Thursday, January 29, 2004
833786 - Steps that you can take to help identify and to help protect yourself from deceptive (spoofed) Web sites and malicious hyperlinks
833786 - Steps that you can take to help identify and to help protect yourself from deceptive (spoofed) Web sites and malicious hyperlinks: "Things that you can do to help protect yourself from malicious hyperlinks
The most effective step that you can take to help protect yourself from malicious hyperlinks is not to click them. Rather, type the URL of your intended destination in the address bar yourself. By manually typing the URL in the address bar, you can verify the information that Internet Explorer uses to access the destination Web site. To do so, type the URL in the Address bar, and then press ENTER. "

Saturday, January 24, 2004
Internet News Needs Standards!
Intervention Magazine: Just over a year ago, I had posted a comprehensive report, “Blacklist Grounds American Passengers” on Intervention Magazine. It described how airlines have been grounding American political activists considered “high risks” simply because their names appeared on a government blacklist. “Green Party ‘Terrorist’” was a new version of my original article, having been rewritten with critical information deleted and unauthorized copy added -- it was a rip-off of my original piece.

Without my permission and knowledge, someone took my “Blacklist Grounds American Passengers,” rewrote, added, and deleted whatever they pleased, which is an obvious violation of my copyright. This new artilce represented a theft of my intellectual property.

The “Green Party ‘Terrorist’” had been posted on numerous Web sites, but I traced this new, corrupted copy back to its source at one Web site, Here, the title of the pirated piece is “Green Party ‘Terrorists’ Not Allowed to Fly.” My name is on the byline and it had been postdated to January, 2004, altered copy and all.

I wrote to Don Hazen, Executive Director of The Independent Media Institute and Executive Editor of that: “Without my knowledge and consent, has re-written and otherwise altered one of my copyrighted articles, ‘Blacklist Grounds American Passengers,’ first published under that title at Intervention Magazine. You posted a drastically modified version of my article at your Web site”

I am still waiting for Mr. Hazen’s reply.

WiFi access at The New York Public Library

You are invited to explore The New York Public Library's fast Internet network using your own Wireless-enabled laptop computer. Free access is provided in all public areas in the WiFi-enabled libraries and at all times the libraries are open. Simply launch your Web browser. Your computer's home page will appear and you may begin surfing immediately.
Hardware Requirements

* You will need a WiFi-compliant 802.11b wireless Ethernet device installed in your laptop or a laptop with built-in WiFi capability.
* Set your wireless network adapter's Network Identifier (also known as ESSID or Network Name) to NYPL."

Boing Boing!!!!!
I submitted the link to the wedding cake casemod to, a popular group blog.
Cory Doctorow, one of the editors, and a really good SF writer, posted it

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Whole Earth Closes Its Doors
WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Whole Earth Closes Its Doors:

Whole Earth magazine - spawn of the amazing Whole Earth Catalogs, source of the WELL, first to mention in print the Gaia Hypothesis, the Internet, Virtual Reality, the Singularity and Burning Man (or at least so the legend goes), the place where folks like Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and Howard Rheingold found their voices, and where a whole generation of young commune-kid geeks like myself learned to dream weird - is no more.

Again. Maybe. It has died and risen from the ashes at least once before. But in any case, it's going into the deep freeze, with (as far as I can tell) no solid plans for how to awaken, and it looks pretty unlikely that the famous "lost Singularity issue," #111(PDF) will ever see print.

The signs are bad: creditors (including writers) have long gone unpaid, the last of the staff have gone, and I got an email today quoting this message from board president Danica Remy:

...Ah, Dear WER friends and fans. Yes, it's true WE is giving notice to place of business for the last eight years. We are looking at a storage scenario but several of us on the board have NOT GIVEN UP!

Thank you all for your warm wishes, perspectives and most of all your continued support. It is true the WELL and WER should have been more tightly tied together but a decision long before I joined the was made that sealed the fate of a disconnected future.

We have many more conversation to have before we can really say Whole Earth is dead....


Hopefully this isn't just wishful thinking, and, to paraphrase E.J. Dionne, it only looks dead. If not, though, a once great (and worldchanging) magazine has passed from the scene, and we're all poorer for it.

London Consortium: "Shit and Civilization: our ambivalent relationship to ordure in the city, culture and the psyche

Course Tutors:
Parveen Adams, Mike Weinstock, Chris Turner
Venue: 10 Gower Street, WC1
Time: Fridays 10:30 to 1PM
Course Description
Sample Essays
2003-2004 Course Calendar
MRes/PhD 1

Course Description
Our societies are, quite literally, founded on shit. Civilization means living in cities and cities are confronted, in a way more dispersed settlements are not, with heaps of garbage and ordure. Ancient cities are now identified by the mounds raised above the surrounding terrain, called tells. Tells are heaps of rubble, garbage and ordure into which cities have crumbled. Cities have always left the poor to scavenge and to live from re-cycling garbage. In many contemporary third world cities slums have been built on and around the town dump.

Slums - favelas, barrios, shanties - have no sewers. Ordure is carried away in carts or by open drains. Yet we exhibit a fundamental ambivalence to shit, and see it as the opposite of civilization, rather than its inevitable accompaniment. It is repressed, literally driven underground by sewers, and driven into the unconscious by taboos and toilet training. Yet we cannot leave shit alone. We tire of aseptic modernist urban utopias, and seek the bustle and confusion, and the dirt of a 'real' city. The scatological urge - to joke and 'talk dirty', to break taboos, to return to the childhood freedom to play with faeces - constantly interrupts the attempt to ban shit from culture.

The course brings together two distinct disciplinary registers, architecture and the analysis of the built environment, and anthropology and psychoanalysis, to show this ambivalence. Thus the phenomena of the built environment and the cultural rules and psychical formations that seek to contain the pollution of matter out of place will be examined together. Shit in contemporary art and film will also be considered in the course.

One-eyed goat draws stares from amazed locals
IOL: "We kid you not! Astounded residents of Durban's Folweni township couldn't believe their eyes. And they couldn't believe the eye of a baby goat born in the village at the weekend - there was only one - in the middle of the goat's forehead, just like the Cyclops of Greek mythology.

Even more astonishing was the fact that the single eye looked uncannily human.

News of the bizarre birth spread swiftly throughout the township and hundreds of people poured into Folweni to see for themselves. Locals have dubbed the little animal Umlingo, isiZulu for miracle." : "LOS ANGELES (AP) -- FBI agents say they have traced the bootlegging and illegal Internet distribution of Hollywood films to an actor who is an Academy Award member, and have arrested one of his acquaintances.

Carmine Caridi admitted in an affidavit released Thursday that he sent every so-called 'screener' videotape he's received for the past three years to an acquaintance in the Chicago area, Russell W. Sprague.

Sprague, 51, was arrested at his home in Homewood, Ill., on Thursday after a search of his home turned up hundreds of films, many of which had been converted to DVD and had the Academy's encryption code erased, along with an array of duplicating equipment, authorities said."

Opium Made Easy
Opium Made Easy : "Last season was a strange one in my garden, notable not only for the unseasonably cool and wet weather--the talk of gardeners all for its climate of paranoia. One flower was the cause: a tall, breathtaking poppy, with silky scarlet petals and a black heart, the growing of which, I discovered rather too late, is a felony under state and federal law. Actually, it's not quite as simple as that. My poppies were, or became, felonious; another gardener's might or might not be. The legality of growing opium poppies (whose seeds are sold under many names, including the breadseed poppy, Papaver paeoniflorum, and, most significantly, Papaver somniferum) is a tangled issue, turning on questions of nomenclature and epistemology that it took me the better part of the summer to sort out. But before I try to explain, let me offer a friendly warning to any gardeners who might wish to continue growing this spectacular annual: the less you know about it, the better off you are, in legal if not horticultural terms. Because whether or not the opium poppies in your garden are illicit depends not on what you do, or even intend to do, with them but very simply on what you know about them. Hence my warning: if you have any desire to grow opium poppies, you would be wise to stop reading right now."

Matrimony Mod
[H]ard|Forum : "So... I decided last month it was time to make my relationship with my girlfriend of 5 years official. An earlier plot of mine to propose to her had been thwarted when she began to suspect something, so on the train one day in December the following idea hit me: change gears and somehow incorporate a mod into the proposal. I envisioned making an all white PC with 'bridal' accents for her, and using that as a visual aid for the proposal. I planned out all the stuff I was thinking on the train and got to work."

Reuters: Couples meet online. They choose gifts, plan weddings, scout romantic locales and book honeymoons online. And, if things don't work out, they can pull the plug and file for divorce online.
Divorce Online ( is supported by the American Divorce Information Network, a group of professionals that include therapists, members of the legal system, and financial and educational planners. There is a Divorce Checklist and articles like "Choosing a Matrimonial Lawyer," which may be the most important decision you make.

While divorce can be painful, complicated and financially devastating, it doesn't have to be, maintains LegalZoom, the online legal service center. A founder of LegalZoom is defense attorney Robert L. Shapiro, whose high-profile clients have included O.J. Simpson, Darryl Strawberry and Tina Sinatra.

The Web site,, guarantees document acceptance by a court and offers peace of mind with customer service specialists standing by to answer questions.

LegalZoom's fee is $249 for a divorce that involves no minor children and $299 for one that does. A savings, it says, compared with $1,880 lawyer's fee, based on an average hourly rate of $228.

