October 31, 2006

This useless bastard hates me. I'm so glad.

They say you can judge someone by the character of their enemies.

I'm doing just fine.

Posted by jbz at 9:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scary Story Time

Written for a scary story quest on E2. The title was already there, and the story followed from it.

We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and this machine is bleeding to death

"Don't catch your suit on anything sharp." Danforth was waiting in the lock with his armor on, wristlights lit, and as always he was spouting useless advice to the rookie. It was just his way of dealing with tension, so everybody ignored him. They always did before a dive. Shela was checking her tools, made fast to her bandolier; Monnon was tapping his boot toes on the deckplates. Pariah was edging towards the hulk, making small incremental burns as the grapplock rotated greasily, servos whining, to track some weak point the cameras had located on the hulk's hull. Strath, the rookie, was watching the 'lock turn back and forth a nervous look on his face behind the synthetic sapphire of his visor.

"Don't smack your faceplate, Strath, it's hard but you don't wanna scratch it up and screw your visibility."

"Okay, Dan."

"Leave off him, Dan, huh?" Shela tapped the last device with practiced fingers and looked up. "He checked out in drill. He'll be fine."

"Yeah, in drill. This is..."

"He knows what this is. C'mon, don't ride the kid just to make your own nerves easy." She shot Strath a grin to let him know this wasn't about him, which he returned gratefully.

"Sorry." Danforth shrugged at him apologetically.

"No, it's okay, I need all the tips I can get. I've never been on a live dive, after all."

more after the jump

"Aw, Christ, kid, don't tell him that, we'll be listening to him all damn day." Monnon's drawl was laced with mock horror, the tap-tap-tap of his boots traversing his suit fabric to underly his voice transmission. Pariah shuddered to a hard braking burn. The hulk was close. A tone in their suit phones heralded the ship's Monitor.

"Attention. Grapple in ten seconds. Prepare for impact."

They all took hold, Strath looking apprehensive, the rest suddenly relaxed. Seconds ticked, then-


"That's it, we're locked." Danforth's voice was noticeably calmer, relieved. "Okay, recorder. Salvage and investigation team Seven Seven Alpha, timestamp. Crewmembers Danforth Abizaid, Monnon Coyle, Shela Arakel, Strath Leukis. Monitor of record FSS Pariah. Attached to target; effecting entry through grapplock as per standard procedure, no information as to target condition. Going to automatic suit recording now." He motioned them all into the lock; when they were all within its confines, Shela palmed the red glowing plate and the inner door cycled with the floor-shaker and atmospheric buzzer.

There was a brief delay while the atmosphere was pumped out, then the lights cycled to orange as the grapplock's systems worked on the target. Finally the Monitor spoke again. "Target lock engaged. Systems functional. Opening outer door. Soft seal. Open. Opening lock for transfer. Good luck."

"Thanks, Pariah. See you on the flipside." Danforth swung the lockbar and the outer door slowly rotated outward into darkness. As it passed forty-five degrees, the lightbars mounted on the outside flickered to life to show the strait confines of the sealtube; at the other end, a scarred and pitted standard outer lockdoor waited.

They moved out of the lock one at a time, Danforth huge in his armor moving all the way to the far door. Shela moved up behind him in case her tools were needed. Monnon remained midway, weapons active; Strath, his various access modules quiescent until jacked in, hung just outside the door they left. Danforth waved an arm, and Strath reached back to palm the green plate outside the lock, watching as Pariah sealed itself again, the plate flipping to red. "Good seal, Commander."

"Thanks, Strath. Okay, here we go." He punched the matching plate on the other lock door. Nothing happened for a moment, then with a groaning noise the other door swung slowly outward. "Hey, that's promising."

The foreign lock remained dark, however. Danforth waited until the door had stopped, then angled his bulk inside. His wristlights illuminated a perfectly standard looking airlock, with FNS Vaicoeur stencilled along two surfaces in Navy-standard blue. "Looks like our pigeon. Pariah, call it in."

"Affirmative, Commander. Commander, sensors have detected extensive battle damage to the exterior hull of Vaicoeur as well as outgassing in several sectors. No EM-range signals have been detected. Gamma and warp radiation are also manifesting in sporadic bursts, indicating both primary and secondary core damage. Caution is advised."

"Acknowledged, Pariah. Thanks. What sort of outgassing?"

"Atmospheric and various system components, along with unidentified organics, possibly from hydroponics."

"Understood." Danforth waved the others in. Strath, last up, squeezed into the darkened lock with trepidation as Shela unclipped a panel and shined a hand torch into it, muttering to herself. After a few moments, a wan light came up in within the walls, and the outer door began to rotate shut.

"There's emergency power, Commander. Cycling the lock now." She closed the panel.

"Right." Danforth positioned himself before the inner door, poised to grab it with his gauntlets if it looked to hesitate. Strath watched the outer door cycling shut and tried not to gulp. Monnon, seeing this, clapped his shoulder.

"Don't worry, kid. If Shela's magic tricks can't get us out of here, Dan's armor can probably rip the doors off. If it can't, I can cut through the outer door in about five minutes without draining my ready reserve power."

Strath tried to grin at him, but it was hard. The outer door seated with a thud felt through the gauntlet he had braced against the wall. There was the normal five-second delay, then the inner door began to open. It made it halfway, then ground to a halt; Danforth grabbed the edge and levered. It swung slowly to the stop, and they filed in.

The suit foyer was lit dimly. There was a chaos of disorganized bits of suit armor lying around, but it didn't look like the foyer had taken battle damage; rather, it looked like there had been an attempted evacuation, interrupted in the middle, but there were no survivors or corpses anywhere. Greaves, gauntlets and breastplates lay scattered about, with softsuit unders lying on the floor and racked in lockers. It was impossible to tell if any were missing.

"Okay. Stick together. Head for main Engineering, we need to see what kind of shape the cores are in before we get any ideas." Danforth waved towards the bounce tube at the rear of the foyer. "Before we go, though, let Strath try his magic."

Immediately outside the armored door to the gravity shaft, Strath unhitched his access probe from his belt and tried to connect to the ship's Monitor through the hardport in the panel. There was no response, not even a heartbeat or network acknowledgement. He shrugged at Danforth, who nodded. "Okay, people, shaft time."

They forced the door open. The bounce tube was pitch black, but unblocked for as far as their lights could reach. While they were leaning into the shaft, Strath unhooked his probe and reattached it to his belt. As he did so, a slight movement at the side of his faceplate startled him, and he spun around; his wrist smacked into Shela's back. She in turn jumped and cracked her arm against the doorframe. "What--"

Strath was peering frantically into the darkness back towards the airlock, still gaping open where they'd left the door. Nothing was moving that he could see. Light flooded the area as Shela and Danforth, seeing where he was looking, directed their suit lights in that direction. "Strath, what?"

"Nothing." He hoped they couldn't see his blush through his faceplate. "Sorry. I thought I saw movement. It's nothing."

"You probably did." Shela said, patting his shoulder. "We probably kicked a suit component; standby grav isn't much at all in here, and it probably tumbled."

"Yeah..." Strath wasn't sure about that, but held his tongue. One at a time, they moved into the tube; Danforth first, Shela, then Strath, then Monnon in the rear, moving sternwards towards the engineering spaces.

Their radcounters started spiking as they traversed the heavy damage areas, indicating ordnance residue still embedded in the hull. Strath checked at three more access points, but either Vaicoeur's Monitor was truly dead or the network was breached in too many places to get a link through to it. Given the lack of power in ship's systems, he wasn't willing to place bets either way. Thoughts of the massive salvage bonus that Fleet was willing to pay if the Monitor's network could be reactivated were starting to look like forlorn hopes, though.

They emerged from the bounce tube, guided by Danforth's inertial guide and detailed schematics of the Fleur de Lys class assault carrier. Instead of the armored portal into Engineering Alpha, though, they found themselves in a vehicle bay, reflecting the number of 'minor' differences that every military construction contract since time began had accrued between design and commissioning. Cursing, Danforth and Shela scouted to starboard while Strath and Monnon went to port, looking for Engineering.

Strath was only three or four meters from Monnon, trying to determine whether the hatchway he was looking at opened to a passageway or a closet, when there was a sudden burst of light. He turned to find a smoking area of decking where Monnon had been, and nothing else.


There was no answer. He looked up, convulsively, turning his flash on the confusion of liftcranes and manipulators that rested over the cradle in which a large armored vehicle slept. Nothing. Shining the light on the deck revealed a burned patch, no longer bubbling, where Monnon's armor had apparently discharged its weaponry. Strath shivered and chinned his commo. "Commander?"

The voice was clear. "Strath? What is it?"

"Monnon...he's...he's gone."

"What?" Sharp. "What happened?"

"I don't know. I wasn't looking at him. There was a light, I think he fired, and now there's no sign of him."

"Stay where you are. We're coming to you."

"Roger." Strath slowly backed up to put the wall against his shoulder blades and reached down to his belt with his right hand. The gyp was there, still attached; he drew it and held it in both hands, aiming the chunky weapon at the deck in front of him as he swept his eyes back and forth. Nothing moved.

"Strath?" Danforth's voice was slightly labored. "Strath, you still there? We're coming up on you now. Don't shoot us."

"I'm here, Commander." Strath made sure his finger was off the trigger. A patch of wobbly light was approaching from starboard; it resolved into Danforth's armor, moving carefully around the various equipment in the bay. Strath took one hand off the pistol and waved. Danforth's figure waved back; Strath frowned. There was only one shape. "Commander, where's Shela?"

"She's with me."

