Angels from Another Pin
(Eschatological aspirations)

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28 June 2002 ::   I am not the atheist chaplain  
In comments on the First Amendment ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, President Bush stated: "I believe that it points up the fact that we need common-sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God. And those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench." Jay Manifold, a weblogger, puts this statment side-by-side with Article VI of the Constitution of the United States, a document and compact which Bush swore to uphold and defend, as set out in Article II of that same document.

I am rapidly putting the lie to that "I am not the athiest chaplain" header, aren't I?'s a free play-by-mail Singularity game!

Speaking of the Singularity, how long will it be until we have cheap, human-level computers?

Screwed up? Need to apologize to an evil overlord, a powerful shogun, or your wife? You need an automated groveller.

Mike Ryan
An advertisement in the Philadelphia City Paper for a restaurant in Old City called Saint Jack's has Thais in an uproar. The ad depicts Bhumibol Adulyadej, the king of Thailand, as a hipster sporting mod threads and an Adidas logo. Thai diplomats have called the restaurant repeatedly, and have dispatched letters to the governor of Pennsylvania and the mayor of Philadelphia threatening this will damage diplomatic ties.

One of the most evocative turns of phrase I have read in a while: "Being in Iraq is like creeping around inside someone else's migraine."

27 June 2002 ::   If I was a car, I'd exchange myself for a newer model --Glenn Juskiewicz  
I'm sure my American readers (which would, from my referrer logs, be almost all five of you) will have heard that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has declared the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance constitutes a violation of the separation of church and state.

I don't usually get political in this space, because I doubt many people care about my politics. You most likely come here for links to science sites or goofy sites or goofy science sites. However, I have read a lot of idiocy by (mostly conservative) pundits regarding this, and I feel it is necessary to dissent.

Some state that this First Amendment question is a picayune distraction from the War on Terror. This shows an astounding lack of understanding of how real politics and law work. Are we supposed to stop all non-war related activities for the duration? Should we stop the proceedings against Arthur Anderson? Should we give up on prosecuting car thieves? Should Congressional discussions on tort reform stop because of the unnamed war? The statement that defending the First Amendment is somehow less important than the War on Terror is either naive or motivated by the political interests of the religious right.

"It won't poison the minds of our children to hear the name of God," the pundits write, "and anyway the mere mention of a non-Christian God is not religion as meant by the First Amendment." I wonder if we could change the Pledge to read "one nation under Allah" or "one nation under an unnamed demiurge" and get these same reactions. I also wonder if these pundits have ever heard of the people who consider any mention of deity at all to be a poison poured in the ears of children - the large and growing group called atheists. (Caveat: I am not an atheist. I am an agnostic. As if you care.) God is religion, and in America religion and the state are separated. If one has a problem with this, there are many states such as Saudi Arabia or England which have an established state religion to which one can look for guidance and possibly a passport.

I wouldn't be so worked up about this if the pundits weren't so damned smug.

Is your dealer refusing to honor the warranty on your scooter? Use the postmodern power of eBay to broadcast your annoyance: Auction off all your Honda cars, and append your amusingly misspelled letter of complaint to the auction.

There is a new page of A Miracle of Science up today. In this update, Mark forgets that he no longer has a thousand flyover miles insulating him from me...

Vernor Vinge has retired from San Diego State University. Three of his most interesting essays are hosted on SDSU servers, although no one knows how long it will be before some penny-pinching bureaucrat or careless student sysop wipes out the files.

So I've decided to mirror the essays here on The header documentation for the essays states that they can be reproduced for noncommercial purposes - and I can't think of any purpose more noncommercial than "information should never be lost."

So go and bask in the brilliance of Professor Vinge at the new Vernor Vinge mirror site. If you've never read his essay on the technological Singularity, you owe it to yourself to read it at least once.

View this fine, if small, treasury of Calvin and Hobbes quotes.
I don't need to compromise my principles, because they don't have the slightest bearing on what happens to me anyway.

26 June 2002 ::   Would you like fries with the groin-kick you're about to receive?  
The fastest material object ever detected: the Oh My God Particle.

The first official bloodshed of the Civil War occurred when men of the Sixth Massachusetts Militia were attacked by the citizens of Baltimore while the soldiers were on their way through the city. (The riot in Baltimore occured after the attack on Fort Sumter, but no one died at Sumter.)

