, stronger than the average beer, and markedly more bitter, due to more aggressive use of hops.

My Short Attention Span Amber is actually turning into a patient brew; things have been so nutty around here that I have yet to bottle the stuff! I may do that tonight.

Of course, this is likely to draw out facts along the lines of upyernoz being a commercial microbrewer who knows more about beer than I can ever hope to discover. ;-)


Yep, he's still up

Sarah is appalled at my mentioning in my comments a day or so back that "We're not avenging or prosecuting 9/11. We're remaking the Middle East in our own image so as to prevent a reprise of 9/11":

That's the first time that I've heard someone who I tend to think of as a reasonably intelligent person say that. And it sent a chill down my spine. Rich, you think that's going to end terrorism? That sort of attitude, that sort of arrogance, that "devil take the hindmost" crap is going to breed more terrorism and make us more vulnerable. We can't force anyone, anywhere, to adopt our ideals and expect it to go well. It'll just breed more resentment, more despair, more antagonism, more disbelief than already exists.
And I'd be inclined to agree with her, except that we've already got successful examples of this precise "arrogance" working splendidly: post-WWII-Germany and Japan (and, arguably, post-cold-war Russia).

Japan is probably the starkest example: the culture of Imperial Japan was easily as "fundamentalist" about its belief system as, say, Saudi Arabia is today. After the war we moved in and imposed our cultural and governmental will on the Japanese, from economic policy to permissible literature (Japan's schizoid attitude toward pornography is a result of some of the stranger restrictions we imposed) to the constitution Japan eventually adopted. Was there resentment and anger at the time? Surely. But Japan is now a productive member of international society, and while competitive with and occasionally critical of us, hardly violent or antagonistic - not least because we restrict the amount of military materiel they can accumulate (and have for two generations). No Japanese nailbombs, no Japanese terrorists screaming Shinto slogans as they pile into our office buildings with airliners. A conspicuous absence, in fact.

Ditto for Germany. Current political namecalling and U.N. obstructionism aside, Germans are arguably some of the more pacifist people on the planet. We don't have Germans strapping explosives to themselves and shouting paeans to Hitler (or Luther et al.) as they explode in Jewish daycare centers.

The longterm situation with Russia remains to be seen, because there's been no occupation or direct military defeat, but there was a distinct economic defeat, and it's instructive that Russia had the cojones to implement a flat tax when we didn't, and are now quietly raking in tax money hand over fist.

Sarah, I respect your consistency of belief, but I'm afraid it doesn't jibe well with history: violence does in fact resolve conflicts; in fact, it's one of the more reliable means, which is why it's lasted so long. "Cycles of violence" and similar concepts are relatively new, and can only make sense in a culture like ours, where we've managed to go for over a hundred years without major conflict on our own soil.


Things that make you go Hmm

Hey, upyernoz (a guy who's been commenting here of late), who are these people Ansar al Islam?


Friday, March 21, 2003

Shock and Awe

Um. Damn. Like, holy hell on a pogo stick. Go us.

Rest assured, every kitten that's limping after the attack will make the news.


Thursday, March 20, 2003

I Have Figured Out the Problem

With some prompting from Tripp, I have figured out the Iraqis' problem.

They're between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and might (?) be descended from the Sumerians. Well, beer was a blessed staple of Sumerian culture - one of the cornerstones of the culture that gave us early writing, the tale of Gilgamesh and led to the Code of Hammurabi. There are even some scholars that argue for beer as having caused civilization in the first place!

Then those bloody Islamic types came around and outlawed beer, and it's been downhill for that area ever since. Somebody needs to head over there NOW and hand Saddam a cold one.

;-). <-- BIG winking smiley.

Here's a story about how some people at Anchor Brewing in San Francisco got together to reproduce a Sumerian beer for which we have a sort of recipe.


A Shout Out to Mr. Blix

Scud and Al-Samoud missiles are being fired at U.S. troops. Thank you, Mr. Blix, for your diligent and effective work. If you're lucky the world will remember you as merely incompetent.

This is a spoken bridge from a fave track of mine from Weird Al Yankovic, "I Lost on Jeopardy"; imagine the following lines read by Don Pardo...

That's right, Hans, you lost!
And let me tell you what you didn't win:
A twenty-volume set of the Encyclopedia International,
A case of Turtle Wax,
And a years supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat.
But that's not all!
You've also made yourself look like a jerk in front of millions of people,
Bringing shame and disgrace on your family name for generations to come.
You don't get to come back tomorrow--
You don't even get a lousy copy of our home game!
You're a complete loser!
Thank you, Weird Al.

Harsh? I don't think so. The efforts of Blix & Co. can only be made more irrelevant (and shown to be more dangerous in that particular Neville Chamberlain way) by the appearance of chemical and/or biological weaponry on the battlefield at this point.


Wednesday, March 19, 2003


There's a lot up in the air that's soon to have a resolution. War, for one, but there're a few things going on with me personally that have just a few last bits of filigree to shake out before I feel comfy telling the world.

This has of course been eating my brain-CPU cycles, so that's why I haven't posted much.

