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January 31, 2004

Only Congress

It's budget time in Washington. According to the Washinton Post, "President Bush will send Congress a $2.39 trillion budget on Monday that cuts environment, agriculture and energy programs while giving large increases to military and homeland security spending." The President reminded Congress that "we're at war" - hence the priorities in his new budget.

I tried to remember if the President had ever issued formal declaration of war in the "only Congress can declare war" grade school civics way. Naturally I turned to Google, typing in "President Bush declares war." Here are just a few of the resulting headlines:

President Bush Declares War on the Environment
President Bush Declares War on Math
President Bush Declares War On Whales and Dolphins
President Bush declares war on fat America
President Bush declares war on UN weapons inspectors
President Bush Declares War on Hollywood
President Bush Declares War on Dock Workers
President Bush Declares War on Gays
President Bush declares war on immigrant cleaning ladies
President Bush Declares War on Ohio
President Bush Declares War On Terrorism
President Bush Declares “War Against Nerds”
President Bush declares war on English language
President Bush declares war on Fresh Veggies

January 30, 2004

Regulation Sucks

An interesting item on NPR's All Things Considered today about the regulation of the florist industry in Louisiana. As it turns out, in Louisiana (and no other state) you need a permit to sell flowers. In order to obtain that permit, you need to pass an exam. The exam involves practical tests of techniques that are no longer relevant in the modern florist industry and is therefore extremely difficult to pass. What's more, the test is judged by existing licensed florists who have no reason to welcome more competition in the industry. A legal activist group is now seeking to overturn this regulatory requirement. Only in Louisiana could it happen that you need to pass a test to sell a flower, but not to buy a gun.

I offer this tidbit as a counterpoint to my article from a while back: Deregulation Sucks. Perhaps in the interest of not seeming totally self-contradictory I should modify that statement a bit. The purpose of government, and therefore the purpose of governmental regulation, is to serve the public good. In the flower-arranging case, what possible public good is served by requiring licenses of florists? No-one is going to be damaged by getting a dud bunch of dahlias and even if they were, market forces are going to fix that problem pretty quick. Floristry isn't a wide-scale public need, like electricity or transport. So maybe I ought to say that regulation, or the lack of it as the case may be, sucks whenever the public good isn't being served.

Race: Not a Black and White Issue

Interesting story about a man who refused to answer the "What is your Race" question on a form when applying for security clearance. It raises some interesting questions about what race is, and equally important, why people want an answer to the question.

Read on for Kick the Mongrel, by Les Earnest. (It's also in the comp.risks archive, but doesn't appear to be archived anywhere else, so I duplicate it here, formatted for HTML.) He describes this in 1988 as "a trilogy of true short stories that I posted on the Stanford bboards two years ago. The incidents described span a period of twenty years ending 25 years ago."

e-t-a-o-n-r-i Spy and the F.B.I.

Reading a book got me into early trouble -- I had an F.B.I. record by age twelve. This bizarre incident caused a problem much later when I needed a security clearance. I learned that I could obtain one only by concealing my sordid past.

A friend named Bob and I read the book "Secret and Urgent," by Fletcher Pratt [Blue Ribbon Books; Garden City, NY; 1942] which was an early popular account of codes and ciphers. Pratt showed how to use letter frequencies to break ciphers and reported that the most frequently occurring letters in typical English text are e-t-a-o-n-r-i, in that order. (The letter frequency order of the story you are now reading is e-t-a-i-o-n-r. The higher frequency of "i" probably reflects the fact that _I_ use the first person singular a lot.) Pratt's book also treated more advanced cryptographic schemes.

Bob and I decided that we needed to have a secure way to communicate with each other, so we put together a rather elaborate jargon code based on the principles described in the book. I don't remember exactly why we thought we needed it -- we spent much of our time outside of school together, so there was ample time to talk privately. Still, you never could tell when you might need to send a secret message!

We made two copies of the code key (a description of how to encrypt and decrypt our messages) in the form of a single typewritten sheet. We each took a copy and carried it on our persons at all times when we were wearing clothes.

I actually didn't wear clothes much. I spent nearly all my time outside school wearing just a baggy pair of maroon swimming trunks. That wasn't considered too weird in San Diego.

I had recently been given glasses to wear but generally kept them in a hard case in the pocket of the trousers that I wore to school. I figured that this was a good place to hide my copy of the code key, so I carefully folded it to one-eighth of its original size and stuck it at the bottom of the case, under my glasses.

Every chance I got, I went body surfing at Old Mission Beach. I usually went by streetcar and, since I had to transfer Downtown, I wore clothes. Unfortunately, while I was riding the trolley home from the beach one Saturday, the case carrying my glasses slipped out of my pocket unnoticed. I reported the loss to my mother that night. She chastised me and later called the streetcar company. They said that the glasses hadn't been turned in.

After a few weeks of waiting in vain for the glasses to turn up, we began to lose hope. My mother didn't rush getting replacement glasses in view of the fact that I hadn't worn them much and they cost about $8, a large sum at that time. (To me, $8 represented 40 round trips to the beach by streetcar, or 80 admission fees to the movies.)

Unknown to us, the case had been found by a patriotic citizen who opened it, discovered the code key, recognized that it must belong to a Japanese spy and turned it over to the F.B.I. This was in 1943, just after citizens of Japanese descent had been forced off their property and taken away to concentration camps. I remember hearing that a local grocer was secretly a Colonel in the Japanese Army and had hidden his uniform in the back of his store. A lot of people actually believed these things.

About six weeks later, when I happened to be off on another escapade, my mother was visited by a man who identified himself as an investigator from the F.B.I. (She was a school administrator, but happened to be at home working on her Ph.D. dissertation.) She noticed that there were two more men waiting in a car outside. The agent asked a number of questions about me, including my occupation. He reportedly was quite disappointed when he learned that I was only 12 years old.

He eventually revealed why I was being investigated, showed my mother the glasses and the code key and asked her if she knew where it came from. She didn't, of course. She asked if we could get the glasses back and he agreed.

My mother told the investigator how glad she was to get them back, considering that they cost $8. He did a slow burn, then said "Lady, this case has cost the government thousands of dollars. It has been the top priority in our office for the last six weeks. We traced the glasses to your son from the prescription by examining the files of nearly every optometrist in San Diego." It apparently didn't occur to them that if I were a REAL Japanese spy, I might have brought the glasses with me from headquarters.

