Sunday, January 28, 2007

The new Blogger sucks

Today, without warning, Google forced me to upgrade my Blogger account to use their new out-of-beta absolutely stupid interface.

I'm done with Blogger and will figure out what to do with this blog over the next few days. The SEO Theory blog, I suppose, will have to be moved to the 1st Query Web site sooner than planned.

There was absolutely no compelling business reason for Google to force me to create a new account, much less to force me to use a horribly designed "upgrade".

Good-bye Blogger.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

On global warming and 'An Inconvenient Truth'

Stever has submitted some comments for publication that I have not published or rejected as I write this. I'm not impressed enough with the "new" Blogger service to upgrade this account and I don't have the ability to edit comments. I will post part of Stever's latest submission here and reply to that portion. The portion I am leaving out is a reference to Ickipedia, a source of disinformation I neither trust nor endorse.
I don't buy this partial data rebutal. have read it other places too.

Sure it's only a blip out of the 4.5 billion year age of the earth. But it is not a blip to the human race and all other forms of life on this planet today.

And just saying that 600k years does not matter is simply brushing it off. 600k years matters plenty. We don't know what the pattern was before those 600k, or how long we have been in that pattern. At some time in the past it was certainly different.

If it only shows us a cycle we have been in, for the past 5 or 6 cycles we can measure, and now shows us the cycle has drastically changed, and the timing of the change coincides with our petro burning, forest clearing, ocean raping, blah, blah, blah, etc. activities, then 600k years is more than enough data to show a significant change.

And what do you mean by "the current ice age is older that 600k years old"? What are you calling an ice age? The entire period that there has been ice at the poles? I think that what we typically like to call an ice age is that 100k cycle we see in the chart. At all the other peaks there is still ice at the poles, just much less than there was during the cold periods when the ice cap reached all the way to Florida.
I am not pretending to be a climatologist, but you somehow got the erroneous impression from my previous post on global warming that I somehow don't believe in it.

I conceded the whole global warming point on a personal level after surviving Crazy Ivan, but in my post I specifically wrote: "Okay, folks, we get it. It's going to get hot, it's going to get wet, and a lot of people will be displaced for any number of environmental reasons."

Now, does the data from 600,000 years of recent geological climactic history matter with respect to analyzing the current climatological trends?

Yes and No.

Yes, it matters in the sense that if we have indeed accelerated the process (as I wrote in my previous post) of climatological change, then current temperature trends will conflict with the recent historical temperature trends.

So Al Gore and I do, in fact, agree on the point that human activity has accelerated the process of global warming.

As far as the Earth's natural processes are concerned, what does 600,000 years' worth of data mean? Not a whole lot. Things were once much hotter and wetter in places (and drier in other places) than it's about to become in the next few hundred years of human experience. Life on Earth has survived a lot of changes far more dramatic than we're about to experience.

If you could go back in time to the age of the dinosaurs, you would have to wear an environmental suit because you would have trouble breathing the atmosphere. I loved the "Jurassic Park" movies but without some genetic modification I'm not sure reconstituted dino DNA could actually help us rebreed long-dead species that simply were not adapted to our current environment. What would an oxygen-rich atmosphere do to them? Maybe they would burn out. I don't know. Maybe a biologist would say, "Eh. Wouldn't matter as much to them as it might to us if we swapped atmospheric conditions".

Still, there was once far more CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere than there is today, than there will be in 100 years, and maybe -- just maybe -- the fact that we humans have accelerated the process doesn't mean we're about to push the Earth's climactic changes past any records set in previous geological epochs. After all, during the periods of great volacnism, the atmosphere was extremely toxic by today's standards. Somehow Mama Earth managed to change things out and here we are.

My previous post was not written in opposition to taking action about global warming. I'm not sure how anyone could possibly get that idea from what I wrote. But obviously at least one person is concerned I'm not taking the issue seriously.

Personally, I feel I am taking it as seriously as anyone else who has written on the topic lately. But I'm also proposing that we do something useful with all the additional water that is coming from the melting ice caps. We can eventually stop flooding our atmosphere with pollution and I'm all for that, but in the meantime a geologic process has begun which cannot be stopped in an instant.

So despite the fact that we can expect more ecological threats and disasters in the near future, we really do have an opportunity to change some of the desert conditions that make life extremely inhospitable to people. Furthermore, undertaking such massive ecological transformation projects would cost less than we are spending on foreign wars and would most likely win us more friends and respect around the globe than using the most powerful army in modern history to spread "democracy" at gunpoint.

We can accomplish a lot if we find the collective will to take action now.

That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Global warming: The ocean is rising! The ocean is rising!

1200 scientists and innumerable government-appointed editors are in the process of telling us that human-induced global warming has begun.

Let's get real for a moment. This has happened before. It has happened more than once before. Regardless of whether dinosaur flatulence contributed to any periods of global warming during their period of ascendancy, scientists are acting like humanity is on a self-destructive path that is altering the natural state of the universe.

I have to roll my eyes every time that card is played because it's just so false and deceptive.

Now, that doesn't mean we aren't on the verge of a long period of seeing massive environmental changes. We've seen monster storms come up and knock away whole towns and cities. Flooding has apparently increased in some areas of the world and droughts have increased in other areas of the world.

And the oceans should rise between 4 and 35 inches over the next 100 years.

Okay, folks, we get it. It's going to get hot, it's going to get wet, and a lot of people will be displaced for any number of environmental reasons.

What shames the scientific community at this point in the process, however, is their failure to suggest any practical applications that take advantage of global warming while we look for ways to reduce the amount of our industrial influence on the phenomenon. We cannot hope to stop what remains a natural process, but we can possibly reduce the amount of acceleration we put into that process through our pollution.

