A quickie

One of the things I love about Linux is that it doesn’t slow down like Windows tends to. I can (and did) have the computer up for weeks at a time and it doesn’t go any slower than when I first booted it up. More importantly, after updates the computer doesn’t slow down. I don’t know what others have experienced, but whenever I update Windows or even download anything more than a few hundred megabytes, Windows slows to a crawl. This may be something unique to my computer setup or something, but just downloading the ISOs for Fedora cause my Windows computer to grind to a halt! With Linux, I can download gigs of updates and it doesn’t have any bad effect. I hope that 1) Linux never loses whatever it is about the kernel that makes it this stable when running for days and after updates and 2) that Windows finally learns how to do that.

We’re back….in a hacked up sort of way

You may have noticed some instability in the blog recently. This is due to the fact that the place where my server is held recently switched to an ISP that blocks port 80 due to the Code Red Virus. As I’ll be moving soon, it didn’t make sense to enter into a contract with a business tier ISP for the server, so I had to do a few hacks to get the server running. A few more hacks this morning allowed me to get the blog working, since the blog kept looking for the old URI and I had to do some creative things with the URI in order to keep the same one working for those of you who have linked to the top level of my blog.

Therefore, you may notice that the links on my blog do not have the same URI as the one listed at the top. This will be fixed when I move (around mid to late September) so don’t link to any of my specific posts or that link will be broken when I change the URI back. For now, just link to http://www.ericsbinaryworld.com/ and that will continue to work. For example in the post right before this one my own link to my post (the “farewell to numa numa” link) doesn’t work right now because it’s in reference to the old link.

I’m just happy that I can continue to post and have my posts read by my readers. I’m just as annoyed by these inconveniences as you are, but I just keep telling myself – it’s just another six weeks, that’s all.

Numa Numa ¿Que? (And other tales from Cancun Part 1)

It’s almost been a month since I went to Cancun, Quintanilla Roo, Mexicao. I meant to blog about it, but at first I was busy getting my married life and my room back into order. While in Cancun I decided not to rent a car in case the drivers were as crazy as the ones I’d heard about in South America. They actually ended up driving just as good (or bad) as people do in Tampa and arguably a lot better than how they drive in Miami. Since I wasn’t actually in Cancun, but in Puerto Aventuras (Adventure Port) we had to take a taxi to get anywhere Interesting.

It was in one such taxi ride on the way to the ruins at Tulum where my driver was listening to the radio that the Numa Numa song came on. My wife and I just stared at each other. So I asked the cab driver if he had seen the Internet video and he affirmed that he had. He asked me if I happened to know where this music came from. It has just appeared on the radio about a month ago. I told him it was from Rumania in Eastern Europe. He nodded approvingly as if one of the larger mysteries in his life had finally been clarified. I informed him that this song wasn’t on the radio in the US and he appeared a little shocked. I leaned back in my chair and my wife and I half-heartedly acted out the Internet video in the the backseat and laughed to ourselves. I thought when I said farewell to Numa Numa that it would fade out of my life. Who knows where it’ll appear next…some rapper remix?

While I was in Mexico there was a bit of what I’d like to call reverse-culture shock. One example was hearing Numa Numa on the radio. What I mean by reverse-culture shock is going to a foreign country expecting to see local traditions and customs, but finding non-local customs instead. For example, going to Playa del Carmen was an especially disturbing even for my wife and I. When we first walked in we saw:

Honeymoon - Playa del Carmen - 05

A Sushi restaurant! I’m not saying that the Mexicans can’t eat sushi, don’t get me wrong. But this was a famous tourist location. Maybe I’m just not with the times, but I like to go to other countries to experience what their customs and traditions have resulted in. In this same area was a Subway and a Johnny Rocket. Then, to my horror, we came across:

Honeymoon - Playa del Carmen - 16

That’s right, those $@^& golden arches are everywhere! Can’t they leave a place alone? It was right next to:

Honeymoon - Playa del Carmen - 24

and just ruined the view. I’m just glad they didn’t have a McDonald’s at the Tulum ruins or I think I would have really disliked my trip. More about my trip to Mexico in a future post.

