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January 1st, 2005


"#3 Pencils and quadrille pads."
Seymoure Cray (1925-1996) when asked what CAD tools he used to design the Cray I supercomputer. (He also recommended using the back side of the pages so that the lines were not so dominant.)

Hi folks,

Welcome to 2005. Peace, Good wishes and Miracles to everyone this year, especially those affected directly by the Asian tsunami tragedy. Australian readers may not be aware but directly after the terrible hit, there was another major quake of 8.1 on the Richter scale a lot closer to home, between Tasmania and the Antarctica which, fortunately, caused no damage or injuries. (article)

Here is a letter from a Sri Lankan friend of mine, that I would like to pass on, from an acquaintance of his in Columbo:

Dear friends:
Thanks for all your letters. It's unfathomable, that the places devastated are all such familiar places. We keep thinking suddenly of people we knew who lived by the sea, and cannot get hold of yet. It hit harder this morn on waking at dawn, cant sleep after 1st consciousness again of what had happened. But know we can only hold on to sense of feeling blessed for living and making most of it, getting together and trying to help, as the shock beginning to wear off & slowly realizing unbelievable reality of it... really like paradise turned to hell (as if those especially in N&E not been thru enuf)...meanwhile the weather is its usual wonderful self...as if nothing too extraordinary had happened at all...only the silence of the streets to remind us of the volume of suffering. I think we will try to not only work w Kris' media college (he's going there in few hrs to meet his class) & students gathering stuff for worst-hit east, Batticaloa region the students visited recently; but also w our builder friend who helped us build this house & is from Panadura just south of Colombo which also got bad hit on beach, maybe collect money to build people proper houses - more inland or also heard that houses of concrete survived on coast near here but not all the wooden makeshift ones... We r also asking friends in TO to find out abt independent relief efforts there since we have many good friends there w family from N & E badly hit areas. We will let all of u know details as soon as we get any. but yes, to reassure everyone, we r over a mile, blocks and blocks of built-up city, from the sea, can not even come close to seeing it from our 3rd floor rooftop... just hard to think we had been that close to visiting friend on that wkend east of Galle, still trying to get hold of them too... meanwhile we are hoping that the drums of war will now recede for ever and people will get together and build this place into the absolutely amazing place it always shows it can be. love M (thanks to stefan abeysekera)

By Russell D. Hoffman

Bodies wash ashore in a dozen countries. A train, loaded with a thousand passengers and their luggage, is swept away, engine, tracks, and all. Cars, trucks, buses, and boats are pushed more than a mile inland by the rushing water. Some of the waves were reported to be 40 feet high. The ocean in San Diego, 1/2 a world away, rose 10 inches. It IS a small world, after all. The "sea wall" at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station ("SONGS") in Southern California is 35 feet tall, and about 35 years old. It could not have withstood Sunday's worst. San Onofre's twin reactors were theoretically designed to withstand an earthquake up to 7.0, which is 100 times smaller than a 9.0 earthquake. (article)

OSLO (Reuters) - Santa may have to move his workshop from the North Pole because global warming is thawing the ice beneath his elves' and reindeers' feet. "Santa's workshop is in dire straits. The platform for the workshop is melting," Stefan Norris, of the WWF environmental group's Arctic Program, said Wednesday.(article)

Book Recommendation : STATE OF FEAR Michael Crichton

"This isn't right, this isn't even wrong."
- Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), upon reading a young physicist's paper.

You may not always agree with Michael Crichton's ideas but he is always worth reading. The author of Jurassic Park, ER, and Andromeda Strain, he combines sci-fi and medical detail and research into a brew of exciting speculative fiction. I loved the book of Jurassic Park (much better detail than the movie) and Andromeda Strain, but hated Disclosure and Timeline. However, even at his worst, he still makes you think. For instance, in this current novel, which I just finished two days before the tsunami hit Asia, the thriller spine of his book is that eco-terrorists use new scientific methodology to control weather and create a killer tsunami designed to destroy the West Coast of the US! Too close for comfort? Not only that - the overall premise of the book is that events such as global warming, extinction of species, and excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are unprovable scenarios whose main function is to create a climate of fear in the world. 'Politicized Science' as he refers to it. (eg. decomposing insects create more methane gas than humans!) Before you dismiss his arguments, though, read this following excerpt:

"So, Kenner said, " global warming represents a threat to the world?"
"Absolutely," Bradley said, "A threat to the whole world."
"What sort of threat are we talking about?"
"Crop failures, spreading deserts, new diseases, species extinction, all the glaciers melting, sea-level rise, extreme weather, tornadoes, hurricanes, El Nino events -"
"That sounds extremely serious," Kenner said.
"It is," Bradley said, "It really is."
"Are you sure of your facts?"
"Of course."
"You can back up your claims with references to the scientific literature?"
"Well, I can't personally, but scientists can. "
"Actually, scientific studies do not support your claims. For example, crop failure - if anything, increased carbon dioxide stimulates plant growth. There is some evidence that this is happening. And the most recent satellite studies show the Sahara has shrunk since 1980. . . species extinction hasn't been demonstrated either. In the 1970s, Norman Myers predicted a million species would be extinct by the year 2000. Paul Erlich predicted that fifty percent of all species would be extinct by the year 2000. But those were just opinions. Do you know what we call opinion in the absence of evidence? We call it prejudice. Do you know how many species there are on the planet?"
"Neither does anybody else. Estimates range from three million to one hundred million. Quite a range, wouldn't you say? Nobody really has any idea."
"Your point being?"
"It's hard to know how many species are becoming extinct if you don't know how many there are in the first place. . . do you know what the current rate of species extinction is?"
"That's because there's no known rate. Do you know how they measure numbers of species and species extinctions? Some poor bastard marks off a hectare or an acre of land and then tries to count all the bugs and animals and plants inside it. Then he comes back in ten years and counts again. But maybe the bugs have moved to an adjacent acre in the meantime. Anyway, can you imagine trying to count all the bugs in an acre of land?" (Note: The book, although a fictional thriller, is extensively footnoted and has a 23 page research biography! (from STATE OF FEAR, by Michael Crichton, Harpers Collins.)


Many many years ago, before I knew how to even turn a computer on, I remember cutting out an article about an experiment involving alpha and beta brain rhythms. A person had successfully manipulated the cursor on a computer screen without his hands simply by changing his brain rhythm from the slower alpha wave to the faster beta wave and back again! He had been able to move objects in a computer game in this way - practically telepathically. I remember thinking that this was so logical and easy to understand (a lot harder to learn) that one day this would probably be common practice. Well, still hasn't happened but a recent article shows that the experiments are still going on. One day, we just be able to think it in . . . .

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four people were able to control a computer using their thoughts and an electrode-studded "thinking cap," U.S. researchers reported on Monday. They said their set-up could someday be adapted to help disabled people operate a motorized wheelchair or artificial limb. While experiments have allowed a monkey to control a computer with its thoughts, electrodes were implanted into the animal's brain. This experiment, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, required no surgery and no implants. "The results show that people can learn to use scalp-recorded electroencephalogram rhythms to control rapid and accurate movement of a cursor in two dimensions," Jonathan Wolpaw and Dennis McFarland of the New York State Department of Health and State University of New York in Albany wrote. (article)

The Humour of Roy D. Mercer

If you want a good cry, go to this site and click on "Audio (Roy D. Mercer [Radio DJ yankin' people's chains])" and then select from the list of sound clips. site or choose from these favourite selections: 1. Graveyard_mercer.wav (download) 2. Dead_Hamster_mercer.wav (download) 3. Bad_Apples_mercer.wav (download) (thanks to John Jacobs) and this jewel which I stumbled on accidentally: THE STUPID PAGE


BELMONT, N.C. (AP) - Wade Jones is a fan of Elvis Presley, but says he's not a fanatic. That's why - after a grilled cheese sandwich said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary sold on eBay for $28,000 - he decided to sell three tablespoons of water from a cup that Jones said was used by Presley during a 1977 concert.(article)

MINI-KISS Midget Kiss tribute band! (WEBSITE) (thanks to Joe Creighton)

Rock n' Roll Gasps Its Last (Pop Music and Advertising)
By Mark Morford

Maybe rock n' roll finally died, really and truly and once and for all, roughly a decade ago, when Microsoft shelled out a whopping and still quite ludicrous $10 million to Jagger & Co. for the use of the Stones' classic "Start Me Up" for the massive overblown launch of the utterly awful and terrifically bug-addled Windows 95. .. . . .Bowie's "Heroes" is used to sell flowers for FTD. Hendrix's drug-addled "Purple Haze" moves cases of Pepsi. (article)

Which US Political Party did your Favourite Corporation Support?

If you want to examine the political contributions of the major US companies and see which ones were major Bush supporters, this is the archived site for you. (SITE)


TESTICULATING. Waving your arms around and talking Bollocks.
BLAMESTORMING. Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was
missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.
SEAGULL MANAGER. A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on
everything, and then leaves.
ASSMOSIS. The process by which people seem to absorb success and
advancement by sucking up to the boss rather than working hard.
SALMON DAY. The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream
only to get screwed and die.
CUBE FARM. An office filled with cubicles.
PRAIRIE DOGGING. When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube
farm, and peoples heads pop up over the walls to see what's going on.
(This also applies to applause from a promotion because there may be cake.)
MOUSE POTATO. The on-line, wired generation's answer to the couch potato.
SITCOMs. Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. What yuppies
turn into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home
with the kids or start a "home business".
STRESS PUPPY. A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.
XEROX SUBSIDY. Euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one's workplace.
PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE. The fine art of whacking the crap out of an
electronic device to get it to work again.
ADMINISPHERE. The rarefied organisational layers beginning just above
the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the "adminisphere" are often
profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were
designed to solve. This is often affiliated with the dreaded "administrivia"
needless paperwork and processes. 404. Someone who's clueless. From the World
Wide Web error message "404 Not Found," meaning that the requested document
could not be located.
OHNOSECOND. That minuscule fraction of time in which you realise that
you've just made a BIG mistake (e.g. you've hit 'reply all')
WOOFies. Well Off Older Folk.
CROP DUSTING. Surreptitiously farting while passing through a CUBE FARM,
then enjoying the sounds of dismay and disgust; leads to PRAIRIE DOGGING. (thanks to dai woosman)

COFFEE (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
FLABBERGASTED (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
ABDICATE (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
ESPLANADE (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
WILLY-NILLY (adj.), impotent.
NEGLIGENT (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
LYMPH (v.), to walk with a lisp.
GARGOYLE (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
FLATULENCE (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
BALDERDASH (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
TESTICLE (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
RECTITUDE (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.  
POKEMON (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
OYSTER (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with  Yiddishisms.
FRISBEETARIANISM (n.), The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
CIRCUMVENT (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men. (thanks to Stephen Ross)

 Three Male Mice
Three male mice are sitting at a bar, arguing about how tough they are. The first mouse says "I am so tough I break into the cupboard just to eat the rat poison" He slams down his drink and looks at the second mouse. The second mouse replies "that's nothing, I'm so tough I run through a mouse trap, grab the cheese, flop into my back and bench press the killer spring trap wire." He slams down his drink and looks at the third mouse. The third mouse slowly finishes his drink, slides off his stool and begins walking away from the bar. The other mice scream, "Oi ! ya wimp, where do you think you are going?" "Home, to shag the cat."
(thanks to Jim Testa)


This is a variation of the classic Greek way of using lemon and eggs to make a thickening sauce. I fell in love with 'avgolemono' about 30 years ago when I had it as a soup. You can also replace the chicken with any kind of meat, and the potatoes with artichoke hearts, pumpkin, turnips, sweet potatoes or anything that strikes your imagination. Very simple to make and it will become a standard part of your repertoire.

1/2 cup olive oil
1 kg chicken, cut into medium pieces
2 cups finely chopped onions
8 small potatoes, peeled and cut in half
2 eggs
juice of 1 lemon
bunch of dill, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a pan and brown the chicken, add the onions and cook until they soften. Add salt and pepper to taste and 2 cups water. Cover the pan, lower the heat, and braise until the chicken is tender. In a separate pan, boil the potatoes until they are about 3/4 cooked. Place the potatoes in the pan with the chicken, cover and cook over low heat, until potatoes are ready, about 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool a little. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat until a little frothy. Add the lemon juice, beating all the while, then add about a cup of the cooking liquid, beating continuously. Add the egg-lemon mixture to the braised chicken, stir, sprinkle the dill on top and serve.

Because the eye has a short shadow or
it is hard to see over heads in the crowd?
If everyone else seems smarter
but you need your own secret?
If mystery was never your friend?
If one way could satisfy
the infinite heart of the heavens?
If you liked the king on his golden throne
more than the villagers carrying baskets of lemons?
If you wanted to be sure
his guards would admit you to the party?
The boy with the broken pencil
scrapes his little knife against the lead
turning and turning it as a point
emerges from the wood again
If he would believe his life is like that
he would not follow his father into war.
 ~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~