The F.B.I. agent gave back the glasses but kept the code key "for our records." They apparently were not fully convinced that they were dealing just with kids.

Since our communication scheme had been compromised, Bob and I devised a new key. I started carrying it in my wallet, which I thought was more secure. I don't remember ever exchanging any cryptographic messages. I was always ready, though.

A few years later when I was in college, I got a summer job at the Naval Electronics Lab, which required a security clearance. One of the questions on the application form was "Have you ever been investigated by the F.B.I." Naturally, I checked "Yes." The next question was, "If so, describe the circumstances." There was very little space on the form, so I answered simply and honestly, "I was suspected of being a Japanese spy."

When I handed the form in to the security officer, he scanned it quickly, looked me over slowly, then said, "Explain this" -- pointing at the F.B.I. question. I described what had happened. He got very agitated, picked up my form, tore it in pieces, and threw it in the waste basket.

He then got out a blank form and handed it to me, saying "Here, fill it out again and don't mention that. If you do, I'll make sure that you NEVER get a security clearance."

I did as he directed and was shortly granted the clearance. I never again disclosed that incident on security clearance forms.

On another occasion much later, I learned by chance that putting certain provocative information on a security clearance form can greatly speed up the clearance process. But that is another story.

Les Earnest


Kick the Mongrel

In a previous account I told how reading a book on cryptography led to my getting an F.B.I. record at the age of 12 and about subsequent awkwardness in obtaining a security clearance. I will now describe how I learned that putting provocative information on a security clearance form can accelerate the clearance process. First let me describe the environment that gave rise to this occurrence.

White Faces in New Places

In 1963, after living in Lexington, Massachusetts for 7 years, my wife and I moved to the Washington D.C. area to help set up a new office for Mitre Corporation. After three days of searching, we bought a house then under construction in a pleasant new suburb called Mantua Hills, near Fairfax, Virginia. I hadn't noticed it during our search, but it soon became evident that there were nothing but white faces in this area. In fact, there were nothing but white faces for miles around.

We expected to find some cultural differences and did. For example, people drove much less aggressively than in Boston. The first time that I did a Boston-style bluff at a traffic circle, the other cars yielded! This took all the fun out of it and I was embarrassed into driving more conservatively.

When I applied for a Virginia driver's license, I noticed that the second question on the application, just after "Name," was "Race." When filling out forms, I have always made it a practice to omit information that I think is irrelevant. It seemed to me that my race had nothing to do with driving a car, so I left it blank.

When I handed the application to the clerk along with the fee, he just looked at me, marked "W" in the blank field and threw it on a stack. I guess that he had learned that this was the easiest way to deal with outlanders.

Our contractor was a bit slow in finishing the house. We knew that there was mail headed our way that was probably accumulating in the post office, so we put up the mailbox even before the house was finished. The first day we got just two letters -- from the American Civil Liberties Union and Martin Luther King's organization. We figured that this was the Post Office staff's way of letting us know that they were on to us. Sure enough, the next day we got the rest of our accumulated mail, a large stack.

It shortly became apparent that on all forms in Virginia, the second question was "Race." Someone informed me that as far as the Commonwealth of Virginia was concerned, there were just two races: "white" and "colored." When our kids brought forms home from school, I started putting a "C" after the second question, leaving it to the authorities to figure out whether that meant "Colored" or "Caucasian."

Racing Clearance

About this time, my boss and I and another colleague applied for a special security clearance that we needed. There are certain clearances that can't be named in public -- it was one of those. I had held an ordinary Top Secret clearance for a number of years and had held the un-namable clearance a short time before, so I did not anticipate any problems.

When I filled out the security form, I noticed that question #5 was "Race." In the past I had not paid attention to this question; I had always thoughtlessly written "Caucasian." Having been sensitized by my new environment, I re-examined the question.

All of my known forebears came from Europe, mostly from Southern Germany with a few from England, Ireland, and Scotland. A glance in the mirror, however, indicated that there was Middle Eastern blood in my veins. I have a semitic nose and skin that tans so easily that I am often darker than many people who pass for black. Did I inherit this from a Hebrew, an Arab, a Gypsy or perhaps one of the Turks who periodically pillaged Central Europe? Maybe it was from a Blackfoot Indian that an imaginative aunt thinks was in our family tree. I will probably never know.

As an arrogant young computer scientist, I believed that if there is any decision that you can't figure out how to program, the question is wrong. I couldn't figure out how to program racial classification, so I concluded that there isn't such a thing. I subsequently reviewed some scientific literature that confirmed this belief. "Race" is, at best, a fuzzy concept about typical physical properties of certain populations. At worst, of course, it is used to justify more contemptible behavior than any concept other than religion.

In answer to the race question on the security form, I decided to put "mongrel." This seemed like an appropriate answer to a meaningless question.

Shortly after I handed in the form, I received a call from a secretary in the security office of the Defense Communications Agency. She said that she had noticed a typographical error in the fifth question where it said "mongrel." She asked if I didn't mean "Mongol." "No thanks," I said, "I really meant `mongrel.'" She ended the conversation rather quickly.

A few hours later I received a call from the chief security officer of D.C.A., who I happened to know. "Hey, Les," he said in a friendly way, "I'd like to talk to you the next time you're over here." I agreed to meet him the following week.

When I got there, he tried to talk me out of answering the race question "incorrectly." I asked him what he thought was the right answer. "You know, Caucasian," he replied. "Oh, you mean someone from the Caucusus Mountains of the U.S.S.R.?" I asked pointedly. "No, you know, `white.'" "Actually, I don't know," I said.

We got into a lengthy discussion in which he informed me that as far as the Defense Department was concerned there were five races: Caucasian, Negro, Oriental, American Indian, and something else that I don't remember. I asked him how he would classify someone who was, by his definition, 7/8 Caucasian and 1/8 Negro. He said he wasn't sure. I asked how he classified Egyptians and Ethiopians. He wasn't sure.

I said that I wasn't sure either and that "mongrel" seemed like the best answer for me. He finally agreed to forward my form to the security authorities but warned that I was asking for trouble.

A Question of Stability

I knew what to expect from a security background investigation: neighbors and former acquaintances let you know it is going on by asking "What are they trying to get you for?" and kidding you about what they told the investigators. Within a week after my application for the new clearance was submitted, it became apparent that the investigation was already underway and that the agents were hammering everyone they talked to about my "mental stability."

