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Archive Listing
June 5, 2005 - May 29, 2005

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Fighting -- Fair and Otherwise
Readers write -- again. InstaPunk's recent take on Mark Felt brought another flurry of commentators to our door. We've talked about comment writing before, but we've got further insight and thought we'd share.

Now understand this -- we like comments. That's why we made Tech Tonic put them on the site. He told us nobody else has them; we wouldn't like them; and that we and the site would be abused -- but we insisted.

Comments do not have to agree with the views of the poster, in fact, if it were all, "Way to go!" comments, we'd just as well not have them at all. So what seems to be the trouble?

First of all, there are degrees of conflict. There is staring at your adversary. There is ignoring your adversary. There is avoiding your adversary. There is putting-up-with your adversary. There is shoving your adversary. There is punching your adversary. There is scheduling a brawl with your adversary. And, finally, there is shooting your adversary -- even shooting your adversary has its gradations from a draw-and-shoot coming out of the bathroom to the full blown right-in-the-middle-of-town-at-high-noon showdown.

I've Got Something to Say Blog comments seem to be missing a lot of this nuance. Blog comment writers are more like a clown going by on a unicycle throwing eggs and heading on to the next four-year-old's birthday party. Or, as in the case of InstaPunk's recent Buchanan post, the emptying of a tiny car full of innumerable midget clowns right down there in the center ring.

Also, missing from blog comments is an element of conflict that seemed to be more well known a few decades ago -- drinking. It is an important element of any conflict to remember that someday soon you will embrace your adversary. You might even admire things about him. Look -- people drive Toyotas even though their grandfathers were forced to march to their deaths under Japanese bayonets and bullets on their way to Bataan -- well, we don't, but that's a matter for another day. The idea is that after even the most horrific beating there will be drinks all around for the combatants and the spectators -- and, on particularly hot afternoons -- drinks during the fight: always being careful to take it back outside so as not to damage the bar -- well, almost always.

You see? It isn't riding by on a unicycle. If you're angry by what you read, relax, get ready for a fight. Then, begin in earnest, but know somewhere in the back of your mind that when it is all over we're all going to stand up next to the bar and have a drink and laugh and talk about how you fight like a girl.

Remember, most people in our country don't care one way or the other about the topics we discuss here. If you do, you've come to the right place. But be prepared to think. Be prepared to argue your point. Be prepared even to change your mind. Be prepared to admire an upper cut that almost sheers your jaw off. We can only take you as seriously as you present yourself. Hope that helps. Have fun.




Saturday, June 04, 2005


Just in Case (Ned.54.11) -- PART II
  AKA -- 'Windows cannot load, missing or corrupt \System32\hal.dll.'
I want to make you aware of a virus/worm that ripped through here last night. You may get an email from our server or someone you trust of which you should be very wary. Just know that we're not sending you any important .zip files and, if we must, we'll let you know right here at InstaPunk.com.

I got an email from the administrator of our webserver. It read, "Please read the attached and follow it's instructions." The "it's" vs. "its" should have tipped me off . . . but that is something Chain Gang discussed elsewhere -- and it drives InstaPunk right up the wall. But, I digress. As you can imagine, our merry band here gets tons of spam and gimmicks that we simply delete everyday. With all the public email addresses, it just rolls in like the tide.

So, upon receipt of this little post, I was skeptical. I ran Norton Anti-Virus on the .zip file. Nothing. I extracted the .zip file and ran Norton on the resulting 'Info-Text.txt' file. Nothing. I opened the resulting 'Info-Text.txt' file and then everything went to hell. Norton caught the little bastard in the act, quarantined him, and sent a report back to HQ. But not before he spread his mischief all over the server.

As it turns out, 'Info-Text.txt' was not the real name of this file -- it was 'Info-Text.txt        .exe' with the .exe suffix well out of view of the file listing. That's just mean.

Norton responded with a new set of virus definitions within the hour which I downloaded. Scanned the system; used three additional Norton remove tools for the gaggle of stuff that was found; ran Ad-Aware once I was finished with the Norton stuff; and rebooted.

What happened? Just a black screen with the phrase, 'Windows cannot load, missing or corrupt \System32\hal.dll.' Great. Rebooted. Same thing. Really amazing. Used the boot around floppy to get to the main system hard drive and everything looked fine. This boot around floppy is simply remarkable. It is tiny. The main file is just over 200k, but it really works. I got it from www.bootdisk.com and it contains: BOOT.INI, NTLDR, NTDETECT.COM, and a README.TXT file. That's it and it gets past fatal boot errors -- this is what I used the last time and it really should be in your bag of tricks.

Would it be too hard for MicroSoft to have this little set of files run in lieu of the very unhelpful, freeze everything, just stare back at you like a dumb child error message? Then, if it didn't work, they could display the very unhelpful, freeze everything, just stare back at you like a dumb child error message. Just a thought.

Anyway, all that was required was an edit to the boot.ini file that I documented before, but I'll put it here again, for your convenience. Here is the required edit from support.Microsoft.com:

1.  [boot loader]
2.  timeout=30
3.  default= 4.  multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)
    \WINDOWS <-- replacing 'signature(whateversinhere)'
5.  [operating systems]
6.  multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS=
    "Microsoft Windows XP
    Professional" /fastdetect <-- replacing 'signature(whateversinhere)'

That's it. Six hours of mucking around and its as good as new -- just messing with you -- it's as good as new. Be careful out there . . .




Friday, June 03, 2005


Razor Wars

The Schick Quattro -- 12 mpg in the city.

THINGS FOR MEN. Who would have thought it could ever get this nasty? The Big Guys have been sluggng it out in court:

Gillette Co. ads claiming its M3Power razor raises hair up and away from the skin are "unsubstantiated and inaccurate," a federal judge said in siding with Gillette's chief competitor, Schick-Wilkinson Sword.

U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in Connecticut granted Schick a preliminary injunction prohibiting the use of the television and print ads. Gillette was also ordered to change packaging for the product and remove in-store displays that feature the false claims.

Wednesday's ruling said the depiction in Gillette advertising was "greatly exaggerated" and "literally false."

Gillette spokeswoman Michele Szynal said the company has not decided whether to appeal.

"Right now the ruling won't have any affect on our marketing since the visuals don't appear on any (current) advertising or point-of-sales material," she said.

The M3Power, a high-tech, vibrating men's razor introduced early last year to compete with Schick's Quattro razor, held a 20 percent global share last quarter and was the world's top-selling razor, Boston-based Gillette said.

I saw the ads when they came out, and I was skeptical -- especially the part about a battery in the handle -- but I have always been skeptical of commercials about shaving. When I was a teenager, a boarding school roommate of mine fell under the spell of the "Take it all off" campaign, which featured a striking nordic dancing girl, stripper music, and a muscular young man shaving in long powerful yanks that made the facial skin crawl just to watch it. I should have known what was up when my roommate returned from his morning ablutions bleeding heavily from multiple gouges on his face, but instead I was dumbfounded.

"What happened to you?" I asked.

"I was trying to shave like in that commercial," he said.

"Everybody knows there's no blade in that razor, you idiot." Well, I thought everybody knew that. Just like I thought everybody must know that adding more and more blades to razors isn't necessarily going to give you an easier, closer shave. I was once out of blades for my "Sensor Excel" (sometimes I close my eyes and try to imagine the meetings where the ad guys pitch product names to CEOs... it's hard but fun), and so I was forced to try out one of those razors that arrivein the mail promising to improve your sex life and increase your income. It was one of the "Schick Quattro" models mentioned in the news article. I wondered how Audi felt about the use of the Quattro label, but I figured the products were probably different enough to prevent legal conflict. Then I shaved with the sumbitch and immediately reconsidered. It's like driving an SUV over your face. You practically have to steer the thing with both hands. Does Audi know that razors are on the verge of blossoming into all-terrain vehicles with four-blade drive and roll-resistant shock absorbers? Are they incapable of seeing anything sinister in the recent development project subcontracted to Orange County Choppers by Gillette?


The next step in shaving technology.

But where were we? That's right. Do the honchos at Gillette and Schick-Wilkinson Sword really believe that we take their ads at, ahem, face value? Don't they shave? Then how could they possibly believe all the crap their copywriters dream up? Sure, it's a neat idea to stuff a battery into a razor handle, but they have to know that we know that it's not going to do a damn thing worthwhile. So why did the legal beagles at Schick-Wilkinson Sword get so worried that they felt it necessary to spend millions in court? Is it possible that the company which developed a two-pound razor with four blades for no reason at all could think the other guys were getting away with something?

Obviously, they need some help. So I am now going to blow a secret I thought was shared by all men and the razor companies. We buy your fancy looking, high-tech razors, and pay your outrageous prices, for one reason: to make sure there's no way the ladies can mistake our razors for theirs. What their legs do to a blade is so awful it can't even be discussed in public, which is why they buy theirs by the bagful, all those cheap little pink disposable things. We also don't mind paying for whatever illusion you can muster that your products are too high-tech to be used by amateurs, just in case the ladies should ever get it into their heads to take a test drive.

BUT -- and this is important -- please don't overdo the size and weight thing. Razors don't have to be physically impossible for women to lift to deter them from unauthorized use. Do what you've been doing all these years, but a little less than what you've been doing lately, if you know what I mean. Okay?

P.S. By the way, if you share the secret with other people in your business, could you possibly not mention it to Michele Szynal? It might not be good if too many women tumbled to the facts. And I can't think of any reason whatever for discussing this matter with Judge Janet C. Hall. That may have been your big mistake right there, Gillette. Come to think of it, everyone named in the article was a woman. Have they, uh, you taken over the razor biz?

God. Maybe this is all much worse than I thought... What have I done?





Thursday, June 02, 2005


Home Sweet Home


PSAYINGS.5A.19. I have defended the State of New Jersey in previous posts, but it is true that we do suffer from one very serious problem: too much government. Way too much government. The national wire services have been carrying this story about a billboard located about 10 miles from where I'm writing. It's in a town called Pennsville, a long skinny burg that lies parallel to the Delaware River. The developer who posted this message (on his own billboard, incidentally) is being prevented from redeveloping land which has been used for commercial purposes as long as I've been alive.

Back in 1990, Juliano, who has built shopping centers, convenience stores, office buildings and hotels, bought some land in a prime spot near the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which is traveled by 17.5 million people each way each year.

On the land near Interchange 1 of the New Jersey Turnpike, Juliano has built a Hampton Inn, a Cracker Barrel restaurant and planned a truck stop.

A previous owner received state approval for the truck stop in 1985. But the state now says the land is in a wetlands area and is unsuitable for either a truck stop or a Home Depot, which Juliano proposed building there last year.

"Unsuitable" is an interesting characterization in a county that suffers from chronic unemployment and a business climate that is permanently starved for capital and aggressive entrepreneurs. The classification of Juliano''s land as "wetlands" is arbitrary and fairly ridiculous, since just about every acre on his side of Route 49 (Pennsville's Main Street) could also be called wetlands due to its proximity to the river. The same classification could be made about the neighboring DuPont Chambers Works facility, which used to be (and may still be, for all I know) the single largest chemical plant complex in the world.

The news article does its best to depict the developer as a nutcase and his problems with the state an isolated instance.

DEP officials say Juliano's anger is misplaced. The agency, after all, has approved four of Juliano's projects over the last three years each in under seven months.

"I think that he came to the mistaken belief that he had a personal and perpetual exemption from the wetlands laws," Environmental Protection chief Bradley Campbell said.

So far, the state has done nothing about the billboard, and it's unclear whether it could. "At some point, we'll have to consider action against him," Campbell said, implying a potential legal fight.

We'll have to consider action against him? Why? Because he's saying nasty things about the state on his own land?

You see, the real reason Mr. Juliano is a nutcase is that he ever believed his land belongs to him. In the state of New Jersey and its various county and municipal governments, the operating assumption is that your land belongs to the government, which allows you to use it under extensive and onerous conditions. Property taxes throughout the state are outlandishly high, but that's where the department of environmental protection comes in, serving as a kind of legbreaker to keep people from selling their property. Uh, protecting the environment, you know. If the house you bought had an underground oil tank when you bought it, you can't sell the house without replacing it with an aboveground tank and cleaning up any oil in the soil. If your house has a well and septic system, increasingly stringent environmental regulations require that perfectly serviceable systems be replaced with new systems so large they require the destruction of complete half acre properties, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, or else the house cannot be sold. In fact, there are many residential properties in rural areas where there isn't enough land under title to accommodate the required septic factory. Welcome to the State of New Jersey.

Juliano believes the refusal to let him build is a violation of his civil rights. The state, he says, is taking his property rights without paying him.

You bet they are, Mr. Juliano. For that you can thank a succession of dimwit governors -- moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans, curse their reasonable pandering to eastern political correctness -- who have created a monstrous tax burden and a monstrous regulatory environment, all in the name of protecting us citizens from ourselves. In the process, they have crushed the economic prospects of cities like Camden and Newark, and they have strangled the business and agricultural life of a half dozen southern counties, where it's almost impossible to operate a farm, start a business, or find gainful employment. Car insurance rates throughout the state are still the highest in the nation, thanks to an ancient, apparently unfixable no-fault law, and the only remedial measure the last governor could think of was to start treating all accident claims like insurance fraud.

And what do the people who vote these idiots into power do about it? Nothing. Here's an interesting fact: if Corzine should resign from the senate to run for governor, New Jersey will own the unique distinction of being the only state in the union saddled with an unelected governor and two unelected U.S. Senators. The last governor was forced to resign in a personal scandal that was widely believed to be a cover for far more serious problems with corruption. And who will the good people of New Jersey elect to deal with the mess this time? Another moderate Democrat.

It's Corzine, Juliano said, who can save the day. That's the reason behind the fourth line on the billboard: "Can Senator Corzine really do anything?"

Yes, Mr. Juliano, there's a second reason you're a nutcase. Looking to Corzine as some kind of possible savior is even dumber than thinking you own land in New Jersey. He's just another New York carpetbagger with a bunch of the same stupid and hideously expensive ideas about nanny government that created your nightmare in the first place.

Take the sign down, sir. It's ugly and it's not going to do any good. Let Corzine pay for his own damn campaign signs.





TEST 11:30 AM 4-23-2008




Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Hero?

XXX marks the spot.

PSAYINGS.5X.1. Am I the only one who's having trouble with this? Let me give you my timeline. First, I heard on the radio that Deep Throat has finally come forward to announce his identity. He's a ninety-year-old man who used to be Number 2 at the FBI. My immediate thought is of a deathbed confession: an old man wants to get a burdensome and painful weight off his chest. Later that afternoon, I turned on TV cable news and there I saw footage of the old man smiling and waving at the camera next to his beaming daughter. Here's that picture:



Then the daughter appears to be giving a press conference, and I concede her words are something of a blur to me because she seems to be taking a bow on behalf of her old man and using syllables that sound something like "he-ro." Subsequently, I seem to hear the same syllables being tossed around by other TV pundits. They keep replaying footage of the old geezer smiling, waving, smiling, as if he really is pleased as punch with himself. Apparently, my deathbed confession take was delusional.

As should be abundantly clear to everyone here, I am no lawyer and so I do not understand all the legalities associated with Mark Felt's role in the Watergate investigation, but my gut feeling is that they can't possibly create the sort of context that would make this guy a hero.

I do have sympathy with the plight of a whistleblower -- generally underlings in some huge organization that is doing wrong and can't be stopped from inside. I understand their need for secrecy in the amassing of evidence, both as a practical investigative tactic and as a safeguard against the possibility of harm befalling them or their families. I do not believe that it is always wrong to be an "informer," as my lifelong fondness for the movie On the Waterfront should attest. I liked it before I knew it to be Elia Kazan's defense of his naming of names in congressional investigations of the Communist Party, and I liked it after that (though I note that many on the righteous left continued to defame Kazan even after the fall of the Soviet Union made it possible to confirm that many members of the American Communist Party were, in fact, Soviet spies).

The informer can indeed be heroic. Whatever its beginning, the climax of such a hero's tale occurs when he comes forward to put a face on his charges; he testifies in public to some commission or committee responsible for determining the truth. This one act simultaneously puts his integrity to the test of cross-examination and kills or mutilates his career in the organization he is exposing. It is a moment both brave and tragic -- the latter because a whistleblower with real information has almost always been an accomplice in wrongdoing to that point in the road where his conscience called a halt. The real life instances of a Serpico whose hands were clean throughout are rare. More often, life imitates the fiction of On the Waterfront, where Terry Malloy (Brando) has gone along with wrong or illegal practices because it was simpler, easier, or more profitable to do so.

After the climax of the heroic version of this plot comes the denouement, where there can be redemption for earlier sins because the hero is willing to pay a price even if the law gives him immunity. Elia Kazan gave Terry Malloy a redemption he himself was denied by his erstwhile peers in Hollywood. After enduring a terrible beating, Malloy returns to work at his old job, proving his courage and his loyalty to the principle that had inspired his actions.



What part of this rite of passage can we connect with Mark Felt? Almost none of it. He was no underling. Rather, he was a very powerful executive who could have made a huge impact by going public as soon as he objected to the goings on in his organization. Did he? No. He chose a route so sleazy that even the men whose careers he helped make gave him a nickname borrowed from a dirty movie. Did he come forward after the presidential downfall he worked to effect had been accomplished? No. He remained at the FBI because his career there was more important to him than helping to salve the national wounds that have continued to fester ever since. The character he most resembles is the phantom sniper who, according to 40 years of conspiracy theories, got away with the assassination of John F. Kennedy: he hides in the shadows to bring down a U.S. president, then disappears without ever having to account for his deeds. He's a creature of the dark, a dishonorable self-aggrandizing weasel, a well-connected coward, a snitch.

Too mean to say about a ninety-year-old? No. Think of the scorn and abuse that has been heaped on Linda Tripp. What's different? She had the guts to come into the sunlight. This guy comes blinking out into the spotlight decades after the fact, and he actually has the nerve to bask there like a contented reptile. Doesn't anybody have a sharp stick they want to use?




Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Surfing


THENCE AND ALL OVER. We couldn't help feeling a bit disgusted after the Republican leadership ignored our advice last week and took just a few days to prove how right we'd been. So we went looking for something, anything other than politics to occupy our minds. Here's a hodgepodge of places we visited on our surfing expeditions.

For some reason, the subject of Republican power got us to thinking about optical illusions. Some of these are pretty interesting, but be warned: they can give you a headache if you look at too many like this one.

There's nothing more entertaining than a good nasty review. We laughed ourselves sick at the search and destroy mission carried out by Matt Taibi on Thomas Friedman's new book. A sample paragraph:

Thomas Friedman does not get these things right even by accident. It's not that he occasionally screws up and fails to make his metaphors and images agree. It's that he always screws it up. He has an anti-ear, and it's absolutely infallible; he is a Joyce or a Flaubert in reverse, incapable of rendering even the smallest details without genius. The difference between Friedman and an ordinary bad writer is that an ordinary bad writer will, say, call some businessman a shark and have him say some tired, uninspired piece of dialogue: Friedman will have him spout it. And that's guaranteed, every single time. He never misses.

It reminded us of Mark Twain's infamous annihilation of James Fenimore Cooper. Just a taste, in case you don't remember it:

I may be mistaken, but it does seem to me that "Deerslayer" is not a work of art in any sense; it does seem to me that it is destitute of every detail that goes to the making of a work of art; in truth, it seems to me that "Deerslayer" is just simply a literary delirium tremens.

A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.

Counting these out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.

Maybe there should be an annual prize for the best savaging by a critic. Maybe not.

We began by promising no politics, and we think we're sticking by it because science isn't politics, is it?

Dr Peiser is not the only academic to have had work turned down which criticises the findings of Dr Oreskes's study. Prof Dennis Bray, of the GKSS National Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany, submitted results from an international study showing that fewer than one in 10 climate scientists believed that climate change is principally caused by human activity.

As with Dr Peiser's study, Science refused to publish his rebuttal. Prof Bray told The Telegraph: "They said it didn't fit with what they were intending to publish."

Prof Roy Spencer, at the University of Alabama, a leading authority on satellite measurements of global temperatures, told The Telegraph: "It's pretty clear that the editorial board of Science is more interested in promoting papers that are pro-global warming. It's the news value that is most important."

Is it?

Do you think you're a film buff? Try testing your mettle here. What's strange about subjecting movies to this level of analysis is that at some point, you lose track of whether it's telling us more about the carelessness of directors and producers or the silly obsessiveness of the fans doing the analyzing. Star Wars anyone?

Tripple Goof!! When Leia says "This is some rescue" a lock of hair is out of her bun, but in the next shot it's back in. & In that same scene she blasts a hole in the garbage shoot and Chewie runs over and puts his foot on it. Then Han shoots down the hall, and wow dejah vous, Chewie does it all over again. & when Han jumps in, his foot hits the alleged metal, yet it jiggles! Wow all those in one scene!!

In the garage, C-3PO is wiping himself off after his oil bath. In one shot, he's holding a rag; cut to different angle, the rag disappears; back to the original angle, the rag's back.

In the Death Star battle, Biggs and Porkins (Red Three and Red Six) go in for a run. Porkins, Red Six, get hit and blows up. Yet a moment later, when Luke is being chased by a TIE and gets grazed, and the others are trying to locate him to help, one pilot says "Red Six, can you see Red Five?" And Red Six, supposedly dead, replies "A heavy fire zone on this side, Red Five, where are you?"

Raise your hands all of you who know that there's a missing dark age back in ancient history. Well, there is, and a lot of people are pretty hot under the collar about it:

No wonder the Israeli archaeologists are in such disarray. They should have realised that once the Dark Ages of Greece were imposed upon the ancient world, at a stroke they would effectively wipe out all history outside Egypt for the period from 12C to 8C -- including Israel's now missing Golden Age. There are good grounds, therefore, for Israel's archaeologists to back their own historical records and declare their chronological independence. They could rescue their country's rightful heritage and historical soul by identifying a more likely Shishak for themselves, and leave the Egyptologists to sort out their own chronology problems.

Greece could also do the same. For over a hundred years they have meekly accepted Egyptian dates, along with a Dark Age that goes totally against their own archaeology and their magnificently documented classical ancient history. Athens was never conquered by the Dorians, and has its own tradition of continuous kingship. Archaeology has proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the Dark Ages did not exist. It is now time the Greek Establishment abandoned its exaggerated antiquity in favour of a continuous culture. It would, of course, require considerable courage to make a unilateral declaration of chronological independence, but courage is not a quality lacking in the historical traditions of either Greece or Israel.

It sounds like there's going to be even more trouble in the middle east.

Head hurt after that? How about a spot of shooting? You get a shotgun, an accent, and a choice between clay pigeons, beer cans, and chickens. (Chickens are the most fun.)

Too much effort required? Maybe you'd rather just get some free stuff.

If you're interested by none of the above, here's a new movement you may want to join. It's not for us, though. We plan to be back to our real job of annoying people real soon.




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