WolfesBlogArchives: August 2003

Thursday, August 28, 2003

UNTIL TUESDAY, AUGUST 26, CLAIREWOLFE.COM WAS HOSTED BY NZWEBIT. It was a cute little hosting service with lots of budget plans. It also had the charm of being about as "offshore" as it could get from a U.S. perspective. New Zealand is far off everybody's shores. So I'd recommended the service to lots of friends.

Harumph. No more. A week ago, Clairewolfe.com started careening toward disaster. Bandwidth usage zoomed at an alarming rate. And much as I'd like to believe those friends who said my poor site was a victim of its own success, in fact there were signs the disappearing bandwidth was caused by a glitch or possibly even a hack. I dunno because NZWebIT's "24/7 customer support e-mail" turned out to be "24/7 ignore the customers increasingly frantic pleas." A vast, echoing silence arose out of New Zealand when I tried to find out what was going on and extend my bandwidth allowance. Nobody was home in any department of NZWebIT for more than a week. A very, long, long week.

And so Clairewolfe.com went down ...

Well, here we are at another host which boasts "award-winning customer service." We'll see about that. If might take a few days for my domain name to propagate across the Net and point to the new nameservers. But if you've arrived here, you're in the club. Welcome.

The good news is that the new hosting plan allows 30 times more bandwidth than the old. Thanks to kind donors to this site I was able to move up to this plan. No more "bandwidth exceeded" messages, thank you.

The less good news (though it's nice news for me) is that I'm leaving Friday for the Liberty Round Table's annual conclave and I won't be back until Monday night or Tuesday morning. So now that you've found me, I'm lost again. But not for long.

In the meantime, since I've missed several days of newsing and opinionating, let me leave you with this cheery word: Celldar. When we worried that our cellphones were going to track us ... we didn't know the half of our problem. Ya don't even have to have the cellphone. Just moving within range of the towers will be enough when this new system is perfected. The story linked above is from Britain, where as usual they're a couple of steps "ahead" of the U.S. on paranoid Big Brother measures. (What are the damn Brits so terrified of, anyway?)

Have a happy Labor Day. And don't labor too hard.

Posted by Claire @ 09:55 PM CST [Link]

WHEW, THAT DEBRA IS GOOD! She got the blog back online in record time. When everything else was going wrong, she went right. Thank you, Debra!

Posted by Claire @ 09:26 PM CST [Link]

Monday, August 25, 2003

"EVERY CORPORATION WANTS TO BE A GOVERNMENT WHEN IT GROWS UP." My friend Charles Curley is always saying that. Nothing shows the truth of it better than Microsoft's response to the problem of Windows viruses and worms.

As everybody knows, and as Rob Pegoraro wrote eloquently and explicitly in the Washington Post yesterday, Windows is "Insecure by Design." But instead of redesigning its software to have fewer vulnerabilities ... or instead of delivering the Windows OS with key ports closed instead of open ... Microsoft's proposed solution is to force future Windows users to submit to automatic installation of patches.

It's just like the government: set up a flawed system, rely on patches instead of returning to solid fundamentals no matter how bad the problems become, then finally, when it's obvious that endless patches aren't solving the problem ... simply get tough and shove the patches down people's throats.

Of course, Microsoft can't send a SWAT team to your house if you refuse. Well, maybe that'll be Phase III.

But somehow, as Linux and Mac users sit here unbothered by Blaster, SoBig.F, and all the other critters designed to exploit the weaknesses of MS Outlook or Internet Explorer, it never occurs to Microsoft that the problem might be fundamental and systemic -- and up to them to fix via better code. No, little peasant. The problem is yours because you're too dumb and lazy to watch for every newly discovered vulnerability and every hastily written patch, and spend hours installing bits and snips of software whose effect on your system may be hard to predict. So we'll have to do it for you "for your own good."

Now, isn't that just a perfect government attitude, if you've ever heard one?