The new theme!

I have chosen the ramart theme, developed by the owner of a blog about Weird Al Yankovic. After going over all of the available themes, I chose this one because it best reflects what my blog has evolved into. As a blog mostly about technology news and the GNU/Linux operating system, I feel this theme best conveys my content. However, don’t worry that I won’t be talking about personal things, politics, or religion – it’s just a realization of the main topics of this blog as well as the fact that I ‘m a VERY technological person. I mean, how many other people have three computers they use on an everyday basis, including a server. Finally, with the theme I was previously using I didn’t like the font as much – some of the letters ran together such as a c and an l – looking like a d.

I have adapted his theme to suit my preferences, such as having a calendar on the sidebar, which was not exactly a trivial task. I will be making a few more changes in the coming days. For example, I have decided to license all of my posts under the Creative Commons. They will still be copyrighted to me, but I think I will choose a license similar to the one I use for my pictures – attrib-deriv-no-commercial. I’ll add a link/icon to the site describing my license as soon as I get some time.


I believe that websites, magazines, blogs, and other media that people become accustomed to should always look the same. Afterall, that’s what people become comfortable with, so why change it up? However, I also realize that these things always change and it’s often for the better. In that vein, I am going to be changing up my blog a little bit. I don’t like that I’m just using one of the default templates for WordPress because what is it that distinguishes my blog from Andrew’s Blog or any of the others using the default template. It may take me a while to customize the template the way I want it, but I don’t want to take the server down again – it’s had enough downtime recently. Therefore, you may notice some changes on your visits until I get everything tweaked the way I want it. Thanks for you patience and see you on the better side of “It’s A Binary World 2.0”.

In the News, 28 July 2005

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That’s a very important mantra to have in the software/hardware world. For example, OpenOffice.org has its own file format, but around 90% of the world uses the Microsoft Office format. Therefore, OO.o must incorporate support these formats. Similarly, a large portion of the Internet servers out there are running Linux and/or open source software. That’s the reason that Microsoft has decided to try and booot compatility with open source. How hard are they trying to make their software work with open source?

…Microsoft has established a testing lab containing 400 Linux and Unix servers in order to test compatibility with its own systems and management tools.

This is big news. It is also a validation of Linux as a competitor. Companies don’t try and become compatible with small programs because it’s a waste of their time. For Microsoft to care about compatibility with Linux and Unix servers shows that customers are beginning to demand this. The same way that early Internet customers demanded to be able to email people who weren’t using the same service provider, server customers find it ludicrous that their Microsoft servers wouldn’t interact properly with Linux servers.

This move by Microsoft can only help everyone. Microsoft will gain sales by being compatible with the large Linux/Unix server base. Linux will gain credibility and greater compatibility with MS servers without having to reverse engineer the protocols. Finally, users will benefit from competition which can only serve to lower the cost of the software.

If you’d like to hear someone arguing the exact opposite of what you expect, then Tim Butler’s got a great article for you. The important thing is to get past the first two paragraphs which refer to some other article(s) he’s written and look at this part:

After seeing his preview of “AdBlocK,” I did some more research to confirm that this was indeed included in the official code of Konqueror [a web browser for Linux – the KDE equivalent of IE], which, to the best I could discern, is, in fact, the case. This is singularly disturbing. While Firefox has become known for its AdBlock plug-in, this feature has remained outside of the core, official distribution. Considering the ethical ramifications of advertising blocking software, this is how it should be.

His main argument is that software which blocks ads on a page (not popup or popunder ads) is unethical because if the user doesn’t see the ads, they won’t click on them. If a website has ads, they are using the ads to difray the costs of having a website, therefore you are killing your favorite website by not seeing the ads.

While I understand the point he’s trying to make here, I find that he has one major flaw in his writing. Ever since the dot-com-bust (five years ago!) no advertiser pays a website owner just for displaying the ads. They USED to do that until they realized an important thing: people weren’t clicking on them. So they realized the “Newspaper and Magazine Strategy” wasn’t worth the money they were paying. Now all ads only pay them based on how many times someone clicks on the link and goes to the advertised web page. I can’t speak for all users, but I know that no one in my immediate family or my wife’s immediate family clicks on those. We know enough about Internet scams and “too good to be true” web advertising to care. I don’t even look at the ads any more – they are invisible to my eyes, which just focus on the text content. So whether I can see the ads or not is irrelevant because the website owner won’t get any money from me. I think, although I have no proof, that most people are like that. Therefore, Tim’s arguement is a moot point.