The South fired the first shots at Fort Sumter, but when the Union guns replied the first shot from the cannons of Fort Sumter was fired by Abner Doubleday, who it is occasionally claimed invented baseball.

25 June 2002 ::   Reinforcements aren't allowed to call for reinforcements! That's just silly!  
There was new A Miracle of Science up yesterday, but I forgot to link to it 'cause I'm an idjit.

Man, the Fightin' Red Onion Head looks like crap nowadays. The Gazebo looks the same as ever, though. (Photos by Fred Coppersmith of the Penn State Monty Python Society, an organization which once honed my utter lack of comedic talent into a five-book record deal with Sony Pictures.)

Speaking of the F.R.O.H., this Collegian article on the Fighting Red Onion Head mentions "a top ten list - composed by former students - of alternate uses for their oversized inanimate neighbor with the irreverent nickname." I'll bet I still have my copy of that list somewhere...

There are still people in England who belong to the Stalin Society. They believe that Stalinism is a glorious political ideology that will lead mankind into a bright socialist future. They are, in other words, nuts.

24 June 2002 ::   Smart, pretty, and a heretic! And you're still single?  
Where did the lions and elephants killed in the ampitheaters of Rome come from? The answer is a picture of the Roman Empire in miniature: they were captured by the Roman military in part to keep soldiers in practice and in part as a spectacular waste of resources in service of the glory of the Emperor.

Consult this handy list of Philadelphia skyscrapers to determine what you're seeing on the skyline. There are enough tall buildings in Philly that the city requires a second page. Neat. From the really cool Skyscraper Page.

The dying star W43A is spewing jets of water into the space around it. The corkscrew jets are temporary, and may explain why planetary nebulas aren't always spherical.

23 June 2002 ::   DO NOT READ THIS SENTENCE.  
The shiny new Department of Precrime--er, the Department of Homeland Security--will be shielded from the Whistleblower Protection Act and from the Freedom of Information Act. So insiders will not be able to tell the public what is going wrong inside the Ministry of Peac--sorry--inside Homeland Security, and the public will not be able to directly require the dissemination of information via the FoIA.

Update: On review, I realized that this sounds rather paranoid / conspiracy-theory / tinfoil-hat. I'm not stating that the Administration are attempting to build an American NKVD.* I am, however, disturbed by the idea that a large section of the Executive branch of government could be shielded from basic public scrutiny in such a forthright manner.

* Although I bet John Ashcroft's wet dreams all involve jackboots.

22 June 2002 ::   I dub thee Sir Phobos: Knight of Mars, Beater of Ass!  
The U.S. Congress has passed a resolution declaring Antonio Meucci the inventor of the telephone. How very odd.

In a world where there really are world-wide villains, there are people who will meet this untapped demand for business. The evil folks at Villain Supply can provide for your every unspeakable need. Find something you want, then click on "Add to Cart." (The payment options are worth it.) Don't miss the message from The Preserved Head of Josef Mengele, Webmaster.

How close did Asteroid 2002 MN come to hitting the Earth? Too damned close.

Monday was the thirtieth anniversary of the Watergate break-in, and I had this link ready...and I forgot to post it. Well, here it is, a few days late.

21 June 2002 ::   It was a nice spring day, and besides, all the other cars seemed to be on fire  
The summer solstice was today at 9:24 AM EDT.

Asteroid 2002 MN missed the Earth by only 120,000 kilometers on on June 14. Scientist discovered it after it had passed by. That's like a bridge dropping onto the road only nine and a half car-lengths behind your Nissan.

Inspired by his never-ending quest for progress, in 2084 man perfects the Robotrons: A robot species so advanced that man is inferior to his own creation. Guided by their infallible logic, the Robotrons conclude: The Human race is inefficient, and therefore must be destroyed. You are the last hope for mankind.

20 June 2002 ::   Actually, I'd rather wear the Kitty Girl Ears of Command! --Susan Monroe  
Go view the new A Miracle of Science. The HTML was hand-crafted by yours truly, aged to perfection, then uploaded using techniques unchanged since the middle ages.

Turn your sound on for this very cute little Flash animation from Japan. Found via Adventurers.

19 June 2002 ::   Hell hath no fury like a psycho hippo with a heavy machine gun!  
The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of Japan is going to engrave as many as a million names on a sheet of foil inside a target marker which will be landed on the asteroid 1998 SF36 in 2005. My registration number is 007469700011569.

There are two ways to remove creationism from the world. One is to point creationists to this Scientific American article titled "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense" in order to convince them of their erroneous thinking through logic. The other is to bash them on the head with a baulk of lumber and remove them from the gene pool, thus proving evolution in a nicely ironic fashion. Guess which method I'm in favor of.

The article. The article! Jeez.

Some clever fellow is running a weblog as Julius Caesar. Great Caesars's ghost has so far written entries up to the death of Caesar's daughter, Julia, in 54 BCE.

18 June 2002 ::   I just didn't get a chance to go outside today 'cause of the Robotech marathon on PBS  
Junk science dumbs down public debate and salts the body politic with poisonous untruths.

No-till agricultural methods, also called slot planting, are designed to cut down on erosion and can even increase crop yields in well-drained cornfields. No, I don't expect anyone on Earth except me cares...

17 June 2002 ::   I beat the Internet. The end guy is hard.  
Monorail? Bah! Teleporter!

Once more unto the breach: new A Miracle of Science.

Okay, this is clever: Get kids interested in working out during gym class by installing Dance Dance Revolution machines.

Mike Ryan
Some of you may remember the stunning original artwork and animation in a short anime music video by Griffin Waldau. It turns out he has a Web site. Complete with animations.

The worst comic strip on the Internet, User Friendly, is having financial difficulties. While I suspect Mike Ryan will disagree, I see this as a case of overwhelming self-satisfaction and pride getting its due. You can't run a comic strip with no artistic talent, little humor, and a nose-in-the-air cooler-than-thou attitude and expect to survive for long after the dot-com boom ends.

15 June 2002 ::   Either it's the rapture...or I put tinfoil in the microwave again  
A century and a half ago in Gibraltar quarrymen found a woman's skull that is both the first and the last of the Neanderthals. Modern scientists ponder the intellectual virus of language that led to her species' death.

In this badly written article from the BCC, we learn that the books you read affect your dreams. Or that the type of person you are will affect your book choice and the contents of your dreaming. The author doesn't make it clear.

Nor does he explain why reading a lot of computer books leads to odd dreams where giant space orangutans chase you through the moons of Jupiter.

What? What!?

14 June 2002 ::   You were doing well until everyone died  
Two hundred million years hence the Milky Way may become an active starburst galaxy, spewing two great jets of matter and energy into the void.

13 June 2002 ::   I thought bluegrass music was but a legend to frighten children  
CDC's on first.

The new A Miracle of Science is up. Look, look well, O wolves.

Michael Wolff (whose book Burn Rate I recommend, while warning that Wolff is incapable of seeing some of his own flaws) has written an article comparing the music industry to publishing. I find some of his arguments compelling.

On June 27, eBay will auction off Captain Kirk's command chair. You know you want it. Sadly, they won't accept bids in quatloos.

12 June 2002 ::   O frabjous day, calloo, callay. Excuse me if I sulk. --Fred Coppersmith  
True Zen: We're part of Everything

Everything old is new again: IBM is using a punch card paradigm for a new kind of memory storage device.

Mike Ryan
11 June 2002 ::   It sort of rocks you to sleep while you burn up in Earth's atmosphere  
Mister Sparkle: He identifies himself as a magnet for foodstuffs. He boasts that he will banish dirt to the land of wind and ghosts.

Glenn Juskiewicz
I can't read Korean, but I can look at the pretty pictures of the most stunning computer mod I've seen in a long while.

Glenn Juskiewicz
10 June 2002 ::   HBO is showing adult films 24 hours a day, and twice as often on Sunday because it makes the Lord cry. --Jon Kilgannon  
Speaking of South Park: Angels from Another Cartoon.

Glenn Juskiewicz offers this South Park Glenn for your bemusement.

Reminder: Go out this afternoon at look at the eclipse if you are west of the "Eclipse Begins at Sunset" line and south of the "North Limit of Eclipse" line on the NASA map.

Lo, for it is written: thou shalt go read the latest page of A Miracle of Science. If you look really carefully, you'll see a tiny homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My favorite new word of the week: sciolism. Using the word is the word!

Go now and visit the odd little comic Cat and Girl. It has World War Two cooking humor, useful definitions of nerd and geek, and the 2002 U.S. News and World Report religion rankings.


8 June 2002 ::   ...just like it was before we all turned suddenly and inexplicably dumb as rocks  
And below the bridge, the great beasts Scylla and Charybdis gnash their fangs and sharpen their claws on wave-girt rocks in the wine-dark sea...

Italy is building a bridge over the Straits of Messina that will carry twelve highway lanes and two rail lines. It will have a central span of over three kilometers. The Straits of Messina, home in legend to Scylla and Charybdis, lie between mainland Italy and Sicily.

Mike Ryan
7 June 2002 ::   No, our fear-triggered adrenal glands. Scare us and we outrun light.  
Hackers are being called upon to break the passwords of a Norwegian technician who died a few years ago. Until the passwords are discovered, the password-protected archives that contain data on a collection of thousands of documents and books will remain inaccessible.

Mike Ryan
Unless you're too far to the east (as I am here in Philadelphia), you will be able to see the setting Sun partially eclipsed on Monday evening. If you are lucky enough to live in a thin belt to the south and west of the mainland United States, you will see an annular eclipse. If you are west of the "Eclipse Begins at Sunset" line and south of the "North Limit of Eclipse" line on this NASA map, you can see the eclipse. Mark, you are hereby ordered to go out and watch this eclipse since I can't.

6 June 2002 ::   Back to what I was saying before we were rudely attacked by nothing  
This nifty South Park Flash toy allows you to make a South Park portrait of yourself.

Page seven of A Miracle of Science is up. If you can't read the shoulder patch in the last panel, it says "Chicago Cannon Authority."

In case you were wondering, here are all the endings to Samurai Shodown IV, including the ending for Sir Not Appearing In This Film, the guy who appears in the Japanese ending credits of the Samurai Shodown movie but not in the movie itself.

The IT job market is atrocious right now.

5 June 2002 ::   I'm sorry. I have offended the world with glitter & pink & fuzzy & leopard & my big ass head.  
The Baltimore Convention Center (the site of Otakon) may expand if the rapacious buffoons in city government decide that blowing a quarter of a billion dollars to expand a facility that is running at only half capacity makes sense. And even the morons in Baltimore city government can't be that stupid. I hope. (The Baltimore Sun requires readers to log in. Log in as user afap, password afap01.)

Dr. Michael Rappenglueck suggests that the human faces carved on the floor of a cave at La Marche in the Lussac-les-Chateaux area of France are the oldest lifelike portraits of humans in the world.

4 June 2002 ::   Your theory of a donut-shaped universe is intriguing  
Seth Lloyd, the clever fellow who determined the most powerful computing device one can create with a laptop-sized amount of matter has now calculated the required extent of a computer which can simulate the Universe.

(The answer to how powerful a computer a laptop-sized chunk of matter can create: 5.4258 x 1050 operations per second and 2.13 x 1031 bits. And to simulate the Universe in every detail since time began, a computer would require 1090 bits and would need to perform 10120 manipulations of those bits.)

From those fun-loving dudes at NPR comes the "Which Newsmaker Are You" quiz. I am, inexplicably, the Left-Leaning Media.

3 June 2002 ::   Don't tell me he's trying to take over the world! Can't he come up with something more original than that?  
I have just finished twelve hours of torture with a Belkin F5D5230-4 router/proxy turnkey device. It had worked flawlessly for half a year, then stopped answering DHCP queries or connecting to the outside world after it went through what was apparently the horrible stress of being turned off for half an hour.

I had to reinstall all the software on the proxied computers, reset the proxy itself to factory defaults, and then attempt to input the IP address of the proxy's external interface over and over again for five hours before it would begin to function properly.

My verdict: Don't buy a Belkin 4-Port Cable/DSL Gateway Router. They're awful. I wish the idiots who review these devices hadn't all been on hard drugs the day they wrote the reviews I read before I purchased the device.

We proudly present A Miracle of Science, a romantic comedy set in the glorious future year 2148.

It is drawn by Mark Sachs and written by yours truly. It will appear on Mondays and Thursdays, and is guaranteed to teach you a fool-proof method of real estate investing and cause your car's engine to run 30% cleaner.

Much of the document is blithering and buzzwords, but there is a cyberpunk grace surrounding the concept of DNA seen through the eyes of a hacker.

Even though it was written the day of the initial screening of the movie, Roger Ebert's original review of 2001 gets it right.

(The Side of the Angels)

A Miracle of Science

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