In an uncontested divorce, couples can use the three-step process from ( Sign up, answer the questions provided, and finally print and sign forms before filing them with the court.

"LegalZoom and Completecase do offer the actual paperwork," said California lawyer Stephan Elias, who also writes for Nolo Press, publisher of a broad line of self-help books. "But both appear to be based on questionnaires that are used to enter information into proprietary software behind the scene, a sort of independent paralegal business with an online front end."

Showstoppers: "Since terrorism had been classified as crime, few Pentagon officials were willing to call it a clear and present danger to the United States--much less grounds for war. Any attempt to describe terrorism in those terms ran into a stone wall.

For instance, on June 25, 1996, a truck bomb killed 19 Americans and wounded another 250 at the U.S. military's Khobar Towers housing facility near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. In the aftermath, a tough-minded subordinate of Allen Holmes, then the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, asserted that the Defense Department needed a more aggressive counterterrorism policy to attack those responsible for these increasingly lethal terrorist attacks. Holmes told him, 'Write it down, and we'll push it.'

The aide laid out a strategy that pulled no punches. Khobar Towers, the World Trade Center bombing, and other attacks were acts of war, he wrote, and should be treated as such. He called for 'retaliatory and preemptive military strikes against the terrorist leadership and infrastructure responsible, and even against states assisting them.' In his strategy, he assigned a central role for this to SOF.

Holmes ran the proposal up the flagpole. A meeting to review it was held in the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy. As the hard-charging aide explained his recommendations, a senior policy official blurted out: 'Are you out of your mind? You're telling me that our Middle East policy is not important and that it's more important to go clean out terrorists? Don't you understand what's going on in terms of our Middle East policy? You're talking about going after terrorists backed by Iran? You just don't understand.' And that was that. "If you've downloaded a song in the past few years, it's in large part because of Justin Frankel. Seven years ago, when he was just eighteen, he invented Winamp, the first software program that made it easy to play digital music on your computer. A few years later, he created Gnutella: the vast, and vastly controversial, online network that lets you swap songs. The fact that Frankel secretly did the latter while working at America Online, the company behind his multimillion-dollar buyout, made him both the Internet's greatest punk -- and hero. Now he's about to punk the industry again."

Ex-pinup supplies 3 litres of milk a day

"Ten years ago, shapely blonde beauty Belinda Hall's special assets earned her the South African Penthouse Pet of the Year title.

She got fame, adoration - six million men voted her into the number one slot - and the chance to travel and live overseas.

She was also hailed as Miss October in the United States' Pet of the Year honours.

Now, although that has all been replaced with marriage and motherhood (her husband is Pinetown lawyer Andre Liebenberg), she is still something of a star.

'I knew my boobs would come in useful one day'
For not only does the new mom provide her four-month-old Down's Syndrome son, Anthony, with a litre of breast milk a day, she also supplies another two litres a day to a unique milk bank.

While she has to feed Anthony her breast milk in a bottle - like other Down's Syndrome babies he cannot 'latch on' - the extra milk she expresses is pasteurised by the milk bank and fed to two little Aids orphans at the iThemba Lethu Transition Home in Manor Gardens, Durban.

'I knew my boobs would come in useful one day,' quipped the supermom, who said she felt that all breastfeeding moms should consider donating milk if they can."

Prison time for unlucky phisher
SecurityFocus HOME News: "An Ohio woman who used forged e-mails from 'AOL security' to swindle America Online subscribers out of their credit card numbers was sentenced to 46 months in prison Tuesday, after a federal judge in Virginia rejected her plea for a reduced sentence.

Helen Carr, 55, pleaded guilty last October to one count of conspiracy for her role in a scheme that sent mass e-mails to AOL subscribers purporting to be from the company's security department. According to court records, the messages claimed that AOL's last attempt to bill the recipient's credit card had failed, and included a link to an 'AOL Billing Center' web page, where an online form demanded the user's name, address, credit card number, expiration date, three-digit CCV number and credit card limit.

The scheme began to unravel in February, 2001, when Carr unwittingly spammed an off-duty FBI agent with the Norfolk, Virginia field office. The agent, a computer crime specialist, was apparently not taken in by the scam mail, which boasted a return address of '' and was sent to 19 other AOL users at the same time. The 'Billing Center' web page was served by Geocities. '[A] legitimate AOL billing center would not be found at this location,' agent Joseph Yuhasz wrote in an affidavit in the case. "

Screenwriting - Interview -- Scott Peters by Reg Seeton
UGO Screenwriter's Voice : "USA Network picked up and ordered six episodes of the upcoming sci-fi series The 4400, created by former Outer Limits producer, director and writer, Scott Peters. As we also reported, the series will... 'follow the lives of 4,400 alien abductees upon their return to Earth by unknown forces.' What can small-screen fans expect from this new venture into the unknown? If you're picturing what you've already come to know and expect from past alien oriented shows, you may want to wipe the imagination slate clean for this one. Working in conjunction with co-executive producer Francis Ford Coppola, Peters and The 4400 team are aiming for a higher standard; one that explores the deeper facets of our human condition and the resulting impact of one profound, distressing event.

With our ears to the ground, keen to learn more about both the show and the writer, we recently caught up with Scott Peters, who shared his thoughts on everything from how he got his start in the business, to the changing opportunity for television writers today, his professional experiences working on past shows, what fans can expect from The 4400, and how aspiring television writers can break into the industry."

Gridlock Sam's History of US Traffic
The history of traffic congestion is one of continuously winning the battles but losing a bigger war.

It was not always this way. New York City, for most of its history, was in the vanguard of transportation innovation. In 1807 city planners laid out the great street plan for Manhattan with hundreds of 'paper streets' (mapped but not yet built) that remarkably has been followed closely for nearly 200 years."

"In any case, when the Soviet archives were opened after the fall of the Soviet tyranny in 1991, I hungrily devoured all the information inherent in the revelations in declassified documents, disclosures from former Soviet officials, etc. They all confirmed and substantiated what conservatives had been arguing for decades -- and what common sense had long ago instructed -- that the Soviets were totalitarian, power-hungry and expansionist brutes that started and prolonged the Cold War.

When I approached my colleagues with this new evidence, ranging from everything from the issues of the Korean war, Berlin, Soviet espionage, American communists’ links with the Soviet regime, etc., I showed how I had been correct on every issue that we had argued about for years.

And yet, instead of hearing a mea culpa, a stated regret or admission of some kind of lesson learned, all that I witnessed, in a manner that remains extremely eerie for me to remember, was a callous indifference and smug contempt for the issues at hand. Some of my colleagues articulated a few incomprehensible justifications of their positions; others just switched topics with remarkable speed and ominous neglect. All of them condescended to me for being interested in something so “old” and “ancient.” They patiently counselled me, with a disdain and arrogance that I will never forget, to stop chasing “old ghosts” and “engaging in necrophilia.”

And these were historians.

I have to say, I left the world of academia somewhat shell-shocked and angry. There was something very frightening that I had been exposed to, but I wasn’t completely sure what it was. I felt as if I had been poisoned and it took me awhile to get those people out of my system."

Arrest Startles Saleswomen of Sex Toys
NYT: "Passion Parties, which is holding its annual convention here, represents a subset of the sex industry that uses Tupperware-style marketing and underscores how mainstream sex toys have become. What may have once been purchased from burly guys behind the counter in seedy pornography shops is now for sale in the living rooms of teachers, nurses, grandmothers and housewives who say their business is more educational than titillating.

So it came as a shock to this sales cadre when one of their own was recently arrested by two undercover police officers in Burleson, Tex., and now faces a misdemeanor obscenity charge that could send her to jail for up to one year.

No one is more surprised than the woman herself, Joanne Webb, 43, a Passion Parties representative whose business had even joined the local chamber of commerce before law enforcement officials got an anonymous call about her in October.

'It's ludicrous,' said Ms. Webb, who is married, has three children and was welcomed here with hugs and donations to a defense fund. 'Just the idea of being convicted of something like this is disgusting.'

Ms. Webb is accused of violating a state law that prohibits the sale of obscene devices, defined as items 'designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.'

Johnson County prosecutors in Texas refused to comment on the case, but Ms. Webb's lawyer in Fort Worth, BeAnn Sisemore, plans to challenge the law as unconstitutional. Ms. Sisemore said that even condoms could be considered an obscene device by the logic of the law.

Eastern Europe's shoppers cash in on credit card use
Chicago Tribune: "The biggest obstacle credit card marketers had to overcome in Hungary was fear of fraud. But consumer concerns about the safety of their cards have led to an important security innovation made possible by the explosive growth of mobile phones in Hungary.

Each time a card is used, the cardholder immediately gets a text message on his or her cell phone confirming the transaction and notifying the cardholder of the balance. Initially developed in Hungary, the messaging system is used widely in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is now being introduced in Western Europe."

fun simulation

First-Generation American's Job Taken By His Father
The Onion | America's Finest News Source:
READING, PA—Miguel Martinez, 48, who immigrated to the U.S. 30 years ago, last week lost his leather-cutting job at GST AutoLeather, Inc. to his 66-year-old father Roberto. "I came to this country in 1974 to make a better life for my family," Martinez said Monday. "But in December, they moved the factory where I've been working for 22 years down to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. I love my father, but that goddamn beaner stole my job." Martinez's $18-an-hour duties will now be performed by his father for $7 a day.

