Angels from Another Pin
(Eschatological aspirations)


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31 August 2002 ::   A handful of soldiers is always better than a mouthful of arguments  
I must be showing my age, because the caption to this US Navy photo sounds almost like science fiction to me:
Vladivostok, Russian Federation (Aug. 10, 2002) -- Midshipmen attached to the USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) depart the command ship for a day of liberty during a three-day port visit in Vladivostok. The USS Blue Ridge and the Commander of the Seventh Fleet (COMSEVENTHFLT) are deployed in support of Exercise Ulchi Focus Lens 2002.

30 August 2002 ::   I know this because I took an online test written by lunatics  
Nanotech lenses: "A transmission medium with a negative index of refractions would enable a flat planar lens to focus light to precisions that are smaller than the wavelength of the light itself. With tunable versions of such photonic materials now being rushed into prototypes by labs worldwide, it is conceivable that not only could a "perfect" lens be created but that known electron effects could be translated into photonic operations to create sensors that could detect a single molecule."

Am I the only one who foresees spy-gadget possibilities in the creation of a flat lens?


When I saw The Matrix, I thought it was the first live-action anime. Now, the circle is complete; view The Animatrix.


The world becomes a Neal Stephenson novel, part 581: More on the ex-Larouchie neoconservative who suggested attaching Saudi Arabia at a Pentagon briefing.


Name your baby Turok, get $10,000.


Mike Ryan
"In preparing today's profoundly respectful column, I acted with the due-est of care by calling the senior minister in Singapore, an island I cannot visit because I like to chew gum and don't want to risk a caning for it."

29 August 2002 ::   Let's be honest, if you're 19 and you stay up all night, it's like a victory - like you've beat the night - but if you're over 30, then that sun is like God's flashlight  
I don't know whether I should be more scared that I am the number two hit for the Google search stalin trotsky "fan fiction", or that someone actually was performing that search in the first place...

(Although it is perhaps understandable that I'm the number two site for the phrase unmistakable cone of ignorance.)


More mad science: Planetary airbags.


Time marches on, and A Miracle of Science marches on, too!


The soldier of the twenty-first century looks more and more like a comic book hero.


Modern Humorist provides the upcoming fall schedules for NBC/FOX/UPN (Think Josie and The Pussycats, but with five oíclock shadow and reeking of Glenlivet) and CBS/ABC/WB (Tom Sizemore, not known for his roles in "Heat" or "Saving Private Ryan," prepares to be not known for his role as Detective Sam Cole) - and no TV schedule would be complete without a cable grid (Trading Spaces: Special Victims Unit)


Once again we return to Matazone, which now offers the opportunity arm wrestle Sigmund Freud! I also recommend the two Mister Snaffleburger animations (one, two) and Little Goth Girl and the Bunnies.

28 August 2002 ::   I'm hoping that, unlike yours, his talent has non-homicidal applications  
Researchers believe they have found signs that a 20 kilometer wide asteroid hit the Earth 3.4 million years ago. It is possible the asteroid was among a shower of such impacts, some as large as 50 kilometers across. (Most modern asteroid impacts are rather smaller.)


Baaaa!


My parents are buying a new house.

27 August 2002 ::   The little problems in life drive me crazy, like: what do you send to a sick florist?  
Where quality and service are often mentioned


Tom McMullan
The Internet connection here at Chez AfAP has been bouncing up and down like a three-year-old on meth. The problem is the line outside the house, so I can do nothing to fix it. (There is an audible crackle on the phone line dedicated to the DSL connection. Verizon must die.) If you are reading this page, then you are either (a) reading it later than 8/27/02, or (b) darned lucky. I shall be calling Verizon to have them re-run the line to my house - again. I already had them do this once, several months ago. You'd think a phone line would last more than a year.

26 August 2002 ::   The smart thing to do was to shoot first and listen to speeches from people defying the laws of physics later  
The next page of A Miracle of Science is up. VRNNN...


Trust the English to give someone with a sense of humor the task of building a mock nuclear bomb.
I am a novice in this matter. Not only is my knowledge of the necessary physics sketchy at best, but my resources are extremely limited. The Guardian has told me not to go crazy with the expenses. I don't even have a garage or a basement. Nor do I have good contacts with the keepers of already established nuclear arsenals. My position is presumably akin to that of a fledgling, eager-to-impress al Qaeda operative. True, I do not possess a fanatical resolve, but my determination to make this article a dramatic revelation is fanaticism of a sort.

23 August 2002 ::   And that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped  
More about my least favorite painter: For the first minute my eyes skittered across the surface of the painting, found no purchase and made an attempt to escape to an interesting-looking electric-plug socket near the floor. Minute two I spent wondering why the lights are on in every one of the 26 visible windows. Kinkade, a great allegorist and devout Christian, would doubtless say that this symbolises Godís welcoming love. Given that all nine of the rooftop chimneys are smoking, I suspected arson.


