Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Yule!

Whatever your belief system, y'canna change the laws of physics. This is the day where the sun has reached its southern most point. It's in the sky in the northern hemisphere the shortest number of hours; in the southern hemisphere, the longest number of hours; and in areas south of the antarctic circle, they have been having "midnight sun" for some time now. North of the arctic circle, people have once again had to put their faith in other people telling them about "sun" because they don't see it. The people in the middle get to watch the sun wander from one side to the other, and wonder what a "season" is.

Celebrate! The short days will lengthen, or the long days will shorten. The earth moves, rotates, changes, grows, dies, and grows again. Celebrations include food, good friends, remembrances, and plans for the future. Enjoy!

Should ISPs be accountable for overall Internet security?


Let's start with a basic understanding of what you're looking at. Right now, it's my blog. It has graphics, text, formatting, and all these pieces sit on the server. When you got here, your browser software asked the server for those pieces. Blogspot said sure, no problem, and started to send them.

Due to the way the internet was originally designed (and unless you want to spends billions and billions of dollars moving everybody to a new system, you're stuck with it), things are broken up into smaller byte-sized pieces, wrappped with identifiers called headers, and tossed out into the maelstrom. I don't have a clue how many packets my blog gets broken into, but let's use the number thirty(30) as a working number., point A, sends the first five packets out to point B. Point B suddenly gets buried in stuff from somewhere else, so sends the next five packets to point C. Point C is doing ok, so blogspot sends the remaining twenty packets to point C, too. So now we've got five going one way and twenty-five going another. Point B has a good connection down the line, so it sends the five packets on to point D, which in turn connects to points E, F and G. G is your home ISP, and they hand those five packets to your browser. Meanwhile, point C hands off five packets to point H, which says everything is fine so point C hands off five more. But wait! Point H suddenly gets a bunch of stuff from somewhere else, and point C now must hand off the remaining fifteen packets to point I. Point H is so overwhelmed, it can only hand off the ten packets two at a time to point J, who in turn hands them to K, L, O, Q and Beta. Somewhere in there, they finally make it to G, your ISP, and then to your browser. Meanwhile, the fifteen currenly at point I get handed off as a group to point M, which again due to traffic, breaks them up into five packet pieces and hands them off respectively to N, P and S. N's got a direct connection to G. P has to send its packets thru R, then Y and then to G. S has to send one packet each to T, U, V, Z and alpha. Alpha needs to hand off to X before it can get to G, but the rest can hand them all to point G, which gives them to your browser. Your browser now can put them all together and you get my blog.

Everything gets sent that way.

The $64,000 question is this: How can your ISP (point G) check every single packet for the hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of users, without slowing down your I-want-it-now web surfing experience, correctly identify that piece as a virus and not as the next version of Norton anti-virus download or the picture of my cat, without having all the pieces, when all the pieces don't come together, in the same order, or even at all? If you can answer that question successfully, I guarantee that you will be richer than Bill Gates in less than two years.

In the mean time, get virus checking software on your computer. Your ISP can check your email because all the pieces have come together on the email server, but everything else is yours. Your computer is the only place all the bits and pieces come together to make a blog, a shopping website or that ugly monster virus.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


There once was a holiday called Yule-ish
The end of the year it did rule-ish.
Romans tried taking it,
Christian holiday making it,
Our pocketbooks say they were foolish.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Cats n more cats

Sleeping with cats in the winter
Is comfy and warm, I s'pose.
But try finding a way to turn over
When 'tween cats and spouse you iz squoze.

When cats and spouse get cozy
And they take all the blankets away,
It's warmer to move to the sofa
Where my covers are safe from the fray.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Research In Motion did borrow
A patent, much to its sorrow.
Altho the courts ruled
NTP owns this tool,
Royalty payment's a no-show.

In the hallowed halls of gov'ment
Blackberry notes are frequently sent.
Judge Spencer did rule
To shut down this tool,
Until royalties due NTP are sent.

CNN article

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

A storm with some claim to fame,
One Hurricane Katrina by name.
Politics most dire
Set DC on fire.
And poor Katrina gets all of the blame.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The feasting is done,
The leftovers diminished.
What's for sandwiches
When the turkey's finished?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Copyright and times of change

Sent by a friend, as an introduction to an article on the GoogleBook/ search/reprint issue (more on the controversy here:

New frontiers - where do they allow us to go - do we want to go there? Will some aromatherapist figure out a way to infuse the site with the smell of wood pulp and ink? Tactile screens? Dog-ear the corners of screens ? What about those potato chip or Oreo crumbs in the seams? ... Important issues - oh, yes, and of course -what about copyright laws and compensation ... that too.

Where will they allow us to go? Places we didn't expect when we left.

Do we want to go? Do we have a choice? The choices I see are those of "who's in charge?" We will go, but with whom, and with what guidelines? Who decides, and how?