Meanwhile, people are dying of drought-induced famine as the oceans rise.

Has anyone considered the fact that we actually have the technology to convert salt water to fresh water?

Has anyone considered the fact that we have the technology to create huge pipelines to carry liquids across thousands of miles?

Has anyone considered the fact that if you built ten, twenty, thirty, one hundred desalination plants across north Africa and a network of pipelines to carry the fresh water you could create huge resevoirs across the desert (which was once a well-watered plain)?

Has anyone considered how many jobs would created by such a project?

Has anyone considered how many farms could be supported by such a project?

Has anyone considered how much supporting infrastructure would additionally be required by such a project, increasing the number of jobs and resources available to impoverished nations?

The north and east African nations could reinvent themselves, feed their peoples, improve their economies, and reduce their populations' sympathies for militant groups that really have no goals other than to enslave and murder as many people as they can.

And Africa is not the only continent that could benefit from this relatively simple, low-cost technology. We could rebuild depleted water reserves throughout North America's western plains and deserts, where growing cities have drained rivers dry and lowered the water levels of huge underground aquifers by hundreds of feet in some places.

Even Australia could open up its massive arid interior to channels of development that would spur growth and, most importantly, help funnel water out of the oceans into regions that haven't seen water for hundreds, thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of years.

Now, environmentalists will be quick to say, "Wait! We cannot simply go flooding existing ecosystems that have adapted to arid conditions! What about all the species that will die off?"

To which one can only reply, "What about all the coastal species and ecosystems already being destroyed by rising oceans and worsening storm systems?"

There are no perfect solutions, but our problems today extend well beyond global warming. Millions of people die from starvation and disease every year simply because they lack the basic resources to survive. How many desert rats and lizards are 1,000,000 babies worth?

Yes, we contributed to the problem but the truth of the matter is that global warming began more than 10,000 years ago. It didn't begin because of human activity and it's only in the past few hundred years that human activity has become capable of accelerating the process. We are currently living in what is called an Interglacial Period. That is, geologically, the Earth is passing through an Ice Age (a period of alternating cold and warm phases), but we're in the midst of a warming phase that has put the Ice Age on hold.

Eventually, despite global warming, the Earth will again cool down and we'll enter another glacial period such as the one that ended about 12,000 years ago. Glacial periods tend to last for tens of thousands of years. Interglacial Periods can last for similar lengths of time but they tend to be shorter. The current Interglacial Period may last another 10-15,000 years. We don't know.

The last Interglacial Period warmed the Earth past the point where its climate currently stands now. Europe and North America were like tropical paradises. So the peril represented by global warming is not one that threatens Earth's ecosystem. Micro-ecosystems have risen and died out endlessly as part of the natural process for as long as there has been life on Earth. Polish aristocrats cut down an entire forest several hundred years ago, created a desert, and many of the animals in the region adapted to that desert environment. Now that desert is threatened by development and reforestation.

Forests, jungles, deserts, lakes, rivers, wetlands, and plains have formed and vanished endlessly throughout the history of life on our planet. That natural process has led to the extinction of many species, as well as to the rise of many species. We have no idea of which species will adapt to the consequences of today's global warming, but we have more than just an environmental responsibility to respect the natural existence of other species. We also have a natural biological imperative to survive.

Our survival can be enhanced in many ways if we seize the opportunity to produce more fresh water, irrigate unused desert land, and create jobs, hope, stability, and improved security for many people in lands that are now depleted of natural resources. In the long run, if we do nothing with all that water flowing into the oceans, we'll see increasing population pressures and competition for safe, dry land lead to more warfare and strife between impoverished peoples.

Is the continued survival of desert turtle and lizard habitats worth the human misery and suffering that could otherwise be avoided?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Human genetic experiments take an odd twist

By the time a story hits the front page of CNN's Web site, it's probably been digested many times over in smaller journalistic circles. And having seen what national/international media can do to the facts of various industries, I take whatever I read there with a huge grain of salt.

Still, it's curious to find that some people with genetic variations may want to propagate them through selective embryo screening.

Now, if blond-haired, blue-eyed people wearing Swastikas (btw -- did you know that most Nazis did not have blond hair?) were to put together a breeding program to create super-human beings or some such nonsense (which has been written about in science fiction for years), nearly everyone on the planet would be up in arms, looking for the secret laboratories. We don't need no stinkin' racist supermen.

But the CNN story looks at the angle from the other direction. Will people be as incensed and offended when they realize that couples with physical disadvantages -- such as dwarfism -- may want to have children who share the same disadvantages with them?

Every time I see an article about ancient human populations or modern human genetic control ethics, I wonder how it is that we have come to be who we are through what science calls "the evolutionary process". Now, before you start branding me a "genetic interventionist" or whatever, understand that I'm only looking at the scientific side of the issues.

For decades, scientists have struggled to explain how we became human. They have proposed speciation events must have occurred, where small, isolated populations of early hominids were cut off from other hominids for long periods of time (hundreds of thousands of years). For whatever reasons, one group of hominids surpassed all others during each speciation phase.

So one group of Australopithecines (the hobbit-sized "Lucy" who lived 3,000,000 years ago was an Australopithecine) was cut off from all others and this one group evolved into the early Homo Sapiens ancestors many scientists have called Homo Erectus or Homo Ergaster. The Erectus/Ergaster groups became divided across three broad regions: some remained in Africa, some went north to Europe, and some went east to Asia.

