New Fish is moving!

I've decided to change up the format a little, and start blogging in a PHP environment.  This will give me much more flexibility in dealing with SPAM and other related nuisances.

If you're thinking about starting a blog, and you are not afraid to roll your coding sleeves up -- WordPress is a a great open source application, with fantastic support from its authors and user base. I've been using it exclusively (on various projects) for almost a year now.
clock Posted Wed Aug 30th, 2005 - 6:00am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Whining eBay seller's 'devil doll'

By Lester Haines | the Register

Those readers who think that Hurricane Katrina is just about the worst thing that can happen to an honest, God-fearing American would do well to consider that your house blowing down is as nothing compared to the terrible calamity which has befallen the owner of the "Julie" devil doll - a porcelain manifestation of pure evil now available on eBay to anyone with the courage to face the truly apocalyptic consequences of making a successful bid.

We kid you not. Here's the background:

You are bidding on a "Doll by Julie". Doll appears to be in excellent condition and is made from porcelain. However, since we "discovered" her in our basement while preparing to see our house in Kansas, we have had NOTHING but bad luck.

Yup, you've guessed it: devil doll appears from nowhere, resists all attempts at disposal and gradually subjects target family to a spine-tingling litany of terror. Here are a few extracts, which, we should caution, are not for the faint-hearted:

In June 2003, we were prepping our house for sale by getting rid of unnecessary clutter. I came across this doll that was not bought by anyone in our house, nor was it received as a gift. I thought nothing of it and put it in a large pile for items to donate. Our houses have always been by the true word spotless, and we have always won the blue ribbon awards when selling our homes. This house FINALLY sold on July 2004 when houses all around us that were slightly more expensive sold that were filled with clutter and were dirty. Previously, all our homes sold in less than 90 days, even in the bad times of the early 90's!

Spooky, but there's more:

Since we have a family of six, and were supposed to be transferred to Europe, we moved into an apartment. Finding a three bedroom apartment in KS, which is required for six people, was almost impossible. It looked like our luck was changing as we found a three year old unit less than 2 miles from our house!... My wife went to clean the apartment to make it spotless (no one bothered to ever clean under the refrigerator, stove, or dishwasher so it was DISGUSTING) and noticed the air was not working. She returned back to the house dizzy, thinking it was a result of the hot Kansas weather. Once cleaned, I was tasked to move the items and get the air conditioner working... Three days later, the family came over. In less than two days, my wife and youngest son stopped breathing due to lovely TOXIC mold in the air conditioning unit.

MOLD is the WORST natural disaster possible, as they ONLY way to get rid of mold was to Lysol and bleach everything as the mold spores WILL stay with all of your belongings. A tornado would have been much better than this... Working for a large company did not help either. My boss was on army leave and human resources NEVER returned my phone calls. Desperate for options, I moved my family in with the in-laws in Apopka FL in July 2004, having to leave most of our possessions in KS, including a new refrigerator, desk, and Laserjet 5SI. I figured I could at least still telecommute while I addressed my family's needs from being affected by toxic mold. They now have permanent damage and require an inhaler from time to time. This was just in time for FOUR hurricanes to hit Florida, THREE which affected Apopka directly (right by Orlando), where there has NOT been a hurricane of that magnitude there ever, and the last bad one was in the 60's.

So, we can conclude that Julie has not only the power to smite through TOXIC mold, but also the ability to control the elements and conjure terrible storms. It doesn't end there, but you'll just have to make a nice cup of tea and put your feet up to work through the comprehensive tale of woe. It actually ends thus, after further doll-inspired calamities including the vendor losing his job, an abortive attempt to relocate to Blighty, and a second killer mold incident:

It gets worse - still no jobs for a person with strong Accounting, Finance, Insurance, IT Skills, Certified, working on a Masters, etc..... Since we have been here, my laptop broke (as you can see I am parting out the good pieces from other auctions), my wife tripped and ran the chair into the LCD monitor which now has a nice scratch on it. My father has lost 60 pounds - 200 down to 140 over the last 5 months and they are testing him for cancer. My mother-in-law has a brain tumor. My wife and son still have asthma attacks. I cannot sue in KS the apartment complex as mold laws are not defined an I cannot even get a Kansas lawyer to take my case. My savings are being depleted fast...I need this doll gone.

To summarise: anyone with a penchant for apocalypse can bid right now for the Julie devil doll of Aurora, Illinois. We can't find much to recommend it, but buyers should note that it does come from a "non-smoking/pet-free home", which is a definite plus, even if it is certainly contaminated with fatal levels of toxic mold spores.


clock Posted Tue Aug 30th, 2005 - 10:29am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


It would suck to be in New Orleans this morning.

clock Posted Mon Aug 29th, 2005 - 6:49am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Coudal Partners

My new favorite (to me) web site.

Be sure to check out Whose Fish?.  (Took me 10 minutes to solve this).


clock Posted Sun Aug 28th, 2005 - 8:46am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Secret Societies Handbook


I came across the following at Mad Professor:

I've been interested in secret societies for as long as I can remember. Part of the appeal of them is the mumbo jumbo and weird symbols they use. I particularly remember those ads for The Rosicrucians in Fate a paranormal magazine I loved as a kid. The other reason secret societies interest me is because they offer pat answers to troubling world events. Economy in a tailspin? Blame it on the Bilderbergs! President making backstage deals that result in deaths of thousands? Blame it on the Order of the Skull and Bones!

To my delight, I stumbled across The Secret Societies Handbook by Michael Bradley, at the bookstore a few says ago and couldn't put it down. The author reveals the histories of 21 secret societies, including Assasins, Bilderbergs, Bohemian Club, Club of Rome, Council on Foreign Relations, Essex Junto, Freemasonry, Golden Dawn, Illuminati, Knights Templar, Ku Klux Klan, Mafia, Majestic-12, Aviary, Aquarium, Mesur, Opus Dei, Order of the Skull and Bones, Priory of Sion, Rosicrucians, Round Table, Triads, and Trilateral Commission.

Some of the societies I'd never heard of. Bradley is not a conspiracy nut. In his introduction he writes, "I approached my research for The Secret Society Handbook with the same intellectual smugness with which I read stories about alien abductions or sightings of Elvis Presley ... How wrong I was. I know believe that Western history needs to be completely rewritten to tell the hidden story behind our true economic and political global hierarchy. The more I researched, the more alarming my discoveries have been."

I have to agree. Parts of this book were scary, like the fact that every US Presidential administration is larded with dozens of members of the Council on Foreign Relations which, Bradley asserts, controls the CIA and the State Department.

At just 144 pages, you can finish this eye opener in an evening. You might not be able to sleep very well after reading it though. My head was spinning.

 Buy it from Amazon

clock Posted Sat Aug 27th, 2005 - 11:12pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

If you've ever wondered about, or recognized part of the banner on top of my blog, it comes from Bruegel's "The Procession to Calvary", painted in 1564.  He's one of my favorite artists from this period.

The following is from the ibiblio web site:

Pieter Bruegel (about 1525-69), usually known as Pieter Bruegel the Elder to distinguish him from his elder son, was the first in a family of Flemish painters. He spelled his name Brueghel until 1559, and his sons retained the "h" in the spelling of their names.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, generally considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century, is by far the most important member of the family. He was probably born in Breda in the Duchy of Brabant, now in The Netherlands. Accepted as a master in the Antwerp painters' guild in 1551, he was apprenticed to Coecke van Aelst, a leading Antwerp artist, sculptor, architect, and designer of tapestry and stained glass. Bruegel traveled to Italy in 1551 or 1552, completing a number of paintings, mostly landscapes, there. Returning home in 1553, he settled in Antwerp but ten years later moved permanently to Brussels. He married van Aelst's daughter, Mayken, in 1563. His association with the van Aelst family drew Bruegel to the artistic traditions of the Mechelen (now Malines) region in which allegorical and peasant themes run strongly. His paintings, including his landscapes and scenes of peasant life, stress the absurd and vulgar, yet are full of zest and fine detail. They also expose human weaknesses and follies. He was sometimes called the "peasant Bruegel" from such works as Peasant Wedding Feast (1567).

