Archive for June, 2008


Alright, who broke the Ministry of Defense website? Their Freedom of Information request form is “not found”, and all the links that used to point to it… don’t. It’s mildly discouraging.

Still, on the bright side, whenever it finally returns, I’ll be sure to make use of it, to find out what happened to it when it wasn’t there…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on June 30th, 2008 | Comments Off on MOD FOI MIA!

MSA’s “Tactical” Gas Masks

In just two short months, the gluttonous spectacle of crassness and debauchery that is the Republican National Convention will be taking place here in Saint Paul. Along with the sleazy politicians and lobbyists, their aides, wives, mistresses, hookers, drug dealers, and other hangers-on, there will also be a large number of angry young men and women protesting and demonstrating against, really, just about everything. Since at least a few of these young whippersnappers are intent on mayhem, things at the convention – or, at least, in the streets downtown, near the convention – could get kind of interesting, in a pucker-factor-seven, rioters-clashing-with-police kind of way.

I don’t mind pepper-spray too much; it’s basically just food-grade hot sauce in a spray can, and tastes good on chicken. (No, really.) Tear gas, on the other hand, doesn’t taste nearly so good, and is something I can really live without. (More unpleasant than ‘rhoids, but easier to get rid of.) Unfortunately, it’s also a pretty indiscriminate, area-effect weapon, and while I intend to adhere strictly to both parts of Niven’s First Law, those CN and CS particles can’t tell I’m one of the good guys. (Mmmm, nanotech riot-control agents…) So, what’s a homeboy to do? Buy a gasmask, that’s what…
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on June 30th, 2008 | 1 Comment »

Friday FOIA (Lack of) Fun

Some time ago, I wrote about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) improvement plan, which laid out a roadmap to make all DHS components FOIA handling more user-friendly.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is, of course, not a part of DHS, so they aren’t affected by this plan. It’s painfully clear, as I think I’ve mentioned once or twice before, that they desperately need one. Let’s look at a few examples…
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General | on June 27th, 2008 | Comments Off on Friday FOIA (Lack of) Fun

VOIP on a Big Budget

I strongly believe that if you want to use VOIP regularly, with as little fuss or hassle as possible, a hardware ATA is the way to go. That’s what I do, of course. It requires a larger investment than using a “softphone” with a cheap headset, or microphone and headphones – a perfectly good ATA can be had starting from around $40 – but it generally pays off in the long run, because you’re not tied to a computer all the time.

Well, I recently had to help someone set up a softphone call, for various reasons that aren’t really all that important, and accidentally demonstrated that an ATA and telephone handset isn’t really all that expensive at all. On short notice, I threw together some equipment I had laying around for other reasons, and set it up for them; the end result would been considered a pretty respectable podcasting setup – and for VOIP it was probably overkill. (The sound quality was excellent, however.)
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on June 25th, 2008 | Comments Off on VOIP on a Big Budget

Hazards of Tobacco, 1913

It’s kind of fun – and funny – to look back at the “scientific” opinion of tobacco use prior to the 1930s; back then, there were no tobacco lobbyists as we today know them, and smoking hadn’t become glamorized by Hollywood. Anyone who thinks the hazards of tobacco use are a recent discovery would be in for a rude surprise, as these excerpts from a 1913 textbook on hygeine shows:
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Published in: General, History | on June 24th, 2008 | Comments Off on Hazards of Tobacco, 1913