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Is it possible that everyone who bought The Secret is a total moron?

07-Mar-2007 | 09:51 am

Peter Birkenhead, a Salon writer, speculated about the stupidity of people who bought The Secret (mostly in the context of lambasting Oprah's endorsements of it) and an acquaintance of mine quipped, "Does the author really think that the all the millions of people who have bought The Secret are total morons?" To which I replied:

Well, "moron" used to be the clinical term for people whose IQ fell in the range of 51-70 (e.g., a 20-year-old with the intellectual capacity of a 12-year-old). Given that IQ is a normal distribution (bell curve), and allowing that "total moron" would be a more restrictive category than "moron", therefore mathematically defining it as the third standard deviation below normal, we find that in a world of 6 billion people, there are 16.2 million "total morons."

Since there are only 5.75 million copies of The Secret in print (counting the publisher's 1 March reorder of 2 million copies), it is entirely mathematically possible that "all the millions of people who have bought The Secret are total morons". However, since I know at least a few demonstrated non-morons who've at least read, if not bought, the book, it's clear that, if Birkenhead does believe this, he is wrong.

This episode has been brought to you by the numbers 'n' and 'p', and the letter 'σ'. ;-P

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Quote of the Day

03-Mar-2007 | 02:31 pm
location: Home

With thanks to sagemichael for the pointer.
The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.

Whitehead, Alfred North (1978-07-01). "Chapter I: Fact and Form, Section I", Process and Reality (Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927-28) (Amazon), Corrected pbk. ed. 1985, New York: The Free Press, 39. LCC BD511.W5 1978. ISBN 0-02-934570-7.

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Rumble rumble

01-Mar-2007 | 11:46 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: contemplativeleft out
music: BART train passing

If I'd been one bus earlier tonight, as originally planned, I'd've felt this one, an order of magnitude stronger than the last. I did feel my office rumble a couple times today, but that happens often enough that it's no doubt caused by large trucks heading for I-680.

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Have you ever....

01-Mar-2007 | 12:42 am
mood: tiredtired

memetasticCollapse )
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The camera does, in fact, lie

28-Feb-2007 | 11:46 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: shockedshocked

Ever wonder what those airbrushed models looked like before they were photoshopped into the unattainable ideal of so-called beauty?

Wonder no more.

While these are fairly Safe For Work unless your boss is really uptight, you pornhounds should be interested to note that the retoucher has worked for Cheri, Genesis, High Society, and Swank, which are so not SFW, and also Penthouse, which these days, sadly, nearly is; in print anyway.

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What time is it? What time is. What time.... What?

23-Feb-2007 | 07:59 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: hungryhungry
music: Electric Skychurch

It was occurring to me last night, while watching The Seventh Seal at the Castro in the wake of reading Orson Scott Card's "Ender Quartet", that free will is an illusion in the same way the Buddhists describe phenomenal existence as an illusion—not that it doesn't exist, but more that it doesn't exist the way that we think it does. In the end, however, we can never do anything other than exactly what we do. Where's the choice? It simply looks like a choice because we perceive things linearly, in time. Once you collapse the time illusion, choice, cause and effect, and therefore karma, all become meaningless, in a way. And yet, here we are, stuck in time, trying to figure out what choice will let us escape, and what to have for dinner.

(EDIT) Note that "free will" above is intended in the philosophical sense, and is to be distinguished from True Will.

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I could walk to the epicenter

23-Feb-2007 | 03:57 pm
location: Home
mood: nervousjittery

Magnitude 3.4 about 15 minutes ago, right where we got the aforementioned triple play.

I'm still hoping that a 3.something quake averaging once a month means the odds of 6+ "Historic Event" become vanishingly small.
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Quote of the Day

17-Feb-2007 | 05:26 pm
mood: nerdynerdy
music: Bel Canto - Spiderdust

A take on the Book of Genesis which I had not previously considered.
It has often been argued, in fact, that mankind lost the happiness characteristic of his fellow-animals when he acquired self-consciousness. This is in fact the meaning of the legend of "The Fall." We have become as gods, knowing good and evil, and the price is that we live by labour, and—"In his eyes foreknowledge of death."

Crowley, Aleister [1922] (1970). "A Heroin Heroine", Diary of a Drug Fiend, 7th American edition printing, 1985, York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 71-72. ISBN 0-87728-146-7.

This is particularly interesting to me in that I have been thinking quite a bit lately about the dichotomy of good and evil, and whether this has any existence at all outside the mind; i.e., I begin to suspect that, as the Bard puts it in the mouth of Hamlet, "there is nothing either good / or bad but thinking makes it so." (II:ii) To do otherwise, so far as I can tell, requires a reification of opinion that I find philosophically untenable.

