personal note; or, a “shout-out” as the kids say

I am almost certainly the world’s worst snail-mail correspondent, but it occurs to me that I can use this blog to remedy that, at least in part. So — Auntie Sis, Uncle Graham, Adam and Claire: thank you for the birthday card, which arrived in good time and was much appreciated.
While I’m at it, thank you also for the other 34 cards, to most of which I daresay I never responded. It occurs to me that this is a remarkable1 demonstration of familial affection and support, thoroughly undeserved on my part, and I am grateful for it.
Also, a little bird tells me that my uncle is a bit under the weather, so my best wishes to you Uncle Graham, and my thoughts are with you all.
1 For those playing along at home: I’m 35.

we get letters nominations

A while back, Max ran a contest to identify the most vicious comment made on a blog by a member of the Instapundit blogroll. Being a fair and balanced couple of bloggers, dsquared and Max decided (scroll down a bit) to run the reverse contest at the same time, that is, for the most vicious post or comment by a member of Max’s own blogroll.
To my delight, Max links to me, and to my continued delight one of my posts has been nominated.

aw, crap

Remember Dudley “ain’t no law against bein’ a asshole” Hiibel (previous entry here)?
He lost.
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh examines the decision here (also here and here). As I understand it, you don’t have to provide ID on demand but you do have to give your (real) name. Also, since the decision is that the demand for your name does not violate the US constitution, what it really means is that state laws requiring you to give your name are not unconstitutional. Some states may not have such laws (yet).

birthday wishes

photo of general secretary of the Burmese National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi The general secretary of the Burmese National League for Democracy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is perhaps the world’s most famous dissident. Her nonviolent campaign for democracy and human rights in a country that has been under a brutal military dictatorship for more than forty years has seen her, among other sacrifices, spend nine of the last 15 years in some form of detention; she is under house arrest at the time of writing, having been detained in May last year. She has been a tireless and selfless voice for her people since she began her political activism in August 1988, when she wrote an open letter to the military government calling for democratic multi-party elections. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the recipient of numerous honours, the subject of several biographies (1, 2, 3) and the author of, inter alia, Letters from Burma, Freedom from Fear and other writings, a biography of her father Aung San and children’s books on Bhutan, Nepal and Burma.
A brief bio can be found here and an extensive one here. Free Burma has an excellent brief introduction to the modern history of Burma, including why you shouldn’t call it “Myanmar” and how to pronounce “Aung San Suu Kyi”. Wikipedia has a brief history beginning with the Mon kingdom around 300 BCE. I swiped the picture from the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi pages, where you can read speeches, articles, interviews, news and more. Further news and info is available from burmanet, the Burma Project,, the Democratic Voice of Burma and links therein.

snippets, with pictures even

scissors icon comet Wild-2, up close and personalComet Wild-2 is billions of years old and millions of miles away, travelling at 13000 miles an hour — and we just took pictures of it, and grabbed a few handfuls of its dust. This gave me one of those “holy shit” moments that got me into science in the first place. (photo: nasa; you really have to go and see the high-res version)

scissors icon I like to think I’m pretty straightforward and unsentimental about mortal remains, mine or anyone else’s, but this guy has me beat by a mile.

a callimico, or Goeldi's monkey scissors iconI’d never heard of callimicos. They’re cute. (Photo Credit: Edilio Nacimento Becerra / University Of Washington)

scissors icon I love this kind of geekery, even if the songs do suck.

scissors icon shieldbug.jpg “New bug proves global warming”

“In all the other cases people say, ‘Is this to do with global warming?’ And we have to say we are not sure. But in this case we are sure.”

Meh. First, prove that the London colonies are not metabolically different from the populations in warmer regions. Mutation is no less likely an explanation than global warming, and easier to falsify. (photo: bbc)

scissors iconThe obvious question arising from this is, do male and female humans have different levels of vasopressin in the orthologous brain region?

scissors icon Hydrolagus matallanasi is a living fossil, like the coelacanth. Another scalp-tingly moment.
Hydrolagus matallanasi, a living fossil

(AP Photo/Vale do Itajai University, Rafael de Alcantara Brandi)

i invoke the lazyweb

I’ve had it with Ureach. Their free email sucks — it’s a spam magnet with no filtering capacity to speak of, and anyway mine has simply stopped working this morning — and their intrusive attempts to get me to pay for the “full” version ensure that I will never do so. (My favourite — “we’ve upgraded you for free, all the features will go away in two weeks so pay up!”. The “features” were shouse anyway.)
So I’m looking for an email service. I’m willing to pay a reasonable amount, although I’m not really sure what constitutes “reasonable” in this context — a hundred dollars a year? A couple of hundred? Anway, features:

  • web based, of course
  • some kind of SpamGard that keeps the more obvious bulk mail at bay and learns by allowing me to define something as spam — and get rid of it — with a single click; unlike Ureach’s version, this should actually work and keep my inbox relatively free of crap
  • several Mb of space, the more the merrier
  • the ability to archive when space fills up (I keep, for instance, every email between the spousal unit and myself)
  • said archive to be in a database format so that I don’t have a series of humongous textfiles to deal with; something compatible with, say, Eudora, or Communicator (does that even still exist?), or — well, anything really, but ideally with a downloadable version of the webmail app
  • decent address book — meaning easy to add addresses to the file, easy to add recipients from the file when composing mail
  • ability to organise stored mail into folders (bite me, Google)
  • No advertisements. None, ever.
  • POPmail, and ability to retrieve mail from other POP accounts
  • catch-all addressing, so that I can sign things as “senn-Fredsblog@wherever.whatever” to see whether Fred is selling addresses
  • decent search function (once more, Ureach, you suck)
  • decent range of customisation in re: layout, format of messages, attachments, and so on — or, you know, one unalterable layout that happens to match all my preferences
  • “send copy to self” that actually does, that is, works like a bcc:; none of this bizarro “it’s in the Sent folder and you can’t ever move it” bollocks (Novell Groupwise, you virus masquerading as software, I’m looking at you); likewise, no symbolic linking, if I move something I want it moved already

That’s about all I can think of for now. The easiest way to do all this would be to buy a minimal hosting package from a company with a decent webmail app, but all the webmail-with-hosting I’ve ever seen was utter crap. All info and advice much appreciated.

if you’re done with the killing and torturing, we’d like our TLD back too

Iraq’s top-level domain, .iq, was deactivated before the 2003 invasion and is still unavailable. Understandably, they’d like it back. The Dialogue Channel has a petition you can sign (more info here). It might seem like a little thing, but my feeling is that it could mean a lot to a people trying to get back to the business of being a real nation again. (via PaleoJudaica)

american what association?

The disingenuously named American Family Association is at it again, this time frothing at the mouth over the “homosexual agenda” (about which, see this). If you have a spare moment, go mess up their survey (that is, unless you’re a raving bigot, answer the dishonest leading questions as accurately as they can be answered). (via Atrios)
I note with schadenfreudenous glee that they tell you how many people have taken this survey after you submit your answers — I was the 95894th — but not what the results are. Presumably they learned something from this little incident.
Oh, and you have to give them a name and email address. I gave them real info, as I’m happy to keep casual tabs on what these malignant morons are up to, but you can always just make stuff up. Vote early, vote often.


I wasn’t in the US when Reagan was president, so all I “remember” of him comes from later experience with his legacies: as a researcher in HIV/AIDS, he became known to me as the man who could have, but didn’t, save millions, and as a guilty white liberal with a mental illness of my own (major depression) I learned to loathe the man who shut down the US’ ailing mental health infrastructure without doing a damn thing to build an effective replacement. In the light of these two failures alone, the current bumper crop of oily media eulogies is turning my stomach. That’s all I have to say about that; for a glimpse of the personal, see Brad and Terrance, and for a savvy political summary Juan Cole.

sunlight is the best disinfectant; or, emil you worthless maggot

Yesterday and today, I spent about half an hour deleting (by hand; MT is nice, but it lacks some sorely needed functionality) some of the most vile comment spam I’ve seen. Rape, incest and bestiality are this scumbag’s specialties, according to the comment titles and links. A WHOIS lookup on the domains entered in the url field gives this:

OrgName: Atrivo
Address: 180 Golf Club Road #118
City: Pleasant Hill
StateProv: CA
PostalCode: 94523
Country: US
NetRange: –
NetHandle: NET-69-50-160-0-1
Parent: NET-69-0-0-0-0
NetType: Direct Allocation
Comment: ## Comments listed here will appear in ARIN’s WHOIS database.
RegDate: 2003-06-04
Updated: 2003-08-21
NOCName: Kacperski, Emil
NOCPhone: +1-925-550-3947
OrgTechHandle: EKA4-ARIN
OrgTechName: Kacperski, Emil
OrgTechPhone: +1-925-550-3947

The OrgTechHandle entry is another WHOIS link, which gives:

Name: Kacperski, Emil
Handle: EKA4-ARIN
Company: Atrivo
Address: 180 Golf Club Road #118
City: Pleasant Hill
StateProv: CA
PostalCode: 94523
Country: US
RegDate: 2002-12-09
Updated: 2002-12-09
Phone: +1-925-550-3947 (Office)

A google search turns up around a hundred hits, including this, this and this.
Does your mother know what you do for a living, you pustule on the asshole of humanity?