You’ve probably heard about it by now and I’m already tired of hearing about it;  the story broken by the UK’s Guardian newspaper – it figures -concerning the surveillance being carried on by the NSA (National Security Agency) on Verizon’s phone call meta-data as well as other aspects of internet communications like e-mail. For those of you who may not quite get it, meta-data is information about data; not the data itself.  The NSA does not give an R.A. about calls to your mistress/boyfriend or your predilection for phone sex. By the time they get the meta-data, your 3:00 AM call to Jake at Snake Farm is long over. Instead, they are looking for patterns like calls to the local 7-11 from Abbottabad, Pakistan that occur only when Achmed is behind the counter on the grave-yard shift.

There is the predictable hue and cry that this is the end of America as we know it or that the Government has done the “freshy-fresh” with the Bill of Rights. No-one seems to give a fig about the Police running your licence plate when they spot you parked at the Achmed’s 7-11 at 1:30 AM. Indeed, La Polizia have run the plates of a certain Mitsubishi pick-up with a canoe on top driven by a bearded, kilt-wearing, pipe-smoking, Scotch-drinking, hippy freak in ear-rings more times than I care to think about. They probably needn’t bother because no-one in their right mind would use a 23 year-old pick-up with an “I brake for Mermaids” bumper-sticker on the back as a get-away vehicle.

Yes, it’s a shame that things have come to this but it’s the price we pay for being under siege by sub-humans who would gladly suicide-bomb a day-care just to inflict a bit more pain and terror on Americans. Dr. Data can remember the common cries of “Protect us! Protect us!” in the wake of 9/11 and the Boston bombings. Well, the NSA, et alia, are trying to do just that. Moreover, the government has been doing that for a lonnng time. Back during the cold war, a certain female-type person with whom  Dr. Data has had a more than nodding acquaintance for nearly four decades, had relatives on the east side of the iron curtain. Letters arriving at her grand-mother’s house had already been read and redacted by both sides. Her brother – like Dr. Data – was into short-wave radio during that time and a Federal agent showed up at their house wanting to check his QSL cards . . . no doubt looking for coded messages.

So folks, let’s turn down the histrionics and hope that the NSA does its job before the next airliner flies into an office tower. If  you’re worried that the intelligence community may want to know about your relationship with that visiting professor who works part-time as a dominatrix, then do the following:

  1. Get rid of your phones – smart and not so smart
  2. Get off the internet
  3. Blow up your TV
  4. Pay for all transactions with cold, hard cash
  5. Read only old-fashioned books printed on real paper
  6. Travel only by foot or bicycle
  7. Hope and pray that Achmed does not hijack a Cessna and fly it into your house.


NSA PRISIM programme spied on e-mails, searches

I thought that with the end of Campaign 2012, we were to be given a break from tales of  unbelievable lunacy. Apparently that is not the case.

On January 3rd, The Washington Post carried a story about a boy being suspended from school for a day. Now, there’s nothing new about a boy – or girl – being suspended from school; it happens all the time. What caught my attention was the age of the “perp” and his crime. The boy was six years old. There’s a number of things that will get a six year-old tossed such as bringing his mother’s underwear to class for show and tell, flipping off his teacher or passing around the interesting magazine he found at the bottom of Daddy’s sock drawer. Sadly, none of those infractions took place.

Instead, the boy was shown the door for the outrageous crime of – mothers, please avert your eyes – pointing his finger like a gun and saying “Pow”. The boy’s walking papers said that this was a threat to shoot another student. Oh, the humanity! I must have been the Al Capone of DuPont Elementary school as I did this kind of thing around once a day back then. Probably the only reason that I – and every other boy in Mrs. Merner’s class – was not hauled in for questioning is that back in those days, adults had more important things to worry about. Things like impending nuclear annihilation. Those duck-and-cover drills apparently had a much higher priority.

There has always been a certain degree of dumbness amongst school administrators but those in Montgomery  County, MD deserve their own room in Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. The question is, “Who ratted the boy out?” Was it “Big Brother”? Did the student who was “threatened” flee in terror to the principal’s office? Or was it a teacher? I do know that in 1958, Mrs. Merner would have said something to the effect of “Howard, we don’t do that in class.”

The boy’s parents are – and rightfully so – seeking to have this heinous crime erased from the kid’s permanent record which, as we all know, follows you for the rest of your life. I sincerely hope that the parents have retained competent  legal counsel as there is obviously more than one person in the Montgomery County school system who would really benefit from unemployment right about now. Thankfully, they didn’t confiscate the “weapon”.

Since things are slow for me at the moment, I magnanimously offer my services to the Montgomery County school system. I may not have an education degree but I certainly more than make up for it in the common sense dept.


This has to be seen to be believed. There  were two wedding parties at the same hotel. One had an open bar and one had a cash bar. Apparently, people from the “cash bar” party tried to cash in on the other party’s open bar and that’s when the fight broke out.

