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We both need a rest

My weblog evidently caught my cold today, and was down for a few hours.

Okay, so what really happened is that Hosting Matters was having DOS problems. I like my description of what happened better.

I have a bowl of chicken soup cooling down as I type this, so I think there will be no more bloggy goodness, as Glenn likes to say, until tomorrow.

In news that will interest no one but fellow climbers, I used my grigri today to put kids up on the walls, and y'know, people are right: It is a lot better for parties. However, I didn't like using it when I had the rent-a-belay with two adults, and went back to the ATC instead. I like having more control than the grigri gives you. I think the climbers preferred it, too, especially after I went airborne a foot or two when letting the guy down a bit too fast.

And by the way, I just caught the first few minutes of the remake of Battlestar Galactica: It sucks. It really sucks. No wonder they're showing it on a Saturday night.

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One of those days

Information overload: The daily briefing from the COP/JCenter is so loaded with must-read articles that I can't begin to summarize them. Follow this link and read them for yourselves, and you'll see what I mean.

Ohmigod, it's typos! Two typos and a grammatical error in one post, and not a single person mentioned them. I am both ashamed of myself and gratified that you didn't notice, or if you did, were too kind to point them out. (They were in the Twinsday post.) FYI, I don't have a spellchecker. Everything you see here is painstakingly (that word seems to have gotten used a lot this week) edited and copyedited by yours truly, as I'm writing it. I reread everything I write at least once before posting, and then read it again once it's online.

Then again, I found a typo in a really old post and decided, ah, screw it. It's been there for a year, it can stay there. Perhaps I'm not the perfectionist I think I am.

Fight! Fight! Gracie was looking out the patio door and started growling. Uh-oh. I look out, and there's a strange cat on the patio, staring at Tig, who is staring back. I open the door, gray cat goes, "Crap!" and runs away. Tig runs after gray cat, I run after Tig, shouting, "No!" thinking I really don't want to pay vet bills for the results of a catfight. Luckily, Tig was satisfied with running gray cat off. But man, you should see his tail. It's poofy enough without being pissed off. When he's all poofed out, it's astonishing. I tried snapping some pictures, but he was so mad he kept switching his tail from side to side. Normally, his tail stands straight up in the air. Now, he and Gracie are glancing outside from time to time, ready to defend their territory if need be. Well, Tig is. Gracie's role, evidently, was to stay safely indoors and growl at the stranger. A bellyrub will make that poofy tail go back to normal.

Ah, there we go. Back to normal, except for the occasional glares (not at me, thankfully).

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Thanks, I think

I should be sleeping, of course, but I've been having more than a little trouble sleeping these days, so I'm up past one, and suddenly, I hear a small plane flying over. No big deal, that happens from time to time. In fact, I'm right next to a hospital and sometimes hear the Medivac choppers bringing people in.

But then I hear the plane again.

And again.

And again. Finally, I go outside and watch the plane circle and circle my area, and decide I should call the police (non-emergency number), as I suspect the FAA would a) not be in and b) not know WTF is going on in Richmond. So the dispatcher answers the phone, and I tell her I don't know if she can help me, but, and explain that there's a small plane circling my neighborhood.

"Yes ma'am, it's police activity."
"Oh. Well, you know, you never can tell in this day and age."
"Yes, we have a couple of officers in your neighborhood but everything is secure."
"Oh. Well, thank you, ma'am."
"You're welcome."

Now I'm not so much afraid it's some kind of terrorist-related thing. Now I'm wondering who on earth they're looking for, what they did, and whether or not I should really be worried.

And the plane is still circling, at 1:30 a.m.


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Twinsday revisited

Sulky orangutanToday was the first Twinsday of the year, and also the first Twinsday in a number of weeks. What with the holidays, and my working three jobs, and the holidays, and my working three jobs, and oh, yeah, the holidays and my working three jobs—there was very little time for Sarah and the twins and I to get together. Well, we did get together a few weeks ago and get to Hi's and the Hall Tree, where I found a beautiful dress for our little princess (who, of course, had to wear it the very next day), but I can't remember if that was on a Thursday, which would make it a proper Twinsday, or if it was just on one of those days that we could get together. Whatever.