Peasant wedding c. 1568 (150 Kb); Oil on wood, 114 x 164 cm (45 x 64 1/2 in); Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

He developed an original style that uniformly holds narrative, or story-telling, meaning. In subject matter he ranged widely, from conventional Biblical scenes and parables of Christ to such mythological portrayals as Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; religious allegories in the style of Hieronymus Bosch; and social satires. But it was in nature that he found his greatest inspiration. His mountain landscapes have few parallels in European art. Popular in his own day, his works have remained consistently popular. Bruegel died in Brussels between Sept. 5 and 9, 1569.


See also:


clock Posted Fri Aug 26th, 2005 - 7:45am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



I never know who I'm going to meet next -- and  I've learned (the hard way) to try to avoid making disparaging comments about most anything or anybody (this blog notwithstanding).

This week I met (virtually!) the guy who designed Clippy for Microsoft.

(Aarggh!  Just by typing that name, I can hear that annoying "tap tap"!!)


Lots of folks despise Clippy for some reason, but his creator seems to be a great guy.  :).


clock Posted Thu Aug 25th, 2005 - 7:17am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



This fall marks 25 years that I have been mucking about with personal computers.  My first encounter was blasting out my undergraduate honours  thesis on an Apple IIe in my faculty advisor's Bryant building office at the Loyola campus of  Concordia U., using an early version of Wordstar -- which required swapping out 5.25" 360 K disks (one for the program and another to save).  I recall one of the scarier TAs telling me that the Concordia computer lab (which housed a Cyber 170 mainframe) had acquired -- not one -- but two insanely expensive IBM PCs, with 5MB hard drives! 

A few years later, I was fortunate to have access to a Tandy 1200 XT, which was a IBM XT clone running MS-DOS ver. 2.0.  It had a whopping 64K of RAM, and a 10MB hard drive, which I could not imagine being filled in my wildest imagination!  The computer also had a 1200 baud modem, and I soon discovered the fun of downloading games and sharing thoughts on BBS sites all over North America (does anyone else remember Eddie and Andy's?).  This is how I came across Snipes -- which has to be the most addictive game ever conceived (which is amazing for a program that represents a mere 15K of code!!).

Something jogged my memory earlier this week, and I plugged "Snipes" into Google.   The following came up from

One of the coolest things about text-mode games is the way so many of them are steeped in computing history. It is well known that a number of great software companies—Apogee and Epic Games, to name two—got their start by selling text-mode games. But did you know that the computer industry giant Novell Inc. also began life as an unassuming little text-mode game? Back in the fall of 1981, three friends from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah formed a consulting group named SuperSet Software. Their first big assignment was at a hardware company then known as Novell Data Systems. Novell asked the SuperSet partners—Drew Major, Kyle Powell, and Dale Neibaur—to network the CP/M hardware Novell was selling at the time. SuperSet obliged Novell's request, but privately they had become convinced that CP/M was a doomed platform. In November 1981, Drew Major bought one of the very first IBM PCs to hit the market, and SuperSet began looking for ways to connect the PC to their CP/M network. The local area network (LAN), a heterogeneous system of PCs connected by a common data transmission medium, was born. They needed only one thing more to prove their concept: an application that could be used to test the network and demonstrate its capabilities. The application they wrote for that purpose was a text-mode game called Snipes. Within two years of the creation of Snipes, Novell Data Systems had transformed into Novell Inc., Ray Noorda had taken over as CEO, 1984 had been declared the "Year of the LAN", and Novell was well on its way to becoming a billion-dollar company. By the early 1990s, Snipes had been bundled with Novell Netware and distributed to thousands of Novell LANs all over the world, which is how most people, myself included, came to know it. When you play Snipes, know that you are holding a small piece of history in your hands. Not only was it one of the very first network applications ever written, it is also the ancient precursor of multi-player games like Doom and Quake that are so popular today. They may not want to admit it now, but I am quite certain that Drew Major and Kyle Powell played the world's first over-the-network "deathmatch" with Snipes, using the software that was to become Novell Netware, over twenty years ago. How's that for a little history?


I had no idea that this great game was so steeped in computing history!  I did try running this in a DOS window, but my XP says I'm missing a DLL (however my registry says that XP is lying).   This is totally worth re-loading XP for!


See also:

clock Posted Wed Aug 24th, 2005 - 7:26am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Canada flexes its muscles in dispute over Arctic wastes

By Francis Harris | news.telegraph


Canadian warships were sailing towards the Arctic yesterday in the latest act of gunboat diplomacy over control of the frozen wastes there.

Ottawa has launched a series of Arctic sovereignty patrols to assert its territorial claims and fend off rivals, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States.

Its scramble for the Arctic is a consequence of global warming and the retreat of the polar ice. This has raised the prospect of once-inaccessible areas becoming available for oil and mineral extraction. It has also revived the dream of a "North-West Passage" for shipping, linking the Atlantic and Pacific.

Amid diplomatic arguments over territorial rights, Canada's defence minister recently clambered on to a frozen rock, tiny Hans Island, triggering protests from Denmark.

The Canadian programme hit high gear yesterday as the frigate Fredricton sailed towards the contested Davis Strait separating Greenland and north-east Canada. Two coastal defence vessels, meanwhile, have visited the port of Churchill for the first time in 30 years and have set sail for the upper Hudson Bay.

"This is a demonstration of Canada's will to exercise sovereignty over our own back yard," said Cdre Bob Blakely, of the Royal Canadian Navy.

"The sea is a highway that's open to everyone. We will allow everybody passage as long as they ask for our consent and comply with our rules: 'use our resources wisely and don't pollute the fragile northern ecosystem'. "

The renewed Canadian military presence has made other Arctic claimants sit up.

Canada and the US are at odds over control of the North-West Passage and the resource-rich Beaufort Sea, while Canada and Russia both claim overlapping parts of the Arctic continental shelf.

Denmark, which rules Greenland, was angered by the unheralded arrival of Canada's defence minister, Bill Graham, on disputed Hans Island last month.

He stayed for a short while, examining a new Maple Leaf flag planted by Canadian servicemen there, and an old flag left by a Danish naval party three years earlier.

Denmark dispatched the naval cutter Tulugaq and threatened to land more men. However, as tensions rose, the two Nato allies had second thoughts, and the rival claimants agreed to discuss the dispute at the United Nations next month.

Critics of the Canadian policy argue that if the government is serious about pursuing a robust "northern strategy" it will have to start investing.

A C$700 million (£322 million) road to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Sea has been proposed, but the money has not yet been pledged.

The military, meanwhile, is not ideally equipped for the brutal conditions of the far north. Although it is expanding its Arctic command base at Yellowknife, the navy lacks sufficient capacity to plough through the pack ice.

Critics say that this explains why the Canadian authorities have chosen the summer months to undertake their sovereignty patrols.

A military exercise in the Arctic last year was termed an "embarrassing debacle" by the Toronto Star newspaper because of harsh weather and poor equipment.


Hrmm... lessee, 100 or so U.S. Navy attack subs floating about -- God knows where -- not much the under funded and ill-equipped Canadian Navy can do about them (other than selling them "I don't recognize Canadian territorial waters" mugs and t-shirts).