"Sir, she's not." He watched Danforth stop and rotate clumsily, looking.

"Shit!" Danforth turned back, loped towards him, drawing his own weapon. "She was right behind me when we started. What-" He saw the burned decking. "Is this where Monnon was?"

"Yeah. He didn't even say anything. We were looking for hatchways, so I wasn't looking at him."

"Okay. Don't turn away from me. Keep your eyes on me, okay?" Danforth glared at him, intense in his concentration. When Strath nodded, sweating now, Danforth looked from side to side. They stood there for a moment, rocket pistols clutched between them, held slightly out the the side, talismans of fear. Danforth looked back at Strath, spoke again. "Monitor?"

"Receiving, Commander."

"Monitor, we've lost contact with Shela and Monnon. Do you have their locators on scan?"

"I do, Commander. They are colocated in Sickbay."

"Sickbay?" Danforth looked puzzled, then grim again. "Right. We're on it. Strath, with me?"

Strath gulped. "Yessir. Right with you."

"Good man. Okay, stay to my left."

They moved out of the bay and made their way forward along a companionway, Danforth checking his inertial guide frequently. The emergency lights were on, but spaced fairly far apart. Twice Strath spun, seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, but found nothing there; both times, Danforth spun with him, looking, then nodded and motioned him on.

Ten minutes and a single detour around a mangled area, open to dark space, brought them to a white blast door with a caduceus painted on it. Without speaking, Strath moved to the other side of it as Danforth put his back to the wall alongside, and at Danforth's nod, plugged his access probe into the port there.

There was a response. Weak, automatic, but a response. He nodded furiously at Danforth, then returned his attention to the jack. The Sickbay systems were online in emergency mode; he entered the override command Fleet's salvage division had given him and waited. There was a grinding through the wall behind him that spoke of damaged mechanisms, and the blast door rose into the overhead. Yanking his probe out, he followed Danforth into the bay.

The blast door rolled down behind them automatically. The sickbay was covered in blood and debris; gauze pads, offal and surgical tools strewn throughout telling of frantic battles fought by medical staffers against their traditional enemy with no hints as to the handicapping. Danforth was checking the beds along the back of the bay, but they were empty. "Monitor, locator check please."

"Crew locators intermittent; apparent signal interference on all locators due to core radiation. Last known location of Lieutenants Coyle and Arakel, Main Engineering."

"Damn it!" Danforth swore. "What the fuck-"

"Commander?" Strath ventured.

"What?" Danforth swung to face him.

"Where are the crew?"


"No, Vaicoeur's crew."

"They're-" Danfoth stopped. "Good question. We haven't seen any bodies. They might be in the shelters if they had rad leaks and atmosphere loss."

"Maybe, but there's atmosphere in most sections we've been through, other than the breached areas."

"Look, I don't know. It's possible they abandoned. I have more urgent problems right now, damn it."

"Yessir." Strath looked away.

"Okay, Monitor, we're heading back to Engineering. Let us know ASAP if our locators drop off."

"Affirmative, Commander."

Danforth opened the main door. As he did so, Strath saw something scuttle past his feet. Shouting, he spun about, bringing up the gyp; without waiting to see if Danforth had turned, he moved towards the back of the sickbay, positive he'd seen movement. His helmet lights shone on the detritus lying about the deckplates as he cast about for whatever had passed him, the nose of the rocket pistol questing. He had just lifted his gaze from the floor to the back of the bay when the shape resolved from the darkness, all sticks and bands, scrabbling, and his hand squeezed reflexively but the shell burst PAM against the back wall and then it was on him and he felt himself bowled over on his back, borne down to the deck against the feeble gravity, watching as the twiglike shapes fluttered towards his faceplate and there was a giant HHHSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH and everything went out



"Strath?" The voice was familiar in his ears, if hoarse and painful. "Strath, damn it, wake up."

He opened a gummed eye. There was weak light, and indistinct shapes. He felt awful; hot, ill, swollen. His joints ached. He couldn't move. Something was holding his wrists in an implacable grip. He closed his eyes again and squeezed them shut, trying to work whatever was gumming them closed out of his orbits, and then opened them again. Both opened this time. "Shela?"

"You're awake." The relief was palpable. "Can you see?"

"I...think so." He blinked. It helped, somewhat. "Wait, where's my suit?"

"They took them."


"The bots." He peered around. He was standing against a metal wall, in what had to be engineering; huge machines lurked everywhere. He looked left, towards the voice. Shela was standing there, her suit gone as well. She looked florid and just as rumpled as he felt. Looking down, he saw ther their wrists were locked to the wall by crude restraints. He tested them; metal clinked against metal, wrongly, but they didn't move.

"What bots? What the hell..."

"There are some kind of bots wandering around here. I think they're ship's manuatics, but I don't know."

"Ship's - damage control?"


Strath thought about that for a second. "Any sign of Danforth and Monnon?"

"They're to my left, down a few yards. They're still out."

"What the hell's going on?"

"I don't know." She laughed, short and hard. "But look to your right." He did, sucked in breath. Clustered around a rough-looking cylinder were four figures, clothed in the dark blue of Fleet. They were shriveled, almost mummified; milky eyes looked out of faces screaming silently in gape-mouthed fear.

"Oh, Jesus."


"What happened to them?"

"I have no idea. But I can't help thinking it's gonna happen to us."


"Look at their hands."

He did. The four figures were restrained at the wrists, but that wasn't all, there was something strange about the way they were chained in. He couldn't quite make it out. Before he could angle his neck further, though, movement to his left snapped his head back around. A jumble of metal rods, which was now identifiable as a standard damage control bot in the light, shambled forward and faced him, lenses clicking as they rotated.

"Bot, release me." He snapped the command out. It was worth a try. It ignored him.

"I tried that." Shela said absently. "They're not listening."

"Bot, override Sigma Seven Niner Three Desiderata Five, acknowledge." Strath recited the Fleet override, hoping. Nothing. The bot reached for his wrists and gripped them securely, undoing the shackles with its secondary manipulators. "Shit."

"Strath, if you get a chance, there's a gun in my boot, okay?"

He kept his voice calm. "Which boot?"

Shela laughed. "Both of 'em."

Surprising himself, he laughed too. "Remind me not to hit on you in a downside bar." The bot pulled him away from the wall, towards the cylinder. He looked down, and almost fainted; his wrists were scarred, with metal bands embedded in the flesh on their inner surfaces. That was what had produced the clinking when he'd struggled. "What the hell is that?"


"There's some kind of metal on my wrists-" The bot pulled one of the corpses off the cylinder and sat him forcibly on the small ledge it had occupied, then placed his wrists beneath the restraints. He struggled, but was no match for electromagnetic servos. He felt a sickening click as the metal sockets on his wrists mated with the mechanism on the cylinder, then the restraints locked down over the joints and he was unable to move them a millimeter as they were pressed painfully into their places.

"Strath, what's it doing?"

"I don't-" he grunted, struggling as the bot moved to his right towards an access port and inserted a probe. "It's got my wrists locked to this damn cylinder and AIIIIIIIGH!" The scream was pure pain, as molten lava flooded into his arms. His fingers curled instantly into claws. He felt himself urinate into his utilities, but it was far away and unimportant; there was a whining sound and a module that looked strangely familiar lowered itself from the ceiling to surround his upper body. Somewhere, someone was shouting his name, urgently, but it didn't matter, through the pain that was moving up his forearms and into his thorax. Blessed cold seeped through him, needles of ice from the module as it tried to caress him and fight off the fire.

The fire and the ice fought, and in between, Strath screamed.

Danforth came to, muzzily, at the screaming. "Whuzzat?"

"Danforth? Christ, Danforth-" It was Shela's voice, and she sounded like she was crying.

"Shela? What the hell is going on?" He snapped awake, struggled against the restraints, looked around. "Oh, Christ, what are they doing to the kid?"

"I don't know, D, I don't know. He said something about there being metal in his wrists, and then they plugged him into that thing, and then he started screaming and that thing came down over him."

"He screamed, and then that thing came down?"

"Yeah, why?"

"That's a hospital support module."

"So what? Jesus, they're killing him!"

"No, wait. If he screamed first, then that thing's not what's doing it."


"So something else is, and the module's keeping him alive. So there's a purpose to whatever's hurting him. Who did this?"

"It's the repair bots, Dan, the ship's bots."


The voice was faint, but legible, repeated through the implanted conductor in his mastoid. "Yes, Commander."

"Monitor, status!"

"All crew locators in main Engineering. Slight increase in outgassing. Lowering of external blackbody radiation from engineering module of target."

"Wait, what? Lowering temp?"

"Yes, commander."

"Son of a bitch." Danforth was breathing hard, his eyes narrowed. Strath was still screaming. A repair bot approached Shela; she began to kick at it.

"Danforth, what the fuck is going on?"

"Oh, hell. Oh, no." His face had gone white. He craned his neck, looking hard at Strath, still screaming on the other side of Shela's struggles.

"WHAT?" She was kicking at the bot, now. It was bouncing away from her, but patiently returning with mechanical implacability. "What is it? What are they doing?"

"They're saving their ship. Christ, I didn't see it. Battle damage - they lost coolant on the reactor, Shela. The fucking coolant loop broke. There's no liquid stores anywhere on the ship. There's no power to pump coolant. The reactor's at standby, but it still needs to move coolant just that little bit, enough to keep the core low."

"What the fuck does that have to do with us?"

