Posted by toadstar on 2:24 PM

I figured that I'd start of the New Year by giving out a fancy new desktop wallpaper. So here you go. Just click on it to get the larger image then right click and save as. Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!

Posted by toadstar on 4:11 PM

My wife just called me to let me know that it's snowing over at the house. While on the phone with her I could hear Lucas in the background yelling, "it's Christmas, it's Christmas!" I'm kind of sad that the first time he gets to experience snow is without me. At least I was kind of there.
I love snow, I grew up in Colorado and snow is one of the things that I miss most. So to celebrate this wonderful cold snowy day I give you the first part of a story that I'm working on called "The Faerie Queen's Groom". I'm still editing it, but I'll give you a taste:

The storm clouds slowly gathered above the Rocky Mountains, and made their way east, over the continental divide, down through the foothills and slowly started to unload their cargo over the sleeping population of Denver. I was one of the unfortunate few who could not sleep that night, and I had resigned myself to another sleepless night drinking Earl Grey and reading The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. Ray Smith and Japhy where camping out in the high Sierras searching for enlightenment, but tonight enlightenment wasn’t waiting for me in a book. It was waiting outside my window.

In a weeks time I was going to move to Houston, a move that I didn’t want to make. I had planned to spend just two weeks in Houston with my family for the Christmas holidays, but somehow two weeks had turned into indefinitely. I had lived in Denver almost all my life. From the time that I was four years old, this had been my home and now I was leaving it, and I wasn’t ready to go.

I had sat and watched the snow begin to fall outside and I realized that this might be one of the last times I got to see snow. I had watched the first few flakes flutter down to earth like little white butterflies slowly spinning down towards earth and thoughts began to oscillate through my mind. I remembered when my father first told me that we were moving to Colorado. I had thought he had said that we were moving to Avocado. Immediately I thought of a tropical island with white sandy beaches and tropical birds. I had quickly learned that Colorado wasn't tropical, in fact it was cold, and the only white sandy beaches were lake shores covered in snow, and the only tropical birds were found in pet stores and cages in peoples homes.

I had imagined myself playing in the snow and building snowmen and I quickly became excited about moving to Colorado. I wasn’t disappointed when we finally got there; our house was still being built, so we spent the first couple of months living in a Holiday Inn. Finally one night it snowed. No matter how often I see a fresh blanket of snow, it never fails to amaze me. Everything is so quiet and peaceful and there is just this breathtaking beauty. Everything is as it was before the snow, but yet, covered with several inches of snow it looks so different and surreal. Everything seemed to be swallowed up in whiteness leaving only the hotel and the parking lot visible, while the rest of the world was swallowed up in snow and fog. The next day the sun came out. Although it was still cold outside my parents took me to a park right on the edge of the Denver Basin called Daniel's Park. This is the place where the plains meet the foothills. The land builds up higher and higher until it drops off in to a great valley, which covers the entire horizon, and on the other side of the valley the foothills and then the mountains, which then rise up into the sky like giant cathedrals to nature. We had found a picnic area near a big empty field. To the left of the field there was the picnic area made out of a stonewall and a wood roof, inside there were tables for people to sit and eat. All around the field were trees and scruff and you could see a little further off a herd of Bison standing guard at the foot of the plains.

When we got there we played in the snow and made my first snowman-I named him Frosty. Mom and Dad let me play on my own while they went off to make sandwiches for lunch. I had made my way to the edge of the field near the trees, when suddenly I noticed a snowshoe hare. He had stopped moving when he saw me, and he looked up at me. Our eyes met and it felt as if I could understand what he was thinking, then suddenly he appeared to beckon me forward with his front paw. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! The hare slowly broke eye contact with me and started to move along the trees, I quickly followed along behind him. Up ahead there was a break in the trees and the hare turned into it, the break turned out to be a pathway in the snow, surrounded by thick undergrowth and tall trees that were as dark as night and almost made an arch over the path like an isle in a church. The hare stopped and turned around to make sure that I was still following behind him, and seeing that I was he turned and went further up the path. I should have been afraid of this path through the woods, but for some reason I wasn’t afraid, I felt as though I was being pulled along and that whatever met me at the end of the path would not hurt me.

We came to the end of the path and there was a large circle, the trees towering above me now twisted and twined upward making a dome shape, and if you looked just right you would swear that you were not surrounded by trees, but in the high alter of a church. Suddenly the wind began to pick up and in the center of the circle the wind began to swirl around, picking up snow and making a tornado of sorts. Just as soon as the wind had started it stopped and in the center of the circle there was now standing a woman. She was wearing a white dress and on her head laid a crown of gold and diamonds arranged like fell boughs of rowan. She was the most beautiful woman that I had ever seen in my life; she wore her reddish-brown locks in a pile of curls atop her head and had the most amazing blue eyes that I had ever seen. She reached out her gloved hand to me, and I reached mine out to take hers, but as soon at we touched, she vanished into thin air. I had closed my eyes in disbelief and shook my head “She can’t have disappeared” I thought to myself, and I fully believed that when I opened my eyes she would still be standing there in front of me. I slowly opened my eyes only to find that I was no longer in the trees, but in the middle of the field. I looked all around, but I couldn’t even see the break in the trees, there was only a solid wall all the way across.

I hope you like it. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section. And stay warm.

Posted by toadstar on 6:12 AM

While up in the attic getting down my Christmas decorations, I stumbled across a box of my old drawings from 1988-1989. I was in Junior High in the 8th grade and at the height of my sk8r days (as you can tell from the artwork). I figured that I'd scan some in and share them with the world. The first one is of Christian Hosoi. He was such an amazing skater, I'm glad that he's finally gotten his life back on track.

I can't for the life of me remember which deck this is from, but it's a detail of it, whatever it is. The cool thing about it was that I drew in while we were on vacation up in the Colorado mountains somewhere. I had just finished it and left it on the table while we went out to dinner. When we came back I realized that we had left a window open and a light misty rain blew into the drawing. It actually ended up creating a cool effect on the blue hands. So it was a nice happy accident.

Santa Cruz Speed Wheels-I just loved the hands and the arteries making up the text. Gross but cool. This was one of the first times that I drew a successful hand. Later on in high school we had to do drawings of our hands-I just had to revisit this theme.