Perhaps we should  be more concerned with the threat we CAN manage, such as the popsicle stick viking boat guys.

Or how about this terror?:


'Blob' slithers toward Canada

By CP via Ottawa Sun

HALIFAX -- Scientists will begin probing waters off Nova Scotia in search of a slimy creature they believe is slithering north and could be blanketing some of Canada's richest fishing grounds.

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey plan to head out today to a vast area over the Canadian portion of Georges Bank to look for a colony of sea squirts nicknamed "the Blob" for its icky texture and habit of covering nearly everything in its path.

"It's something new. It covers up the bottom and it forms a barrier between fish and what fish feed on, so logically you'd think it could be a problem," Page Valentine, a scientist with the agency, said from his office in Woods Hole, Mass.

"At some point it could get so pervasive that everybody will realize we've got a problem out there and it'll be too late."

Valentine accidentally discovered the organism, a simple tunicate with no skeleton that filters plankton, in 2002 on the U.S. side of Georges Bank, a rich fishing area between Nova Scotia and Maine. He returned in 2003 and found that it was covering an area of at least 15 sq. km.


One year later, a thick carpet of the porridge-like goop had spread over more than 104 sq. km.

The creature, which measures one to two millimetres individually, attaches itself to rocky bottoms and proliferates rapidly until it creates a sometimes huge carpet that can come between various fish species and their food.

A major fear is that it could also interfere with the scallop fishery, one of the most vibrant and lucrative on Georges Bank, by disrupting the resting ground for scallop larvae.

It's not clear how much of a threat the unique life form poses to lobster, herring, swordfish, groundfish and tuna stocks, but it could be difficult to slow or control since it has no known predators.

Canada's federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans isn't involved in the research, but will likely pay close attention to Valentine's findings.


I smell the makings for a CBC made-for-TV mini-series! - Paul


clock Posted Tue Aug 23rd, 2005 - 7:15am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Time on their Hands


A replica Viking ship made of 15 million ice cream sticks is launched by Robert McDonald of the U.S. in Amsterdam August 16, 2005. The 15-metre ship, which took two years to build, was launched in Amsterdam harbour with a crew of around 25 in a bid to set a world record for the largest sailing ship made of ice cream sticks.

clock Posted Mon Aug 22nd, 2005 - 1:15pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



End of Summer Reading List

While slogging through my Summer reading list,  I re-devoured C. S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" (probably the 12th read), and re-read a couple of my favorite mind-candy books by Clive Cussler (Dirk Pitt rocks!). Also, I was totally un-impressed with Dan Brown's DaVinci Code (although I plan to skim the prequel when it comes out).
I'm adding the following to the list (which I hope to finish reading before my workload ramps up, and I have to start in again reading the dry and dusty stuff...):
The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry
Henri Nouwen
Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive
John Eldredge
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
J. K. Rowling
I got 3/4 of the way through Half-Blood Prince today, and had skimmed Waking the Dead last Spring.  Waking the Dead is definitely one of those books that makes you go "hmmm".  I'm going to pick up the accompanying workbook to see if this is something that I can lead a group through in 5 or6 weeks.
See: the Summer Reading List
clock Posted Sun Aug 21st, 2005 - 11:12pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


If cats and dogs could blog...


From Joy of (this one from February 2004).

clock Posted Sat Aug 20th, 2005 - 6:03pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Ferrari steering wheel costs $25,000



Look at all the pretty knobs, buttons, and lights on this Ferrari Formula 1 steering wheel. It looks like a high-end crib toy. My 2-year-old God-son would love one!

clock Posted Fri Aug 19th, 2005 - 1:44pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page



Rain today.. and it will continue to rain tonight, and throughout the weekend. 


Oh yeah, and this whole deal disturbs me:

Apocalyptic book series gets first video game

 Reuters | June 29, 2005

‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces’ to be released between December and April.

The first video game tied to the best-selling apocalyptic "Left Behind" book series will be released in coming months, a spokesman for Left Behind Games said Wednesday.

The PC game is titled "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" and will be released between December and April. Retail pricing was not immediately available.

Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have written more than a dozen novels for the series, which is based on prophecies from the Bible's Book of Revelation.

...more later.
clock Posted Fri Aug 19th, 2005 - 1:44pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Coming Flu Pandemic

I actually flagged this article after skimming through it last night -- but just read it again -- carefully.  This is really scary stuff...


On the monster at our door -- the coming flu pandemic.

By Mike Davis | Mother Jones


(Introduction by Tom Engelhardt)

"Follow that chicken" is not one of the more inspiring lines in the history of detective fiction, nor one of the more frightening in the genre of horror. It's perhaps on the level of that classic grade-Z sci-fi film, Night of the Lepus, in which the giant, rampaging, mutant rabbits were just... well, big bunnies. And yet, don't be fooled, the chicken, probably first domesticated in Southeast Asia some 8,000 years ago, might prove the death of many of us, and for its possible depredations, we are painfully unprepared.

In 1918, a flu epidemic emerged from the trenches of World War I's Western Front -- essentially the war's equivalent of the slums -- and swept across the world (twice) ridding it of somewhere between 25 million and 100 million human beings (the equivalent in today's population terms of possibly upwards of a billion people). There have been flu pandemics since, but none faintly on such a scale. For nearly a decade, epidemiologists, public health officials, and veterinary researchers -- by now, in fact just about the whole global medical/scientific community -- have been warning that such a new pandemic is a frightening possibility, if not a near certainty. At the same time, some of them have been performing prodigious genetic detective work as a mutant flu virus, H5N1, has lodged in the systems of wild fowl in southern China, moved into massed domestic fowl populations nearby, and begun to spread to human beings; all the while still genetically evolving in birds (domestic and wild), swine, and even perhaps people, "looking for" the means to leap not just from bird to bird, or bird to swine, or even from bird to human, but from human to human at a staggering rate.

Nothing could more quickly remind us that we humans are part of nature than a flu pandemic; yet three quite unnatural changes in our world have drastically increased the danger of such a pandemic. A livestock revolution has gathered domestic birds together -- think Tyson chickens -- onto giant corporate farms in prodigious numbers, clustering them into what are essentially giant bird slums, where any new disease is guaranteed to spread more easily. Meanwhile, throughout the third world, impoverished human beings have been gathering in far greater urban concentrations than anything imaginable a century ago, and any of these are potential hatcheries for a pandemic. Finally, globalization and global air travel have made the spread of a pandemic, once started, almost instantaneous. In the meantime, H5N1, spreads by an older set of air paths -- avian migration routes -- having just made it to Russia. And we wait.

What makes this an especially dangerous situation in the U.S. is that the Bush administration has largely chosen to redirect its public-health budget to preparations for "biowar" possibilities -- smallpox, Ebola Fever, and the like -- which may never endanger us, while scanting the kind of biowar (think Hitchcock's The Birds, not Osama bin Laden) that is actually likely to do so. Between the administration's priorities and Big Pharma's urge to go for the profits -- flu shots are unprofitable products -- America's public health structure is in increasingly woeful shape and certainly, despite endless warnings about what might come, in no shape at all to deal with a nationwide flu pandemic.

All of this, by the way, I know only because Mike Davis has just published a must-read, brief new book, Monster at our Door, The Global Threat of Avian Flu, a scientific detective story, a tale of potential horror, and a sociological thriller about our 21st century world. This is a situation with which we should all be acquainted. Even the President evidently belated agrees. Along with Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar (about which I won't even speculate) and a history of salt, he's taken John M. Barry's account of the 1918 flu pandemic, The Great Influenza off to Crawford to read. Maybe I should send a copy of the Davis book down to Crawford as well and Cindy Sheehan could present it to him at their meeting.