Danforth felt the bot unhook his left wrist. He kicked at it ineffectually; it was a larger model, hull maintenance, and didn't react. "We're the radiators, Shel. Us. It's using blood for coolant. Organic outgassing, fuck, I should have known." He was being carried to the cylinder, arms held firmly to his sides. "I hope you can get to those damn guns, honey, or we're screwed. Strath's already toast; it's not just heating his blood, it's irradiating it, but it's gonna lose it, too. Monitor, mark and send message buoy recorder NOW. Christ, outgassing, my ass. This ship is fucking bleeding."

There was a click as his left wrist locked against the cylinder. He smiled dreamily, waiting for the reactor core to drink of him in its burning. "Imagine that. It's bleeding."

Posted by jbz at 6:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2006

Let Them Eat Spam

We recently performed some badly-needed upgrades to our mail-handling infrastructure at work. This gave me a chance to, amongst the swearing and threats to rewire various servers into toasters unless they started doing their jobs, twiddle some spam-handling and have a look at the results. One of the things I'd been curious about was the degree to which our use of blackhole lists affected the amount of spam hitting us, given the recent brouhaha over the Spamhaus lawsuit and various claims from various folks about their effectiveness.

The following graphs are 12-hr snapshots of Upgrade Day. Note that this system is not our primary MTA, but is one of our front-end mail scanners; in other words, it is the first system to see the mail. Furthermore, this system is purely a mail receiver; the 'Sent' messages are those which are accepted into the company and 'sent on' to internal-facing mail handling. This is why Received and Send track so very well.

The time of change is fairly easy to spot.

Message Traffic

There were two changes made to mail handling on this host at the same time, which makes this graph not nearly as clean or useful an indicator. We turned on the use of rbl-xbl.spamhaus.com in the SMTP handshake phase, and we implemented postgrey greylisting at the same time. We had always been doing some fairly aggressive SMTP HELO/EHLO checking. Here's a graph showing what happened to the 'bad' mail over the same time period. Note the scale difference (msgs/min).

Bounces and rejects

Note that 'rejected' takes a sharp, sharp upturn, and bounces (which usually indicate the mail got through the format checking but were addressed to illicit addresses) drop way off. In other words, we start catching that stuff prior to queueing, which is what we wanted - having to do postqueue checks is more expensive by far (I'm assuming, at the moment, that REJECT indicators in mailgraph are prequeue given that that's what our log entries are for - NOQUEUE: reject - and that bounces indicate it was in fact queued before being checked and returned, but I may be wrong). The one thing I need to check is whether the initial greylisting straightarm is caught by these graphs as a REJECT, or if the Defer is handled differently.

So these graphs aren't worth much from a 'make your point scientificially' standpoint. They are enough to make me shake my head at the spamflow in.

Oh, yeah - there's no virus scan done on this particular machine. Also, it's not the only front-end mailscanner/MX, so while any initial dip in traffic could simply be due to the half-hour interrupt causing inbound servers to cycle elsewhere in the MX tree, that should have evened out over time considering that all of them got the same changes at roughly the same time.

Posted by jbz at 8:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2006

Why don't I live in England? WHY?

Tanks! TANKS!!!!! AIGH!!!!!!!

C'mon, Top Gear, get on this one!

Posted by jbz at 6:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stealing Redux

Mike: Good call. I carefully didn't say I call it stealing myself, preferring to ask the question - but I agree with your point. My problem, though, is that your response, while reasonable, is all too often twisted far the other way; i.e. 'if we can't call it stealing then it's OK.' My point is that while we probably shouldn't call it stealing, there is definitely a point where something is happening that is not ok - namely, making copies of someone else's work, handing them over, and accepting money for them without ever entering into an agreement with the artist or rightsholder. Note also that this is entirely a different animal from making a copy for personal use; the transaction makes the difference. I'm explicitly not making a statement about copying for personal use; my thoughts on that are jumbled. I'm limiting my disapproval to duplication and sale.

This is the distinction I think is often lost, and is the reason I find the 'lamentations' by copyfighters over the actions taken against AllOfMP3 so bloody annoying - I've had people email me and tell me I'm being a copyright militant bastard over Eyes On The Prize when, for example, I'm frothing about the fact that there are lowlifes busy selling DVDs to which they've burned the crappy files that Downhill Battle posted to the internet. Selling. That's the key word. Yes, I apologize for bringing my personal baggage to this, but HA! it was my post originally.

Now again, if AllOfMP3 was paying artists for their work - then I'm wrong. But nowhere have I ever seen any evidence that they were; all I have seen is stories which indicate that the company was, if anything, gaming the law to make minimal if any payments to a Russian organization which in turn wasn't paying anything to anybody outside the country - so the artists themselves weren't making a thin dime. In other words, those lamenting AllOfMP3's getting smacked around are lamenting their inability to pay a vendor who isn't paying the artists anything.

This is a personal reaction to a story I don't follow closely. If I'm wrong about the circumstances, then so be it. But that's what produced my reaction.

Posted by jbz at 5:43 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 23, 2006

Warren Ellis has awesome friends of friends

Pictures of the Space Shuttle launching - taken from the ISS.


Update: Aw. Those w/sharper eyes than me were right. They're not from ISS. They're from a high-altitude plane. Still awesome images, but somehow the cool factor is diminished.

Posted by jbz at 2:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hooray Hamster!

The Hamster is up and about! Many sighs of relief for him and his family are heard throughout the pistonhead world. Now let's see the footage of the runs before, at least, eh BBC? C'mon! C'mon! It's got a bloody jet engine!

Posted by jbz at 9:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2006

Oh, *now* they start to get it...

Remember "if you're innocent you have nothing to fear?" Yeah. Right. Slowly, slowly, they're learning.

Who the hell raids a kiddie porn downloader in flak jackets with guns out? Law and Order jacked-up psychos, that's who. I mean, honestly, if you really want evidence for that kind of thing (i.e., on a computer) the last thing you want to do is get everyone all hotted up into siege mentality. Nope, you want to get into the house nice and quiet; get them to the door all unsuspecting, so they don't have time to erase things. Idiots.

Update: Ha, so it turns out this was supposed to be a publicity run, and Shaq was there. At least this gives the poor folks who got rousted some more (and more national exposure) publicity for their plight.

Posted by jbz at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Katie Couric Bleats Hard

Katie Couric, beneficiary in so many ways of NASA research, whines soundbites along the lines of "I can't help but wonder if that money could have been better spent here on earth." Um, where do you think it was spent, honey? McDonalds-LaGrange? To quote Berke Breathed, NO BIG MACS IN SPACE! Watchers exhibit their disgust for her complete lack of even basic research and overinflated self-importance here, sometimes with actual funny.

Posted by jbz at 10:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 19, 2006

Olbermann in high form, again

Watch it, now, please.

Posted by jbz at 2:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The power of a man and his shed.

Oh yeah.


Posted by jbz at 1:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Copyfighters vs. Narcissistic Hangers-on

The reactions to the recent news that Visa has cut off the Russian MP3 site AllOfMp3.com serve only to further deepen my ambivalence towards the entire debate over copyright and the uses of DRM technology. I have had a checkered history with the entire issue, having parked my ass on both sides of the debate over copyright due to my involvement with Eyes on the Prize.

Here's my problem. I have this large parge of me which remains convinced that a huge part of the 'outrage over DRM and copyright' is nothing more than laziness over personal inconvenience, and crap like the reactions to the AllOfMP3.com news do nothing but reinforce it. Let me explain.

I myself agree, and feel strongly, that the copyright system in the U.S.A. (I can't speak for the rest of the world) is broken and in need of overhauling. I also think that the legislative process has suffered excessive capture at the hands of the 'middleman' organizations such as the MPAA and RIAA - entities which do not themselves create, nor in fact ably serve to defend the rights of those who do. However, I also think that there is a line to be drawn between actions which show defiance of those entities and rules spawned to benefit them and actions which simply show the elevation of personal convenience over other considerations.

Take AllOfMP3.com. Everything I have seen indicates that while yes, they were selling un-DRM-ed MP3 music (which is a Good Thing in terms of how the information is presented), there was adequate evidence that they were not, in fact, compensating the owners of the copyrights to that music as the law required. Ah, many people have said, but whose law? Well, see, I would argue, that's not entirely relevant. The point is this - they weren't really compensating anybody - either the artists directly, or the organizations who were the designated rightsholders.

What they were (or rather, are) doing, is collecting money in return for the transmission of music over the internet.

In other words, they are taking your money and giving you a copy of music which they themselves did not create, and which (it seems quite, quite likely) they 'produced' by simply ripping it off a bought CD.

In other words, they are accepting money for someone else's work.

That's fairly disgusting, to me. I don't see how this makes them any different from the organizations that everyone in the 'copyfighter' movement claims to hate so much, like the MPAA and RIAA - except that the latter seem to have had the foresight to at least get their thievery written into the legal system.

Now, I may be very wrong about this. There may be artists out there who have received monies from AllOfMP3.com. If that's the case, if AllOfMP3's crime is, in fact, that they are bypassing the RIAA and paying the artists directly, well, then huzzah on them and I eat crow. But if they are, in fact, simply hiding behind the 'wrong legal system' argument to collect monies and not really pay out to anyone, then I fail to see why anyone who considers themselves a champion of the freedom of information and the freedom of artists should ever, ever defend them - they're not only thieves and users, but even more blatant about it than the RIAA are.

However, everywhere I look, I see people who describe themselves as 'concerned about the DRM issue' explaining how they like AllOfMP3.com because the site 'doesn't use DRM' and 'doesn't cripple music.'

Okay. But do they steal it?