However, if I could go against some of the comments left on his website for just a moment. Everyone complained about ads making a website ugly. These must be some really anal people when it comes to how things are organized. I’ve never been to a website where the ads made it so ugly it illicited a reaction from me. Don’t be so darned sensitive to this stuff!
Talking ads are a different story though!

In the news yesterday, 27 July 2005

I wanted to be able to talk about the news stories I found very interesting without creating an additional post for each story, so here is the first edition of “In the news today”.

This BBC story shows how NASA’s attitude about shuttle accidents has changed since the 2002 shuttle destruction. Previously NASA was more concerned about its PR image. How would it look if NASA was trying to check the shuttle for problems due to foam hitting the wing? For whatever reason, they decided to deny the astronauts the ability to check the condition of the shuttle, costing them their lives. This time around, with a possible heatshield tile missing from the Shuttle Discovery, they are doing a full diagnostic over the entire shuttle to determine the integrity of the protection system against the heat of reentry. I’m glad NASA has finally learned its lesson. I hope that this is one it doesn’t forget.

This BBC story mentions that the current US administration is moving away from the phrase “war on terror”.

In recent days, senior administration figures have been speaking publicly of “a global struggle against the enemies of freedom”, and of the need to use all “tools of statecraft” to defeat them.

I think this is a two tiered strategy by the government. First of all, they want to distance the terrorism conflict from the word war. This is because Bush and Cheney spent so much time conflagrating the War in Iraq with terrorism (despite its lack of truth) that most people see the two as synonymous. This poses a problem for Bush, who wants to be the President who tacked terrorism. Many people see the war in Iraq as another Vietnam in the worst case and barely a victory in the best case. On the other hand, I think most people are happy with the lack of terrorist acts on US soil, so separating the two issues in people’s minds would be helpful. Of course, it is his fault they are stuck together, but that’s something his legacy will have to deal with.

On the other side of things, this change of terms to describe our strategy against terrorism is not just another case of Washington spin. When fighting an enemy which isn’t represented by a whole country, it’s hard to have a real war. We can just wage war in the boundaries of every country with terrorists. Afghanistan was a unique case and I think it will be a stretch to apply to any current countries. Therefore it is up to our “soft” troops: the CIA and NSA. They are the ones who have to be the most diligent in finding the terrorists. Then they can communicate the information to their counterparts in the country involved. In the case of Scotland Yard or MI6 (whatever James Bond’s agency is) they would be most cooperative. In some other countries we might have to wage covert wars. However, the days of dropping troops into countries are pretty much over as far as terrorism goes.

This BBC news story says what I’ve been saying all along:

People who illegally share music files online are also big spenders on legal music downloads, research suggests.
Digital music research firm The Leading Question found that they spent four and a half times more on paid-for music downloads than average fans.

To me this says that people feel the same way that I do – 30 seconds is nowhere near enough time to preview a song and determine if you want to buy it. I know that they are trying to prevent the analogue recording trick, but they are just keeping me from buying music. Since a lot of music is crap, I’d rather download it first to make sure I like it. Then I buy the CD (or the legal music downloads) to support the band.

Why shouldn’t you use Windows on your computers/servers? Because a UK hacker accessed *97* US government computers…

“Via the internet, the defendant identified US government network computers with an open Microsoft Windows connection.”

Yeah, switch to Linux!

Finally, This article mentions that Sony wishes to create an download store for its video stores; in layman’s terms “an iTunes for movies”. It’s a great idea, but I’ll never buy into it for the same reason I dislike downloading music from iTunes and Napster.

1) I am not in control of the quality – most music stores release the music at an inferior quality when compared to ripping it off of commercial CDs

2) I can’t experience it on infinite computers – Napster and iTunes say I can only listen on 3 computers. I have four in my house, so what’s that about?