Recently, avian flu, which for some years had flown below the headlines and nested on the inside pages of our newspapers, has hit the front-page. (On this issue, as Davis points out, the New York Times has been especially good.) The latest headlines -- about a potential vaccine for this possible pandemic -- undoubtedly caused a collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, relief is not actually in sight as Mike Davis explains below, offering his latest update on the monster at our door.


Has Time Run Out? The Coming Avian Flu Pandemic. By Mike Davis

Deadly avian flu is on the wing...


Read the article here


clock Posted Thu Aug 18th, 2005 - 10:41pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


What's Your Theological World View?

Bleary-eyed at my desk this morning, I came across a link to this interesting quiz, sent from my somewhat Reformed (theologically) best-bud Paula J.  Upon completing the questions, I was a little surprised by the results -- as I would have expected to score higher in Emergent/Postmodern influences and lower in Roman Catholicism.  Ah, but it's just a quiz in good fun!

Here are my results:

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavily by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
Neo orthodox
Reformed Evangelical
Roman Catholic
Classical Liberal
Modern Liberal

What's your theological worldview?
created with



On a different note, I've been informed that my friend Steve P. has started a blog, and I'm looking forward to reading his epistles from South Texas. Steve is a gifted and prolific song-writer (and comic-book author), with a scary-good memory for '70's Christian music (and many other things).


clock Posted Thu Aug 18th, 2005 - 8:46am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie

Everything you need to know about preventing mind control:

clock Posted Wed Aug 17th, 2005 - 10:41pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Warming hits 'tipping point'

Siberia feels the heat It's a frozen peat bog the size of France and Germany combined, contains billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas and, for the first time since the ice age, it is melting

by Ian Sample | The Guardian

A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today. Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures...

Read the rest of the article here


clock Posted Tue Aug 16th, 2005 - 12:33pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Under the Care of the Great Brilliant Commander

Reuters | via the Center for Media and Democracy

Propaganda can be unintentionally funny, says Geoff Davis, who has put together a database of news stories from North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Launched in May, Davis's database boasts of having nearly every KCNA article since December 1996 -- "over 50 megabytes of hard-core Stalinist propaganda ... each article written in the unique and indelible style of the KCNA." The articles are laced with rhetoric calling the regime's enemies "imperialist ogres," "class enemies," "human scum" and "political dwarves." On the lighter side, a recent KCNA report celebrated a film festival featuring documentaries with titles such as "The Leader Is the Great Father of Our People," and "The Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong Il Gives On-site Guidance to the Work of Different Fields."

see also: The Hermit Nuclear Kingdom
clock Posted Mon Aug 15th, 2005 - 7:55am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Strip Generator

Quick! Go make your own web-comic with this awesome flash-based comic-strip creation site.

Warning: this site could easily swallow hours of your precious time with its slick interface, cute characters, and bottomless creative potential.


Link via Drawn!

clock Posted Sun Aug 14th, 2005 - 6:36pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Making the World Safer...for Nukes

By Dave Lindorff | Counterpunch

The Bush administration has dug itself--and all of us---into an incredible hole when it comes to Iran. It is also doing its level best to move the nuclear doomsday clock to midnight.

First we have our war-mongering president blustering scarcely veiled threats about possible military action against Iran and its nuclear facilities--threats which the Iranians know to be bluffs, given that they have spread out their facilities and hardened them underground, and given how overstretched the U.S. military already is in Iraq.

Then we have the threats to seek sanctions from the U.N.--an institution which the same Bush administration has consistently trashed, lied to, under funded and ignored for five years--and to which we have now dispatched a tarnished ambassador whose open animosity and disdain for the international organization is well known.

Finally, we have the Iranians themselves, victims of decades of abuse, manipulation, destabilization and proxy warmaking--not to mention having one of its passenger jets blown out of the air--by the U.S. This is a country that, finally on its own independent feet, and feeling feisty thanks to a flood of petrodollars and petroeuros coming in at a rate of $62/barrel. This is not a nation that is likely to listen to any orders -- or threats--emanating from Washington. ...


Read the rest here

clock Posted Sat Aug 13th, 2005 - 11:02pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Evil Woman

Hrmm, do you want some unsolicited advice regarding evil women

..."just say no".

While this song by Jeff Lynne was pinballing through my brain earlier today, I'm now peacefully humming my own 2001 "fingerstyle lament" commemorating one of my past dramas -- which I've decided to dust off and record soonest (the song, NOT the drama!).


The song looks something like this:


What Lies
C. Paul Carter (2001)
Rose coloured glasses hide what lies behind green eyes
That glance back upon those who were shattered in her stride
A painful smile betrays she knows where she has been
and that all her wounded selves struggle deep within
We had star crossed lives that passed through worlds of nights
For many years she dreamed beyond the waters light
About loves that had no hope of ever being true
Yet she could fool another fool who hasn’t got a clue
Rose coloured glasses hide the lies behind green eyes
As she stole away, I was left alone to reason why
Rose coloured glasses hid what lied behind green eyes
A walled shelter where mist and starlight only dwells
Through cracks on shadows of what might have been
This is where she spends her life - yet like us all she is short of time
And I can forget her laugh again and heal this heart of mine
Rose coloured glasses hide the lies behind green eyes
As she stole away, I was left alone to reason why
Rose coloured glasses hid what lied behind green eyes
Never mind what the drama looked like...  Sigh.  :)
clock Posted Sat Aug 13th, 2005 - 10:46pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Bamboo the Ill-tempered Elephant

Fun with headlines!

Paula and I just brainstormed some scenarios and captions for this great headline.     - paul


SEATTLE (AP) — Elephant experts are getting ready to send an ill-tempered 38-year-old pachyderm to Tacoma, where she’ll join two other females not known for their social graces.

The move is expected to ease tensions at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, where Bamboo’s intolerance for younger elephants and their calves has forced handlers to separate the herd at times.

At Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo, Bamboo will live with two fellow Asian elephants, 39-year-old Suki and 41-year-old Hanako.

She’ll be shipped south in a special air-conditioned tractor-trailer, probably arriving by Labor Day.

The Tacoma zoo is a national leader in handling elephants considered too dangerous to be kept and trained using traditional methods.

The Tacoma zoo’s first “troubled” elephant, Cindy — who died in 2002 — had a history of grabbing and biting people.

Suki moved in after throwing a handler against the wall and trying to stomp him, and Hanako was sent from the Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Ore., because she was unpredictable and moody.

Officials believe Bamboo will be more comfortable at the Tacoma zoo, “with Asian elephants her age and disposition,” Woodland Park curator Nancy Hawkes said.

Point Defiance elephant caretakers have been visiting Bamboo in Seattle, hoping she’ll recognize them once she arrives in Tacoma.

Officials also have been swapping elephant droppings to get the future roommates accustomed to each others’ scents — smell is an elephant’s most important sense.


See more of Paula Becker's great illo work here.  :)


clock Posted Fri Aug 12th, 2005 - 11:55am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Remote controlled lawn mower

Evatech's RCLM 2006 S-Class is a Hybrid Remote Control Lawn Mower with a gas engine, 22" mulch blade, wireless electric starter, and optional gyro. Just $2299.


From the product page: High tech is not only a question of logic. Sometimes pure passion serves as a motivation force to implement a gyro into a lawn mower. It is a guided mower where its mission is to deliver fast straight lines and pleasure of the strong kind.


