Monthly Archives: January 2004


A few entries back I mentioned how I'd like to live on an airship. I've been doodling my ideas as to what I'd want… I'm leaning toward ideas based on various kinds of sea creatures, but trying to retain some of that Victorian sense of wonder in technology as well.

The underlying structures have to be quite light of course — although an airship is surprisingly strong. For example, if you had a hundred foot cube of helium, you could lift about 75,000 pounds with it. The design I envision is a slippy organic lifting hull meant to inspire 19th century adventure. The large top is lined with a thin layer of solar panels, with a central condensation channel designed to catch water. Included as well is a small garden system, a roof deck, and a satellite communications pod.

The bottom contains the habitation and operations hull which mimics the shape of the above, although it is much smaller. Off the sides are the fan pods which propel the airship. The front contains a fairly traditional bridge and control room, and the back tapers off into a spacious observation deck which wraps around the sides of the ship. Stylewise it would mimic the Victorian era, but recreated using modern polymers and composite materials for both style and weight.

In utter ignorance of the subject, I estimate that such an airship could be built in a similar price range as a luxury yacht (and would appeal to a similar market). It is designed to be lived on and would be set up for extended tours — it can produce its own water and limited food, and requires limited fuel for operations. Imagine taking a two week “air cruise” at 150 feet over the Amazonian rain forest (or the Arctic, or a desert, the ocean, or wherever strikes your fancy), while online and relaxing in your luxury suite!

Update via newaddict:
The concept of an airship is obviously not new but those who have done some serious work on the idea have been hit by some hard reality. The engineering and construction costs, the ongoing maintenance, international airways and navigation charges mean that it is a phenomenally expensive exercise. Such a aircraft is very susceptible to the weather and low level flights are subject to terrorism (people taking pot shots) and often very restrictive airways and air traffic control limitations. I think reality is a luxury yacht would be far cheaper to purchase and operate and less subject to the catastrophic weather, high tolerance engineering, and international attention.

Are we going to prom or to hell?

How much is an American child's life worth? How about $600?

One of the strange things that's come out of modern American government is massive private contracting of government services, resulting in a bizarre system of “capitalist communism”. That is, the society uses a capitalist financial structure, but then the government uses forced taxation to hand monopolistic contracts to private corporations who perform public services (usually far more poorly than in an open market) — corporations who pay a lot of money to put those politicians in power.

One example of this outsourcing and centralization is education. In Nevada, the state uses the same tests in most of their schools, and then sends them out to Harcourt Educational Measurement for grading. The teachers never actually personally review the tests, and simply administer them, teaching a corporate-dictated curriculum from corporate-supplied textbooks. As a result they are little more than prison guards, and are losing the opportunity to have a scholastic relationship with their pupils. Is it any wonder that education quality has consistently gone downhill, rather than improving as logic would suggest it should?

A major additional problem is that the companies are sloppy (in order to maximize profits — after all, they are not there because they care about education, they are doing this to make money). For example, recently Harcourt was shown to have “accidentally” failed about 750 students. You know, to me, that seems like a pretty big deal — failing a student is an emotionally shattering thing, to say nothing of the damage done from failing a student that actually worked and got the grade. This is the sort of thing that screws someone up for life. Because of this, Harcourt had to pay a fine of about $600 per student — to the government, which then renewed the contract and paid them the money back!

And if you think that's bad, in Virginia, where Harcourt holds similar contracts, they “accidentally” failed 5,625 students — a case which threatened both students' graduations, and in some cases could have resulted in the schools actually losing accreditation. The reason this problem happened is that the tests are not marked in the sense of right/wrong — the computer software analyzes all the tests, and then attempts to automatically determine the proper “pass/fail” gradepoint.

In Georgia, Harcourt screwed up 340,000 students in a single test, with students either grading far too high or far too low. In another Nevada case, Harcourt simply lost all the results. Anyway, as a “thank you” screwup, Harcourt then went on to “accidentally” artificially inflate the grades at 220 schools, causing all of their students to rank higher than the rest of the state (and penalizing the other students in return). For this they were fined about $2000 per school.

The punch line is that because it's cheaper for them to accept the fines than to do a good job, as a corporation they are legally required to continue providing poor service. And, because they're locked in with cushy government contracts across the country, the American people have to keep paying their own money to have their kids screwed over by the government. Let's clarify how this process works so there's no mistake:

  • The corporation pays a lot of money to a political party to put it in power.
  • Once elected the corporation is given enormous amounts of money by that government. It gets this money by taking it by force from citizens.
  • The corporation then cuts corners, provides horrible services, and is fined large amounts of money by the government.
  • The corporation pays a lot of money to a political party to put it in power… yes… It just loops and loops and loops.

Because citizens don't actually put politicians in power, and all the money a citizen gives to the government is seized by force (it's not like taxes are optional or you can decide how they're spent), the government has little to no interest in doing what the people want — their sole responsibility is to the corporations that put them in power. Hence the wicked cycle above.

The fact is that 98% (or whatever) of people are stupid which instantly invalidates democracy. When people are stupid, they can easily be controlled by propaganda — that is, they'll vote for whoever the TV tells them to vote for. Because both of the mainstream US political parties engage in the above, the system can not be broken — to break this system using the democratic process, you would need to convince at least 30% of the population to go out and vote for an untested party with a radically different ideological stance than America has held in their lifetime.

And we know that's not going to happen.

Oh, and if you want to really get pissed off, go do some searches for Harcourt failing kids in the news and you'll see that as far as 99.99% of the media is concerned this is a total non-issue. Wondering why? Could it be that they all have the same parent company?

Welcome to the modern world….

So far…

I've just put in an order for the external drive you see here. It's nothing that exciting, but it's still pretty cool — 600 GB of RAID-5 (unformatted; so I'll actually have 400 GB when I'm done). So if I have a drive failure, it beeps at me, and then I pop out the dead drive, pop in a new one, and it rewrites the lost data without me having to go through this hassle again! Yay for fault tolerance and redundancy.

As a point of trivia, IAM currently runs on a RAID-1 setup (just mirrored). Within a week or so (assuming there's no major hiccups with the restore process) it'll be running on basically a much faster version of the enclosure above (Ultra-whatever $$$CSI versus cheapo IDE).

Today was the day the drive was supposed to be ready. Eventually they confirmed that they'd restored all but 13 files (about 500k of data lost, all easy to restore stuff). They'd successfully mirrored my data to their imaging drive and were ready to restore it. Sounds good right? So I picked up a 200 gig drive to save the recovered data to and drove out to Markham.

When I got there they told me I was going to have to wait until Monday because it would take a couple hours to copy the data and they weren't sure if the copy would be done in time. I emphasized my need for the data and they agreed to shoot for 7PM. I went and hung out in the Chinese mall next door to kill the time, but at 5:10PM or so I got a phone call with some bad news.

While they did seem to have an image of the drive made, when they started copying, they discovered that they could not access many of the files, which sort of stumped them — it was as if their drive had suddenly failed as well. They've got one of their senior techs looking at it now, but it sounds like some strange kind of logical error (rather than a physical error) to me…

They also did a bit of a “holy crap” when they realized that there were tens of thousands of viruses in nearly every configuration on the drive. I don't know if they thought I had the most infected computer in history, or if they thought I was deploying virii for a living. Anyway, I explained to them that it was simply because I archive all of my mail, so I tend to “back up” a lot of virii (that have never been executed).

So as of now I'm waiting until tomorrow to hear from their senior tech, and until them I'm manually rebuilding what I can to prepare for a worst case situation. I still think I'm going to get back all my data… I really should be doing something more aggressive about it, but right now “all my magic” is tied up with a far larger spell.

The only good part of the story is that on the way home I discovered a Nigerian restaurant that I'd never seen before just around the corner from here and I jotted down the number as I drove past (for my notes: 385 Keele, just north of Dupont, 604-3942). If I have the time to take a break tomorrow (unlikely, but one day), maybe I'll shoot up and have a fufu snack.

Mail and the horrible truth

So I have all these SAVED stickers here, but since the name is changed, they're not really that useful to me for promotion any more. So now they're wrapping materials for shipping… of course, I tend to go a bit overboard.

I'll briefly mention just a few things. Enough time has passed since Saddam's capture to say with some conclusiveness that US deaths are up, and capturing Saddam has increased rather than decreased the violence (more). Since Saddam was replaced by the US, civil rights have been slashed in Iraq, and women fear losing their rights entirely — while Saddam encouraged women to hold positions of power and be well educated, the US-powered religious extremists do not believe women should have these roles (more).

Back in America, the US is quietly expelling dozens of Saudi diplomats because of their pro-al Qaeda stance (more). At the same time, Bush continues to block all investigation into 9/11 (more), prompting more and more US papers to ask the ominous question: What exactly is the White House hiding?

We already know they had pre-knowledge. That's old news.

We already know there were agents who were blocked from investigating the terrorists. That's old news.

We already know the terrorists were given green lights when they shouldn't have been. That's old news.

We already know there were massive intelligence screwups. That's old news.

We already know that almost every country in the world with an active intelligence program warned America about the attacks in advance. That's old news.

We already know that the invasion of Iraq was planned in advance. That's old news.

We already know that the response to 9/11 was staged and on falsified intelligence. That's old news.

We already know that Bush and Cheney and the rest of them had corporate ties to the companies that profitted from 9/11. That's old news.

On and on.

The only thing left to hide is direct involvement. There is nothing else to hide.

Dr. Liar

Why do people always have to lie when they cancel their membership? It's just weird. For example, to show one that's from earlier today:

some of the stuff (a fairly large part) on your website touches the PATOLOGICAL and the MENTALLY UNSTABLE at arms lenght. I certainly do NOT wish to waist any of my money on your 'services'. I have acess to more varied cases at the University.

Kind Regards,

* * ******, PhD
Research Phsychologist

You know, if you're going to pretend to be a psychologist, at least learn to spell words like psychologist or pathological (I'll skip making fun of the rest of the spelling). And I'd love to see a university that has more body modification than BME/extreme added up. Sign me up, I'm going back to school!

Anyway, I've just sent Ryan the final print/address list for the 2003 year end awards (luckily they were not on the damaged drive), so I assume those will run and ship in the next week. It's just shirts that are shipping — the company printing the buckles totally screwed them up. It's actually rather insane how bad they turned out. I'll try and dig up a picture to post later.