First, the news story:


Now, the raw iPhone footage:



Just when you’d gotten used to the idea of having your vacation home trashed by Hurricane Bruce, word comes that The Weather Channel will start giving names to winter storms this coming season. The list of names for the coming winter has a Greco-Roman theme to them though Dr. Data feels that a Norse theme might be more appropriate. Read the story and decide for yourself.

A tip o’ the chapeau goes to Dr. Data’s super sibling brother for bringing this to his attention. Thanx Jim!

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s rant concerning the sudden unpopularity of the name “Metro” comes word that one possible cause of all this pussy-footing is that Redmond has run afoul of a trademark  belonging to Metro AG, one of Microsoft’s European retail partners. If the information posted on ars technica is correct, the German retail giant has threatened Redmond with litigation in order to defend its trademark. With Microsoft’s track record in EU litigation, it is easy to see why they would suddenly do an about-face. It’s also easy to see why Metro AG would want to distance its self  from the forthcoming turkey of an Operating System.

But wait, there’s more!

In the week since Microsoft released Windows 8 to manufacturing, copies of the final build of the OS have been popping up here and there on the web. Most folks don’t have access to these final builds but the few that do are reporting that as part of the last-minute tinkering with the nascent Son of Vista©, Microsoft has severely crippled the user’s ability to boot Windows 8 directly to the desktop and bypass the start screen. At the same time, these folks are also reporting that Stardock’s Start8 still works with the RTM build. Since Start8 also includes an option to bypass the start screen & go directly to the desktop, it will be interesting to see if that bit can still deliver the goods. Read the full report from ZDNet.

Finally . . .

Simon Besson from ZDNet reports that the reason for Microsoft ditching the start button is that hardware technology does all of that for you now so there’s no need for “Start”. Well, DUH! This may indeed be the case but Dr. Data has a number of clients who are still quite fond of their old, low-tech keyboards. Mary Jo Foley from ZDNet says that Microsoft is planning to roll out  keyboards & mice that are optimised for Windows 8 in the coming weeks. Holy Cuppertino, Batman! What an opportunity to bleed even more cash from customers! The idea of shifting exclusively to Linux looks better and better every day.

You have to have been hibernating or living in a time-warp  not to have heard the news; There’s been another mass shooting and it came a day before the 1-year anniversary of the horror in Norway. I am only going to say two things about the event itself:

  1. I grieve for those killed and wounded; Especially the two guys that died trying to protect the lives of their wife/girlfriend.
  2. Hanging’s too good for him!

What I am going to rant about today is what has transpired in the wake of Aurora, Colorado.

To put everything in perspective, let’s go 13 years back in time. Right next door to Aurora is Columbine. In 1999, two wankers – with a capital “W” – managed to kill 13 people and injure – in one way or another – 24 more. They subsequently committed suicide. In response to the horror, J.C. Penney made a bold move by banning the sale of all merchandise related to Comedy Central’s show, South Park.

It didn’t work because in 2007,  Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured 17 others. Although Cho was clearly off his nut, he was nonetheless a legal gun-owner. As a response to the massacre, the calls – both loud and numerous – came for an end to bans of firearms from college campuses. The theory was that if enough students had been packing heat, Cho would have been despatched post-haste. There was no estimate of how many students would have been killed or wounded by the crossfire. To bolster their argument, they cited the fact that the University of Utah allows students to carry weapons on campus. I cannot speak to that environment but I can attest to the damage inflicted upon South Hall at N.C. Wesleyan by drunken students. Allowing these testosterone fueled inebriates to carry firearms is unimaginable.

In 2009, Major Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people and wounded 29 others. I don’t remember anyone calling for a ban of firearms from military bases but there were the usual post 9-11 demands that Muslims should be deported or at least banned from military service.

Now, in 2012, we have 12 dead and 58 wounded in Aurora, Colorado. In the wake of the movie theatre massacre, some theatres and possibly theater chains have banned people from wearing costumes to movies. In response to published accounts that AMC was one of the chains instituting the ban, the management put forth that they were only banning weapons; both real and fake. We can all relax now that light-sabres won’t be allowed on the premises.

I’m not sure why anyone would want to wear a costume to a movie but the fact is, the S-F-B who perpetrated the Aurora shooting wasn’t in costume save for his joker-esque red hair. Does that mean we should ban all gingers for safety’s sake? There have also been calls for metal detectors at movie theatres. You won’t have to worry about them buzzing due to the change in your pocket because – given the price of tickets & popcorn nowadays – you won’t have any. Neither of these proposed bans would have worked in this case because the S-F-B walked in like any other fan of the Caped Crusader and then stepped out through the emergency exit to lock & load and put his gear on.

A Texas Congressman opined that the problem was that there were not enough guns in the theatre and if the movie-goers had come heavy the gunman would have quickly gunned down. In an interview, Michael Bloomberg – mayor of the New York Nanny State – said that the congressmen’s idea was remarkably stupid; One of the few times I’ve ever agreed with hizzoner.