Robot belly-dancer shakes her stuff
She can shimmy, she can roll, she can backbend. She even sports a teasing, low-slung skirt around her waist.

But the performer of these undulations is no fleshy temptress. Instead, she is a belly-dancing robot whose moves are driven by the wriggles of a fish.

Her creator, Jimmy Or of Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, said he gained inspiration watching Lucy Liu sashay her stomach in the film Charlie's Angels. The sight prompted him to sign up for dance lessons of his own.

Watching his instructor bend and sway, Or was struck by her similarity to his other object of affection, the lamprey - a primitive eel-like creature that scythes through water like a snake. "I decided to combine the fields and work on my idea secretly," he says.

Several years on, Or has created a squat, shimmying robot with a flexible spine called Waseda Belly Dancer No. 1. It has so far mastered a particularly difficult belly-dancing move, the Camel, which involves sending waves rippling along the torso.

Headless chicken
To generate the robot's undulations, Or borrowed a computer program built by Swedish researchers that simulates a network of nerves in the lamprey called a central pattern generator (CPG). The CPG directs the lamprey's movements without the help of the brain or sensory feedback.

Similar nerve networks are thought to exist in most vertebrates. In chickens, it is a CPG that allows a headless bird to briefly sprint around the yard before keeling over, for example. In humans, a CPG is thought to produce an automatic walking motion in toddlers or people who have had spinal-cord injuries when they are placed on a treadmill.

Because the CPG computer program is relatively simple, Or hopes that it might be cheaply incorporated into future humanoid machines. "I consider it as a prototype for the next generation of robot," he says.

State-of-the-art humanoid machines such as Honda's ASIMO and Sony's running machine, QRIO, can flex their arms and legs, but "still look a bit awkward" says Peter Stone, who designs robots at the University of Texas at Austin. To create more advanced movements, "it may very well be that the spine is the way to go", says Stone.

Conscious effort
The strange invention has also provided some lessons for biologists, revealing that the CPG of a fish can drive human-like movements. But this doesn't mean that humans carry an innate program for belly-dancing, says Fred Delcomyn, who studies CPGs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In humans, the dance undoubtedly requires far more conscious effort, and the human CPG is probably focused on our leg and arm muscles to help trigger walking. "The whole idea of making it belly-dance is kind of quirky," says Delcomyn.

Or admits that he made Waseda Belly Dancer No. 1 partly as an entertainment; he is currently refining its workings and choosing some fetching jewellery for it. But he maintains that robots with a flexible spine have a future. "A robot that can bow is very important in Japanese society," Or says.

© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2004

F*** THE NAZIS, SAYS CHURCHILL'S PARROT Jan 19 2004, By Bill Borrows

SHE WAS at Winston Churchill's side during Britain's darkest hour. And now Charlie the parrot is 104 years old...and still cursing the Nazis.

Her favourite sayings were 'F*** Hitler' and 'F*** the Nazis'. And even today, 39 years after the great man's death, she can still be coaxed into repeating them with that unmistakable Churchillian inflection.

Many an admiral or peer of the realm was shocked by the tirade from the bird's cage during crisis meetings with the PM.

But it always brought a smile to the war leader's face.

Churchill bought Charlie - giving him a boy's name despite the fact she was female - in 1937.

She took pride of place in a bizarre menagerie of pets including lambs, pigs, cattle, swans and, at one point, a leopard.

He immediately began to teach her to swear - particularly in company - and she is keeping up the tradition today.

The blue and gold macaw is believed to be Britain's oldest bird.

The title was previously thought to belong to 80-year-old Cokky the cockatoo.

But it can be proved Charlie is at least 104 and was born in the 19th century.

Peter Oram bought her for his pet shop after Churchill died in 1965. But he was forced to move her into his home after she kept swearing at children.

For the last 12 years, she has lived at Mr Oram's garden centre in Reigate, Surrey.

Centre worker Sylvia Martin said: 'If truth be told, Charlie is looking a little scruffy but she is very popular with the public. We are all very attached to her.'

James Humes, an expert on the late PM, said: 'Churchill may no longer be with us but that spirit and those words of defiance and resolve continue.'

Charlie's story is in this month's Jack Magazine, on sale Thursday"

Sir Winston's Daughter Knocks Parrot Claims off Perch News: "Claims that a foul-mouthed parrot really was Sir Winston Churchill’s wartime companion were finally knocked off their perch today as his daughter entered the debate.

Charlie, a 104-year-old Macaw now living in retirement in a Surrey garden centre, has been basking in media attention from as far afield as Russia and the United States in recent days, since owner Peter Oram claimed the bird belonged to the great war leader.

Mr Oram believes that his father-in-law Percy Dabner, a famous 1930s bird fancier, sold Charlie to the politician at his Croydon pet shop in 1937, and later took the creature back after Sir Winston’s death in 1965.

Reports have suggested Charlie may have picked up a string of swear words from Sir Winston.

But his daughter, Lady Soames, believes Charlie may have been confused with Polly, an African Grey, which lived with the family at their Kent home, Chartwell.

She said: “My father never owned a Macaw or anything remotely resembling it.

“Before the war he did have an African Grey for about three years, but that’s quite, quite different from a Macaw – it’s smaller, or more compact, with a sort of red face.

“It may well have been acquired from the source that the man says it was, I simply wouldn’t know.”

Lady Soames said the parrot was finally sold when the family left Chartwell at the beginning of the war to move to London, before her father became Prime Minister.

She said: “It never came to London. It may well have gone back, for all I know, to the person that my father got it from, but it was the end of the parrot’s relationship with my father.”

Lady Soames also moved to scotch suggestions that the war leader, recently voted Greatest Briton in a BBC poll, may have taught the parrot to swear.

She said: “The idea that he spent time in the war teaching it swear words is too tiresome for words.”

But Sylvia Martin, nursery manager of the Reigate garden centre where Charlie now lives, remains adamant that the tale is true.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Oram, who is on holiday, she said: “He was the one who went with his father-in-law to collect it. I know there’s a lot of controversy about it.

“I don’t understand why she didn’t see it, but he definitely went there to collect it.”"

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Gun
Walk Softly and Carry a Big Gun:
By Karl Francis, Karl Francis, a former professor and congressional lobbyist, lives in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Please bear with me. I am an Alaskan, and Alaskans, for better or worse, are given to looking down on the rest of the nation. We mean no offense; it is just in our nature, and because of our place on this Earth, which leads us to be confused from time to time when we visit the Lower 48.

I am puzzled now by the strange way people here are dealing with mountain lions — which is to say, letting them kill you.

Nature killing people is no big deal for Alaskans. That's the way things are in Alaska.

When you step out into it, you are at risk. If you are wise, you prepare for it. Alaska does not suffer fools. It eats them.

It also eats people who are not fools, those who prepare well and try their best to stay alive. I have lost too many close friends to her, sensible folks who came up against something too tough to handle. Our stories of untimely death are endless, and I will not burden you with them.

I would just mention that I have been breathtakingly close to extinction myself, sometimes for making a mistake but often just for being out there.

About a year ago, in the Arctic coastal village of Kaktovik, my son, Nick, and I were walking from our office to our residence when we came upon huge polar bear prints in our path, going the other way. It being cold and dark and very windy, those tracks would not have lasted more than a few minutes. And so that bear was close behind us. We had passed it without seeing it.

In case you think otherwise, polar bears hunt people down and eat them. And I have eaten polar bears. And grizzly bears. And black bears. And a lot of other critters. Cooked right, bears taste really good.

Apparently the feeling is mutual. This particular night I did not intend to be eaten nor to see Nick eaten. So I drew my .41 magnum revolver, a modest bear gun but better than teeth and fingernails. As luck would have it for all three of us, we missed each other.

I love bears, and not just to eat. I used to study them. I have friends who have spent all their professional lives studying them. You can't spend time around bears and not admire them. But none of us go into bear country without the means to protect ourselves.

I don't know much about big cats. We don't have them in Alaska, and the few I have encountered southward were pretty spooky. They are elegant creatures, and I do respect them. I do not go where they are without the means to protect myself. And I keep my eyes peeled. It is in my genes not to be eaten by bears, large cats or anything else.

Why would anyone go into mountain lion country without the means to protect themselves from attack? I notice the police are armed. The wardens and rangers are armed. Indeed, anyone with any clue where they are would be armed.

I have a buddy, an Albuquerque cop. She likes to ride mountain bikes in remote places. She is a beautiful lady, but tough. I asked her once what she does when she is out there and has an encounter with something nasty.

It has happened. In silent response, she unzipped her fanny pack, which she carries on her belly, exposing both her badge and her .357 magnum pistol. Evil backs away from that lady.

Now that makes sense to me. But then, I'm not from these parts.

Keep the Sex R-Rated, N.Y.U. Tells Film Students: "In October, a film student at New York University pitched an idea for her video-making class: a four-minute portrayal of the contrast between unbridled human lust and banal everyday behavior.

Her professor approved. The student, Paula Carmicino, found two actor friends willing to have sex on camera in front of the class. The other students expressed their support. But then the professor thought he should double-check with the administration, which immediately pulled the plug on the project.

