Repair Teams Try to Calm 'Computer Rage'

Technicians Make House Calls to Fix Stubborn Equipment

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, May 1, 2005

NOVATO, Calif.-- The young woman at the other end of the phone wept to Kelly Chessen that the world was against her. She had been in a minor car accident. A thief had stolen some things from her house. And now this: The family's computer, which contained her husband's business files, was dead.

Chessen, a crisis counselor who answered the hotline, soothingly assured the caller that such things happen to everyone, that it was no one's fault, that her luck would turn around. It wasn't until 20 minutes into the conversation that Chessen began to address the cause of the young woman's agony.

Send us the machine, Chessen said, and we'll do everything we can to help.

Chessen, who once was a manager for a suicide prevention hotline, now works in customer service for DriveSavers Data Recovery Inc. "This is a lot like my old job," she said. "Oftentimes the most helpful thing we can do is just to listen and to let people get whatever they are feeling off their chests."

Technology has become a bane of modern life. People juggle a mountain of electronic equipment to store their most important records and intimate secrets. But the complicated nature of their machines, with their manuals full with unintelligible acronyms, tangles of cords and invisible wireless signals, means a breakdown is almost inevitable. The loss of a computer, cell phone or other gadget can be so jolting that it is fueling the rise of what some psychologists call "computer rage."

The phenomenon is transforming the nature of technology service, an industry long infamous for being impersonal.

Business is booming for companies with names like Rent-a-Geek, Geeks on Call and Geek Squad that make house calls to fix computers. Television technicians, once near extinction, are again driving to homes to adjust complicated settings on high-definition sets and hook them up to multi-component home-entertainment systems. Some of the world's largest computer makers train their support personnel as much about customers' delicate psyches as they do about technical matters.

"There's this frustration that you are really dependent on these things that you don't understand and that you have no idea how to fix," said Kent L. Norman, a researcher at the University of Maryland's Laboratory for Automation Psychology and Decision Processes. "We place so much trust in computers that it gets a little scary."

No one is immune. No device is exempt. Online message boards are filled with rants about iPods -- sold by the millions on the idea that they are easy to use -- freezing up, and $50,000 luxury cars with windows that roll up and down on their own at random times.

The recounting of one's personal technological Armageddon is often desperate and emotional. A recent survey by Norman found that as many as one out of 10 users have hit, kicked or otherwise abused their equipment.

Barbara Gould said that in the past two years her family's computers have broken down six times and her cell phone twice. Then, while she was in the middle of watching the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy one night, her DVD player mysteriously began to freeze every few minutes.

"I was ready to throw everything out the window or burn them or do something violent," said Gould, 53, a contractor for Fannie Mae, who works on manuals and other technical documentation.

Instead, Gould, who lives in Herndon, ran a search on Google and found Erik Bursch, a computer-repair consultant who works in the Tysons Corner area.

Bursch said he has made several hundred house calls over the past few years and that he is often welcomed as a conquering hero. He said he has found more and more people willing to pay the $60 to $70 an hour he charges.

The peaceful, park-like setting of the DriveSavers compound in a San Francisco suburb belies the frenzy inside.

The company's labs operate like a hospital emergency room.

Chessen, 31, and the other 12 customer service representatives do triage. The challenge is to recognize which of the five stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance -- a given customer is in, and respond accordingly.

One recent afternoon, a man whose small business had burned down was telling Chessen how his insurance company was still inspecting the place so he could not even go in to see the carpets or to fetch his computer -- on which he had a lot of important documents. "I was thinking, Why is he yelling at me?" Chessen said later.

In another part of the building, delivery people rush in and out with oddly shaped cartons containing precious cargo. The contents of the boxes, hard drives and other data storage devices, are carefully taken to a clean room where they are dissected by technicians in white jumpsuits and blue gloves and then "cloned." The copies are sent upstairs to data specialists who try to retrieve and reconstruct what people are looking for.

Sometimes the information is important only to the person it belongs to -- pictures of one's firstborn, musical compositions, résumés, old e-mail, business plans, love letters. For others, it is something more: scripts for 12 then-unaired episodes of "The Simpsons"; research data for a cancer scientist at a major East Coast university.

The work is not cheap -- the bill is usually $500 to $2,000 -- but for many the information is priceless. In addition to paying the company's fees, some customers have sent wine and roses to show their gratitude.

David K. Schoenkin, executive director and asset management consultant at Oppenheimer & Co., recently lost his computer, Palm Pilot and cell phone when he dropped his shoulder bag in a Manhattan street and an 18-wheeler ran over it. He said the crunch of the truck going over his equipment was "horrible, deafening" as he thought about losing his journals from five years of travel to Kenya, Morocco, Chile and Laos and digital pictures of the paintings he created and sold years ago when he was an art student.

"You have to understand how devastating this was. Every single piece of electronic detail in my life was lost," he said.

DriveSavers managed to recover everything.

Not everyone is so fortunate. Ed Sit, the no-nonsense 49-year-old who is the clean-room manager, has the difficult job of giving people bad news. Some customers politely thank him for trying, Sit said. Others want to cast blame. They think that if they talk to his boss or if they pay more money they can get a different result. Sit said he thinks to himself: "I'm sorry -- but if your relative is dead in a hospital, even millions and millions of dollars are just not going to bring him back."

clock Posted Sat Apr 30th, 2005 - 10:19pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Amway's GOPyramid Scheme

Check out this story about the former Amway insider's (Eric Schebeler) exposé, entitled Merchants of Deception: An Insider's Look at the Worldwide, Systematic Conspiracy of Lies That is Amway / Quixtar and their Motivational organization.  

