Ignore the Lesson, Citizen, and Turn in Your Firearm

911 call failed to stop attack that killed man:

Sheriff’s deputies were warned about an increasingly angry confrontation between two groups that led to the death of a 26-year-old Fijian immigrant, but the officers could not find the site, a sheriff’s spokesman said Wednesday.

Wolfgang Chargin of Folsom called 911 on July 1 to report that trouble was brewing between a group of Russian-speaking people and a group of Fijian and East Indian immigrants in a picnic area at Lake Natoma near Folsom.

The call came in to the California Highway Patrol and was transferred to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s dispatcher about three hours before the fatal confrontation. Satender Singh was punched and hit his head when he fell. He died a few days later after being taken off life support.

We’re not talking about a thirty second just out of the nick of time thing here. Three hours after the call the violence occurred.

Now, think about those response times when you’re in an emergency. Who’s going to respond faster, an emergency call switched between different law enforcement agencies, or your twitchy finger?

LOLCat All the Way to the Bank

I’ve linked to it before and I read it a couple times a week, but now it’s a bona fide Web phenomenon: I Can Has Cheezburger? appears in Business Week:

He saw traffic on the blog, I Can Has Cheezburger, which he runs with his partner, “Tofuburger” (she refuses to disclose her real name) double each month: 375,000 hits in March, 750,000 in April, 1.5 million in May. Cheezburger now gets 500,000 page views a day from between 100,000 and 200,000 unique visitors, according to Nakagawa. The cheapest ad costs $500 for a week. The most expensive goes for nearly $4,000. Nakagawa, an accidental entrepreneur who saw his successful business materialize out of the ether, quit his programming job at the end of May: “It made more sense to do this and see how big it could get.”

Yeah, I know the feeling. I’ve been blogging here for over 4 years, and I’ve seen my daily traffic go from 10 to 120 visitors a day, and I’ve made (theoretically) $.08 in money from the Amazon Associates program.

Unfortunately, the proprietor of I Can Has Cheezburger has already found out about how big it’s going to get. I hope he’s not planning to retire on it, because Internet phenomena come and go.

But still, it’s a cool site and it’s neat that the fellow can make some scratch from it.

(Link seen on Ann Althouse.)

Yeah, Of Course, I Knew That

In this article, an attorney for Trader Joe’s doesn’t want to be insulting as he defends the chain’s obvious trademark infringement on Papa Pallermo’s well-known (to people who listen to Milwaukee Admirals broadcasts or Internetcasts) brand:

As you are aware, Palermo is a prominent city in Sicily, Italy, having a style of pepperoni pizza distinctive to the region.

Erm, yes, of course I knew that. Where’s Wikipedia when I need it?

Of course, this settlement will only last until the EU gets its way and prominent European locations are treated as trademarks when it comes to foodstuffs, but hey, you win the ones you can.

Missouri Pours Feed into the Trough for St. Louis Cardinals Owners

Ballpark Village moves closer to scoring state cash:

The Missouri Department of Economic Development recommended Tuesday that the state pitch in about $26.8 million for the development of Ballpark Village, fortifying hopes that the project adjacent to Busch Stadium can be finished by the time St. Louis hosts the Major League All-Star game in 2009.

Always glad to help the millionaires out with my tax dollars.

Keep up the good work, fellows, and perhaps soon you’ll have Mayor Slay washing your car for you.

Commodore 128 as Nature Intended It

Fellow Milwaukeean (and the only current Milwaukeean between the two of us) Triticale knows I collect old computers, and when he recently changed abodes, he told me I could have his old Commodore 128 that had been in his garage forever. Well, I talked to my brother in Milwaukee about picking it up for me, and he did, and on my most recent trip to Wisconsin I retrieved said machine.

When I first tried to boot it, it failed. So I planned to make it a teach-yourself-electronics project to resuscitate it, but all it took was a new fuse in the power supply. So I didn’t really learn much at all, but it works beautifully.

And darn the luck, the only television with an RF switch attached to it was in the living room. So behold:

Commodore 128 startup
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Oh, my. I was so excited, I hooked the Commodore 1571 disk drive up and I’ll be durned if it didn’t work right out of the box. So I dug through my archives of my old disks and found some of the programs I had written in the first Bush presidency. As you might know, the Commodore 128 was my first computer, so Basic 7.0 was my first language. And I wrote a number of programs.

Including Adventurers’ Guild, a program designed to keep track of my D&D group’s equipment and character list. It wasn’t truly data-driven, but it did use the Commodore 128’s graphics to their ability. I mean, high res graphics, brother:

Adventurers' Guild startup
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The main program was just a routing piece that called a subprogram allowing the user to look at the various and sundry keeps, characters, or stockpiled equipment:

Adventurers' Guild main menu
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For example, if you wanted to see the roster, it would go into a subprogram for the roster and you could see all characters past and present that played in the campaign:

Adventurers' Guild roster menu
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For example, here’s my brother’s favorite character as seen when the user has chosen to view all:

Adventurers' Guild Kahan the elf
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And even when I was a junior in high school, I was building help into my applications. Here’s one of my first help files:

Adventurers' Guild Help
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When the user logged out, the Commodore went into hi-res graphics for a moment, painting an exit door:

Adventurers' Guild Help
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Then it ended turning the screen to default colors and with a final message from the dungeonmaster:

Adventurers' Guild Help
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Hmm, lightning is misspelled. I’ll log a defect on that right away.

I wrote a couple of other things, too, including a DMV quiz program after watching the movie License to Drive over and over as only a kid in the boondocks with only Showtime could.

DMV quiz
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The instructions included my address back in the day and welcomed correspondence. Back in those days, that’s how you did it without the Internet and e-mail addresses that worked wherever you connected:

DMV quiz instructions
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And the Weird Al Wannabe Quiz:

Weird Al Wannabe quiz instructions
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Of course, after I released them to the wild of the Commodore CG BBSes, I’d expect they were never downloaded. I know no one ever came across with a shareware donation. I did, however, make some money programming, as the high school baseball team’s manager wanted a program to keep track of stats. At Stellar Soft, we were happy to gather his requirements, deliver a quality program, and support it with new features as requested for the princely sum of like $50:

Baseball Stats Manager splash
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I see that in the instructions, I listed it as a division of Triple N Enterprises:

Baseball Stats Manager instructions
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Considering that Noggle, Noggle, and Neiderriter was our lawnmowing business, I guess I did that for taxing purposes.

Well, that’s my walk down memory lane. What’s my point? I don’t know; I have 20 years of software development experience? Or perhaps to boast once again that I have more Commodores than Michele?

Aw, who cares, I got to post some pictures of an old computer.

TradeWars 2007

China wants to play:

Chinese food inspectors have banned meat products from seven U.S. companies from being imported into their country after finding a range of contamination issues in shipments checked on Saturday, according to China’s official news agency Xinhua.

The suspension of meat imports from the American companies — including Tyson Foods — comes just weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it would hold all farm-raised catfish, basa, shrimp, dace and eel shipments arriving from China until they are tested for residues from drugs not approved by the U.S. for use in farm-raised fish.

People are dying from certain Chinese products, but to China, it’s a game of oneupmanship.

The title, of course, refers to an ancient BBS game which I had the pleasure of playing in the late 1980s. The game was called TradeWars 2002, and I played it on WWIV Bulletin Board Systems, you damn kids!

Marquette University President Recommends Standing Behind The Fat Guy

After enough time has passed that the Virginia Tech shooting is fading from collective memory, Marquette University President Robert J. Wild, S.J., pens a column for Marquette magazine just in time to frighten the incoming freshmen (except the psycho ones packing heat, of course). In it, he details Marquette’s ineffective plan to handle a similar situation, broken down (literally) into phases.

When pandemonium erupts, Marquette will respond thusly:

Phase 1: Meetings:

At the highest level of response, a crisis team with representatives from offices throughout campus would immediately assemble and work with local law enforcement and emergency management agencies. At every level our crisis plan calls for utilizing all available means of communication, including e-mail, the university Web site, university voice mail, Access TV message boards, postings in buildings and other tools as needed.

Well, I guess he only enumerates the highest level of response, which is meetings and communication. But don’t worry. Marquette offers other nuggets of safety. I’ll tick off a few for you here:

  • Friendly Public Safety staff:

    >We also have an outstanding Department of Public Safety. Not only do these men and women patrol around the clock our campus and surrounding neighborhood, they also through their daily interactions work to develop a relationship of trust with our students, faculty and staff.

  • Electronic surveillance equipment:

    In addition, Public Safety commanders have at their disposal in a crisis situation first-rate technology that includes an electronic system to lockdown instantaneously most academic buildings. Furthermore, this summer we will unveil a new command center equipped with cameras that allow us to monitor the campus area for suspicious activities.

  • Good old fashioned Kumbaya:

    However, the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis or “care for the individual” provides us with greater freedom to build a campus environment that nurtures students in a holistic manner, intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Nothing about arming up or allowing legal weapons on campus.

So I guess the hide behind the fat guy is just implied, because once you start inserting the phrase “a suicidal man with a gun” into many of the sentences in his letter to the Marquette community, you realize how silly and, ultimately, ineffective the measures will prove if a Virginia Tech sort of incident erupts in Cudahy Hall.

But the survivors will have access to a crack team of grief counselors, no doubt. Try to live through any rampage if only for that.

Book Report: Sleeping Beauty by Ross MacDonald (1973)

Ross MacDonald was writing Raymond Chandler novels into my lifetime. How odd.

This book tracks Lew Archer as he looks for a missing woman whom he’d given a ride. He finds a twisted set of intertwined well-to-do families still living under the shadow of crimes committed during the World War II years.

So the reader comes along, sometimes picking up insights because it’s a twisted hard-boiled detective mystery that put him ahead of Archer, but the book and the crimes are labyrinth enough that you still won’t figure it completely out until the end.

I enjoyed it. I’ve probably read it before, and might read it again if it’s in one of the Archer omnibuses still on my to-read shelves. Hopefully, though, I’ll wise up and not buy another copy, but when I’m in a book fair berserker frenzy, I cannot be sure.

Books mentioned in this review:

This Just In

Israeli security firm reports huge spike in PDF spam:

Israeli security firm Commtouch Software Ltd. is warning of a massive surge in Portable Document Format spam over the past 24 hours.

According to estimates by the company, about 10% to 15% of all spam over the past day or so has been in the form of PDF messages. “Given the fact that these messages are nearly four times bigger than standard spam messages, this increases overall global spam traffic by 30% to 40%,” said Rebecca Herson, senior director of marketing at the Israel-based company.

So far, the outbreak has involved 14 billion to 21 billion PDF unsolicited messages and shows no signs of slowing, Herson said. >

Lucky me, I must have been on the beta test list, since I’ve been getting this crap for over a week.

On the other hand, if I am on the spammers’ friendlies list, maybe there’s time for me to make a killing in Vision Airships before it goes from 1.9 cents a share to 2.8 cents a share.

Dual Book Report: All I Need to Know I Learned From My Cat by Suzy Becker (1990) / 101 Uses For A Dead Cat by Simon Bond (1981)

Ladies and gentlemen, I guess I have become a cat person after all.

It didn’t start to be this way. In the old days, I was a normal guy, favoring dogs over cats as pets. Of course, for a very long time, we didn’t have pets except for Oscar, the snake my mother wussified by watching soap operas while petting it on her lap, and a stream of soon to be dead goldfish. But I related more to my aunt’s dogs than her cats in her menagerie. Then, when we ended up outside of an apartment in the projects (Berryland, in Milwaukee, thank you), we got a dog. And then a couple more.

At that time, I appreciated some anti-cat humor.

But then, I moved into my own apartment and got one of those maintenance-free pets (the cat), and she grew on me. Suddenly, we had many in our house by the time we had a house. And the transitory dog, but we got him from the recycling facility unhealthy, and he didn’t make it long.

So I seem to have run out of poetry books of short works to read at the boy, so I picked up All I Need To Know I Learned From My Cat since its little bon chats would be easy to put down and pick back up when the boy wandered into and out of the room (or vice versa; when chasing him, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going). Well, its simple prose took about 10 minutes to read, and then I was done. I own a cat, so I sympathize with the sentiments. Since I ran out of things to read aloud, I grabbed 101 Uses for a Dead Cat on the next pass of the to-read shelves.

I bought it at the St. Charles Book Fair this year towards the end of the trip, as I wearied from carrying my books and as the boy began to fuss. I grabbed it because I thought it was an early, cheap paperback edition. I later realized its actual paperback cover was missing. How disappointing.

I remember the hubbub in the early 1980s about this book. Animal lovers’ organizations (this was before animal rights organizations supplanted them) thought it cruel. I remember my mother owned a yellow shirt no doubt depicting one of the uses from the book or its successors, so Simon Bond had quite a cottage industry going for a time.

However, I didn’t find the book funny. I didn’t read it at my son, so don’t worry about its warping him. It only depicts in cartoons, wordlessly, cat corpses used in a variety of ways. Cruel? I don’t know, the books does not indicate how the cats died. So it might just represent judicious uses of an available resource–cats who died naturally. However, the book isn’t, you know, funny. It must have been a dark time for humor, coming out of the 1970s.

So I related to the first book and didn’t care much for the second book. But I think it took me about 20 minutes total to clear two books from my to-read shelves, so it was time well spent.

But I’ll pass on the other books in the Uses for a Dead Cat series, including the Complete and the Omnibus editions which came out in this century.

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Listen to the Warm by Rod McKuen (1967)

This was the second collection of poetry from Rod McKuen. It’s better than Suspension Bridge, too, but right now I am hard pressed to think of what wouldn’t be.

The book comes in three parts; “Listen to the Warm” collects numerous poems relating to the fear of losing one’s love and then the actual loss of one’s love, so its narrative made the total fair enough even though many of the individual poems don’t stand alone well. The second part lapses into what would later delegate McKuen to his low position in my esteem–that is, obscurity, reliance upon locations and “you had to be there” to make sense, and dedication to people I don’t know. The third section, a collection of song lyrics, actually holds up very well, as McKuen demonstrates a sense of rhythm and some rhyming that elevate the simple images.

Still, he’s no Carl Sandburg or Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Books mentioned in this review:

I’m Not Paying For Waukesha Libraries

But thanks to a creative “funding proposal,” some people in communities not served by libraries will get the chance to do so:

A politically charged proposal to create a new funding source for public libraries in Waukesha County is coming back for a new debate.

Aimed at capital costs in the countywide network of 16 libraries, the proposal would raise property taxes in non-library communities to provide tax relief in communities with libraries.

While the county already collects taxes to offset each municipality’s cost to operate a library, no such funding mechanism exists to alleviate the costs of building and maintaining the facilities.

Advocates of the new arrangement contend that residents of non-library communities are not paying their fair share for having unrestricted access to any library in the county.

But opponents say the new proposal represents taxation without representation because it would affect people who have no influence over how a municipality spends its capital funding.

Those Wisconsin politicos are awfully clever at creating unaccountable authorities for extracting money from their marks citizens, aren’t they?

I was home in Wisconsin this month, and I remembered why I love the state; it’s cooler, it’s greener, and the air is cleaner.

But any news from Wisconsin government reminds me why I’m not moving back any time soon.

The Bad Idea

This month’s Business 2.0 (read it here if you have Adobe Flash Player) has a big story about Burning Man, the annual Woodstock for Generation X-Y. Page 16 has The Big Idea, a quote from Tom Price, the environmental manager for Burning Man, on why companies are eager to promote their wares at Burning Man:

Here’s the value proposition: 40,000 of the smartest most socially networked content-generationg people on the planet, whose tolerance for B.S. is negative point-five, all checking out your product.

Yeah, hyping your “hype-free” consumers, among whom the rest of us expect to already find the most smarmy and self-absorbed of the sweet demographic.

However, I don’t have to mock it. Actual attendees and devotees of the highly-hyped festival are on it:

I for one am still in shock. To say I feel betrayed would be more accurate. The one thing that’s drilled into your head from day one is that there is no branding, no marketing, no commercialism, no money at Burning Man. The image of the Man with a suit on is in poor taste, in my opinion. I can’t believe the writer (rightly so) describes us as a “tangible business asset.” I guess I have until now, refused to admit that the CEO of Burning Man would ever think of me as just a consumer worth only $250. I attend Burning Man for the people, the creativity and the fact that the life on the playa, for me, is far divorced from my daily routine. When I’m there, I feel like I am part of something big. The people I meet and the enthusiasm I throw into the event is what brings me back year after year. But to hear that my efforts, opinions, and education simply makes me a member of some marketing department’s dream demographic is disappointing. This new development saddens me.

Sometimes you just have to throw a little water on effigies when they turn into pinatas. Or something.

Credit Where Credit’s Due

Missouri has a budget surplus:

Missouri could be sitting on a $320 million budget surplus because of higher-than-expected tax revenues and lower-than-expected spending during the recently concluded fiscal year.

Lawmakers had intended to leave about $200 million unspent when passing the state’s $21.5 billion operating budget for the 2008 fiscal year, which started July 1.

Funny, it’s the heartless Matt Blunt and the Republicans in the legislature that cut the budget, but it’s Missouri that has the surplus.

Never fear, though, our elected troughhogs are working to change that:

Unless lawmakers take additional action, that money will remain unspent. But politicians already are proposing ways to use part of that surplus.

I call racism. What do lawmakers have against being in the black?

In a Stunning Turn of Events, Actress Sexes It Up

Helena Bonham Carter shows her range and sexes up a role as a witch:

Bonham Carter says she had a big say in creating her character’s voluptuous-but-disheveled look.

“At first they thought, ‘Oh, we’ll just put her in a sack,'” Bonham Carter said. “But I said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to wear a sack. I’ve got to be a sexy witch.'”

Well, color me shocked. After all, she did the same thing to a monkey, for crying out loud. If you’re looking for a non-sexy sort of character, you probably don’t select Helena Bonham Carter for the role.