January 2005 Archives

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January 30, 2005
They're Number One!

The people of Iraq have earned a thumbs-up today... but I hope they'll settle for this:


(Inspiration and a collection of other pictures at GOPbloggers.org)

Posted by Russ at 09:51 PM
January 28, 2005
Life Saver

I have a new hero.

Posted by Russ at 10:33 PM
Profile in Cowardice

Perhaps it's been difficult for Senator Ted Kennedy, living all these years in the shadows of his late brothers. Said the Senator:

We have reached the point that a prolonged American military presence in Iraq is no longer productive for either Iraq or the United States. The US military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Lovely, just lovely. Such fine words. Note to the Senator: our troops eliminated the problem. His name is Saddam, and he sits in a jail cell awaiting justice.

At least 12,000 American troops -- probably more -- should leave at once, to send a strong signal about our intentions and to ease the pervasive sense of occupation.

[Quotes via Rush.]

Compare those gems to JFK's words:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Living in JFK's and RFK's shadows is no excuse for such cowardice from Ted Kennedy.

Perhaps someone ought to send the Senator a case of scotch, with the proviso that he use it for the sole purpose of drinking himself into a coma.

Posted by Russ at 07:11 PM | Comments (1)
January 27, 2005

I know there have been plenty of very nice Flash slideshows of photos from Iraq.

Here's one I hadn't previously seen.

Make sure your speakers are on; nice soundtrack.

Posted by Russ at 07:23 PM
We Get Results. Sort Of.

After repeatedly haranguing James Taranto to start using the

<a name="[insert-name-here]"></a>
"named anchor" tag at OpinionJournal.com's Best of the Web page, I see that indeed there is some minor usage.

Like here.

Full disclosure: I discovered today that there was at least one such tag in the page I last linked... but none at the item to which I was trying to direct readers. And I am shocked (shocked!) to find that the item to which I linked the first time I bloviated on the matter has since had an anchor added.


Thanks, James!

Now, if you guys could make it SOP to have permalinks to each and every item....

Posted by Russ at 06:42 PM
LT's Hell

A 2nd Lieutenant met an untimely end and found himself standing before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

Said St. Peter, "Welcome, Lieutenant. You have served faithfully, and may enter Heaven."

"Well," said the shavetail, "I'd sure like to come in, but if there are any Sergeants Major in Heaven, I don't want to go in. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's being treated like a child by a cigar-chewing, know-it-all, been-everywhere, seen-everything Sergeant Major."

"No," said Peter, "there's not a single Sergeant Major who ever made it here to Heaven. Not a one. Now, report up to the Heaven HQ for your assignment. It's that gold building at the top of that hill."

"I figured as much," thought the LT to himself as he marched through the Pearly Gates.

Moving towards the golden building, the Lieutenant realized how orderly the setting around him was, and knew he would be very happy in Heaven. Every street had been policed, all the grass freshly mown, and every rock painted. Getting closer to HQ, though, he began to hear what sounded like yelling coming from one of the open windows. He crept up to investigate.

Looking in the window, he saw what he feared most — a Sergeant Major, leaning back in a swivel chair, feet up on his desk, shouting into a telephone and waving a cigar around. Around the desk, half a dozen junior officers were doing pushups non-stop.

Horrified, the Lieutenant hastened back towards the Gates. "I want out of here ASAP!" he told St. Peter.

"Lieutenant!" cried Pete, "what's wrong? I thought you were going to be happy here!"

"Happy?" wailed the young shavetail. "How can I be happy here? I spent my too-short career being condescended to by every Sergeant Major I ever saw! I hate them! And when I asked if there were any here, you said no!" He described what he had seen.

"Oh!" said the saint, "No, no, no. That wasn't a Sergeant Major at all.... You see, that was God — He just thinks he's a Sergeant Major!"

[Old joke, brought to mind by this post at Castle Argghhh!]

Posted by Russ at 12:36 PM | Comments (4)
First Cousins, Unremoved

While googling and clicking around to try to find out exactly what the blood relationship is between "second cousins" — I never really understood the whole "first cousin twice removed" or "second cousin once removed" thing, or indeed anything more complicated than "cousin" — I ran across Cousin Couples.

For the record: no thank you.

OK, OK, I know that historically and culturally in most places on Earth, there is nothing wrong with first cousins marrying each other. Indeed, in some places in the world, there's no one but cousins to marry. To this day, it is apparently acceptable (or at least legal) in most places in the world, including every country in Europe, in Japan, Mexico, and Canada. Indeed, I have distant Canadian relatives who I believe are first cousins married to each other, though I may be misinformed on the matter.

