Boundary Layer

The best way to find a line is to cross it

Thursday, January 31, 2002

This time it's not the baby Jesus crying

Crying in public has become somewhat more acceptable in the socially repressed land of Japan. I find this strangely fascinating. (via Metafilter)

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

High on Capitalism

Was Enron Chairman Ken 'Kenny Boy' Lay on crack? That's what one Enron employee was wondering.

"I would like to know if you are on crack. If so that would explain a lot, if not you may want to start because it's going to be a long time before we trust you again," was one written comment Lay read out at the meeting, held Oct. 23.

"I think that's probably not a very happy employee, and that's understandable," Lay said in response.

The Houston Chronicle has site devoted to up to the minute coverage of the Enron fiasco. Their misinformed commentary sprinkled throughout their articles are not to be taken seriously though. This article about the arrogance of Enron's corporate culture at its height is worth a glance.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

It Burns!

The ButtCandle. They should have called it the Ass Incinerator, Rectum Cleaner, or Booty De-Blocker. Nah, they probably should stick with Buttcandle. Otherwise, people wouldn't take them seriously. (via Metafilter)

The Journalist is Now the Strategist

Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down which has become required reading in the military, summarizes the events leading up to the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu and explains why those mistakes won't be made again.

The Newest Wonder of the World

Brewster Kahle is the director of the Internet Archive which runs the Wayback Machine. He gave an interview in which he described how they run a 100 terabyte database and some of the other neat things the Archive contains.

The idea is to build a library of everything, and the opportunity is to build a great library that offers universal access to all of human knowledge. That may sound laughable, but I'd suggest that the Internet is going exactly in that direction, so if we shoot directly for it, we should be able to get to universal access to human knowledge.

The guy is a visionary and he built the archive on practically no budget.

Practice Makes Perfect

How to make a woman very, very happy.

Monday, January 21, 2002

The Race for the New World

What is it that set Columbus apart from all the other navigators of the time? Not much apparently. He wasn't the first to sail west in search of new lands and if he had failed it's certain that some one else would have succeeded not long after.

Columbus did not have any particular advantage over his competition. His ships were no better, and possibly worse. He based his understanding of the shape of the world on information that everyone else had access to (perhaps to his advantage, he interpreted this meager information incorrectly: he thought the world was much smaller than it was). So why did Columbus reach the New World ahead of his competitors? In part because of a few shrewd decisions, and to a large extent because of luck. Perhaps his most critical, or luckiest, decision was to sail by way of the more southerly Canary Islands instead of the Azores.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

The Questions No One Wants to Ask

A new Frontline documentary follows the lives of several of the hijackers. Along the way the show reveals the many chances the INS, CIA, FBI, and the FAA had to catch them. Also, the filmmaker discusses what he found to be the most surprising and disturbing in the course of making the film.

A separate article summarizes the warnings and evidence that an attack using planes was contemplated by the government as early as 1993 and warnings by foreign intelligence services.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Reefer, It's What the Hep Cats Do

The White House Drug Policy Office gives us a look at drug slang in use today. At least they say it's today. They don't give dates or the regions the words originated in. But you have to wonder how hip to the vernacular they are if they spell 'doobie' as 'duby'. (via Scratch This)

Spies Unlike Us

CIA recruiting efforts in the US.

When asked where the CIA has a significant clandestine presence in the United States, one former staff member of the National Security Council in the Clinton White House replied simply: "NFL cities."

An odd quote from an article about CIA recruiting of Iranians in Los Angeles. LA has not had an NFL franchise since the Raiders left in 1995.

Monday, January 14, 2002

Fighting Seizure Robots

Fortean Times takes a look at the day thousands of Japanese children suffered seizures after watching a Pokemon cartoon and concludes it was a case of mass hysteria.(via The Daily Grail)

Military Astrology

The most famous and successful Russian military astrologer has some predictions for 2002. We have much to learn from our former Soviet friends. (via The Daily Grail)

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Instant Villain

Before the release of LOTR, the three screenwriters gave an interview (via Null Device) about the process of adapting the books for a movie version.

One of the small changes was to feature the Uruk Hai captain more prominently as an arch villain for the climactic scene when the fellowship is broken. The reason I mention it is that the same thing was done in Black Hawk Down. The Somali in the black bandana wasn't in the book but was added to the film and built up only to be taken down in the climactic battle at the end. It isn't a big deal since what makes a good movie isn't quite what makes a good book but it's just one of the ways that both books were altered to conform better to the blueprint of a blockbuster.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

The rise and fall, and rise again of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

A short history of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company and a long case study about why they are one of the most successful and resilient American companies ever.

Superstition ain't the way

A new study confirms that you can actually be scared to death. The study (Abstract) involved looking at the mortality rates of Chinese and Japanese Americans on the 4th day of the month. Apparently, in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese, the pronunciation of the word 'four' (shi) is the same as the word for death. They found a 13% increase in deaths of Chinese and Japanese Americans on the fourth day of each month. So next 4th of July be careful where you aim those fireworks.

Remote control

Until I heard about a Pakistani unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) being shot down by India recently, I had assumed the US was the only country that deployed them. But according to Jane's 15 countries use them in one way or another. The FAS has a recent collection of UAV links. When you think about it, putting people in planes to fly combat missions is a bad idea when you can avoid it.

Saturday, January 05, 2002

What a wookie

You may remember that Enron's off balance sheet deals were with such imaginatively named companies as Jedi Capital, Obi-1 Holdings and Kenobe Inc. which I mentioned in October. But now a new contender enters the picture. According to the head of Anderson Consulting, most of Enron’s loses came from a financial vehicle called Chewco. This article does the best I've seen to break done what was going on with JEDI capital which stands for Joint Energy Development Investments.

Whether Chewco played a large part in Enron’s downfall or not we shall see. Anderson may just be trying to cover their own asses as they were Enron’s auditor for the past 16 years and are the only ones left with deep pockets. The chief exec at Anderson also is trying to blame the whole industry of accounting and its loose standards. "Don’t hate the playa, hate the game", he said in his testimony before congress. I would bet that won’t get them anywhere and they’ll end up settling the coming mountain of lawsuits. And that’s a shame because it makes it less likely that the whole story will come out.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Geometric Art

The abstract sculptures of George Hart. (via Gammatron)