3) I can’t experience it on whatever portable player I want – iTunes only works on iPods and WMAs don’t play on iPods. This is BS and they know it.

Fix those issues and I’ll be a loyal customer.

Why the Creative Commons Makes so much more sense…

Today I was reading an article about the perils of blogging about the workplace. This is something I have always avoided. I think it’s ok to say something like, “Man, this guy was a real jerk to me in the cafeteria, I wonder what problems he was facing to feel that way.” It’s not ok to say, “Man, my boss is such an [insert favorite insult]” because that will just cause problems. Don’t think that he/she might not read it. Although I garner a few thousand hits to my website a month, I know that I have a pretty small audience compared to the more famous bloggers and I figured my blog to be relatively obscure. My wife’s neighbor googled me and found all sorts of stuff on my website that we presented as proof that he had researched me. (This is not as weird as it sounds, she grew up with him as a neighbor and he protects her as a niece or maybe even a daughter – and he’s a great guy) So, your boss might end up on your site too. Keep your comments as generic as possible and try not to mention your company by name and you’ll probably be ok. But I’m way off on a tangent from my purpose for writing this post.

The article, like all articles in a newspaper, is copyrighted. This means that the authors can legally impose prices upon those who wish to use the articles. The folly of copyrighting news in today’s technological world comes to light if you click on the “reuse or republish this article” button. This brought up a Java site that looked like:

I want to use this article in [box with list of choices]

Price: $$

[Click for Quote button]

For fun I decided to click on the list of choices to see what was available. There were standard entries such as: use this in a book, use in a CD-ROM, use in a newsletter,etc Then there were two that caught my eye: use this on a website, use this in an email.

To purchase the rights to publish the article on a website costs $100! This is completely unenforceable unless the person republishing has a famous website. If no one can ever find your website, they can never ask for the money. But this wasn’t the craziest part of this whole thing. To send the article via email costs $1. Does that make any sense? There is a button right next to the article that says, “email this article to friends.” This costs $0. But if you are “republishing” it you have to pay $1? However, things get even more absurd when you realize what happens with email. Let’s say I pay the dollar to email the article to you. There is no way for them to collect a fee from you if you turn around and email it to the entire world. The primary reason for this being the fact that anyone can go out there and get a free email address without even revealing their real identity. I certainly did that in the early 90s in order to have multiple email addresses.

The author would be better served by a Creative Commons license. With such a license he could have a attrib-deriv-no commercial license and would accomplish the same thing. This would mean that anyone could copy the article given that they gave him credit as the author and did not make any money off of it. After all, I don’t care if you copy every word of my blog as long as you clarify that *I* wrote it, not you, and you don’t make any money off of it. After all, these are my thoughts and if anyone is going to make money it should be me (or you and I), so I think it’s only fair. That way information is distributed and authors make money if others are going to make money. After all, do you really think that anyone who uses it in a newsletter or email is really going to pay you? No, so why make them criminals?


Just wanted to remind people that the comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks on this site are moderated to help prevent comment spamming. Your comments probably won’t be posted for a few hours after they are made, so there is no need to double-post.

tumultuous times ahead

As we switch the server over to Fiber Optic lines (providing faster experience for you), you may experience some periods of downtime on the server. I hope to have things resolved by the end of the week.

What will we do now?

Those of you who have been reading since I was blogging on Tripod will recall (or be able to go back and read) my post in which I wondered why the terrorists, if their true aim was terror, were not attacking us randomly in all manner of locations. You can only do the big attacks so many times before security gets too tight around the important targets. For example, for a long time after the 11 September attacks in the US, the Statue of Liberty was closed. Washington DC is also now off limits for any pilots who have not obtained prior clearance. Anyway, these types of attacks barely terrorize me. They happen in certain high visibility areas that most Americans have no contact with. If it weren’t for visiting my wife’s family, for example, I’d never be in the New York City area. Therefore, I wondered why they didn’t just attack mass transit and other public areas which are impossible to protect.