Link ( via Boing Boing via GadgetryBlog)

clock Posted Fri Aug 12th, 2005 - 11:06am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


The Pickup Truck With 'Roid Rage

Buyers of the New CXT Are Going to Need a Bigger Garage

By Linton Weeks | Washington Post

The pickup, introduced to the roads more than a century ago, was conceived to be the smallest possible get-the-job-done truck. Now International Truck and Engine has taken that concept and, oxymoronically, developed the world's biggest smallest truck -- the CXT.

Such a feat is the equivalent of creating the world's shortest skyscraper, quietest fire alarm, slowest jet, driest swimming pool.

The new CXT from International is hu-freakin-mongous. This bad boy is nine feet tall. It's got thigh-high tires, and two running boards up to the cab, and door handles you have to stretch for. When the bed gate folds down it's about as high as a mantelpiece. The truck is built on the same platform used for snowplows and dump trucks. It carries six tons -- some three times what a normal pickup would tote -- tows up to 22 tons, and comfortably seats five people, even with embarrassing body mass indexes.

International sees several potential markets: small-business people such as landscapers; dealers who may want to use it for its promotional value; high-profile people who need showy Bigfoot-type rides; large companies like Coca-Cola, which is using the truck to promote its new Vault energy drink; and outdoorsmen who might have boats to haul or duck blinds to cart around.

The CXT was designed as a promotional tool, says David Wrobel of International's marketing wing. Coca-Cola has bought a few; so has Irwin Tools. No surprise, some celebrities have taken a shine to it, too. Demi Moore's paramour, Ashton Kutcher, has one. So does the NBA's Jalen Rose. The company has sold 250. Each one retails for $120,000. A tow hitch costs extra.

Sure, a pickup truck is supposed to be simple to use. But this baby is packed to the sideburns with baubles and bells. It's got a leather-and-wood-grain interior, captain-chair front seats, a bench-style back seat that folds down to make a bed. There's a DVD player and satellite radio in the ceiling, a fancy navigation system and a rear-bumper-mounted camera that helps you back up and keeps you from crushing unseen Humvees.

And yes, a pickup truck is supposed to be macho-tough and to-the-point. But the CXT is way over designed. It seems about as wide as it is long. It looks like a dump truck that's been dumped on. Or a sawed-off tractor-trailer rig. Or some strange kind of lunar lorry. The bed -- eight feet long -- is too short, the cab too wide. The CXT belongs on the fanciful shelf with the cartoonish Honda Element and Chrysler PT Cruiser, not with the utilitarian Ford F-250s.

But there it is in all its gargantuan glory -- the Commercial Extreme Truck. Yield-sign yellow, it's shimmering in the summer sun at the parking lot of FedEx Field for International's Taking It to the Streets truck tour. The two-day show, designed for commercial truck owners and potential purchasers, ends today.

"It'll probably [tick] the tree huggers off," says Kevin Roberts, 41, a Prince George's County firefighter who has just taken the CXT for a test spin around the orange-cone-lined track. With a "gross vehicle weight rating" of 25,999 pounds -- one more pound and you'd need a commercial license to drive it -- the diesel truck gets about nine miles to the gallon. It can go 75 miles per hour.

Asked for an evaluation, Roberts says, "It's pretty good for what it is."

The truck drives heavy. It's got air brakes and you have to turn corners at a wide angle. The interior is plush and the sloping hood offers good visibility. But it feels like a big old U-Haul.

Professional truck driver David Jennings drives International's demos from show to show. In gray shirt and jeans, he hops behind the wheel of the CXT and drives along the track.

When he turns sharply, the passenger nearly falls out of his seat.

"There's a Holy Crap bar," he says, pointing to a handy handle on the frame near the window. "It turns like a truck."

The CXT is surrounded by other trucks at the show -- delivery trucks, dump trucks, a bus for disabled passengers. Wrobel says some of the customers milling about might be looking to buy a mega-fleet -- 500 or more -- and others are probably interested in buying one or two trucks.

A second CXT rolls into the parking lot. This one is painted in Mossy Oak camouflage. Wrobel says International is talking with the military about specially designed models for combat. "We'll drop the frame," he says, so the truck will be able to fit onto military transport planes, like the flying warehouses that carry armored vehicles.

Right now, Wrobel says, the pickup is too tall.


From the International web site:

Born out of a 20-ton hauler and other International ® severe service trucks used by the construction, government and waste industries, the International CXT is built on the same platform as dump trucks and snowplows. As a result, it is a vehicle unrivaled in capability, size and appearance. It hauls three times the payload of consumer pick-up trucks, is all-wheel drive, uses air brakes for unmatched stopping ability and offers towing, dumping and tilt bed capability. Additionally, it features a spacious interior with crew cab design that seats six and can be customized to meet owners’ specific needs – from paint color to air seats to flat screen TVs.

This is beyond excessive, I am slack-jawed and dumb struck!  - paul


clock Posted Fri Aug 12th, 2005 - 12:36am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Ottawa peddling myths to justify no-fly policy

by James Travers | the Toronto Star

Writing in the August edition of the wonderfully contrarian U.S. magazine Harper's, scholar Bill McKibben exposes a remarkable statistic about a proudly Christian country.

It seems 12 per cent of Americans believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.

Amusing as it is revealing, that misconception is lost among others with greater implications. Down there, a clear majority is wrongly convinced Saddam Hussein was closely linked to Al Qaeda while one in three think U.S. troops invading Iraq captured weapons of mass destruction.

Poking fun at a neighbour's ignorance has been smug Canadian sport since the first apocryphal tourist came north in summer with skis. Truth is, though, we laugh too loud.

Our own consciousness is missing so much history that, as defence minister, the affable former bank economist John McCallum mistook Vichy, the capital of the French state that collaborated with the Nazis, with Vimy, the World War I battle where Canada is said to have become a country.

Equally telling, Canada clings to the defining image that it's in the peacekeeping vanguard even though, by 1996, its troop commitment had fallen behind even Brazil, Jordan and Poland. Americans and Canadians share something else: A form of government that delegates to the elected, supposedly well-informed few those decisions that make ordinary heads hurt.

Often that works well enough. Politicians noodle through problems to arrive at policies that surprisingly but regularly find the elusive fulcrum between public interest and partisan advantage.

But just as power abhors a vacuum, governments can't resist filling the space between perceptions and their preferred realities.

In that way, the Bush administration seeded and harvested a bumper crop of myths to justify the increasingly problematic Iraq adventure, and its war on terrorism tactics. That wouldn't matter much if this country extended to other contentious issues the courage it found on Iraq. Largely for domestic political reasons, federal Liberals ignored the Bush blather, choosing instead to commit troops to less controversial, if almost as dangerous, Afghanistan.

But as Transport Minister Jean Lapierre is again reminding the country with his plan to introduce a no-fly list, wrong-headed solutions coupled to foreign sensibilities flow as fluidly across the border as people, goods and services.

In replicating a flawed response to the equally flawed notion that Al Qaeda's next North American attack will follow the pattern of the last, Lapierre expects a fearful, gullible citizenry to mistake a reaction for action, a program for protection. Vigilant governments should know who is an imminent security threat just as they must, as Lapierre proposes, do everything reasonable to safeguard a transportation system that in an open society will always be a vulnerable, beckoning target.

But the way to do that is with cutting-edge intelligence, policing and ports security, not with another blunt instrument intruding unnecessarily into private lives. Since 9/11, governments on both sides of the border have taken advantage of the suspect assumption that less privacy means more safety to justify legislation that tramples values synonymous with the freedom they claim to be defending.

Knowing that a large multiple of those who believe Joan and Noah were married also believe that nothing to hide means nothing to fear, administrations push policies that, while making life easier for them and their agencies, are anathema to democracy.