I think that this was a Pushead ripoff-combined with a TSOL logo. When I pulled this one out to scan it, Lucas said - scary monster Daddy. Then I scanned it and it was up on my computer screen and he looked at it, then up at the scanner, then back at the screen, and you could just see the wheels in his head turning-Hey Daddy, your drawing is on the computer....

Thanks for indulging me in this trip down amnesia lane. I have some more so if I have time I may just post some more.

Posted by toadstar on 7:43 AM

On January 20th, 2009, President-elect Obama will deliver his inaugural address. His words will set the tone for how we as a nation will rise to meet the crises we face, and how our allies abroad will respond.

We at Worldchanging believe the inaugural address must call on all Americans to prepare for a national transformation: to turn America into a climate-neutral nation by 2030. This is a monumental challenge, but it is an even better opportunity. The things we must create to fight climate change are also the things we need to generate a strong economic recovery: livable cities, clean energy, green jobs, new technologies, better transportation, healthy forests and thriving family farms.

With your help, we will show that the people of the United States are ready and willing to accept this challenge. And we will ask Obama to issue a call to action with an inaugural address that set specific goals to do the following:

  • Set a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions
  • Launch a national campaign to curb sprawl and encourage smart growth
  • Set national building standards that will require all buildings to be carbon neutral by 2030
  • Redirect all funding and support for fossil fuels into clean energy development
  • Give policy support to small farms, local food, and better food quality in schools and low-income neighborhoods
  • Take a leadership position in international climate, trade and development talks

Please sign below and add your name to the letter that will urge Obama's administration to deliver this vital message in his very first speech as President.

Join supporters around the country to Inaugurate Change.

Sign here.

And send to a friend

Posted by toadstar on 3:19 PM

I remember reading a recent article explaining how the brain remembers things. There isn't just one file that is labeled May, 16th 1995 that contains all the memories of that day. Instead the memories are stored all over the brain. The way that your wife smelled on your wedding day is stored in one section of the olfactory. The sent is then connected with the dress and then the day, etc. etc. Memories are stored in bits and pieces all over. That's why the strangest things can trigger a memory.

Take the above picture-I think that it was just after Palin's big debut at the Republican convention. Something about this image sparked a memory. I couldn't quite place what it was. Then I remembered Warren Ellis's old site, the Engine. They once had a thread that had everyone show their favorite single panel from any comic book. The image below was Warren's entry.

Posted by toadstar on 10:17 AM

About a year or so ago I discovered Cherie Priest on John Scalzi's blog. He was talking about her book Dreadful Skin (a portion of which had just gone live @ Subterranean). So I went over and had a look. I found myself glued to the screen for the rest of the day-and not working mind you. I went out and found her first novel Four and Twenty Blackbirds. I ripped through it like I was on fire- Then I ripped through her second just as fast. There was something about the main character, Eden Moore that I just liked-Maybe it's because her voice reminded me of a friend. Maybe there is just enough Rowan Mayfair in her to replace the hole that has been left by Anne Rice's leaving the genre. I don't know.

Sometimes I feel like I'm never going to make it as a writer, I'm never going to get what's in my head down on the page. Sometimes I read Cherie's blog and I see the same doubts. It makes me want to carry on. It's strange to say. Someone else's weakness gives me strength, but it does. Somehow. We're strange creatures that way. We don't like to feel unique-we want to be part of the herd, despite our best efforts to be unique, there is safety in numbers. So I count Cherie as part of our tribe. A fellow writer, that is struggling to make it through life. So support our fellow tribesperson-buy her books read her posts, follow her on twitter. She has a new book coming out soon-there is a great review of it here (scroll down to find it). There is also a novella at Subterranean press-it's online for free so read it and fall in love with her words-then seek out her other books. She is good, you will not regret it and you would be helping out a fellow tribesperson.

Posted by toadstar on 11:18 AM

Sorry I hate to do this but I'm desperate. Hurricane Ike leaves me with a huge deductible to get my house fixed. I'm behind on my mortgage and foreclosure is looming and Reliant is refusing to work with me and is threatening to shut off my power if I don't pay them more money than I have. I need help. So I'm starting a pledge drive. Below there is a Paypal Donate button, please, please help me and my family. If you do I will give you a sketch of whatever you want. Just email me a picture of what you want drawn to and I will draw it. Or if you send me three or four pictures I can make you a photoshop mix up of the images. The more you donate, the more time I will spend on your sketch-but don't worry, I'm not going to send you something crappy if you don't donate a lot.
I wouldn't be doing this if I weren't so desperate. Thank you so much for your support. My family and I thank you.

Posted by toadstar on 5:08 AM
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I'm going to early vote this weekend to ensure that this doesn't happen. I promise.

Urban Re:Vision:

Urban Re:Vision recently had a contest to find people who were willing and able to rebuild a sustainable foundation for the future. Now they move on to the second phase-actually turning a city block in Dallas, Texas into a sustainable community. There are some brilliant ideas at work here and I'm anxious to see what becomes of them. Perhaps I feel a road trip to Dallas coming on.
Here is some basic information about the Urban Re:Vision Design competition.
We now enter a phase where we will take an actual city block and transform it into a completely sustainable, healthy community. For right now, all the details I can give are that the city is going to be Dallas and a city block with be completely transformed. The competition is global and we are inviting the top architects and sustainable industry leaders to help us design and build the city block.
Also, to get an idea about Urban Re:Vision, you may want to watch a couple of our videos here:
We just finished up the Re:Construct competition and you’ll find more information on one of the winners in the attached JPG.

One of the Winners of Re:construct:
An innovative building solution--a wall made of maps.
*Great details included on the attached jpeg

MAP COMPRESSION BLOCK—a wall made of compressed, outdated maps that are very difficult to recycle
Nicky Kirk
Amenity Space, London UK
Problem: Ordinance Survey (Great Brittan's national mapping service) outdated maps are difficult to recycle due to the inks not being compatible with the pulping process

Solution: Create thermally efficient and structurally sound building blocks by stacking the outdated maps

30,000 maps create a 2-layer wall 4.5m wide by 3.0m high (see attached for more details)
They believe that recycling paper in its pure form will provide sustainable, evocative designs fit for purpose and fully integrate into a wide range of applications and locations.

