Category ArchiveGeneral

General Wesley R. Elsberry on 07 Oct 2012

## Anatomy of a Spam Comment

The new spam module for WordPress is not as aggressive in marking spam messages as its previous version. So I get to go through and mark a variety of things that are pretty obviously spam as spam.

Well, today a spammer’s script misfired and sent his template for a comment rather than a processed spam comment itself. For the morbidly curious, I’ll quote it here:

{Pretty|Attractive} section of content. I just stumbled upon your {blog|weblog|website|web site|site} and in accession capital to assert that I {acquire|get} {in fact|actually} enjoyed account your blog posts. {Any way|Anyway} {I?ll|I will} be subscribing to your {augment|feeds} and even I achievement you access consistently {rapidly|fast|quickly}.

The obvious way this kind of thing works is that the script gets a list of websites to crawl and look for comment blocks. Then, it should use the template to generate a plaintext message using only on alternative from each of the selections in curly braces. This helps keep the spam detection software off guard, since with even a few alternatives at each of several positions, the permutations can reach an astounding number. In this case, whatever script was supposed to actually select alternatives and emit plaintext obviously failed. Given how broken the grammar is, perhaps one should expect the coding to be of similar quality.

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General Wesley R. Elsberry on 23 Sep 2012

## Delta

In the past week, I’ve quit working for the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, updated my will, had two recalled tires replaced on my truck, and otherwise worked toward clearing the decks for the job I start tomorrow.

I’ll be working as an analyst for RealPage, Inc., particularly with the group based in Carrollton, Texas who works on the MPF Market Intelligence software product. The plan is that I will travel to Texas as necessary, but mostly work from my home in Florida. I’ve known my new supervisor, Richard Hughes, for several years via online communication, and I’m looking forward to the new job.

This will also provide me opportunities to visit with my friends in Texas, most often those in the DFW area (Marc, Elke, Zach, Dan, Lorraine, Rene’, Ernie, and many more), then those a bit further out (Toni, Melinda, Miranda, Bill), and my current colleague (Laura) and lots of former colleagues at UTA and TAMU. Social networking beats lack of communication, but there’s nothing quite like meeting up in person.

And I’ll still have my native state, Florida, to enjoy and work on improving. This is going to be a cool thing.

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Computation &General Wesley R. Elsberry on 23 Jun 2012

## Discretion is a Corporate Bad Word

Mike Dunford of “The Questionable Authority” blog relates an on-going negative experience with United Airlines. His wife is in the US military and has 15 days of leave to meet with Mike. The 15 days began when her flight arrived from Afghanistan in the USA. However, her connecting flight on United Airlines was cancelled due to fires and weather conditions that disrupted flights on the eastern seaboard. United told her that the earliest that they could book a flight for her was over 24 hours later. When you have 15 days for family leave, over a day spent waiting in a Chicago air terminal is not an insignificant hiccup.

Here’s where things got more interesting, or infuriating. Mike started looking for flights himself, and he found seats for sale on earlier flights from where she is at to where he is at. On United Airlines. He passed along the exact seat specifications to his wife, who consulted with the agents where she is at, and was told that the agents do not have access that would allow them to assign those seats without payment.

Apparently, corporations have figured out that their bottom lines are improved if the will of the soulless bean counters in corporate can be imposed without the moderating influence of the compassion of local functionaries who actually get charged with dealing with the end customer. To that end, the information technology (IT) departments get assigned to create systems that restrict the actions that the customer service agents or anyone in that entire chain of command can actually do. This certainly appears to explain the Dunfords’ poor handling by United Airlines.

Now, on any scale of evil, BoA is certainly going to be found to be headquartered on a lower circle of Hell than United Airlines. But the same impetus and mechanism of corporate skin-flinting can be seen in play in both. Perfectly personable customer service representatives are forced into frustrating the end customer in order to uphold corporate policy. The effect of frustrated customers is assumed to either be negligible or to be outweighed by the savings the corporation achieves by denying customers whatever might be sought. The only way that this will change is if we frustrated consumers can figure out how to change that economic assessment. We need to identify the corporations that remove discretionary power from their customer service people and give our custom to corporations who leave discretion to their customer service agents. This is not a simple task, and that’s what those soulless bean counters are relying upon.