Okay, part of the reason Linux and Mac aren't as attack prone is because they're only a small percentage of the OS world. And about the time we get too smug, somebody'll come up with a rousingly effective Linux virus. But then, some Linux guru will smack it down, too -- not with a patch force-fed to us from On High whose effects on our software are unknown -- but with a nice, clean bit of code that anyone with the knowhow is free to examine and free to propose improvements upon, and which might then be incorporated into the Linux kernel once its quality is ascertained.

I suspect my yapping about it is no more pleasant or useful than the noise made by a 10-pound Peka-Pom. But the most popular versions of Linux, like Mandrake, RedHat, and SusE, are so easy even a non-geek girl can use them. You can download 'em free, pay $30-$70 bucks for them in a package (complete with manuals), or order them on CD from my favorite and very reliable budget source. Why mess with either installing your own endless patches or sitting back and letting Mama Microsoft do it for you?

Posted by Claire @ 01:19 PM CST [Link]

Sunday, August 24, 2003

OKAY, DELAWARE. I'M SORRY. I said yesterday that Delaware's Free State Project report made me laugh. It did. But gotta clarify. What makes me laugh is that Delaware has so little support from its local libertarians that its state report had to be written by somebody who'd only driven through. I wasn't, however, laughing at that somebody -- Gary Snyder -- or his writing. As you see when you read the report, Gary's objective was to ... well, be objective. Opening with his lack of connection to the state laid the groundwork for his position. He presented the advantages of Delaware without the bias of a rah-rah resident, without subjectivity or sentimentality. And in that, he done good. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it.

Posted by Claire @ 03:38 PM CST [Link]

Saturday, August 23, 2003

MULLING MY FREE STATE PROJECT BALLOT THIS MORNING OVER A CUP OF TEA. How marvelous it is to be holding this thing in my hands. Who'd have thought, just two years ago when Jason Sorens & Company had the horrendously bad timing to announce the FSP just before 9-11 drove it and everything else out of people's minds, that 5,000 of us would be making the Big Choice so soon (or ever)?

Merely to have gotten this far is astonishing.

Before I got the ballot, I thought my choice would be easy. In this voting you rank the 10 candidate states according to preference. I figured Montana first, Wyoming and Idaho next (because I'm a westerner), New Hampshire (because they've done such a darned good job of persuading Porcupines that even the east has its virtues) ... and after that, everybody else. Maybe with a four- or five-way tie for 10th place.

But now that I'm holding the ballot, I want to linger lovingly over it, as if it were a menu in the world's best restaurant. Reading the state reports that came with it, I revel in the virtues of Maine (Maine!) and South Dakota. About the only states that fail to convince are North Dakota (face it; no one would move there on purpose) and Delaware. Every time I read the Delaware report's opening line -- "I've rarely been to Delaware (just driven through, mostly)" -- I start laughing so hard I can't go on. Wow, what a ringing endorsement for poor old Delaware!

But to my surprise, the state that catches my imagination is Alaska. I used to want to live there when I was a kid. It seemed so exotic, so beautiful, so harsh ... and so far away. But be sensible. Alaska? Would 20,000 agree to move there for liberty's sake? I hadn't seriously considered it. It was going to be #5 in my balloting, only because so many other states seemed weaker. And because, well, it rates somewhere in my heart merely for being the Ultimate West. But then a friend whose brains I very much respect, and whom I'd figured all along as a Wyoming-Montana supporter, showed me her vote. Alaska, No. 1. And she piqued my curiosity and my curiosity fired my imagination. Vermont carry. Legal pot possession. Forty percent of the nation's fresh water. That endless ocean shore and long, long border with Canada (if it ever comes to secession -- which isn't the FSP's goal -- what could be better? And that border is perfect for free-market importing, as well). Low, low, low taxes. Big spaces with very few, and very independent people. And suddenly, all those kid desires for adventure and majestic beauty soared back into my heart.

Alaska ... hmmmm. No. 1? I dunno. But Alaska ...

Posted by Claire @ 10:46 AM CST [Link]

HOMELAND SECURITY (A TERM THAT STILL MAKES ME WANT TO SHOUT "ACHTUNG!") is now a full-fledged, capital-I Industry -- complete with trade associations and 444 registered lobbyists. Lobbyists. We're doomed. But then, we knew that. Let's get outa here before it's too late.

(Thanks, ever-reliable E.G.)

Posted by Claire @ 10:19 AM CST [Link]

Friday, August 22, 2003


"John Ashcroft is Coming to Town"

By Herb Strenz
Des Moines Register

(Via Declan McCullagh's Politech list.)

Posted by Claire @ 10:16 AM CST [Link]

MORE ON "HOMELESS MANAGEMENT" SYSTEMS. The Electronic Privacy Information Center added a fact sheet about HUD's new plan to track the homeless. We serfizens have until September 22 to comment. Contact info is included in EPIC's documents. However, in another of those do-we-laugh-or-cry ironies of dealing with the fedgov, HUD -- the superagency that wants every street wino electronically tracked -- won't allow comments by either e-mail or fax. Snail-mail only.

Posted by Claire @ 10:10 AM CST [Link]

Thursday, August 21, 2003

OH, NOW HERE'S SOMETHING CREEPY and very discouraging for those of us who live by choice or chance on the margins of society: As the price of their largesse, the feds are now demanding that local organizations that help the homeless get Homeless Management Information Systems by next year to track their clients.

Homeless Managment Information Systems. Just roll that one around on your tongue and in your brain for a while. Sounds more ominous than Freddie and Jason in partnership, when you think about the implications.

Sheesh. You can't even drop out and become a bum these days without the fedgov following you. And yes, they'll be tracking social security numbers, mental-health histories, the places you like to stay, and all the other ain't-nobody's-business stuff. The justifications are the usual ones. To give statistical data on the "homeless problem." And to "prevent fraud," of course. To paraphrase one person quoted in the article: What, are they worried somebody is going to be double-dipping shelter beds?

This is going to make your typical paranoid homeless person a whole lot more paranoid (and a whole lot less inclined to get help) and your typical on-the-run person a whole lot more desperate and inclined to commit desperate acts. And homeless women, who are often fleeing violence, are going to feel sooooo much more secure knowing a database is there to alert pursuers to their whereabouts.

Homeless Management. What'll they think of next? No, don't even go there. What they'll think of next you don't wanna know.

(Another day brightener from Sunni and Free-Market.net.)

Posted by Claire @ 10:52 AM CST [Link]

IDITEROD RACER MIKE LAWLESS plans to carry the Bill of Rights to Nome. You can help sponsor his run and get yourself an autographed copy of the BoR -- as well as raise a little more awareness of this most-abused document. The BoR-to-Nome run is co-sponsored by the Fairbanks Bill of Rights Defense Committee, which has this unusually comprehensive (and scary) list of Patriot Act and related abuses on its Web site.

Defending the BoR looks more important than ever, now that the newly drafted the Victory Act (don't you just love these Hitlerian names?) threatens to link the drug war and the terror war into one big War on Freedom.

BTW, the Victory Act is Sen. Orrin Hatch in action AGAIN. The man's dragging us toward the Control State more tenaciously than all the sled dogs of all the Iditerods ever run have dragged racers to Nome.

Posted by Claire @ 10:22 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, August 20, 2003


Back at the precinct, Cole felt he had no choice but to include the Good Samaritan's name in his report. The Good Samaritan was duly charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, a charge that carried the same penalty as distribution: up to seven years in jail. Cole was at the station when the Good Samaritan was brought in. He looked Cole in the eye and said, "Man, I was trying to be your friend."

"So yeah, that got to me," Cole says now, his voice seeming to break and going quiet. Speaking by phone from Boston, the 64-year-old Cole is explaining why he ultimately turned against the war on drugs. He says he came to realize that he liked many of the people he was turning in – liked them better than some of the people he was working for – and that his betrayal of them, rather than drugs, was what destroyed their lives.

Posted by Claire @ 06:58 PM CST [Link]

DAVY CROCKETT VS. WELFARE. A conservative Friend of Clairewolfe.com sent the URL of this great old article. It's been around the Net since as long as there's been a Net, I think. But it's still the most powerful reminder that there were once congressmen who knew government had no authority to be in the charity business -- and who understood why that had to be.