The cultural taboo against cousin marriage in this country is another thing altogether, perhaps because it is illegal in most (but by no means all) of the States, though maybe the cause and effect are the other way around. Certainly, all the "inbred hillbilly" jokes haven't exactly made the practice much respected in this country.

I have plenty of cousins, and I love them all.

Just not that way.

Posted by Russ at 08:11 AM | Comments (1)
January 26, 2005
Top-Notch Customer Service

A few years ago, I used to do telephone tech support for a Major Silicon Valley Technology Company. We strove to provide the best service any customer could have the right to expect, and in my ever-so-humble opinion (and that of, oh, just about every rating organization in the country) we succeeded.

Our products were more expensive then the competition, the software had more than its share of problems, but the after-sale support we provided was second to none, and it brought customers back to us over and over again.

Having been "the guy on the phone" for literally thousands of customers calling with broken networks over the years, I really began to take notice of high quality technical support when I was on the "caller" end of a support situation. Good support is rare enough that it deserves recognition.

With that in mind, I'm here to praise the folks at Epson.

Just under a year ago, I bought an Epson all-in-one printer/copier/scanner. I used to prefer having multiple stand-alone devices, but my old devices were, well, old, and I didn't have a copier... so an inexpensive (very inexpensive) replacement for them seemed just the thing.

Last week, with less than a month remaining on the warranty, the printer ceased printing. No, that's not quite right. It printed colors just fine; it merely stopped printing anything black. And before you ask, yes, there was a fresh ink cartridge in it.

After doing all the testing and diagnosing I could think to do, I was up against a wall. I could neither resolve the problem nor even determine what the problem actually was. At that point I called Epson's customer support.

The guy on the phone was fantastic. Once I explained that I had been a professional tech troubleshooter, we got through his mandatory "have you tried this?" spiel in less than two minutes, and he recommended replacement of the whole unit with a new one. I wasn't about to argue or complain.

Today, the new one arrived via UPS. But it wasn't the same model — it was the new model. Apparently the old one had been discontinued, so rather than shipping me a returned-and-repaired machine, I was the beneficiary of a free upgrade. New features (the printing from memory card capability looks pretty darn cool — I hope it's the same card my camera uses), better performance — hard to beat.

In the past, when I had to arrange a hardware replacement for a customer with a problem, it was not at all unusual to give the customer, at no cost, a newer piece of equipment that had the same or better capabilities. But after the tech business went through the shakeup of 2000/2001, such free replacement practices have become fairly rare.

I'm very pleased with Epson. Their exemplary service has earned them my future business.

[And yes, I know that the printers themselves are not the "profit center" of the industry; the ink cartridges are. Which makes the fact that Epson shipped me new cartridges just that much more praiseworthy.]

Posted by Russ at 08:42 PM
Quote of the Day

Mike at Cold Fury:

I just wish people would stop referring to the yammering d***weed [Ted] Turner as "the mouth of the South." If that ultra-liberal carpetbagger ever tried to hang out with any real Southerners, they’d most likely beat his ass like a drum just for "Captain Planet" alone.

I'd stand in line for that.

Posted by Russ at 07:00 PM
January 24, 2005
A Moment With Carnak The Magnificent

"The answer is — sis-boom-baaah."

The envelope is opened to reveal the answer....

"What is the sound made by an exploding sheep?"

I never laughed so hard in my life.

So long, Johnny.

Posted by Russ at 11:52 PM | Comments (2)
January 23, 2005
Google "Fun"

A glance through my referrer logs can be informative, if not actually entertaining. What is it that brings people to this site? What pages are they seeing?

I'm not particularly proud of that one.

That one is a bit out of date. Maybe I should add a link to that post that points to better information.

Heh. Sounds like the name of a really awful band. The Bangles' evil twins.

I'm not sure what's more pathetic, people clicking through 3 pages of search engine results to find information from me on color-changing paint, or me actually doing this post.

Yes, I am bored today.... I guess I'll do some housework. That carpet could use some shampooing....

Posted by Russ at 12:03 PM | Comments (2)
January 22, 2005
Die, Spammers, Die

Removing the incentive for death-deserving scumbags spammers to send comment and trackback spam will help ameliorate the problem, but only if significantly huge numbers of MT users hop on the bandwagon.

By "bandwagon," I of course refer to the new MT plugin, nofollow.

No, I'm not going to explain what it does — the folks at SixApart have already done so.

(Via Spoons.)

Posted by Russ at 03:38 PM | Comments (3)
January 19, 2005
Quote of the Day
When you flirt with death, you run the risk that death has something more serious in mind.

James Taranto, in today's Best of the Web, the item headlined "The Jerk That Flirts With Death."

[Hey, Jimmy — ever heard of the HTML <a name="..."></a> tag? Highly recommended.]