What's more, university officials said they would issue a written policy requiring student films and videos to follow the ratings guidelines of the Motion Picture Association of America, with nothing racier than R-rated fare allowed, according to Ms. Carmicino and her professor, Carlos de Jesus. The association says R-rated films may include 'nudity within sensual scenes.'

The matter has raised a mini-tempest on campus. Yesterday, the school newspaper, The Washington Square News, published a front-page article about it, as well as an editorial critical of the administration.

Ms. Carmicino and Professor de Jesus say the issue raises far-reaching questions of censorship and academic and artistic freedom. 'This is where you unfold as a creative artist,' Ms. Carmicino, 21, said. 'You need people to bounce your ideas off of, or else you won't evolve as an artist.' Ms. Carmicino is a junior in the film and television department at the university's Tisch School of the Arts."

Local anchor feels our pain from afar : "On one of the coldest mornings of the year, veteran WBZ Radio anchor Gary LaPierre couldn't get over how frigid it was outside.

'Would you believe it's 5 below zero right now?' he told listeners yesterday at 6 a.m. 'The only thing worse than the actual temperature right now is having the wind chill factored in.'

What he didn't mention was that he was actually in northern Florida, where it was a balmy 50 degrees.

It turns out that LaPierre has been co-anchoring the WBZ Morning News remotely from his home in the Sunshine State on and off for the past two years. His home in St. Augustine is equipped with its own studio, where he can conduct interviews, touch a computer screen to broadcast commercials, and scan the Internet for Boston's news.....

Ethics specialists argue that LaPierre is breaching an unspoken contract of honesty between journalist and listener. "You can't deliver news and create the illusion that you're in the city where everybody's mucus membranes are frozen when really you've just picked a grapefruit off the tree in the backyard for breakfast," said Roy Peter Clark, an ethics teacher and vice president at the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists in St. Petersburg, Fla."

Pixelito is the latest member of the ever growing Pixel Radio Controlled Helicopter family. It's been a fantastic journey since the birth of the Pixel 1 in 1997. Six years of experimentation, 6 years of technology evolution made it possible to further reduce weight by a factor of almost 20 times. Weight is a mere 6.9 grams with the 45mAh LiPo battery."

I, for one, welcome our Janusian Aquatic Masters
Taipei Times - archives: "In a world first, scientists at the Academia Sinica inadvertently developed a genetically engineered two-headed fluorescent zebrafish with two hearts.

Researchers conducting the research project said that the existence of such a creature had never been documented anywhere else on Earth.

Huang Chang-jen (�;ͬ�), an associate research fellow at the Academia Sinica's Institute of Biological Chemistry, last week put a certain gene into 200 zebrafish embryos at one-cell stage through a microinjection procedure. One of them unexpectedly developed 24 hours later into the two-headed fish, which has two hearts.

As of yesterday, the weird, green fluorescent fish has been alive for eight days. Its has grown to 3mm from its original 2mm.

'You can say they are actually a big zebrafish and a small one sharing a body,' Huang told the Taipei Times.

After checking related academic papers, Huang said that he found no documentation that such a creature had ever existed before.

Huang has used fluorescent zebrafish as a model organism for the study of functional genomics for years. To study the development of muscular dystrophy, Huang injected a gene causing the death of muscle cells into more than 200 zebrafish embryos. The research results would be used to develop drugs to cure the disease.

The rare two-headed fish inspired Huang to start studying the mechanisms causing conjoined creatures.

Again, the results of his research would be used to develop drugs to counter the development of conjoined babies. There are three to four conjoined births per 100,000 in Taiwan which, according to Huang, is a much higher rate than in most other countries. In some countries, Huang said, there is only one conjoined birth in more than 200,000.

Basically, the gene injected into the zebrafish causes the death of muscle cells and affects the early development of embryos. Huang declined to reveal details about the gene he used.

'Scientifically speaking, we still have a long way to go because we have not yet created a second two-headed conjoined zebrafish,' Huang said.

Huang and his team repeated the experiment on Wednesday by injecting the same gene into more than 100 embryos, but only found a few abnormal creatures which were not conjoined.

According to Huang's pet-fish sources, a two-headed red dragon fish has been seen before but never a two-headed conjoined zebrafish. "

Rabbi composes Internet porn prayer
JERUSALEM - An Israeli rabbi has composed a prayer to help devout Jews overcome guilt after visiting porn web sites while browsing the Internet.

'Please God, help me cleanse the computer of viruses and evil photographs that disturb and ruin my work ..., so that I shall be able to cleanse myself (of sin),' reads the benediction by Shlomo Eliahu, chief rabbi in the northern town of Safed.

Eliahu, quoted by Israel's largest daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, said he had responded to a deluge of queries from Orthodox Jews worried that the lure of Internet sex sites was putting family relationships at risk.

The rabbi recommends that Jews recite the prayer when they log on to the Internet or even program it to flash up on their computer screens so they are spiritually covered whether they enter a porn site intentionally or by mistake."

Bringing space costs back down to Earth
MSNBC :The history of wild guesses

It's undeniable that spaceflight costs money — about $15 billion a year for NASA and $20 billion more for the Pentagon's satellites and rockets. New projects involving humans with more advanced spaceships will cost even more. For many people, that already costs too much, and for others, any additional spending — even Bush's recommendation for an additional billion dollars for NASA over the next five years — is intolerable.

The origin of a super-high price tag for sending humans to Mars can be traced way back to the mid-1960s. At that time, a number of scientists, none with direct experience in space engineering, issued what space workers affectionately like to call SWAGs ("Scientific Wild-Ass Guesses") on the expenses. These were based on strained analogies to what they thought they knew about Apollo.

In 1965, D. F. Hornig, science adviser to President Johnson, told a Senate committee: "If we compare the probable scale and technical difficulties of a manned Mars expedition with Apollo, it is hard to conclude that its probable cost could be much less than perhaps five times that of Apollo — that is, of the order of $100 billion."

The same year, Abraham Hyatt wrote in Astronautics and Aeronautics magazine that "the cost of a manned Mars expedition is estimated at $75.2 billion [three Apollos] spread over a 15-year period.”

Adjusting the price tag
But based on studies conducted by Charles S. Sheldon II (a true unsung genius of space policy analysis) in the early 1970s at the Science Policy Research Division of the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service, a very different picture emerged: "If one assumes a [space] program will have other reasons to develop a reusable shuttle, a versatile space tug and a universal space station module (all to serve many Earth orbital economic, military and scientific purposes) then even the total costs of developing a Mars expedition become far different from the kind of $100 billion figure which has been common to the literature.

"People tend to overlook how much of the Apollo costs were associated with building a basic U.S. space capability rather than just going to the moon per se," Sheldon continued. "One might think of a Mars expedition of the type discussed as much closer to the order of magnitude of $10 billion rather than the $25 to $35 billion of Apollo or the $100 billion postulated so often for Mars." - NASA docks contractor $45.2 million for Columbia - NASA docks contractor $45.2 million for Columbia: NASA penalized the contractor that maintains and operates the space shuttle fleet $45.2 million for its role in the shuttle Columbia accident, according to a letter NASA released Thursday.

The United Space Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, had to forfeit the money even though NASA said the contractor did nothing specific to cause the accident.

But a letter from a NASA official said the contractor was "an integral member" of the "team that reached flawed conclusions about the relative safety of Columbia and crew before and during the flight." The letter from NASA deputy associate administrator Michael Kostelnik was sent Jan. 7 to United Space Alliance president Michael McCulley, a former astronaut.

The contract spells out performance bonuses based on safety, cost-effectiveness and other factors. For Oct. 1, 2002, through March 31, 2003, the alliance was eligible for $81.2 million in bonuses. Kostelnik's letter said the alliance will get only $36 million because there were two successful shuttle missions in the same period as the accident. The result is a penalty of $45.2 million."

jaynote: WTF??? why are they getting ANY safety related bonus??? The CAIB report showed that the SAME foam loss that happened on the Columbia flight happened on the previous filghts, thus by definition they were NOT sucessful from a safety standpoint. Heck, ALL previously awarded safety related bonuses should be refunded....

SpaceDev Lunar Lander Simulator

SpaceDev is consistantly striving to help facilitate humankind's inevitable venture into space. In collaboration with Beltminer Inc., a lunar lander concept demo has been completed to simulate future lunar missions that will combine adventure and exploration with actual business and technology challenges.
Download the simulator, take control of your very own lunar lander and then sit back and enjoy the ride!

An orbiting vehicle based on SpaceDev’s (OTCBB: SPDV) real-life MoTV-powered space tug is used by would-be astronauts in the “Lunar Lander” simulator game, where post-modern space cadets maneuver the vehicle in “Lunar orbit” with a fixed amount of propellant. Seeking a laser beacon from the Moon's surface marking a site with water, the goal of the game is to guide, and safely land, the vehicle at the base of the laser marker. A safe landing at that location refills the vehicle's tanks, readying it for another mission.
The game simulator can be downloaded free of charge from the product page.

The innovative simulated Lunar Lander game is being produced in conjunction with game producer Beltminer, and being released by SpaceDev as part of its commitment to designing missions and spacecraft for the Mars and Lunar arenas. Beltminer, Inc. created the popular Beltminer Claim Stake, a 3D dexterity game about asteroid mining in our solar system. For more information, visit

The free game-like Lunar Lander simulator also encapsulates the concept of claiming and utilizing the valuable natural resources contained on the Moon, on Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), and on Mars, stimulating and supporting the expansion of the human race into space through commercial private sector ventures.
"I founded SpaceDev to build and fly space missions beyond earth’s orbit like many of us have dreamed of since childhood. I intend this game to stimulate more interest in space among space enthusiasts both young and old, and have them ride the wave of commercial space innovation and exploration,” said Company founding chairman and chief executive, Jim Benson.