It was so obvious that it was only a matter of time before it would actually happen. Israel-style terrorism has arrived in London. It remains to be seen if the two attacks of July 2005 are the last of the attacks or just a foreshadowing of times to come. So far we have been blessed not to have one of these types of attacks in the US. I think there would be colossal circumstances from a series of subway and bus explosions in the Us.

I don’t want it to seem as if I was wishing the terrorists would resort to this type of violence. I wish they would just stop with all the violence and put their anger towards something more useful like delevoping a viable economic model for their country. I just seemed shocked a the fact that what was commonplace in Isreal hadn’t become commonplace in the US. But what do we do now?

It is orders of magnitude easier to keep terrorists from crashing planes than it is to keep them from public place destruction. A plane is a controlled environment. Passengers may be screened prior to entry since it takes a long time to load up a plane and as long as the cockpit is secure, it’s relatively hard for a terrorist to do much. They can cause a plane to simply explode in the sky or fall randomly, but it won’t really have the same impact as a directed attack. Also, if they don’t leave some kind of evidence around, people are liable to believe that it was just an accident. How do we keep a terrorist out of a park?

As far as I can currently fathom, there really are only two possible outcomes if terrorist bombing of public places becomes as common as in Israel. Outcome one is to become a police state. We go all out Orwellian and track where everyone goes and what they do when they get there. Everyone must carry around an ID with technology which is near-impossible to fake. A police officer can force someone to leave, even if they are just innocently feeding the pigeons. Video cameras are everywhere and crime goes to near zero. In reality there is only one chink in this armor; unfortunately, it’s a big one. The problem is that in such a state there is no check on corruption. Once the State can see whatever any citizen is doing it can silence oposition. Since they control the evidence (all the video cameras) they can choose whether or not to present the evidence. “The camera at this location was broken at the time.” Our current society (in the US) is founded upon the ability to call things into question. It is not unAmerican to question what our government does – it is VERY American. It’s the reason our founding fathers implemented a system of checks and balances.

This doesn’t mean we should overthrow the government or oppose everything they do as a vast conspiracy. Remember, a pendulum in any direction but center contains too much energy. In other words everything in moderation. We don’t want to blindly go along with everything the governemtn says. But we want to hold it accountable. The government is there for US! (that’s you and I, not the United States) Remember the whole concept of the social contract…Locke…Voltaire, etc We give up some rights to the government in exchange for protection from those who would do us harm. I’ll allow Uncle Sam to take money out of my paycheck so that he can pay for Policement to protect my right to private property, for example.

However, when we have a police state, we have given up too many of our rights and gained little in return. While we will be safe from regular crimes such as petty theft (who would rob you if they were sure they’d be caught on camera) we would have problems with corruption. For example, when video evidence is taken to be infallible, what happens when someone takes some video editing software can produces a video of someone else committing a crime in an attempt to blackmail them?

The second possible outcome of these attacks is for the US and other industrialized nations to simply ignore the terrorist attacks. We just take them as a fact of life and continue to live our lives as if nothing is going on. Israel is a good example here. If they were to become paralyzed at every terrorist attack, they wouldn’t be able to function as a country. The attacks now only affect the families of the deceased, but the rest of the country just goes on with its business. This will be hard for us to do because Americans like to take things personally. We grew up on Westerns and Dirty Harry movies. The bad guy’s supposed to get it in the end, not keep attacking while the sheriff goes on with his normal business. What would happen if Dirty Harry would just continue on with whatever he was doing instead of attacking the bad guys? It really does go against everything our country stands for. For another example, we only got into World War One after some Americans were killed on the Lusitania and World War Two after Pearl Harbor.

I’m also curious as to whether there’s any way to end the “war on terror”. Whether we took the 1984 route or the Isreali route, would we ever be able to get back to life as normal? Could we ever capture enough people or restrict enough immigration? If we stopped interfereing in Israel, would the bombings really stop? As far as I know, the answer to all of these questions is “no”. If the terrorists really do believe that God wants them to kill us, is there any way to stop them? Can anything deter someone from doing what God wants them to do? I mean, it’s GOD so what country could possibly put up enough barriers to keep them from acting out on behalf of God?