Posted by Russ at 07:41 PM | Comments (2)

Having noted this article on Senator John Thune's new office, it occurred to me... I've neither seen nor heard former Senator Tom Daschle (D-Nothing Anymore) being deeply saddened by anything lately.

I really like that "former Senator" appellation.

Others to whom I'd like to see it applied: Leahy, Feinstein, Boxer, Kennedy — not necessarily in that order. Oh, and I mustn't forget the weasel Jeffords.

Posted by Russ at 07:24 PM
January 18, 2005

Why, yes. Yes I have been busy.

The fruits of my labors will be coming Thursday. Watch this space.

Posted by Russ at 07:36 PM
January 14, 2005
Hang 'em High
Big Spam Bust, Texas Style

Texas became the latest state or federal entity to take a swipe at spammers Thursday when it sued a University of Texas student and a California resident over what spam watchdog SpamHaus calls the world's fourth largest illegal e-mail operation.

Sued? Sued???

I was under the impression that such spammery was a crime... you know, with things like strip-searches and prison sentences pertaining thereto.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called Ryan Samuel Pitylak of Austin and Mark Stephen Trotter of Encinitas, Calif., two of the nation's "most prolific spammers" in an Austin press conference detailing the multi-million dollar civil action.

I'd rather see the state take a little "uncivil" action towards the reprobates.

I'd really rather handle it myself, perhaps with a mob group of my fellow 'net afficionados, in a somewhat more convincing manner and with a more lasting deterrent effect than mere civil penalties are likely to provide.

Abbott said Pitylak and Trotter engaged in "reaching out and harassing hundreds of thousands of people across the United States" in a fraudulent e-mail scheme involving misleading subject lines.

The lawsuit contends the two were pitching mortgage refinancing services, although neither Pitylak nor Trotter are licensed in Texas to provide such services. According to Abbott, consumers, after being assured in the e-mail their privacy would be protected, provided personal information which Pitylak and Trotter then sold to other companies for as much as $28 per lead.

Given the number of idiots on the 'net these days (there's a sucker coming online every millisecond) there's some real money to be made in that business. And I'm sure that line of work is a good deal safer than, say, dealing crack on a street corner.

"Hey, kids! Want a career in a low-risk high-potential work-from-home career?"

"We want to make clear that these defendants we are suing today and any other spammers in the State of Texas can't hide behind a computer screen any longer," Abbott said at the press conference. "Sending spam with misleading subject lines violate both federal and state law and there is a very heavy price to pay for that illegal spamming."

That price ought to include a good old-fashioned western-style necktie party. Considering this case is being raised in Texas, I'm surprised at the lack of prosecutorial ferocity.

Posted by Russ at 03:33 PM
Quote of the Day

A national party no more:

All the Democrats who now say that the party has foolishly given up on the South, that it is unable to connect with religious voters, that it is too beholden to liberal orthodoxy on social issues, that Americans don't trust it on national defense, and that it doesn't speak the language of most Americans should take a deep breath and repeat after me: "Zell Miller was right."

Rich Lowry, in "Zell Was Right" at NRO

Posted by Russ at 03:11 PM
January 12, 2005
Home Defense

I'm not often overwhelmed with glee when some miscreant meets his demise at the hands of an armed homeowner. It's sad that someone could throw away his life so stupidly.

This isn't quite Texas, but it's good to know that here in North Carolina, one can defend oneself with lethal force and not automatically be presumed by Law Enforcement to be the villain, as would happen in many jurisdictions in this country — or indeed in many countries in, say, Europe.

No Charges For Homeowner Who Shot Burglary Suspect

WILSON, N.C. -- A Wilson man who allegedly shot and killed a suspected burglar at his house Tuesday morning will not face charges in the shooting death, authorities said.

. . .

The home's resident, Gene Watson, told police that he had shot the man after he had broken into Watson's home.

The article also notes:

Watson is known in Wilson for his work as Cocoa the Clown.

Jokes seem rather inappropriate, for some reason.

Posted by Russ at 08:56 PM | Comments (3)
Profound Wallop

Sending a mission to examine — and punch a hole through — a comet: pretty dang cool.

Naming it after the chick-flick version of the Bruce Willis vehicle Armageddon: not quite so cool.

Posted by Russ at 07:07 PM
January 10, 2005
But It's A Good Kind Of Tired

Brain: fried.

Stomach: acidic.

"Dogs": barking.

Eyelids: drooping.

I'm just pooped. Maybe I'll have something tomorrow.

Posted by Russ at 05:15 PM | Comments (1)
January 07, 2005
Stop! Or I'll....

Someone stop this man before he puns again.

Posted by Russ at 06:15 PM | Comments (1)
Deconstructing Tolkien for Fun and Profit

Once in a while, you stumble across a previously unseen gem.