Since 1997, the Company has designed the Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP), Mars MicroMissions for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and a commercial Lunar orbiter for Boeing, and a robotic Lunar Dish Observatory for Lunar Enterprise Corporation.

“There are vast natural resources in space, like water – ‘the White Gold of space.’ We can use these resources as stepping-stones for humanity to explore the Moon, the asteroids and Mars, and beyond to the stars," commented Benson.

Today, reaching earth’s orbit puts us only halfway to anywhere in the Solar System. Technological space-age development is clearing the way for larger and more aggressive missions. The Lunar Lander simulator game reveals just how current revolutionary technology might further the evolution of human civilization into outer space.

For more news on commercial space technology, or further information about the Lunar Lander game, log onto

Return O Israel
Silent Running

At the request of Joseph Katzman, here is a re-print of a sermon I gave on Shabbat Shuvah in 1999. It's the sabbath than comes between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

This year it falls on October 4th.

Shabbat Shuvah

Return. That is what we are urged to do on Shabbat Shuvah. But return to what? As we look around ourselves in this year 5960, or 2199 of the Common Era, perhaps we see ourselves as being very far indeed from our ancient roots. Here in our sanctuary on the O’Neill Habitat, poised between the gravity wells of the Earth and the Moon, with our original planet turning slowly below us with its blues and browns and whites so beautiful and clear, we have clearly come a long way from wandering in the desert as its barrenness and stark demands on us to work together or perish burned the slavery out of us and taught us to be a free people.

As we work in the null-g factories or the high-energy research facilities or the starship support bays, we realise we are no longer an agricultural people, shepherds and farmers who bring lambs and first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem. We measure time, not by the changing seasons, not by the rain that comes on Sukkot or the harvest at Shavuot, or the first shoots of new growth at Pesach, but rather by the dimming and brightening of the central lighting tube on a 24 hour schedule here in our own little world we have created.

And nor are we confined to a small sliver of semi-arable land on the Eastern Mediterranean coast, hemmed in my sometimes hostile neighbours. Humanity has spread to the stars in the last hundred and fifty years, and we have participated in that great Exodus as much as any other group. Artificial habitats carved out of the hearts of huge asteroids orbit nearly every planet in known space, and ships ply routes and carry cargoes unimaginable to any sea captain who carried indigo and pure oil from Israel to the pillars of Hercules.

Jews can be found from Betelguse to Barnard’s Star, and from Proxima Centauri to the moons of Jupiter. Our ancestors would gather around the warm glow of the campfire in the bitter cold of the desert night, and gaze up and the stars in wonder. They would tell each other stories, about life, love, why there is a rainbow, where the tribe came from, the reasons for our customs, and what life is all about. Not all the stories had the same ideas, but perhaps that was the idea. Life is too complex to be wrapped up in a neat bundle, and our ancestors seem to suggest that it’s better to have some of the questions than all of the answers. The stars they wondered at are now homes for humanity, and for Jews. The stars now twinkle like a shabbat candle in the window of a Jewish home. Our father Abraham was promised we would one day be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Well now we are perhaps fulfilling that promise, at least in part.

But our differences with our ancestors go deeper than our physical surroundings, or our mastery over our environment, which approaches what they would no doubt consider almost godlike. No, the differences are more startling when we look inward. Since neural interfacing between the human brain and computers became practicable early in the 21st century, biogenetic and biomechanical enhancement of the standard human has become almost commonplace. This has raised serious questions in the minds of many about whether some of the more radically altered individuals are in fact still human at all.

Those parents with money have been able to boost their offspring’s intelligence, strength, grace, and physical appearance. Such enhanced children clearly have a better chance of success. But what of those whose parents do not have access to wealth? Should they be penalised for being normal? We all know of the tension between enhanced humans and norms that has occasionally broken out into violence.

Within Judaism, the Orthodox have banned all non-essential genetic manipulation as a violation of Halakah. The body that God gave you, as a precious gift, is not to be altered, and is to be returned at death unblemished. The only circumstances in which such techniques may be used are to save the life of the fetus or the mother.

Progressive Jews take a more lenient view, seeing human enhancement as just that – a magnification of Gods creation, albeit under our own direction rather than leaving such matters to divine chance. And yet, as we all know, there are reservations. At the last conference of the Universal Union of Progressive Jewish Congregations at the Neo-Pittsburg Arcology, the platform was revised to reflect this.

Look around you, in this sanctuary. You see black Jews and brown Jews, white Jews, and these days Jews with gills, Jews with third eyes in their foreheads, Jews with antennae, Jews with what looks like lizard skin. We have adapted our bodies to cope with our many and varied new homes. Have we indeed, as our critics say, gone too far?

In the twentieth century, we mastered our physical universe. In the twenty-first, we gained dominion over our own biology. And in the twenty-second, we have gone to the stars. Yama, v’Kedma, Tzafona, v’Negba. Ufaratzta. We have spread out. We have changed. Are we still Jews? Would our ancestors recognise us as such?

Well, we may live different lives, have different problems, face different challenges, but we’re still Jews. Here in the O’Neill habitat we may live in a hollowed-out asteroid, but we still mark the passing seasons with our festivals, the harvest, the planting, the first rains, and we count the Omer still. We may do most of our work in front of a viewscreen with instant access to the sum total of human knowledge, but the Torah we read from in our sanctuary is parchment, written by a sofer, in the ancient way. And most importantly, the words we read, are the same as they’ve always been. They may mean different things to us nowadays. Would the Rabbis sitting in Yavneh have dreamed that the laws of shatnez, of mixing wool and linen in the same garment, or of cross-fertilising different seeds would one day be applied to the deliberate alteration of human DNA? Maybe not. But I believe they would have understood and appreciated that their insights into human nature and the way to live a good and meaningful life, would still be studied and argued over, thousands of years into the future.

There’s an old Midrash about Moses, who at the end of his life is permitted a glimpse of the future. He sees a classroom, and students, who are being taught by Rabbi Akiva. The words of Rabbi Akiva are ones Moses has never heard before. But the great Rabbi ends his discourse by saying, “These are the words which Moshe Rabbeinu received from God Almighty at Sinai”. And Moses thinks for a moment, smiles, and is content.

Return. Return to what? To the land we were given by God? To the way of life of our ancestors? To farming and working with our hands? To an unalterable belief in an all-powerful supernatural deity who controls every aspect of reality? Is that the return we are urged to make this Shabbat?

No. Our generation, like all generations, stands hand in hand with the future and the past. We inherited Judaism from our ancestors, and it is our sacred trust, to pass on to our children and their descendants. One generation passes away, and another generation comes. And the world abides forever. The sun rises, the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. All the rivers run into the sea yet the sea is not full. We come, we spend our brief time, we live, we love, and we make our mark. We change things. What we leave for our children bears our imprint, as the Judaism we received has come down to us infinitely richer for the contributions of those gone before us.

If our ancestors could see us, if they could have glimpsed the future, if the generations could somehow communicate across the gulf of millennia, no doubt there would be much they and perhaps we, would find difficult to accept about each other. And yet, I think in the end, we would both recognise that what we have in common is stronger than that which divides us.

To be a Jew, has always meant to place humanity above all else. To know that human beings are created in the divine image. That no concerns of money, or power, or national interest can ever be worth more than a single human soul. Our Father Abraham left his home in Ur of the Chaldees, at the dawn of recorded human history, to challenge the idols of his day and find ultimate meaning in human existence. May we, his children, return to that faith.

TOP STORY: NASA Is Not Altering Mars Colors.: Mars Spirit Rover Picture analysis.

In this thread I will attempt to summarise my posts to the larger thread.

What are you talking about?

Ok, the initial alarm was raised after it was noticed that the color-calibration sundial mounted on the rover, looked quite markedly different in the Mars-Panorama shots compared to its regular appearance.

Immediately wide-ranging theories began to pop up. At this stage I knew very little of the particulars of the PanCam so I decided to go and see what the Horses mouth had to say. I sent out a swag of emails to the NASA marsrover team, the Athena Instrument team at Cornell University, and the long shot, an email to Assoc. Professor James Bell. Who is the Pancam Payload Element Lead for the mission.

Now, getting no response from the Athena team, and an automated response from the NASA team. I was amazed and delighted to see that Dr. Bell had indeed taken the time out of his busy schedule to help explain this quirk in the panorama pictures. His email response is below:
quote:Thanks for writing. The answer is that the color chips on the sundial have different colors in the near-infrared range of Pancam filters. For example, the blue chip is dark near 600 nm, where humans see red light, but is especially bright at 750 nm, which is used as 'red' for many Pancam images. So it appears pink in RGB composites. We chose the pigments for the chips on purpose this way, so they could provide different patterns of brightnesses regardless of which filters we used. The details of the colors of the pigments are published in a paper I wrote in the December issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), in case you want more details...

All of us tired folks on the team are really happy that so many people around the world are following the mission and sending their support and encouragement...


Jim Bell
Cornell U.

Now, as far as the pink tab where the blue one should be, that email is infact the complete answer. But its not easily understandable to the layman. Below I will attempt to explain why this occurs.............

Columnist Lee Dye Remembers a NASA Rebel Remembering a Rebel - Oliver Harwood Fought Hard for a Space Station of a Different Design

July 30 — Ollie is dead, ending the long, tumultuous career of a space pioneer of extraordinary skill and courage, although you may never have heard his name.

Oliver Harwood first came into my life in the mid-1980s, when I was a science writer for the Los Angeles Times, and he was a senior engineer for the aerospace giant, Rockwell International. He died recently of a heart attack, the only way anyone could have ended Ollie's desperate battle to change the way this country does business in space exploration.

He was not the kind of guy you could tell to shut up.

In the end, his efforts cost him his job, and left him idolized by some, and despised by others, because he dared rock a boat that for many had proved very profitable. For more than a decade Ollie argued to anyone who would listen, including the U.S. Congress, that the space station envisioned by NASA would prove too costly, take too long to build, exhaust the shuttle fleet, and not end up being what we really needed.

He lost that battle, and the cost of what was once envisioned as an $8 billion station is now above $30 billion and rising, the shuttle fleet is grounded because of a tragic accident, the International Space Station is far from completed, and even many of the scientists it was supposed to serve are disenchanted.

Battled With the ‘Client’

The irony in all of this is that Ollie loved space exploration, and was a key player in the design and construction of the nation's first space station, Skylab. He wanted to see the United States build a station that would serve our needs for generations, gradually evolving and growing in a systematic way as we learned more about what we really need in an orbiting laboratory.

"After you get up there is when you want to design it," he told me in 1987.

My guess is Ollie knew, even then, that he was going to lose. As a veteran aerospace engineer who had worked for several leading companies, he knew better than most that many of the best ideas went begging because no one wanted to offend "the client," which the rest of us know as NASA.

All too often, he told me many times, NASA decides what it wants, and then tells the outside experts to deliver it. No creative input desired.

NASA, of course, disputes that. It claims to be an agency always eager to listen. But if Ollie were still around, he would wonder how, then, we find ourselves in the mess we're in today. Shuttles grounded indefinitely, and so obsolete that even their future is uncertain. An uncompleted and ill-conceived space station. A pot of gold orbiting the earth with few dividends.

Ollie would say unabashedly that even he could have done a better job.

That's probably why many years ago he started glueing toothpicks together.

A Flexible Station

The strongest geometrical structure is an equilateral triangle, he told me long ago, so he began by gluing the ends of three toothpicks in a triangular pattern. Following the design concept made famous by Buckminster Fuller in his geodesic dome, Ollie added other toothpicks to the pattern as his first model grew from a triangle to a tetrahedron, a triangular enclosure with four faces. He found he could make his model grow indefinitely by adding more toothpicks and building more triangles.

In Ollie's plan, the toothpicks would be replaced by struts that would support various components of an evolving space station. It would grow until it eventually became a giant structure, sort of like a geodesic dome, orbiting the Earth. Then Ollie would wrap the entire assemblage in plastic, creating a huge warehouse to serve the needs of all the components in the structure.

With that kind of flexibility, the station could be whatever is needed today, and change quickly to whatever is needed tomorrow. We would build as we learned.

Ollie's plan so intrigued me that I took it to several NASA engineers I knew pretty well. All said it was terrific, brilliant in its simplicity, but that nothing could be done because that would require stepping on the toes of bureaucratic warlords.

Finally, I ran across Rex Ridenoure who was then at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is now the chief executive officer of Ecliptic Enterprises Corp., of Pasadena, Calif., the company that builds the cameras that provide those neat pictures as the shuttle and other spacecraft blast off.

"I thought this was one of the most elegant things I had ever seen," Ridenoure told me then, and he began circulating the plan at NASA headquarters. Eventually, it reached members of Congress, and Ollie was invited to Washington to tell them what he thought.

He gave them an earful.

And, of course, it all went nowhere.

Our Own Station

Ollie's employer, by the way, had also had an earful. One day Ollie and two of his colleagues received a letter from Rockwell stating that if they continued talking publicly about his plan they could be fired.

Ollie, of course, called me up and read me the letter, which I published in the Los Angeles Times. He retired from Rockwell soon after that.

I didn't hear from him for several years, but in 1993 he began circulating an essay briefly outlining his thoughts on why the United States shouldn't start construction of the space station because it was a lousy design. He argued, once again, that NASA needed to learn how to listen better.

As I reread that manifesto recently, one argument leaped out at me. The space program isn't NASA's, Ollie argued. It belongs to all of us.

And somewhere along the way, NASA and the corporations who do its bidding have, as Ollie said, "forgotten that the best way to succeed in business is to give the customer his money's worth." It wasn't too late, he argued, to start all over with a space station design that could be useful for decades, if not centuries. No one listened then, either.

Only recently did I learn that Ollie died quietly in his sleep on June 2, at the age of 80. So this one's for you, Ollie. Wherever you are, give 'em hell.

Lee Dye’s column appears weekly on A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.

If NASA Finds Conclusive Evidence of an Ocean on Mars, America Eats Free Giant Shrimp
SpaceRef : "If NASA announces the discovery of conclusive evidence of an ocean on Mars prior to February 29, 2004, America gets free Giant Shrimp at participating Long John Silver's restaurants on Monday, March 15, 2004, from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Baker and his team are closely monitoring the progress of the Mars Exploration Rover 'Spirit,' which has already begun its quest to find evidence of ocean water on Earth's celestial next-door neighbor.

The company will rely on top scientific experts leading NASA's Athena Science Payload Investigation team to ultimately provide an official declaration if conclusive evidence of an ocean has been found on Mars. Long John Silver's will look to the team's Principal Investigator Steven Squyres and Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson to provide official news on NASA's Mars exploration web site at

In addition, consumers can find updates on NASA's progress and join in the hunt for ocean water on Mars by visiting" - NASA's Mars Rover Landing in Toy Stores: "
In 1999, Mattel Inc. produced a Hot Wheels 'Action Pack' featuring models of NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter, Polar Lander and twin Deep Space 2 microprobe spacecraft.

Just weeks after Mattel's $5 set went on sale, all four spacecraft were lost.

Mattel never aggressively marketed the toys, at least one of which later appeared on online auction site eBay advertised as a NASA 'Crash Pack,' said Alice Wessen, manager of JPL's technology outreach office.

JPL contacted Mattel to gauge interest in making a martian rover toy for this mission.

The company never replied, Wessen said. "

Artist turns animals into everyday objects
Ananova -
A Chilean artist is making a name for herself with an exhibition in which stuffed animals are transformed into household objects.

Artworks on display include a chick turned into a lamp, and 'sheep bag' - a lamb carcass fitted with handles.

Artist Caterina Purdy says her exhibition at the Experimental Arts Centre in Santiago is intended to be humorous but also makes a serious point.

She told Las Ultimas Noticias online: 'It is possible to see my work as something scary, but I find it beautiful.

'There is also irony and humour in my objects as well as a criticism of the way animals are treated by society.'"

HEY!: "Below you will find our response (the stuff that wasn't in the paper), links to other websites that have picked up the story, and of course the original article by Dave Lieber, reporter for the Star Telegram. "

jaynote: 13 year old uses a STANDARD DOS command that sends a message to every computer in his school, something totally harmless, and gets suspended for it.

Scientist at Work: On Crime as Science (a Neighbor at a Time): "Dr. Felton Earls was on the street, looking for something at ground level that would help explain his theories about the roots of crime. He found it across from a South Side housing project, in a community garden of frost-wilted kale and tomatoes.

'That couldn't be more perfect,' said Dr. Earls, a 61-year-old professor of human behavior and development at the Harvard School of Public Health. Gazing at a homemade sign for the garden at the corner of East Brookline Street and Harrison Avenue, he pointed out four little words: 'Please respect our efforts.'

'We've been besieged to better explain our findings,' he said. For over 10 years, Dr. Earls has run one of the largest, longest and most expensive studies in the history of criminology. 'We always say, It's all about taking action, making an effort.'

Dr. Earls and his colleagues argue that the most important influence on a neighborhood's crime rate is neighbors' willingness to act, when needed, for one another's benefit, and particularly for the benefit of one another's children. And they present compelling evidence to back up their argument.

Will a group of local teenagers hanging out on the corner be allowed to intimidate passers-by, or will they be dispersed and their parents called? Will a vacant lot become a breeding ground for rats and drug dealers, or will it be transformed into a community garden?

Such decisions, Dr. Earls has shown, exert a power over a neighborhood's crime rate strong enough to overcome the far better known influences of race, income, family and individual temperament."

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COMMUNICATION - Magazine - Darwin Magazine
What Are Words For? So that you can express yourself. And you really should learn to
express yourself correctly.


DICTION REFERS to the choice of words used to express an idea. Here are some words that may cause confusion if you choose them for the wrong purpose. Sometimes they sound like the term you want, or they've been misused so constantly that they sound right to you.

ASSURE: to promise. We can assure you of a great stay in our B&B.
ENSURE: to make certain. You can ensure success by careful planning.
INSURE: to guarantee against loss. Here's how to insure all your valuables with one policy.

COUNTRY: the territory of a nation. Canada is a very large country.
NATION: the people of a country. Canadians are a largely peaceable nation.