And don't give me that crap about 'you can't steal music, it wants to be free.' If the artist who made the music in the first place has said publicly that their music should be freely available to all, then yes, you're quite right. But if the artist hasn't said that, then you have no right to make that choice for them. Pretending you do is nothing more than rationalization of theft.

Posted by jbz at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2006

Of course they're not 'neutral.'

Want to get even more angry? Read this. And remember, 'neutral' these days, when it comes to covering the actions of those in government, is code-word for 'enabling' - and given what the bastards are up to, that's not 'neutral' at all.

Posted by jbz at 8:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 17, 2006

Battlefield 2142? Fuck you, EA, not this boy.

You know, I was really looking forward to Battlefield 2142. Despite the horrific patch issues, crappy QA and testing, horrendous customer service philosophy and other minor problems that the Battlefield series has been famous for - and that I am more than experienced with, having now paid cash money for Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Vietnam and Battlefield 2 - I WANTED LASER GUNS DAMN IT.

But, I'm sorry, I'm not buying it. Nope. I'm not even gonna pirate it. No way.

Because of this.

Fuck you, EA.

Posted by jbz at 6:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2006

And the Beat Goes On.

Oh yeah, I feel protected. We moved ATF into Justice why, again?

Oh right. Republican administration, War on Terror, 'Homeland Security.'

Posted by jbz at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 13, 2006

OMG! I lost my RPM Database!

Yeah, so what do you do then? All the sources say...pray. Or reinstall. Or take some convoluted set of steps that are akin to dancing thrice round a cattail thrush on the third full moon of the year while wearing the ooze of a great-grandfather snail and chanting the nine billion names of God.

Well, here's what I did.

First, the situation: I have a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 machine. For reasons we won't go into, the RPM database was entirely erased. Not just corrupted; it was hurt so badly that a new, blank one was put in its place, and rpm happily claimed the machine had no packages on it. For other reasons we won't go into, reinstalling on this machine was possible but not desirable; the machine is remote (in a colo) and is running a role that would have required the building of a substitute box, switchover, travel, reinstall, etc.

No, it's not a critical role.

Anyhow, the machine in question hadn't been updated for several months - it was this overdue update that had caused the freakout. I was using the Ximian/Novell rug/rcd product to update it - this system front-ends RPM, though. It had resolved what needed to be done, resolved dependencies, downloaded the requisite rpm files for the update into a cache dir, and called RPM to remove the conflicting (old) RPM files when Something Went Wrong.

After thrashing around trying to rebuild the db using the tools (failed), trying to create a new db by figuring out what files I had on the system (bwahahahah), and looking at the originally-installed rpm db state file in /usr/lib/rpmdb (as opposed to the /var/lib/rpm/rhel-3as-i386/redhat location of the running database) I came within a hair of giving up.

Then I found out that rpm sticks a cron job into RHEL installations (and FC installations?) that simply dumps the output of rpm -qa to a logfile (/var/log/rpmpkgs) once a night. That logfile, thanks to logrotate, is rotated once a week, so although it had been several days since the incident and the main file had been overwritten with the blank rpm dump, I grabbed /var/log/rpmpkgs.1.

Inside that file was a one-per-line list of everything that had been installed on my system.

I took that file to a machine which had the full RHEL3 current package set mounted to a directory. I then created a new, blank RPM database:

rpm --dbpath /home/jbz/newrpmdb/ --initdb

Then I used the mounted copy of the package repository and xargs to do a series of rpm -i --justdb commands, which 'install' rpm packages but only perform the db modification steps:

cat rpmpkgs.1 | xargs --replace={} rpm -ivh --force --nodeps --justdb --dbpath /home/jbz/newrpmdb/ /(path-to-rhel-3as-i386-packagerepo-rpms)/{} > install.log 2>&1

The --force and --nodeps were required because I was installing one rpm at a time (via xargs) to a blank database, so all dep checks would fail, but I didn't care - the packages were already installed on my machine, I just needed the DB to reflect that.

Once that was complete, I had a directory containing my new rpmdb file in /home/jbz/newrpmdb. I copied that to the affected machine, put it into /var/lib/rpm, and then performed an rpm --rebuilddb just to be safe. That completed without a hitch.

At this point, I had a mostly-complete installation. There were a couple of problems, though. The main one was that since several packages had been updated since the machine had last been rereshed, some package names in the package repository didn't match the package names in the rpmpkgs.1 file. As a result, the logfile (install.log) contained a bunch of lines showing errors where rpm couldn't find the file it had been asked to install since the current repository had new file names.

Note: This is because Red Hat (and others?) when updating the packages apparently change the package name by infixing versions. For example, suppose aspell- is updated; the new package will have its true name, and that version might be renamed aspell-2: I presume this is in case there are dependencies which rely on the earlier version of the package; it's kept in the update channels but marked up so that the updaters understand that it isn't the current version. This is a guess, though.

In any case, I had several packages which hadn't been installed, spread throughout this massive logfile. I used the following to get a simple list of which ones got missed:

grep "No such" install.log | cut -c 70- - | cut -d " " -f 1 > missingrpms.txt

Note that the '70-' reflects the fact that the pathname of the repository I was using was 70 characters long, so cutting the first 70 characters off the line produced output beginning with the filename in question. Your mileage will vary. The second cut statement sets the delimiter to a space, then discards all text after the space, leaving only the filename.

I then got lazy and, since my list was only a few lines long, manually copied those RPMs over to the affected machine and force-installed them using --just-db. You may need/want to script this update.

At that point, I ran rpm -aV to verify the installation. I came up with approximately forty lines of variance, mostly permissions variance, which is not at all out of whack for a 350-day uptime, 2.5yr install server. No major issues have cropped up. Looking through the variances, they all appear to involve config file changes, permissions on doc files, or (in five or six cases) missing files from packages I have customized. I will mark this 'successful' and count myself lucky.

WARNING: Your mileage WILL vary. Messing with your RPM database is NOT FUN and should NOT BE DONE on a running system unless there is NO OTHER OPTION. I had no other option, so that's why I did it. I take no responsibility for any damage you may do to your system or data in trying any of this; I offer it purely as a last-ditch recovery option, just in case you find yourself with nowhere else to go.

Good luck.

Posted by jbz at 3:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2006

Some things on the net actually *remain* funny.

MY NEIGHBOURS ARE HOORS! ...is definitely one of them.


Posted by jbz at 5:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Succinct Reviews

I caught myself describing a whisky just now as "It's like being tackled by a hot naked lady wrestler who has just left the fireside and smells of woodsmoke and pussy."

I am not sure what this says about me, but I'm fairly sure it can be spun to be 'not good.'

On the other hand, when holding said whisky, I don't give a fuck.

The whisky in question is this one.

Posted by jbz at 10:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2006

Patrick Buchanan, Misdirection and Outright Bullshit.

So Mr. Buchanan has produced the latest limp-dick attempt to vilify the Democrats for the Foley situation. In an opinion piece posted on the website of the Miami Herald, he spends the column admitting that there are all manner of problems of credibility with the GOP's statements and actions. But - but! - he tells us, the Democrats are really hypocrites, because they after all lowered the age of consent in D.C. to 16! So even if Foley had sex with these pages, it would be perfectly legal due to Democratic actions! Also (Buchanan continues) the media outed the gay GOP staffers, and suddenly they were fired! He concludes:
But to have the party of gay rights, many of whose leaders have marched in gay-pride parades alongside the pedophiles of NAMBLA, acting ''shocked, shocked'' at GOP torpor in ousting its gay member is, to put it mildly, unconvincing.

Welcome to 'the big lie.' Or better, 'the big WHOA!' as in "well, yes, but - WHOA! Look over there!" Let's take this paragraph one step at a time and see how many bits of bullshit labeling and misdirection we can find, shall we?

  • " The party of gay rights." Hm. Well, while some Democrats may stand for gay rights, many don't, and it's certainly not a central theme of the party. Of course, if you're trying to remind homophobes why not voting GOP means voting for gays, then of course it is.
  • "many of whose leaders have marched in gay-pride parades alongside the pedophiles of NAMBLA..." Ahhh, we love this one. Names please? Pictures? Were these parades closed access and by invite-only? What were the circumstances? By 'alongside' do you mean 'holding hands' or mean 'in the same parade as' which, in (for example) the New York City Pride parade can take in an incredible amount of real estate and political spectrum? Here's the problem Democrats have: many of them have this notion that unless someone has been caught doing something illegal, you can't deprive them of rights. While it may be one thing to deplore NAMBLA's existence and mission, it's another thing to avoid a Pride event because they show up exercising a constitutional right to assembly.
  • "...at GOP torpor in ousting its gay member..." BZZZZT. Nope, wrong. Not at GOP torpor in ousting its gay member. That's *your* fantasy, Mr. Buchanan, thank you for projecting. No, at GOP reluctance to act to shield young adults who were sent to Washington in good faith and placed under their protection from the grooming and predation of one of their own. Again, Mr. Buchanan fixates on the same thing that is killing Hastert and company - the status of the GOP involved and not the status of the kids. As he puts it, they're over the legal age of consent (which is the Dem's fault) so who cares?

Fucking disgusting.

Posted by jbz at 5:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Schools vs. Airplanes - What is the Disconnect?

Dana Milbank notes that President Bush managed to give an entire press conference about the recent spate of school shootings without using the word 'gun.' This feat of verbal gymnastics was performed, Milbank infers, so as to avoid bringing up the Elephant in the Room of gun control immediately before an election.