Since failing to prepare for the worst is not an option, the best thing citizens can do is make an effort to be informed. A knowledgeable electorate forces politicians to connect proposed public policies to reasonably anticipated results.

In that more perfect universe, Lapierre would now be forced to demonstrate that a no-fly list makes air travel safer and is both the most effective response and the one most in keeping with the country's values. Instead, and at the moment, Big Brother knows that among those watching, too few are thinking.


clock Posted Thu Aug 11th, 2005 - 4:15pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

OK, admittedly I'm a big fan of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, starring Gene Wilder), and I've definitely had Oompa Loompa songs twirling around inside my head for nearly 35 years.

But last night I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (starring Johnny Depp), and I was enthralled by Tim Burton's dark spin on the classic children's novel by Roald Dahl.  Now I have brand new Ooompa Loompa music in my head (make it STOP!!).


Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes


Check out he Wonka Facts Mega Site, which claims to contain more than you would ever want to know about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

clock Posted Thu Aug 11th, 2005 - 3:45pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Opening Pandora’s inbox

The Economist Global Agenda

Microsoft has reached a settlement with one of the world’s leading spammers which includes a payment of $7m to the software giant. Despite legal and technological challenges, spamming is still a big problem. And a new form of the scourge could prove even more costly to the unwary

FOR overweight lovers of pornography in need of a cheap loan or a “boost”, the offers of slimming pills, Viagra, smut and the like that flood into e-mail inboxes around the world are a positive boon. For most consumers and businesses, however, “spam” has grown over the past few years from a mere nuisance into a costly and time-consuming threat. On Tuesday August 9th, business fought back. Microsoft’s case against Scott Richter ended in victory for the software giant after the “spam king” agreed to pay $7m to settle charges relating to a lawsuit filed in 2003 against his internet firm, OptInRealBig.

Microsoft alleged that Mr Richter’s firm had sent up to 38 billion unsolicited commercial e-mails a year, offering anything from loans to herbal remedies. Once described as the world’s leading spammer, Mr Richter claims that his firm has since cleaned up its act and now only sends offers to customers that want them. Microsoft was joined in the action by Eliot Spitzer, who for once took the side of big business (albeit in a battle with another, more unpopular business). The software giant and New York’s crusading attorney-general are not alone in wanting to stamp out spam. Other big technology firms, internet service providers, affected companies and governments have all taken action of various kinds against spammers. There are even some suggestions that the battle against unwanted e-mail is finally being won.

The volume of spam increased alarmingly over much of the past few years. In 1997, the world’s e-mail users could expect on average one unsolicited spam message a week. By the end of 2000, spam accounted for some 10% of global e-mail traffic. Steadily that proportion increased to a high of an astounding 95% in July 2004 (see chart), according to MessageLabs, a message-security firm. Since then, the level has fallen to just below 70%.

But though some may count this as a victory of sorts, spam still accounts for a greater share of worldwide e-mail traffic than it did when federal anti-spam regulation was introduced in America—where much spam originates and is received—some 18 months ago. Despite Bill Gates’s declaration in 2004 that spam would soon be a thing of the past, it is clearly a vast problem that is not going away.

And it is costly as well as inconvenient and annoying. Ferris Research, a consulting firm, estimates that spam will cost American businesses alone $17 billion this year in lost productivity and in spending on anti-spam measures; sending spam, on the other hand, is virtually costless. America Online (AOL) says that at any time between a third and two-thirds of its server capacity is taken up by spam. Some spam messages contain computer viruses that wreak havoc with the recipients’ hard drives. Others contain scams that cost gullible readers in more embarrassing ways.

A year ago Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo! and EarthLink joined forces to bring legal actions against spammers. Mr Richter’s case is only the latest in a series of prosecutions that have led to fines and prison sentences for junk e-mailers in America and elsewhere. In April, Jeremy Jaynes, considered among the world’s top-ten spammers, got a nine-year prison sentence for using false e-mail addresses and aliases to send mass e-mails.

But spammers are an elusive bunch. Following the introduction of America’s anti-spam CAN-SPAM Act in January 2004, junk e-mailing fell briefly but then shot up again (see chart). Some spammers, acting illegally by sending messages via third-party “proxies”, simply moved abroad. Furthermore, the act gave spammers a let-out: its authors, lobbied hard by legitimate marketing companies, agreed that spamming could still be deemed legal as long as recipients were able to remove themselves from mailing lists, and senders did not mislead them about the origin of the mail. In Europe, too, new measures have been of limited help. The European Union introduced tougher legislation shortly before America. This required explicit consent from recipients before spam could be sent but has proved largely ineffective as a deterrent.

As a result, internet users have been taking matters into their own hands using blocking technology, which is improving all the time. Microsoft claims that it blocks 85% of spam before it reaches employees’ inboxes. But spam still clogs servers, to the chagrin of internet service providers and IT departments.

Phishing for victims

The recent decline in the amount of spam may just reflect a realisation on the part of spammers that they need to be more selective now that filters will trap the most obvious unsolicited offers. And a troubling development is the increased incidence of “phishing”, a form of fraudulent spamming that can be extremely costly to victims. Phishers send out millions of e-mails in an attempt to steal personal and financial-account details from unsuspecting dupes. These e-mails purport to come from reputable businesses and contain links to websites where recipients are asked to divulge bank and credit-card details. The fraudsters can then use this information to steal cash from their victims. One recent attempt mimicked eBay’s website. Another, similar fraud involves spam e-mails carrying hidden software that sends details of the recipient’s computer use to criminals, often using key-logging software that notes passwords or keyed-in bank details.

Despite the modest successes in the war on spam, it is here to stay. The type of cross-border legal action that is necessary to rope in spammers is notoriously hard to organise, and jurisdictions that are willing to turn a blind eye to spammers will be impossible to police. Technology may yet provide an answer beyond blocking technology. Microsoft and other big technology firms are currently tussling over the best standard for authentication technologies that verify the origins of e-mails and might provide added protection in the future. They have their work cut out. Old-style spamming may, perhaps, be coming under control. But for the enterprising miscreant, spamming-based computer crime is a growth industry.


see: Spamusement!

see also: Spam, Horrible Spam
clock Posted Wed Aug 10th, 2005 - 11:55pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian Kidnappers

Today's New York Times reviews "Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens." Written by Harvard psychologist Susan Clancy, the book delves into such interesting topics as sleep paralysis, pop culture alien imagery, and "source errors, misattributing sources of remembered information by, say, confusing a scene from a barely remembered movie with a dream." The book is due out in October and I want to read it.  However, I'm concerned about Clancy's naked desire to explain religion (next book perhaps?).  - paul


New York Times Book Review By BENEDICT CAREY Published: August 9, 2005 "Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens," by Susan Clancy. Harvard University Press, $22.95.


People who have memories of being abducted by aliens become hardened skeptics, of a kind. They dismiss the procession of scientists who explain away the memories as illusions or fantasy. They scoff at talk about hypnosis or the unconscious processing of Hollywood scripts. And they hold their ground amid snickers from a public that thinks that they are daft or psychotic.

James Jean They are neither, it turns out, and their experiences should be taken as seriously as any strongly held exotic beliefs, according to Susan Clancy, a Harvard psychologist who interviewed dozens of self-described abductees as part of a series of memory studies over the last several years.

In her book "Abducted," due in October, Dr. Clancy, a psychologist at Harvard, manages to refute and defend these believers, and along the way provide a discussion of current research into memory, emotion and culture that renders abduction stories understandable, if not believable. Although it focuses on abduction memories, the book hints at a larger ambition, to explain the psychology of transformative experiences, whether supposed abductions, conversions or divine visitations.