"How the multi-billion dollar worldwide corporation recruits ordinary folks into the 'system,' and uses well-connected politicians and pastors to become Masters of Deception."


I am in the midst of plowing through the book, which you can download for free of charge at the author's website here.


clock Posted Thu Apr 28th, 2005 - 9:00pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


If there's a Will, There's a Way

I read the following story in a local Asian weekly last night, and it reminded me to get my will updated. Was happy to find a link to this on the 'net...


Man throws a wild feast...his own body!

Asian News International
Aizawl, April 12, 2005

In what could be termed as the strangest will ever made in Mizoram, a man in Kawkulh village has willed his last remains to wild animals after his death.

New World Laldingliana, 46, made his will with the district council court's first class magistrate Lalbiakzama in Mizoram last Friday. The will of Laldingliana, who recently received the Pawngpui Award, a prestigious wildlife award given by the state's Environment and Forest Department says, "I, New World Laldingliana, have decided to give my body to wild animals when my life on earth is over to show that I had given my life for them (the animals)."

An ordinary farmer in Kawkulh village, Laldingliana has become well known for his contributions towards the protection of wildlife, which was confirmed by the award he received from the state's Environment and Forest Department in 2003.

Laldingliana has established a sanctuary in Kawkulh and planted large varieties of fruit bearing trees to feed birds and animals.

"One of my greatest wishes is to throw a feast for the wild animals in Phawngpui forest with my own body. As such, I have made my will without any coercion or motivation from anyone," the will further reads.

Laldingliana, who believes in the sanctity of life, says that it's God call to him to work for the protection of wildlife. "But his ability is very less", he adds.

The magistrate also said that the will is unique and was the first of its kind that he has ever come across.


Here kitty, kitty!

clock Posted Wed Apr 27th, 2005 - 7:00pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Bush, God, and the Media

How the president has used religion to control American politics

by David Domke for  - Mar 7, 2005


American presidents beginning with George Washington have included religious language in their public addresses. Claims of the United States as a divinely chosen nation and requests for God to bless U.S. decisions and actions have been commonplace. Scholars have labeled such discourse "civil religion," in which political leaders emphasize religious symbols and transcendent principles to engender a sense of unity and shared national identity.

George W. Bush is doing something altogether different.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the president and his administration have converged a religious fundamentalist worldview with a political agenda -- a distinctly partisan one, wrapped in the mantle of national interest but crafted by and for only those who share their outlook. It is a modern form of political fundamentalism, that is, the adaptation of a self-proclaimed conservative religious (Christian) rectitude, that uses strategic language choices and communication approaches designed for a mass-media culture to shape and implement political policy.

Motivated by this ideology, the Bush administration has sought to control the national discourse by engendering a climate of nationalism in which large parts of the public views supporting the president as a patriotic duty, and where Congress and the United Nations are compelled to rubber-stamp administration policies.

The goal is a national mood of spiritual superiority under the guise of a just sovereignty. The ultimate irony is that in combating the Islamic extremists responsible for the World Trade Center attacks the administration has crafted, pursued and engendered its own brand of political fundamentalism, one that, while clearly tailored to a modern democracy, nonetheless functions ideologically in a manner similar to the version offered by the terrorists. I'm well aware that merely by pointing out this fact I become another target for the media machine behind the Bush Administration.

All of this has a facade of merely politics as usual. It is not. Unfortunately, as too often occurs with matters of religion, the mainstream news media have missed the story almost entirely, and thus so has much of the U.S. public...


Read the rest here

clock Posted Tue Apr 26th, 2005 - 8:13am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Paul Martin Mash-Up Challenge

I caught this "cut-up" of Martin's "appeal to the nation" speech on the DOSE site.

See: Martin Promises Election

Check out the instructions for creating the clips here.

Check out the clips


clock Posted Mon Apr 25th, 2005 - 11:04pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Computer Security Hysteria

Hysteria is a box with four corners
Posted at by Rob Rosenberger

I LOOK AT computer security hysteria as a box with four corners. Pardon me while I crank out yet another cheesy diagram:

In one corner you'll find the media. These folks harbor a fetish for juicy computer virus stories -- and they'll give free ink to any clown who talks a great story. Believe it or not, you can actually read about a narcissistic hacker in Indonesia who declared war against the United States, or a narcissistic hacker group in Russia that declared war against the United States, or a bunch of unorganized wannabees in China who waged war against the United States...

In another corner you'll find hackers & virus writers. These dweebs delusionally think they can declare war against the United States, and a willing media feeds their collective narcissistic personality disorder. Hackers & virus writers provide the backdrop of evil for our next two corners...

In a third corner you'll find computer security vendors dominated by the antivirus companies. These firms crave the media's free ink for marketing reasons. They want reporters to portray them as the cops of the Internet who fight the rampant crime out there. They also like to portray themselves as private investigators.

In the fourth corner you'll find the government. Certain agencies and high-ranking individuals exploit their credentials to legitimize the heinous threats posed by hackers & virus writers. Reporters bestow an air of authenticity to their stories whenever they cite government agencies or individuals. Government agencies can use their media exposure to increase their budgets, while high-ranking individuals can use it to beef up their résumés.