Let me take a moment to outline something that troubles me here. If you read the account of the conference, Bush and company seem eager to hear about 'faith-based' solutions to school violence such as 'churches adopting schools' and re-introducing prayer, without once mentioning the actual mechanism of said violence which is the access to schools with guns.

Why, then, are we living in a world where people are being told they can't get on airplanes carrying rocks - since they might be weapons? This when the person carrying said rock was a geologist for Pete's sake. At the same time, our President can have an entire press conference to discuss a series of horrific events involving the deaths of American children in schools, all of which involved access to guns and access to those schools by those with guns, and manage to muse (as Milbank notes) that perhaps schools are becoming 'too locked down' and not mention gun control once?

I get it. You can take away our right to have an MP3 player on an airplane, but God forbid (literally) you take away someone's right to have an assault weapon near a primary school. Oh, never mind, we've done away with the Federal Assault weapons ban, so you haven't!

Sure, this makes sense.

Posted by jbz at 2:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2006

Best Quote Yet on DPRK's Fizzlebangs

From Jeffrey Lewis at ArmsControlWonk.com:
"I close this discourse about operational confidence by noting that the United States has built a missile defense that does not work, to defend against a North Korean missile that does not work, that would carry a nuclear warhead that does not work.

This is all very postmodern."

Posted by jbz at 1:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Tree of Liberty

The Tree of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson told us, must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

I can't help wondering, though - as we feed it the blood of innocents, what poison fruit will we harvest from it?

I suppose we'll learn, if we're not doing so already - and if we have ears to hear or eyes to see.

End pompous thought for the day that I can't get out of my head.

Posted by jbz at 4:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 9, 2006

I Have Decided on a Motto.

Maybe not a motto. Maybe more of a personal dramatic sigh to be delivered over a crystalline martini while elegantly flipping a hand with an air of Pained Obsolescence:

"Ah, for the Cold War - those days of Moral Certitude and Chicken-powered Nuclear Bombs."

God love the British.

Posted by jbz at 12:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

When Weapons Geeks pwn j00

Kim Jong Il, I'm looking at you.

Posted by jbz at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 6, 2006

The screams grow in green ice.

(Note: written for a Hallowe'en story quest on E2)

"The screams grow along the walls. Green and black ice. They are thicker every day, every hour. Soon it will not be possible to prevent them soiling the pristine white of the pressure suit kneeguards as I dab my way along the main connector in my watch-by-watch commute from T-module to Command, to keep my vigil - to light the fire in the brazier for the dead."

LCdr Virgil Everard, USN (Det.)

Blue is the color of Uphill. Blue is the color we can see of the world we leave. Blue is the goal. Blue is the joy. Blue.

White and gray and black and blinking phosphor is the cradle and the life. Smudged nonstick, quartz glass and acres of plastics, dinosaurs escaping the world millions of years too late to avoid the extinction event. Right seat. Right seat. 6DOF controller resting lightly in my circled hand, the padded metal of the rest alongside my arm, holding it vertical.

Leaving programmed hold. T minus eight-fifty-seven. No unplanned events. Continue count.

I can't look left, where Ayako is sitting. She's calm. I know she is. She always is.

more after the jump...

SRO, status confirm?

Go flight!

Roger, thank you. Continue with director. Environmental...?

Light the fires. Kick the tires. Burn the wires.


GO flight!


GO flight!


GO flight!


GO flight!


GO flight!

A litany of fever, green for go. An army of men and women and aluminum and chemistry and physics and aerodynamics and money and politics and fear and sweat and toil, all poised in the starter's block; enough raw power to level a small town caged beneath my feet. A match handed to a giggling computer.


GO flight!


GO flight!


GO flight!


GO flight!

The blue is interrupted with a trace of white; a small wisp of cloud moving across the sunsplashed windows of the flight deck above me. I can hear my voice responding in trained, crisp affirmatives; watch my hands moving switches and tapping command sequences into the flight computer. Ayako and I switch off responding to Flight as the veteran she is and the professionals we both are. Somewhere behind and beneath us, I can feel the Payload getting nervous - this is really going to happen, really today. We're past the critical five-minute-block; the computers are happy, which means the bird is happy - the most complex machine ever built thinks it's not broken and it wants to go. The dangerous bits (ha!) start to flow past now.

Cee-dee-are (that's Ayako, Commander) APU start is go, confirm.

"Flight, this is CDR, APU start acknowledged." Ayako flips the toggle she's been resting her finger on, nods at me; I flip mine. Somewhere deep in the belly of the bird, among the myriad sources of noise and clangor, a whine builds and makes itself known. A row of readout blinks thoughtfully on the OPSCON and goes green in satisfaction as all of the APUs switch into the mains and the bird shoulders the load. "Flight, Atlantis, APU start is go, over."

We're burning hydrazine now. Shutdown gets harder. I think we're going to go.

T minus thirty-one seconds. Gee-Ell-Cee handoff complete. Atlantis, you're on your on-board computers, over.

"Ground, Atlantis, we're on our onboard computers, over."

oh my god, we're going

-go for main engine start-


...four, we have main engine start, one, and...



and like that, we're gone.

* * *

"The International Space Station is the focus of the world's attention on manned space stations. It is, however, not alone in Earth's low orbitals. There is at least one other duty post up there; one that is much less observable and has been there for quite some time longer. It is in fact more than twenty-five years old, and would be quite familiar to any space aficionado, since it was constructed using the unknown-to-the-public third hull of the Skylab program. The second hull sits in the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC; the third sits some four and a half thousand miles over the Earth in a circumpolar orbit. It was placed there in the mid 1980s, using a hastily-resurrected Saturn V launch vehicle, the last of its kind; it was boosted into a high orbit using thruster packs brought up on Department of Defense Atlas and Delta missions, controlled by military astronauts - milnauts - transported originally to its initial low orbit by the nascent Space Shuttle program. The first few Shuttle flights had a very light official crew roster - but not in truth."

-VAdm. John K. Shaefer, NRO

* * *

The Tank separates with a slight jolt. I use the hand controller to give us a small translate so as to allow the cameras mounted on the orbiter's underside a good picture of the tank falling away, as per the mission profile; it begins its long fall down to the Indian Ocean, and we prepare to burn the Orbital Maneuvering System to circularize our trajectory into an orbit. Ayako gives me a thumbs-up, and resumes talking to Ground via the Jakarta downlink.

I have seventeen unused seconds to sightsee as we roll the bird to align the OMS pods. Home is beautiful and blue.

The OMS burns, a sharp blare of white noise that cuts off abruptly with a computed pat on my back of approval; we're in orbit. There is a moment of silence, and then a cheer erupts from the Payload behind us. Ayako grins at me. We're the Crew; this is just Business to us. We unstrap and begin to release the Payload from their seats.

Space is everything I'd thought it would be. Busy, sweaty, incredible, crowded, and silly. It's kindergarten in a 747 with no seats. Everything is that flat aluminum and plastic and has been used by seventy-nine people prior to you; at least, in here, you know the ground crew did a damn good job cleaning the john.

Now we just have to convince the multiple-Ph.Ds to do the same when it's their turn.

The moment comes all too soon.

"People." Ayako has the Command Voice on. Everyone quiets, turns towards her in the Interdeck access. It's day three, nobody bounces off a surface while turning. "People, as commander, I'm invoking Case Exodus. Is that understood?"

There are several disbelieving stares. Case Exodus? It was a contingency plan, right? Never to be used? What the hell...

"People, you have one minute. Get moving. I am not kidding, and I am counting." Command voice had acquired steel. Steel is harder than aluminum. No-one wanted to let it near the hull. People moved. I wanted to move, but I didn't; I was already at my duty station, near the mid-bay lock. Within fifteen seconds, the payload was back in their seats, strapped in. I nodded to her, opened the lock, and stepped inside. She closed it behind me. I turned to face the back, took a deep breath, and opened the outer door.

* * *

Case Exodus is intended to ensure the safety of Shuttle astronauts in the event it becomes necessary for the flight crew to perform an emergency EVA. In the event of Case Exodus, all non-flight crew must return to their launch stations at once and strap in in case of vehicle movement. You may hear crew members leaving the shuttle. Do not converse with them, nor ask questions; this is for your safety. They cannot afford the distraction. When the emergency is over, you will be fully briefed. A Case Exodus means that the crew has determined that there is a situation which does not endanger personnel inside the Shuttle, but requires immediate response in order to secure the safety of the vehicle. Any attempt to disturb flight crew procedures during a Case Exodus is punishable with extreme measures. If you feel you cannot perform these emergency procedures, please notify your qualification officer before proceeding to this phase of payload training.

Flight Training Emergency Procedures (Classified)

* * *

The Crew Transfer Vehicle was locked to the floor of the Cargo Bay. I stood over it in my MMU and carefully undogged the turnbuckles holding it down, then moved to the main feed panel and disconnected the consumables and electrics. Seven minutes since entering the MMU where it hung, back pane attached to the airlock. Ayako's voice. "How's it looking, Virgil?"

"Looks broken, Commander."

A laugh. "That's not a very precise sitrep, Commander."

"Sorry. Uh...really broken."

"Okay. I'll tell the folks." I heard a click as she switched to the general crew frequency, preparing to give them the cover story. "Folks, this is your captain speaking." I could imagine the chuckles, wrung from the Payload as much by tension as by the weak joke. "We appear to be having a small problem with one of the bay door motors. The indefatigueable Commander Everard has determined that in order to properly access the motor, we'll need to move up the launch of our satellite to this orbit; removing it from the bay will allow him proper access to the motor diagnostic panel. There's nothing to worry about; even if the motor is malfed, we can disengage it from the geartrain once the sat is out of the way. If the other motors aren't enough, Virgil will be sent out to help manually crank the bay doors closed when we need to close 'em for re-entry; we've practiced this. As for our payload, we're already in the proper orbit; we're just going to launch it on this go-around instead of waiting for you folks to finish several planned experiments. Okay, more as it happens. Virgil, go to it."