"Understanding why people believe weird things is important for anyone who wishes to know more about people - that is, humans in general," she writes.

Dr. Clancy's accounting for abduction memories starts with an odd but not uncommon experience called sleep paralysis. While in light dream-rich REM sleep, people will in rare cases wake up for a few moments and find themselves unable to move. Psychologists estimate that about a fifth of people will have that experience at least once, during which some 5 percent will be bathed in terrifying sensations like buzzing, full-body electrical quivers, a feeling of levitation, at times accompanied by hallucinations of intruders.

Some of them must have an explanation as exotic as the surreal nature of the experience itself. Although no one has studied this group systematically, Dr. Clancy suggests based on her interviews, that they tend to be people who already have some interest in the paranormal, mystical arts and the possibility of extraterrestrial visitors. Often enough, their search for meaning lands them in the care of a therapist who uses hypnotism to elicit more details of their dreamlike experiences.

Hypnotism is a state of deep relaxation, when people become highly prone to suggestion, psychologists find. When encouraged under hypnosis to imagine a vivid but entirely concocted incident - like being awakened by loud noises - people are more likely later to claim the scene as a real experience, studies find.

Where, exactly, do the green figures with the wraparound eyes come from? From the deep well of pop culture, Dr. Clancy argues, based on a review of the history of U.F.O. sightings, popular movies and television programs on aliens. The first "abduction" in the United States was dramatized in 1953, in the movie "Invaders From Mars," she writes, and a rash of abduction reports followed this and other works on aliens, including the television series "The Outer Limits."

One such report, by a couple from New Hampshire, Betty and Barney Hill, followed by days a particularly evocative episode of the show in 1961. Mr. Hill's description of the aliens - with big heads and shiny wraparound eyes - was featured in a best-selling book about the experience, and inspired the alien forms in Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in 1977, according to Dr. Clancy.

Thus does life imitate art, and vice versa, in a narrative hall of mirrors in which scenes and even dialogues are recycled. Although they are distinct in details, abduction narratives are extremely similar in broad outline and often include experimentation with a sexual or procreative subtext. "Oh! And he's opening my shirt, and - he's going to put that thing in my navel," says one 1970's narrative, referring to a needle.

"I can feel them moving that thing around in my stomach, in my body," the narrative, excerpted in the book, continues. The passage echoes other abduction accounts, past and future.

In a laboratory study in 2002, Dr. Clancy and another Harvard psychologist, Richard McNally, gave self-described abductees a standardized word-association test intended to measure proneness to false-memory creation. The participants studied lists of words that were related to one another - "sugar," "candy," "sour," "bitter" - and to another word that was not on the list, in this case, "sweet."

When asked to recall the word lists, those with abduction memories were more likely than a group of peers who had no such memories to falsely recall the unlisted word. The findings suggest a susceptibility to what are called source errors, misattributing sources of remembered information by, say, confusing a scene from a barely remembered movie with a dream.

In another experiment, the researchers found that recalling abduction memories prompted physiological changes in blood pressure and sweat-gland activity that were higher than those seen in post-traumatic stress syndrome. The memories produced intense emotional trauma, and each time that occurs it deepens the certainty that something profound really did happen.

Although no one of those elements - sleep paralysis, interest in the paranormal, hypnotherapy, memory tricks or emotional investment - is necessary or sufficient to create abduction memories, they tend to cluster together in self-described abductees, Dr. Clancy finds. "In the past, researchers have tended to concentrate on one or another" factor, she said in an interview. "I'm saying they all play a role."

Yet abduction narratives often have another, less explicit, dimension that Dr. Clancy suspects may be central to their power. Consider this comment, from a study participant whom Dr. Clancy calls Jan, a middle-age divorcée engaged in a quest for personal understanding: "You know, they do walk among us on earth. They have to transform first into a physical body, which is very painful for them. But they do it out of love. They are here to tell us that we're all interconnected in some way. Everything is."

At a basic level, Dr. Clancy concludes, alien abduction stories give people meaning, a way to comprehend the many odd and dispiriting things that buffet any life, as well as a deep sense that they are not alone in the universe. In this sense, abduction memories are like transcendent religious visions, scary and yet somehow comforting and, at some personal psychological level, true.

Dr. Clancy said she regretted not having asked the abductees she interviewed about religious beliefs, which were not a part of her original research. The reader may regret that, too.

The warmth, awe and emotion of abduction stories and of those who tell them betray strong spiritual currents that will be familiar to millions of people whose internal lives are animated by religious imagery.

When it comes to sounding the depths of alien stories, a scientific inquiry like this one may have to end with an inquiry into religion.

clock Posted Tue Aug 9th, 2005 - 10:42am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Man forgets wife at gas station

ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- A Macedonian man left his wife at an Italian service station and only realized he had driven off without her six hours later, news agency Ansa said.

The couple, who were travelling with their 4-year-old daughter, pulled over for petrol in the coastal city of Pesaro as they were heading back to their home to Germany.

After filling the tank, the husband drove away -- without noticing that his 30-year-old wife, originally from Georgia, had got out of the car to go to the toilet.

The woman, who had no money or documents with her, contacted the police who eventually traced her husband to Milan, some 340 km (210 miles) north of Pesaro, Ansa said.

The husband told police he had not missed his wife because she always sat in the back of the car with their daughter.


Yeah, so OK -- who hasn't done this before?   - paul


clock Posted Mon Aug 8th, 2005 - 9:01am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Unfortunate Children's Books

A collection of unfortunate children's book covers found in a New Jersey public school library:


clock Posted Sun Aug 7th, 2005 - 10:42pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


George W. Bush: President of American and the World




see previous entry: Global Vote 2004


clock Posted Sat Aug 6th, 2005 - 11:01pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


'Cheap' genome sequencing now possible


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Want your own personal genome sequenced? Researchers said they had found a faster and cheaper way to do it that would cost only about $2.2 million.

George Church and colleagues at Harvard Medical School hope eventually to reduce the cost further to $1,000 per genome -- the entire DNA code of a person, plant or other organism.

Their new method, described in a report in the journal Science, bypasses the traditional gel-based technology for analyzing DNA and instead uses color-coded beads, a microscope and a camera. It is considerably cheaper than the current methods, which cost an estimated $20 million for a human genome.

"We are finding needles in a haystack very accurately," Church said in a telephone interview.

They said it costs about one-ninth the current cost of sequencing a genome, which involves using E.coli bacteria as an incubator to generate the genetic material, separating it out, breaking it apart and laying it onto a gel.

DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid, is made up of repeats of four nucleotide bases called A,C,T and G for short.

Each nucleotide carries a slightly different charge and thus can be filtered using a process called electrophoresis. Modern sequencing uses dyes to make it easy to pick out each one, but the process can take hours.

"Electrophoresis is slow. You can't really speed it up," Church said. "But with a digital camera, you can go as fast as electronics can go."

Church's team replicated thousands of DNA snippets at once, each snippet on its own tiny bead just one micron in diameter.

They packed 14 million of these beads into an area the size of a fingerprint.

"Each camera frame is filled with beads each of which has one of four colors corresponding one of the four bases of DNA (A,C,G,T)," Church said.

One of four fluorescent dyes corresponding to the four DNA bases attaches, depending on which base is present.

"As the computer controls the chemicals flowing in, the colors of the beads change to reveal which base (A,C,G, or T) is present at each sequential position of the DNA," Church said.

Right now the system must use an existing genome map as a reference -- it cannot sequence a new genome from scratch. But it worked to show the genetic differences between a new kind of E. coli bacterium and the existing E. coli genome map that has been published, Church said.

The idea is to produce a technology that could be used to compare one person's genome, for example, to the existing human genome map and find an individual's differences.