Looking at the US and racism, I’d have to say that it would take a long time for these people to stop hating the US. It’s been around 40 years since the Civil Rights movement ended and there still isn’t complete equality and lack of racism in the US. They are still teaching that the US is evil in these countries. First we need to get them to stop, but even then it will take around two or so generations before the hating ends.

Whatever the answer is, we need to think about it now. If we don’t start thinking about what direction our policies will take, we’ll have to make decisions in the wake of another attack. Hastily made decisions rarely yield anything productive.

Racial Profiling and the Brazilian “Terrorist”

First the Racial Profiling:

I mentioned the issue of racial profiling a couple of days ago. Today while eating lunch I was watching Fox News (not because I wanted to, but because we couldn’t change the channel) and again some simpleton was calling for racial profiling. The particular show on at this time (around 1p EST) had a live audience, something I’ve never seen on the news. It seemed more like an episode of Oprah than the news. I guess people are right when they say that the news is more about entertainment than telling the story. Walter Cronkite must be so dissapointed. Every time the fellow being interviewed called for racial profiling the mostly-white audience cheered. Unfortunately, the man put on the show to oppose the racial profiling issue was a bumbling fool who spent more time spinning the issue than answering questions. However, when he said that, “all black people are not alike,” the audience actually booed him. What in the world is that? I think all those people needed to locked in that studio and given some lessons in racism.

Last time I spoke of the racial profiling issue I gave a bit of a sophmoric response, “let me hear a non-white call for it and I’ll shut up.” Let me add something a bit more refined to this argument. Have the Americans forgotten the Oklahoma City bombings? Originally they were sure it had to be some Arabs, but no, it was a white American. See! Americans can be terrorists too! Or is that word reserved for use by xenophobes to describe the Middle East? What about the Unibomber? He was another American-bred terrorist. Would looking for Arabs find him? No! Let’s face it, racial profiling will only work so much and will end up causing a lot of innocent people to be detained or worse.

Speaking of being killed over terrorism, I was reading a BBC article on the blog responses to the death of that young Brazilian man on the subway and came across some interesting blogs. Mark Maynard mostly summarized yesterday’s news, but also wrote about the thoughts we have all been going over in our heads. How can we solve the paradox of keeping ourselves safe from future attacks and also protect the rights of others? As Mark mentions,

everyone, the deceased included, just made a number of bad choices… He chose to wear the bulky jacket on a warm day, and to run from the cops. And, wanting to avert another bombing, they chose to shoot him five times in the head once the caught him, instead of interrogating him.

and really that is the real problem. There will always be someone who, in a sad Shakesperian tragedy-sort-of-way, will be wearing the wrong clothes or coming from the wrong place. That’s why I think we should not take such rash action as killing suspected terrorists. Unless you know for sure the person is a terrorist, you will always chance killing innocents.

Mayor of London introduced two very important points. First of all, as I wrote here, the news media were originally reporting this as the police having caught someone associated with the previous week’s bombings. I remember, but forgot to post, that the media made a pretty big deal of this. However, in the news coverage I’ve seen recently there haven’t been many mentions of the fact that they messed up. I would have thought this was an awesome story for the media. Don’t they love to catch governments fouling up? What is going on here?

But this isn’t really even the most important part of MOL’s post. The real clincher is:

The worrying bit of his report is the claim that the suspect was allowed to get onto a Bus !

Why was he not challenged before he got onto a Bus , if they thought he was a suicide bomber ?

I never realized this until he pointed it out. If this guy was SUCH a terrorist that the police had to shoot him five times in the head, why did they let him get on a bus? It’s not as though the bombers have only been blowing up the tube, they blew up a bus too! This is the strangest part in my opinion. Ok, if I were a cop and the guy was running when I told him to stop then I might shoot him. But I had always assumed he went from his house to the subway where he was shot. Letting him get on the bus is a very bad move for the police. They should have shot him before he got on the bus – if they were going to shoot him.

We’ll see what tomorror brings in this realm of news.

I called it….