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Oh yeah, I can cook

12-Feb-2007 | 04:41 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: accomplishedaccomplished
music: something indistinguisable wafting up from downstairs

We've started a tradition in the house of having Family Dinner on Sunday nights, as a sort of bonding thing, and making sure we all manage to get together once a week, and to reduce some expenses. We cycle through the four adults, each taking a turn at making something for everyone.

Yesterday was my turn, and I decided to start out fairly easy: Spaghetti and meatballs, with salad & garlic toast. Made the sauce ("gravy" for the pretentiously Italian-American) from scratch using the one "family recipe" I ever learned. At the last minute, though, I realized I only had the edited version from when I was on the Tsa-lung diet (no garlic, no onions, basicaly cooking for one) following my third Palyul retreat, so I had to call Mom for some help remembering ratios. She, of course, didn't have it handy, but at least we managed to come up with some ballpark figures from which I could guesstimate.

Surprisingly, despite the 11th-hour prep and the lack of practice—this is the first time I've cooked anything complicated enough to need a recipe in over a year—it turned out rather well. Got plenty of compliments, nearly everone wanted seconds, and there were virtually no left-overs apart from another serving or two of sauce, which will be handy when next I have time to cook for me.

Nicest of all: the cook doesn't clean. :)
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dammit dammit dammit!

11-Feb-2007 | 10:50 pm
location: Home
mood: curiousintrigued

Oh, how I wish I did not know about this academic program. Curse you (and congratulations), actadiurna!

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Tracking map

11-Feb-2007 | 04:37 am

Visitor Map
Create your own visitor map!

I hear tell this thing may be broken, but -shrug- we'll see.

EDIT: And if it's not broken, well then I have some unexpectedly widely scattered readers. Special hellos to Monday visitors from Newtown, UK (15:17:59 -0600) and Foley, AL (13:23:32 -0600)! Do say hi if you weary of lurking. ;-P

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Answer me these questions three....

10-Feb-2007 | 09:38 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: exhaustedexhausted

Ere the other side ye see.

Thanks to calmdahn for the pointer.

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05-Feb-2007 | 02:11 am
location: Home (bed)
mood: accomplishedaccomplished

A couple of weeks ago I picked up an odd, old-looking paperback at Half-Price Books purporting to be a "reconstruction" of the Latin Satyricon. I grabbed it, figuring I couldn't go very wrong for a dollar. I was later overjoyed, upon putting a bunch of material from the A∴A∴ reading list on my Amazon wishlist, to realize that this was a version of the recommended "Petronius Arbiter" item.

Now, it's no surprise to see Crowley recommending a work of what could be called "classical pornography," even if he did read it in the likely more staid original and fragmentary Latin. However, I personally think it is passages more like the following, which applies about as well to modern America as it did to Imperial Rome, are the greater part of his rationale.
prologueCollapse )
"Ah, we have ruined ourselves—and you, foolish people, are responsible.

"What has done it?

"Our love of riches, that's what. In olden times, when virtue was admired for its own sake, all liberal arts flourished and the only ambition among men was to make discoveries which might profit the age.

"It was in those times that Democritus, content with poverty, discovered the virtues of herbs, and, lest there be any hidden excellence in stones and trees, spent the rest of his life in experiments about them.

"It was in those times that Eudoxus abandoned the world and took up residence at the top of a high mountain so that he might study the motions of the heavens.

"It was in those times that Crisippus went three times through the same study of physics so that he might better qualify his mind for invention.

"Lysippus employed himself with one statue so diligently that he neglected the necessities of life and died a pauper. Myron, whose brazen images of men and beasts were so realistic that you might mistake his creations for living beings, starved to death.

"But look at us!

"Our age is so wholly devoted to drinking and whoring, and we're so far from inventing that we don't even bother to acquaint ourselves with the works of art which are to be found in our very hands.

"Accusing antiquity, our schools have become seminaries of vice. What's our logic? How little do we know of astronomy? Where are our philosophers?

"What master of eloquence could endure to hear speech murdered, as it is every day in the pulpits and the marketplaces? What wise man could suffer the noise?

"The very Senate, which should show an exemplary conduct, is itself the occasion of doubtful events. Some senators lead more scandalous lives that the basest of slaves would dream of leading.

"You need not wonder why painting and sculpture are lost, when gold appears more beautiful both to gods and men than anything Apelles or Phidias are esteemed to have madly spent their time about.

"You are the assassins of an entire race, my foolish friends. Because of you, the great Roman Empire will crumble and so too will all civilization.