Posted by toadstar on 5:20 PM
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Superstruct! Preview:

What does the world of 2019 look like? Find out now.

The full report from the Global Extinction Awareness System is LIVE -- and you can read it here for the first time anywhere. Find out exactly why the human species may face extinction by the year 2042 – and what we can do about it.

With this report, the Superstruct Story is just beginning. Two weeks from today, on October 6, 2008, we’ll flip the game switch on. Then it’s YOUR turn to tell the story of 2019 – and to help invent the future.

So read the scenario now... and get ready to start superstructing!
(And if you can't wait to start participating, join the Superstruct group on Facebook now. See what players are already talking about and planning for the game...)
I'm getting really excited about this game, it's starting to feel like a huge life changing event and I can't wait to start writing. I've had ideas flowing through my brain-I just need to find some time to write them down. Last night on the way home inspiration struck whilst driving. I tried to find a paper and a pen, but I couldn't (which is probably for the best). So I repeated it over and over again until I had it stuck in my brain. "We tied ourselves to the mast of 20th century technology and bravely sailed into the 21st; we never noticed that the ship was falling apart around us." You can read the rest here on October 6, 2008.

Posted by toadstar on 4:38 PM

Happy First Birthday Logan!!:

I started this blog shortly after I found out that my wife was pregnant with our little Logo. At the time I was shocked. I didn't feel ready for another child, but another child I had, so I decided to make the most of it.

A year ago my wife gave birth to him at our home. It was a truly amazing experience. Catching my son was one of the most wonderful things that I've ever done in my life. And knowing that I was the first person to touch and hold him is so special to me. I feel that it gave me and Logan a bond that only we share. It kind of saddens me to think that this bond does not exist with most children and their fathers.

Logan is my joyful baby. He's always happy. Sometimes he gets so excited by life that he can't contain himself and the only way he can think to express his joy is with a scream-eyes open hands waving screaming at the pure joys in life. He's taught me a lot about love and happiness and joy-and I am so grateful to have him in my life.

Happy Birthday Logan-I love you.

Posted by toadstar on 12:13 PM

The Highlight Of My Week So Far:

Posted by toadstar on 11:00 PM

11th Hour and Sustainable Living in Houston:
Today I went off to the Lone Star College to join Sustainable Living in Houston for a viewing of 11th hour. The movie was good. It had many interesting points some that I hadn't considered yet. For example the idea that we are living off of ancient sunlight, i.e. oil and coal are the remains of things that were alive a long time ago. Before the Industrial Revolution we were living off of current sunlight, meaning that we ate only the crops that we grew, the animals that we used for both transportation and food were fed off of current sunlight. It's a simple concept really, but something that I had never bothered to look at in that, pardon the pun, light.

I've always thought of it more in these terms. Nature has this amazing ability to restore itself, in fact I would say that nature is the master recycler, for instance when a rabbit dies in the forest it will decompose, before too long there will be no physical trace left of the rabbit (of course there will be nutrients left in the soil and some fat happy bacteria...). Oil and Coal are waste from the past, it's stuff that should have been decomposed, but for some reason the process was stopped or prevented and now we have oil and coal. The reason that we have these substances is sheer dumb luck, and it's stupid to base an entire economy on something unsustainable, especially leftover waste.

Another aspect that I found interesting was when (her name escapes me), but when they were discussing the strongest material we have, kevlar. The manufacturing of kevlar take an enormous amount of energy-a lot of that energy is wasted. In contrast one of the strongest natural materials is a spider silk. It was suggested that we need to find ways of manufacturing more like nature, when a spider makes its silk, energy is not wasted, and the spider does not need to warm up to extreme temperatures to make its silk. We need to find better ways of making textiles, or really anything at all, ones that do not waste so much heat and electricity, ones that are cleaner and safer for both the environment and the people that use them.

Here are some lines from the movie that I found interesting:
We Create our own environment.
Nature is a resource.
One hundred million environmental refugees.
We are facing a convergence of crises.
Seventy countries have no original forests.
You're either humans or property and nature is property.
Cradle to cradle design.
Things are the thief of time.
Love is the force that makes us fully human.

The Sustainable Living in Houston people are great, really passionate and caring and I think that they are doing great things. I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing more of them in the future, I'm thinking of volunteering. If you live in the Houston area and care about our environment, check out their website and help them out in any way possible.

Posted by toadstar on 1:44 PM

Happy Birthday Lucas!!!

It's been three years now, since my boy was born. And a lot has happened in those three years. A lot of events that have changed who I am forever, and made me a Daddy a word that still fills me with pride every time I hear him say it. I'm proud to be Luke's Daddy and I'm so glad that I get to show him around this planet for a while. There's nothing more exciting that teaching him new things and watching him understand and start to piece the world together.

I remember when he was born. I had just come to the realization that in a month, my son would be born. I still had so much to do to get ready. Aside from the physical preparations of cribs and strollers and all the baby paraphernalia, I still wasn't mentally ready. I look back now and think, how can you be. Fatherhood is a huge change and you don't know how strongly it will take hold of you. You can never be prepared for that. I remember the day after he was born I went to the store to get food and supplies, and in the car on the way there I was listening to the 80's channel and all those sappy old love songs had changed for me. They were no longer about the love of a man for a woman, they were about the love I have for my son. Realizing that everything kind of shifted and changed, I had a new outlook on life.

Luke's birth was hard, it left many scars on me and my wife. We went in for a routine exam only to be told that my wife had pre-eclampsia and they wanted to check us into the hospital for more tests. We were so scared. We had planned a homebirth. We didn't want a traumatic birth for our son and now we were faced with the fact that they may schedule us for and emergency c-section. I had only just realized that he was due in a month and now they are telling me that my son could be birthed today. I was so scared. My wife was too, this is not how we planned to start parenthood. We checked in on a Wednesday and they ran some tests. Friday they started to induce labor. I was grateful that they at least were going to let us try and deliver naturally, but they made sure that we knew, if my wife did not progress they would do a c-section.