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Florida &General Wesley R. Elsberry on 11 Apr 2012

## Florida: Idiots Driving

Here’s another way the acronym “ID” could be instantiated: idiots driving. I commute to work, and yesterday morning I was on I-275 northbound coming into St. Petersburg. I was in the right-hand lane, and a Honda Odyssey was in the left-hand lane. We were traveling at just about the same speed, and had been for a while. There was no traffic ahead of us for another quarter-mile or so.

The Honda was maybe five feet further ahead than we were as we approached 54th Ave. South. Suddenly, the Honda starting coming over to the right. As it crossed the line marking the lanes, I honked, expecting the driver to correct course and return fully to their lane. It kept coming right. I kept the horn going, but veered right and braked, too, to avoid a collision. It’s just as well, because the Honda driver apparently didn’t change their plan at all and simply completed their lane change. If I hadn’t been paying attention, we’d have had a two-vehicle mashup at 65 MPH on the interstate.

Diane was able to get a couple of photos just afterward. Here’s the back-end and license plate of the vehicle I saved from a high-speed crash:

And here’s one of the driver and passenger we prevented from coming to serious harm and injury:

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Computation &General Wesley R. Elsberry on 11 Mar 2012

## Updating the Modular CV

Some time ago, I wrote about making a modular curriculum vitae in $\LaTeX$. Since that time, I’ve had to update the contents. Things change. Colleagues request current CVs to include in grant proposals, and given the current state of public sector employment it is no bad thing to have the CV ready to go.

But I’m now fighting a problem of separating content and presentation. There are different rules for formatting CVs and resumes, and I’ve done the wrong thing previously: I’ve copied and modified sections like employment history in order to change how the presentation happens. This is bad, because now any time I change something in my employment history, I need to make sure that every relevant copy gets changed. I needed some way to make it so there would be one and only one place where each piece of information would be kept, and apply that to different pieces of presentation code in the $\LaTeX$ source.

The solution I found today is the datatools module for $\LaTeX$. This is a module that allows one to generate, read, and manipulate data stored in CSV (comma-separated-values) files. There is a lot of functionality in the module that I’m not using yet, but the ability to get data out of CSV and format it as needed is a big step forward for me.

I’ve created two CSV files so far, one to hold my education data and another to hold my employment data. The CSV files have more columns than will often go into an output format. For example, my education CSV has columns for my advisor name and my thesis title, even those don’t appear anywhere in an output yet. This will allow me to keep all associated data together, whether or not it is currently used. Previously, I simply used comments to add this kind of information close to what it relates to in my $\LaTeX$ source.

I’m using various sources of good resume formatting to get ideas. Here’s the code to show my three degrees:

1. \usepackage{datatool}
2.
3. [...]
4.
5. \def\dtledu{
6. \vskip 0.125in
7. \dtlverbosetrue%
9. \DTLforeach{edu}{%
11. \noindent\textbf{\degree, \major:} \graddate, \university, \place\\
12. }
13. }

The “usepackage” line happens in the header. The “datatools” commands are only valid within the bounds of a document environment. I’m defining a macro “dtledu” to use in conditional statements. Within the macro, I skip an eighth of an inch down the page. I set the “datatools” package to emit a lot of debug information. The “DTLloaddb” command actually pulls in the contents of a CSV file. I first tried to use tab-delimiting, which is in the “datatools” documentation, but I couldn’t get it to work. I eventually went with all default formatting: commas for delimiters, and double-quotes for separating fields. That means that any text that has a comma must go in double-quotes.

The actual work happens in the “DTLforeach” command. It uses the data that was read in. One line holds the assignments from data from columns to macros. Then a block appears where I can use those macros in conjunction with $\LaTeX$ markup. Each line from my CSV is iterated over and formatted as I’ve defined it.

So this gives me a way to keep one place where my education information exists, and just one place for my employment information to exist. That information can be read in and formatted in different ways as needed for getting just the right output I’m looking for.