"This is my prophecy, and it will be fulfilled unless you turn yourselves away from your love of riches and return to the things of value. As it now stands, your lives are empty; you spend the day searching for gold and the night searching for a woman in whom to bury yourselves or for the penis of a young boy to jab vitality into your intestines..."
epilogueCollapse )
"Why resist?" I responded, yielding to his caresses. "Why not surrender to the body's demands like everyone else does and think no more of it?"

"Because, my friend," he responded quietly, "as long as there is one man who will cry out the truth, even if doing so means he will be stoned, there is a chance for the human race; but, when the last of us gives up, when everyone has surrendered to his appetites, man will no longer control his own destiny. There will be no hope for the world, my friend, nor for the miserable people in it." And, so speaking, he took me and pulled me against him. And in this manner we spent the night.

Petronius Arbiter. Satyricon: Memoirs of a Lusty Roman. Los Angeles, CA: Holloway House, 1965. Trans. Paul J. Gillette. pp. 141-143. Trans of P.A. Satiricon libri. Rome: [n.p.], 64. ISBN 0870674021 (2nd 1970 printing).

It is also worth noting that, despite the sometimes jarring debauchery, I found this the most purely enjoyable read yet in my admittedly limited experience of the suggested reading canon, and certainly a damn sight better than this execrable medieval nonsense.

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Wow, that's a first (again)

04-Feb-2007 | 04:48 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: lazylazy

Went a whole month without a single post in my own LJ. Bad monkey, no donut. Methinks it's time to avail myself of the backdating feature and catch up a bit. But first....

The primary reason for my inattention here has been the job to which I alluded previously. It started simply enough, basically searching the Intarwebs for candidates to fill open job orders. Over the holidays, however, with significant input from me, we switched to a new and far more serious CRM package, and somehow my job morphed into Application Manager, while still retaining all of the research responsibilities. Additionally, I was given the keys to and responsibility for the SYSADM account on the remote server. I am repeatedly reminded of the scary devil monastery motto, "Down, not Across" and of course their catch-phrase, "Either way I'm screwed."

The upshot here, of course, is that I have a lot more work to do, and while I've been pulling extra hours (and thus getting extra money, which is itself A Good Thing), not a lot of extra time to do it. Thankfully, I still only have to put in three days a week in the office, and can do a fair amount of the work remotely, half-dressed, in bed.

Come the end of this month, it's time for my 90-day review, where we decide if and how things are working out mutually. Accordingly, I'm gearing up for the "Give me more money, you bastards" speech, ensuring I meet the keeping track of the more invisible stuff I have to do, and making sure I have solid backing data for the 33-66% raise, plus full-time benefits, I intend to request. I figure if I have all my ducks lined up in neat rows, with good reasoning and evidence arrayed behind them, I should be able to turn this into a full-time salaried exempt administrative position that won't leave me spending half my gross on rent. I will resist the temptation to institute the Sysadmin Price List no matter how bad the (l)users get in the first six months.
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Baby, the earth moved for me

24-Dec-2006 | 03:23 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: calmcalm

So after 18 months on the West Coast, I finally got to ride the tectonic wave. Not one, not two, but three quakes within walking distance of my house this week, all in the 3.5-3.7 range. That's mild to light, no damage here, but definitely creepy and adrenaline-inducing.

Oddly, though I was in the neighborhood, I didn't feel the first one at all. The last two, however, were definitely notable. In fact, the middle one caused the lights to flicker while I was watching Dancer in the Dark, easily the most depressing, warm-bathtub-and-razorblades movie I have ever seen, or hope to see. No wonder Björk wanted to give up acting afterward.

Holiday parties tonight and most of the day tomorrow, then immediately back to work. Bizarrely, I should get some extra hours this week, even.
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Season's bleatings

21-Dec-2006 | 07:16 am
location: Home (bed)
mood: gigglygiggly

Carol of the Old Ones

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Fishmen

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12-Dec-2006 | 09:17 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: optimisticoptimistic

Brief update for the folks I don't talk to often enough:

I'm employed again, and have been for a couple weeks. This is a good job, even if it's only part time at the moment: plenty of room for growth at a tech-recruiting firm, doing their front-line research and general Office-fu. The boss is sufficiently impressed that we're already talking future opportunities, raises, etc. Good sign you're sticking around: they spend $200 on your new office chair and start asking what kind of laptop you want.

I'm pretty much settled into the new Oakland household, but for the furnishings, which I will grow as the paychecks roll. Meanwhile, most of my stuff still lives in boxes, aside from clothes, my altar, and books. Picked up a used Dell for free, which needs some serious inoculation and data-cleaning before being usable, as well as a desk under it.