"Roger, Commander." I moved back to the CTV and punched the 'READY' sequence into its external arming systems; the status lights winked green over the keypad. "Booster pod is armed. Prepare to extend the arm."

"Extending arm." Ayako's silhouette in the bay window ducked slightly, and the robotic arm moved the CTV's angular length out of the bay, slowly shoving it into clear space. I hung onto the grip near the lock and watched it go; safety violation for NASA to be outside, but critical for CTV ops. If anything went wrong, the two men cocooned in that coffin-like device would have only me to respond, and the ten minutes of airlock cycle time might be too long.

The CTV hung some few yards away, its small engine bell aimed clear of Atlantis, as the arm retracted. The countdown timer spun in my faceplate display, moving past fifteen seconds-

"SHIT! Virgil, priority, check your right boot, NOW."

I looked down. There was a fine glimmer of light circling the right foot of the MMU, spiraling off into space. What the hell? "What the hell is that?"

"I have no idea, but it's headed out towards the payload. Disengage it or abort abort abort."

"I can't abort, Ayako, it's locked..." I struggled to get my arms free of the MMU's control braces, but it was already too late. There was a silent flare of light above me as the CTF's engine fired; it moved away out of my faceplate's field of view. I was spinning slowly by now as I tried to reach my right boot.


"That's a negative, Commander." My voice had gone the extremely flat and precise tone that meant imminent disaster to any pilot. I managed to get my right arm free, reached down- my fingers struck resistance near my ankle. Something very thin, thinner than cord or rope, but before I could try to disentangle it, there was a jerk and I was spun upwards away from Atlantis in the CTV's wake. "Ayako, I'm gone."

"Roger." Her voice was matching mine. I could hear Ground babbling something over the background. "I'm switching you directly to Cheyenne Ops."

"COMMANDER EVERARD THIS IS-" there was a quick burst of static and then the voice came back, mercifully lower in volume. "-this is Cheyenne ground ops, do you copy?"

"I copy, Cheyenne Ground, this is Everard." I was no longer spinning, but being towed by my ankle. The thrust was an apparent half-G or so, about what the CTV was rated for. I was glad it had apparently compensated for me; if I had kept spinning, I would have been in serious danger of aspirating my subsequent sick.

"Everard, what's your status, over?"

"Cheyenne Ground, I'm somehow tangled with the CTV. An unknown line has my right boot tangled; the CTV has commenced burn and I am in tow, over."

There was a brief silence. That didn't make me feel good. "Roger, Everard. Don't panic, son. We're all going to get you out of this, over."

"I know, sir." God, that was a lie it hurt to tell. "Over."

"CTV status is nominal. Burn is within limits, fuel consumption is within limits, according to FIDO. TELMU says your MMU status is green, and you have enough consumables to make Nightpost One, do you copy, over?"

A rush of relief swept over me. "Cheyenne ground, I copy CTV burn nominal, TELMU says my MMU will get me to Nightpost One, over."

"Roger that, Everard. Just hold on. The burn should last another few minutes, over."

"Roger, over."

The burn did last a few more minutes. When it stopped, I began spinning slightly. When I could see the dark shape of the CTV, I started hand-over-handing up the mysterious line; a few minutes later I was snugged against the underside of the CTV. The line turned out to be what looked like a tie-down cable, attached at the CTV end to a quick-release, which I quick-released. I reported this to Cheyenne, who acknowledged and thought that was a good plan, and advised me to stay off the radio to conserve MMU power. That sounded like a good idea to me, so I signed off and tried to stay as close to the CTV's surface as possible by attaching the MMU's utility clamps to a pair of grips I'd found.

A few minutes later, I became aware of a tapping noise. This made me as afraid as any unexpected noise in a spacesuit could. It took a few minutes to realize that it wasn't coming from the MMU, but the CTV, and that furthermore, it was in Morse. I waited, listened-


I thumped the CTV twice with my right gauntlet. I'd forgetten all about the poor bastards sealed in the CTV, living in luxury coffins for the three days of our flight so far. They, apparently, had been told about my plight. The thumping resumed.


What? Oh. Feeling silly, I reset the MMU's comm gear to shortrange VHF on 121.5 MHz, emergency frequency. "This is Everard."

A staticy voice. "Everard? This is Gonzalez, Major, USMC. You out there with us?"

"Yeah, Major, I am. Not my idea."

"What happened?"

"I was tangled in some kind of line. No idea where it came from. It caught my right boot during boost."

"Has Cheyenne got a plan for getting you inboard after docking?"

"Not yet, why?"

"The only available lock on Nightpost's docking adapter is going to be occupied by the CTV. The other will have a crew escape vehicle on it. We're going to have to get you in somehow."

I hadn't thought of that. "Shit."

"Yeah." A quick laugh. "Good thing we're geniuses, right?"

"Major, we get me in there, I swear I will never badmouth the jarheads again."

"Commander, if you buy the beer, you got a deal."

"A whole fucking brewery of it, boot."

"Okay, gimme a few. I gotta talk to the boss in here, he doesn't have VHFcomm."

"Roger that."

There was a click as Gonzalez went off the air. Then I was really, truly, alone.

That let me start thinking, which didn't help. Nightpost didn't exist, of course; other than to a tiny minority of military space personnel and NCA types, as well as NRO muckymucks who funded it, the ISS was the only space station. That meant problems for me. The Payload didn't know about it. So where was I?

I was outside Atlantis, dealing with a broken bay motor. But I wasn't. As soon as Ayako released them from their seats - and she'd have to any moment now - they could see with their own eyes that I wasn't out there. I was lost. That meant I had until the original duration of my MMU stores to get back to Atlantis before hard questions would be asked.

That wasn't going to happen. The CTV was a one-way trip. Return from Nightpost was done using capsules launched to its orbit empty by EELVs, their small onboard fuel supplies. This much I knew, and not much else; I had no need to know. All I did know-

-was that I was now officially dead. There was no way I would return to OV-104, and a story would have to be concocted to explain what had happened to me - and there could be no happy ending without divulging Nightpost's existence.

Nightpost had silently killed three men that I knew of so far. All had died in training crashes, aboard jets that were never found in the depths of the Pacific. One of them was ashes in the atmosphere; one had burned to death on the destruction of an 'unmanned' launch, and the third - I didn't know what had happened to the third. We didn't ask.

Now there was a good chance I would be the fourth. Even if I made it to the station, I couldn't think of a way to get inside. The two hatches were not full airlocks, meant only to dock transfer vehicles; there was one small airlock, I thought, but I didn't know where on the station it was. I kept thinking how much more convenient it would be if I never made it inside, and felt the temperature in the MMU dropping.

"Everard?" It was a new voice.

"Yessir!" Whatever the new voice was, it had command snap. That yessir was completely involuntary.

"Everard, this is Colonel Aikers, Christian Aikers, FLIGHTCOM CTV."


"Listen close, Everard. Turn your MMU to sideband seven, and make sure you're on minimum transmit power, you got that?"

"Aye aye, sir. Switching now." I did it. "Everard here."

"Okay, Commander, here's the situation. Stay shut up until I'm done, because I don't care how bad it looks from out there, it's worse. I'll tell you when to talk. Gonzalez and me, we're relief for Nightpost. I know you're briefed on the Post, you were our launch support, correct? Respond."


"Okay. What you weren't told, and had no reason to know, is that we're relief early because the current crew has stopped calling home. Everything we send up instructions-wise gets done, we're still getting the take, but nobody's answering the phone. You get me?"

"No sir. I mean, yessir, I understand, but-"

"Okay, skip it, I get you. Right, nobody else does either. The Major here is a boarding specialist and he's armed. I have seen the elephant and I'm armed as well; I'm also certified on most of the 'Post's systems. You, son, are a problem."

"I figured that, sir. I guess I'm dead, now."

"Yeah, well, we'll work that out later. You may be dead for real if there's actually something screwy up here. We know that voicecomm is working. Most likely scenario is one of the three crew went bugfuck and we've got a Sole Survivor scenario, you reading me on this? Albatross Soup?"

"Oh, Jesus." I was reading him loud and much too clearly. "You're serious."

"As a fucking heart attack, sailor. Get a grip. Welcome to today, it's a lovely fucking war. Look, crazy as it sounds, you may be our ace in the hole."


"You're not part of the mission plan. But you're out there, and you're going to make it to the Post with us. Best we can calc, you're going to have something like twenty minutes of stores when we make hard seal with the Post. You'll also be able to see into the docking module, there are ports in it for alignment. You'll be able to see what's going on. If something - if things go badly wrong, and they might, because Gonzalez and me've been lying on our asses for three days now, remember, you're our only shot."

I didn't say anything for a second. "Sir, how am I going to get in?"

"Okay, that's the other thing I called to tell you about. I know you weren't briefed. Do you know the basic outlines of the Post?"


"Okay, listen carefully. We're going to be coming in at one end, and docking on the end port of the docking adapter. Looks just like the original Skylab design. There's another port at ninety degrees to ours, that'll have the current re-entry vehicle docked to it. The windows are in the docking adapter module itself, outboard of the airlock. Now, where the solar observatory was on Skylab, there's a stores and battery module, with an inflatable storage area where the antennas were on Skylab. Okay, with me so far?"