Okay, so now you know what I mean when I talk about "the four corners of hysteria." Let's digress with an anecdote...

Read the rest here.

clock Posted Sun Apr 24th, 2005 - 6:14pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



The Evil Overlord List

This list (or a variation thereof) has been floating around the Internet for nearly 10 years. Once upon a time, I would periodically send friends a "bizarre links" email, and this was a part of one of the early one of these.

The following is the preamble for this particular list from the list's compiler, Peter Anspatch:

Being an Evil Overlord seems to be a good career choice. It pays well, there are all sorts of perks and you can set your own hours. However every Evil Overlord I've read about in books or seen in movies invariably gets overthrown and destroyed in the end. I've noticed that no matter whether they are barbarian lords, deranged wizards, mad scientists or alien invaders, they always seem to make the same basic mistakes every single time. With that in mind, allow me to present...

The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

clock Posted Sat Apr 23rd, 2005 - 10:55am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



The Gallery of Unfortunate Cards

Have minutes upon minutes of fun at the Gallery of Unfortunate Cards.


Gee, thanks Capt'n Wacky!

clock Posted Fri Apr 22nd, 2005 - 11:01pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

lookout by Naomi Klein

from the May 2, 2005 issue of the Nation


Last summer, in the lull of the August media doze, the Bush Administration's doctrine of preventive war took a major leap forward. On August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, headed by former US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual. Its mandate is to draw up elaborate "post-conflict" plans for up to twenty-five countries that are not, as of yet, in conflict. According to Pascual, it will also be able to coordinate three full-scale reconstruction operations in different countries "at the same time," each lasting "five to seven years."

Fittingly, a government devoted to perpetual pre-emptive deconstruction now has a standing office of perpetual pre-emptive reconstruction.

Gone are the days of waiting for wars to break out and then drawing up ad hoc plans to pick up the pieces. In close cooperation with the National Intelligence Council, Pascual's office keeps "high risk" countries on a "watch list" and assembles rapid-response teams ready to engage in prewar planning and to "mobilize and deploy quickly" after a conflict has gone down. The teams are made up of private companies, nongovernmental organizations and members of think tanks--some, Pascual told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in October, will have "pre-completed" contracts to rebuild countries that are not yet broken. Doing this paperwork in advance could "cut off three to six months in your response time."

The plans Pascual's teams have been drawing up in his little-known office in the State Department are about changing "the very social fabric of a nation," he told CSIS. The office's mandate is not to rebuild any old states, you see, but to create "democratic and market-oriented" ones. So, for instance (and he was just pulling this example out of his hat, no doubt), his fast-acting reconstructors might help sell off "state-owned enterprises that created a nonviable economy." Sometimes rebuilding, he explained, means "tearing apart the old."

Few ideologues can resist the allure of a blank slate--that was colonialism's seductive promise: "discovering" wide-open new lands where utopia seemed possible. But colonialism is dead, or so we are told; there are no new places to discover, no terra nullius (there never was), no more blank pages on which, as Mao once said, "the newest and most beautiful words can be written." There is, however, plenty of destruction--countries smashed to rubble, whether by so-called Acts of God or by Acts of Bush (on orders from God). And where there is destruction there is reconstruction, a chance to grab hold of "the terrible barrenness," as a UN official recently described the devastation in Aceh, and fill it with the most perfect, beautiful plans...


Read the rest here

clock Posted Thu Apr 21st, 2005 - 12:47pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Garden Gnome Liberation Front

Wikipedia has a brief blurb about the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. This is a political movement dedicated to liberating gnomes from the gardens in which they are imprisoned. Members of the liberation front remove gnomes from gardens and either take them out to the woods to set them loose, or smash them to set their spirit free (personally I think taking them out to the woods sounds like the more humane option). I wonder if they've ever considered taking them to the underwater gnome garden. Anyway, this is an international movement. The American group calls itself Free The Gnomes. The Italian group calls itself MALAG, or the Independent Movement for the Liberation of the Garden Gnomes.

clock Posted Wed Apr 20th, 2005 - 10:57pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Brooklyn Cake Master's Supremely Funky Creations

Snip from NY Times story:

Two years ago, a party planner working for the hip-hop artist Mary J. Blige ordered a birthday cake for her from a Brooklyn baker who had long ago retired his given name - Raven Patrick De'Sean Dennis III - for the shorter if equally titular designation Cake Man Raven.

In celebration of Ms. Blige's 33rd birthday, Mr. Dennis constructed a cake that paid tribute not to any single one of her achievements or affinities, but, ostensibly, to all of them. Four feet wide and 26 inches tall, the cake featured edible approximations of a CD, a musical note, a Dolce & Gabbana shopping bag, a Christian Dior purse, a MAC cosmetics compact, a dove and a near-life-size baby, meant to symbolize Ms. Blige's spiritual rebirth.

Whether by happenstance or design, Cake Man Raven has become the city's most visually strident opponent of the restrained preciousness that has overtaken the baking world. Few would confuse the results of his labor with anything found in Real Simple. Instead, Mr. Dennis's cakes and Mr. Dennis himself - or Cake, as he identifies himself over the phone - have a sense of the epic about them. For the Rev. Al Sharpton, he once made a model of the Bible turned to Timothy 2:15 ("Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved"); for Cab Calloway's 80th birthday, a songbook with a grand piano resting on top; for Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, a replica of its Borough Hall, twice. When the rapper Jam Master J died in 2002, he made a cake in the shape of a large Adidas sneaker with a gold chain and two turntables on it.