The personnel manager where I worked was interviewed quite early and came to me saying "My God! They think you're crazy! What did you do, rape a polo pony?" He also remarked that they had asked him if he knew me socially and that he had answered "Yes, we just celebrated Guy Fawkes Day together." When the investigator wanted to know "What is Guy Fawkes Day?" he started to explain the gunpowder plot but thought better of it. He settled for the explanation that "It's a British holiday."

An artist friend named Linda, who lived two houses away from us, said that she had no trouble answering the investigator's questions about my stability. She said that she recalled our party the week before when we had formed two teams to "Walk the plank." In this game, participants take turns walking the length of a 2 x 4 set on edge and drinking a small amount of beer. Anyone who steps off is eliminated and the team with the most total crossings after some number of rounds wins. Linda said that she remembered I was one of the most stable participants.

I was glad that she had not remembered my instability at an earlier party of hers when I had fallen off a skateboard, broken my watch and bruised my ribs. The embarrassing cause of the accident was that I had run over the bottom of my own toga!

The investigation continued full tilt everywhere I had lived. After about three months it stopped and a month later I was suddenly informed that the clearance had been granted. The other two people whose investigations were begun at the same time did not receive their clearances until several months later.

In comparing notes, it appeared that the investigators did the background checks on my colleagues in a much more leisurely manner. We concluded that my application had received priority treatment. The investigators had done their best to pin something on me and, having failed, gave me the clearance.

The lesson was clear: if you want a clearance in a hurry, put something on your history form that will make the investigators suspicious but that is not damning. They get so many dull backgrounds to check that they relish the possibility of actually nailing someone. By being a bit provocative, you draw priority attention and quicker service.

After I received the clearance, I expected no further effects from my provocative answer. As it turned out, there was an unexpected repercussion a year later and an unexpected victory the year after that. But that is another story.

Les Earnest


The Missed Punch

An earlier account described how I came to list my race as "mongrel" on a security clearance application and how the clearance was granted in an unusually short time. I will now describe a subsequent repercussion that was a byproduct of a new computer application.

Mongrel in a Star-chamber

In early 1965, about a year after I had been granted a supplementary security clearance, I received a certified letter directing me to report to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Suitland, Maryland very early in the morning on a certain day four weeks later. To one whose brain seldom functions before 10am, this was a singularly unappealing trip request.

My wife somehow got me up early on the appointed day and I drove off in my TR-3 with the top down, as usual, even though it was a cold winter morning. I hoped that the air would stimulate my transition to an awakened state.

When I arrived and identified myself, I was immediately ushered into a long narrow room with venetian blinds on one side turned to block the meager morning light. I was seated on one side of a table on which there were two goose-neck lamps directed into my eyes. There was no other light in the room, so I could barely see the three inquisitors who took positions on the opposite side of the table.

Someone punched on a tape recorder and the trio began taking turns at poking into my past. They appeared to be trying to convince me that I was in deep trouble. While the pace and tone of their questions were clearly aimed at intimidation, they showed surprisingly little interest in my answers. I managed to stay relaxed, partly because I was not yet fully awake.

They asked whether I had any association with a certain professor at San Diego State College, which I had attended for one year. I recognized his name as being one who was harassed as an alleged Communist sympathizer by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy Era.

Responding to the interrogator's question, I answered that I did not know him but that I might have met him socially since he and my mother were on the faculty concurrently. They wanted to know with certainty whether I had taken any classes from him. I said that I had not.

They next wanted to know how well I knew Linus Pauling, who they knew was a professor at Caltech when I was a student there. I acknowledged that he was my freshman chemistry professor and that I had visited his home once. (I did not mention that Pauling's lectures had so inspired me that I decided to become a chemist. It was not until I took a sophomore course in physical chemistry that I realized that chemistry wasn't as much fun as I had thought. After that, I switched majors in rapid succession to Geology, Civil Engineering, then Electrical Engineering. I ended up working in a still different field.)

I recalled that Pauling had been regularly harassed by certain government agencies during the McCarthy Era because of his leftist "peacenik" views. He was barred from overseas travel on occasion and the harassment continued even after he won his first Nobel Prize but seemed to diminish after the second one, the peace prize.

The inquisitors next wanted to know how often I got together with one of my uncles. I acknowledged that we met occasionally, the last time being a few months earlier when our families dined together. It sounded as though they thought they had something on him. I knew him to be a very able person with a distinguished career in public service. He had been City Manager of Ft. Lauderdale and several other cities and had held a number of diplomatic posts with the State Department. It occurred to me that they might be planning to nail him for associating with a known mongrel.

The questions continued in this vein for hours without a break. I kept waiting for them to bring up a Caltech acquaintance named Bernon Mitchell, who had lived in the same student house as me. Mitchell had later taken a position at the National Security Agency, working in cryptography, then defected to the Soviet Union with a fellow employee. They were apparently closet gays.

In fact, the inquisitors never mentioned Mitchell. This suggested that they may not have done a very thorough investigation. A more likely explanation was that Mitchell and his boyfriend represented a serious failure of the security clearance establishment -- one that they would rather not talk about.

After about three and a half hours of nonstop questioning I was beginning to wake up. I was also beginning to get pissed off over their seemingly endless fishing expedition. At this point there was a short pause and a rustling of papers. I sensed that they were finally getting around to the main course.

"We note that on your history form you claim to be a mongrel," said the man in the middle. "What makes you think you are a mongrel?" "That seems to be the best available answer to an ill-defined question," I responded. We began an exchange that was very much like my earlier discussion with the security officer in the Defense Communications Agency. As before, I asked how they identified various racial groups and how they classified people who were mixtures of these "races."

The interrogators seemed to be taken aback at my asking them questions. They asked why I was trying to make trouble. I asked them why they would not answer my questions. When no answers were forthcoming, I finally pointed out that "It is clear that you do not know how to determine the race of any given person, so it is unreasonable for you to expect me to. I would now like to know what you want from me."

The interrogators began whispering among themselves. They had apparently planned to force me to admit my true race and were not prepared for an alternative outcome. Finally, the man in the center spoke up saying, "Are you willing to sign a sworn statement about your race?" "Certainly," I said. They then turned up the lights and called for a secretary.

She appeared with notebook in hand and I dictated a statement: "I declare that to the best of my knowledge I am a mongrel." "Don't you think you should say more than that," said the chief interrogator. "I think that covers it," I replied. The secretary shrugged and went off to type the statement.

