The Fountain of Youth

It seems as though a scientist had discovered the long lost formula sought by Ponce de Leon for the elixir of youth. But there was a problem: the recipe called for the eggs of a very particular species of sea bird, which was native to a very small portion of the Florida coast. And some developer had opened an African Safari theme park right on that very spot.

But this wasn't the only issue. According to some fragments of ancient documents describing the effects, it could be bungled in such a way as to cause instant death rather than everlasting youth. Those same documents stated that the only other animal besides man that was effected by the drink were cetaceans, a family of marine mammals, including dolphins, whales, etc.

But who could resist the Fountain of Youth? Our intrepid scientist got access to a local water park by posing as a marine biologist, figuring he could test the stuff on the animals there before he quaffed it himself. And he convinced the owner of the safari park that he was an ornithologist, in order to get to the nesting grounds of the birds. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

And indeed, all was going well - he gathered the eggs without a hitch. On the way back to his vehicle, he encountered a pride of lions directly in his path, dozing regally in the summer sun. He very carefully picked his way across, and finally got back to the parking lot, ready to jump in his car and hard for the aquarium. But instead, he was met by the police and arrested.

The charge? Transporting young gulls across stately lions for immortal porpoises...

21:40 /Humor | 1 comment | permanent link

The Rise and Fall of Pseudonyms

Lot's of folks have pointed out how email destroyed the art of letter writing, but this is the first time I've considered that the venerable pseudonym may have seen it's better days. Ubiquity strikes again...

Thanks partly to the Internet, pseudonymity is decidedly less dramatic these days. Fake names are more popular than ever, yet the pseudonym as it once existed is just about dead. In the 19th century, when the practice reached its height, or even in the early 20th century, authorial disguise often carried considerable psychological investment and a genuine need for secrecy. Today, privacy has become less desirable and less possible. An IP address is easy to trace. Many bloggers use an array of noms de plume, but often as a means of generating publicity or branding a “persona.” It’s self-promotion under the pretense of hiding.

(link) [New York Times]

20:17 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

Eating less salt doesn't cut heart risks: study

Wait a second: you mean I might have been onto something all along?

People who ate lots of salt were not more likely to get high blood pressure, and were less likely to die of heart disease than those with a low salt intake, in a new European study.

(link) [Reuters]

18:34 /Politics | 2 comments | permanent link

Have lying mortgage bankers met their match?

We can always hope ... but given the track record, I'm not holding my breath.

How fitting that when Wall Street finally takes a hit after years of mortgage malpractice, the stick is called the False Claims Act.

(link) [CNN Money]

18:30 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Need a Six-Pack? Hit the Basement

Brewing is a massively popular hobby among Heathens - I can think of very few of us who have not, at one time or another, tried our hand at brewing beer or making mead. I myself once jumped in ...

If I recall correctly, it was 1995. I decided to try my hand at mead making, and dredged up a high school memory of using honey and water with bread yeast to make a quasi-alcoholic brew in science class. I had fond memories of that class, and tossing all advice to the wind, proceeded to reproduce the stuff as best as I was able. I carefully made up about 5 gallons, stopping the process when the hydrometer indicated about 10% alcohol. I bottled it up and let it age for a few months, never tasting it. At Midsummer, I brought it out and presented it to the kin.

It was, in a word, wretched. The bouquet was faintly reminiscent of old sweat socks, and it had a flavor to match. I don't think anybody could finish their bottle - many "libations" were poured that evening, though I doubt a single one was dedicated to the Shining Gods and Goddesses...

It did have one good effect - it prompted the kin to begin to bring copious quantities of their own meads and ales to blot. I was the godhi at the time, and it was technically my responsibility to supply the alcohol. I think my kinsfolk were afraid I'd inflict more of my homebrew on them, so they kept the kindred well supplied indeed. "The Godhi's Own Mead" had become more of a threat than a beverage!

In 1997, when I was preparing to move to Minnesota, I discovered the remainder of my experiments in a cabinet over the stove. I certainly didn't want to drag that rotgut 600 miles, so I pulled the bottles down, opened one and began pouring it down the sink, planning on giving the empty bottles to my kinsfolk who really could brew.

But the stuff was bubbly. And it smelled wonderful! With no little trepidation, I poured some into a glass and took a taste. It was wonderful! Almost a "champagne mead"! I was flabbergasted.

Trothmoot was coming up, and I took a couple of bottles and entered them in the mead brewing competition. If I recall correctly, I finished second, with many comments on what an unusual beverage I'd concocted. And no little disbelief when I told the tale of it's making. But I was thoroughly pleased with myself, and felt redeemed. The rest of the batch made the trip to the north with me.

And got poured down the drain the following year, when I offered some up to another kindred, only to discover that my prize winning brew had reverted to musty sweat socks and stinking cheese flavored juice! I haven't brewed since...

Maybe I should give it another try, with real brewers yeast this time. But then I taste some of the products that my kinsmen produce, and resolve to stick to shepherding and coding, lest I prove my "rank" amateur status once again.

Tim Artz's brewery is enclosed by glass walls on three sides and looks out onto a bluff of apple trees and a garden filled with beans, squash and 35 varieties of pepper. On a raw April morning, the brewery doors were open but the brewery itself was warm; the gas burner below the 30-gallon brew tank was cranking at near full power.

(link) [NY Times]

22:53 /Asatru | 0 comments | permanent link

Supreme Court sides with pharmaceutical industry in two decisions


By this logic, if I start building Ford Pinto clones, whose patents have expired and so is now a "generic" product, the suckers who buy them can't sue me when they explode in a rear end collision because Ford didn't warn of that danger when they manufactured the Pinto.

The second ruling is even more incredible.

Can doctors now sell their patients medical records? If not, why not? How will this impact the Privacy Rule?

Following this reasoning, lawyers should now be able to sell all of their conversations with clients to the highest bidder. First Amendment, you know. Guess we'll have to wait to see how that proposition fares in the courts.

Justices rule that generic drug makers cannot be sued by injured patients in most cases and that drug manufacturers have a 1st Amendment right to buy private prescription records to use for marketing purposes.

(link) [LA Times]

21:23 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Odin from Lejre? No, it's Freya!

Iron Age figurine

Given the context of the high seat I'd say it's more likely Frigga than Freyja, or perhaps even a spákona, but a fascinating and beautiful find nonetheless.

So you're a metal detectorist and you find a silver figurine at storied Lejre in Denmark. It depicts a person sitting in a high seat whose posts end in two wolves' heads. And on either arm rest sits a raven. The style is typical for about AD 900. So when you hand the thing over to the site manager, he of course exclaims, "Holy shit! It's Odin!". And that's what he tells the press.
Until somebody like me comes along and points out that it's a woman.

(link) [Aardvarchaeology]

20:31 /Asatru | 3 comments | permanent link

Little things Delphi gets right

Having spent my entire working time in the last decade coding in C, C++, Objective C and Delphi (in the broadest sense - Objective Pascal), I can only say that this essay is spot on. It is vastly easier for any coder, at any skill level, to write readable and secure code in Pascal than in any dialect of C.

He makes several good point on syntax, too. How many C programmers have been bitten at one time or another by making an assignment in an if statement without the compiler saying a word? It's also true about hassle free linking - I have code where the main program is in Pascal and several routines were written in C. It was simple to accomplish this. On the other hand, trying to get a C program to link in a Pascal lib or object file can be like pulling teeth.

So for those of you who still labor under the delusion that Pascal is a dead language, washed away by the superior tides of C, read this and weep. Then fire up Delphi or Lazarus and write some clean, secure code for a change...

For those who haven’t seen it yet, due to popular demand, the StackOverflow people created a new site called, a site for the more subjective questions that StackOverflow isn’t really designed for. Someone recently set up a poll: What’s your favorite programming language. You can probably guess what my answer was.

(link) [Turbu Tech]

20:16 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Silicon Valley’s Dark Secret: It’s All About Age

I ran into this somewhat in my recent job search - but not enough to knock me completely out of the market. Then again, I'm in the Midwest, not California. And I've heard horror stories out of the Valley about the near impossibility of getting a decent gig if you're over 50.

An interesting paradox in the technology world is that there is both a shortage and a surplus of engineers in the United States. Talk to those working at any Silicon Valley company, and they will tell you how hard it is to find qualified talent. But listen to the heart-wrenching stories of unemployed engineers, and you will realize that there are tens of thousands who can’t get jobs. What gives?

(link) [Tech Crunch]

22:21 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

Black ops: how HBGary wrote backdoors for the government

Your tax dollars at work - writing rootkits! I'm sure the targets will always be "bad guys" ... with whatever working definition of "bad" happens to be currently in vogue with the government.

And slipping this stuff in via USB ports or Firewire (as mentioned in the article) is not the easiest way to get malware onto a system. The easiest way is to get the user to install it themselves, or better yet, sell them the system with the vuln built in. I wonder if anybody out there in the wide world might think of us as "bad guys"?

In 2009, HBGary had partnered with the Advanced Information Systems group of defense contractor General Dynamics to work on a project euphemistically known as "Task B." The team had a simple mission: slip a piece of stealth software onto a target laptop without the owner's knowledge.

(link) [Ars Technica]

22:07 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

A Glad Midsummer!

Well, today is Midsummer, and the Wheel of the Year has cycled once again. There's been so much going on that I hardly know where to start. So let's start with the best: I've got a new job! I'm still writing code, but I'm no longer in consumer electronics. It's all system level stuff in Linux, and so far it's all in C++. Python is promised on the horizon, and some of the older control software is written in Delphi. My new co-workers were very interested to hear about Lazarus...

This meant a healthy raise, and my timing was perfect. My old employer had decided to return the money they'd withheld over the course of the past year just before I handed in my notice, so I got what amounted to a nice bonus check on my last day. But the real bonus is my new employer: it's the best place I've ever worked, and I've worked a lot of places. I was able to hold my oath, the systems are well designed and documented, and even some of the manufacturing is still done on site. Most of my new colleagues are around my age, with about the same level of experience. "Geezer geeks" is my own term for the likes of us - techno-curmudgeons. It makes for interesting conversations, that's for sure!

On the farm front, shearing was complete by the end of May with very little trouble. Even Mild Thing lived up to her name!

Given that we had a little spending money, we engaged in what our daughters refer to as "retail therapy", and Lorraine is in her chair next to me reading on her new Nook Color. She loves it - and I must say that it lives up to it's good reviews. I helped her load up on classics from Project Gutenberg, and I think she's started on War and Peace...

We picked the Nook over it's competition for it's web capabilities - and we have not been disappointed. It's my first real exposure to an Android device, and I must say I've been impressed. The only dumb design issue is the use of a specialized USB cable, which I assume was for easier (and faster?) recharging. But that's a small thing for such a nice tablet. Yeah, I called it a tablet, because it's certainly a lot more than just an ebook reader.

I've got a big backlog of items in my "to be posted" folder - with any luck at all I'll start working my way through them (as well as new stuff that pops up) and my lengthy stays away from blogging with be a thing of the past. But blogging is a habit, and I'm going to have to work somewhat to reacquire it, so no promises!

19:49 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link

The Girl Who Cast a Viking Spell

I'm not a fan of Larsson's fiction, and I've got no interest in his personal life. But I do have an interest in this:

She talked forthrightly about the oddest passage in her book, a description of an elaborate Viking curse she delivered on New Year’s Eve 2004 against all her and Larsson’s enemies: the false friends, the cowards “who let Stieg fight your battles while you raked in the salaries of your cushy jobs,” the wearers of “suits, ties and wingtips,” the evil ones “who plotted, spied and stirred up prejudice.”

Traditionally, such curses were accompanied by the sacrifice of a live horse, but instead Ms. Gabrielsson broke a ceramic horse sculpture in two and tossed it into Lake Malaren in Stockholm. Nevertheless, it worked, she insisted.

She's describing a nidstang, also known as a "nithing pole". Potent stuff, indeed. And not something us modern heathens do frequently or without much forethought.

There's no indication Ms. Gabrielsson is a heathen. So she (or they, if Larsson was in on it) must've done this "on the wing", as it were. Which says a lot about the revival of folk traditions, or even their survival.

Eva Gabrielsson, who found herself pursued by fame and controversy as the longtime companion of Stieg Larsson, the posthumously best-selling author of the Millennium trilogy of Swedish crime thrillers, has published a book of her own.

(link) [New York Times]

19:15 /Asatru | 0 comments | permanent link

Underground Website Lets You Buy Any Drug Imaginable

Fascinating on several levels - BitCoin, Tor and the admin's political philosophy:

Silk Road’s administrator cites the anarcho-libertarian philosophy of Agorism. “The state is the primary source of violence, oppression, theft and all forms of coercion,” Silk Road wrote to us. “Stop funding the state with your tax dollars and direct your productive energies into the black market.”

Nice to know there's other agorists out there! Of course the State already sees the threat. And their toadies are playing along. This could get interesting ...

Making small talk with your pot dealer sucks. Buying cocaine can get you shot. What if you could buy and sell drugs online like books or light bulbs? Now you can: Welcome to Silk Road.

(link) [Wired]

06:23 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link