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General Wesley R. Elsberry on 24 Feb 2012

## Coyne, Wallace, and Flannery

There’s a post on “PRUnderground” that takes delight in an alleged screwup by Prof. Jerry Coyne. Coyne is stated to have made a claim during a radio program about Alfred Russel Wallace:

In particular, Jerry was emphatic in claiming Alfred Russel Wallace never connected biogeography to evolution: “Wallace did not use biogeography as evidence of evolution. I mean, never!”

Given that “intelligent design” comes into it later, I’m suspicious about the veracity of any such quote. It certainly is a staple of religious antievolution argument to get things wrong. So I’ll note that the basis for everything else is not verified and go on with the assumption that the author did manage to convey that claim of Coyne’s in essence.

The article then goes on to discuss Coyne’s claim, or, rather, to claim to discuss Coyne’s claim:

That’s not how I remember this history, so I decided to check with Wallace biographer Professor Michael Flannery.

Professor Flannery: Well, he seems to really be unfamiliar with Wallace’s body of writing on that topic. The famous paleontologist and geologist, Henry Fairfield Osborn, he’s sort of an icon in the field, referred to Wallace’s Sarawak Law Paper as “A very strong argument for the Theory of Descent and a bold declaration from a strong and fearless Evolutionist.”

And actually if you’d like sort of an icing on the cake reference, Ian McCalman, who has written a pretty good book recently called Darwin’s Armada, refers to Wallace’s Sarawak Law paper as, “The first ever British scientific paper to claim that animals had descended from a common ancestor and then produced closely similar variations which have evolved into distinct species.”

What’s remarkable about this is that the rebutting expert never directly addresses the question at issue. Did Wallace use biogeography to inform his discussion of evolution? Unless you already knew the answer to that, Flannery’s response doesn’t approach it at all. Rebutting Coyne’s claim requires three elements to be shown: Wallace as source, evolution as topic, and biogeography as evidence. The Osborn and McCalman quotes address only the first two of these, leaving the critical component, biogeography, out entirely.

Flannery does mention in passing Wallace’s Sarawak paper. Even a brief skim of the paper is enough to disabuse anyone of the notion that Wallace never used biogeography as evidence of evolution. But one would have to already know the content of the paper in order to decide whether Flannery’s assertion carried weight or not. For completeness, though, I’ll quote Wallace discussing that iconic example, the Galapagos Islands:

Such phænomena as are exhibited by the Galapagos Islands, which contain little groups of plants and animals peculiar to themselves, but most nearly allied to those of South America, have not hitherto received any, even a conjectural explanation. The Galapagos are a volcanic group of high antiquity, and have probably never been more closely connected with the continent than they are at present. They must have been first peopled, like other newly-formed islands, by the action of winds and currents, and at a period sufficiently remote to have had the original species die out, and the modified prototypes only remain. In the same way we can account for the separate islands having each their peculiar species, either on the supposition that the same original emigration peopled the whole of the islands with the same species from which differently modified prototypes were created, or that the islands were successively peopled from each other, but that new species have been created in each on the plan of the pre-existing ones. St. Helena is a similar case of a very ancient island having obtained an entirely peculiar, though limited, flora. On the other hand, no example is known of an island which can be proved geologically to be of very recent origin (late in the Tertiary, for instance), and yet possesses generic or family groups, or even many species peculiar to itself.

Back to the PRUnderground article…

Then, for nausea’s sake, the folks go off into speculation and “intelligent design” cheerleading:

Alex Tsakiris: All this might seem like a lot of minor detail that no one cares about, but this little bit of history is actually quite important in the culture war debate over the theory of evolution. Why does an otherwise smart guy like Dr. Jerry Coyne say these things which are so obviously incorrect? What’s the real agenda here?

Professor Flannery: Well, my guess is that he is either just unfamiliar with Wallace’s work, although that’s kind of hard to believe… I actually think that it just doesn’t serve his purpose. When you look at his book, Why Evolution is True, one of the things he’s writing against is Intelligent Design. To bring Wallace into the picture becomes problematic for him because Wallace himself came to view evolution as being guided.

Blech.