Punch Line

With the main business out of the way, things lightened up -- literally. They opened the venetian blinds to let in some sunlight and offered me a cup of coffee, which I accepted. We had some friendly conversation, then I signed the typed statement, which was duly notarized.

My former tormentors now seemed slightly apologetic about the whole affair. I asked them what had prompted this investigation. After some glances back and forth, one of them admitted that "We were putting our clearance data base on punched cards and found that there was no punch for `mongrel'."

I thought about this for a moment, then asked "Why didn't you add a new punch?" "We don't have any programmers here" was the answer. "We got the program from another agency."

I said, "Surely I am not the only person to give a non-standard answer. With all the civil rights activists now in government service, some of them must have at least refused to answer the race question." The atmosphere became noticeably chillier as one of them answered, with clinched teeth, "You're the only one. The rest of those people seem to know their race."

It was clear that they believed I had caused this problem, but it appeared to me that the entire thrash was triggered by the combination of a stupid question and the common programmer's blunder of creating a categorization that does not include "Other" as an option.

The security people apparently found it impractical to obtain the hour or two of a programmer's time that would have been needed to fix the code to deal with my case, so they chose instead to work with their standard tools. This led to an expenditure of hundreds of man-hours of effort in gathering information to try to intimidate me into changing my answer.

I was surprised to learn that nearly everyone believed in the mythical concept of racial classification. It appeared that even people who were victims of discrimination acknowledged their classification as part of their identity.

I never did find out how the security investigators coped with the fact that I remained a mongrel, but in 1966 I discovered that something very good had happened: the "race" question had disappeared from the security clearance form. I liked to think that I helped that change along.

Unfortunately, almost the same question reappeared on that form and most other personnel forms a few years later, under the guise of "ethnic" classification. I believe that that question is just as meaningless as the race question and I have consistently answered it the same way during the intervening 20 years.

I now invite others to join me in this self-declassification, with the hope and expectation that one day the bureaucrats and politicians will be forced to quit playing with this issue and will come to realize that the United States of America is a nation of egalitarian mongrels. I believe that we will all be better off.

In any case, whenever you design a database, please don't forget the "other" category.

Les Earnest

Right, Said Fred

You might be too sexy for your car, but do you Look Good in Leather?

Politcally incorrect? Uh-huh. The next big disco anthem? Mabye. A huge Europop hit? Oh, absolutely. Try the remix (RMX) version.

January 29, 2004

Adrià's Doritos

OK, Paulette, I know you love those crazy Catalan chefs, so read the whole article before uh, foaming at the mouth... but I have to say that Sara Dickerman's article on Slate on the new El Bulli cookbook made me think. It mixes effusive praise with dark foreboding about what Ferran Adrià's innovative cooking might yield in the hands of lesser chefs--and more importantly, where his foams and gelees intersect with the worst innovations of the processed food industry. Dickerman makes a great point at the end of the article:

By feeding the hunger for novel, bigger-than-life flavors, he's encouraging a kind of Technicolor food spectrum far beyond nature's scope. No cooking is "natural," but as trend-setting chefs and the food industry keep widening the gap between raw ingredients and finished food, the consumer's ability and desire to create tempting, nourishing food at home continues to atrophy.

January 28, 2004

Happy Australia Day

Happy Australia Day! Well, it was Australia Day two days ago, the 26th. I'm ashamed to admit that I forgot -- Jay reminded me. It's been 13 years since I left there now. I still try to think of myself as a true-blue Aussie, but I've got to be honest: the ocker in me is fading fast. Like Bill Bryson who commented his accent was found drifting somewhere over the Atlantic, I think mine can be found somewhere near the Earth's core these days.

Anyway, it was nice to read this amusing little Australia Day story which is apparently doing the rounds, unattributed (thanks for forwarding it, Jerry!) to remind me of my ancestral home.

WE ARE ONE

We are the people of a free nation of blokes, sheilas and the occasional wanker. We come from many lands (although a few too many of us come from New Zealand), and although we live in the best country in the world, we reserve the right to bitch and moan about it whenever we bloody like. We are One Nation but divided into many States.

First, there's Victoria, named after a queen who didn't believe in lesbians. Victoria is the realm of Mossimo turtlenecks, cafe latte, grand final day, and big horse races. Its capital is Melbourne, whose chief marketing pitch is that "it's liveable". At least that's what they think. The rest of us think it is too bloody cold and wet.

Next, there's NSW, the realm of pastel shorts, macchiato with sugar, thin books read quickly and millions of dancing queens. Its capital Sydney has more queens than any other city in the world and is proud of it. Its mascots are Bondi lifesavers that pull their Speedos up their cracks to keep the left and right sides of their brains separate.

Down south we have Tasmania, a State based on the notion that the family that bonks together stays together. In Tassie, everyone gets an extra chromosome at conception. Maps of the State bring smiles to the sternest faces. It holds the world record for a single mass shooting, which the Yanks can't seem to beat no matter how often they try.

South Australia is the province of half-decent reds, a festival of foreigners and bizarre axe murders. SA is the state of innovation. Where else can you so effectively reuse country bank vaults and barrels as in Snowtown, just out of Adelaide (also named after a queen). They had the Grand Prix, but lost it when the views of Adelaide sent the Formula One drivers to sleep at the wheel.

Western Australia is too far from anywhere to be relevant. It's main claim to fame is that it doesn't have daylight saving because if it did, all the men would get erections on the bus on the way to work. WA was the last state to stop importing convicts and many of them still work there in the government and business.

The Northern Territory is the red heart of our land. Outback plains, sheep stations the size of Europe, kangaroos, Jackaroos, emus, Uluru, and dusty kids with big smiles. It also has the highest beer consumption of anywhere on the planet and its creek beds have the highest aluminium content of anywhere too. Although the Territory is the centrepiece of our national culture, few of us live there and the rest prefer to flyover it on our way to Bali.

And there's Queensland. While any mention of God seems silly in a document defining a nation of half arsed sceptics, it is worth noting that God probably made Queensland, as its beautiful one day and perfect the next. Why he filled it with dickheads remains a mystery.

Oh yes and there's Canberra. The less said the better.

We, the citizens of Oz, are united by Highways, whose treacherous twists and turns kill more of us each year than murderers. We are united in our lust for international recognition, so desperate for praise we leap in joy when a rag tag gaggle of corrupt IOC officials tells us Sydney is better than Beijing. We are united by a democracy so flawed that a political party albeit a redneck gun toting one, can get a million votes and still not win one seat in Federal Parliament. Not that we're whingeing, we leave that to our Pommy immigrants.