The Neanderthals are believed to have evolved from Homo Heidelbergensis families (descendants of African Homo Ergasters) who spread north in a later migration. But there remains the question of whether Neanderthals and Modern Humans intermingled. Two interspeciation points have been proposed (that I am aware of): the Middle East and western Europe.

In East Asia, the descendants of Homo Erectus supposedly lasted about 1,000,000 years before dying out. They were ultimately replaced by Modern Humans.

Modern Humans are believed to have evolved in Africa (which means that all blond-haired, blue-eyed people are descended from dark-skinned people -- so much for the "pure Nordic race"). Every few tens of thousands of years, new waves genetically more advanced people swarmed out from Africa to expand into other regions of the world.

The statistical implication is that the human evolutionary process occurs fastest in small, isolated populations that must adapt to radical changes in environment. If a population can expand into wider and wider territory, there is no evolutionary impetus for advantageous genes to cluster together and produce a "leap forward" (as the voiceovers in the "X-Men" movies indicate).

So where does that leave modern humanity? Science fiction writers have often suggested or argued that a population which achieves a state of civilizaion stops evolving. Recent genetic evidence suggests that is not so. In fact, as recently as a few thousand years ago we acquired the ability to digest milk in adulthood (a genetic trait which is still not found in some parts of the world).

Recent research suggests that humanity's most recent common ancestor lived about 60,000 years ago. Some people are already suggesting that genetic mutations occur at a much faster pace in human experience than previously believed.

But in order for a new species to appear, more than one genetic mutation must become fixed (dominant) in a population. Despite a wide array of genetic variations in modern humans, we are still the same species. The question of whether we can spin off a new species in a world of highly interconnected sub-groups is both scientifically intriguing and ethically confusing.

The process would have to begin with intentional human genetic breeding. That is, even something as relatively simple as prescreening embryos constitutes a breeding process, in the sense that we are selecting offspring for a specific outcome. We breed dogs, cats, horses, cattle, and many other animals. Have we now come down to breeding ourselves?

And if we achieve the ability to create a species on demand, should we use it?

Bill Richardson to bring New Mexico corruption to Washington?

As both Republican and Democratic Presidential hopefuls launch their 2008 campaigns, Bill Richardson, governor of the corrupt State of New Mexico, has declared: "Our reputation in the world is diminished".

Bill, are you talking about New Mexico or the United States? I've lived in New Mexico. I've dealt with your corrupt court system. I've been threatened and coerced by your corrupt officers of the court with respect to cases where I was neither the plaintiff nor the defendent.

You have serious problems in your state, dude. Why don't you fix them before you drag your sorry gang of cronies to Washington and make everyone else's lives miserable?

What this country does NOT need is New Mexico's "good ole boy" syndrome thrust upon all fifty states.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

No interesting movies this weekend

The dearth of good movies continues. I may go back and see "Night at the Museum" again. Haven't made up my mind. "Arthur and the Invisibles" was certainly fun, but I was hoping something new and interesting would come out.

Although I have to admit that I am tempted to go see "Stomp the Yard" after reading a synopsis of the story. I've never heard of "stepping" or any fraternity competitions. I should probably do some research and see what I can find. Regardless of whether the story would be well written, directed, or acted, the dancing alone should be interesting.

Then again, I've got a lot of stuff I need to be doing that I'm putting off. For example, people keep sending pictures, links, and information about Mizuo Peck. I'll try to get the page updated tomorrow (January 21). I'll try, I promise. There's loads of interesting factums about her. Mizuo has apparently made a great impression on a lot of people who have known her.

But maybe all the interest in Mizuo underscores just how boring the current crop of movies actually is. I think the film industry took a nose dive with "Borat". In the meantime, I'm waiting for "Spider-man 3", "The Fantastic Four 2", "Indiana Jones 4", "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", "Pirates of the Caribbean 3", and "The Hobbit".

Oh, wait. There won't be any "Hobbit" movie just yet. My bad.

Well, maybe we'll get another "Incredibles" or "Superman Returns Again" or something.

Democrats doom U.S. with Clinton, Obama candidacies

We need some new leadership from real leaders, not from tired party hacks and people who have failed to demonstrate any real leadership qualities.

Leaders don't stand around whining about who is charge. They take charge.

Leaders don't place blame for failure on others. They take responsibility for their actions and accept responsibility for failure.

Leaders don't follow political party agendas. They set their own agendas.

Leaders don't rush in whenever there's a disaster and take credit for any small success. They deal with the problem and move on.

The inveitable flood of U.S. Senators and Representatives who are going to stand before the cameras over the next year and tell us "we need new leadership, blah, blah, blah" won't produce one single leader. None of them are qualified. Out of 535 people serving in the U.S. Congress today, none are leaders.

And we don't just need a leader. We need a strong leader. Historians will tell you quickly that, throughout history, strong leaders usually introduce themselves very simply, sometimes even gracefully. In their correspondence, their treaties, their declarations, they basically say, "I so-and-so set forth on this day blah-blah-blah."

Weak leaders, on the other hand, are the ones who toot their horns, who form "exploratory committees", who rely upon press conferences to influence the real leaders, who extol their own virtues.

If the people of the United States really wanted Barack O'Bama or Hilary Clinton as the President, you'd see hundreds, thousands of bloggers every day suggesting that these people need to be in the white house.

Once you zoom past the hard-core Democratic bloggers, you get nothing. No grass-roots demand for press conferencing exploratory committeeing leaders.

The Republican Party, being just as corrupt and pathetic as the Democratic Party, at least has had the good sense not to signal its intent for 2008 Presidential campaigns. We can enjoy bashing the Democrats for their ludicrous self-bleating for a while before the Republicans return to show us that there ain't no intelligent life in Congress.