Here’s the response I entered in comments there:

Coyne was wrong about Wallace. Wallace was wrong about the concept of “intelligent design”. Coyne not completely grasping the history of ideas isn’t helpful, but it in no way can be taken as supporting IDC.

Professor Flannery also doesn’t do well in forming his answer to the question of whether Coyne was right in his claim. Flannery’s first try, invoking Osborn on Wallace’s status as an evolutionist, doesn’t even address the question. For the second, one has to oneself know the content of the Sarawak paper to know that the claim by Coyne is false; it isn’t evident by the statement that Flannery makes. The quote he gives is remarkable for the complete absence of any geographical or biogeographical component.

Update: At Troy Britain’s prompting, I’ve had a look at the Skeptico transcript of the Coyne interview and listened to the segment in the MP3 including the quote from Coyne that was at issue. The quote does fail to give the gist of Coyne’s original claim. That claim is that it was Darwin who was the first to use biogeography as evidence of evolutionary change. Coyne rejects any discussion made by Wallace of both biogeography and evolution that occurs after 1859 as not being relevant to his claim. That makes Coyne’s statement that Wallace “never” used biogeography as evidence for evolution a bit of hyperbole on his part, since his only interest seems to be in who got there first, Darwin or Wallace. Unfortunately, Coyne is mistaken on this point: the 1855 “Sarawak” paper by Wallace is quite explicit in using biogeography to undermine the idea that species are fixed. In 1855, Wallace did not have and did not produce a mechanism for speciation, but it is clear that he was talking about evolution and that he was using biogeography as evidence for it.

Giving Wallace appropriate credit for his innovations is not a concession to religious antievolutionists. Like I said before, Wallace was wrong in his advocacy of stuff that the “intelligent design” creationists have glommed onto. That doesn’t make the good stuff that Wallace did less worthy of notice.

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Computation &General Wesley R. Elsberry on 22 Feb 2012

## Losing Revenue?

There’s just so much wrong. The mobile telephony companies are toting up projections of profit from SMS and MMS messaging and seeing a shortfall as a “loss”.

“I think it’s a growing threat which is manageable through the right tariffs and the right costing,” Mr Barford added.

“People are still using the mobile networks to communicate – and they’re willing to pay for that.”

Yes, people are wiling to pay to communicate, but they are also going to look to find the best available methods. That evaluation is going to include cost. And the pricing telcos have artificially placed on SMS and MMS messaging simply is uncompetitive with other technologies now.

The buggy-whip manufacturers experienced a “loss of revenue” with the advent of the automobile. That doesn’t mean they deserved to continue getting it, no matter what “tariffs and right costing” they might have contemplated. The only difference here is that the buggy-whip manufacturers were not also the only people selling and servicing automobiles.

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Computation &General Wesley R. Elsberry on 31 Jan 2012

## Verizon FIOS Continues to Not Talk to Verizon FIOS

I have two new trouble tickets with Verizon FIOS as the connectivity situation continues to be nearly completely non-functional, as it has been since January 10th. The one entered from the Verizon Business FIOS side of things is TXP08R8CY. During the hour-and-a-half tech support conference call needed to get that one going, I happened to inquire about my previously-entered trouble tickets, and was told that they had been closed. Since the problem continues, I insisted that the tech set one up for my residential FIOS account, too. That one is FLCP08R8EN.

If you are a Verizon customer and have difficulty getting through to this site or other sites I run, be sure to reference the above tickets when you put your complaint in. Thanks.

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Computation &General Wesley R. Elsberry on 16 Jan 2012

## Verizon FIOS Doesn’t Talk to Verizon FIOS?

I have a bit more information about the connection difficulties I’ve been having with my ISP, Verizon FIOS. I have a residential account in Palmetto, FL with Verizon FIOS. Mostly, it works fine. I can get to a host of web sites without difficulty, and the transfer speeds are great.

I do remote system administration on two servers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Those servers get their connection via a Verizon FIOS Business plan link. (Yes, Verizon, the servers are on an account where serving is usual and expected.) One server provides my regular email, the other serves a whole bunch of web sites via virtual hosting. And things there are mostly working, where the outside world can merrily get pages served on demand.