Women...well, I'm not about to tell tales out of school in such a public forum (this is not a sex journal, no matter what you've heard, or seen), but I will say that my present life is the polar opposite of my old East Coast life in that regard as well. Which is not to imply that all is perfection, sweetness and light, either. It is nice, however, to have a completely new set of relationship problems to tackle, because frankly I was sick to fracking death of the old ones.

Which reminds me: I've become a hopeless Battlestar Galactica junkie via DVD. I figure if it's only one show, instead of the dozen or so I used to jones for, it's not really a vice. Thankfully, we have neither broadcast reception nor cable—not the the temptation is there much anymore anyway, but it seems prudent to consider myself "in recovery."

Questions? Answers? Would anyone care for a mint?

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Recycled humor

30-Nov-2006 | 05:25 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: amusedamused
music: Beatles songs in my head

First runner-up and an honorable mention in the Washington Post "Style Invitational" week DCLXXXII (published 20-OCT-2006), in which contestants were asked for songs for a product, company, organization or agency, set to any Beatles song.

Ikea, to the tune of "Norweigan Wood," by Brendan Beary, Great Mills.

These dressers and shelves,
Though they look nice,
Don't build themselves.
Packed flat in a box,
Tight as we could: Ikea wood.

Wordless instruction sheets may have you pulling your hair;
If you're not careful, your bookshelf may end up a chair.

You'll, when you are done,
Have a screw loose
More ways than one.
If something drove you
Crazy for good, Ikea would.

Borden (to "Something," by George Vary, Bethesda.

Something in the way she moos
Attracts me as an udder lover.
Something in the way she moos me.
I don't want to leave this cow,
You know I believe this cow . . .

I didn't think the winner was funny at all, so if you want to read that, go find it online.
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Edward Gorey Death generator

25-Oct-2006 | 06:05 am
location: Home (bed)
mood: exanimateexanimate

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?

You will sink in a mire. You like to think you're normal, but deep down you really just want to strip off your clothes and roll around in chicken fat.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla | Join | Make A Quiz | More Quizzes


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What kind of geek aren't I?

24-Oct-2006 | 07:35 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: recumbentrecumbent
music: Klein Four Group - Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)

In high school, I thought I had some promise as a math geek, particularly since I started out a year ahead of my classmates. I kind of enjoyed certain fields, and had a degree of natural aptitude—my geometry teacher in particular was eternally miffed that I could carry a B average while almost never doing the homework, for which my grade never exceeded 46%. (She also didn't much apprecaite my answer on a solid geometry word problem involving a sphere of ice cream melting into a cone, which I indicated was unsolvable without the unsupplied densities of frozen and molten ice cream; she did, however, give partial credit since I was technically correct.)

By pre-calculus I hit my aptitude limit, and even with extra tutoring I just barely managed to pass. I signed up for calculus senior year, but discovered at the last minute that the teacher I would have taught my track and the AP class exactly the same, the only difference being whether the students were "allowed" to take the AP exam for college credit. I bailed in a hurry and traded that in for a related-arts class, which turned out to be where I discovered electronic music and thus had a profound effect on the course of my life to date. By the time I got to college, I dumbed myself down and took the easy way out, basically repeating the work I'd already done in high school across two semesters for 6 credits, rather than having to take pre-calc and calc for 9 credits, busting my ass and paying for the privilege.

I still love numbers though, especially wacky shit like number theory. My discovery of the Mandelbrot set in 1988 caused a near-orgy or geekitude, optimizing algorhythms for computer color-mapping of portions of the set in BASIC on the 2 MHz C=128 and in Pascal on the 8 MHz IBM PC AT (surprisingly, it ran faster on the slower machine, which I later learned was a result of a built-in math coprocessor.)

Which brings me around to mentioning that I just read a frustratingly interesting book that I found on the to-be-read bookshelf of Housemate M (as opposed to the has-been-read shelf):

Aczel, Amir D. (1996 October). Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 147. ISBN 1-56858-077-0. LCC QA244.A29 1996.

Interesting because of the extreme math geekery: the proof (which at 200 pages is longer than the book itself) spans every major field of mathematical endeavor, several of which I'd never heard of before. Frustrating because this is, in essence, a history book more than a math book; it contains precious little actual math, so while I have some vague idea of why proving the Shimura-Taniyama Conjecture for the special case of semistable elliptical curves proves the theorem, I'm left without really understanding what a Modular Elliptic Curve is. Still more frustrating is the knowledge that it would probably require several years of post-graduate work to even approach that understanding—and that's assuming that I was wrong about my inability to deal with calculus in the first place. And this is not to mention miriad steps between polynomial equasions and such deep math. -sigh-

Anyway, highly recommended to fellow geeks and fans of science/math history. I'm still crossing my fingers to hope that James Gleick decides to cover the same territory, since he could probably manange both to cover more actual math, and make it more of a page-turner.