Link to NYT story

Here's the Cake Man's website with more photos: Link


clock Posted Tue Apr 19th, 2005 - 11:11am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Google Maps

In February, Google introduced Google Maps, a faster and better-looking alternative to MapQuest and other online mapping sites. Last month it added a touch that made Google Maps different from any competitor: high-resolution aerial photos of the area covered by the maps, which visitors can zoom in on for a closer bird's-eye view. (These photos came from Keyhole, a company Google bought last year.) Go to, enter a ZIP code, Postal code or address, and then click the "satellite" button to switch from map to photo. In either view you can get driving instructions from one point to another, as with other map sites. But when the route is traced in the photos, the turns and waypoints are much more vivid.

But don't try this until you have an hour or two to spare. It is difficult to resist the temptation to zoom down to your own house, then your childhood elementary school, then Honolulu, then Disneyland. Not all places are shown in super-high-resolution: in general, the greater the population density, the sharper the image. If you click on the screen, you can pan from place to place, as if flying. A waste of time, perhaps -- but fascinating!

The real importance of Google's map and satellite program, however, is not its impressive exterior but the novel technology, known as Ajax, that lies beneath.

clock Posted Mon Apr 18th, 2005 - 2:49pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



"Buy a Gun Day", 2005

At first I thought BAG Day was a joke -- until I realized that these American folks are dead serious about celebrating their 2nd Amendment rights.

Keeping a happy, but bleary eye on the blogosphere celebrations, is Aaron at Aaron's C.C. (formerly Aaron the Liberal Slayer) -- who is tallying this years blogs against the "them-thar-Liberal anti-gun" crowd.

From the site:

Here it is, the Sunday before Buy A Gun Day, April 15. For the third year, we’re turning the liberal holiday of forcible asset seizure into one of our own. It’s a little solace.

I’ve decided to plan the week as follows for linkers to link, cite and trackback.

Some background… I’ll fess up that I am a relative newbie to the world of guns, having grown up a public school educated son of a Jewish Ivy League professor within such close proximity to New York City that the New York Times was both canon and at the in-city price. Please forgive my mistakes as those of a late coming enthusiast. I got on the fence about the Second Amendment during the Bernie Goetz trial (if you don’t remember riding the NYC subways in the 1970’s, STFU because you don’t know how bad it was). I became a complete convert during the Los Angeles riots, when the goblins outnumbered law enforcement and storefronts within a quarter mile of my home were burned to the ground. Two years ago, I joined the NRA.

Now, I’m trying to make up for lost time by getting out the word and encouraging not-yet-owners to at least become better informed and owners to make an effort to recruit those who may be standing on the fence or to move from the opposition to the ranks of the uncertain.

That the blogosphere enables me to coordinate the third Buy A Gun Day while I live in the shadow of the Hollywood sign only makes the results of my effort sweeter.

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791, my wife’s birthday. I find that auspicious.


Read more of the rhetoric:

"Well, IM viruses seem to be the next thing. I think the legislative branch is going too slowly on raising penalties on spammers, virus writers, spyware makers, phishers and the like.

LEESBURG, Va. - A man convicted in the nation’s first felony case against illegal spamming was sentenced to nine years in prison Friday for bombarding Internet users with millions of junk e-mails.

I’m almost hoping that the spouse or child of a senator or prominent congressman or a celebrity gets their identity stolen or their work raped by a hacker so that teeth are put into the laws. The recent 9 year sentence is a good start but not enough.

The world would benefit from bounty hunting of spammers and malicious hackers, dead or alive. I’m not being hyperbolic. Let’s do the math:

One spammer sends out 10 million messages a day, each requiring 30 seconds of handling. That’s 5 million minutes or 3472 days or roughly 9.5 years of human life “stolen” by the hacker. In two business weeks at this rate, that’s 10 days or 95 years of human potential stolen. The way I calculate it, it’s a mitzvah to aggressively waste these punks before they steal more human potential. It’ll take a few high-profile cases but until the script kiddies and their mentors are deathly afraid to waste other people’s time, we aren’t trying nearly hard enough.

And I think it wouldn’t only be nice but MANDATORY to use one’s Buy A Gun Day purchase for cleaning up the Internet. Heck, I’d even let the government subsidize the ammo.

By the way, the spammer hunting license above is just one of 50 available in shirts, hats and other swag. Click on the image to get your state. I chose Florida to represent to celebrate their relaxing of carry and defense laws."

Scary.  Lots more where this came from:


See also: The Christian Guide to Small Arms

clock Posted Fri Apr 15th, 2005 - 8:45am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Is Cheap Broadband Un-American?

Full Article Available in the Current Edition of "In These Times"

We have Big Media to thank for saving Americans from themselves. Just as the notion of affordable broadband for all was beginning to take hold in towns and cities across the country, the patriots at Verizon, Qwest, Comcast, Bell South and SBC Communications have created legislation that will stop the “red menace” of community internet before it invades our homes.

And to think that Americans might want to receive high-speed access at costs below the monopoly rates set by these few Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Today, monthly broadband packages offered by the national carriers hover above $50, barring access to millions of Americans who can’t afford the sticker price. Cities and towns across the country have taken up the task of building a cheaper alternative -- often choosing easy-to-build wireless mesh networks -- to bridge the gap that has kept many on the darker side of the digital divide.

Telecommunications giants have mobilized a well-funded army of coin-operated think tanks, pliant legislators and lazy journalists to protect their Internet fiefdoms from these municipal internet initiatives, painting them as an affront to American innovation and free enterprise.

Their weapon of choice is industry-crafted legislation that restricts local governments from offering public service Internet access at reasonable rates. Laws are already on the books in a dozen states. This year alone, 10 states are considering similar bills to block public broadband or to strengthen existing restrictions. Spinning broadband as theirs alone to provide, ISPs have chalked up some early victories—including a draconian law now on the books in Pennsylvania, which strips local governments of the right to choose their own homegrown broadband solutions without the prior approval of a monopoly phone company. In late 2004, Verizon dictated the law word-for-word to local legislators, who then quietly slipped it into the middle of a 72-page bill that appeared to call for improved communications infrastructure for all Pennsylvanians.

It will have the opposite effect...


Read the rest here.

clock Posted Thu Apr 14th, 2005 - 11:59pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Don't be fooled by the spin on Iraq

By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian

Saddam Hussein's effigy was pulled down again in Baghdad's Firdos Square at the weekend. But unlike the made-for-TV event when US troops first entered the Iraqi capital, the toppling of Saddam on the occupation's second anniversary was different.

Instead of being done by US marines with a few dozen Iraqi bystanders, 300,000 Iraqis were on hand. They threw down effigies of Bush and Blair as well as the old dictator, at a rally that did not celebrate liberation but called for the immediate departure of foreign troops.

For most Iraqis, with the exception of the Kurds, Washington's "liberation" never was. Wounded national pride was greater than relief at Saddam's departure. Iraqis were soon angered by the failure to get power and water supplies repaired, the brutality of US army tactics, and the disappearance of their country's precious oil revenues into inadequately supervised accounts, or handed to foreigners under contracts that produced no benefits for Iraqis...

Read the rest of this article at Smirking Chimp


See also: An Iraqi Potemkin Village at

clock Posted Wed Apr 13th, 2005 - 10:59pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Klaatu is Getting Back Together

Last Updated Tue, 12 Apr 2005 16:22:02 EDT
CBC Arts

TORONTO - The members of Klaatu, the mystery musicians who were once rumoured to be the Beatles, are getting back together.

The Canadian trio – made up of Terry Draper, Dee Long, and John Woloschuck – is reuniting for a weekend gathering in May called Klaatu Kon: World Contact Day 2005.

Fans who participate will be able to see Klaatu perform an acoustic set, their first live performance as a band since they toured for the first – and last – time in the early 1980s.

The band had success in the 1970s with such songs as Calling Occupants (of Interplanetary Craft), which was later covered by the Carpenters.

But the biggest boost to the group's career was a rumour circulating in 1977 that Klaatu was actually the reconstituted Beatles.

Although the band denied starting the rumour, they helped to fuel it by keeping themselves hidden from public view.

Rabid Beatles fans searched Klaatu and Beatles album covers for hints that the two groups were linked. They pointed to evidence like the fact that, on the cover of Ringo Starr's Goodbye Vienna, the drummer's head is pasted on the alien Klaatu from the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Driven by the speculation, the band's debut album, 3:47 EST, rose to No. 32 on the Billboard chart.

Among the other guests at the event will be Steve Smith, the journalist who was the original source of the 1977 rumour. While working at a newspaper in Rhode Island, Smith wrote an article setting forth the theory that the Beatles had reunited in secret and were recording as Klaatu.

The group's members eventually revealed their true identities, and Klaatu broke up after five albums.

Klaatu Kon, which takes place May 6 to 8 in Toronto, will also mark the release of Sun Set: 1973-1981, a CD collection that includes rare material from the band.

People are coming from as far away as Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to take part. One of the other planned activities is a "magical bus tour of Toronto."

"The response to this has been wonderful," said organizer Sharon Vernon. "Our staff is really looking forward to putting on a show that these long-time fans will remember for years to come."


clock Posted Tue Apr 12th, 2005 - 10:20pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Guitar Synthesizer or Acoustic Versatility?

It's that time of year, when all mediocre guitarists get a hankering for a new axe.  Well, no; That's probably just me.  I've been itching to play more electric, and miss my old Guild SD-300 (owned 1980-1998).  Happily, there are lots of cool electric guitars to consider, and I'm thinking that I may even want to revisit the world of guitar synthesizers, and particularly the Roland GR-33 (pictured right).  There are lots of high end electrics with 13-pin Roland synth outs (Godin, Parker, Brian Moore - to name a few), and it's even possible to retrofit any guitar with a 13 pin midi-out kit. The fantasy? That the artist I will be touring with says "gee, I wish we have had a Hammond B-3 with a pair of Leslies on that song...", and I say "hey! I can do that sound on my great new guitar synth!". 

All that said, I have been considering a new acoustic guitar as well -- something more versatile that those I already own, and one that is playable every Sunday for worship.  I don't need anything particularly high end -- however, decent electronics, low/fast action, and a cutaway are a must. On the short list for consideration are the Taylor 314 CE (Taylor, the Lay's potato chip of guitars -- you can't have just one), a Larrivée OM-5EV, and another guitar I keep coming back to -- the Tacoma EM14-C

I am also watching the eBay price for this little feller from Yamaha.