DISC: correct spelling for all non-computer references: a compact disc, a herniated disc.
DISK: correct spelling for computer references: a ZIP disk, a floppy disk.

and many more...

How to Deconstruct Almost Anything--My Postmodern Adventure
Chip Morningstar, Electric Communities

'Academics get paid for being clever, not for being right.' -- Donald Norman

This is the story of one computer professional's explorations in the world of postmodern literary criticism. I'm a working software engineer, not a student nor an academic nor a person with any real background in the humanities. Consequently, I've approached the whole subject with a somewhat different frame of mind than perhaps people in the field are accustomed to. Being a vulgar engineer I'm allowed to break a lot of the rules that people in the humanities usually have to play by, since nobody expects an engineer to be literate. Ha. Anyway, here is my tale.

Thursday, January 22, 2004
Here is the most extensive collection of images and information on Victorian-era robots to be found in the whole World Wide Web.
Read illustrated accounts of the world's first robot, the Steam Man, created in 1865! Subsequent automatons such as the Electric Man and the Automatic Man are also profiled. The most comprehensive section, with more than 20 pages, concerns the mechanical man known as Boilerplate--described as 'charming' by U.S. News and World Report and declared 'cool' by NASA!"

Sunday, January 18, 2004
JustinSpace - Star Wars Designer Edition
JustinSpace - Star Wars Designer Edition This is what happens when "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" meets "Star Wars"

Saturday, January 17, 2004
John Glenn doesn't think Bush's space plan will fly
Beacon Journal | 01/15/2004 :
"Bush hopes to use the new crafts to begin establishing a colony on the moon within 11 years.

``I hope they have costed (that) out,'' Glenn said. ``When you think about it, every single thing that humans consume -- oxygen, food, water, whatever -- has to be taken up there for those people, and then resupplied. Every lunar mission is going to make a mission to the space station seem cheap. And (shuttle missions) are something like $400 million apiece.''"

jaynote: I hope this was a misquote rather than Glenn being so very wrong about lunar resources

Is Spalding Gray Finally Swimming to Cambodia?
I'm in New York, where it was zero degrees last night with a wind that seemed to be hauling some large chunk of the Hudson River with it as it clawed its way down Grand Street. Somewhere out there in that grim dark is whatever remains of my old pal Spalding Gray.

Both seriously and humorously, more often both, he's been threatening for years to do himself in. Indeed, his jokes about suicide preserved him and certainly entertained me. But now that it's starting to look like he's actually gone and done it, suicide is not so amusing.

I try to imagine him actually attempting a swim to Cambodia. I see him swan-diving from the rail of the Staten Island Ferry late Saturday night when he disappeared, rounding Sandy Hook by dawn, and turning south for Cape Horn. He'd be well past the mouth of the Delaware by now, strong swimmer that he is. What a great monologue this is going to make. Or not. Spalding inhabits a magical reality where such feats might actually be possible, but there is something about the current state of New York Harbor that seems adamantly unfit for human survival. In my less magical reality, it's easier to see him beneath all that black water."

Vancouver Sun - Story - network:
"For the many who sometimes walk into a room and feel that something is not quite right, the answer may lie in a sub-system of our visual experience, says Ronald Rensink, University of B.C. associate professor in psychology and computer science.

'Basically visual perception then is two parts. It's got the sort of pictures we all know and love, and then we've got this other thing, this feeling, this using the force, this sensing stream, and they work in parallel, I think. They both operate at the same time,' he said.

While you may not see anything, Rensink says the 'sixth sense' or as he calls it, 'mindsight,' is basically another kind of vision where people can sense a change and have a visual experience of it.

He explains that 'mindsight' differs from our usual concept of psychic phenomena because people have to keep their eyes open to employ this mode of visual perception.

'The point of this is that these kinds of feelings are often correct.

People should really pay attention if they feel something's not right. It's probably because part of their brain, or that part of their perceptual system, is telling them something that's actually useful,' said Rensink, whose findings appear in the January issue of Psychological Science."

Space station leak caused by crew, experts say
MSNBC: "The break in the pressure hose that resulted in the troublesome space station air leak was unknowingly caused over time by crew members, Russian space experts said Thursday.

NASA officials in Houston concur with that theory. Another seemingly minor error in a procedure has rendered the U.S.-built Destiny laboratory module’s main window — the best optical window ever installed in any human space vehicle — inoperative for the time being, at least until a replacement hose can be sent into space." | get your war on | page thirty

The Dark Art of Interrogation
The Atlantic | October 2003 | Bowden:
The most effective way to gather intelligence and thwart terrorism can also be a direct route into morally repugnant terrain. A survey of the landscape of persuasion

SKYACHT: "Skyacht Aircraft, Inc., is actively developing a 'pleasure craft for the sky' called the Personal Blimp. Our goal is to create a craft capable of silent, steerable, sustained, and affordable flight. No such craft exists today.

The Personal Blimp will play a role akin to that of the small sailboats called 'day sailers': for pleasure jaunts of a few hours or less, made when weather conditions are relatively calm, and typically returning to the point of departure.

The Personal Blimp will use hot air for lift and virtually silent electric motors for propulsion. To put it another way: the Personal Blimp will be a hot air balloon that can be maneuvered about in nearly perfect quiet. Passengers in a Personal Blimp will have a serene experience of flight unavailable in any other type of aircraft.

When not in use, the Personal Blimp can be deflated and folded for storage (like a hot air balloon). It will not require a hangar for storage."

The origin of "dot" in Internet Names:
If I really did it, probably the thing I did that became the most famous was being the first to suggest that internet addresses be in the form site 'dot' toplevel-domain.

I recently read an article claiming that 'dot' as in 'dot-com' was the 'most useful word of the year' as chosen by the American Dialect Society -- the most widespread addition to the language. And it certainly has become a convention that literally the whole educated world has come to know.

It sparked a memory that long, long ago I had been in arguments with people in various areas about how multi-level names should be written. Suggestions included user@site@domain, user%site@domain and the leader, based on a proposed standards document, People only thought in terms of adding a second level in those days, and the 'domain' was thought of as a 'forwarder' -- a top level site that would know the sites underneath it and handle their mail.

(Before this addresses had been one level -- user@site where the 'user' was sometimes a magic string that implied mail forwarding to other sites, notably UUCP ones.)

For valid reasons, I thought it made sense to have the user part on the left of the at-sign and the computer part on the right hand side, and that the levels on the right hand side should be divided by dots. So I said that was bad but user@site.forwarder would be better.

I searched and found the earliest suggestion of mine to this effect in the 12th issue of the TCP/IP digest -- the ARPANET mailing list where the TCP/IP protocol and the future convetions of the internet were being discussed."

Peeling Apple Reportedly Stimulates Brain : "Feeling a little dull? A sharp knife and an apple might just help.

While most everybody knows an apple-a-day keeps the doctor away, Japanese scientists have found that peeling one may be good for you too.

A nationally circulated Japanese newspaper, Mainichi, reports that scientists at Japan's National Food Research Institute have shown that peeling an apple stimulates the most highly evolved section of the brain.

According to the report, the team used near infrared spectroscopy analysis to measure changes of blood flow to the frontal brain lobes of 14 adults.

They found blood flow increased 'conspicuously' when the subjects actually peeled but did not when they only rubbed the apple with the knife. That led to the conclusion that a complex task involving the use of a potentially dangerous tool was activating the frontal lobes.

The results will be published in the January online edition of the American scientific journal NeuroImage. "

Google Groups: View Thread: "Since Mars is a popular topic these days, you might be interested in the methods NASA used to perform image compression. Here are reports about the panoramic imager:
Quote: 'Pancam relies heavily on use of the JPL ICER and LOCO compression algorithms to maximize data return within stringent mission downlink limits. All calibration and flight data products will be generated,archived, and released with the NASA Planetary Data System in PDS image format.'
This is a brief HTML description of the LOCO-based method they used for lossless compression:"

VoIP on the road in Guatemala
Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things:
My sister and I run an online office furniture company. She's traveling in Central America for a while, but since there's still a business to run back home -- we've had to explore a number of ways to stay connected.

Guatemala doesn't exactly have the world's most advanced telephone networks... rates to and from the country via POTS are prohibitively high, and our calls are often dropped because of poor connection quality. The solution? Ubiquitous 'Net cafes, which are more common than we'd expected in larger Guatemalan cities like Antigua and Guatemala City. Per-hour broadband access for IM and email is really cheap, and a surprisingly high percentage of those cafes offer voice-over-internet phone calls for very cheap per-minute rates (about ten or twenty US cents a minute for outgoing calls to the US, compared to the 'here's our best offer' business rate we got from Sprint -- $1.50 per-call initiation fee, then nearly a buck a minute for Guatemala-to-US calls).

Toting your own VoIP phone when you travel is a great idea, but isn't practical when you're way out in the boonies and you're not packing your own bandwidth (satellite or whatever). If the only connectivity you can scare up is dial-up access at someone's home or a small B B, that's just not gonna work. This Net cafe thing, however, seems to be working really well instead. I'm amazed at how common and cheap the 'Net cafe access and pay-as-you-go VoIP stations are in Guatemala. The other interesting thing to consider is that VoIP isn't just for tourists like my sister -- it's not uncommon for households in Antigua not to have running water, let alone phone access, let alone affordable international phone service. So, VoIP cafes are definitely for local users.