"There are needs for personal genomic data already," Church said.

"If you are a cancer patient there are quite a number of therapies which can only be used if you have a specific genetic component."

Harvard has licensed the technology to Agencourt Bioscience Corporation and Church and his colleagues would collect royalties on any commercial application.

It would be inexpensive to set up their system, the researchers said.

"Our integrated liquid-handling and microscopy setup can be replicated with off-the-shelf components at a cost of approximately $140,000," they wrote.


clock Posted Fri Aug 5th, 2005 - 8:43am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Scientists clone dog

South Korean scientists report that they've cloned a male Afghan hound. Dogs are thought to be the most difficult animal to clone do to their very complex and unusual reproductive system. The scientists report their success in this week's issue of the scientific journal Nature. The pooch's name? "Snuppy," for Seoul National University. Snuppy's surrogate mother was a Labrador retriever.

From the New York Times:

Snuppy is the second coup this year for the Seoul researchers. In May, (Woo Suk) Hwang's lab announced that it had created cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them. The dog project is separate, and its goal, Dr. Hwang explained in an e-mail message, is to use dogs to study the causes and treatment of human diseases.

Dogs have long been used to study human diseases. Rabies, in fact, was first discovered in dogs, insulin was discovered in dogs, and the first open heart surgery was in dogs. Eventually, the team hopes to make dog embryonic stem cells and test them in the animals as treatments...

Until dog cloning becomes a lot more efficient, few people will be able to afford to clone their pets. Mr. Hawthorne estimated that it would cost more than $1 million to repeat what the South Koreans have done.

The market among dog owners might not be much, in any case. Apart from ethical issues, (Chicago-Kent College of Law bioethicist Nigel) Cameron said, dogs are like family members. "My dog is now deceased," he said. "But I wouldn't want to clone Charlie. It would be disrespectful to Charlie and to Charlie II."

See: comment at Doggy Style


clock Posted Thu Aug 4th, 2005 - 8:23am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Porky Pooper!

Came across this post via Boing Boing.  Realize that I have one of these!

My first complaint was that the jellybean poop was stale.  My second is that I don't know where to find refills!

Otherwise, oinking good fun indeed!   - paul


clock Posted Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 - 10:09am by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


How To Ruin TV Animation In Seven Easy Lessons

Apparently it's not just me.  Today's Saturday morning cartoons suck.


By Jeff Harris |

I've been watching cartoons for over twenty years now. The period that began fifteen years ago is universally referred to as a "renaissance" in the American animation industry. In the United States alone, there are six all-animation outlets (Cartoon Network, Toon Disney, Nicktoons, Boomerang, Anime Network, and Locomotion [a channel I can guarantee you've never watched]) and more in the works. And I've watched it decline from a period of promising rebirth and experimentation to an era of committee-run hack work.

How did this happen?

In the early 1990s, none of us knew for sure what cartoons would work or how they should be sold to audiences, so they basically turned the asylum over to the lunatics (no pun intended). Now, fortunately, we've got a pretty good idea of what should go into a cartoon series, how it should be produced, and how it should be controlled and exploited. There's no excuse for tolerating freedom and creativity.

Today, the rules have been written.

Those rules have emerged from an evolutionary crucible. How those rules were discovered and refined is not part of my topic. It's not even clear that the networks and studios themselves consciously know what the rules are and how they work. But, based on long-time viewing of animated television, I am now able to state and describe them. If you're a network programmer depressed by the fact that your schedule is not as dull, hackneyed, and unadventurous as those of your competitors, take heart. I'm here to teach you, in seven easy lessons, how to ruin your animation lineup.

Why am I doing this? Because there are people trying to warn would-be readers and creative types that these rules are, in some conceivable way, bad for business and the remains of the North American industry. As long as the almighty dollar rules, and kids remain suckers--I mean "future consumers oblivious to what occurred prior to the current era"--these rules are essential. So, now, here are seven easy lessons on how to ruin your animation lineup.

Read the rest here
clock Posted Tue Aug 2nd, 2005 - 10:44pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Bug Me Not

Jessica Helfand at Design Observer recently took a look at those pesky graphic atrocities known as "station identification bugs." The article offers few solutions, but the piece (along with its reader comments) makes for an interesting read. One point the article doesn't address is that if the true purpose of these bugs is to identify a network -- then why do the channels insist on making the bugs as obtrusive as possible -- with animation, sound and all manner of bells and whistles? My hunch is that it's a ploy by cable channels: make the shows so unwatchable on cable that you're forced to go out and buy the DVDs of the same show.

clock Posted Mon Aug 1st, 2005 - 3:45pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page


Bush Stands by His U.N. Man

Rut-oh!  Cat's amongst the pigeons!


From The Economist Global Agenda

George Bush has bypassed Congress to appoint John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, to the annoyance of his political opponents and the dismay of many at the UN. But conservatives are delighted that the tough-talking Mr Bolton is being sent to an institution they feel needs reform, fast. Can he deliver?

THE United Nations can be a bewildering, not to say boring, place. Those posted there, even more than most diplomats, speak in a code intelligible only to insiders, filled with jargon, acronyms and polite phrasings that conceal their positions from all but the most experienced hands. Into this environment, enter John Bolton, of whom none of the above is true.

The man George Bush appointed this week to represent America at the UN isn’t boring, and he certainly isn’t bewildering. What he thinks is never hard to guess, because he uses the bluntest, most vivid language available. Life in North Korea, he has said, is a “hellish nightmare”. Of the body to which he is being sent, he has said it would make no difference if its New York secretariat building lost ten storeys, and that “There is no such thing as the United Nations.”

Hence the hand-wringing, both among America’s liberal internationalists and many foreign diplomats at the UN itself, about Mr Bush’s decision to appoint Mr Bolton. Democrats in the Senate have been unsatisfied with the answers to some of the tough questions they put to Mr Bolton in his confirmation hearings. They threatened a filibuster, in which 60 votes are needed (the Republicans have only 55) to bring a final vote on a nomination. But now Mr Bush has used his constitutional power to make a “recess appointment”, installing Mr Bolton while Congress takes a break in August. This allows Mr Bolton to serve until the next congressional term begins, in January 2007.

Democrats have expressed outrage. They had wanted to see more documents related to Mr Bolton’s involvement in several controversies. One allegation is that, in his previous job as undersecretary of state for arms control, he tried to fire a mid-level official who disagreed with his assessment of Cuba’s weapons capacity. There have been other reports of bullying and shouting at junior staffers. He is also accused of publicly inflating the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Syria. And Democrats want to know why he requested to see the classified, blacked-out names of some of his State Department colleagues that appeared in intelligence intercepts.

The fight against Mr Bolton has not been purely partisan. While most prominent Republicans supported him, several broke ranks. George Voinovich, a Republican senator on the foreign-relations committee, opposed his nomination, drawing out the confirmation process. Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the committee, supports Mr Bolton but has also supported Democrats’ efforts to get more information. And Colin Powell, Mr Bolton’s boss as secretary of state in Mr Bush’s first term, is said to have his doubts that Mr Bolton is the right man for the UN.

But almost every failing that Democrats and multilateralists see in Mr Bolton, conservatives view as a strength. To them he is strong-willed, assertive and relentless in pursuit of America’s interests. He does not fetishise the UN, but sees it as one tool, among many, that can allow America to achieve its foreign-policy goals. He does not wholly dismiss the world body, or presumably he would not want to be sent there. He sees a flawed institution...

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See: Gmaps hack shows effects of high-yield explosive detonations

clock Posted Mon Aug 1st, 2005 - 3:32pm by CPC  Return to home page Top of page