We want to make "no worries mate" our national phrase, "she'll be right mate" our national attitude and "Waltzing Matilda" our national anthem (so what if it's about a sheep-stealing crim who commits suicide). We love sport so much our newsreaders can read the death toll from a sailing race and still tell us who's winning.

And we're the best in the world at all the sports that count, like cricket, netball, rugby league and union, AFL, roo shooting, two up and horse racing.

We also have the biggest rock, the tastiest pies, and the worst dressed Olympians in the known universe. Only in Australia can a pizza delivery get to your house faster than an ambulance. Only in Australia do we have bank doors wide open, no security guards, or cameras but chain the pens to the desk.

Stand proud Aussies - we shoot, we root, we vote. We are girt by sea and pissed by lunchtime. Even though we might seem a racist, closed minded, sports obsessed little people, at least we feel better for it.

I am, you are, we are Australian!

P.S. We also shoot and eat the two animals that are on our National Crest!!!! No other country has this distinction!

48 Disenfranchised Hours

"King County has received notification that you no longer live at the address indicated on your voter registration. We have placed your name in our inactive voter file until we hear from you."

Because it's long and full of bureaucracy, I've posted the true story of my brief but harrowing stint as a 'disenfranchised' voter here. The short - but as of yet unconfirmed - story is that if you are going to insist on spending an extended time abroad, you should try to avoid being called for jury duty.

Also, here's a handy link to online voter registration. Just in case.

January 27, 2004

A Hamster Dance For Our Times

A Hamster Dance For Our Times.

If you've been working long hours and your only diversion is checking the "Placing Things On Top of Other Things" tribe on Tribe.net for new insights and checking Google News to see if your country is going to hell (yes, a futile obsession), you might find Badger Badger Badger levitating (and perhaps hallucinogenic). I just know that I feel better having it on.

If you need a little more intellectual stimulation—but not much more—try some of the "toons" and stuff on weeble-stuff.

Are the '00s the new '30s?

This might not count as healthy paranoia, but since we're on the topic: Are Parallels To Nazi Germany Crazy?

Until Spring Training Starts

Sometimes, with the levels of justifiable paranoia rising steadily, one needs to let out a little steam. And what better way that by using penguins for batting practice. The sick side of me required a meeting to pull me away from trying to reach my distance goal of 500.

Blair under pressure

Today is likely to be a pivotal day in Tony Blair's tenure as PM. He's under pressure on two fronts: not only is he facing rebellion from his own backbenchers around a bill to introduce additional fees to university education to aid that cripplingly underfunded sector, but also the Hutton report into the suicide of David Kelly is likely to reveal the extent to which Blair understood the reliability of the evidence surrounding WMDs at the outset of the Iraq War (2003).

This one news article illustrates the two most striking differences between UK and US politics. Firstly, Blair has an absolutely commanding majority -- 161 seats -- in the House of Commons, but still is having difficulty getting an unpopular measure passed. The Republican advantage over the Democrats is slim by comparison, yet we never hear of a pet Bush initiative faltering. Secondly, Bush appears to be paying no political price over the failed promise of WMDs as justification for the war, yet it may well cost Blair his job.

January 26, 2004

We're now a TiVo family

We finally relented to the lure of technology on the weekend by buying a TiVo. We don't watch a lot of TV, really, so I'd been lukewarm about the idea. Leisure time is in short supply, and between Netflix and our own DVDs, CDs and the iPod, the Gamecube and the Internet I've got more than enough to keep me busy. On the other hand, the prospect of getting an appliance that would watch TV so I wouldn't have to seemed appealing.

We've got a DirectTV system, so that means that we get a special kind of TiVo configured specially for the satellite. Ours is a Hughes DirectTV DVR, and it's replaced one of our two DirectTV receivers (for an additional charge of $5 a month, on top of the $99 for the DVR itself). Unlike other TiVos, this one downloads the digital signal directly from the satellite, so there's no need to encode the image - it just saves it to disk. This means the recorded programming has no loss in quality, which is nice. The interface is also great - we can now pause and rewind live TV and record shows with the touch of a button. In theory, we should be able to record one show while watching another, but that would mean running another cable down from the satellite dish, so it might be a while before we can get that set up.

The one snag is in hooking up the DirectTV DVR to the phone. We don't have a phone socket anywhere near the TV, so I had to run a 50-foot extension through 3 rooms to hook it up. When researching TiVos it seemed like it might be possible to hook a WiFi receiver to the USB port of the TiVo and hook it up via our wireless internet network, but it turns out that's not possible with the DirectTV TiVos which use an older version of the TiVo OS. (I'll have to return the Wireless UBC adapter back to Circuit City, where we purchased the TiVo.) On the other hand, it seems like the TiVo is getting all of its program info from the satellite anyway (we get our local programming from the satellite, too), so I wonder if it really needs to be hooked up to the phone at all. I think we'll see how it goes for a while, and maybe just run the extension out to let it dial in once a week or so.

Now, we just have to find our if our TiVo thinks we're gay or not.

January 24, 2004

Define Diplomacy, Please?

Dick Cheney, who's out in the world for his second time ever as VP, is justifying the use of force where diplomacy fails. Thing is, if you've been abroad only twice as VP, I'm not sure you're a credible source for this argument.

Cheney's first trip abroad was to the Middle East to drum up support for the Iraq war , and we know how that went. Okay, a diplomatic mission to Afghanistan would have been in vain, but we're ignoring Korea, we're bullying Iran, we alienated the UN, we're annoying the Brazilians, anti-American sentiment runs high in the EU...

"Force where diplomacy fails." Or is it just force where there's a disagreement with our plans for your oil - I mean government - I mean participation in the world community. Yeah, that's what I mean.

Update: They're on the move! John Ashcroft has left the bunker TOO and is right here in my back yard! (Sorry, it's in German, I can't find it in the English press, yet.)

January 23, 2004

CBS Rejects MoveOn's Super Bowl Ad

You couldn't throw the commodity of your choice into a distant trashbin without hitting someone who'd like air time during the Super Bowl. This crop of buyers includes MoveOn, which wants to run an ad that points out who's going to pay for the deficit in the federal budget. (CBS has also refused to air an ad from PETA.)