Very much enjoyed my visit to Hunter and Susan's in Birmingham. Some of the best people on the planet, they are.

Didn't get to see sugarmama, because we crossed paths in midair. Here's hoping for another opportunity before too much longer.

World Politics
I've got a lot of opinions on the Iraq situation, which can be summed up by a thorough read of USS Clueless, and this statement: by perpetrating the atrocity of September Eleventh, bin Laden et al. shifted our focus from indifference about the private affairs and opinions of the Middle East to very specific concern.

Safeguarding our people and way of life now takes precedence over all other factors in that region of the world. Radical Islamists across the globe have themselves to thank - they've declared their own way of life to be a threat to ours. The last power to do this in a "hot" conflict was Imperial Japan (Germany amounted to Yet Another Euroconflict). Japan is now an ally of ours and fellow-participant in the affairs of the world; their standard of living, gender equality, intellectual and personal freedoms, and national financial competitiveness have all improved immeasurably over their pre-WWII levels, even in their current fiscally depressed state. All Japan had to do to reap these rewards was get crushed militarily by the United States.

Horror of horrors: that fate awaits Iraq. And very likely Iran, and Saudi Arabia, and others, because they've been unwilling or unable to do it themselves. The Middle East cannot any longer be allowed to incubate the sinks of human misery it now does - they imperil the peaceful nations of the world, and more particularly us. If we have to go over there and impose the separation of church and state on them, and liberate their women, and bring them to financial independence and influence in world affairs, then damn the bad luck, I suppose we'll just have to do it.


Thursday, March 13, 2003


The Sims Online is a Socialist State!

On the other hand, Ultima Online is decidely capitalist, and doing just fine.


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Safety Tip

Do not under any circumstances leave boxes of "Rice-a-Roni" where dogs can, say, drag them down from a counter. If one of them succeeds, and manages to, say, eat a box (or five), said dog will vomit toxic waste for the next several hours.

A word to the wise.


PS. I'm guessing we're gonna get a repeat performance out the south end (assuming a northbound canine) in the morning. And I have a flight to catch tomorrow evening. Dammit.

PPS. Said canine (Reese) does not appear to be in any danger, though he is a miserable pup. As he should be. Bloody opportunistic feeder.

[Update, 9:20 a.m.: had a terrible night. Dog appears now to be empty of ricelike matter (not to mention entire flavor-and-spice envelopes), but only time will tell. Am taking a half day at work, as I have yet even to pack. I must also purchase more carpet-cleaner for the coming dogsitter, the poor woman.]

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Give Peace a Chance

This article speaks for itself.

Tell me again about the brutal censorship and suppression of dissenting voices in this country. If these idiots had tried doing this to an Iraqi flag in Baghdad, their remains (and those of their families) would never be found.


On War and Worrying

So we're going to war in Iraq. Not just yet, and not before we try to let the rest of the world come around to our point of view one last time, but we're going.

I've been reading a lot of posts from other bloggers lately about how worried they are, how they wake up in a cold sweat, how they're distracted during the day, how they worry about invisible gases seeping into their office building or a guy with a razor taking over their bus on the way to work. How their children are beginning to burst into tears for little or no reason (and who do you think sets that example for them?), and how the audience in a Jon Stewart show quietly freaks when they're told, yes, the news really is that bad.

I can't relate.

I realized something truly remarkable when those sniper idiots were rampaging around the DC / Maryland / Virginia area. I lost my fear of dying at some point after the divorce, and I'm glad to be rid of it. I was walking with a friend near the window of the open-air parking deck here, and talking about the snipers, and he made a morbid joke that I ought to be careful, because we'd be great sniping targets up here. My reaction was, "boy, that'd solve a lot of problems," because it was a particularly stressful week. But thinking about it later, I was surprised: I literally don't care about that whole ceasing-to-be, end-of-it-all thing any more. For one thing, I'm now nicely exempt from anyone being dependent on me for support or protection, but for another, I learned a few things about what's important in life: getting over the major hurts, sticking up for what's right, and not letting the little stuff bother you.

And yes, getting killed is a relatively minor thing --- after all, unless you're hit with cancer or AIDS or similar, dying usually doesn't take very long, and then you're relieved of your problems. More worrisome to me is suffering, lingering, being rendered useless, but the prospect of any sort of terrorist action affecting me just fails to impress.

Not to mention that I (and all of us) have a greater chance of one of my Taurus' old tires blowing out on I-95 en route to work and sending me under the wheels of a semi than of getting dealt dirt by a terrorist. I simply refuse to waste mental or emotional energy on something over which I have no control, and whose worst consequence is my demise. I live within 50 miles of several primary military targets. I'm a government employee, which means I'm high on the list anyway, and work daily in a target location --- there was a bomb threat the day I interviewed here, about two months after September Eleventh in 2001. Big, fat, hairy deal.

I'm also flying to Birmingham over this coming weekend, and will be returning on the day before the Big Decision in the UN Security Council. I imagine the terrorists will be dying to throw a wrench into the works. (Ha! "Dying!" I kill me!)