To be read by unauthorized people only.

22 August 2002 ::   A brief, violent struggle ensues between President and yo-yo  
I got a crick in my neck from watching the miracles go by overhead
I got a refrigerator full of experiments came out okay
I got a stack of things to do, twice as high as a thousand years ago
The future isn't waiting up. And now, neither am I. Look at that!

New A Miracle of Science. (The quote above is from a poem by Andrew Plotkin written on the first day of the new millennium.)


Life imitates art: Japanese scientists are planning to clone a mammoth as a projected park attraction.


Jessica Gothie
Swords into plowshares, third millennium version: The former Soviet republic of Georgia has produced fertilizer from liquid missile fuel with the help of several European nations.


Enjoy this list of factoids for the Voyager probes written in the late 1980s. It is, remarkably, not terribly out of date. The Voyager mission profile hasn't changed much in the last decade.

21 August 2002 ::   Some mornings it just doesn't seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps  
As Amanda notes, subcontracting to refuel planes for the Air Force is one of several ways to gain a fighter escort for your 707.


Mike Ryan
Pluto has moved near the plane of the Milky Way, so it is occulting stars more frequently than it has in the recent past. Occultations allow scientists to observe the atmosphere of Pluto, and they have discovered that Pluto appears to be undergoing some kind of global warming.


Jessica Gothie
Finally, the lab report we all wanted to write when we were in college: Electron Band Structure In Germanium. Banking on my hopes that whoever grades this will just look at the pictures, I drew an exponential through my noise. I believe the apparent legitimacy is enhanced by the fact that I used a complicated computer program to make the fit. I understand this is the same process by which the top quark was discovered.

Mike Ryan
20 August 2002 ::   Thanks for the wings and the harp, but what I'd really like is a Tylenol and a glass of water  
Easily Annoyed By Stupid Neologisms Alert: The next author I see who uses the term nerdcore will be dropped from my bookmarks. That is all.


Paul Graham's plan for a probability-estimating spam filter includes active scanning of a user's emails followed by estimation of the probability that any incoming email is spam based on the user's previously-received emails. Graham further hones his idea and postulates running Markov chains in reverse to kill spam at the level of word-couples or phrases. This is a brilliant, self-contained idea which does not require the cooperation inherent in other spam filters.


True old-school gaming: the online Rubik's Cube


Today Matt Smith reminded me of the existence of Emo Philips, whose humor is ever so slightly surreal.

19 August 2002 ::   Have been waiting for Middle-Earthlink guy to come and install DSL in Barad-Dur since Second Age  
The next page of A Miracle of Science is up.


Control a robot in Australia from the comfort of your own chair on another continent.


Black-hat hackers have been increasingly attacking systems belonging to white-hat hackers. Have I mentioned lately that hackers should be fed into wood chippers?

16 August 2002 ::   It's the country-fried truck endorsed by a clown!  
The short film Man Conquers Space, which is being shot and edited in fits and starts according to its maker, is a look at an alternate world where Wernher von Braun's and Willy Ley's visions of the American space program became a reality. The teaser clip is quite well done.


Earlier this year Best Buy had to take all their mobile cash registers off line because they weren't sufficiently secure. This is a topic I can speak to, since I wrote EB's cash register system. Simply put, security is all-important. There is strong security for as physically secure a link as the two-foot-long shielded cable from the credit card reader to the cash register's serial port. Best Buy's quality assurance team suffered a complete breakdown if the security flaws in as inherently insecure a link as an RF LAN weren't found during their acceptance and testing processes.


An American team of scientists built a new kind of weapon - the BLU-188/B thermobaric bomb - in only two months.

15 August 2002 ::   I swear to God, I will not be completely happy until there is an Earth-altering cataclysm, or I get super powers --Glenn Juskiewicz  
See the Moon in spring:
A Miracle of Science
is placed before you.


Racetrack Playa is a transient lake in Death Valley whose rocks move over time, leaving behind trails in the cracked earth, although no rock has ever been seen to move. A USGS study of the Playa suggests that the rocks are moved by the wind during times when rains have caused the floor of the valley to turn to slick mud.


I recommend episode five of We Come In Peace as absurdist humor.


Why Delaware is bad.

14 August 2002 ::   No, this time they gotta send sentient anthropomophic hazardous voltage coursing through my body  
It's possible I'm a skeptic because I could have low levels of dopamine. Reading between the lines, I would also be more likely to develop Parkinson's Disease were this true. Hmm.


One from the There's Still Hope For Humanity After All file: The goofy Afghan gameshow Zehni Azmoyena (Test Your Brain) is back on the air in Afghanistan, and is has regained an immense popularity it enjoyed before the Taliban. It sounds like a blast to watch.


Scientists studying the effects of contails on the climate report, using data gathered while U.S. airlines were grounded, that the absence of contrails caused the temperature to rise. This is, they note, a local and not a global effect. The locality just happens to be half of North America.

13 August 2002 ::   Eric II, King of Denmark, died in 1104. He was known as Eric the Memorable. No one remembers why.  
The social cost of tiny changes: Lowering the required efficiency of air conditioners from 13 to 12 will cause us to build 50 new power plants by 2020, and will kill many elderly people who will not survive future heat waves.


An interview with Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay:
After we got the airplanes in formation I crawled into the tunnel and went back to tell the men, I said, "You know what we're doing today?" They said, "Well, yeah, we're going on a bombing mission." I said, "Yeah, we're going on a bombing mission, but it's a little bit special." My tailgunner, Bob Caron, was pretty alert. He said, "Colonel, we wouldn't be playing with atoms today, would we?" I said, "Bob, you've got it just exactly right."


Quantum Gravity Treatment of the Angel Density Problem

12 August 2002 ::   We are the mediocre presidents. You won't find our faces on dollars or on cents!  
A Miracle of Science has been updated. Morality and motorcycles.


"The really unusual day would be one where nothing unusual happens." Or, as Terry Pratchett would say, one-in-a-million events happen all the time.


Worm tracks fossilized in Australian sandstone may be the oldest record of multicellular animal life known. If they are genuine fossil tracks, then multicellular life existed between 1.2 and 2 billion years ago.

11 August 2002 ::   Robots obey what the children say  
"Wait, you plush fools!" cried Professor Blue Smush Dinobaby. "'In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.' Do not disturb Him, or you will doom us all!"


For Glenn: All the Orisinal Flash games, gathered into one place. They're not Spaced Penguin, but they're very cool nonetheless. Orisinal's game Pocketful of Stars has already been featured here on Angels.

10 August 2002 ::   That's capitalist yogurt  
Memo to: Republican candidates for the House
From: The Republican National Committee
Re: How to weasel your way into office
In our 280 page document on discussing the issues with the press, we tell you to fib and to ignore questions which would expose the issues on which the Republican party's platform varies widely from the actual wishes of the American people.

9 August 2002 ::   It was too optimistic to think blowing those guys up would kill them  
The United States Defense Intelligence Agency (spooks nonpareil) maintain a large collection of military art. They provide three small galleries (one, two, three) which range from a picture of a hypothetical Soviet Martian lander to a flotilla of Soviet warships in a Vietnamese port. However, the DIA seems mostly to be obsessed with lasers.


Microsoft Visual Bug, part 2.


No need to worry. Crows are just capable of understanding and making simple tools. No reason to fear....

FLEE! Flee our crow overlords! Aiieee!


An English lady made a few hundred dollars when her debit card was stolen and used to place bets at the races - and the horses won.

Tom McMullan
8 August 2002 ::   You know, I would brain you, if you had a brain  
If you live in Pennsylvania, you can sign up for the Do Not Call list online. Telemarketers are required to remove you from their calling lists within 30 days of being notified your number is on the list. You can also call 1-888-777-3406 to be put on the list, but the service is so popular that the phone number has been busy for hours.

The site offers the ability for persons from other states to sign up for this service (there is a drop-down box for your state on the sign-up form), but there is no information on whether logic checking is done on the applications - and not all states have enacted a form of the "Do Not Call" law.

I decided to take the plunge and sign up because I have in the last week received about a dozen calls from telemarketers who mistakenly think my phone number connects them to the HQ of a non-profit for which I am a member of the Board of Directors. The final straw was the telemarketer who hung up on me today before I could even ask the name of her company. If my phone had a "melt the phone on the other end of the line" function, I would have been jabbing the activate button.


Tuesday night Mike and I each saw a streak of light over the town of Roslyn. Was it an alien invasion? No, just the Perseids.


New A Miracle of Science. Vrooommmm.


A clear bead and a small laser shine light onto time's arrow and the occasional lurch of small systems from disorder into order.


In philosopher Simon Blackburn's takedown of John Polkinghorne's theological apologias, Blackburn tries to be mild and polite but ultimately his contempt for Polkinghorne's wishful thinking and lack of logic shows through. It's nice to see us unbelievers firing back at the believers once in a while.


"Orwell's...novel 1984, written in 1948, contained the foremost prophecy of the cold war: that technological advancement would render Stalinism unstoppable, with individual liberty the inevitable casualty. However, when the technologies that would enable this totalitarian global village reached fruition, the victim was not democracy, but totalitarianism itself. What went right?"