Why would CBS refuse to air a paid ad that doesn't contain nudity, prohibited words, or positive messages about genocide? It might be because they seek favor from the party in power.

I think I'll stop there. The more I poke around the net for links and information, the more I see that the fact of CBS refusing MoveOn's ad is getting plrenty of coverage—on the web, at least. I've finally found one piece that has a quote from someone at CBS who claims they're not taking sides.

I could say more, but I need to get some paying work done.

January 22, 2004

Frankfurter Spectacular

If you ever wondered how your parents kept their weight down when the dexadrine prescription ran out, check out this collection of Weight Watchers recipes and you won't wonder ever again. Aside from the liberal use of mackerel and toast, it is the desire to "jelly" everything in sight that I find most disturbing. No need to count calories as these won't be staying down long.

January 21, 2004

You look mahvelous!

We love our neighbor to the south for his sheer nerve, his chutzpah. his machismo. After all, who else almost got away with writing his own immunity in to law? We adore his whole "not only am I the man in charge, but I'm the man in charge of the news about the man in charge!" attitude.

And now, we can't keep our eyes off him. Silvio! So handsome! Is that a new haircut? Are you sporting a tan? Have you been on vacation? You look different!

I can't wait for this episode of Extreme Makeovers to air.

John Edwards' ethical past?

Interesting article at Overlawyered.com about John Edward's past as a trial lawyer. Seems he made much of his fortune bilking insurance companies our of millions in lawsuits following children born with cerebral palsy. Many of the argumements used in the trial were apparently of dubious scientific medicine.

Most people know I'm against medical litigation generally. Certainly, true cases of malpractice need to be punished but I think they form a minority of the malpractice claims tried or settled. Walter Olsen captures my feelings perfectly: "I don't assert that every lawsuit blaming obstetricians for infant brain damage is unfounded. The problem is that our system gives wide leeway for cases of debatable scientific merit to be filed and then, after a battle of the hired experts, decided by appeals to jury emotion."

Touching the Void

I heard a fantastic interview with Joe Simpson on NPR yesterday. Joe Simpson is the author of Touching the Void, one of the most amazing books about survival ever written. Joe and his mountaineering partner Simon were climbing in the Andes when disaster struck. I don't want to give away the details -- it's a truly amazing story -- but Joe was left for dead before crawling out of the mountain alone.

Listening to Joe on the radio gave me a real sense of his character. Touching the Void was the first book he'd ever written, but you can see how his sense of majesty, and of humility, is part of his character that comes through in the book. He doesn't think of himself as a hero for having survived, and he's quite candid in discussing how the experience has changed him.

Touching the Void has now been made into a film, and Joe talks about making it in the interview, and how certain scenes were too painful for him to watch after blocking certain events in his mind. I can't wait to see it. It's playing at the Egyptian in Seattle from Friday.

January 20, 2004

"He can't even write properly."

George W. Bush? Nope.

"...perceptions that he was a consummate liar, that he presided over the use of poison gas by his troops and that his chaotic leadership contributed to a fiasco when hundreds of thousands of his soldiers were taken prisoner in the war's last days."

Saddam Hussein? Nope. Guess again.

Pope to beatify 'buffoon' who was Austria's last emperor

January 19, 2004

CRAVEFOOD.COM

A very small cute eatery has opened on 12th, the second to open on 12th recently. Crave is a darling little eatery with a small menu of really good food. For some reason by the name I thought it would be comfort food with the likes of meatloaf and mash potatoes, but I was fooled. Crave can be found in the Capitol Hill Arts Center, 1621 12th Avenue, across the street from the Police refill and parking lot. The atmosphere is minimal and don’t let the non-lit sign out front fool you into thinking it’s closed…they’re thinking, “if it is good, they will come!” It’s Good! We started the dinner with a watercress salad, with grapefruit and glazed almonds…(is there any polite way of eating whole watercress?)... in light vinaigrette. I followed with hand rolled gnocchi, which was tossed with sweet potatoes and cream sauce. Can I tell you how much I love this gnocchi!!! Mike had curried lamb with roasted sweet potatoes and sautéed escarole…amazing. The kicker of the whole thing is that they have only been opened for 10 days, if the food is this good to start, I can’t wait for them to get going!
The wine list is small, but nice, as is the menu. The desserts looked great, but we were too tired to try one….it was Sunday night after all. Go to Crave, it’s nice to support new food in Seattle

January 18, 2004

Okay, Just ONE More Slice...

Pam, who doesn't usually write about herself in the third person, joins nonfamous strangers from an offshore post in Austria. She's binational, dividing her time between two places that are very far away from each other in all kinds of ways. The first, a condo just off 15th on Seattle's Capitol Hill. The second, a government owned housing block in a town she calls, in her crabbier moments, "the Ephrata of Austria."

While in Austria, she consumes an incredible amount of cake. Just this Saturday she had Esterhazy Torte, a 12 layer confection that alternates thin slices of hazelnut cake with sweet cream filling, topped with marbled ganache. And on Sunday, she had two slices of home made Black Forest Cake filled with marinated cherries. Real marinated cherries, none of your candied marichinos, thank you.

She keeps a journal about culture, food, snow, and the other mysteries of life as observed by a dislocated urban lefty at Nerd's Eye View.

January 14, 2004

Pokemon Lunchables

In a feat that will surely turn out to be a boon to marketeers of low-grade food to media-programmed children everywhere, professor Xiaochun Li pioneered a new way to slice cheese. Using a so-called "cold laser", the professor and a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin (where else would this work be done?), are able to slice cheese without burning or melting it.

The AP news story mentions the problems with traditional cheese cutting methods, which are worthy considerations, but the picture included with the story immediately made me think of cartoon-character-shaped slices in an excess of colorful packaging.

January 13, 2004

How big is space?

I came across this amazing graphic today. I wish I knew where it came from -- it just turned up on the 'pile but I don't have the attribution.

The graphic shows all of space in a single chart. Come with us: open it now and expand it to full screen, so you can see the entire horizontal aspect. Now scroll to the bottom. In a delightfully Copernican twist, the chart begins with the centre of the Earth. Now scroll up, up, through the Earth's mantle and see the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope barely skimming the surface. As you scroll up further, you're accelerating at an ever-increasing pace, matching the logarithmic scale of the vertical axis measuring distance from the Earth. Pass through the cluster of near-earth satellites and through the ring of geostationary satellites to find the moon, alone in its own empty region of space. Accelerating further, we shoot past the inner planets and the asteroid belt, which we find to be more of a diffuse band than an impenetrable fortress of floating rock. Out now past the outer planets we find the Voyager probes on their lonely journey beyond the solar system.