Scotty, 300 million to beam up. Be sure to leave the Democrats and Republicans behind so they can pick new "leaders".

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Way behind schedule

I've fallen behind schedule again. That's about the way things go every year.

I've yet to return to the articles on the Compuserve IMPs, although the Web site is designed and partially installed.

I've got to come up with an alternative to the Battlestar Galactica Essay Contest because, apparently, the rules were too tough and the prizes not compelling enough.

I've been uploading newly updated Xenite.Org Forum Archives to SF-Fandom. So far I think I've updated the Andre Norton Message Board Archive, the H. P. Lovecraft Message Board Archive, the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World Message Board Archive (which includes messages from Michael Sinelnikoff, who played Professor Summerlee), the Farscape Message Board Archive (and that was the first fan-run message board or forum for the show), and the White Council Archive.

The White Council was the first Web forum dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien (and the first devoted to all of the Inklings). It's been succeeded by our Tolkien and the Inklings Forum and our Lord of the Rings movies forum. I renamed the forum when we split it up because other people were starting to call their Tolkien forums "the White Council" and I didn't feel like getting into a branding war with them.

And I've got other projects I have been and need to work on, such as the Tolkien Studies Web site and its new Tolkien Studies Blog.

So if I seem a bit off the radar every now and then, it's because I'm just way too swamped to deal with everything. I have two requests for permission to translate...Tolkien essays. I'm not sure which group. I've been changing my email subscriptions, preferences in profiles/accounts, and such too. I'm almost done with the transfer of everything into my new email address (which remains thankfully spam-free).

Anyway, that's partly where I've been for the past few weeks. I know people read this blog so I try to update it a few times a week, but it's tough to get back here very often. I appreciate your patience.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Boldly going where we've gone before

I've been watching the reruns of Enterprise that SciFi has moved to its Monday night lineup. I did enjoy watching the first season of Enterprise but after a few months my schedule became too busy and I lost track of the show.

I know many hard-core Star Trek fans disliked the show but every Star Trek show has been greated with equal hostility by fans of the previous show. When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted, many of my friends gagged. I could barely watch the show during the first season. I was completely unable to watch it in the second season. I tried again in the third season and found that it had improved vastly.

When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered, it was Deja Vu all over again. Dedicated fans of ST:TNG hated the show. In fact, some people claim the show was only saved by the arrival of Worf. I'm not so sure it was as simple as that, but DS9 did get more interesting about that time.

When Star Trek: Voyager came on the scene, people thought it was pretty mundane and boring. How the show survived as long as it did, I don't know. They do say that Jeri Ryan turned things around. Was it Jeri Ryan or the Borg? I don't know. I watched more of Voyager in rerun syndication than I ever did while it was in its first run.

So when Enterprise debuted, I was prepared for the inevitable fannish whining. Sadly, they failed to disappoint me. The complaints rang throughout fandom. Enterprise was not as good as Voyager. Archer is no Janeway. What were they thinking? All you have to do is change the names and I'd already been through this three times before.

So now Enterprise has entered life in the rerun zone and there it will be doomed to forever remain, one must suppose. I'm curious about what the franchise will do next. The Federation has tamed the entire galaxy. About all that remains to be played out is the inevitable civil war and then maybe, if the civil war doesn't do it, the final collapse and demise of the corrupt, decadent Federation.

Those would actually make for two very interesting television series. And some people might argue that the Temporal Cold War we saw in Enterprise might constitute a civil war phase in Federation history, but I don't think so. Time Travel is a tool that Star Trek has come to rely upon often (they used it at least twice in the original series that I can think of) but Voyager showed us in its "Year of Hell" episode (I think that was the name) that using time technology to wage a war results in endless and hopeless paradoxes and counter-intuitive results.

Somehow the Federation has to get past its love affair with time travel and become divided into two political camps that are so diametrically opposed they feel the only way to resolve their differences is war. I would guess one camp would have to be the Eradicators, people who believe the galaxy can only have peace if all the violent, war-like civilizations are totally humbled or destroyed. The other camp would have to be the Embracers, people who believe that all civilizations in the galaxy should be absorbed into the Federation, even at phaser-point if necessary, but once absorbed allowed some leeway.

The Eradicators would use the Borg as an example of a species that threatens the safety and individuality of every other species in the galaxy. But the Embracers would equally use the Borg as an example of what total domination costs galactic social evolution. As long as cultures enter the Federation peacefully, or with some shreds of their individual heritages intact, the Federation should be able to repair all fences.

These two points of view would represent Gene Roddenberry's classic moral dilemma: can we use the power we obtain responsibly? Of course, a civil war between Federation factions bent on galactic conquest would depict such a perversion of Roddenberry's hopeful future that people might argue it's not really what Roddenberry' intended. Perhaps he would never intend to show such a hardline future, but it would represent a logical progression in the sequence of cultural evolutionary phases that Star Trek has explored.

And more importantly, it would permit us to continue the morality play format Roddenberry practiced. There could easily be a pacifist faction within the divided Federartion that strives to restore peace and harmony. But there could also be a reactionary faction that wants to return the Federation's priorities to its roots.

Ultimately, the solution to the moral dilemma would have to be found in a compromise between the principles of all the factions. I can easily see this kind of speculative story-telling last 10-12 seasons, if done properly.

And when the dust has settled and the old Federation is gone, we'd be able to look upon a new frontier for the descendants of the Federation's citizens to explore. Hope would be reborn from the ashes, and humanity with all its brethren across the stars would have learned a valuable lesson: that we cannot force each to be what we are not, that we cannot destroy each other without destroying ourselves.

So what do you think? Where would you like to see Star Trek go? Why not share your thoughts in SF-Fandom's Star Trek Forum? I'd like to know what other people hope to see in future Trek shows.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Arthur and the Invisibles

This was one of those movies I knew was coming down the pipeline but really had not paid much attention to. I guess it had "kiddie flick" written all over its promotional copy so I had no real expectations for it.

Well yesterday I was out spending money and stopped at one of the local malls right after it started snowing. I was cold and hungry and decided to splurge on lunch, so I went to Johnny Rockets. :)

After lunch I meandered over to the mall's theater and saw that "Arthur and the Inivisibles" was just about to start. I didn't feel like getting back out into the cold and the snow again so I bought a ticket.

The only real miscasting in the whole movie, in my opinion, is Freddie Highmore as Arthur. Don't misunderstand me. I think he's a great Arthur. He performed admirably and the role suits him. I first saw Freddie in last year's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and I thought he did a good job there, too.

The problem is that he was the only person in the movie who spoke with a British accent. So either the entire cast was miscast or the lead was miscast. His accent sticks out like a sore thumb and it detracts from the movie's vintage 1950s-era mystique. How many American farm boys really sounded like they grew up in London?

I was surprised to see how many big stars (or once big stars) were involved in the movie: Mia Farrow, Robert de Niro, Madonna(!), and Emilio Estevez (to name most). I realize doing voices for animated films usually doesn't take a lot of an actor's time, but it's nice to see so many big screen stars involve themselves in productions where they have to rely mostly on their voices. That's craft and skill. It's part of the movie magic.

The special effects in the film were pretty good. The sets intermingled live action shots of an actual farmhouse setting with CGI. The transitions were almost seamless in a few scenes. Some of the transitions were a bit jarring but I think the movie mostly works.

It was a fun afternoon break and I'm glad I decided to see the movie on the spur of the moment. There have been way too few good, fun movies this fall and winter. I think Hollywood has dipped into the doldrums. Maybe they ran out of money for quality productions. I don't know, but it's almost been like a film drought this season.

I hope Freddie gets to make more fun movies before he moves on to the inevitable afterschool specials, sitcoms, and low-budget cameos. And I hope his film career doesn't mess him up. Child actors remind many people of what it's like to live in a world of imagination again, but they often pay a horrendous price in quality of life (and sometimes in brevity of life). Stay good, Freddie. Stay good.

I've also started a discussion of Arthur and the Invisibles at SF-Fandom's General Movies forum. Let me know what you think of the movie, either here or there.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mizuo Peck

On a much happier note, people are very, very interested in Mizuo Peck, the actress who plays the Sacagawea replica-come-to-life in "Night at the Museum".

Mizuo's name is currently the second most searched-for content on Xenite.Org (after Grace Park of Battlestar Galactica). I suspect that when our Mizuo Peck page achieves a more stable high ranking in Google's search results we'll see yet more traffic from her fans.

In the meantime, readers have been writing to share information about Mizuo's career and education and we have updated the page with the new information. The section on Sacagawea has also been moved to a more prominent position in the left hand margin. I hope that people who are curious about Mizuo also take the time to look at the Sacagawea information we have found and linked to.

Anyway, Mizuo, if you want to start a fan club, I think you'll find some interest out there. But let's get another movie or two under your belt. Keep up the good work!

U.S. Congress does not want to support our troops

It's sad when the members of Congress, newly elected to office, put the needs of our soldiers aside and take up political grand-standing. American troops are no more enthusiastic about staying in Iraq than anyone else, but the soldiers want more help. So far, every comment from the new Congress has been about partisan politics. They put their political parties ahead of the needs and priorities of the American people. Who is willing to go to Washington to actually stand up for the people and not the parties?

And there remains considerable room for sending more troops in hearts here at home, especially among the families that bear this burden the hardest.

It's not that throwing more soldiers into harm's way is a solution in itself, but at a time when more and more generals are coming out of the woodwork, criticizing the administration they worked for, one must ask why they waited until now to say anything. On the one hand, working within the organization is considered to be a professional behavior.

On the other hand, we hung Nazis at Nuremburg for claiming they were only following orders. We expect our military leaders to stand up and say, "This is a fundamentally unsound military strategy" before we find ourselves embroiled in a controversy. Generals often take cushy jobs upon retirement and their motivations in criticizing the war now should be questioned.

Senators and Congressional Representatives are not capable of leading, much less winning a war. Wars are won only through perseverence and sound military strategy. Sound military strategy is not developed in front of television cameras or on campaign trails.

Right now, several Democratic and Republican party members are in the process of either consolidating their power in Washington or setting themselves up for the Presidential election in 2008. We can expect yet more anti-war rhetoric intended only to pleae the voters who are frustrated with the war. The leaders in Congress have not proposed any useful, meaningful solutions.

Whether President Bush is right is another matter. But we have already had to send miitary resources back to Somalia because this country allowed itself to be humiiated by Al Qaeda once before. If we leave Iraq before we achieve stability there, we will have to return in the future. We had to invade Iraq to begin with because we created Saddam Hussein and diplomacy had failed completely to resolve the international community's concerns about him.

He may not have been making weapons of mass destruction, but he was unwilling to prove that he wasn't making them, he continued to posture and pretend that he was making them, and he continued to inflict suffering on his own people. Most Americans continue to be ignorant of the fact that sanctions were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children because the aid that was permitted for Iraq during the sanction years was in many cases diverted by corrupt politicians from the United Nations and/or Hussein's government.