I don't really understand this song either, but it still amuses meCollapse )
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It figures

19-Oct-2006 | 02:12 am
location: Home (bed)
mood: recumbentrecumbent

"While on a pleasant nature walk, you are abducted and ceremoniously sacrificed by a satanic cult."

The Death Psychic said so. Ironic, no?

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"Fist" Lyrics

19-Oct-2006 | 01:13 am
location: Home (bed)
mood: crankycranky
music: Eat - "Epicure"

I just felt like sharing.

Eat "Fist" Epicure 1994 (Factory/Sire NRD-1105)

Concrete over the face of my Earth.
Rest in peace with the rest in pieces.
Cover it all in your gastric juices.
We're like one big sweet for you to suck,
One big sweet for you to suck.

Put your hands between your legs,
Close your fist and regulate.

Your teeth are rotten, your brain's forgotten some.
Who's gonna clean up all the muck I don't know.
Sell her own grave on her death bed.
And pull the gold teeth from her dead head,
Pull the gold teeth from her dead head.

Put your hands between your legs,
Close your fist and regulate.

You turned my face into a car park.
Your hyper scores and hypertension.
You burned the woods and stripped the bark.
And ran the whole world with your mark,
Ran the whole world with your mark.

Put your hands between your legs,
Close your fist and regulate.
You regulate.

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More stoopit news

18-Oct-2006 | 11:10 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: annoyedcheesed off
music: Eat - "Fist"

Hays, Tom. "7 plead guilty in corpse plundering scam." Associated Press, 2006-10-18.
"Rest in peace with the rest in pieces." -Eat, "Fist", Epicure, 1994.
Walters, Patrick. "Coffins to bear logos of baseball teams." Associated Press, 2006-10-18.
Not to mention NFL, NHL, NASCAR.... I can almost understand it on urns, but coffins? WTF? Um, you are going to bury that, right? Underground? Right?
[unattributed]. "Not it! Mass. elementary school bans tag." Associated Press, 2006-10-18.
Perhaps if we were to package all children thoroughly with bubble wrap over kevlar vests, we'd finally be able to produce the nice, safe, timid, ineffectual, useless consumer sheep we've been looking for. Fucking breeders.
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Vatican News

15-Oct-2006 | 02:55 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: tiredtired

In which your Humble Narrator continues to be amused by Papal antics.

Cooperman, Alan. "Pope Poised To Revive Latin Mass, Official Says." Wahington Post, 2006-10-13, A03.
Well, Mel Gibson will probably be happy about it.
Jeffries, Stuart. "If you feel a commotion beneath your feet today, that'll be gazillions of unbaptised children moving out of Limbo." Guardian Unlimited, 2006-10-06.
Evidently, Papa Bennie is getting set to dispense with the idea of the limbus infantium, the verion of limbo probably inspired more by Dante than by the Bible, where it is (was?) supposed that unbaptized children are sent after death since their original sin has been held to bar them admittence to the direct presence of YHVH pervading Heaven. Big up the Pope for realizing that the whole idea is ridiculous, and unnecessary to either Catholic mythology or metaphysics.

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Where's my head?

11-Oct-2006 | 09:09 pm
location: Home (bed)
mood: recumbentrecumbent

More recent reading. While that only explains part of where my head's at, this is the sort of post that it easy for me to keep up with, and I suspect easier for some others as well.

Card, Orson Scott. Xenocide. New York: TOR, 1991. ISBN 0-812-50925-0.
I don't generally agree with Card's politics or his religion, but damn was this a good book, in the "hard to put down" and "makes me think" senses. For literary style I'll still go with Nabokov or Kafka, but I haven't been forced to claw through a book like this since the 3rd Harry Potter novel. The ethical dilemmas at the root of this story were as thought-provoking as they were heart-wrenching. If there's anything bad to say about it, it's that one must first get through Speaker for the Dead before this will mean much—it's been a few years since I read that sequel to Ender's Game, and there were some fine points of the backstory that I found distractingly lost to me.
Baker, Luke. "Rival 'fiefdoms' eclipsing dream of Palestinian state." Reuters, 2006-10-11.
Just when you thought politics in the (ahem) "Holy Land" couldn't possibly get any more fucked up.
Evers, Joris. "Security expert: User education is pointless." C|Net News.com, 2006-10-12.
Why? They're too stupid, don't care, and really, computer security is the job of the IT staff, not the VP of Finance or his secretary.
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