She VoIPped me a few minutes ago to say that she can see a smoking volcano outside the window of the 'Net cafe where she is right now in Antigua.... beyond the broadband, above the cobblestone streets and the smell of fresh corn tortillas, there is smoke and lava.
posted by Xeni Jardin at 12:33:39 PM

SUNDAY STAR TIMES - STORY : New Zealand's leading news and information website: "Niue's status as a nation is under question after the cyclone that hit the tiny Pacific nation, causing more than $50 million damage.

In the aftermath of the storm, some island leaders are calling for a return to New Zealand governance, and expect the population to fall from about 1200 native Niueans to an unsustainable 500 people.

Such a drop would likely render the nation unviable. Niue currently receives $8m in aid a year from New Zealand, the equivalent of a cash hand-out of around $16,000 per head should the population fall to the predicted 500.

Fears for Niue's political survival come amid the declaration of a major health crisis over asbestos in the air, accusations of looting among destroyed villages and claims that early plans to alert the island's population to the cyclone were called off.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff yesterday acknowledged that a population drop could force New Zealand to take over Niue's governance.

Goff said until now, Niueans had been adamant they wanted to retain the status quo - financial and administrative support from New Zealand while retaining their own sovereignty.

But, as the smallest independent state in the world, Goff said the Niuean population was comparable to an average-sized New Zealand secondary school and so its constitutional status remained 'under review'.

Goff gave a formal directive to New Zealand government departments last year - not publicly announced at the time - to assist Niue, treating it as an extension of New Zealand.

He said if Niue's population continued to drop, economies of scale would become even more difficult to achieve. 'We need to acknowledge what the people on Niue want, rather than being seen as a former colonial country imposing our will.'

Niue has been self-governing in free association with New Zealand since 1974, and New Zealand has an ongoing responsibility to provide necessary economic and administrative assistance.

Acting premier Toke Talagi said he believed a closer relationship would be formed that would allow Niue to use the machinery of the New Zealand government to perform some public service duties. He said the 'administrative' aspect of the 1974 agreement had never been properly defined. "

Transoner Press Room: "In late 1992, Face International Corporation was created to explore the potential of the Smart Vibration Concept -- or SVC.

Face engineers believed that SVC could drive the water and air from fresh concrete within seconds, to allow finishing immediately after strike-off...and they were right.

The potential concept makes concrete hard enough to walk on almost instantly. SVC was first demonstrated in 1993... and a full-scale test was successful in late 1995."

Student working as costumed character assaulted
"Over the past year, Lincecum, a Huntsville High School senior, has been assaulted three times while outfitted in the fuzzy, 11-foot-tall bird costume he wears to hawk wares at a Katy Freeway furniture store. The latest attack was Saturday afternoon, when he was ambushed by five teenagers on skateboards.

Lincecum attempted to give chase, but ... well, that's no easy task in an oversized bird suit. So he called for help from his cell phone. Deputies from the Harris County Sheriff's Department quickly picked up a group of juveniles, and assault charges are pending against two of them.

More frustrating to Lincecum, he said, was that no motorists along the busy Interstate 10-West Fry Road intersection stopped to help or call police while he was being beaten. One customer at Mattresses for Less, 20025 Katy Freeway, even told him that when she saw the incident, she decided she would come in to buy a bed."

Op-Ed Contributor: The Citizen Astronaut
Op-Ed Contributor: The Citizen Astronaut: By GREG KLERKX
Published: January 17, 2004

In his account of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, "Of a Fire on the Moon," Norman Mailer describes a telling moment that is pointedly relevant to NASA as it moves out of the glow of President Bush's announcement of a grand new space program and into the cold reality of trying to make it happen. At Mission Control, in the aftermath of Neil Armstrong's "one small step," delirious cheering has given way to smiling contentment as NASA personnel bask in the satisfaction of their achievement. But among the reporters present, Apollo's luster had already faded. "By an hour and a half of the moon walk they were bored," Mailer writes. "Some were actually slipping out."

The journalists at Mission Control weren't the only ones quickly bored by Apollo. The Apollo 13 mission wasn't even televised nationally; only when it ran into life-threatening trouble did the networks — and the American public — pay attention.

The architects of Mr. Bush's new space plan must surely hope that their audience is more steadfast. Yet if that is to be the case, the White House and NASA must take a hard look at what, beyond cold war competitiveness, first excited the American public about going into space: the real allure of space is personal.

The appeal of space travel has always been twofold. It is not merely about exploration; it's also about experience. Ever since the dawn of the Apollo program, NASA has done an admirable job of promoting the scientific excitement of space flight. Now it must do more to engage Americans directly. To fulfill the promise of the space age, everyone should have a chance to go into space.

To many people this idea will seem just this side of kooky. Many surveys over the last two decades, however, have shown that a surprisingly large segment of the population is willing to pay for a trip into space if transportation at a reasonable cost and with reasonable assurances of safety is available.

It was not so long ago that NASA cheerfully boasted that the shuttle would revolutionize travel — into space and on Earth as well. Ultimately, the shuttle was to have served as the template for spacecraft that could take ordinary citizens to and from orbit, just for the thrill of it, and would also make possible such trips as a one-hour flight from New York to Paris.

These days, unfortunately, the shuttle is not the best advertisement for space travel of any kind. More important, NASA has never really accepted the idea that space travel should be for anyone but professional astronauts. The agency did all it could, for instance, to stop a businessman, Dennis Tito, from visiting the International Space Station in 2001.

Underlying NASA's resistance is a fundamental disdain for sullying the human space flight enterprise with the brassy sheen of commerce. But this is backward thinking. Was Charles Lindbergh any less inspirational because he was, to put it bluntly, an aerial privateer chasing a cash prize?

President Bush's Mars initiative neatly places NASA's goal of exploration in the public spotlight. Now the agency needs to allow the rest of us to participate.

As it shoots for the moon, NASA should provide material encouragement to entrepreneurs who are making progress in developing human-rated spacecraft for popular use. It should also create incentive programs to reduce the cost of launching things into orbit, which is still the biggest challenge, and thus the greatest cost, in space flight. Name a price per pound: if a company can meet it, give it the money. That would help both NASA and the embryonic "space tourism" industry.

Reviving the idea of popular human space flight requires more than a presidential mandate. It requires a cultural shift at NASA, its contractors and its political guardians. But if ever there were a moment for NASA to be bold, it is now.

If human space flight can make a tangible impact on Earth — be it for transportation, tourism or even rapid delivery of global emergency aid — bolder exploratory ventures, like those outlined by Mr. Bush, are much more likely to be sustainable over the long run. Americans pride themselves on being participants, not just spectators. Give them that chance with space flight, and the next time humans set foot on the moon, it really might be to stay.

Greg Klerkx is author of "Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age."

Friday, January 16, 2004
Northeast colder than Mars
Cornell News:
ITHACA, N.Y. -- During the most recent early afternoon on Mars, the temperature at the rover Spirit landing site in Gusev crater was an admittedly chilly minus 11 degrees Celsius (12 degrees Fahrenheit). But it was still warmer than most cities in the upper Northeast, gripped in a frigid winter chill.

Temperature at 1 p.m., Jan. 14
Location Temp. (Fahrenheit)
Gusev crater, Mars 12
Providence, R.I. 9
Scranton Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 8
Hartford, Conn. 7
Buffalo, N.Y. 7
Rochester, N.Y. 3
Ithaca, N.Y. 3
Albany, N.Y. -2
Binghamton, N.Y. -2
Concord, N.H. -3
Syracuse, N.Y. -4
Burlington, Vt. -10
Montpelier, Vt. -12
Caribou, Maine -13
Mount Washington, N.H. -36"

Thursday, January 15, 2004
Emeril vs. Cthulhu
by Fenris :
"But Emeril's worst crime against humanity tonight is the following unholy concoction. It's so bad, that if one were to compare fictional characters to foods, this would be Cthulhu's. It's the cooking equivalent in evilness to Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. I am appalled.

The Loathsome Thing vs Narylhotep

The world recoiled at the noisesome horror that was Narylhotep* as it strode the earth. Acrid clouds of smoke arose as its...'feet' touched the earth, poisoning the ground it touched forever. Narylhotep didn't notice as humans ran, evading it, they were less than ants beneath it's 'feet'. The squirming mass of tentacles that passed for a face suddenly turned in shock. It's head lifted, sniffing the air. Although this horror had existed since before the dawn of time, it smelled something new...and bad.

"BAM!" shrieked Emeril "BAM! LET'S KICK ID UP ANNADA NOTCH TA NATCHES UNKNOWN!" The greasy little man pranced out in front of the Elder Thing with a cart filled with covered platters. "LOOKID THIS" Emeril yelled in his nasal tones "I GODDA MEAL HEAH DAT'LL KNOCK YOUA SAHKS AFF!" (Emeril, never one to pass up mugging for an audience seemed unaware that Narylhotep didn't have feet, let alone socks.) Narylhotep felt...uneasy.

The hellchef reached over and removed the first cover. A greasy mass of what appeared to be deep-fried spaghetti wallowed in a yellow lake of grease. Clearly overcooked the blackened slimy mess seemed to ooze towards Narylhotep. For the first time since the dawn of creation, the Elder Thing backed away. ..........."

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