But…

As of sometime early last Tuesday morning, January 10th, Verizon FIOS stopped reliably talking to Verizon FIOS. I can tell the approximate time of the outage as the last email message my computer here picked up from the server there was at 1:09 AM CT. The problem is very likely to have manifested within a very few minutes after that. And the problem’s characteristics are just plain weird. One expects most ‘problems’ with connections to be user error. Certainly that’s the primary basis of Verizon FIOS’s residential account tech support, who are ready to quit if the problem isn’t solved by having the user clear their browser cache or resetting the router. This problem, though, is more complex and is not localized to my particular account. First, not all connectivity is gone, just *most* connectivity. I can use SSH to log in remotely and use commands that return small amounts of information. Once I try a command that would return a page or more of text, the connection drops with a ‘Broken pipe’ message. There’s a web page that is static and is only a few hundred characters in size that I can successfully retrieve. But none of the web sites that rely on web applications (Drupal, WordPress, and IkonBoard) do anything but spin forever while the browser displays ‘Waiting on …’.

* It isn’t a DNS issue, as ‘nslookup’ finds any of the domain names and returns the correct IP address quite rapidly.

* It isn’t a single port failure. Ports 22, 25, 80, and 587 are, at a minimum, included in the affected list.

* It isn’t a complete break, as connections on the scale of a single packet of data at a time work.

* Using traceroute for other websites shows three hops taken within the Verizon routing center in Tampa. Traceroute for the affected servers shows two hops taken similarly, but the third times out.

* My parents live in Lakeland, Florida, a goodly distance away from where I live, and have Verizon FIOS as their ISP. I visited there this past weekend and asked my dad if he had been able to check this blog recently. He said no, not for about the past week. I tried traceroute from their connection, and it behaved the same way as from my home connection. The problem is not localized, it affects other Verizon FIOS customers.

* I’ve heard from Texas where another Verizon FIOS user of the email system cannot connect to the email server. I don’t have a traceroute result from them to compare.

I have two open tickets on this problem with Verizon, FLCP08NT6J and FLDQ090SXY. There are some other people who have posted to the web saying that they are having network difficulties with Verizon FIOS in the same time frame, but I haven’t seen a report that exactly matches what I am seeing. I’m writing this post by the expedient of using a proxy for my browser, which is a nuisance. (While it is on, my Google search results tend to come back in German, which I can’t read.) It’s a bit of a Catch-22, since I’d like to get feedback from Verizon FIOS users, but if the problem is of the nationwide scale that I expect it is, this post will be unaccessible to them from that account. On the other hand, if it is accessible via Verizon FIOS elsewhere, that would be useful information to have. If you are a Verizon FIOS user, I would appreciate it if you could run traceroute from the Verizon account to baywing.net and copy the results into a comment here. I’ll copy my traceroute results into a comment here shortly.

How to invoke traceroute:

Under Windows, open a command prompt. In the command prompt, type in the following:

tracert baywing.net > tr_baywing.txt

It will take a few minutes to complete if you also have the problem I’m having. The result ill be in a text file, ‘tr_baywing.txt’, in that directory. Copy and paste the text in a comment here if you aren’t seeing the problem, or contact me if you are having the problem.

On Mac or FreeBSD, open a terminal window. At the command prompt, type in:

traceroute baywing.net > tr_baywing.net

On Ubuntu Linux, open a terminal window. At the command prompt, type:

tracepath baywing.net > tr_baywing.net

Here’s my email, if you can’t leave a comment here (remove spaces and convert to symbols as indicated): w e l s b e r r at b a y w i n g dot n e t

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Computation &General Wesley R. Elsberry on 14 Jan 2012

## Connection Issues

My connection to the servers in Texas from my home systems is unreliable. For the moment, my only reliable link to various of my web sites and my usual email is via my Android phone. Fortunately, I’m grandfathered into an unlimited data plan and have a Bluetooth keyboard. But that is still not a long-term solution. I have a trouble ticket in for my Verizon FIOS ISP that has been active since this past Wednesday without resolution. I just got a call from Marc saying that another email user is having much the same connection problem, so he’s also putting in a trouble report from his side. The servers run on a Verizon FIOS business plan, so connection outages are a concern on that basis, too.