Honestly I don't think that we could have gotten away with as much as we did if it wasn't for our midwife and one of the nurses that was to be our back up midwife. It was great having someone there to help up, to try and protect our wishes. Things started coming to a head late Saturday afternoon. My wife wasn't progressing fast enough and Lucas wasn't in position. The doctor was on his way to check on my wife. My midwife, our nurse and I all placed our hands on my wife's belly and the nurse placed one on my wife's cervix, she was trying to massage it open, while her other hand and our hands tried to push Lucas into position. They began to pray-please let this baby get into position... I'm not one that wears my religion on my sleeve and I'm not really one for spontaneous public prayer, but this was one of the most moving emotional moments in my life. All the power and love that was in that room all for my son. It was amazing. I don't think that this moment had as much impact on my wife as it did on me, but it was one of the most spiritual moments of my life. What ever happened there actually worked, we were aloud to carry on.

Lucas was finally born at 3:21 Sunday morning. I remember my wife and I were so happy, so excited, so relieved to finally have our son we didn't notice that his cord was wrapped around his neck. It took a moment longer to realized that he wasn't breathing at that point I don't think that anyone in the room was breathing. Finally he screamed and everything was right in the world we still had some battles to fight before we could bring him home. But we fought them and survived, we may have been wounded in the fight, but we made it and since we've had the joy of raising our Lucas our sweet, kind, loving boy.

So here we are three years later. You've learned to walk. You've learned to talk. You've become a big brother and taught me a lot about life. You may drive me crazy, but I love you more than anything and you're one of the greatest joys in my life. So Happy Birthday Lucas, I love you.

Good News For a Change (Now With Added Bonus Link Dumps):

So first the good news. At the end of September the Institute for the Future's Jane McGonigal and Jamais Cascio are going to be conducting the world's first massively multiplayer forecasting game Superstruct and I am going to be on their advisory board. It's a chance to have my work highlighted on the site and the weekly updates, so needless to say, I'm really excited about this and really want to thank Jane and Jamias and everyone at the IftF for the opportunity.

And now the links:

*An estimated 125,000 Western lowland gorillas are living in a swamp in equatorial Africa, researchers reported Tuesday, double the number of the endangered primates thought to survive worldwide.

I find this amazing. So what do the swamps have that the mountains didn't? Lack of poachers? Lack of disease? Six of one, half dozen of the other? Think of this in human terms. It's like refugees from a war torn country migrating to Europe or America. Picture this happening to other species. What if the polar bears just migrated further north or found an uncharted island? There are so many species supposedly endangered, but what if we're just looking in the wrong places for them and their thriving in hiding, safe from mankind.

*Nature Neuroscience article on neurological basis for magic, co-written by Teller of Penn and Teller.

*Gargantuan Scale Model of Shanghai in 2020 This is just awesome-When they finish building it, it look like something you'd see on Coruscant. Just get rid of all cars and replace them with hovercars or space ships and I think you have a dead ringer.

*Tokyo Fantasy: Images of the apocalypse Amazing pictures. But it reminds me of what Geoff Manaugh from the blog BLDGBLOG said in a recent post:
"This is obviously meant as a warning.
However, the main problem I have with using maps and scenarios like this to get people worked up about climate change is that these warnings often seem to have the opposite effect.
In other words, these things are actually so evocative, and so imaginatively stimulating, that it's hard not to get at least a tiny thrill at the idea that you might get to see these things happen."
Looking at these pictures you do tend to marvel at their beauty and wonder what it would be like to live there, to watch as nature wipes out mans footprint. How will we live, how will we survive?

*ETech's CFP has launched. The theme this year is Living, Reinvented: The Technology of Abundance and Constraints. I've been pondering these themes for the past six months, perhaps I'll have to write a paper. What's the worst that can happen?

*Italy Begins Military Effort to Quell Crime. This is scary.
"Soldiers were deployed throughout Italy on Monday to embassies, subway and railway stations, as part of broader government measures to fight violent crime here for which illegal immigrants are broadly blamed."
Superstruct is broken up into five scenarios the one that I'm working on will be Generation Exile. Basically with huge storms, and world economies falling there will be a massive worldwide migration. What will happen then? If we cannot currently deal with people migrating from poorer economies and war torn countries, what will happen when millions are coming over the border? That is one reason why I find this so scary. If countries are already using the military to suspend civil rights and shake down migrants for just walking down the street, what will happen in the future? What will happen in the United States when our military is stretched too far and we don't have enough troops to patrol our cities much less our borders? Will we resort to something like using Blackwater troops to protect our citizens? How do we manage this? How do we continue to treat people like human beings in all of this?

Posted by toadstar on 4:03 PM
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The Road Goes Ever On:

It's a bit strange and bittersweet to come to the end of one journey and start off at the foothills of another. Last Friday I had my last therapy session. I have spent the past few months shedding the layers of my former self and rebuilding myself as a happier, better person. All along this path I was guided by my guardo camino, my therapist. She helped me to fix myself, she gave me the tools to make my wife say that she doesn't want to rip my throat out any longer.

So after my last session I got up to say goodbye feeling like I was in a eddy of emotion; on the one hand happy and excited, the world is at my feet. On the other hand nervous and scared like a bird leaving it's nest for the very first time. But that's the thing about journeys, isn't it? You don't know whats going to happen and that's part of the wonder of it.

Posted by toadstar on 2:09 PM

Possible Health Effects of Global Warming And Some Other Passing Thoughts:

*Many illnesses that have effected drought plagued countries are malaria, dengue fever and hantavirus and we could expect to see these in greater numbers if global warming succeeds in raising the median temperature, creating drought like conditions in the United States (I mention only the United States, because a) I live there and b) the article that I'm about to link to focuses primarily on the U.S. of A. but rest assured that these condition will happen globally and already are). In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers predict that rising temperatures will make kidney stones more common.

"By 2050, say University of Texas urologists Tom Brikowski and Margaret Pearle, most Americans will live in areas considered high-risk zones for the painful deposits, caused when minerals crystallize into chunks too large [to] leave the bladder."