Bring it.


Monday, March 10, 2003

Introspective Week

Sorry for the infrequent posts lately; as the seasons change, and winter begins to wane (today's 36° temperatures notwithstanding), I'm beginning my typical period of springtime reassessment.

This process usually involves a partial withdrawal from all things social (well, moreso than usual, anyway ;-) ), combined with a predilection toward more reading, less TV watching, more thinking and diary-writing, and less chatting and blogging. So it's actually a pretty good thing -- I finished a reread of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum last weekend, and have dived into his Name of the Rose; there's actually been some work done on one of my ongoing novel-writing ideas (thanks for the prods, Hunter and Matt!), as well as some casting about for short-story fodder; I've finished bookblog's upcoming read, Steve Martin's Shopgirl about a week early; and I've enjoyed a few sunny walks with the dogs lately, just for the heck of walking, which was a fair bit more difficult to do when it was howling and sleeting outside.

Anyhow, I suppose I've been plowing and planting in the furrows of my mind. Hope everyone out there is in similar good spirits. :-)


Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Finally Fixed the Blogchalk

My Blogchalking link at left broke months ago, but I never bothered to go after the new, updated code. That's done now, and this next text is for the search engines...

This is my new blogchalk:
United States, Virginia, Richmond, Henrico, English, Rich, Male, 31-35. :)


Tuesday, March 04, 2003

This one's a shout out to Jon...

This story confirms what I've been suspecting for a while. In a kid-culture where text-messaging programs (AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, etc.) are intersecting with ubiquitous cell phones that allow multitudes of such small text messages to be sent essentially free, you're going to get gobbledygook like this:

My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc
...from kids who are just learning the written language. (See the article for a translation.)

Funny - the English major in me recoils at this butchery of the written word, but I've certainly used a number of net-acronyms like AFAIK (as far as I know), FWIW (for what it's worth), IIRC (if I remember correctly), IMHO (in my humble opinion), and IANAL (I'm not a lawyer) in my day, just to save on typing. Combine that with the desire to communicate over a limited text-entry device like a cell phone, and you've got a ripe environment for elision, abbreviation and innovation.

It's interesting to draw parallels between this text-messaging phenomenon and the visually onomatopoeic "speech" used by self-styled hackers, wherein "31337" means "elite" and being told "j00 r0x0r" means you're a pretty hep cat. In the case of "h4x0r-$p34k," (read '4' as 'A' and '3' as 'E' and you'll start to get it) illegibility (well, legibility only to the initiated) was the goal, as was the ability to make oneself understood in a way that was untraceable by text-searching programs. A sort of visual slang that only an 'in group' would comprehend.

So are we looking at a new direction of expression within the English language, linguistic "limping" on inadequate technology legs, or simple adolescent clannishness?

Ya got me, daddy-o.


Ha ha ha haaa

Bwahh-ha-ha-ha haaaa ha ha! Ha hahaha!

That's so funny I'm cracking down the freaking middle. I can't think of anything more ridiculously irrelevant to my situation. Any woman -ANY woman- who tries to manipulate me with sex is getting kicked to the curb. Yes, I realize that covers 99.999999% of the women in the world, but that can hardly damage my chances beyond their current state. Been there, done that, read the book, saw the movie, wrote the review, got the T-shirt, rode the Disney ride, bought the Collector's Edition DVD.

Nie wieder.

Anyone who withholds her affections from someone she claims to love for such reasons isn't worth the effort, in my opinion. Coercion is coercion, and where I'm coming from turning sex into a tool for coercion (i.e., a weapon) qualifies as domestic abuse.


PS. Guess what, guys, lack of sex doesn't kill you. If anything, it makes you stronger: it's amazing how much more freely you move in the world when you don't have to wonder whether buying the wrong dresser, or failing to take out the garbage, or holding a given political position is gonna get you a cold shoulder.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Recent Happenings

Put Rich's Short-Attention-Span Amber in the fermenter on Saturday. It's a clone of New England Brewing Company's Atlantic Amber from the book Clone Brews.

Why? Put simply, Rich's Vindication IPA has another two to three weeks of aging in the bottle before it's ready for public consumption. By contrast, a nice simple amber ale can go from kettle to bottle to glass in two weeks, and I'm tired of waiting and waiting for The Beer to Come. Thus, "Short-Attention-Span Amber." It'll almost certainly be better after two weeks in the bottle than one, but as I said, I'm impatient. :-D

I did have a taste of Vindication IPA on Saturday (one week in the bottle), and it certainly does need the time... Bitter as a born-again bachelor, but with no refinement at all. There was still that unfinished-malt, unfermented-priming-sugar harshness that will mellow as the IPA ages.

The ultimate solution to brewing impatience, of course, is to have several batches "in the pipeline" at any one time, but I'm afraid my current living situation isn't particularly conducive to that much beer just lying around - I can hardly move in my apartment as it is.

We'll have to see about changing that...


Ideological Dilemma

PETA wants beer to replace milk as the state's official drink

What's a conservative to do?!?!?