Every time I read this I'm so moved. I keep waiting for someone to tell me it's just an urban legend ... that Davy Crockett never really gave this speech and that the account of it was actually composed by a devious computer geek in 1993. So amazing that it appears to be for real.

Posted by Claire @ 04:39 PM CST [Link]

DID YOU REALIZE TWO SMALLISH JARS OF COINS CAN HOLD NEARLY $150? That was the pleasant surprise I got when I took my accumulated grocery change into a bank today. I don't go into banks very often, so I wasn't quite prepared for the less pleasant surprise.

No, they didn't make me give my fingerprints to turn my pennies and quarters into FRNS. Nothing privacy-polluting. Nothing political. I've just got a small rant about something that suddenly makes me feel like my father.

All the tellers, all women, were wearing blue jeans. When did that happen? Seems funny that at the same time banks, under the guidance of their federal masters, are getting stricter and stricter with customers, their own standards are slipping. But speaking of slipping ...

The unsmiling, mumbling, and generally unforthcoming young lady working the change counting machine was wearing a particularly tight pair of hip-huggers. Several times, she bent over to clear a jam or remove full bags of coins from the compartment under the machine. Each time she did so, she exhibited about two inches of the crack of her plump girly butt.

I'm here to tell you that the butt crack of a 20-year-old, slightly fat, entirely surly young woman isn't one bit more attractive than the butt crack of a 50-year-old, 300-pound, tobacco-chewing plumber named Spike. And somehow it was actually a lot less attractive, given that this young lady is among the guardians of our sacred trust and among those who, besides that, are encouraged to get their share of our sacred trust for reporting us for "suspicious" transactions.

Never in all my life did I imagine things would go so low (both figuratively and literally speaking) that I'd get a view of a teller's butt crack in a bank. Unthinkable. Even at McDonalds they have a better sense of decorum than that.

At least Ms. Tail-End Teller didn't sneak any of my coins into the wide-open slot on her personal little piggy bank. If she had, she'd have been welcome to keep 'em. I sure wouldn't have asked anybody to go in there after 'em. Eew.

Posted by Claire @ 04:21 PM CST [Link]

Monday, August 18, 2003

TWO ARTICLES ON LEW ROCKWELL.COM TODAY resonate with each other and give lots of food for thought. The first, by young troublemaker Tracy Saboe explains how he was fired from clerking at Wal-Mart for telling an inconvenient truth: that people who use food stamps or their electronic equivalent usually load their shopping carts with pop, chips, cookies, ice cream, or prepared foods that cost a lot more than meals they could cook at home. The second, by Fred Reed, reveals another awful truth that everyone used to take for granted, but that we are no longer supposed to admit: that some people really are better than others -- intellectually, morally, and behaviorally.

It wasn't politic for Saboe to express that opinion on Wal-Mart's time, and especially not to some bright little college-student tax suck who inevitably complained. But it's hard to argue with his guts or with a phenomenon that virtually everyone who's ever stood in line at a grocery checkout counter has observed. What Reed states also ought to be obvious: that those who excel and achieve have reason for self-esteem, and that we do nobody any favors by awarding good grades, high-praise, jobs, or anything else (including tax-funded Little Debbie snack cakes) to those whose only notable characteristic is their lack of notably fine characteristics.

Americans hate elitism -- and rightly so, if elitism means that the "superior" people are a class of inbred morons and habitual wastrels like the English aristocracy from which so many of our ancestors fled. And rightly so, if elitism means a political class like the late and unlamented Clintonistas or the always-with-us Tri-Lats and CFRs who (while not technically "conspiring") simply think they're entitled by education, upbringing, or social position to make decisions for us scruffy little folk.

But there used to be an all-American concept of a "natural elite" which simply meant everybody who had the brains, gumption, skill, innovative thinking, or whatever else it took to achieve something noteworthy. In that sense, elitism was what America was -- and at its best still is -- about. In that sense, if we abandon elitism, we abandon ... well, what makes America better than other nations. One aspect of being better is voluntarily taking care of the weakest members of the community. But that's a whole different thing then setting the least able people up as the new privileged class.

We're never going to get rid of elitism. Some group or class will always rise to prominence. All we're doing by favoring the unfavorable and promoting the worth of the unworthy is trading the elitism of ability for the elitism of those who can whine the most loudly while achieving the least. That's a tyranny it'll be hell for the intelligent or the able to live under. So hide your brains while you still got 'em. And be sure not to stand out too much, unless you can be outstanding in your mediocrity.

Posted by Claire @ 03:34 PM CST [Link]


Vacations are being downsized by the same forces that brought us soaring work weeks: labor cutbacks, a sense of false urgency created by tech tools, fear and guilt. Managers use the climate of job insecurity to stall, cancel and abbreviate paid leave, while piling on guilt. The message, overt or implied, is that it would be a burden on the company to take all your vacation days – or any. Employees get the hint: One out of five employees say they feel guilty taking their vacation, reports Expedia's survey. A new poll of 700 companies by ComPsych Corp., a Chicago-based employee assistance provider, found that 56 percent of workers would be postponing vacations until business improved.

The whole neurotic vacation system is based on guilt, on the notion that you are never worthy enough to take time off. The guilt works, because we are programmed to believe that only productivity and tasks have value in life, that free time is worthless, though it produces such trifles as family, friends, passions – and actual living.

Can't agree with this article's contention that the fedgov should bully companies into giving employees more vacation time. But really, where are our lives going and why are we letting mere "necessity" take so much of them away from us?

Posted by Claire @ 02:03 PM CST [Link]

Saturday, August 16, 2003

IF YOU'RE TIRED OF ALL THE POLITICALLY CORRECT WAILING about "The Passion," Mel Gibson's movie about the last 12 hours of Jesus' life -- a movie that's still months away from release -- check out this sharp, to-the-point editorial by a guy named Andrew Lisa. Heck, check it out if you just appreciate a display of good sense, good principles, good writing, and a tiny bit of bad attitude. You tell 'em, Andrew.

Posted by Claire @ 01:21 AM CST [Link]

Friday, August 15, 2003

GREATER INTEREST IN RFID SPOOFING. Free people are gearing up for guerrilla warfare against RFID chips in merchandise designed to track us and our possessions everywhere we go. (They say it's only for inventory control; but their own industry documents prove they lie, lie, lie.) Here's a really great blog entry with all kinds of links related to the emerging technology of RFID spoofing

Posted by Claire @ 05:36 PM CST [Link]

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

DEBRA RE-FOUND THE CHEROKEE CABIN COMPANY SITE I mentioned recently as being "lost." Thanks, Debra! It's at http://www.townandcountryplans.com/ and seems to have been expanded a bit since last I looked. Cherokee is simply the best source I know for clever and inexpensive cabin and small house plans. The blueprints might not always meet your local building codes, but they can be easily adapted.

Check out the Skagway design. I love that one.

Posted by Claire @ 09:36 AM CST [Link]

Monday, August 11, 2003

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN A MURDERER has half a dozen dogs, an unknown number of cats, a horse, a houseful of birds, and a few bunny rabbits? The day he's arrested is the day you find out exactly how serious the volunteers in your just-formed animal-rescue group are. If you don't hear from me for a few days, don't worry. I'll be back. Fortunately, the volunteers in this group look very good indeed.

Maybe Debra, Webmistress of the Dark, will post one of her subversive messages in my absence.

Posted by Claire @ 10:37 PM CST [Link]

Sunday, August 10, 2003

MIKE HAWASH HAS PLEADED GUILTY. He's the Intel engineer and naturalized U.S. citizen who was "detained" for weeks without charges earlier this year. Guilty or innocent, imprisonment of citizens without charges has no place in a truly just justice system.

Posted by Claire @ 02:25 PM CST [Link]

"TINY TOWN SHOUTS 'WHOA!" TO THE PATRIOT ACT." Little Tonasket, Washington, joins the crowd of local governments refusing to cooperate with the Patriot Act. The whole article is wonderful, including the background story of the feisty libertarian radio pirate and the local sheriff who made it happen. Also check the second sidebar, which has the text of the resolution.

Tks to H.O.T. Water for this one.

Posted by Claire @ 11:21 AM CST [Link]

THE HEADLINE SAYS "IRS LOSES A BIG ONE." And they sure did. On Friday a jury in Memphis acquitted FedEx pilot Vernice Kuglin of six counts of felony Tax Evasion and Willful Failure to File a tax return. She said she'd been asking the IRS for years to tell her what law required her to pay taxes, and of course they never did.

Kuglin's attorneys were Robert Bernhoft and the awesome Larry Becraft. After the jury had been dismissed, the prosecutor asked the judge to order Kuglin to pay her taxes and the judge apparently replied, "Sir, I don't work for the IRS."

Haven't seen such good tax news since The Amazing Becraft got a similar judgment in the Lloyd Long case, back in the early 1990s.

Posted by Claire @ 10:38 AM CST [Link]

Saturday, August 9, 2003

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Whooee! What a hoot! It came to the local one-plex today. I haven't had so much rip-roaring, swashbuckling fun since Indiana Jones first hit the screen. And I haven't enjoyed a Disney movie this much since ... my goodness, since I was too young to realize what a load of c**p so many of them were.

It's wonderful when everything comes together in a movie -- when non-stop action and outstanding effects actually serve to further the plot (a convoluted, fantastical, twisty-turny, romantic, heroic plot, besides). On top of everything else, parts of the movie were laugh-out-loud funny, and I'm not usually that much of a laugher, even when comedy is excellent.

All the critics who oohed and ahed over Johnny Depp's performance as Captain Jack Sparrow were right. A darned good movie becomes a special one every time he's on screen (which he is about 75 percent of the time). He's the reason I went to see the film. It was simply a great bonus to discover there was so much more worth watching. OTOH, the critics who mostly failed to mention Orlando Bloom's role should have consulted the 14-year-old girls at the one-plex today. They know Bloom is just as good as a romantic human hero as he is as a romantically androgynous elf. Lots of oooooooohing this afternoon from the cheap seats.

I know that all you folks who live in Civilization had the chance to see this one three weeks ago. But if you live in the hinterlands, as I do, or if you passed Pirates by because you didn't want to see one more silly, superficial Disney flick, pack up the kids or just yourselves, get a BIG bucket of popcorn (because it's 2-1/2 hours long) and have yourself a great time.

Posted by Claire @ 09:21 PM CST [Link]

"SENDER IDENTIFICATION TECHNOLOGY" FOR MAIL? Ugh. But that's what a presidential commission recommends for the USPS. Pretty ironic that the outfit that can't track your first-class mail when you want it to is now thinking about tracking all mail -- and all mail senders -- for purposes of "homeland security."

Posted by Claire @ 09:00 PM CST [Link]

Friday, August 8, 2003

THE PRINT EDITION OF BACKWOODS HOME JUST ARRIVED TODAY carrying my article, "Credit-Card Monte: Finance flim-flam and how to foil it." The article describes some ways card issuers use misdirection and fine print to get you to pay sky-high finance charges & gives 11 tips on outwitting their machinations.

This issue also carries an article, "Life in a Chicken Coop," which tells how, after their four-bedroom house burned down, Chuck Davis and his wife turned a 12 x 17-foot log coop into a cute & cozy temporary home. Small dwellings fascinate me (as you can probably guess from where I live), and they make sense if you want a home without a load of debt. After all, you can always expand later.

The Davis's coop sweet coop is a gem. The article is poorly written, but gives a good picture of how the Davises made the conversion. Anybody who can clean out and re-use a space once heavily occupied by chickens -- which have gotta be the filthiest animals on the planet -- has guts.

There used to be a great Web site for tiny cabin plans, the Cherokee Cabin Company. Nothing there but a "dead" front page today. But if you're interested in building a mini-house from scratch, here's another not-bad site.

Pretty funny. When you start looking around for plans for cabins or small houses, you'll find a lot of sites offering designs for homes of 1400-to-2500 square feet. You gotta wonder who considers that "small."

Posted by Claire @ 04:53 PM CST [Link]

I've been tiling the floor of my cabin. It's hard; I'm sore in places I didn't know could hurt (can fingertips really have overworked muscles?). But it's also gratifying; after two years of living in a construction zone, this is the Last Big Project. A few finishing touches – baseboards, closet doors, a real countertop to replace the makeshift in the kitchen -- and I can hunker down for the winter and watch DVDs (and, no doubt, get bored out of my mind and start scheming on adding a bedroom and mudroom to the cabin, thus generating another several years of construction rubble and soreness).

There's something about working with “earthy” substances – wood, brick, stone, and even this porcelain tile – that profoundly benefits the mind. Winston Churchill alleviated chronic and awful depression by building stone walls. For me, laying tile or brick or even hauling buckets of rocks down the steep hill behind my place works similar mental magic.


Posted by Claire @ 11:54 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

SO CONGRESS HUFFILY CONDEMNS TIA,, while at the same time an application called MATRIX begins to sweep the law-enforcement world.

Posted by Claire @ 11:21 AM CST [Link]

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

I GOT LOST IN THE WOODS THIS MORNING. It's preposterous, but I did. Preposterous because I was not only within walking distance of home, but I knew there were trails on three side of me and a creek and main logging road on the fourth.

To get lost in such a well-bordered spot takes real talent. Still, I managed.

One of my dogs has a killer prey drive. So she stays on leash wherever we go. But during this morning's walk, she spotted something, bolted hard, yanked the lead right out of my hand -- and off she dashed into the underbrush with sixteen feet of flexi-leash and a big, plastic retractor-handle bouncing behind her.

Predictably, the leash wrapped itself in the brush and halted her. More surprisingly, my strong, speedy, leaping girl managed to run more than 100 yards into the dense tangle of trees, ferns, blackberries, dead branches, and downed logs before getting caught. I had no idea where she was until she began screaming.

Thank heaven Lilli is a screamer. Otherwise, she might be out there still, meekly and silently wrapped around a tree. But her yips, yelps, and whines eventually led me to her. After an unpleasant trek through brush and fallen logs, I reached her and got her loose. Then we headed due east toward the main trail.

Or so I thought. [more]

Posted by Claire @ 03:49 PM CST [Link]

Monday, August 4, 2003

IN 535 C.E., SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAPPENED. The sun lost its brightness and its warmth for 18 months. Crops failed worldwide. The climatic upset affected rodent populations in Africa. Mice and gerbils spread from their normal habitat and transferred their fleas to rattus rattus, the common rat. That triggered a global outbreak of bubonic plague every bit as devastating as the more famous one of 1348. And for the next century, the whole human world -- physically weakened and suffering cultural, religious, and political displacement -- boiled with political turmoil that, in the end, overthrew the ancient order and gave birth to the new.

That's the thesis of David Keys in his interesting (if not entirely convincing) 1999 book Catastrophe: An Investigation into the origins of the modern world. He and Ken Wohletz, a volcanologist at Los Alamos labs, say that a volcano that they identify as "proto-Krakatoa" was responsible.

Other scientists also say that another volcano -- a "supervolcano" called Mt. Toba -- erupted with such force 74,000 years ago that the resulting climate disruption reduced the human population on earth to about 10,000. Today, we've got the world's potentially biggest supervolcano sitting right in the heart of America, crawling with tourists who admire its marvelous geysers, fumaroles, hot springs, and boiling mud pots. Yellowstone is geologically due, or overdue, for its next eruption. [more]

Posted by Claire @ 02:46 PM CST [Link]

PROGRESS. THE TSA HAS FINALLY ADMITTED WHAT EVERYONE KNEW. According to this British news story found on Free-Market.net, civil-liberties and anti-war activists are indeed being targeted for extra scrutiny at airports (read strip searches and brutal questioning), and in some cases being denied permission to fly, solely because of their opinions.

Posted by Claire @ 02:20 PM CST [Link]

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