Members of Congress need to stop abusing their mandate for change. They are trying to use it as a mandate for cowardice and humiliation. It's way past time for the United States to accept responsibility for the fact tha we created this problem and we need to address it. Bullets are not the long-term solution. But neither is running and hiding.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bill Gates wants to get 'Simply Connected'

He must have read my story. Bill Gates wants to wire up everyone's houses. I'm all for that. "Computer. Turn on the television set." "Yes, master. The toaster is now in the bathtub." "Eeeek!" "Sorry honey!"

Actually, some years ago I wrote a short story called Simply Connected. It was the third in a series of stories (of which I only have copy for the first and the third) about a young programmer named Jim Curtis who constantly finds himself in the middle of unusually demanding technical glitches.

The first story, called Ill Logic, is about a mini-computer that goes on a rampage. It introduces Jim and a girl named Debbie (Deb). In "Simply Connected", they are dating steadily and go to spend the weekend with Deb's parents. Jim's anxieties about meeting the girlfriend's parents don't really live up to the experience.

Anyway, at least I know these older stories are still a bit on the cutting edge.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Last Mimzy

I've been seeing a trailer lately that has caught my attention. It's promoting a movie called "The Last Mimzy" and many of you have probably already seen it by now. I saw it, I believe, when I watched "Night at the Museum" (which introduced me to Mizuo Peck). I saw the trailer again last weekend when I went to see "Children of Men" (which I find is a very disturbing movie -- Alberto Cuarzon has a gift for turning hopeful outcomes into dark clouds). And today I saw the trailer again when I went to see "Happily Never After".

I'm not sure I would recommend either "Children of Men" or "Happily Never After", but at least HNA made me laugh in a few places. It was just kind of a very bizarre twist on the old fairy tale land gone amok story. All that was missing was Lord Farquhar from "Shrek".

So, anyway, "The Last Mimzy" appears to be some sort of time travel tale. At least, that is what the trailer implies. Some sort of "magical" toys transform two children, and it turns out one of the toys is a stuffed rabbit called Mimzy. Whether it's a future-comes-to-the-past story or maybe another variation on the old "dead ghosts are crossing over into our world" story, I don't know. The official Web site seems a bit too media-heavy for my tastes.

But this is a movie I'll probably try to see.

And while I'm discussing movies, I might as well ask what is up with all the penguin movies? I enjoyed "Happy Feet" but now we're being prepped for "Surf's Up" and last year I think there were a couple of other penguin movies.

Okay, film industry, I think we've hit the saturation point. PIXAR dudes, I'd rather see a sequel to "The Incredibles" or maybe even "Cars" (but I prefer "The Incredibles" -- Violet could offer some interesting conflict and drama).

New Tolkien Studies blog post

I have now posted Broken Promises, Lost Lore, and Forgotten Flowers on the Tolkien Studies Blog.

While browsing the Web, I came across an old Tolkien site and thought it would be nice to show people how Tolkien fandom on the Web used to look. Before the Peter Jackson movies swept us all up in LoTRmania.

I tried to select some very interesting, useful, and informative sites. A few of them are still active today.

Democrats launch new initiative to humiliate U.S.

Last July I pointed out how U.S. foreign policy implements a domino effect for Islamic fundamentalists. Now that the Democrats control Congress, they are wasting no time in proving they have absolutely no concern for the shame and defeat their policies are designed to bring upon the United States, not to mention the many hundreds or possibly thousands of additional lives lost their policies are about to cost us.

As U.S. Naval ships blockade Islamic militants in the fourth front of the war against Al Qaeda, our Democratic leaders are abusing their newly won majority in Congress to mislead the American people about what we have at stake. I certainly am no fan of President Bush's strategies, but "exit strategy" is a euphemism for "we have no will to win".

Al Qaeda will use a premature American exit to recruit yet more fundamentalist fighters to open up yet more fronts against the United States in their long-term strategic goal to bleed us dry.

We have forces fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia thanks in large part to the defeatist rhetoric the Democrats have used to encourage Al Qaeda and all militants who want to humiliate the United States.

When we had troops stationed in Mogadishu, President Clinton refused to give our troops the armored support they needed to achieve the capture of the Somali warlord they were sent to capture. When troops became pinned down, President Clinton again refused to commit sufficient forces to bring them out safely. And yet despite the losses we suffered, our troops achieved a significant military accomplishment over the Somali forces -- also despite the fact that the Somali militants were using their own women and children as human shields.

In the aftermath, President Clinton showed the world that a handful of militants can humiliate the United States and drive it out of any nation. That is what drives Al Qaeda's strategy today. Hundreds of Islamic Somali militants have indicated they will answer Al Qaeda's call and launch an Iraqi-style insurgency against the Somali government, the Ethiopian army, any African peacekeepers who are sent in by the United Nations, and undoubtedly the U.S. warships now patrolling the Somali coast.

And while we do not have troops stationed in Pakistan, the second front in the war against Al Qaeda, it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves embrolied in a fifth front. Al Qaeda is not merely seeking to open more fronts against the United States and its allies. It's also looking for a new home, a land were it can rebuild its headquarters and training facilities. Africa now looks like a more appealing neighborhood than Asia.

As long as the Democrats are willing to freely admit to the world that the United States has no will to defend itself against Al Qaeda, there will be an endless supply of volunteer and forced suicide bombers attacking the United States and other nations across the globe. The Democrats, like the Republicans, have offered absolutely no solutions for the problems that are the underlying causes of the support for Al Qaeda.