When books went from hand-scribing to moveable type, the trauma to ownership and authorship was traumatic. We are once again, facing that same trauma. For any who think all works should be free to any who want them, I have one question: Will you go to work every day for nothing? Don't tell me "it's different." It's work. It should be compensated. "It's different because I don't have to (read/watch/buy)." Oh? Try living without TV shows, movies, books, magazines, games. Completely without. Don't watch tv, don't go to any movie, don't rent a movie, don't read anything except instruction manuals that come with the products you buy, don't play any games at all. The people who create these things need to pay rent, buy food, pay for utilities to keep warm in the winter.

We are in a time of transition, which is always traumatic. We will figure it out. We may have to go back to the patronage system, whereby the rich "keep" artists of various sorts, who create for the patron, a la Michelangelo and others.

I think what Google is doing is great. My local bookstores don't stock much in the way of selection these days, just the absolute latest and/or most popular. I like to browse books new to me to see if the writing style is one that I can handle before I buy the whole book. And I still like to buy books. You can't take a computer into the bathroom. You most certainly don't want to use one while you soak in the tub.

In terms of having out-of-copyright books available online, the Gutenberg Project is already doing some of that. I've done some proofreading for them. Quite a lot of out-of-copyright books are also out of print, the only source being used book stores (I recommend How many wonderful stories of life-and-times were lost, along with an understanding of the culture that spawned them, when the library at Alexandria burned?

We live in times of change. I'm not saying we have to like it, or that the change will be easy. We can shape that change, or we can stand on a soapbox and scream that the tide stop.

Jim and I both are personally bleeding from the changing times. We have either lost jobs or job opportunities because of shifts in the computer field. Jim is currently working as a security guard, as jobs in the computer field move out of the country, and what's left go to younger, less expensive employees. So, unlike Steve Forbes who speaks of the trauma of change without ever having it damage his lifestyle, I speak from the emergency room of life.

And choose to enjoy the change.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Halloween's delights

Last year, Disney Hall held a screening of Phantom of the Opera, the 1927 silent film, accompanied by the Disney Hall organ, on Halloween. It was wonderful. It had been restored, with some Technicolor bits thrown in. Apparently some of the original had been filmed in Technicolor, and the Phantom's red cape shines brightly on the screen. The movie itself was riveting enough, I rarely watched the octopus-masquerading-as-human who was playing the organ.

This year, they held another silent-with-organ movie on Halloween, the 1922(?) version of Nosferatu. It did not survive the test of time as well as Phantom. It was filled with what are now seriously funny cliches, such as having the bad-guy rise from his coffin as if he was laying on a board. One could only tell day scenes from night scenes by the action and/or dress of the actors. The bad guy, Nosferatu, however, would still make a good villian today - not at all the dashing Dracula one normally thinks of.

The conversation on the drive home was "what will they do next year?" One I'd like to see, but not until Halloween falls on a Satuday, is Metropolis. Why a Saturday, you ask? Because Metropolis is quite long, and if shown on a Saturday, could start earlier and have an intermission, without running into "We've got work tomorrow," at least for most of us. Several silent shorts, one of which was a 20-minute Frankenstein, would also be fun.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween - another harvest festival

This is the third and last pagan harvest festival. The moon is waning, two days short of new. Not what one normally thinks of when "harvest festival" comes around. The "Harvest Moon" actually comes in September, this year September 17th. The full moon in October is called the "Blood Moon" or "Hunter's Moon".

Halloween as practiced in the United States is an amalgam of practices. The name, Halloween, is derived from Hallow's eve, or the day before All Hallows Day, the day Roman Catholics, and later, other Christian groups, celebrate all saints, specified and unspecified. The Irish brought their Celtic-derived observance of seasonal change and festival of the dead. Pagans celebrate "samhain," and in true Celtic fashion, it has a pronunciation totally at odds with its current spelling: "sow-in," rhymes with "cow-in." It comes from the Gaelic "sam," which means summer; "fuin" means "end." So, "Samhain" means "end of the warm season." Contrary to many web sites, there is and has never been a god of death or a sun god with that name.

Many believe the door between this world and the next is thinner at this time. This has resulted in beliefs ranging from evil spirits roaming the earth in search of bodies to take or souls to steal. Others believe this is the time to contact those who have gone before, looking for guidance or just to pay their respects.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

But that's not FAIR!

When confronted with the cry "But that's not fair!" some reply "who said life has to be fair?" For those who need a comeback to that, try "Who said unfairness must be tolerated just because it exists?"

As a human being, with the ability to think of "future" and the ability to learn from the past, the concept of "fairness" and my application of that concept is what differentiates me from the bare-bones reactive universe.


"The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature."

~Arthur D. Hlavaty

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Good things in life

It's been said for years the good things are immoral, illegal or fattening. It has now been pointed out that you can add "causes cancer in rats" to that list.

"Immoral" makes most people avoid you, and the people who do hang around must be watched continuously, which takes a lot of time and effort. "Illegal" carries its own penalty. I'm living with the results of "fattening." And I've come to the conclusion that living "causes cancer in rats." Since Death is inevitable, doesn't that make how you live the important piece in this equation?

Living well is feeling good, doing good and being good. "Doing good" is just what it says. Most of us know what that means. "Being good" means living what you believe. I've met some people who want you to join their church, but don't follow the teachings of their own religious icons. Or their statement "love thy neighbor as thyself" means they hate themselves passionately.

"Feeling good" is applicable both physically and emotionally. I feel pretty good emotionally but my physical health needs attention paid to it (the ravages of age and all that). I've started on a diet and I'm working out at my local gym. Because I'll live longer? In my belief system, what is a few more years in the face of eternal life? I'm here as long as God wants me here. So why the weight loss and gym thing? Because my joints are telling me they don't like the extra weight. Pain makes me grumpy. Grumpy makes people avoid me. I don't like being alone. Healthy feels better, for me and the people around me.

On the other side of that, depriving myself completely of the things that I like to eat would make me grumpy. Grumpy makes people avoid me.... I have a friend who was a vegetarian when I met him. He touted the benefits of vegetarianism, often. I told him in no uncertain terms, God made me an omnivore and omnivore is what I will remain. I'll cut back on red meat, but you take away my barbeque baby back ribs and I'll rip your heart out. Mumble-mumble years later, I'm still an omnivore. My friend is an omnivore, too.

Ice-cream-and-maybe-cancer vs. no-ice-cream-and-maybe-no-cancer. This is a choice? Bring on the ice cream!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Some things never change....

Mostly because we don't pay any attention.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work.
~John G. Pollard

JOHN G. POLLARD (1871-1937)
Served 1930-1934, Democrat

Governor Pollard was an attorney, legal scholar, and former Attorney General from Williamsburg. He guided Virginia through the early days of the Depression without a budget deficit or a tax increase. He also reorganized county government, established workmen's compensation and personally helped establish The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

From the The Governors of Virginia website

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Happy Mabon

Another pagan harvest festival.

I'm enjoying the fruits of the harvest -- the world's most pungent onions seem to grow in my garden. I can't get rhubarb to grow, but the chilis are doin' fine! And the grapes growing on my grape tree smell and taste wonderful. (Grape tree? Yes, the loon who planted things in my yard all those years ago planted a lemon tree and a grape vine very close together. So I have a lemon-vine-and-grape-tree combo in that corner.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Don't forget the financing....

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Everybody else still sees a rock pile until someone gets the permits, files the environmental impact report, and actually gets the guys with the money to do more than say "What a great idea! It's too risky for us to finance."

Monday, September 05, 2005


Bershere's Formula for Failure:
There are only two kinds of people who fail: those who listen to nobody... and those who listen to everybody.

Monday, August 15, 2005

On the subject of safety

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
~Benjamin Franklin, 1759

I originally had a long post on this. But Ben Franklin's statement really needs no additions. You either get it, or you'll get it far too late.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Happy LooNaSa

Thus the pronunciation of Lughnasadh. The Slavs and the Celts got extra consonants, while the Polynesians got extra vowels.

LooNaSa, or Lughnasadh, is a pagan holiday of harvest, the first harvest so say my notes. I suspect it is the celebration of the harvest of summer fruits and veggies, which anyone who has a veggie patch or fruit tree is fully aware. I have a friend with a plum tree. I now have a refrigerator with plums on every shelf and hoisin sauce coming soon. My friend thinks I'm great as I'm one of the few people who doesn't run when he walks up with a bag. He could bring me all the plums off the tree (that the birds hadn't nibbled already) and I would be happy. Plums freeze. Plums dry. Plums turn into hoisin sauce. Plums ferment. The downside to plums is that I can eat too many, at which point I spend long periods of time in the bathroom with a good book.

I used to live next door to an apricot tree and for two glorious weeks every year, I would gorge myself on fresh, golden, tree-ripened apricots. My family didn't appreciate it but short of chaining me inside, they couldn't stop me. You see, this house had four people . . . and only one bathroom. But it was only two weeks, two golden weeks before the fruit got too ripe and fell off the tree.

Summer also meant green apples. Now, we have all sorts of apples all year, but when I was young, the tart green apples would show up in early summer. My mother would bring some home and we all knew summer vacation wasn't far off. Even now, my preferred time to eat green apples is summertime. They don't seem right any other time.

Lughnasadh may be a pagan holiday, and in these days of evangelical Christian vocalization, mentioning it may annoy some, but the sentiments are worth sharing, worth remembering. Harvest of the first fruits of the season, the blessings of the gardens and orchards, remembering the bounty of the earth and of our hearts. There are many things that were . . . uncomfortable about my childhood, but those few short weeks of fruit were not among them.