It's interesting to ponder the many different ways that global warming will effect us. Interestingly enough the first commenter said the one big cause of kidney stones are High Oxalate foods. So I googled High Oxalate foods and found a list here. Yea that list pretty much everything I eat except for yellow dock and Swiss chard, so I'll happily give those up...

*In other news, Viacom has agreed to let Youtube mask all user Id's and Internet addresses, which means that we shouldn't expect strange Amazon like emails like-As someone who has purchased or rated videos by 2 girls and 1 cup**, you might like to know.....
**not that I would watch that you dirty, dirty people...

*I'm not sure what this guy is thinking, but a disgruntled engineer hijacked San Francisco's computer system. "When the Department of Technology tried to fire him, he disabled all administrative passwords other than his own." So either a) he's going the wrong way towards getting his job back or b) he just pwned San Francisco. I can't tell if he's a hero or a douche (we've all had dreams of exacting revenge on former bosses-I'm looking at you MiL).

*I had more, but I've run out of time-I have a doctors appointment shortly. I'll post more tomorrow.

Posted by toadstar on 3:09 PM

Epic Fail*

"To no man will we deny, To no man will we delay, Justice and Right." -- The Magna Carta.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. --U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure--

Bush signs bill overhauling eavesdropping rules. Wow, I don't even think that the ink was dry from the Senate passing this giant pile of tripe. I guess that he wanted to pass that sucker into law before the Senate came to their senses. I hope that the Senators that sold out the constitution enjoy spending their $8359-hey we understand, gas is expensive.

From the former article: "Its passage was a major victory for Bush, an unpopular lame-duck president who nevertheless has been able to prevail over Congress on most issues of national security and intelligence disputes." The democrats have control of both the House and Senate and have a lame-duck President with one of the lowest approval ratings-why do they keep on catering to the status quo?

"In the aftermath of 9/11," Bush said, "few would have imagined that we would be standing here seven years later without another attack on American soil. The fact that the terrorists have failed to strike our shores again does not mean that our enemies have given up." But why would they go through all the trouble of planning another attack when our own government is winning the war on terror for them? In his new article, 'Don't let 'Brave New Britain' remove our fundamental rights' Bob Geldof states:

What terrorises the terrorists is our civilisation. What those unthinking fools of fundamentalism fear most are the freedoms our representatives now strip away. This "war on terror" is against Islamist forces that reject the Enlightenment.

How can we ever succeed, if we side with our opponents in rejecting those ideals? Every moment we are spied on by the invisible watchers, every time we are monitored, every time we are logged on databanks, they win. And every time we accept it, we lose.

I concur entirely (even though the article is directly about events in England, this article is the most righteous defence of civil liberties I think that I have ever read-please do yourself a favor and read it.) The way that we win the war on terror is to carry on, to not let our civil liberties erode, to stand up for the constitution and the ideals that it represents.

Sen. Barack Obama [D, IL] -- Aye
I have tried not to get swept up in the Obama movement, I've just become so skeptical of politicians that he seemed too good to be true, but the truth is I want to believe. I got swept up in it, because I felt that change is what we need, I've sat by and watched my government disregard common law, the constitution and the bill of rights and we need someone to take it back for the people, and I thought that it would be Obama. I remember after Super Tuesday hearing him on the radio chanting "yes we can, yes we can!" and tearing up, it just moved me so much. Something so simple, but it meant so much, it meant hope, an end to fear and lies, but after this week, however, I'm not so sure anymore. I am so disappointed in his voting for this bill, this bill that effectively destroys the fourth amendment, and what's most disgusting of all is that he stands to be the one to benefit most from it. I went to and joined the Senator Obama, Please Vote Against FISA group, hoping that we could usher change from within. We failed.

I'll still vote for Obama, but with a heavier heart and perhaps a twinge of guilt.

To end on a positive note, I just want to say how exciting it is to be a part of something as big as this. In the past week I have opened up a new part of myself, one that instead of just complaining about the problems facing America, and is actually doing something to fix it. This morning I got an email from the head of the Please vote against FISA Group, it filled me with hope, we may have lost a battle, but we will continue to fight on-I think that something good will come out of this. Glen Greenwald at has written of how a Left-Right coalition has been spawned in the midst of this battle, a coalition that will carry on the struggle to protect our liberties into the next Presidency. I hope we do.

*I borrowed the tittle and gravestone picture from Wil Wheaton. Once again, I hope he doesn't mind.

Posted by toadstar on 2:15 PM

Today My Little Logo Is 10 Months Old:

Today my youngest son is ten months old, but don't tell him that. He seems to think that he is at least two. He's walking, he's talking, playing, throwing balls, and wrestling with his brother and Daddy. He is such an amazing kid-just look at that big bright, shining face, he is in love with life, and it's contagious. He wants everyone he passes to smile and say hello to him. A couple of weeks ago we were at Target and this boy leaned backwards in my arms until he was almost parallel with the ground, just to get the attention of the people next to us. He was getting frustrated that they were not paying him any attention.

At work we started working four ten hour shifts so that we can get Fridays off and save some gas. This is the first week and it's been a difficult adjustment, but what makes it all worth while is walking through my front door and having my kids be so excited to see me. Yesterday Logan said "Hi Daddy" and its the cutest thing, he sticks out his tongue and his voice goes up a couple of octaves, its sweet and its tender, and its the highlight of my day.

A couple of months ago we went to my wife's La Leche League couples meeting and the group leader said something along the lines of "Daddies have to earn the love of their babies." And its true. Babies have that instant bond with the baby, mom is comfort and safety mom is home. Daddy can provide comfort, but baby needs mommy. But somewhere along that first year baby and daddy bond. I told my wife the other day that I had always loved Logan, but right now I'm falling in love with him. Each day Logan and I open ourselves up to each other and grow closer, and each moment I get to spend with him is simply amazing.

Posted by toadstar on 5:07 PM

I For One Welcome Our Government Overseer's:

In a 69-28, lopsided vote the US Senate bows to Bush's continuing war on the Constitution and voted to approve his surveillance bill. Bush says that the legislation will protect citizens' rights of privacy from government intrusion as well as Americans' security.

