By now most people have heard the story of the $780 million in cash
stashed in various places around Baghdad (including, of all places, a
dog pound).  It’s certainly an interesting tale, and it has apparently
raised an interesting question: whose money is it?

Lt. Colonel Philip DeCamp, the commander of the tank battalion that
occupies the Republican Palace, asserts, “this money belongs to the
U.S. government.”

Lt. Mark Kitchens of Central Command says instead, “all money found is
the property of the Iraqi people.”

I agree with the latter, and find it intriguing that anyone would think
otherwise.  It should be fun to see if the U.S. government attempts to
take the money as its own…


Remember that scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when Sallah looks down into the big hole, turns to Indiana Jones, and says:

“Indy, why does the floor… move?”

To which our intrepid hero replies, “Ants… why did it have to be ants?”

That’s exactly what our kitchen was like a few days ago. Apparently our house was built on some kind of ant superhighway, because they started trooping through the house like they owned it. The kitchen was the worst– probably because there are always crumbs (darn kids!) laying around. You’d look closely at a spot of black on the floor and it would turn out to be about ten thousand ants swarming over an old Chee-to.

Anyway, the problem was getting to epidemic proportions when I said to Laralee that I’d used enough Kleenex to squash ants, and was tired of hearing the kids rev up the Dustbuster to take out one of the colonies in the family room. I got the can of Raid. It didn’t say anything about ants, but hey, as Laralee pointed out there was a picture of a dead ant right on the can.

I sprayed a couple of the places they were swarming from (under the baseboards, naturally). I figured we might get lucky.

Five minutes later it looked like someone had spilled pepper on the floor. There were dozens of little curled-up shriveled ants laying there, and dozens more kind of wobbling around trying to figure out what the heck hit them. Since that day I haven’t seen a single living ant in the house.

Mwah ha haaaaa!


Slashdot had some great articles today (maybe Sunday is a good day because lots of people have lots of time to write?). I came across one dealing with a guy who’d created a web site to compare the starships of various science-fiction books and movies. This is, of course, a classic debate amongst fans of, say, “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”.

As usual with Slashdot, the commentary drifted from the original topic and I found a great description of why you never see “realistic” space battles in movies or computer games. Here it is, with minimal editing:

Any ship with more acceleration then the other ship can always escape.

Unless you use an unrealistically slow amount of thrust, you tend to have these ships zipping by each other at the very least hundreds of miles per hour, leaving you with a fraction of a second to meaningfully fire on the other ship, then it’s turn back around and do it again. Since you’re a human you can’t whip around instantly, and it takes time to move the ship, so every time you miss and come around for another pass, you’re going a little faster since you had more time to accelerate.

It is virtually impossible to tail someone. If you’re matching their thrust vector, you’re not pointing at them– you’re pointing in the same direction they are. Now, if you had a gunner this might be OK, but when you’re both piloting and gunning, this doesn’t work.

It takes time to learn how to land on things! Typically to get somewhere in an airplane-like space simulator you point your ship at it, apply maximum boost, and stop when you get there. Do that in a real simulator and you’ll whack into the object (or miss it) at a significant fraction of the speed of light. You have to learn to turn at “midpoint”, which, inconveniently enough, is also when you’re going the fastest and this is fairly hard for a human to do correctly. (If you’re on autopilot, it’s easier, but if you’re on autopilot you’re not really playing…) Turn around a little too soon, and you have to creep up on the target object, which might literally take several minutes or even hours. Turn around a little too late and by the time you realize it you’re on an unstoppable collision course. *Whack*.

“Random” encounters are impossible without cheating. I would routinely see enemies boost across the system, probably hitting the 1/3 light speed, on an intercept course, and the instant they reached me, “suddenly” they’re on basically the same vector as me so they can fight me. Reality is they should have zipped across my radar so fast it would be unlikely I would even see them.

Space is big. By the time ships are moving in real Newtonian mechanics and not taking years to get from Earth to Mars, you’re incapable of handling the scales as a human. The computer cheating helps but not enough (and it’s frustrating as all computer cheating is). A tactics-level simulator might be cool, but flying around in Newtonian space is no fun at all. If it was, we’d have more simulations based on that.

Also note this demonstrates space piracy is virtually impossible unless your acceleration is on par with your maximum speed, because you just can’t intercept ships to save your life. (Literally, in some cases.)


I’m glad my name isn’t…

…Asif Iqbal, for example. That’s the name of a suspected terrorist being held at Guantanamo Bay for over a year, and also the name of a guy who lives in New York and does a lot of business flying. He has to get clearance from the FBI *every week* when he boards planes, because he’s on the TSA’s “no fly” list.

Or at least his name is.

We’re seeing a host of problems with the new TSA list, which is only a precursor to the impending evil of CAPPS II. All sorts of people– grandmothers, teachers, even Pentagon consultants– have unfortunate names that tag them as terrorists in the database. The biggest problem, of course, is that once you’re on the list you really can’t get off. Letters to congressmen, the TSA, or the FBI don’t do any good. One government official suggested to one of the unlucky people that he should change his name. Whee!

At this rate, soon everywhere we go we’ll hear someone say (with an eastern European accent, of course) “Your papers, please.”


I’m helping a friend set up a web site, and he was registering the domain in the Netherlands (which is where he lives). The registrar was griping about something, and I’m sure I could figure it out if I could just read Dutch:

“Het registratie bureau nederland doet een zone transfer en kijkt op de
servers of daar een file staat voor deze domein naam, helaas is dit
waarschijnlijk bij deze nameservers neit toegestaan, en zal het
nederlandse registratie bureau u aanvraag hierop afwijzen, gaarne
contact opnemen met de eigenaars van deze nameservers en vragen of zij dit corrigeren.”



I don’t think my diet will be the subject of a bestselling weight-loss book any time soon. Here’s an excerpt of my actual menu last week:

Breakfast: bowl of dry Rice Krispies and orange juice.
Lunch: pepperoni pizza Hot Pocket.
Snack: chocolate eclair.
Dinner: homemade pepperoni pizza.
Bedtime snack: chocolate eclair.

Breakfast: bowl of dry Rice Krispies and orange juice.
Lunch: pepperoni pizza at Woody’s.
Snack: chocolate eclair.
Dinner: pepperoni pizza from Domino’s.
Bedtime snack: chocolate eclair.

Breakfast: bowl of dry Raisin Bran and orange juice.
Lunch: leftover pepperoni pizza.
Snack: chocolate eclair.
Dinner: roast beef sandwich.
Bedtime snack: chocolate eclair (the last one, sadly).

It’s a marvel I don’t have greasy hair, heart problems, and weigh 220 pounds…


This evening I was wandering around the house, picking up random toys and doing the usual nightly cleanup. I heard the Dustbuster roar to life… MWRAAAAAR… and figured Laralee had found some cracker crumbs to vacuum or something.

Everything was quiet.




This repeated a dozen times before I decided I’d better figure out what was happening. It turns out that Alex and Kyra had taken it upon themselves to clean the house of ants. It’s some kind of spring migration season, so we’ve seen handfuls of ants parading boldly around the house for the past week or so.

They were going around the downstairs, looking for these teensy ants crawling around, then snagging them with the Dustbuster.



Boy, it seems like the first bowl of Raisin Bran out of the box is always devoid of raisins. I guess they all settle into the middle, and that means no one wants to be the first person to load up on Raisin Bran.

Surely twenty-first-century technology could come up with a solution to this pressing consumer problem…?