I was frantically trying to picture the Skylab module in my head. Thinking about it in the countless pictures around Johnson Space Center, about the walk-through second hull in the Smithsonian. "Yessir, I'm pretty sure."

"Good. Now, the other end, the meteoroid shield, that's gone; there's a connector there that links up to the main machinery and storage module. That's an old Shuttle main tank, the only one we managed to lift without coating. Off either side of that, there are two solar panel arrays. At the base of the Main Tank module, there's a meteoroid shield since it's the largest surface, and it's up-orbit. Where the Main Tank - that's called T module, the skylab hull is K module - is attached to the connector, there's an adaptor module. That module has the airlock in it, you copy?"

"Yessir. K module is the skylab, T module is the tank, junction of the connector and T has the airlock. Sir, what face?"

"Good catch, commander. Same facet as the K module's storage and inflatable extension. Now, off the two sides of the T module not containing solar panels, you're going to see large modules. Those are the sensor modules, so don't bump 'em, okay?"

"Yessir. Any on K module?"

"Yes, but they're the ones that can take vibration, since living quarters and control are in K."

"Okay Colonel. What's the plan?"

"Gonzalez and I make entry after docking. If all goes well, we'll signal you by flashing a light - two shorts, two longs, two shorts - out the windows of the docking module. If not, you head directly for the airlock. One more thing."


"Before you cycle the lock, you'll need to break seal on the airlock module. That will both seal it from the rest of the Post and ensure that the lock will open to the outside."

"Won't that depressurize the whole thing?"

"Not if they've followed procedure. The airlock module is never supposed to be opened to the rest of the station except to allow passage."

"But Colonel, if you're in there-"

"Son, if we don't flash you that light within thirty seconds, you can assume Gonzalez and I are in no shape to care what happens - or if we are, we'd prefer you opened the damn station, you copy that?"



"Okay then. There's a dump valve on the outside of the airlock. It's got the usual warning bullshit on it, and you'll have to break a soft metal seal to use it. Make sure you're not in front of it when it goes."


"Once you're in the lock, if the module still has seal from the rest of the station, cycling the lock will close the valve and start repressurizing it. At that point, my only recommendation to you is to cowboy the fuck up and get yourself into the T module as fast as possible, and remember what I'm about to tell you."

"I'm listening, Colonel."

"There's a destruct switch in T. It's against the base wall, near the heat shield. It dumps the reactant tanks on all the thruster packs, and sets off explosive bolts on all the major station connectors. You'll know it when you see it. If you need to, and I'm not about to tell you what will constitute that need, use it. I'm recording this order into the CTV systems; if the station goes, the CTV recorders will probably survive re-entry."


"Second, and less apocalyptic. In the T module, look for signs for 'Camera Maintenance.' There's a small compartment which has tools to perform basic module repair on the sensor modules. When you find it, look for a latched drawer marked 'Cable Ties.' It has a false back. Do you get me?"

"I get you, sir."

There was another silence, then a heavy sigh, weary. "I'm sorry as hell, boy. You didn't even get a chance to volunteer for this shit."

"No sir, but it looks like it's my only ride home."

"True that. Okay Everard, get your rear off the air and save power. We have what looks to be an hour and twenty-five minutes until docking, and Gonzalez and I are going to do our damndest to get some rest. I suggest you do the same."

"See you inside, sir."

"See you inside, Commander."

There was a click as the channel cleared. I looked out the faceplate at the metal surface of the CTV, numb. Any moment now, Ayako would punch my shoulder, and I'd wake up to see the smudged flight deck windows. Any moment now.

Didn't happen.

An hour and thirty minutes later, during which I was forced to use the MMU's sanitary deconveniences, a dark shape had risen into view - Nightpost, covered in low-observability materials. Occasionally a wink of metal or lens showed, and on the side opposite the Earth I could see two or three lights, but other than that it looked black, cold and dead. I knew that was intentional, but it still made me shudder. I clicked the VHF back on.

"Colonel? We have the Post in sight."

"Roger that, Commander. Silent running."

I clicked off. The CTV had been performing small deceleration burns for some time, and by the time we edged up to the side of the Post, nearly relative motion had been cancelled. I could tell when the quick rhythmic jets changed to longer, less regular ones that one of the two humans inside had taken control. We drifted towards the docking adapter. I scuttled as best I could away from direct sight of the Post; it was easier now that the engines at the back of the CTV were silent. I moved the MMU around to the back edge of the craft, making sure not to cover a thruster nozzle, and hung on, latching the MMU's utility clamps to the tiedown hooks where the CTV had been attached to Atlantis.

Eight minutes later, there was a slight sideways lurch and a CLACK transmitted through the aluminum frame of the CTV. I presumed that meant we were docked. Moving around the side of the CTV that was in shadow, I made my way forward, checking the MMU's status readout. I had deliberately avoided looking at it until now; it read sixteen minutes of air, and was blinking all manner of orange and red icons at me. I ignored it resolutely once more and dabbed my way forward, a trip made more difficult by the lack of decent handholds on the CTV. I didn't want to use the MMU's jets this close to the Post's hull, since the lash of ice crystals would most likely be noticed.

I made it in time, though. A couple of minutes later, I was holding on to a tubular support structure of the Post itself, which caged the docking adapter in its heart. I could see, through the small quartz glass ports, that the hatch into the CTV had not yet opened. As I watched, the status lights alongside it went green, and the hatch shuddered as one of the occupants shoved at it.

There was, as yet, no-one in the adapter to meet them. My angle was poor, since from where I was perched I was looking mostly towards the CTV, but I could see a couple of yards in from the hatch. After a couple of seconds, the hatch lock wheel turned, and it opened into the space. A dark-haired head poked out, which I presumed to belong to Gonzalez. He moved slightly awkwardly into the docking module, looking around him, which I presumed meant that there was no one to meet him.

A drop of sweat came loose around the padding in the MMU helmet and drifted outwards to splash against my faceplate, blurring a spot on my field of view. I shook my head in annoyance, but there was nothing I could do about it save try to calm my racing heart. That failed miserably.

Gonzalez turned to say something back into the CTV. He apparently got an answer, because he leaned back into the hatch to either respond or to hear better - if the Post was anything like Atlantis, the noise of systems was likely fairly awful.

I didn't see it start.

All I knew was that before I could shout in surprise, Gonzalez was drifting with his head inside the hatch and his arms limp, gripshoes loose from the deck, and a figure in Air Force Blue was kneeling on his back to look past his head into the CTV. The figure tensed and threw back its head slightly, in what was unmistakably a scream of some sort, and a greenish tinge suffused my view of the docking adapter. Although I recoiled as the arched head came back and the eyes looked out the window, there was no way the other could have seen me other than as a silhouette occluding stars; I was unlighted in the station's shadow, and the adapter itself was brightly lit inside.

The eyes were shining with a light of their own. They were glowing orange.

I turned and began pulling my way along the outside of the Post, swearing monotonously under my breath. I had no idea what the hell was going on, but I knew - knew - that Gonzalez was dead, and if Aikers wasn't sealed in his suit and damn well protected in the CTV, he was either already dead or likely to be soon.

That left me, and my now thirteem minutes of air.

The exterior of the Post was weathered with pitting, legacy of its years in space. I passed alongside one of the extended solar panel 'wings' and made my way past the base of the K module. As Aikers had said, a roughly cylindrical connector stuck out of the middle of the base. At the other end was multihedron of a module with the enormous looming shape of an External Tank just past it, visible despite its low-observable overspray. And on the 'up' side of the module-

There it was. A hatch.

I grabbed frantically at whatever protuberances I could find, and swung myself to a stop before the airlock. There was a glass-covered panel next to it with a T-handle behind the shield; I punched my gauntlet through the glass and tugged the handle. Nothing happened. I pulled my gauntlet out and got a grip on myself, remembering two things; one, Aikers had said the valve was sealed, and two, there was no way the whole MMU was going to fit in this airlock.

Methodically, I started removing the maneuvering unit from the support suit I was wearing. That took four precious minutes, and I lost a good percentage of the propellant before fumbling the seals closed, but eventually got it clamped to a handhold next to the airlock. Then I looked into the handle again and saw the band of soft metal holding the handle up. I grabbed one of the few remaining shards of glass still in the frame, drew it across the band of what looked to be aluminum or lead, and felt it crunch into splinters in my hand. Deliberately opening my gauntlet to avoid embedding them, I waved it a couple of times, watching flickering reflections leaving my hand and spreading into local space - then reached back in and pulled, hard, gripping with my other hand to avoid being levered off the station.

The band broke. The T-handle moved 'down' smoothly. As it did so, a shield opened beneath it to expose a round port, and I tugged myself aside as a torrent of ice crystals - the internal atmosphere of the module - came flooding out. I felt a serious of soft 'thuds' through my gauntlet - I figured that was likely the adaptor module sealing itself.

After a minute or so, the airflow ceased. I unlocked the door, and it swung easily; I pulled myself inside, sobbing with relief, and closed it behind me. I spun the lock bar, felt it clang shut as the seals mated, and felt/heard a deep HHSSSSSSSSSH as air rushed back into the lock.

There was a ten-second pause after the noise stopped.

Then a green LED came on over the inner door. I spun that bar. It opened, and I swam through into chaos.

The module had not been empty; rather, it had apparently been in use for storage. A welter of small items and paper floated haphazhardly through the small space, thrown there by the sudden cyclone of escaping air. I closed the lock behind me and sealed it. I was about to remove my suit when suddenly I remembered the greenish tinge in the docking adapter, and something stopped me.

Eight minutes left.

I opened the door nearest me. Only after it was open did I realize that it had 'K' stencilled on it. The hatch swung open, and a contorted face with glowing orange eyes thrust at me from the other side as the hatch pushed back against me and knocked me across the adapter. I threw my arms up in front of me to catch the hands of the creature - I couldn't call it a man - clawing at my face, but in the pressure suit I was far too clumsy. He - it - had both hands against the sides of my helmet and was face to face with me, mouth open, too wide for a human without a broken jaw. His eyes were glowing, I could see reflections on my faceplate, and as he opened his mouth wider, a vile green miasma rushed out of it, over my faceplate and around me. I screamed, kicking off the wall, but he had both hands around my helmet and was locked to me.

There was a jolt as my shoulders hit the adjoining bulkhead. The shock knocked him - it - over my head and into the wall above me. I took the opportunity to wriggle 'down' and kick off 'upwards' past him as he recoiled slowly into the middle of the module, with no handgrip. Reaching the bulkhead opposite the one I'd bumped into, I kicked back off for the adjoining one - the door opposite the door I'd originally opened, which had 'T' stencilled on it. I caught the hatch bar as I spun past, wrenching my left shoulder but stopping my progress still attached to the lock. It took a moment to plant my feet for leverage, but then I spun the lock bar and opened the hatch.

The sounds I could hear were mostly my own pants and screams. The helmet was deadening all sound from outside, and as I swung through into T module, closing the hatch behind me, I realized that whatever the other had done to Gonzalez hadn't happened to me because I was apparently still on internal oxygen - the green evil was an airborne killer. But my suit thought I only had five minutes of air left, and it hadn't counted on panic breathing or heavy exertion.

There were stencilled signs on a central passage connector as I entered T module. The fifth one down read 'CAMERA MAINTENANCE - PURPLE' and a purple line extended from it down a passageway between what looked to be prefabbed divider modules. I grabbed at a handy bar hold and launched off down the passageway. It twisted and turned several times, following the geometry of whatever had been installed inside the Tank rather than a set plan, but after perhaps twenty meters I came to a hatchway with a purple sign on it. I snatched it open and ducked in - it wasn't airtight.

Moment of panic in utter darkness before sensors noticed me and brought up the cold-cathode lights, agonizingly slowly as off-the-shelf and overage exciters kicked off.

Drawers - the damn place was nothing but drawers. It took every bit of willpower I had not to panic but to simply start running my hand down the labels. It took two more precious minutes to find CABLE TIES and yank the drawer out to full extension. It was latched into the rack. I reached in and yanked the restraining web out, sending a cloud of plastic Zipties billowing into the compartment; but my gauntlet wouldn't fit into the back.


Praying that the wrist seal would hold, praying that whatever the shit was it had to be breathed, I unlocked the right gauntlet of the suit, spun it, unlatched it, and pulled it off. Another minute and a half.

With it tucked into a belt clamp, I reached into the drawer. I had to push as hard as possible to get my fingers to the back, the wrist seal banging against the edge. I could swear I could hear thumping out in the corridor maze. I reached out behind me and made sure the hatch was closed, but the damned lights weren't going to go out so long as I was in here moving. I swore once, with feeling, and shoved. Something gave. I poked my fingers at the bottom of the back edge, and it gave again. I pulled on the drawer a bit harder, and realized it was the same aircraft-grade stuff as lived in Atlantis; with a hope that I wouldn't lose the back half, I yanked, hard.

The drawer came out of the rack with cracking noise. The back of it was closed by a woodgrain panel. I dug my fingers underneath it and ripped upwards.

Underneath was a familiar shape - a U.S. military Beretta 92F. There were four magazines next to it, colored bright red. I snatched the gun out, then pulled a magazine out. Holding the gun in my gauntleted hand, I slid a magazine home, then racked a round by pulling the gun against the gauntlet-held slide. It loaded easily; I'd have to hope it would fire. Stuffing the other three mags into a utility pocket, I turned and pulled my way out the door, pistol in my ungloved hand.

I had time to hope the red magazine meant the loads weren't going to go straight through the hull, but not a lot of time, because my pursuer was only a corner back. As I came out, he turned those damnable eyes to me. I had time to read his nametag - LCOL MILLER USAF - and the jaw sank down again, too far. Greenish mist was beginning to spew from his mouth, and this time I heard the hoarse thin scream begin, but I was moving towards him. I grabbed his neck with my gauntlet as he grabbed my helmet again, and stuck the Beretta up under his chin and pulled the trigger.

There was a muffled, flat PAM. His face wrinkled on the left side, as if someone had taken hold of it above his left eyebrow and pulled hard upward. A splattering sound came from the ceiling, and suddenly everything was green. My right hand was burning like hell. I re-aimed the gun into his chest area and pulled the trigger again, twice.


The body jerked twice, and the hands fell away from my head. I shoved, reflexively, and it drifted away from me, apparently lifeless except for the obscene light still coming from the eyes. The top of the skull had bulged, and viscous gray and green matter was oozing out. As it spun, I saw bulges in the back but no exit wounds; frangible bullets, apparently.

I swam frantically out of the T-module, back into the adapter, through it and into the K-module.

It was a mess. There were two bodies in bunks, their chests and arms missing a deal of flesh with what looked like bite marks around the edges of the denuded areas. I continued forward to the Docking Adapter. Its hatch was closed. I tugged at it, but it wouldn't open. I looked through the access panel next to the hatch, and it was clear why.

The CTV was gone. There was an open hatchway where it had been. Gonzalez' body was nowhere to be seen.

A fluttering noise announced the imminent end of my oxygen reserve. I screamed, in frustration and fear, and frantically screwed my gauntlet back on. It sealed on the first try, miracle of miracles, and I stuffed the gun into the utility pocket. Making my way aft again, I stopped in the adapter module, closed the hatches, looked around until I found the inner dump valve, and yanked it.

There was an immediate flare of cyclone lights and a blizzard of loose items as the atmosphere in the adapter module, for the second time, blew itself out the dump valve.

I sat against the wall, waited for it to end. My helmet air was going stale. When the storm ceased, I closed the dump valve and looked carefully at the panel. There was a control that read "STORES REFRESH". I punched it. Nothing happened for a moment, then air flooded into the bay.

I took the helmet off and watched my breath freeze in the sub-zero hell.

* * *

I'm still dead, though. Aikers must have gotten the CTV into some kind of emergency re-entry mode; it would have been programmed to splash down near Pearl Harbor, from what I've found in the Post's procedures. I managed to get the Comms up and running, but Cheyenne Ground won't talk to me, much, saying they want to talk to Aikers. I try to tell them he's not here, that he and the CTV re-entered, but they seem adamant. I didn't understand it, until I noticed on one of the camera modules that Pearl Harbor is burning.

I can't get anything from Big Island or Oahu on the airwaves. What I can get out of the rest of Hawaii sounds like a bad movie - glowing eyes, vampires, cannibals, ghouls, what-have-you. The worst part is that the creatures won't stay dead.

I could have told them that, if they'd listened. I've had to shoot Miller twice, after he regrew his skull. Finally I hauled him and his crewmates outside and lashed them to the outside of the connector without a suit. I screwed up, though; his face is visible from one of the connector ports when I go through it. Every time I go past, he screams at me in slow motion.

California has reported strange things happening near LAX. I don't know what that means. Worst yet, Atlantis is home, and I'm 'missing, presumed dead.' Cheyenne Ground still won't talk to me, but there appear to be preparations underway for another 'unmanned' launch. It's not on the schedule, though, so I can guess what that means, since nobody's admitted to the Post's existence yet.

I estimate I have another couple of weeks before they show up. I hope they manage to find the CTV recordings before then. I hope they manage to get a grip on whatever made it down with the CTV before then. I hope Aikers made it, although it doesn't look likely.

I have the Beretta with me at all times, now, especially as I listen to the news of my dying planet up here in my penthouse. The last few times I've gone through the connector, I've noticed a film of green ice on the wall near where Miller is tied to the outside, and I've started to wear the pressure suit and keep the connector sealed, but I don't know how effective that will be if it's making it through the hull. My right hand itches.

There's always one bullet in this gun, and I know where the dump valves are.

Posted by jbz at 5:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 5, 2006

Oh, *that's* where the Republicans went.

A while back, I lamented the disappearance of 'real' Republicans - the type who you could argue with over policy. I'm not saying they've reappeared, but it looks like even those on the other side of the fence seem to be missing them.

Hopeful. Fences can be used to shake hands across. There's this old saw about good neighbors, too...

Those aren't the people I'm talking about. But they seem to agree with me that the people in DC at the moment aren't the ones who should be there.

Posted by jbz at 3:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 4, 2006

I have detailed files. You are delicious.

We're all doomed.

Eventually, there will be robots everywhere, in our homes, cars, jobs - doing everything we're too lazy to do.

Why is this bad?

Because they apparently think we TASTE LIKE BACON:

But sommeliers need not fear for their jobs just yet. Of the thousands of wines on the market, the robot can be programmed to accurately identify only a few dozen at most. It also has more trouble with the task after the bottle has been opened and the wine begins to breathe and thus transform chemically.

"Wines are notoriously similar in their spectral fingerprints," Shimazu said. "The variation this robot detects is very subtle."

Some of the mistakes it makes would get a human sommelier fired - or worse. When a reporter's hand was placed against the robot's taste sensor, it was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon.



Posted by jbz at 1:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 1, 2006

What the hell?

"October Surprise"? Nice.
Posted by jbz at 7:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack