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The Renaissance Man
User: unixronin
Name: The Renaissance Man
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Unixronin is Alaric, the Renaissance Man, Samh-ildánach, Man of Many Sciences, Brother Railgun of Reason, Episkopos of the Discordian Order of NoH, Mystic Zen Biker, Pasha of Atomic Fusion, Czar of Quantum Mechanics, Offender of the Faith, Grand Dragon of Poon Appreciation, technomage, Aspie, loner, technical thug, intermittent vr00mist, shottist, polymath, a lovely little thinker but a bugger when he's pissed, slave to cats, ignostic, occasional poet, sometime artist and sculptor, former wrestler of seals, eclectic swordsman, futurist, minarchist, novice cyborg.
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Habemus plus vis computatoris quam Deus
Ramblings of a Unix ronin
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In 1974, Palestinian terrorists launched an attack into Israel which culminated in them taking more than 115 hostages in the Netiv Meir elementary school, 105 of them children.  They then proceeded to issue demands for the release of 23 terrorists being held by Israel, or they would kill the hostages.  When elements of the Golani Brigade stormed the building, the terrorists did indeed try to kill all of their hostages, using grenades and automatic weapons.  The siege ended with 25 hostages dead (22 of them children), and 68 injured.

This is not greatly dissimilar to the numbers of dead and injured in Sandy Hook, CT.

What have we, in the US, done in response to school shootings?

We have declared our schools to be "gun free zones", thus guaranteeing that our schools and their students are defenceless in the face of an attack.

Has this worked?

Don't look to me to tell you. Open any newspaper, turn on any news channel, and you tell me whether it's worked.

What did the Israelis do in response to Ma'alot?

Israel instituted a program in which volunteer school personnel, parents, and grandparents received special training from the civil guard, and were seeded throughout the schools armed with concealed 9mm semiautomatic pistols.

Since then, there has not been one successful mass murder at an Israeli school.  NOT.  ONE.  Every single attempt has been very rapidly ended by the armed defenders placed in the schools, with minimal injuries among the innocent.

Think about it.  Then tell me which approach to preventing massacres in schools makes more sense.

I'll wait.

(Footnote:  The worst incident which I am aware of at any Israeli educational facility since 1974 is the shooting at the Mercaz Harav, a private yeshiva or seminary in Jerusalem, in 2008.  There were initially no armed responders in the facility when the attack began; the first armed responder, a captain in the IDF, entered the building six minutes after the first call for help, and he and a part-time student were engaging the attacker with gunfire three minutes after that.  Despite firing an estimated 500-600 rounds of ammunition from an AKM rifle, the Palestinian attacker succeeded in killing only eight students, with 11 more wounded.  The yeshiva was not a public school and was not covered by the program previously mentioned.)

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire

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You know I just said yesterday that I set the comment permissions on this journal to "Friends ONLY"?

Well, it doesn't work.  I got fresh comment spam twelve minutes ago from J Random Never Fucking Heard Of Before.

Sooooooooo close to deleting this account altogether and going just with my Dreamdwidth journal.  (Which I seldom update any more either.)

Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Mood: pissed off pissed off

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Pro forma notification:  I have just changed the comment permissions on this journal (which, it must be said, I very seldom update any more) from 'Registered accounts only' to 'Friends only' due to the recent flood of spam comments.  I'd sooner just have a way to send back a bio-digital hybrid virus that eats spammers' brains from the inside so that they die screaming, but I guess we don't have that technology yet.  Which is just as well, because if we did, odds are some asshole would try to broadcast it to the entire Internet just to see what would happen.

Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Mood: pissed off pissed off

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We are a week from election day.

Remember, when you prepare to go to the polls, that each election cycle in which you convince yourself — or let others convince you — that you have to hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils because third parties and independent candidates have no chance of being elected, is one more election cycle in which third parties and independent candidates have no chance of being elected.  Because you, and everyone else who held their nose and voted for the lesser evil, wouldn't vote for them, even though you wished you could.

You want it to EVER change?

START NOW.

If not you, then who?

If not now, then when?

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Music: Saga :: The Security of Illusion :: Voila! (1993, 01:43)

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...I've suddenly started getting spam comments on five-year-old LiveJournal posts.

Do they think that if they only try to comment-spam five-year-old posts I won't notice?  Do they think that anyone but me will actually SEE spam comments on a five-year-old post?

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Music: Genesis :: Wind & Wuthering :: One For The Vine (1976, 10:01)

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I just took these CFL lamps out of service in our kitchen counter tracklights.  Technically they were still operable when removed, but ... well, I don't know about you, but to me these look like an electrical fire waiting to happen.

I think I will be endeavoring to accelerate our as-budget-permits replacement of CFLs with LEDs.

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Mood: displeased

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I've just allowed my LiveJournal paid account to expire.  There are basically two reasons for this:

  1. For some time now I've found myself reading, and posting on, LiveJournal less and less;
  2. It seems that for some time now every change LiveJournal has made has been in efforts to make LiveJournal more like Facebook, which is not only a trend I detest, but is an ultimately suicidal plan.  The past is littered with the corpses of companies that set themselves the goal of being Just Like [fill in the blank], and discovered too late that their grand plan to remain "relevant" merely condemned them to being an also-ran in the niche of the outfit they were trying to play catch-up to, instead of being significant in their own.  (Come on, people, this isn't rocket science.)
  3. Oh, and it's been getting harder and harder lately to stay logged in....

I'm not killing the account.  Not yet, anyway.  I may in the future.  But I'm likely to be around even less than I have been of late.

Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire

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...LogJam says I last logged in four months ago.  Haven't been posting much.

Anyway, the "thing that makes you go Hmmmm" that I logged in to post about was this observation:

"Ya know, the craziest thing about Holder and 'Fast and Furious' isn't the part where the Justice Dept kept approving and pushing something insane and stupid.  It is the part where it was over the vehement objections of the BATF.  When BATF thinks you're too insane and stupid, you really have to take a step back and think about what you're doing."

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music: Supertramp :: Breakfast In America :: Oh Darling (1979, 03:47)

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One of the more drastic things that can happen in a nuclear power plant is what's known as a LOCA, a loss-of-coolant accident.  I like to refer analogously to some of the more drastic things that can happen to electronic equipment as a LOMS incident — Loss Of Magic Smoke.

This is particularly relevant today because that's what just happened to my main uninterruptible power supply, an APC SU3000RM3U which powers both of my workstations as well as my server/network rack.

As close as I can figure out, the capacitor just to the left of that power blade failed first.  (You can see another matching one about an inch behind its mortal remains.)  This was the first muffled bang I heard, and everything lost power at that exact moment, which is probably why nothing powered by the UPS was damaged when that row of power transistors went into runaway and blew up in a ripple about eight seconds later, creating a second, much louder and sharper bang.  Not only did they vaporize their power leads, they blew several holes in the top layer of the main board.  This was the point at which the magic smoke began to drift out from the front of the UPS.

The UPS, of course, is toast.  And it was only last year I managed to locate a matching expansion battery chassis for it...

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Current Music: VNV Nation :: FuturePerfect :: Airships (2002, 08:18)

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I've been noticing a trend in polls over the last few months. President Obama's approval rating hasn't been climbing, and in any poll of Obama vs. "generic Republican" for the uncoming Presidential election, Obama loses solidly.  But plug in the names of any of the current Republican candidates in place of "generic Republican", and the result flips; now Obama leads by a solid 8-10%.

I predict that Obama will get a second term in this election, and that he will take it as a mandate to continue and ramp up his agenda.  But I posit that this does not in fact represent a real success of Obama, of his policies, of his administration, or of the Democrat party.

What it represents is a complete failure of the Republican party to show the slightest sign of any awareness of the mood of the electorate or the state of the nation, and in particular how tired the voters are of a Congress owned lock, stock and barrel by megacorporations and megabanks.  Obama may not be doing anything tangible to change this, but he at least made a few of the right noises in his State of the Union campaign speech; and that's good enough for a large number of voters — even when he then turns around and brokers a mortgage settlement with the banks that amounts to slapping them lightly on the wrists and handing them a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

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I have two sets of ingredient lists for you (one a little more detailed than the other).  These are not quite comparable, because the first is a liquid product, and the second is a powder to be made up with water.

Here's list one:

Water, Corn Syrup Solids, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, and/or Cottonseed Oil, (Adds a Trivial Amount of Fat), and Less Than 2% of Sugar, Modified Cornstarch, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Caseinate, (Milk Derivative), Not a Source of Lactose, Color Added, Artificial Flavor, Mono And Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Carrageenan, Salt, Betacarotene Color.

Here's list two:

43.2% corn syrup solids, 14.6% soy protein isolate, 11.5% high oleic safflower oil, 10.3% sucrose, 8.4% soy oil, 8.1% coconut oil.

I think we can agree that neither of these looks exactly what you'd call a healthy food, right?  You probably wouldn't like to live on either one.

I'll give you a hint: The second is one I just saw in a video I watched, and thought, "Hey, that looks a hell of a lot like the ingredient list for [first product]."

Any guesses?  We can pretty much ignore all the "less than 2%" fractions in the first list.  We're left with corn syrup, oil, and in list two, a little bit of sucrose and soy protein. The sodium caseinate might give a clue as to what product 1 is.

OK, I'll give. The first is non-dairy creamer. You're probably now thinking, "Ewww!  No KIDDING I wouldn't want to live on that!"  Right?  And you probavbly wouldn't want your kids to live on an exclusive diet of it either, would you?

So, are you ready to learn what product #2 is yet?

Here it is:Collapse )

Think about it.

Oh, the video?  It's this one, from Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology.  Watch it.  Then think about this, too.

(I tried embedding it, but even though the embed URl was right, what actually showed up in my post was the cover of the Who's "Who's Next".  WTF?)

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If there was EVER THE SLIGHTEST DOUBT that Congress operates on a money-for-laws basis as a matter of course to such an extent that large corporations have come to view it as a natural entitlement, this should lay it to rest.  Former Senator Chris Dodd, now head of the MPAA, went on Fox News to openly threaten Congress for not staying bought.

I've said it before.  I'll say it again.  I'll repeat it right now.  Congress and the two-faced single party that runs it, and all of their megacorporate cronies, are rotten to the core.

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I just finished reading The Tuloriad last night, by John Ringo and Tom Kratman, and for the first time I find myself having to fervently disagree with the authors.  I believe they made a serious mistake in the ending of the book, which they then compounded in the afterword.

First of all, let's start with a capsule summary of the afterword.  Ringo and Kratman discuss the Battle of Lepanto, present their conclusion as "Bring a gun to a gunfight; bring a religion to a religious war", assert that the Christian fleet decisively defeated a numerically slightly superior Ottoman Turkish fleet because the Christians were driven by faith, and conclude on the strength of this argument that religious faith is a good thing and atheism is bad.

To start with, this argument is flawed because it assumes that the Christian fleet was driven and held together by faith, while failing to explain why the Ottoman Turkish fleet — overwhelmingly Muslims — was not.  It's also flawed because it ignores that although the Turkish fleet outnumbered the Christians by about 7 to 6, not a very significant disparity in numbers to begin with, the Turkish ships were on average somewhat smaller, thus making the forces much more even than the huge disparity the authors suggest.  It completely ignores any issues of the tactical situation, or of the quality of leadership on either side; and it completely ignores both that the Turkish galleys were largely crewed by slaves who probably were not highly motivated to fight hard for their enslavers, and that the Christian side had the Turks outgunned by roughly 2:1 in artillery (not to mention the Turks having inadequate ammunition for their cannon).¹  And as if that wasn't enough, it totally handwaves the question of whether a religious war is ever a good idea in the first place.

Which brings me to the end of the book, and the moment in which the Posleen clan chief Tulo'stenaloor tells the Jesuit Father Dwyer, "You have won; I will order my people to convert to Catholicism."

There are two things terribly, terribly wrong with this.

The first is that Dwyer should have replied (but did not), "No; we have not won, because there was no war between us to win.  We came here to offer you our faiths, not to force one upon you."  It's stated over and over again throughout the book that theirs is a mission of peace.

(Actually, although the stated mission was to offer many of Earth's faiths in the hope of finding one to fit the Posleen, only Catholicism was given any serious chance to speak; Islam was deliberately allowed to present itself only weakly, mainly to allow the token imam to lament the need of Islam to "keep its lunatics under control", and none of the other faiths ostensibly represented in the delegation even really got a look in besides it being mentioned once or twice that they existed.  In practice, Islam was there to make Catholicism look rational by comparison, while the rest barely got even lip service.)

The second is more fundamental (and again, Dwyer should have pointed it out, but didn't).  If you think that you can ORDER a people, even your own, to adopt a specific faith, and you think that doing so means one damned thing in spiritual terms and makes you any better than any other theocrat in history who has told a people "Convert or else", YOU'RE DOING IT² WRONG.

[1]  The Battle of Lepanto really wasn't a case of the Muslims failing to bring a religion to a religious war.  It was a case of the Turks failing to bring nearly enough naval artillery to a naval artillery battle, and bringing archers to fight musketeers and arquebusiers.

[2]  Faith, that is.

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I had an odd but interesting dream last night.

It started out with me someplace in the desert Southwest, maybe Arizona or New Mexico, dinking around with a bunch of salvaged/surplus hardware and stuff I'd built myself, and, well, basically I built an energy cannon.  I don't know how it worked, but it was hot enough that it fused sand under the beam into glass, and it left some nice puddles of molten rock at the base of a mesa a mile or so downrange.  I test-fired the thing a couple times, then figured I ought to shut it down before I attracted too much attention or started a brush fire or something.

Next thing I know, I'm being woken up at oh-dark-thirty by a Secret Service protection detail toting M16s, they've set up a defensive perimeter,¹ and they're saying "Sorry to wake you in the middle of the night, sir, we have to move you to a safe location NOW.  We're not the only ones who figured out what you built yesterday and tracked you down, and there's unwelcome company incoming."

[1]  Minor edit since it seems it needed clarifying that the M16s were pointed outwards...

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire

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We still hear a lot about consensus about climate change, and yet when you talk to people at large, it's still pretty clear there is none, outside of a few scientific circles.

One of the big problems, I think, is that the debate has become polarized into two political camps — "Of course it's all anthropogenic" and "Nonsense, it can't possibly be anthropogenic, the planet is just too big."  There is no middle ground of "Let's try to determine how much of this change may be anthropogenic", because the careful middle-grounders have been shouted down by the climate change deniers on one hand and the ZOMG-technology-is-BAD crowd on the other.  Each camp spreads lies and disinformation about the data, and particularly about the other side's data.

For instance, most of the most outspoken climate change deniers I know insist that the possibility of climate change is rubbish because it's all based on baseline data that starts in 1960.  (It isn't.  But repeat the lie often enough, and you'll convince people who are willing to take your word on other matters.)

Another common anti-climate-change canard is "What, this prediction of the whole planet's climate a hundred years ahead comes from the people who can't accurately predict the weather in my neighborhood three days in advance?"

Well, actually, no, it doesn't.  And in any case, that's a different and only superficially related problem.  Trying to predict chaotic short-term local fluctuations in a tiny part of a large system is actually a much more complex and difficult problem than analyzing and projecting trends in the long-term, large-scale average state of the entire system.

To give an admittedly inexact analogy, if I build a giant pachinko machine out of two-by-twelves and half-inch rebar, and I pour a 55-gallon drum of marbles into the top of it, I have a very, very slim chance of being able to predict exactly which marbles are going to be bouncing off a specified pin ninety seconds from now, and in which direction.  However, I can unequivocally state that the general trend is going to be for the marbles to proceed downwards, and I can predict with almost complete confidence that five minutes from now, all or almost all of those fifty thousand marbles (or however many marbles fit into a 55-gallon drum) are going to be in the bin at the bottom of the machine.  (But there's always the possibility my deck could collapse, at which point all bets are off.)

"The planet is just too big"?  Yeah, well, they said that about the oceans, didn't they?  "We can just dump trash and sewage into the oceans without repercussions forever.  They're so huge we could never affect them."  "We can fish the oceans forever.  The oceans are vast, and their supply of fish is inexhaustible to all practical purposes."  Tell that to Newfie fishermen who watched their livelihood vanish when the Grand Banks crashed, or to Peruvian anchovy fishermen after that fishery crashed from massive international overfishing (mostly in order to grind the anchovy up for fish-meal fertilizer).  Take a look at the annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico from fertilizer runoff down the Mississippi.  Fer cryin' out loud, the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout left an oil slick on the Gulf that was naked-eye visible from orbit.  Look how polluted the Mediterranean Sea has become, with the entire effluvium of North Africa and most of southern Europe draining into it.  Look at the tundra of Siberia and the Canadian arctic: the permafrost is thawing.  Oh, yes, we can SO affect the planet as a whole, and anyone who thinks otherwise is suffering from dangerous delusions or dangerous ignorance.

The other side of the argument, of course, is the anthropogenic-climate-change-is-holy-truth, how-dare-you-question-it camp who deny any possibility that any part of what we can see happening around us could possibly be natural.  "This has never happened before!"  Well, yes, actually, it has.  Repeatedly.  We don't know what the trigger factors were then.  We have some idea this time.  "The Earth's climate has been stable for millions of years until we came along!"  Well, no, actually, it hasn't.  It's at best metastable, and even if it had been, "millions of years" is an eye-blink in Earth's history.  The dinosaurs alone were around for about 160 million years.  They sneer at your "millions of years" — or would, if they hadn't gone suddenly extinct, apparently due to a series of global changes they couldn't adapt to.

Oh, and while we're on the subject, you folks in the climate-change-zealot faction in the scientific community:  I hope you're aware that your shrill efforts to shout down and suppress any contrary opinions from the scientific community probably did more to discredit your position and make the man in the street question your conclusions than anything your most vocal opponents ever managed.  That wasn't the smartest thing you ever did, you know?

(Counterpoint to that:  about that anti-climate-change petition that's going around in the news?  The one allegedly signed by 31,000 "scientists"?  Word is nearly 9,000 of those "scientists" actually have real Ph.Ds.  Still no word yet on whether any of those 9,000 are actually climatologists.  What, you tell me, over a thousand behavioral psychologists say they don't support climate change theories?  Right.  Duly noted.  I'll be sure to consult a proper seismologist next time I need some psychological advice.)

What we need to do is acknowledge three things, really:

  • There is a large and growing body of evidence that the Earth's long-term (from our viewpoint) average climate is changing in ways that are likely to severely impact our way of life, and possibly our ability to feed large subsets of the human race.  Yes, periodically certain subsets of that data have been shown to be in error.  That doesn't invalidate all the rest of the data.  No, it's not conclusive yet.  But if we wait until it is conclusive before we start doing anything, and it turns out it IS drastically changing in ways that are bad for us, we're pretty much fucked.
  • We don't know for sure how much of this we have caused, but it would behoove us to do our best to find out, so that we can avoid making unplanned changes to it in future.
  • And last, REGARDLESS OF THE CAUSE, we need to get to work on figuring out viable approaches for controlling and mitigating such changes, without trying to roll back the green-fantasy clock to some kind of bucolic pastoral Utopia that has never actually existed, so that we can try to maintain our planet in a general climatic realm compatible with the continuance of modern civilization as we know it.  This isn't going to involve abandoning technology; it has to involve leapfrogging to clean technology.  (And just don't get me started on that "clean coal" bullshit.  Talking about "clean coal" is like talking about hot ice or lightweight lead.)

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Current Music: D'Cückoo :: D'Cückoo :: No One Receiving (1991, 05:26)

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Specifically, fallout from our government having spent close to every day of the last ten years since 9/11 telling us to be afraid.  No, more afraid than that.  Come on, let's see some FEAR here! ...What do you mean, you're not afraid?  You some kinda commie pinko ay-rab muslim jihad turrrrist or sumthin'?

As Bruce Schneier keeps saying, REFUSE TO BE TERRORIZED.  By our own government, or by anyone else.

As he points out in one of the links in the article of his I just linked to there, to justify our current level of Homeland Security spending we would have to foil 1,667 Time Square-style plots per year.  (Clearly we're not getting enough terror plots for our money.  Quick, hire more FBI agents-provocateur...)  Lots of good links in that post.

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Mood: disgusted

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A while back, Microsoft dumped a whole lot of outdated DeLorme mapping packages via Amazon for something like $15 each.

Well, sure.  The MAPS go out of date.  But the included GPS receiver doesn't, and the entire principle of GPS relies on having incredibly accurate time sources.  This time source information is available both in the GPS NMEA data stream and via PPS.  Obvious application is obvious.

Well, I've been studying the issue from the Solaris 10 point of view for some time, but eventually concluded that the driver support just doesn't seem to be there.  However, it's a different story on Linux.

Short story?  Using the GPS receiver from the MS package, I now have my own local stratum 0 timeserver.  Subject to system latency (which should be low on this machine, with six 3.2GHz cores), it should be accurate to about ±1µs. With port baud rate turned up to 115200, ntpd reports zero jitter.

...Oh, the mapping software? That went in the trash.  Duh.

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Music: Assemblage 23 :: Storm :: Human (2004, 05:43)

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The memorial's chief architect told NPR that the quote was "a paraphrase of the original statement based on design constraints."

Meaning, I suppose, "Hey, there's only so much room on the wall."

Dude, if you can't find room for thirteen more words on that surface, in the same face and size, it's because you're not bleedin' trying.

(In fact, it'd actually fill the space better and look more balanced.)

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Music: Tempest :: The Gravel Walk :: Sinclair (1997, 06:13)

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Pork barrel politics is, simply, the art of buying your constituents' votes using their own money, and hoping that they never catch on.

The depressing part about this is how often it works.

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire
Current Music: VNV Nation :: Solitary EP :: Solitary (deathstar disco by Covenant) (1999, 05:52)

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One of the oldest known examples of steganography is the "shaved slave", as in the example of Histiaeus.  You shaved a slave's head, tattooed a message on it, waited for his hair to grow back, and then sent him off to carry your message, hoping that he wasn't intercepted and your recipient at his destination knew what to do with him.

Of course, interpreting the hidden data correctly was up to the recipient.

We just shaved my head last night, as a step towards trying to clear up a scalp condition. It sure looks like all the scar tissue is encoding SOMETHING or other.

Go for it.  The more far-fetched, the better.  :)

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Current Location: Gilford, New Hampshire