There's a long quiet period now as we pass through the Oort cloud, birthplace of the comets, before we finally reach the closest star: Proxima Centauri. We journey on to pass the other famous landmarks of the Milky Way: bright Sirius, the Horsehead Nebula, the Milky Way's center itself. Beyond there we're in uncharted waters until we pass out of our home galaxy entirely and into the deepest intergalactic void.

Travelling faster than imagination itself now, we find ourselves amongst the rather ironically named Local Group of galaxies to some intriguing landmarks of the distant Universe. What is this CfA2 Great Wall? What does the Great Attractor attract? Why avoid the Zone of Avoidance? I'm intrigued and inspired to find out.

At the end of our journey we've travelled to the outer limits of perception and backwards to the beginning of time to find the firstborn stars and there, at the very end of time and space, the Big Bang itself.

I haven't felt this sense of awe for a long time. Only the opening sequence to the film Contact came close. Perhaps we're closer to the Total Perspective Vortex than we thought.

The Leaning Condos of Lakeview Boulevard

I knew those three condos on the I-5 side of Lakeview Boulevard had been abandoned for some time, but I didn't know why until I finally noticed a couple of weeks ago that one of them was leaning quite a bit (reminding me of some of the canal houses in Amsterdam).

Here's a little story about the buildings and what seems to be an imminent permit for demolition (which I didn't realize one must have before knocking down one's own property). And cheers to the person with the beautifully dangerous existence.

January 12, 2004

The toilet: tool of terrorists

Passengers on transoceanic flights to the US are no longer allowed to queue for the toilet at the behest of Homeland Security. Frankly, if you can't go for a piss when you want on a 12-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, the terrorists have already won. As reported in The Age: 'the chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, Warren Bennett, said the decision bordered on American paranoia. He said it would place "enormous stress" on flight crew.' I worry more about the stress on the passengers.

Just how far is this paranoia going to go? Does every country need to roll over and accept every ludicrous demand from the US? At least the Brazilians are getting their own back.

10 Ads America won't see

Interesting article about international print and TV commercial deemed unsuitable for the American market: 10 Ads America Won't See. It seems that a beer ad which uses the works "ejaculate" and "vagina" is unsuitable for the US market, as is a print ad featuring a modified Brazilian -- who knew? It's also a shame to learn that the fantastic Honda "cog" commercial won't be shown on US TV because a 2-minute spot is too expensive and it has a "lack of product benefits". I dunno -- the ability to disassembe the car and make your own Rube Goldbergian self-propelling machine seems like a cool feature to me. (You can watch this amazing video and see the other top 10 ads on the site.)

It's not surprising that there are lots of ads like this that don't make the US market. I noticed a real difference in TV commercials especially when I moved from Europe to the US. I can recall a lot of TV commercials in the UK that were really innovative and fun to watch, but I can't think of many here that got above the level of "supremely annoying". I suspect it might have something to do with commercial break length -- a 1/2 hour show in the UK typically only has one long commercial break (hence the "end of part one" you see in British TV show DVDs). Because the break is longer you have enough time to get up and make a cup of tea or whatever, so the commercials need to be more engaging and interesting to get you to watch. (I believe some commercial French TV stations don't even show commercials during movies, but have a very long block at the end.) Here in the US though the commercials have to do the "watch me! watch me!" thing to stand out, which usually means they're simply strident and annoying.

US jet accidentally bombs Yorkshire

As it turns out it was "only" an unarmed bomb and it was just a small bit of countryside within Yorkshire rather than the entire UK county, so it's not as dramatic as it seems. The title of the AP article certainly got my attention, though: U.S. jet accidentally bombs Yorkshire.

January 09, 2004

of spam authors, math whizzes, y las drogas extra-potentes

Of course it was the usual spam, offering some drugs to increase the size of something nature didn't provide me with in the first place, but the subject line of the mail was enough to pique my interest and get me to open it in the first place. "Nullstellensatz".

Which, for the math illiterati, Hilbert's Nullstellensatz is the fundamental theorem that asserts that if F is an
algebraically closed field, and f; g1;... ;gm are polynomials in the ring of polynomials F[x1; ... ;xn],
where f vanishes over all common zeros of g1; ...;gm, then there is an integer k and polynomials
h1; ...;hm in F[x1;...;xn] so that
fk =n
X higi:
i=1

In the special case m = n, where each gi is a univariate polynomial of the form Qs2Si(xi - s), a stronger conclusion holds.

So, I guess, I can understand how that relates to member-enlarging lotions and such, but I still think the title was a little misleading.

TARGET KILLED THE CRAFT STAR

Much like “video killed the radio star”, Target has killed the American Craft Artist. Now don’t get me wrong, I shop at Target like any other self respecting homosexual. I also have absolutely no problem with huge corporations that snuff out the little “mom and pop’ companies, this, I believe, is the American Way. It is also the Huge Corporations that have allowed me to continue the artist dream…the dream that Target is now sucking out the life. You see, I create hand-painted stemware and I have done so through the generosity of Bill Gates, via my partner working there (HEHEHE). But now you can get similar glasses in Target, T.J. Maxx and even Nordstrom that is all produced over seas, has no artistry and a price for which I cannot compete. It is those little hands in countries like China that are producing me right out of business. And it is also the fact that we all love to shop in store like these that, yes even myself, have shopped me out of business. Why would you want to pay an artist for their work when you can get it, or a facsimile there of, at a major discount store for a fraction of the price?
So after 10 years of self-employment (and the fact that I am pushing 40) I now face entering back into the 9 to 5 work force so that I can afford to buy the things that I can no longer afford to produce! Anyone looking to hire an ex-fashion designer, ex-bartender, ex-muralist, and ex-craftsperson/artist…..I’m looking…..maybe I can go get a job at Target!

dances with the karate kid: or, how i learned to stop thinking and love tom cruise

The biggest problem with the movie The Last Samurai is not that Tom Cruise actually has lines like "I believe a man does what he can until he discovers his destiny." No, the biggest problem with the movie is that Tom Cruise is playing a role that was obviously written for Kevin Kostner. Back in 1990, by Michael Blake, when the movie was called Dances with Wolves. It's a role Mr. Kostner knows well, having reprised it in 1995's Dances with Shellfish and 1997's Dances with Mailbags.

Not that every completely unironic epic film about an ex-civil war hero, haunted by the horrors of war, who travels to a strange land and hooks up with the last outpost of an indigenous culture threatened by the relentless steamroller of modernization, only to realize that in their simple, focused, and disciplined ways can he find the peace his army life took from him, and who also happens to have a strong widow in need of a partner, and a mentor with a deep voice to help teach him honor and respect and eventually stand against some of those he fought with in the war is a knock-off of Kevin Kostner's opus. But this one is. Right down the scene where our hero is sitting around the fire learning bits of Japanese. "Watashi no samui." After which he can speak fluent Japanese. Can anyone say "tatanka"?

Here, however, you have a new twist. Yeah, that whole Japanese warrior thing he gets to learn along the way. A zen-like sensei to show this brash young American to respect himself, his enemy, and the power of true warriorness. Right. I figured this bit out when the sensei, seeing Tom Cruise lose several times in some Star Wars reenactments, advises him that his problem is "too much mind." Apparently, he's paying attention to too many things going on around him. Because in battle, when hudreds of people are coming at you with swords, the last thing you want is to be aware of everything going on around you. Mind on. Mind off. That is the true samurai way.

Oh, another miscasting problem, the role of Pat Morita in this film was played by Ken Watanabe, who is apparently what would result if Jean Reno and the Rock had a Japanese lovechild.

To its credit, the movie was quite a bit more than merely a rip off of two of the greatest films of my teenage years. It also ripped off the final, major battlescenes straight of Braveheart, arguable the worst movie of my teenage years.

And like Braveheart, the Last Samurai doesn't mind taking a few liberties with history. In this version of the Japanese past, the emporer rejects modernization and Westernization, realizes the value of the Samurai way, and presumably, proudly leads his people back to heady days of feudal Edo. Right. And that's why everyone in Tokyo has a cell-phone digital video camera with every imaginable tune for a ring and instant wireless internet sevice to power their laptops from anywhere in the country.

Yup, two and half hours of cliches and obvious ripoffs from other, not-so-great movies. At least if they'd given the part to Kostner, you'd be prepared for it.

January 08, 2004

I want one! I want one!

Ok, so we almost managed the pig roast at the home of my boys in Ballard for my birthday last year, and I was thinking of suggesting something a little simpler (and Greeker) this year--Hey, Pete, can we roast a whole lamb in your backyard for my birthday this year?

And now it appears there is a device we can purchase that will simplify and shorten the process. A Cuban Chinese box. The New York Times article describing this remarkable achievement in culinary technology explains the origins of the name, though I have to think there is some correlation between the name of this item and the fact that for some reason, Cuban restaurants in the New York area are always Cuban-Chinese hybrids. Whatever. Now we can slow roast whole animals on a regular basis! Who wants to go in on one with me?

Digital currency detection

I just came across an interesting nugget in a Slashdot article today, discussing why Photoshop refuses to handle images of US currency. Apparently, many high-end photocopiers also refuse to copy banknotes, but how do they detect when you're attempting to do so? Image identification is a tricky process at the best of times.

As it turns out, there's quite an elegant explanation. Modern banknotes include a little "constellation" of five circles in a unique pattern. It seems photocopiers (and now Photoshop) just have to look for this signature pattern to know that it's a banknote they're looking at. What I find fascinating about this is the way that the banknote designers have incorporated the constellation into their designs. You can see some examples in European notes here, and read Markus Kuhn's more complete description in the extended entry. Apparently this technique is also used on the new US$20 note. (Can anyone spot it?)

The battle between currency producers and counterfeiters is an ongoing one, and becoming increasingly high-tech. My favourite anti-counterfeiting solution still remains the plastic notes from Australia, though.

Markus Kuhn writes:

For those of you curious about how this algorithm detects a banknote, here is a slide of a short talk that I gave to our local research group soon after I discovered the "EURion Constellation" two years ago while experimenting with a new Xerox color photocopier and a 10 euro note.

The algorithm looks in the blue channel of a color image for little circles and most likely examines the distance distribution encountered. I have discovered a small constellation of just five circles (a bit like Orion with the belt starts merged) that will be rejected by a Xerox color photocopier installed next door from here as a banknote. Black on white circles do not work.

These little yellow, green or orange 1 mm large circles have been on European banknotes for many years. I found them on German marks, British pounds and the euro notes. In the US, they showed up only very recently on the new 20$ bill. On some notes like the euro, the circles are blatantly obvious, whereas on others the artists carefully integrated them into their design. On the 20 pound note, they appear as "notes" in an unlikely short music score, in the old German 50 mark note, they are neatly embedded into the background pattern, and in the new 20 dollar bill, they are used as the 0 of all the yellow 20 number printed across the note. The constellation are probably detected by the fact that the squares of the distances of the circles are integer multiples of the smallest one.

I have later been told that this scheme was invented by Omron and that the circle pattern also encodes the issuing bank.

January 07, 2004

Seattle: Winter Wonderland

Yesterday, it snowed in Seattle. Now, for many cities this is nothing to get excited about. But here in Seattle, when it snows it's a special occasion. The entire town shuts down, pretty much, and the media has a field day. The whole day before: "it's gonna snow!". The whole day yesterday: "hey, it's snowing!". And all today: "the aftermath of the snow". It's pretty funny.

But me, I love the snow. Because of the treacherous roads the offices were all closed, so Jay and I had a day at home. It was nice to be working in the living room, laptop wirelessly connected to the office via VPN, and watch the cross-country skiiers go by.

And it was all the better because yesterday was my birthday. Really, I don't think it could've turned out better.

Here are some photos of casa nonfamous in the snow.

Viva la lucha!

That's "long live the struggle!" for your gringos. Citizen C and Citizen J--whose names we daren't mention lest the Bush Administration prosecute them!--just got back from Cuba. They sent a whole bunch of great photos, but my favorite is this shot
of Citizen J wearing the American Apology t-shirt he read about on nonfamous. (Note the gorgeous Che on the building in the background!)

If people want to hear more about the trip, maybe we can convince Citizen C to become a frequent contributor.

In anti-gay poll, same-sex marriage gains

Yahoo! News - In anti-gay poll, same-sex marriage gains

Ha ha... not that it is shocking that more homos than haters are online--unless, I guess, you are the people who put the poll together. Still, to quote Shakespeare, I love to see them "hoist by their own petard."