"This bill will help our intelligence professionals learn who the terrorists are talking to, what they're saying and what they're planning."

Does it really? Has anyone thought to explain to him the paradox of the false positive? In Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother, he explains this theory thusly:

Terrorists are really rare. In a city of twenty million like New York, there
might be one or two terrorists. Maybe ten of them at the outside. 10/20,000,000
= 0.00005 percent. One twenty-thousandth of a percent.

That's pretty rare all right. Now, say you've got some software that can sift through all the bank-records, or toll-pass records, or public transit records, or phone-call
records in the city and catch terrorists 99 percent of the time.

In a pool of twenty million people, a 99 percent accurate test will identify two hundred thousand people as being terrorists. But only ten of them are terrorists. To
catch ten bad guys, you have to haul in and investigate two hundred thousand
innocent people.

Guess what? Terrorism tests aren't anywhere close to 99 percent accurate. More like 60 percent accurate. Even 40 percent accurate, sometimes.

What this all meant was that the Department of Homeland Security had set itself up to fail badly. They were trying to spot incredibly rare events -- a person is a terrorist -- with inaccurate systems.

So what good is it all? If the odds of catching an actual terrorist in this method is this small, why continue to eavesdrop? What is there to gain? Control. Control in two different ways. 1) Waving the specter of the terrorist bogey man over our heads creating fear a fearful populace is more willing to let the government take away their civil rights in the name of protecting us from said bogey man. They are creating oppression through fear. 2) Now they have control of all our information, bank records, medical records, what we buy at the grocery store, bus trips, who we call and how often. Now they can tag us and track us and keep us in line-we have become spime. But did they really need to go through all this political posturing? No, apparently domestic spying is a large portion of federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies and goes far beyond mere wiretapping. "They sift, store and analyze the communications, spending habits and travel patters of U.S. Citizens, searching for suspicious activity."

"There's virtually no branch of the U.S. government that isn't in some way involved in monitoring or surveillance," said Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian and fellow at the National Security Archives at The George Washington University. "We're operating in a brave new world."

Apparently, however the government wants to be the only entities that track our online use. "Executives from major Internet players-Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and facebook Inc.- are due for a grilling about online privacy in a Senate committee Wednesday, [...] NebuAd had drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates in recent weeks for working with Internet service providers to track the online behavior of their customers and then serve up targeted banner ads based on that behavior."

Pot meet Kettle...

[edited to add more links]

Posted by toadstar on 3:58 PM

Saving the Environment-You're Doing It Wrong:

So the G-8 have gotten together and have agreed to reduce greenhouse emissions in half by (you ready for this....) 2050. Forty-two years! I don't honestly think that we have that much time-and that's only by half how much longer to reduce it further? In forty-two years, I'll be 76 living on an iron lung from all the crap in the air (not kidding just look at these pictures of China)* and living in a house floating over what use to be Houston Texas, but is now the Gulf of Mexico.

Although it's not surprising given the new revelations that 'Vice President Dick Cheney's office pushed for major deletions in congressional testimony on the public health consequences of climate change'. Six pages of testimony from the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were cut in an attempt to avoid having to regulate greenhouse gases. The White House claims that the changes were made because of reservations raised by White House advisers questioning the accuracy of the science and we all know how much the White House cares about accuracy in regards to science.

At a news conference, Boxer said the heavy editing of the CDC testimony
last October was "not haphazard" but part of broader efforts to downplay the
consequences of climate change. She said the goal was to assure EPA's response
to a Supreme Court directive to examine whether to regulate carbon dioxide
"would be as weak as possible."

So there it is pandering to the automotive industry and the oil companies is more important than the health and lives of the people that they are suppose to represent.

*Yes I realize that part of the reason that the air quality in China is so bad is due to outsourcing manufacturing jobs to China that could be done here, but I use this as merely an example-I could have easily linked a picture of Denver or LA, but I chose instead to link this article, because I found it interesting and the picture illustrated my point.

The War On Photography Part III And Some Quick Ones:

Last May Jeremy Dear, the general secretary of the National Union of journalists wrote a letter to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to protest against police serveilling journalists and photographers. In the letter Dear stated that "journalists and photographers are being monitored and recorded by the Metropolitan Police's Forward Intelligence Team (FIT), adding that this surveillance amounts to virtual harassment and is a serious threat to the journalists' right to carry out their work."

On June 26 the Union secretary general responded. So what is the official stance of the Home Secretary? Simple, you have the right to take pictures in public spaces. There is no law prohibiting that, however, local restrictions may be enforced. "Decisions may be make locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances. That is an operational decision for the officers involved based on the individual circumstances of each situation.

It is for the local Chief Constable, in the case of your letter the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force, to decide how his or her Officers and employees should best balance the rights to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the need for public protection."

So basically you have the right to take pictures and we have the right to harass you about it.

* Over on boing boing they discuss the draft bill proposed by members of the Iranian Parliament that seeks to "toughen punishment for disturbing mental security in society." This bill would add, "establishing websites and weblogs promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy," to the list of crimes punishable by death.

How does one "disturb mental security in society"? Would exposing to some new thought process qualify? What if I open your mind to some greater understanding of the world around you, would that qualify? And how many people would it have to effect? This blog may disturb mental security, but my readership is so low could it be considered disturbing the mental security of the society at large?

*I decided to put my proverbial money where my mouth is and try and do what little I can to stop my Senators from voting for Telecom Immunity. Do your part too, go here for details. Remember this Union was created by the people for the people, let our Representatives know what the people want-then hold them accountable when they don't.

*And finally: under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves. Matt Fraction sets the record straight.

Posted by toadstar on 4:01 PM

Some Quick Ones:

*Another example of police bullying someone with a camera, this time the videographer wins.