In truth, any of my existing guitars equipped with electronics do quite well in most situations. I'm either "emotionally" due for a change, or trying to mask something that I cannot change!  While my vote is for the latter -- I'm sincere in thinking that my playing will improve with a new "love" in my life.

I know, I know... guitars don't love people, PEOPLE love people!



clock Posted Mon Apr 11th, 2005 - 8:09pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Save the Cod, Eat a Seal

It's that time of year, when most good Newfoundlanders get a hankering for a feed of fresh seal. The years I spent in St. John's while my Grandfather was alive would include at least one obligatory trip to the harbourfront to buy some flipper or seal backs off the boats coming in from the ice.  This part of the ordeal was absolutely disgusting, as a bayman with a lit smoke hanging out the corner of his gob would don rubber gloves and dig deep into a bloody bucket, barrel or fish box, and pull out seal meat in butchered chunks of 5 lbs or more.  This dripping mess would go into a couple of plastic bags, money would exchange hands, and the stinky prize would be followed out to the trunk of the car by a swarm of flies.

Baked or roasted seal meat is very dark and rich, with a slight fishy aroma. This is not high on my list of things to eat -- but it is definitely a taste of home. I enjoyed a least one meal of seal a year -- usually a part of a fundraising dinner (although my Grandfather would often send me home with a "cooked dinner" plate of seal roast -- sometime after our excursion to the harbour apron).

I'm all for the seal cull, and believe strongly that the seal populations in the Northwest Atlantic need to be carefully managed as part of a strategy to allow every opportunity for the cod stock to return from the brink of extinction.  While the disappearance of cod off the coast of Newfoundland can mostly be attributed to climatic change and over fishing (read: Canadian Federal Government mismanagement of the resource), an unchecked seal population has much to do with the inability for the fish to make much of a comeback. It has long been proven that 100% of the seal can be utilized, and a sustained hunt could support many disenfranchised fishers -- removing them from the revolving door of social assistance.

What if young lobsters were cute?  Or sculpins?  Or baymen?  (Latter two pictured below).


Anna Nicole Smith Cancels Protest Trip

Friday, April 08, 2005

NEW YORK — Anna Nicole Smith has canceled a trip to Newfoundland to protest the killing of seals because of concerns about safety.

The model and reality TV star had been scheduled to join a protest by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the Canadian province. When the animal rights group learned that her security could not be guaranteed, they advised her to cancel.

"We felt it just wasn't safe to put her in that position," PETA spokesman Michael McGraw told The Associated Press Friday. "Working with activists who are protesting on the ice floe last week and again this week, they found that the seal hunters became physically violent and actually attacked many of the protesters on the ice."

Instead, Smith issued a statement on, a PETA Web site.

"The sealing industry says that it is killing more seals because of an increase in demand for fur — all fur," says Smith. "Anyone who buys a mink or fox fur coat or a jacket trimmed in fur bears responsibility for creating an environment of demand for the furs of these baby seals."


Update: Phony Seal Hunt (from the Museum of Hoaxes)

The latest nugget of fake news from the world of journalism concerns a seal hunt that never took place. A Boston Globe writer, Barbara Stewart, described the slaughter of baby seals off the coast of Newfoundland in great detail. What she didn't know was that the hunt had been delayed, and so hadn't begun yet. Oops.


clock Posted Sat Apr 9th, 2005 - 5:37pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Cookie Monster Cuts Back on his Favourite Food

NEW YORK - Cookie Monster, the blue-furred Muppet known for his voracious appetite (seen with Hoots the Owl on the right), will be eating less of his favourite food in the coming season.

The change in Cookie Monster's diet is part of a new focus on television's Sesame Street, one that will stress healthy eating habits for children.

Cookie Monster is famous for scarfing down cookies by the plateful. He is so enamoured of cookies that he has been known to burst into song, chanting in his throaty voice, "'C' is for cookie, that's good enough for me."

Now that Sesame Street is in its 36th season, which kicked off this week, he will be singing a different tune – called Cookies Are a Sometimes Food.

The song will preach restraint, telling children that some foods can be eaten "anytime," while others – like cookies – should be eaten only "sometimes."

Each new episode of Sesame Street will also open with a health tip for kids about nutrition or exercise.

Guest stars, like singer Alicia Keys and New York Senator Hillary Clinton, will talk about the same topics.

New characters will be featured, including talking eggplants and carrots. The segment American Fruit Stand will parody American Bandstand.


clock Posted Sat Apr 9th, 2005 - 3:35pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Madonna Syndrome in the Middle East

In recent days -- with Papists and Neo-Conservatives speculating on who should be given full credit for the demise of Communism in eastern Europe (in reality, while Reagan would have been delighted to take the honor, John Paul II made it very clear that communism was a rotten tree that he had but pushed) -- it occurs to me that the lurid side of Western Culture had (and has) a major impact for ideological change.

It was often said that Madonna videos and the mass appeal of western youth culture played a large role in eroding the moral legitimacy of the communist world. Wannabe hipsters living behind the iron or bamboo curtains (remember those?) just couldn't be sold on the Marxist theology of dialectical materialism: they wanted the real thing.

Now the NY Sun's often flaky, Washington DC-based Iraqi columnist Nibras Kazimi observes that home-grown Arab pop stars like Lebanon's Heifa Wehbe, Nancy Ajram and May Hariri or Egypt's Ruby or Maria may be about to do the same thing to the traditional order in the mideast:

The old order in the Arab Middle East is doomed and it shall be vanquished by the power of cleavage; specifically, the power of the commercially overexposed cleavage of a certain Middle Eastern sex siren with the name of Heifa Wehbe.

If one were to canvass young Arab Middle Easterners between the ages of 15 and 25, and ask them about the most prominent Lebanese personality of their times, they would not cite the melancholy-faced opposition politician Walid Jumbulat, but rather the buxom bomb of foxy sexuality and mediocre pop singer Heifa Wehbe. What about the most prominent Egyptian national? Mubarak who? No, it’s got to be Ruby, or her upstart challenger, Maria.

This young generation accounts for more than half of the population of the Middle East. Their TV viewing habits, according to studies and anecdotal evidence, would have them allocating five minutes a day to Al Jazeera and news outlets, and five hours daily to Rotana, Mazzika, Melody Arabia and other MTV-like satellite channels. Instead of news tickers on the bottom of these screens, young Middle Easterners send love notes to each other via cellular text messaging. . .

Read the rest of it.

Also, clear proof that you should not blog while under the influence.


clock Posted Fri Apr 8th, 2005 - 1:34pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


AdScam Silliness

Like most folks in the these here parts, I have been both curious and amazed by the effluent coming from the ever-leaking Gomery Inquiry.  

Captain's Quarters

As I would be in contempt of court for discussing this, please do not visit the link provided above.

Thank you.


clock Posted Thu Apr 7th, 2005 - 11:47am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Darling you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I'll be here 'til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
It's always tease, tease, tease
You're happy when I'm on my knees
One day is fine the next is black
So if you want me off your back
Well come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An' if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know...
Should I Stay or Should I Go? - The Clash

I really enjoy "This American Life" on NPR and I am delighted that you can listen to archives over the web. I tend to keep going back to old favorites, again and again.

One episode that I heard not too long ago was entitled: "Not Far From The Tree". It is “Act 2” of the set of 3 stories under the topic: “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” - Stories about people teetering on the edge of this question: should they stay or go?

It is the story of a software writer at Apple Computer whose job contract ends, but he refuses to simply move on. Instead, he continues to show up at work every day, sneaking in the front door, hiding out in empty offices, and putting in long hours on a project the company has long since cancelled. There were no meetings, no office politics, no managers interfering with his work. Soon he had written a perfect piece of software. His final problem is figuring out how to secretly install it in Apple’s new computers without anyone noticing. He even does a presentation of the new Apple products to some computer technicians in Ireland… and then comes clean that he doesn’t even work for Apple.

There is a happy ending!  His software ends up on hundreds of thousands of Apple Computers, and he actually gets paid for his work… by Apple.  And yes, this really is a true story. Check here.

I’m sure there is a movie in the works… there should at least be a book. However, I still love having stories read to me, and that story I heard over the car stereo hit me as fabulously quirky, and for some strange reason -- it still resonates with me.


clock Posted Wed Apr 6th, 2005 - 12:05pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The World is Flat!


"In the land where I come from," said the Man in the Hat,

"It's a known fact that world is flat.

"People may laugh at me, and people may scoff,

But I know of someone who's fallen off."

--Michael Palin/Daniel González


Illustration by Michael Foreman



It's a Flat World, After All


Published in the NYT: April 3, 2005

In 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail for India, going west. He had the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. He never did find India, but he called the people he met ''Indians'' and came home and reported to his king and queen: ''The world is round.'' I set off for India 512 years later. I knew just which direction I was going. I went east. I had Lufthansa business class, and I came home and reported only to my wife and only in a whisper: ''The world is flat.''

And therein lies a tale of technology and geoeconomics that is fundamentally reshaping our lives -- much, much more quickly than many people realize. It all happened while we were sleeping, or rather while we were focused on 9/11, the dot-com bust and Enron -- which even prompted some to wonder whether globalization was over. Actually, just the opposite was true, which is why it's time to wake up and prepare ourselves for this flat world, because others already are, and there is no time to waste.

I wish I could say I saw it all coming. Alas, I encountered the flattening of the world quite by accident. It was in late February of last year, and I was visiting the Indian high-tech capital, Bangalore, working on a documentary for the Discovery Times channel about outsourcing. In short order, I interviewed Indian entrepreneurs who wanted to prepare my taxes from Bangalore, read my X-rays from Bangalore, trace my lost luggage from Bangalore and write my new software from Bangalore. The longer I was there, the more upset I became -- upset at the realization that while I had been off covering the 9/11 wars, globalization had entered a whole new phase, and I had missed it. I guess the eureka moment came on a visit to the campus of Infosys Technologies, one of the crown jewels of the Indian outsourcing and software industry. Nandan Nilekani, the Infosys C.E.O., was showing me his global video-conference room, pointing with pride to a wall-size flat-screen TV, which he said was the biggest in Asia. Infosys, he explained, could hold a virtual meeting of the key players from its entire global supply chain for any project at any time on that supersize screen. So its American designers could be on the screen speaking with their Indian software writers and their Asian manufacturers all at once. That's what globalization is all about today, Nilekani said. Above the screen there were eight clocks that pretty well summed up the Infosys workday: 24/7/365. The clocks were labeled U.S. West, U.S. East, G.M.T., India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia.