Howard Zinn's and Noam Chomsky's post-modernism takes one on the chin, in a long but thoroughly enjoyable parody from 2003, "The Real Atrocity in Tolkien's Middle Earth."

Zinn: Here, very significantly, we have the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm. You will notice that what is destroyed is a bridge — another potential connector.

Chomsky: On a symbolic level, that is a very good point.

Zinn: All the borders in this film are constantly being destroyed, or overrun, or eliminated, or sealed. It's all about fear - fearing the other. Notice, too, that the Elf Legolas jumps across the ruined bridge first.

Chomsky: They'll cross this bridge and the bridge will collapse, and they'll never be able to communicate with the Balrog again, or with the Orcs inside. In fact, they're sealing off the Orcs from ever escaping. They're leaving the Orcs in the cave with this big Balrog. Now, again, surely, among these Moria Orcs were some Orc radicals — aggressive, angry, militant radicals. We shouldn't understate that.

Zinn: Well, look how the Orcs grow up. What do you expect?

Chomsky: I mean, what other options have they?

Zinn: I dare say that, were I an Orc, I might possibly be one of those terrorist Orcs, shooting arrows at the Fellowship myself.

Chomsky: Here comes the Balrog. Notice Gandalf's unilateral action. "Quick, get away, I have to fight this thing alone!"

Zinn: Once again you see a creature that's on fire being demonized in this movie: the flaming eye, the flaming Balrog. As though being on fire is this terrible affliction to have.

Chomsky: As though they can help it if they're on fire.

I wasn't expecting a good chuckle today, but I sure got one.

[The piece was written by Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell of McSweeny's Internet Tendency, and can also be found on their site.]

Posted by Russ at 03:32 PM | Comments (3)
January 06, 2005
Blame God?

In light of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the damage it has wrought, some ask "why would a just and merciful God allow such a thing to happen?" Here are two columns from yesterday that are worth reading:

Michael Novak: Blaming God First:

What can biblically informed believers reply to those who, contemplating the massive destruction and death in today's Asia, blame their God (a God in Whom those who do the blaming do not believe)?

Confronted with this demand — confronted with it, actually, quite often in my lifetime — I think first of this: Since those who ask it do not believe in God, the question is not what it seems to be. The real point of the question is to get me to groan inwardly by agreeing that the one who thinks he is my superior is correct, after all. The real point is to get me to deny the reality of God.

Cal Thomas: God and Suffering:

Here's another question for those who ask the other questions: If catastrophe proves there is no God, does charity prove He exists? Individuals in Britain have contributed millions of pounds to the tsunami survivors, more than their government. Most of the world's charities helping in the effort are Christian and American.

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation, yet Muslim nations, including the fabulously wealthy Saudi regime, have given chump change compared to those countries with majority Christian populations. Don't expect Christians, or Americans, to gain points with those who believe America is the "Great Satan."

There aren't any easy answers, but Novak and Thomas get the ball rolling.

Posted by Russ at 03:12 PM | Comments (1)
January 04, 2005
Quote(s) of the Day

With Congress now back in session, I thought it might be a good day to roll out some oldies-but-goodies.

Alexis De Tocqueville:

The debates of that great assembly are frequently vague and perplexed, seeming to be dragged rather than to march, to the intended goal. Something of this sort must, I think, always happen in public democratic assemblies.

Henry David Thoreau:

If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonal experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among the nations.

Mark Twain:

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

Will Rogers:

This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.

With Congress, every time they make a joke it's a law, and every time they make a law it's a joke.

Personally, every time Congress goes into session, regardless of who's in charge, I'm inclined to hide my wallet and clean my shotguns.

Posted by Russ at 06:25 PM
January 02, 2005
Smoker Day

I was going to cook barbecue yesterday, New Year's Day, I swear I was. But due to circumstances beyond my control, the smoker didn't get lit.

Well, OK, the circumstances were entirely within my control — I overslept, and thus didn't get the smoker lit in the morning. A morning lighting is required to allow enough time for the smoker to do it's job properly if you want to actually eat before, say, 9pm.

But I really needed the sleep.

Last night I made sure to set my alarm clock. As a result, my own little Vesuvius has already been belching smoke for a couple of hours today, and there's a nice slab of brined and spice-rubbed pig inside, giving its all for my gustatorial delight.

Maybe I should spend my free time today learning to make good hushpuppies.

Update, 7:30pm: Yuuummmm.

Posted by Russ at 01:01 PM | Comments (2)
January 01, 2005
Partying Like It's 1999

There is, it seems to me, something fundamentally wrong with taking vitamins and chasing them down with a beer.

Posted by Russ at 02:30 PM | Comments (2)
Wait... Another One?

Happy New Year.

Posted by Russ at 12:00 AM