7 August 2002 ::   There are many mysteries, many unanswerable questions, even in a life as short as yours  
Three years ago today, my wife married me. To this day, I have no idea what she sees in me.

After three years my warranty has expired, so she can't return me if I break.


Now I'm kinda sorry I made fun of Vin Diesel in Mystery Anime Theater.


The New York Times describes pop-star wannabe Amanda Latona thusly:
She has wanted to be in this world from the age of 10, when she sang "Over the Rainbow" at a karaoke club. "I had vibrato and everything," she says. Latona, who was born in 1979, is a TV baby; she grew up not listening to music but watching it. Her mind is geared to the marriage of sound and pictures. As a child in Pittsburgh, she studied the moves of the dancing kids on "The New Mickey Mouse Club" and imitated the Mariah Carey songs she saw on MTV. She has always been focused on being the girl in the video and has never really thought about writing a song. Latona had talent, she was pretty and she was driven, not necessarily in that order.
The article is too polite to mention that she seems to be a complete featherhead who considers "Yay" a cogent contribution to a conversation with a New York Times reporter, and that she is being used by people who will discard her the second her looks or her fame desert her. Watch for Ms. Latona's inevitable spiral into drugs and death on a VH1 Behind the Music in 2007 or so.

Yes, I am a cynic.

6 August 2002 ::   "Some see the toilet as being half full. Others see it as being half empty. We see it as a source for original programming." The Sci-Fi Channel  
My referrer logs inform me that I am second on the list in a Google Canada search for the phrase "unmistakable cone of ignorance." I wonder if Google is trying to tell me something...


When Andy says he has a small labor force building his computer, he isn't kidding...


Glenn Juskiewicz
Tom Clancy has other people write some of his novels. Lawrence Saunders and V.C. Andrews novels are being penned by others long after the authors' deaths. I want to know how to get into the lucrative business of ghost-writing for famous authors. Mike, ask your friend who has the Andrews editing job, 'kay?


Woo, scramjet!

5 August 2002 ::   A pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity  
A Miracle of Science has been updated. Reading it will protect you from the terrible secret of space.


Souvik Das and his colleagues state they have discovered a heat rachet which allows heat to flow between two systems at identical temperatures. Under normal circumstances, heat should only flow from warmer locations to colder locations. Das thinks this heat rachet can be used to allow unusual chemical reactions. Keen.


This is how I feel about Microsoft Visual Studio right about now.

3 August 2002 ::   He isnít backwards! Heís a scientist!  
Okay, I have to ask. Which one of you folks got here by searching for my name on Google from a computer at the Social Security Administration?

2 August 2002 ::   It wasn't until this morning that I put two and two together and carried the eight --Mike Ryan  
The sculpture Stretto, by George Hart, is quite pretty. The artist's Web site describes it thusly:
This piece is Stretto, which refers to a technique in a fugue where the musical theme overlaps itself particularly intensely. Here, 204 CDs overlap each other rather intensely. The visual effect is quite unusual, in part because of the shifting diffraction effects on the surfaces, but also because the reflections make it appear that the CDROMs are translucent. Adjacent CDs meet at right angles, so the parts of one CD blocked by its neighbor are exactly replaced by a reflection of its closer half.


The simple little game of Falldown is a clever bit of mindless fun.


The Cali cocaine cartel had, among other things, an AS/400 computer used to ferret out moles in its organization. Newer cartels have money-laundering Web sites, secure international radio networks, and submarines.

1 August 2002 ::   It is against US Department of Agriculture regulations to advertise or sell as "Prime Rib" any cut of meat containing a non-prime number of ribs  
Dogs can count at least as high as three. Can rabbits count to five?


The next page of A Miracle of Science is up. Mars goes shopping for a motorcycle using the power of omnipresence.


Peter David, comic book writer extraordinaire, comments on why writers hate it when artists change their words, and why writers get no respect. I've said exactly the same things in the past, so I feel vindicated in the correctness of my opinions.

If you're not reading Peter David's Web site, it may behoove you to begin doing so. I've been reading it for a while now, and he's always entertaining.


The alternative band Weezer has a new video starring the Muppets called "Keep Fishin'."


Ivy Kilgannon
You've got to be pretty darned stupid to steal things as rare and identifiable as Moon rocks and a fragment of ALH 84001, the Martian meteorite that some scientists think may contain fossilized life. A much more detailed article (which was written by space enthusiasts rather than by reporters, and which therefore is better written and gives more information and less blathering) is available from CollectSpace.


Oil prospectors find a crater in the North Sea that may be related to the Chicxulub impact that ended the Cretaceous. Maybe. Presuming it's not a salt-created artifact.





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