So what do we do at this point? Gun bans? Norway has extremely strict gun laws & yet the “perp” was able to obtain the necessary weapons to do the job. In all the cases I’ve cited, the killer or killers suffered from emotional or mental instability to some degree. Locking up all people exhibiting signs of mental instability would have the knock-on effect of incarcerating most political candidates; No necessarily a bad thing considering Michele Bachman.

Whatever the solution, it definitely does not involve banning costumes from movie theatres. The solution will, however, call for common sense; A commodity in short supply nowadays.


NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – has announced that aquatic humanoids do not exist and never have existed. That means that every mermaid from Ariel to Zelda is nothing but the product of overactive imaginations and mythology.

This is an outrage!!! The whole thing smells like a government cover-up and I would not be surprised if the CIA and/or the NSA were behind it all! How dare they lie to us! At the end of the day, we all KNOW that mermaids – and men – exist . . .right???

For the “official” tissue of lies, have a look at the NOAA website.

Even the supposedly reputable Time Magazine is in on the cover-up.

I don’t know about you but I’m going to write my Congressperson!!!

Just in case anyone happens to be interested, the power came back on around 3:45 PM this afternoon. I want to give a shout-out to Pike Electric Corporation who did the rescue. Pike is an electrical contractor based in Mount Airy, NC and Dominion Virginia Power regularly calls on the for situations like this. (This is not the 1st time that Pike has rescued us!)

The real villain seems to be some wanker at Dominion’s command centre. The boys from Pike were told to fix one problem just inside the subdivision & then move on. (We’re 1 mile inside the subdivision.) The crew supervisor was a retired Dominion employee who told said wanker that he wasn’t going to do any such thing; When the crew goes into a subdivision, he won’t pull them out until the job is done.

Thus endeth our saga. We’re going to sleep on the den floor one more night so when we fire up the AC tomorrow mooning, it won’t have as big a heat gradient to work against. The last thing we need is to lose the AC at a time like this.

This one falls into the general dumbness category. You have probably heard the uproar over the auction of a bit of Ronald Reagan’s blood. Frankly, I’m not sure why anyone would want this other than to possibly clone Ronald Reagan. The story has repeatedly made the news for a number of days now, leading to this spot of brilliance.

Last night on the CBS Evening News, there was yet another story about the auction. To illustrate the story, they – being CBS News – put up a light-box with the headline (in big letters, of course) “Blood Vile”. Reagan’s blood may be vile but it was kept in a glass vial!!

Walter Cronkite must be spinning in his grave right about now and that’s the way it is.

. . . to everything else. This is one of those tales that I think are simply amazing and it all begins with Crossing The Appomattox.

I have a friend and former colleague who now lives in Austin, Texas. We first met way, way back in the 1970’s. I took a job as a computer operator at an automotive parts distributor in Chamblee, Georgia. A lady named Daisy Thorpe  told me of the guy who had run the show in the past but had moved on to better things. This fellow stopped by his old workplace one day for a quick visit and Daisy introduced me to Loren Wilson. I think we shook hands and that was about it. Nothing monumental about anything.

Fast forward about 8 years to the mid-1980’s. By that time, I was working as a programmer/analyst for The Michie Company – a Legal Publisher in Charlottesville, VA. I was on a business trip to California to begin taking delivery of a much-anticipated editorial automation system. Michie was bringing a new guy on to take charge of the project and he would be joining us out in California. Long story short, the guy’s name was Loren Wilson. Over the next few months and years, we discovered that we knew some of the same people in Atlanta and lived in subdivisions built by the same man. Loren and I worked together for the next 15 years or so until he retired to Austin because of medical issues.

Fast forward again to Monday of this week and my tale of Crossing The Appomattox. Loren & I had kept in touch over the years and I had sent him an e-mail telling of The Parsons’ Rant. He decided to drop by & happened to read the Appomattox story. Two days later, Loren sent me an e-mail containing a link to a collection of photos taken between 1947 & 1957. The bulk of the photos were of the Hercules Powder Company plant in Hopewell, VA. My father worked for Hercules as did my mother – that’s where they met – other family members and some of our neighbours.

It was a treat to look through those old photos. I had worked at Hercules in the summer during my college years and I saw buildings that I had worked in and a familiar face or two. My mother was an industrial nurse at Hercules and there was this one photo showing one of her successors sitting behind the same desk and probably in the same chair as she had. I passed the link on to my brother who had also done summer work at Hercules and had a few of his own tales to tell.

He looked through the collection and noted that a number of the pictures were taken by “N. O. Howard” – better known as “Norm Howard”.  Mr. Howard was a ham radio operator and a figure in the Hopewell Boy Scout leadership who lived about two blocks from our house. His son was one of two passengers involved in the boating accident on the Appomattox River that took the life of my uncle so many years ago. If I had never met Loren Wilson, I probably would never have known about the photos and who took some of them.

And now you know the rest of the story.

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