Instead of using their newfound political clout to engage in partisan politics and misrepresent the views and will of the American people, the Democrats need to take a long-term view and plan for a decisive, strategic victory against Al Qaeda, because Al Qaeda is most certainly taking that kind of long-term view against the United States. Let's see some initiatives come out of Washington for a change that address the realities of decades of Democrat and Republican abusive policies that have turned so many poor people around the world into prospective Al Qaeda martyrs.

Any "exit stratgy" that plays into Al Qaeda's hands is an admission of weakness, defeat, and confusion -- all of which will only strengthen Al Qaeda's support and improve their ability to deliver further attacks against the United States and countries that have been weakened by our lack of support and confidence.

How many more troops and civilians do we have to sacrifice before we get rid of the lying idiots who run Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) and elect some people who will truly put the interests of the American people ahead of partisan politics?

Changing my email address again

I don't like changing my email address because every time I do I lose contact with many people whom I only occasionally hear from. However, it became necessary to take action because the spam has overwhelmed my filters and I don't feel like paying for "better filters". The best filter is not having an email address the spammers know about.

The last time I went through this was the fall of 2003 when the SOBIG.F virus/trojan/whatever infected millions of computers around the world. So many people had my email address in their computers I was getting 3,000 infected emails a day, and that was the limit of what our server could handle (although Dixie was also getting hammered).

I've tried to be careful with the email address I set up because it took me a month to make the transition. Nonetheless, I've found myself on a few third-party marketers' lists and gradually the nonsense has built up. But what pushed me over the edge this time was that a blog I occasionally post to shared email addresses for about 2 weeks in November. The blogmaster apologized to me when I complained but it was too late. He had already fixed the problem by the time I found the leak, and there may have been more, but my spam had already overwhelmed my filters.

So I am once again changing my email address. I went through my outbound email for the past six months and sent out notices to nearly everyone I have been in touch with, except one group who will receive a separate notification. But there are many, many other people who have contacted me through the past few years who may have my old email addresses who perhaps have tried to contact me and cannot get through.

The most sure way to reach me is through the Xenite.Org Contact Us form. Of course, even though it's a custom form and script the spammers once managed to compromise that resource too. We had to implement some counter-measures.

I don't like spammers. I don't like the people who pay them money to spam. I don't like the people who click on the links in spam emails making it profitable for spammers to keep spamming. But what can I do, except change my email address 3 years or so?

The old one will soon stop working. I am presently using a quarantine mailbox to check for messages still being sent to that address. But in a few weeks, perhaps sooner, when I am satisfied that I have changed all my subscriptions and autonotifications (or at least the ones I care about), I will shut down the old address for good and move on.

Because I have my own server and domains I have that luxury. It's a shame not everyone else can do it. But at least now when I open up my regular email client and scan my 1200+ emails, I know they are spam-free.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Mizuo Peck

Mizuo Peck has shot up in the referrals for Xenite.Org's search engine traffic. I cannot help but feel pleased that she has struck a chord with so many people who have seen "Night at the Museum". I wish I could create such a popular page every week. Xenite.Org would have to set up mirrored servers in about a year!

I'd like to point out though that as much fun as a the movie is, I hope people -- especially teachers and parents -- use interest in the film and Mizuo Peck to remind kids (and grownups) of the real contribution Sacagawea made to American history.

When I created our Mizuo Peck page I made sure to include a little information and links about Sacagawea.

One of the links goes to the Lemhi-Shoshone page. If you visit no other Native American sites because of "Night at the Museum", you should absolutely visit this one. Not only is the official Web page of the people who gave birth to Sacagawea, it provides a lot of neat information about Sacagawea and her people today. They have commissioned a memorial in her memory, and Sacagawea's courage and resourcefulness are characteristic of the great American spirit that has carried this nation forward despite all of its flaws and sins.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tolkien essays

I have been debating whether I should turn my attention fully back to writing Tolkien essays. I find myself in a unique position: for the first time in my adult life, I have all of one Tolkien book in my possession. How could I possibly do any reasonable research on the topic?

Of course, I have quoted so many passages on the Internet through the years I've often gotten by in new discussions -- and even occasionally in writing new Tolkien essays -- just on finding old citations on the Internet. But it's not easy to find just the right passage. And there is no guarantee that I quoted everything I need, or that my citations are indexed, or that I cited something properly (most often I find small typos in my citations).

It would be a challenge to rely just on those old archived discussions, but as the publication dates of The Children of Hurin and The History of the Hobbit approach I feel a sense of expectancy. People seem to want me to say something more.

Well, the occasional requests for new essays contribute something to that sense. I've been writing a series of Tolkien essays for the News From Bree newsletter (although so far I have only contributed 2 essays).

And I've begun writing mini-essays for the blog at Tolkien Studies on the Web. I'm not sure of where I'll go with that blog yet. I do need to get back to the Webliography and other resources, but there is so much work to do. I'm starting to feel a little like Niggle. I don't know if I'll ever finish the tree.

MERP wants more essays. People keep referring to Xenite.Org as a Tolkien essay archive, although there isn't all that much Tolkien content there. I have some essays on Xenite but not anything like the archives at Suite101 and MERP.

The new books will inspire some people to revisit old questions, debates that mostly matter to no one outside a handful of people. The Two Thrains issue is the most likely one to be resparked by The History of The Hobbit. The Balrog Wings Debate was not settled by The Lord of the Rings: A Readers' Companion, except that more and more people seem to be finding ways to agree that the "wings" were not fleshy, flappy, physical wings.

The problem with Tolkien Great Debates is that you often have people speaking entirely past each other. For example, I'm an ardent purist and I refuse to intermingle the various mythologies. Yet other people feel there is some relevance to be found in citing The Book of Lost Tales while analyzing, say, The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion, neither of which is directly connected to The Book of Lost Tales in any way.

If after more than ten years some people refuse to give up their hope of creating a Unified Tolkien Theory, why should I feel compelled to continue correcting their nonsense on the Internet? Tolkien's "mythology for England" was set in England, not Middle-earth. Give it up. The books aren't changing no matter how many times we clap our hands.

So the question remains: to go forward or to close a chapter of my life? But can I really end it just like that? Would I be able to walk away and never feel compelled to say something again?

To be honest, after I wrote my last essay for MERP which looks into the truth about Balrogs, I really didn't want to write any more Tolkien stuff at all. But then News From Bree came calling. And every now and then Matt Tinaglia suggests there are a few topics I may have missed, or I didn't cover to his satisfaction.

And other people ask me questions continually. Just today (yesterday) someone at worked asked me, "Michael, was Gollum really a hobbit?"

Yeah. I think I'll just get up and walk away right now. I see four Dwarves are waiting for me by the garden gate. All I need now is for Gandalf to persuade me to leave my Ring with my Heir....

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tolkien's Underground Cities

I find myself in the curious position of writing three blogs. And soon, if my boss has his way, I'll be contributing to a fourth blog.

In the meantime, let me direct your Tolkien attention to Tolkien's Underground Cities, which is part of the Tolkien Studies Blog.

I cannot promise that I'll post something every day, but I'll try to do 2-3 posts per week for as long as possible.

I'm also hoping to include some little-known trivia items at the end of occasional posts. As many as possible.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Getting pages out of Google's Supplemental Results Index

Just a quick note for Webmasters who are concerned about what is happening with their sites on Google. Read Why you now have Supplemental Results pages on Google for a little history and the explanation of what is going on.

Short answer (for those who don't like to read long-winded essays): get more trusted links from within the Main Index.

Monday, January 01, 2007

My most popular posts for 2006

It seems like a common New Year's tradition in the Blogosphere is for people to recap their blog successes.

The most popular page for this blog is the front page. Since people can read several blog posts on one page, nearly half of you stay here for a few minutes, catch up on my ramblings, and then move on. I don't know how many of you are regular readers but the readership has increased month over month and about 1500 people stopped by in December (technically, the number is most likely far higher).

It's hard to be sure if there is a trend in popular posts but it does look like my dancing and body language related posts from last Spring (before I had my surgery -- which was one of the more popular topics, too) were very popular. So, here is the list of most popular posts from 2006. It will be interesting to see if any of them make the list for 2007. Thanks for dropping by.

  1. Salsa Music and Cha Cha Songs

  2. Body language: Reading body language

  3. Stop Heartburn: Fix That Hiatal Hernia

  4. Girls, Girls Gone Wild, And Girls, Girls, Girls

  5. My Chemical Romance: Stop and smell the orange perfume

  6. I am a Nielsen family!

  7. The other side of body language tips

  8. Seattle Transition

  9. Hercules on Coke in Gone With The Wind

  10. Lies, damned lies, and Matt Cutts

There were more posts about body language and Salsa dancing in the top 24. Guys, take what I say with a grain of salt. I write for effect. I don't deliberately or intentionally misrepresent or elaborate, but my memory of events may differ from the memories of other people who were there.

My personal life aside, other topics that interested people included: When you ring my bell... (about Roman history and adultery), When the truth is known, won't you want somebody ... (humor and marketing techniques used in commercials), I stumped Ms. Dewey (about Microsoft's marketing gimmick for the Live search engine), When the solders come home (in support of an organization called Wounded Warriors), Ask not on Google, nor Google on Ask (about the Google/Ask trademark verbiology tiff), More trivia concerning Pixar/Disney's 'Cars' (great movie, btw), and Romantic songs for guys who like...fluffy bears.

What an eclectic readership you are. Some of you spent the Spring and Summer peeking over my shoulder as I courted Miss Cute Reluctant (yes, I pulled some of the details from my posts to protect her privacy). We just broke up, but this is all I'm going to write about it. It was a terrific relationship but she is in Texas and I am in Seattle and that is the way it has gone.

Some of you followed my marketing anecdotes. In fact, at least one marketing research company took a deep interest in my Nielsen story. When I spoke to their president, he told me that media companies all over the country were reading my perspective on the Nielsen television rating experience.

I was a little surprised to see some of the search engine-related posts made the top of the list (I wrote over 200 posts in the past year). Of course, I'm not completely unpopular in the search engine optimization community. There are many people who drop me the occasional email or who, when they meet me in person, say, "Michael, I really enjoy your articles." So I shouldn't be surprised that they have found my personal anecdotes. Even Matt Cutts read my article on Matt Cutts (of course, he had a personal interest in the controversy).

The Tolkien-related posts (of which there are only a handful) didn't make the top-25. What's up with that, Tolkien fans? I used to have a readership who followed my Suite101 articles in the thousands. Oh well. I've now officially launched a new Tolkien blog so they'll have an opportunity to catch up on my Tolkien thoughts again, if they want to.

I don't know what 2007 will bring. I'm up to my eyeballs in projects right now and I'm beginning to wonder what I'll be able to accomplish by March 14, which is Xenite.Org's 10th anniversary. Through all the years, all the issues and events that have driven my life decisions, Xenite has been there. I cannot imagine life without it.

I hope you will all hang around for at least a few more months, regardless of what happens.

Happy new year!