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General Wesley R. Elsberry on 13 Jan 2012

## A Quick Snap: Coast Guard Station

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General Wesley R. Elsberry on 05 Jul 2011

## The Watson Flap

There’s a row going on about continuing sexism within the skeptical community. Rebecca Watson, a speaker at an international skeptical conference, was propositioned by a male attendee… in an elevator… at 4 in the morning. She turned him down, and later used the incident in calling for better behavior out of the male skeptical community. There’s a lot of other people weighing in over the particulars of how Watson did this, but one of the more puzzling to me is a contribution signed off as from Richard Dawkins.

Posted by: Richard Dawkins Author Profile Page | July 2, 2011 11:11 AM

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard

There’s the whole issue of authentication, since this was a comment entered at ScienceBlogs, and you can pretty much sign whatever name you want to something. I hope that the above is the work of a prankster impostor.

If I just have a look at the content, though, it is really troubling to me. We’re talking about social standards of conduct, so there’s going to be differences of context. The really quite horrible levels of sexism and violence toward women mentioned above that are the norm in some cultural contexts do not inform what we should strive for in the cultural context that we live in. Calling for better behavior here is not a repudiation or diminishment of greater suffering endured elsewhere, at least not in my estimation. The line taken in the “Dawkins” missive, if followed consistently and assiduously, would mean a stop to any sort of progressive social change in our culture, as worse examples on just about any topic are bound to be found elsewhere in the world. Karl Kraus put it this way: “The devil is an optimist if he thinks he can make people meaner.”

Yes, we should be activists to improve the human condition around the world. But we have to live in our own culture, and why not try to make things better here, too?

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General Wesley R. Elsberry on 20 Jun 2011

## Desperation at MyLife?

Years ago, I set up a MyLife profile. Periodically, I get email from them noting that my profile has been searched, and that I should pony up some money so that they will tell me who actually visited my profile. Personally, I find “upgrade” come-ons a disincentive, plus FaceBook and other social networking sites have pretty much removed any remaining utility for sites like MyLife.

Well, I got another MyLife email a few days ago.

Subject: Does Lauri know you? She viewed your profile!

Hi Wesley,

1 NEW person has viewed your profile.

1. [...], York Haven, PA

Well, there’s no mystery in that about who they said visited my profile. I forwarded the message to Lauri Lebo to share in the obviousness of it. Lauri wrote me back to say that it has been years since she used MyLife to visit any profiles. So that “NEW” label they’ve provided in the MyLife email come-on appears to be entirely fictional. This appears to be another good reason to refuse to encourage them with “premium membership” funding.

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General &Humor Wesley R. Elsberry on 21 May 2011

## End-of-the-World Playlist

Over at NPR, there was a post asking people for the song to be played during the Rapture as predicted by Harold Camping. I gave several choices in my response:

For years, I’ve kept a directory of songs, just called “apoc”.

Top choices that are explicitly about the end of the world out of that directory would include:

“The Old Gods Return”, Blue Oyster Cult
“The Horsemen Arrive”, Blue Oyster Cult

Ones that are evocative of end-of-the-world hopelessness or creepiness if not outright apocalypse would include:

“Silent Running”, Mike and the Mechanics
“No Way Out of Here”, David Gilmour
“Voices”, Russ Ballard
“Wings Wetted Down”, Blue Oyster Cult

And no list of end-of-the-world songs is complete without an homage to the people who keep saying it’s this time, for sure, really truly:

“Lunatic Fringe”, Red Rider

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General Wesley R. Elsberry on 19 Apr 2011

## A Grete Waitz Reminiscence

Back in the early 80s, I made what living I had as a staff photographer for the Independent Florida Alligator (IFA) newspaper. One day I was assigned to go get a photo of a runner to go with a story being worked up by a reporter. I was given the appointment time and place (IIRC, the Holiday Inn University Center at 13th and University). I showed up on time, but the reporter did not. The runner was Grete Waitz, someone about whom I knew little except that she ran well and a lot. As I recall it, she wasn’t yet completely comfortable with English, and I certainly had no Norwegian. Somehow we came to an understanding that I was there to take some photos for the paper. I got some absolutely unremarkable head-and-shoulders type shots, but given that we had more time than originally planned, I also used my 24mm lens to get some wide-angle shots that emphasized her feet in running shoes. I think Ms. Waitz was either perplexed or amused by the angle I was taking photos from, but given the language barrier that didn’t become clear. I left while the reporter was working on the interview.

While I printed the head-and-shoulders portrait, the IFA used the wide-angle shot. Kim Kulish, our photo editor, encouraged me to keep looking for the apropos but unusual approach to a subject.

I spent maybe twenty minutes in Ms. Waitz’ company, but I remembered her fondly as from time to time her name came up in the news or articles. Her extraordinary success in running — and winning — marathons made that a regular thing through the 1980s. Today, I have to remember her sadly, as her name was once again in the news, this time announcing her untimely death due to cancer. She was 57 years old, just six years older than I am now.

A couple of years ago, I know I saw the glassine envelope marked “Grete Waitz” in my collection of negatives from my time at the IFA. I will try to find, scan, and post the photo that I took on that sunny day in Gainesville. I do remember you, Grete, and my life was a bit richer for the experience. My thanks for your forbearance with a young photojournalist and my condolences go to your family for having lost you so soon.

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General Wesley R. Elsberry on 25 Feb 2011

## Dolphin, Doberman, and Intentionality

MarcoIslandFlorida reports that a doberman trapped in a canal was rescued because a dolphin made “a lot of noise”, attracting human help.

Just before lunch, police received a 911 call from a South Bahama resident who said she’d rescued a dog from a canal after she’d heard and seen a dolphin making a “lot of noise,” Burnett said.

One could juxtapose two interpretations on the event. In one, the dolphin pitched a fit over the presence of an unwanted interloper in its canal. In the other, the dolphin intended that a human come and assist the dog, and used noise as the means to attract human attention.

I like the second view better. We know from cooperative human/dolphin fishing associations that dolphins can use acrobatic displays and noise to attract humans. It isn’t that much of a stretch to suppose that could be done in this one-off situation. Collaborative fishing, though, does have a payoff for the dolphins which wasn’t a part of the dog rescue.

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General &Science Wesley R. Elsberry on 01 Dec 2010

## Here We Go Again… North Pole, This Time

Quark Expeditions is having another popularity contest for a blogger to go on a trip, this time the destination is the North Pole. And I’ve entered again and am seeking votes.

Yes, that didn’t work so well last time for the Antarctic trip, but I’m getting going sooner and the popularity contest isn’t absolute: a Quark Expeditions collection of staff will select the winner out of the top five vote-getters. So go have a look, vote for me if you are moved to do so, and maybe pass along the word.

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General &Law and Politics Wesley R. Elsberry on 19 Sep 2010

## An Idea for the New Public Works Initiative

What should we do to employ more people? What should we do to get closer to energy independence?

What if we did something that helps both at the same time?

A major issue with alternative energy systems like solar and wind power is that it isn’t (yet) quite as cost-efficient as oil, coal, or gas. There isn’t yet an economy-of-scale to help reduce costs on these systems. Early adopters carry a big cost burden for the initial installation.

Producers of alternative energy systems could use more orders to establish their businesses and fund further research and development. But with a big economic downturn going on, customers who have enough money to finance the equipment are rarer than ever.

So here’s the idea: use the next big government push to employ people to do so as alternative energy installers, and fund financing to allow people to afford the alternative energy system being installed. This gets people working at jobs that are going to be in demand for decades to come, allows alternative energy manufacturers to get scaled up sooner, and reduces our energy dependence on foreign oil and gas. If we specify that systems installed will be grid-ready, but also able to go off-grid for completely self-reliant households, we would also improve emergency preparedness, too.

Yeah, there’s lots of details to be worked out. But I think that there way more positives going for this than negatives.

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General &Photography Wesley R. Elsberry on 13 Sep 2010

## UF Gators v. USF Bulls (2010/09/11)

I took some more photos from the stands during the game this past weekend. This time I used the Nikon D2Xs and my Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. What the lens lacks in the reach of the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 G lens I used last week it makes up for in resolution. Unfortunately, it is physically a much larger, heavier lens. Fortunately, the six-inch lens rule at the stadium is discretionary, and I hope that the gate guards I have to pass going in are lenient in their discretion on that point at future games. Otherwise, I’ll have a longish walk back to the vehicle to stash it. Parking is an issue for the Gator games.

First UF play of the game… Brantley gets sacked hard by a USF defender who found the front door wiiiiiiiiide open.

Second UF play of the game, and Pouncey’s hike goes bouncy. Things were looking a bit discouraging right there at the outset.

Don’t get too excited, that’s just Demps receiving a punt, I think.

Brantley showing his throwing form.

And Thompson showing his receiving form. Unfortunately, that one passed through his hands without stopping.

Here’s Moore going to extra effort to make a catch of a Brantley pass. The fuzziness on the left is a large USF fan standing up and obscuring part of my lens. That’s just a part of the magic of taking photos from the seats.

Moore takes in an easier pass, then turns and runs it in for six.

This would be a nice pic of Trattou running in an interception for six points but for the over-enthusiastic Gator fan a couple of rows forward of me.

Gators get another interception.

Here’s a sequence of a reception by Moore… he’s covered pretty well by the Bulls defense, but the ball is coming anyway.

And Moore is off to the races.

A Bulls defender knocks a pass away.

I think this last one is a punt reception with a fair catch called.

I did write the UF Athletic Association asking about getting a press pass for the sidelines. They said that they have already given out all the press passes for this year. OK, I said, what do I need to do to get on the waiting list for next year? I haven’t heard back on that.

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General &Photography Wesley R. Elsberry on 06 Sep 2010

## Gators v. RedHawks (2010/09/04)

My dad, sister, brother-in-law, and I went to the University of Florida Gators versus University of Miami (Ohio) RedHawks game last Saturday. I carried along a Fujifilm J10 point-and-shoot camera and my Nikon D2Xs with a Nikkor 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 G lens to take some photos.

We got there a bit early to try to find a parking place not too terribly far from the stadium. Mike dropped the rest of us off, and we settled down in a plaza at 1st Ave and 20th Street. There was quite the cavalcade of fans streaming through there as we waited for Mike to show up again. That included this pair of guys who were taking fandom to a whole other level.

Back in 1980-82, I’d have been one of the folks down at the sidelines taking photos for the Independent Florida Alligator. For this game, I was up in Section 13 instead, which is a ways from the field.

The game was scheduled for a noon kickoff. It was a partly cloudy day, which meant that we baked in the stands. I sweated profusely. My dad, who stayed relatively dry, says I get that from mom. There were times when the Nikon got a bit uncomfortable to touch, being all black.

I was interested to see just what sort of images I could get from the stands using a consumer-grade lens, if not a consumer-grade camera. So the remainder of the photos go some way toward demonstrating that.

Now, about the game… Football is not something I have any sort of deep knowledge about. But I’ve been going to UF Gators games for 40+ years now, so I’ve seen a bit of everything. The Gators v. RedHawks matchup was one of the weirder games that I’ve seen. What the Gators communicated to the world was a mix of messages comprising individual talent but some poor team coordination, and some unpreparedness. The RedHawks marched down the field and put three points on the board with a field goal, obviating the “Bleacher Report” prediction of a possible shutout. The Gator defense denied the RedHawks any touchdown all day, but ended up allowing four field goals.

We saw a lot of the RedHawks’ quarterback getting the pass off. Either the RedHawks are better than pundits were giving them credit for, or we UF fans have some definite rough times ahead.

And another thing we saw a lot of was UF quarterback Brantley handing the ball off to Demps. What we got was a bunch of small yardage plays and one touchdown run, IIRC.

At the far end of the field, Brantley connected with this receiver at the 5 yard line. He turned and ran it in for six points.

We were also fortunate to see a scene like the above four times in the game, IIRC. Because the defense did so well at making turnovers, we had the curious experience of seeing a Gator total yardage figure that, for much of the game, was less than the Gator score.

I think the above is my favorite photo from the game. The RedHawk coach on the sideline emotes well.

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