*The RIAA's suggestions for the content of ACTA-I haven't made it all the way through yet, but so far these are the ones that will make my stuff turn white, if you know what I mean:
-Provide law enforcement authorities ex officio powers to investigate criminal infringements of intellectual property rights and initiate criminal actions on their own initiative.
-Ensure that courts have the authority to issue ex parte search orders.
-Provide that orders by judicial authorities need not individually identify the items subject to seizure, so long as they fall within general categories specified in the order.
-Provide that goods determined to be infringing are subject to forfeiture and destruction regardless of whether any action for infringement is initiated, whether civil, administrative or criminal and without any compensation of any kind to the defendant, and regardless of whether there has been any finding of liability on the part of any person.
-Provide remedies and injunctive relief against any entity that: (a) Creates or otherwise maintains directories of infringing materials((like Google people)); (b) Provides "deeplinks" to infringing files ((Linking is not a crime, that's like trying to arrest me for saying look over there, that house is a brothel...))

*It looks like Obama's supporters are trying to force his hand to take a stand against telecom amnesty-I for one hope it works.

*Microsoft has filed a patent for a "digital manners policy," or DMP for short. So be good for goodness sake-or Bill will turn off your gadget.... can you say fascism? Bruce Schneier explains why this is a bad idea on this post.

*And finally Big Brother, is coming to Colorado-Hundreds of police, firefighters, paramedics and even utility workers have been trained and recently dispatched as “Terrorism Liaison Officers” in Colorado and a handful of other states to hunt for “suspicious activity” — and are reporting their findings into secret government databases. So be really nice to that utility guy when he cuts off your power....

Posted by toadstar on 3:15 PM

More On The British War Against Photography:

Last week I wrote about the British war on photography and how such an attempt to change public perception may effect the participatory panopticon. So I figured who would know better than Jamais Cascio himself. I sent him an email asking him what he thought and he was kind enough to write a response to me. Here it is:

My first blush response is that the initial effect of such regulation is to
drive photography underground, or make surreptitious photography more likely. We
change how we hold cameras, for example, or cameraphones, to make it less
obvious. We use devices harder to identify easily as cameras. That sort of

I suspect, however, that before that happens we'll see more significant
public pushback on the issue. Right now, the accelerated restrictions on
photography (in the UK primarily, but increasingly in the US) is coming close to
what I've called in the past an "auto-immune society" disorder, where the
measures taken to protect ourselves -- our "immune system" -- end up harming us
more than the threat being responded to.

That is to say, I suspect that we'll correct this problem before it
gets much worse. I hope, at least.

Longer term, these kinds of restrictions become impossible to enforce
without DRM-style controls put into every recording device.

I'll have to think on this some more. Thanks for asking.

Which makes me think that we'll be seeing a lot more of these.

It also begs the question of governments using psyops against their own people as a measure of control. To change public perception by equating photography to pedophilia and terrorism is just another way to reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to the watchers' objectives, which is to take away our ability to pushback and bring us back in line with the rest of the sheep.

I love to take pictures of buildings. I love to take pictures of powerlines and street lights-I like the man made artifice against the perfect beauty of nature. I have stood downtown and taken pictures of buildings. Does this simple act make me a terrorist. No, it makes me an artist, a photographer, someone that loves nature and patterns and the marvel of mankind's intellect.

I hope that Jamais is right and we will correct this problem before it gets worse, because there is a whole world out there just begging to be photographed.

Posted by toadstar on 3:14 PM

Link Dump For 6/30/08:

I have a bunch of windows open and want to share some before I close them.

*Devo sues McDonalds for ripping off the rockin' Devo hat and putting it on some cheesy American Idol toy. My son has this one and that was the first thing I said-Devo! He has another one that has a mohawk and when you press down the mohawk it plays some crap version of 'God Save the Queen". Hopefully Uncle Johnny will sue them too.... The best part of the article and yet another reason for loving Devo (aside from their amazing cover of Satisfaction) is this quote:

"They didn't ask us anything. Plus, we don't like McDonald's, and we don't
like American Idol, so we're doubly offended."

And so are we.

* Neatorama brings us the Top 10 Strangest Anti-Terrorism Patents. Pictured above is one of my favorites, the rapid response patrol and antiterrorist vehicle. Is that awesome or what? I looks like something that Sgt. Bosco B.A. Baracus* and crew would whip up at the end of another exciting episode of The A-Team inorder to whoop up on the bad guys, save the village/town/hostle/whatever before collecting the money and running off into the sunset...

* I dub this the T-roll...

(edited to fix a link)

Posted by toadstar on 3:12 PM

The British War Against Photography:

The Register has an interesting article entitled 'The War on Photographers-You're All al Qaeda Suspects Now.' In which they talk about the recent upsurge in police and security personnel harassing people for taking pictures. All in the name of nation security. Similar instances have happened in the United States, but it seems to be occurring in the UK at an alarming rate.

There is a theory put forth by futurist Jamais Cascio called the Participatory Panopticon. Basically it answers the question, who watches the watchers. We do. Thanks to ever increasing digital media capacity and ubiquitous camera phones it is possible for us to record almost every aspect of our lives (and in the near future we will be able to). Not only that but with almost unlimited storage capacity, we are uploading our lives to the Internet. What happens when our lives are uploaded? Transparency. If I have an argument with my wife (which would never happen ;) ) she would have the ability to say "oh yes you did, look." and I would have no choice but to admit mea culpa.

Already you can see the affect of the participatory panopticon. At the 2004 Republican Convention hundreds were arrested for demonstrating. When in court the police showed videographic evidence of the protesters wrongdoings-the only problem was that the footage was doctored. Defendants were able to find footage shot by others at the demonstration on their camera phones and it showed no wrong doing. Most of the people arrested were let go.

So if the very tool that we are using to watch the watchers is perceived as being a tool of the terrorists how can the participatory panopticon carry on? If the police were able to stop people from taking pictures at the 2004 Convention, how many more people would be arrested, and how many would still be sitting in jail?

Posted by toadstar on 11:20 AM

Because I'm Feeling Lazy-A Link Dump:

*First the awesome. A 3D Holographic display. I've been waiting for one of those since I first saw Star Wars. Now all I need is my jet pack and flying car and I'm a happy boy.

*This makes me angry. I guess that the constitution and my civil rights are only worth $8359. Sweet. I wonder what the constitution has to say about it? Let's find out, US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9: No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed. Hmmmm...