So yesterday, when I was talking to Sarah, she suggested we could go to the zoo. "I suppose I should drive down to you," I said, considering that the zoo is in her town. "Well, yes," she said. "Probably a good idea." (A lot of our conversations are like this. We have a keen sense of irony, we two, and, well, I can't really go on because I'm afraid you will all laugh so hard that you'll ruin your monitors again. Suffice to say that we are hilarious together. We ought to get our own television show.)

"What time do you want me there?"
"Oh, whenever you want to get here."
"No, name a time, and I'll be there."
"Okay, 9:30."

(You have to understand that since I'm currently between Kelly temping jobs, I don't have to get up at 5:30 anymore, and I have a tendency to go to sleep, oh, two-ish.)

"Okay. I'll be there at 9:30."

Max feeds a giraffeHey, I made it to Sarah's house before ten, which is quite an accomplishment considering I didn't fall asleep until after two last night.

And so, the zoo, where the first thing we saw was—get ready for the thrill—ducks. Yes, ducks. The Chesterfield zoo's first exhibit is something you can see on any woodland pond. Okay, well, there were some rather exotic-looking ducks. And there were a bunch of pink flamingos next to them. But still—ducks. I was much more attentive when I saw that the Bengal Tigers were behind the duck area. While we were looking at the tigers, the big white tiger male was looking at us, and Sarah and I were pretty sure he was eyeing the twins and thinking, "Lunch? Lunch?"

Rebecca and Max feed the deerBut the big attraction of the day was the giraffes. You know, you see them on TV and you think, man, those things are huge. Then you go to a zoo where they build a walkway at giraffe head-height specifically so you can feed the giraffes on their level, and you realize, man, those things are huge. The one Max is feeding was the small one. I tried to keep him away from the other one because it drooled and slobbered all over you. Disgusting. My mama didn't raise me to be covered in giraffe slobber. I steered clear of the big guy. Rebecca mostly declined to feed the giraffes. In fact, she was unbelievably stingy with her cup of food. She doled it out one piece at a time only after strong urging from Sarah and me, unlike Max, who went through his handfuls at a time.

By the time we got to the deer pen, Max was all out, and Rebecca wasn't keen on letting him have any of hers. Then, to the rescue: Nefarious deer! See the one in that picture? Well, he's just about to stick his head between the slats of the fence, grab the cup out of Rebecca's hands, and pull it into the deer pen. He got half of it before we could recover it. And one of the females later got Max's cup and ran off with it. She got a finger-pointing and a scolding: "Bad deer!" Max told her. "Bad deer!"

Rebecca and ice cream cone

Who knew that deer were so sneaky? Oh, sure, the big brown eyes make you think they're cute and all that, but the second you let your guard down, wham! They're stealing candy from babies. Or something like that.

Well, shortly afterwards, it was time for lunch, and the kids were good enough to get dessert afterwards, which I share with you. Not the dessert, you'll have to get your own. Just the moments. Little Miss Rebecca is a little ham for the camera, and Max was having fun making faces.

Max making faces

I love Twinsday. I hope I don't have to give it up when I get my new job.

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That objective media

This AP piece has the skinny on how Saudi Arabia, embarrassed at being called cheapskates for their measly $10 million pledge to aid tsunami victims (many of whom are Muslims), raised the ante to $30 million and also held a telethon to raise funds.

Saudi Arabia Holds Telethon for Tsunami

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Saudis streamed into a stadium to load bundles of clothes into trucks and stuff glass boxes with cash Thursday as the government launched a public campaign to help southeast Asian tsunami victims. The stadium was the heart of a live national telethon that raised $31.2 million in the first seven hours, of which King Fahd donated $5.3 million, according to Saudi television.

[...] A day earlier, the official Saudi Press Agency reported the government was raising its initial tsunami aid pledge of $10 million to $30 million "in view of the recent assessments of the magnitude of the tragedy."

Oil-rich Gulf states have steadily increased their pledges for tsunami victims as the scope of the disaster became clearer and they faced accusations at home and abroad that they are doing too little, especially when one of the worst hit regions is mostly Muslim Indonesia. Some in the Gulf have questioned why Western governments and individuals have reacted more generously than Arabs.

Right, there's the background. Then there's this:

A Saudi telethon in 2003 to raise money for Iraqis affected by the U.S.-led war and one in 2002 for Palestinians each raised tens of millions of dollars.

Shall we fact-check those figures? Let's. The telethon for Iraqis raised $11.5 million. The one for palestinians raised $109 million dollars. Oh, and it was for the palestinian "martyrs," (in other words, terrorists). Interesting how the Sauds can really open their pocketbooks for murderers, but have to be convinced to put up money for their fellow Muslims in need.

"Tens of millions of dollars:" Sure, "tens of millions" is accurate, but it's also extremely misleading, as is the context-less description of the telethon. The man who hosted it was a real sweetheart: He previously called for the enslavement of Jewish women, as well as the usual Jew- and America-hatred.

Oh, yes. That objective, fact-digging media. As long as the facts don't portray anyone but Israel and the U.S. in a negative light, that is.

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Thursday news briefs

Look out for all those Israeli terrorists! The Jerusalem Post reports that palestinian terrorists are planning to stage attacks during Sunday's elections and blame them on Israel. Because as the world knows, those Jewish terrorists are just blowing up and gunning down innocent palestinians by the thousands. Oh, wait. Strike that. Reverse it.

Less talk, more action: The Telegraph claims the pals are "weary" of war and say that this intifada didn't win them anything. But then they publish a quote like this, and ignore the real sentiments behind it:

Amni has suffered more than most. Her brother Amer, 30, an activist with the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, was killed by an Israeli assassination squad last September and another brother was seriously wounded. A third is serving 10 years in prison for training gunmen.

"The intifada wasn't a mistake but it went on too long," she said. "It exhausted us. We are for a just peace, but through negotiation."

You see, it wasn't a mistake. It just didn't work. Then again, the Telegraph calls her brother an "activist." You know, "activists" are the people you see on the streets carrying protest signs. They're not the people who murder innocent civilians for their "cause."

I don't think they're weary of war. I think they're just ramping up for the next stage.

Is it real, or is it Memorex? More calls from Fatah to Hamas to stop sending rockets into Israel. Yeah, whatever. You can talk all you like, but taking action? Prove you're serious, and we might believe you.

A more realistic view: This one carries a read-it-all recommendation. It's an analysis of Abbas' and the palestinian positions. He was at Camp David, and his views don't seem to have changed. Pre-1967 borders, repatriation (yeah, right) of refugees, no demilitarized palestinian state—and most important of all, no Jews in palestine. Because God knows, there aren't any palestinians in Israel. Oh, that's right, there aren't. They're known as Israeli Arabs now. Don't hold your breath waiting to read about palestinian Jews.

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Open eyes, engage brain: I am not up to posting anything substantive at the moment. This may be partly because Gracie is playing her "I want to go out. No I don't. Yes I do. No I don't. Yes I do. No I don't." game. It may also be because my Jeep dealer woke me up this morning with another bogus "We think your Jeep is in such great shape for a used vehicle we'd like to buy it from you!" sales pitch. The woman on the phone was introduced to The Wrath of Meryl when she refused to take no for an answer.

No soap, radio: So I was pretty tired one day last week, and I was washing my hands in the upstairs bathroom and couldn't figure out why the soap wasn't lathering. I rubbed and rubbed and nothing happened. Then I realized that there was only bar soap in the upstairs bathroom, not a soap dispenser. I was trying to wash my hands with hand lotion. Oh.

Selective memory wiping, please: You know, I can't wait until they figure out the way the human brain works, because I really, really, really want to be able to wipe individual memories from my brain. For instance, why am I afflicted with remembering that when I was about ten years old, I spent an inordinately long time shouting out the window of our third-floor apartment, "Friday the 13th! Bad luck day!" over and over again? How is it that this memory, above whatever else happened that day, is so stuck in my mind that I can mentally hear myself shouting those phrases? I mean, come on. There ought to be a statute of limitations on stupid memories. And don't even get me started on the really stupid songs they made us learn in music class as children. I would pay someone an incredible amount of money to wipe "Zulu Warrior" from my brain.

The anti-PETA: I received a letter from yet another brilliant, erudite, vegan:

I know peta may go over board on some of their campaigns but at least they have a cause. That whole eat an animal for peta day is a sick idea.

a peta activist
p.s. While your at it lets make a kill a pregnant woman day and rub it in the face of Lacy Peterson's family.

The day in question she's referring to was International Eat an Animal for PETA Day, which I started in response to PETA's abhorrent "Holocaust on your plate" ad campaign.

You know, every so often, I get a letter just like Activistgirl5's (that's her email account). Sometimes I ignore them. Sometimes, they're funny enough to share with my readers, and need no response. She titled her email "the anti-PETA." I like that. I think I'll add that to my title of The Master of Juvenile Scorn™.

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Middle East news briefs

Oh, it's just electioneering: Let's see. First, Mahmoud Abbas said he would protect terrorists from any retribution from Israel. Then he said he would bring back all the palestinian refugees (now officially numbering 4 million or so what with insisting that a third-generation Jordanian is a refugee because his grandfather was born in the West Bank). His latest: he called Israel "the Zionist enemy" after a tank shell took out terrorists trying to launch rockets. And, oh yeah—the "election" on Sunday is basically a referendum on Abbas, who they say needs 60% of the vote to claim a mandate. There is no one of note running against him, which is exactly what happened during Arafat's "election," when some old woman nobody had ever heard of became his opponent. (All the rest of his opponents suddenly withdrew.)

Yeah, it's just your typical run-up to election speech. Sure. It's not at all a reflection of the fact that Abbas was Arafat's hand-picked prime minister. Here's a heads-up: Ahmed Qurei is going to take Abbas' place as the PA's gadfly. There will be staged "disagreements," only to be settled at the last minute, just before the entire PA breaks apart into civil war. And the rest of the world will buy it. It's already begun (but I can't find the link, dammit. I'll keep looking).

Yet another Saudi terrorist: Apparently, the Iraqi mess hall bomber was a Saudi. But they're getting a handle on terrorism, really they are!

Oh, that's reassuring: Chaka Khan, I mean, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man behind Pakistan's nuke program, sold enough material and know-how to a Middle Eastern country to make a nuke. It's either Syria, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, according to the Jerusalem Post. Scary enough for you? Then how's this article from AP, which says that the IAEA found a secret nuclear program in Egypt.

The diplomats told The Associated Press that most of the work was carried out in the 1980s and 1990s but said the International Atomic Energy Agency also was looking at evidence suggesting some work was performed as recently as a year ago.

Egypt's government rejected claims it is or has been pursuing a weapons program, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

"A few months ago we denied these kinds of claims and we do so again," Egyptian government spokesman Magdy Rady said. "Nothing about our nuclear program is secret and there is nothing that is not known to the IAEA."

But one of the diplomats said the Egyptians "tried to produce various components of uranium" without declaring it to the IAEA, as they were bound to under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The products included several pounds of uranium metal and uranium tetrafluoride - a precursor to uranium hexafluoride gas, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

I think we can narrow down which of the three countries the unnamed source refused to name. But this is the most frightening part of all:

They noted that there is now evidence of increased debate as to whether Islamic law could allow for the deaths of Muslims as part of the price when tens of millions of heathens are killed – a debate whose very nature, the sources said, implies that thought is being given to the notion of using weapons of mass destruction.

Yeah, that's really a comforting thought.

What? A positive news piece on Israel? In Reuters? Well, yes, believe it or not.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli company said on Monday it planned to distribute free to Asian countries hit by last week's tsunami a device it says could save lives by warning holiday-makers directly that a tidal wave is coming.

The system developed by Israeli inventor Meir Gitelis uses land and water sensors, smaller than a shoe box and each costing $170, to measure seismic activity and wave motion.

Like other systems already in operation, the sensors can send alerts in seconds by satellite to governments anywhere in the world. Unlike others, this system can also relay warnings directly to private subscribers over cellphones, pagers or dedicated receivers, spreading the message more widely.

[...]"We're not doing this to make money," Gitelis said. "He want to help people. We plan to give our product to poor countries for free and we will not charge the countries that were affected by the disaster in Asia."

Yeah, but Israel21C had it first.

And I'm outta here. It's in the 70s in Richmond today. And sunny. You all have fun.

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Typesetting: It's not your type

But it is mine. In the comments to the post below, big dirigible questions my definition of amateur and expert typographer. I know my argument sounds a lot like the "you can't be a heart surgeon if you've never had a heart attack" false logic, but it's simply the truth: You can't become an expert typographer simply by Googling a few pages on the Internet, and you can't comprehend how difficult typography is if you don't study it a bit. I would not let you diagnose my ailment after you'd watched a few seasons of ER, and that's what Corey Pein is doing by throwing out the testimony of expert typographer Joseph Newcomer in favor of a tech writing teacher.

Since the subject has been raised, I get to bore the hell out of my readers and give you some examples straight out of the Atex Composition Reference Manual. You need to have a hell of a lot more background in type than being able to know that there is a word called kerning, and it has something to do with the space between letters, and oh, yeah, leading is that space between lines, right?

When matching type, one of the things you had to do was create the VB strings. These are variable spaceband values. An example:


Here's the definition from the manual: "Specifies values for spaceband widths to be used during justification of lines." To continue:

The Variable Spaceband Values command specifies the range within which the system can adjust the width of a spaceband as required to justify a line of text. Typically, this command is placed in a style file.

During HNJ, the system uses the values specified in the command as follows:

1. The system adds words to a line using the minimum spaceband value until a word causes the characters and spaces on the line to exceed column width

2. The system attempts to justify the line by dropping the last word from the line. If the system can increase the spaceband width to a value within the specified minimum and maximum range (v and x), the line is justified.

6. Sometimes the system cannot justify a line using values specified in the Variable Spaceband Values command. In this case, the system uses as much space as required to justify the line. If spaceband values exceed y (even if the system performed letterspacing), a flashing L appears to the right of each loose line. You can typeset a file containing this warning code, or you can revise these lines manually to improve the typographic appearance if desired.

Here's what the above is in plain English: The variable spaceband value sets the amount of space, in multiples of em spaces*, between words and before the letterspacing. If the computer, after the HNJ, determines that there is too much space between the words, it's going to let you know it with a flashing L when you call the article up on the monitor. (There was no automatic HNJ back then as there is in desktop publishing today. We sent each article to a queue to be hyphenated and justified, and waited for it to be finished before we could move on.)

You have no idea how much we dreaded that flashing L. The customers always hated loose lines. We had to fix them before sending the proof back to the customer, because they'd simply write "TIGHTEN LINE!!" on it and send it right back. We could sometimes do this with a CW, or Change White Space, command. That changed the space between words, but not the letterspacing. The VB string was the last resort, after you'd changed the white space down to a -2 (anything more than that made the type look too squashed).

If this seems rather arcane, let me point out that every single typeface used by our customers had its own VB string in each font variation. You could look up the value, and then change the ones needed to tighten or loosen the type for that specific article. And I would also like to point out that each font had different VB strings for justified and ragged type. That means one string for Times Roman, one for Times Roman Italic, one for Times Roman Bold, one for Times Romanl Bold Italic—you get the idea.

Now, stop a moment and remember that we had to manipulate these little decimal points—which were in fractions of an em space—until we got an exact, letter-spaced match for the type sample supplied us by our new customers. (And you wonder why I hated matching type?)

If you're still with me and you're still not impressed with Joseph Newcomer's background as one of the pioneers in creating computer fonts for electronic typesetting, well, I'm done trying.

(*An em space is a type measurement the equivalent of the letter "m," for example, in 10 pt. type, an em space equals ten points in width and height. I'm betting that Corey Pein didn't know that.)

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Memogate: The experts and the amateurs

Corey Pein of the Columbia Journalism Review made many errors in his article about the bogus National Guard memos, but I'm going to deal only with my field of expertise, and discuss the typographic issues behind the exposure of the documents as fraudulent.

Atex manual pageWhen the issue first broke, I pointed out that there is no such thing as an amateur typographer. Either you know type, or you don't. Joseph Newcomer, whose methodology tore apart the memos and exposed them absolutely as frauds, knows type. He created computer fonts, and was a pioneer of electronic typesetting. Those of you whose only knowledge of fonts is the drop-down menu in Word simply have no idea how much you have to know as a programmer and a typographer to have created fonts in the early days of computer typesetting. I stand in awe of his achievements, while Corey Pein, who doesn't seem to know anything about type, denigrates them.

He brushes off Dr. Newcomer's resume casually, and without using any facts to bolster his assertion that Dr. Newcomer's results are wrong:

Newcomer’s résumé — boasting a Ph.D. in computer science and a role in creating electronic typesetting — seemed impressive. His conclusions came out quickly, and were bold bordering on hyperbolic. The accompanying analysis was long and technical, discouraging close examination.

I'm actually at a loss as to why someone would refuse to acknowledge that a man who pioneered electronic typesetting has the necessary background to make these kinds of judgments, except for the fact that it doesn't mesh with the outcome Pein is looking for in his article. But I think another look into typography is in order.

I have a twenty-some-year background in publishing, starting in college on AM Varityper and Compugraphic typesetting systems, and moving on to Atex (two of whose manual pages you see pictured here), the industry Gold Standard, and then desktop publishing. I like to call myself a one-woman publishing house. I can write a book, lay it out, typeset it, edit it, copyedit it, proofread it, and put in the pictures. About the only thing I can't do is the heavy-duty graphics work (and for that, I'd hire out).

Atex manual pageWhen I first started in typesetting, Harper's Bazaar was still being set by a hot lead type shop in New York. I know this, because shortly after I joined Publisher's Phototype (now Applied Graphics Technologies), we got the Harper's account. It tooks us weeks of painstaking work to match our computer typefaces to the ones in the magazine.

I was assigned to the team that set up new accounts. I would sometimes spend an entire shift matching the type in a single article. I never—never—got a clean match on the first try. Nobody ever did. Matching type was and is the most frustrating, exacting, painstaking, time-consuming process that exists in any aspect of publishing. Imagine having to take the same few paragraphs and incrementally increase or decrease the spacing between characters, words, even between kerning pairs such as ff or WA. (If you ever want to torture me, just sit me down and make me match type. You'll get anything you want from me in an hour or two.)

Remember this when you realize that Charles Johnson typed the Killian memo into Word using the default settings and came up with a near-perfect match—the first time.

I repeat this information because once again, a critic of the process that uncovered the forged memos seems to think that typography is just a fancy word for typing. Let me try another legal comparison: Corey Pein's utterly clueless criticism of the typography that exposed the memo fraud would be similar to insisting he can argue a case before the Supreme Court because he went to traffic court.


His ignorance is showing, and not in a good way.

After throwing out Dr. Newcomer's curriculum vitae in the electronic typesetting field, Pein then uses the work—which was utterly debunked by various sources—of a technical writing teacher to bolster his assertions that the memos may not be forged.

In order to understand “Memogate,” you need to understand “Haileygate.” David Hailey, a Ph.D. who teaches tech writing at Utah State University — not a professional document examiner, but a former Army illustrator — studied the CBS memos. His typographic analysis found that, contrary to widespread assumptions, the document may have been typed. (He points out, meanwhile, that because the documents are typed does not necessarily mean they are genuine.)

Pein states in the article that Hailey is "not a professional document examiner." Um. The guy teaches tech writing at Utah State University. Surely, he isn't saying that a man who teaches tech writing is more knowledgeable in the field of electronic typography than one of the men who pioneered it?

Well, yes, actually. He is.

Shoddy, slipshod research, false accusations, and ignoring important facts—isn't that what caused Memogate in the first place?

Yes. Well, once again, I have a recommendation for everyone out there who wants to play amateur typographer: Don't. Do your research first, or you will make yourself look like a fool.

I stand with those who say the memos are fraudulent, and I'm using my twenty-year-plus publishing experience to make that call.

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Heidi stopped by and dropped off my disk reader, and there are many new pictures on my computer. And there is now a photo page for those of my readers who are interested. It's rather high-load, so if you're on a 56k modem, well, uh, you're going to have to wait a while.

In the meantime, a couple of lower-load photos for your viewing pleasure:

Tig looking like a tribble

This is Tig's imitation of a tribble. I think it's a pretty good imitation myself, minus the irritating chirping noises that tribbles make.

Gracie in the sink

This is Gracie in one of her petting places. She simply adores being adored while on the sink.

Now, Lair, you can stop nagging me about cat pictures. Oh, and the rest of you, go over to MartiniPundit for the latest Carnival of the Cats.

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In his own words: Sharon on disengagement

William Safire has a must-read on his latest conversation with Ariel Sharon. Some highlights:

"We have a window of opportunity, after the death of Arafat and the re-election of President Bush, to break the stalemate of negotiation and replace it with a strategy of reconciliation."

In the next breath, however, Sharon notes that "the Palestinians have 30,000 armed security people who still find it hard to fight terrorists. Not the slightest step has been taken so far."

Abu Mazen caused consternation last week by letting himself be borne aloft by a crowd of gunmen and promising the radicals he would protect them from Israeli retaliation. That was an awkward attempt to persuade the gunmen to vote for him, but Secretary of State Colin Powell realistically told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" yesterday that if such persuasion fails, "he may have to undertake operations against them."

Sharon says only "I understand it's the eve of an election. We do not interfere so as not to make it harder for him, but I believe Abu Mazen will be elected. Then if the Palestinian Authority starts to coordinate between our security services, and if they - not Hamas, not the Jihad - take charge of the areas we are leaving, I will coordinate disengagement.

"After their election, we'll see if they take the steps to stop the terror. If they do, it will be also quiet on our side." That seems to me to accept a cease-fire, qualified with "but if we have intelligence of a terrorist attack, we'll have to act."

And this threat, which I fear will wind up being carried out:

A further caveat: "It would be clearly impossible to evacuate under fire. With thousands of cars and trucks relocating women, children, animals, we will tolerate no attacks during withdrawal. I told the Egyptians to pass the word that if these people come under fire, Israel's reaction will be very hard."

Then this line, which caused me to laugh out loud.

And do you expect to be prime minister one year from today?

"Why only one year?"

Now that's a Jewish politician.

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Oldies but goodies

Not all the bookmarks I made were bad. I saved this article in the Los Angeles Times Magazine about a Dutch woman who saved Jewish children from the Nazis. Read this story, and remember that the world is full of decent people, too.

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Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

I'm organizing my bookmarks. I found a reference to this, a letter from "academics" insisting that the upcoming war on Iraq was going to be used by Israel to transfer the pals into Jordan. Wake me when the ethnic cleansing takes place, will you? I'll write an apology to those idiot "academics."

There's also an article from April of 2002 about Sudan.

These are the things that make some people want to take their heads and beat it against the wall. It makes me want to beat other people's heads against the wall.

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Lasers in the sky

The good news is the police were able to track a man who aimed a laser at an airplane cockpit.

The bad news is, the guy was just playing with his daughter's new Christmas toy.

The Parsippany man whisked from his home on New Year's Eve and questioned by the FBI about a laser pointed at a decoy police helicopter was in the "wrong place at the wrong time," his lawyer said last night.

David Banach and his young daughter were playing with a laser on the deck of their back yard on Pitman Road, illuminating neighborhood trees and houses and pointing it into the sky around 5:30 p.m., lawyer Gina Mendola Longarzo said.

Soon, the neighborhood was swarmed by law enforcement officials.

He spent New Year's Eve answering questions at the local FBI office.

Phantom thinks that the terrorists are currently in the business of target acquisition.

Lasers are not being used to blind pilots. Lasers are being used to measure straight line distance from the ground to an aircraft aircraft at its most vulnerable state - landing. An aircraft on takeoff would be a more difficult target - maximum power and maximum climb. But a landing ship slows down to a speed just short of a stall and follows a prescribed path of flight .

The information regarding an aircraft’s peak vulnerability would be invaluable. Documenting landing approaches and and straight line distances would be highly useful in target acquisition. That information is critical regarding available weapons systems.

Authorities are downplaying the laser incidents. But Phantom thinks they're worth worrying about:

The laser activity is more than likely a target acquisition exercise.

And people are taking notes.

There are too many cities and too many locations reporting laser incidents. In my view, they are calculating maximum ranges, with no intent to blind the crew.

Our enemies know full well the impact another threat to aviation security would have on this Country. They are trying to crash airships and cripple our transportation industry before we can equip commercial aircraft with effective countermeasures. It is telling that the LAPD is moving to protect LAX against a missile threat against increasing incidents of lasers targeting commercial aircraft.

Picture the scenario: A dozen American cities; a dozen shoulder-fired missiles. Four miss. Eight hit their targets. Imagine eight plane crashes at the same time, on the same day, some over the extremely populated areas around Newark, Chicago, New York, and five other cities. The death toll would be in the thousands, and the economic hit? The air travel industry as we know it would disappear. Say goodbye to the American economic recovery.

I sure hope the FBI is up to this particular challenge.

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Stingy Americans update

The AP has a roundup of the ways Americans are donating and raising money for disaster relief:

BOSTON (AP) - A Kentucky widow, moved by the cries of grief she heard in reports about the tsunami disaster in south Asia, invited her entire town to a New Year's Eve bash to raise money for the victims. In California, a college offered free basketball tickets, with a gift for relief efforts the only price of admission.

A group of children in a Seattle suburb stood out in the rain offering "Hot Chocolate for Tidal Wave Relief!" and raised $255.

[...] Oxfam said Friday it had received almost $6 million in unsolicited donations since the disaster on Dec. 26. The American Red Cross reported almost $44 million in donations from Americans by Thursday evening.

Three brothers ages 3 to 7 each dropped off sandwich bags containing a few dollars at the Mile High chapter of the Red Cross in Denver, according to spokesman Robert Thompson. The same chapter also accepted a $50,000 donation from a man who requested anonymity.

[...] In New York City, six children ages 12 to 18 worked late Thursday and early Friday to make dozens of cookies, brownies and cupcakes for a door-to-door bake sale organized by Do Something, a youth service group.

Jeffrey Arias, a Boy Scout from Newbury, Mass., attends Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., with several students from areas hit hard by the giant waves. He and 15 friends stood outside banks and convenience stores Thursday and Friday with donation cans for the American Red Cross

The tally is up to nearly $12 million. Colin Powell on CNN said that AOL has raised a similar amount.

Of course, none of these count as percentage of GDP, so I guess we're still number one on the Stingy Chart.

You can find a number of charities here, and in this post from last week, two of my readers profiled Israeli charities to aid the tsunami victims.

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Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary is also a good bet if you've never been here before.