Read the rest here.

If the link to the NYT does not work, read it here.


clock Posted Tue Apr 5th, 2005 - 11:38am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Sound of One Hand

I experienced something of a sad realization last night. While I would have trouble putting the details into words, I can sum up the jist of it all with "the sound of one hand clapping".

Now, I've tried this at home; While not quite as effective as two hands enthusiastically going at it -- one hand can clap rather noticeably, thank you very much!  "But what does it all mean?" you may well ask.  Honestly, I don't know yet -- but it feels sad.

Fuzzy memories of long-ago studies in comparative religion and eastern philosophy are not helpful (as a Christian, I can attest that these provide convoluted mirrors of God's own Truth at best).  Consider the following ubiquitous Zen blither on the subject at hand (pun!):

What is the Sound of the Single Hand? When you clap together both hands a sharp sound is heard; when you raise the one hand there is neither sound nor smell. Is this the High Heaven of which Confucius speaks? Or is it the essentials of what Yamamba describes in these words: "The echo of the completely empty valley bears tidings heard from the soundless sound?" This is something that can by no means be heard with the ear. If conceptions and discriminations are not mixed within it and it is quite apart from seeing, hearing, perceiving, and knowing, and if, while walking, standing, sitting, and reclining, you proceed straightforwardly without interruption in the study of this koan, you will suddenly pluck out the karmic root of birth and death and break down the cave of ignorance. Thus you will attain to a peace in which the phoenix has left the golden net and the crane has been set free of the basket. At this time the basis of mind, consciousness, and emotion is suddenly shattered; the realm of illusion with its endless sinking in the cycle of birth and death is overturned. The treasure accumulation of the Three Bodies and the Four Wisdoms is taken away, and the miraculous realms of the Six Supernatural Powers and Three Insights is transcended. *

What the?!

Despite having read The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff nearly 20 years ago, I can barely understand Taoist philosophy either.


* From p. 164, Yabukoji, in The Zen Master Hakuin: Selected Writings, Translated by Philip B. Yampolsky, Columbia University Press, New York and London, 1971.


clock Posted Mon Apr 4th, 2005 - 11:47am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


For John Paul II

September 1984, I just happened to be be where the pope was visiting.  Although not a Roman Catholic (and not exercising much faith of any sort at the time), I was struck by the profound and lingering effect this man had on folks around me.  I always admired him as a multi-linguist and champion for peace and justice -- but only now have a inkling of the incredible weight of his office, and the grace, humility, dignity, faith and integrity with which he bore that cross.  Truly he is a man who loves Jesus Christ, and one who has served God with all that he has within himself.

The Holy FatherO LORD, look down from heaven behold visit and relieve this thy servant. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy, give him comfort and sure confidence in thee, defend him from the danger of the enemy, and keep him in perpetual peace and safety; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

UNTO God’s gracious mercy and protection we commit thee. The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace, both now and evermore. Amen.


image and prayer lifted from RAF(wN)


clock Posted Sat Apr 2nd, 2005 - 1:32pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


America’s Next Top Monk

Fox Network has rolled out a new reality TV show, "America’s Next Top Monk" that pits humble, celibate men against each other in a battle to win coveted titles.

According a Fox Network spokesman, "Ten monks, who have been chosen from Christian and Buddhist monasteries across the country, compete against each other in various categories, such as meditation/prayer, chanting, fruitcake baking, and fasting. "


the following story is from

Move Over, 'Top Model' --Meet 'America’s Next Top Monk'

New reality series pits low-key cloistered men against each other in battle to win coveted titles.

Los Angeles, April 1-- From the creators of "Nun Makeovers" and in the tradition of "America's Next Top Model," FOX’s new reality show, "America’s Next Top Monk" pits humble, celibate men against each other in a battle to win coveted titles like "Best Fruitcake Baker."

Ten monks, who have been chosen from Christian and Buddhist monasteries across the country, compete against each other in various categories, such as meditation/prayer, chanting, fruitcake baking, and fasting.

In the category of Habit Haberdashery, one Carthusian brother fared well when celebrity judge Carson Kressley--of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy--chose him to go on a fashion outing. Friar Malcolm Harris won praise for his orange habit with a purple and white striped tie wrapped around his waist as a cincture. “He looked smashing,” said Kressley. “Orange is the new brown and the splash of purple was fabuloso.”

Viewers call in at the end of every episode and vote off the monk of their choice. The remaining monk will get $1,000,000 toward the charity of his choice and a lifetime supply of Birkenstocks.

Competition has been fierce so far. Last week in the series premiere, Friar Robert Marcano of New York City, who was later the first to be eliminated, told Friar Patrick O’ Reilly of San Francisco that his fruitcake was so horrible that he wouldn’t give it away in the soup kitchen he runs “for fear the homeless might starve themselves.”

“Top Monk” creator Jason Johnson says that it was tough choosing the ten that ultimately made the cut. “There was an extensive casting call,” he says. “We went to shopping malls all over the country. The line of monks went all the way from the Sports Authority to the Piercing Pagoda at one place. I couldn’t believe it!”

Johnson also says that he has another show in the works for next season, though he refuses to tell what it’s titled. “Let’s just say it involves priests and lots and lots of sacramental wine,” he says with a chuckle.

clock Posted Fri Apr 1st, 2005 - 11:00am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page