And what is Barack Obama's position? Silence. I think that Wil Wheaton put it best when he said:

Wouldn't it be awesome if a senator who had expressed non-ambiguous
opposition to the Protect AT&T act in the past joined in the filibuster
against it?
Wouldn't it be even more awesome if the vast majority of that
senator's base -- oh hell, forget the base, let's open it up to the vast
majority of all Americans -- opposed amnesty for law-breaking telcos and
expanded spying powers for the White House, making this a slam dunk win for that
senator, giving him a chance to show some serious leadership?
Oh! Oh! Oh! And
wouldn't it be the most awesome EVER if that senator was running for president,
and could use this issue to show Americans that he was seriously committed to
changing the way things happen in Washington?!
Yeah, that sure sounds like a
perfect dream scenario, doesn't it?
Oh well. A guy can dream. Yeah . . . a
guy can dream.

(Here's t hoping that Wil is cooler than the AP, because that was more than five words.)

*Looks like you can expect more commercials on the AM/FM dial thanks to the US Senate. I wonder how much the musicians will actually make off of this. The RIAA must be getting desperate for money-maybe they need it to pay back all those court fees. You know, I know someone in the music industry he says that he makes money from touring, not albums, not radio, they make all their money going on tour. The RIAA just can't adjust to living in a post scarcity world (as far as music goes, we have a way to go before we have a post-scarcity society, but again a guy can dream.)

*This next one is an AP article, so I'm just going to paraphrase the headline-Some dude in Germany set fire to his car because he was mad about the cost of gas. Why don't you just take the bus like everyone else? I know that I have and now I have stories that begin with the phrase "there was this crackhead on the bus this morning...." Good times, good times.
(edited to correct a link. Twice...)

Posted by toadstar on 3:53 PM

Million Mile Mission:

As a science fiction writer/reader, I love space. I love it's limitless possibilities. I love it's infinite reach and beauty. So it goes that I'm real excited about all the renewed talk of space exploration. I am disappointed that we do not already have a colony on the moon, I am saddened to think that the last time we landed on the moon was 1976. It was like we said, been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Today I found this article that both excites me and in a way depresses me. The exciting part is obviously a freakin mission to a freakin asteroid! I'm even more jazzed about landing on an asteroid, because I'm in the middle of reading 'River of Gods' by Ian McDonald (which I'm totally enjoying, I love watching all these puzzle pieces fall into place) which has people landing on asteroids (I don't want to give any of the book away, lets just say that if you have read it you'll be like oh, yea that is cool....).

But the part that depresses me is this:

Jones is part of an unofficial group of NASA actives and alums who have
been studying, mostly on their own time, the particulars—engineering
requirements, mission trajectories, scientific payoffs, and costs—of a human
trip to an asteroid. Like the Mars Underground, a larger group of enthusiasts
who for the past 20-plus years have been pushing for a voyage to Mars, the
asteroid agitators are trying to build support for a mission.

Shouldn't this be the job? Not the freetime hobby, but the job?

Charles Stross had an interesting blog post a little while ago, in which he put forth other ways that we could have spent the billions of dollars wasted in Iraq. One of his suggestions was to set up a colony on Mars:
Either way, the direct costs of the Iraq war exceed the maximum cost
estimate for a manned Mars expedition, infrastructure and all, by 20%. If we
take $20Bn as the cost per mission and $450Bn as the cost to develop the
technology to go there, the direct cost of the Iraq war would be sufficient to
develop a gold-plated Mars expeditionary capability and send six crews of
astronauts to Mars (and bring them back afterwards).
Going by Stiglitz's
indirect estimates, the picture is even more ludicrous; for $3Tn, assuming a
crew of four per expedition, $20Bn per flight, and a basic $450 start-up price,
you could send 510 astronauts to Mars. That's not a Mars exploration program,
that's a battalion! It's a small colony! Regular readers will be familiar with
my opinion of plans to colonize Mars ...

And finally, MarsPhoenix has posted that it has discovered ice on Mars. I would love to get a peek of that under a microscope.

Posted by toadstar on 2:33 PM

I'm Beginning to See the Light:

The dark cloud that has sat over my life for the past couple of months has started to move on and now I am being treated to a beautiful sunrise. My car is back (but now it's in pieces due to engine problems), my house is out of foreclosure, I've started to see a therapist and have started on some new meds. For the first time in a long time my cup is half full. Tomorrow is no longer dark and gloomy, it's filled with hope and joy and best of all I get to share it with my wife and kids.

I just opened a Twitter account, so if you want to follow me around, you can do so here.

Posted by toadstar on 4:48 PM

To My Most Beautiful Wife:

It was five years ago today that I married you. I knew pretty early on in our relationship that you were the one. Truth is that I can't remember not loving you nor do I want to.
You've graced me in our marriage with two amazing wonderful boy and I am forever grateful to you for giving me them and I'm so proud to share each day with you and them.
I know that we have had some hard times, but throughout it all the love and respect that we have for each other has outshined any bad.
So here we are five years later and my love for you has grown so much. It's a deeper more understanding love and I can't wait for the next five years at your side.
I love you Sweetie.

Posted by toadstar on 6:00 PM

might wanna pick up some cereal if you go to the store tonight...

Sorry that I've been away for so long. The past couple of months have been pure unadulterated hell. Our house has been in foreclosure and my car got repo'd. To make a very long story short-after about a week of pure incompetence we got the car back and after much ball dropping and yet more incompetence, will have stopped the foreclosure. So for the time being, everything is okay.
Now on to lighter, funnier things. I got an email from my wife this afternoon with this: might wanna pick up some cereal if you go to the store tonight... as the subject line and the above picture as the attachment. I have the feeling that he's bouncing off the walls right about now. I mean look at those eyes, he's a step away from a sugar coma.

My little Logo is getting so big. He is officially five months and he seems to think that he is a year old. He wants to crawl or walk so bad, he doesn't care which so long as he can move. The other day my wife said that he made her let him walk around the coffee table at Meme's house. He gets so mad when he can't move the way he wants to. He's usually a very mellow happy baby, but when things do not go his way he gets angry.... I have no idea where he gets that, none....

I have some changes in mind for this blog, a little experiment that I'm working on. I'll fill you in with the details later, but for now just keep posted.

Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas