Friday, May 20, 2011

Thoughts on the upcoming Rapture

Well, tomorrow is my sister's birthday. It's also supposed to be the end of the world.

That being the case, I've decided to put off doing my timesheets until Monday. Just in case.

To be a bit more specific, tomorrow is Judgement Day (according to those in the know), a.k.a, the Rapture, when around 3 million of the Elect will be taken up to heaven, leaving the rest of us behind...just like in those "Left Behind" novels.

It's always struck me as a bit presumptuous to assume one is part of the Elect. I'm actually sort of looking forward to seeing someone with one of those "In Case of the Rapture, This Car Will Be Unmanned," bumper stickers driving around on the day after, so I can say, "Hey, asshole, what happened? Soul Train pull out of the station without you?"

Now, I'll be the first to admit I won't be on that first flight out. No doubt I'll be undergoing some torment of the damned, but at least I'll be rid of those 3 million smug obnoxious jerks now drinking non-alcoholic Mai-Tais in the clouds above.

This could work out well -- maybe the Democrats will be able to retake the House of Representatives. And we'll be able to have liquor stores open on Sunday

I'm beginning to like this rapture thing more and more.

Saturday, May 14, 2011 : relive the pre-web net!

Not to yet again brand myself as an ancient, but when I got my first computer (a Tandy Color Computer) the connected world was a much simpler place. I had a 300 baud modem and a CompuServe account which cost me an arm and a leg. This was around 1981. I soon discovered BBS's and saved a bunch of money.

This thing called the internet ran on leased 56K phone lines and one had to be at a research or defense facility or employed by the government or military to gain access to it. The "world wide web" wouldn't appear for another 10 years.

If you knew someone, you might have access to something a bit more connected than just a BBS. Around the time my oldest was born I had a sibling who worked at a local university and he gave me the dial in number for the library computer. With a little judicious poking around all sorts of interesting things could be found. has put together a blast from the past - a javascript based emulator for that yesteryear of computing fun. Using your web-browser, you can log in, create an account and then hack into simulations of computers from by-gone times. Says the initial screen:

Telehack is a simulation of a stylized arpanet/usenet, circa 1985-1990. It is a full multi-user simulation, including 25,000 hosts and BBS's the early net, thousands of files from the era, a collection of adventure and IF games, a working BASIC interpreter with a library of programs to run, simulated historical users, and more.
It's an impressive feat! I wasted more time than I care to admit this morning. Be sure and check out the "wardial" and "porthack" commands, which let you simulate hacking into some of the 25,000 hosts they have recreated.

Note that the accounts you create, both on and the simulated hosts, don't stick around. If you close your browser and log in later you'll need to create the account again and re-hack any systems you had your way with. If you found this interesting, you may enjoy TEXTFILES.COM as well.

For the truly hard core, you can access the Telehack system via telnet as well.

Remember,  real men use the command line.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger takes it on the chin

First Amazon, now Blogger. What's the world coming to?

I've been busy and almost missed it, but apparently Blogger has had some some "issues" over the last couple of days. For the unenlightened,  "issues" is service provider code for "major fuck-ups."

I first became aware when my friend and debating partner the Whited Sepulchre posted something the other day about losing a post and noticed he'd posted something today about losing a bunch of comments (it had removed the snarky remark I made in response to the first post). I won't go into whether this is a good thing or not, but it did pique my curiosity.

According to Blogger, the issue was (as with Amazon) some sort of screw up during "routine" maintenance. Result: an avalanche of lost posts and comments. After 2 days they are working to restore these as quickly as possible. Speaking as a web professional, I can vouch for the fact it's those "routine" things that bite you in the ass the hardest.

Given my posting frequency and the fact that on a good day less than a dozen people visit this site, this had no effect to speak of on this blog. Sigh...

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Killing two birds with one stone

The punditocracy seems to agree that although the recent take-down of Osama bin Laden has bumped President Obama's poll numbers, this bump is likely to be short-lived because of lingering concerns over the state of the economy. At the same time there has been, since the previously-mentioned take-down, a low rumbling from some quarters about the lack of photographic or video documentation - not all of it from the frothing-at-the-mouth classes.

Even people I consider reasonable want to see pictures, dammit.

While enjoying a mint julep with one of my Republican friends yesterday (we were watching the Kentucky Derby), the pair of us came up with what I consider a brilliant idea that addresses both of Obama's issues.

Pay-per-view of the bin Laden raid!

There have been hints that videos and photos do exist, but that they are gruesome -- too gruesome for the public at large. So why not let people pay to see the carnage? Use the profits to pay for the War on Terror.

The adult US population is roughly 175,440,000. Charge $49.99 to watch a one-hour, one-time broadcast. Assume that only 10 percent of that group actually pays to watch (I'm guessing there would be watch parties which would reduce the number of paying customers).

$875 Million.

Add to that simultaneous overseas broadcasts. The European Union alone is half a billion -- if 10 percent of them watched, it would be another $2.5 Billion. And that's just if we charge the same as for US viewers. My thought is the rest of the world pay more. After all, the US taxpayer underwrote this whole thing -- they ought to get some kind of price break.

Would it cover the complete cost of the War on Terror? Hardly. But it would be a start.

As for me - I think I'll pass. I don't need to see pictures.

Monday, May 02, 2011

He's Dead

About 10:25 last night, my friend Lee called with some stunning news: President Barack Obama was about to address the nation to inform us that US forces had killed Osama bin Laden. I ran and turned on the TV to confirm. NBC had broken into normal programming with a special report and was awaiting the president's arrival.

I went into the bedroom and told my wife, "They've killed bin Laden." My voice cracked as I said it.

We watched Obama in silence.

There was video of celebration in New York and in Washington, DC. "USA! USA!" chanted the crowds. It felt a little odd - like cheering a football victory instead of the death of a mass murderer. But I'm not going to judge anyone's reaction -- least of all people living in the epicenter of those horrific attacks almost 10 years ago.

My own response was less of joy, and more of satisfaction that at least a small measure of justice had been meted out. The death of this one evil monster can never outweigh the terrible loss inflicted on thousands of innocents, but it's better than nothing. I agree with Scott Simon's tweet, "I can't quite explain why I'm glad it was boots on the ground and not a drone that caught up with bin Laden, but I am-"

God bless the Navy Seals, who reportedly did the deed.

Will this end threats of terrorism here and abroad? Probably not. Joan Walsh at Salon asks, "Is this what closure feels like?" We will still have full-body scanners at airports tomorrow. And I'm waiting for the first wing-nut to spout off that bin Laden isn't really dead. Trust me, it will happen.

Still, I happened to put a random CD in the changer when I got in my car this morning and the first track was Cream playing "I'm So Glad."

It felt strangely appropriate.