Remember that guy they shot in the London Subway. I said, “he’d better be a terrorist or they’re going to have a problem on their hands.” Guess what? He’s NOT a terrorist. I clicked on the reader response link and saw that the guy’s visa was most likely expired and that they were checking visas at subway stations. Additionally, the police were NOT wearing police uniforms so he had no reason to believe that they were cops. Apparently there have been some problems with people pretending to be cops and robbing and murdering people.

From a related BBC News Story:

‘Met Police chief Sir Ian Blair has apologised to the family of the Brazilian man shot dead by police in south London on Friday.
He said the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was a “tragedy”, but admitted more people could be shot as police hunt suspected suicide bombers.’

Stay tuned to see what develops. (BBC story below)

Police shot Brazilian eight times

Mr Menezes had been in London for more than three years
The man mistaken for a suicide bomber by police was shot eight times, an inquest into his death has heard.
Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder, at Stockwell Tube station, south London, on Friday.

Det Insp Elizabeth Baker revealed the details at a hearing in London.

Security sources have said Mr Menezes had been in the UK on an out-of-date student visa, but his family deny this and are considering suing the police.

Mr Menezes’ cousin, Alex Pereira, who is based in London, said the police would “kill thousands of people” if they were not held accountable for what had happened at Stockwell.

He said: “They just kill the first person they see, that’s what they did. They killed my cousin, they could kill anyone.”

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will investigate the shooting.

Nick Hardwick, head of the IPCC, said the commission needs to find out the truth of what happened “to ensure it can never happen again”.

He said that “if people haven’t acted in accordance with the law and their training” they would be held accountable.

Tony Blair said he was “desperately sorry” an innocent man had lost his life.

Suspects named

Meanwhile, detectives are still hunting for the men who attempted to blow up three London Tube trains and a bus last Thursday.

A total of five people have been arrested in connection with the attempted bombings and the police have named two suspects.

Muktar Said-Ibrahim, also known as Muktar Mohammed-Said, is suspected of attempting to bomb the Number 26 bus heading towards Hackney, in east London.

Yasin Hassan Omar, 24, is wanted in connection with an attempting bombing on the Victoria line between Oxford Circus and Warren Street stations.

There is also speculation about a fifth bomber, following the discovery of a backpack containing a device in a west London park on Saturday.

Under surveillance

The prime minister said it was right for Britain to express its “sorrow and deep sympathy” to Mr Menezes’ family.

But he said the police must be supported in doing their job.

He added that they would have been criticised had the suspect turned out to be a terrorist and they had failed to take action.

Mr Menezes’ cousin says the police “must pay”

London Mayor Ken Livingstone described Mr Menezes as a “victim of the terrorist attacks”.

He said: “Consider the choice that faced police officers at Stockwell last Friday – and be glad you did not have to take it.”

On Friday morning, Mr Menezes had left his flat in Tulse Hill and boarded a bus towards Stockwell Tube station to go to work.

He had been followed by police, who had his block of flats under surveillance in the hunt for the group behind Thursday’s attempted bombings.

When he was challenged by police in the Tube station, he fled, reportedly leaping the ticket barrier.

If you are going to have a war on terror, you have got to use brains to fight it not just brute force

Maria do Socorro

Over the past year there have been an increased number of immigration checks at Tube stations – a policy widely reported in Brazilian papers in London.

Police chased him on to a Tube train where he was shot dead.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death.

Cancer treatment

In Brazil, relatives are demanding answers to why Mr Menezes ran and why he was shot by police.

Cousin Maria do Socorro, speaking before details about the visa emerged, said she thought the police had acted “like amateurs”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you are going to have a war on terror, you have got to use brains to fight it not just brute force.”

Friends of Mr Menezes in London said he had recently returned to Brazil for eight months to be with his father, who was being treated for cancer.

Fausto Soares, 26, said Mr Menezes had been sending money to pay for the treatment and was concerned how the family would now cope financially.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the type of visa Mr Menezes had been given would normally be valid for one-and-a-half to two years.

He said Mr Menezes had not renewed the visa, adding: “That wouldn’t explain why he was shot, but it might provide an explanation as to why he ran away if – that is indeed what he did do.”

Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

This is an amusing essay I found online, written in the mid-seventies. The humor is a little crude at some points, but I think it’s not too nasty in any one location. So join Larry as he explores whether Superman could ever have sex with a human.

Man of Steel,
Woman of Kleenex
By Larry Niven*


Things of the form (*text*) are footnotes in the original text.

He’s faster than a speeding bullet. He’s more powerful than a locomotive. He’s able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. Why can’t he get a girl?

Above: Larry Niven and fellow Larryniven-l List-member Carol Phillips. Click the photo for more pics!

At the ripe old age of thirty-one (*Superman first appeared in Action Comics, June 1938*), Kal-El (alias Superman, alias Clark Kent) is still unmarried. Almost certainly he is still a virgin. This is a serious matter. The species itself is in danger!

An unwed Superman is a mobile Superman. Thus it has been alleged that those who chronicle the Man of Steel’s adventures are responsible for his condition. But the cartoonists are not to blame.

Nor is Superman handicapped by psychological problems.

Granted that the poor oaf is not entirely sane. How could he be? He is an orphan, a refugee, and an alien. His homeland no longer exists in any form, save for gigatons upon gigatons of dangerous, prettily colored rocks.

As a child and young adult, Kal-El must have been hard put to find an adequate father-figure. What human could control his antisocial behavior? What human would dare try to punish him? His actual, highly social behavior during this period indicates an inhuman self-restraint.

What wonder if Superman drifted gradually into schizophrenia? Torn between his human and kryptonian identities, he chose to be both, keeping his split personalities rigidly separate. A psychotic desperation is evident in his defense of his “secret identity.”

But Superman’s sex problems are strictly physiological, and quite real.

The purpose of this article is to point out some medical drawbacks to being a kryptonian among human beings, and to suggest possible solutions. The kryptonian humanoid must not be allowed to go the way of the pterodactyl and the passenger pigeon.


What turns on a kryptonian?

Superman is an alien, an extraterrestrial. His humanoid frame is doubtless the result of parallel evolution, as the marsupials of Australia resemble their mammalian counterparts. A specific niche in the ecology calls for a certain shape, a certain size, certain capabilities, certain eating habits.

Be not deceived by appearances. Superman is no relative to homo sapiens.

What arouses Kal-El’s mating urge? Did kryptonian women carry some subtle mating cue at appropriate times of the year? Whatever it is, Lois Lane probably didn’t have it. We may speculate that she smells wrong, less like a kryptonian woman than like a terrestrial monkey. A mating between Superman and Lois Lane would feel like sodomy-and would be, of course, by church and common law.


Assume a mating between Superman and a human woman designated LL for convenience.

Either Superman has gone completely schizo and believes himself to be Clark Kent; or he knows what he’s doing, but no longer gives a damn. Thirty-one years is a long time. For Superman it has been even longer. He has X-ray vision; he knows just what he’s missing. (*One should not think of Superman as a Peeping Tom. A biological ability must be used. As a child Superman may never have known that things had surfaces, until he learned to suppress his X-ray vision. If millions of people tend shamelessly to wear clothing with no lead in the weave, that is hardly Superman’s fault.*)

The problem is this. Electroencephalograms taken of men and women during sexual intercourse show that orgasm resembles “a kind of pleasurable epileptic attack.” One loses control over one’s muscles.

Superman has been known to leave his fingerprints in steel and in hardened concrete, accidentally. What would he to to the woman in his arms during what amounts to an epileptic fit?


Consider the driving urge between a man and a woman, the monomaniacal urge to achieve greater and greater penetration. Remember also that we are dealing with kryptonian muscles.

Superman would literally crush LL’s body in his arms, while simultaneously ripping her open from crotch to sternum, gutting her like a trout.


Lastly, he’d blow off the top of her head.

Ejaculation of semen is entirely involuntary in the human male, and in all other forms of terrestrial life. It would be unreasonable to assume otherwise for a kryptonian. But with kryptonian muscles behind it, Kal-El’s semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine gun bullet. (*One can imagine that the Kent home in Smallville was riddled with holes during Superboy’s puberty. And why did Lana Lang never notice that?*)

In view of the foregoing, normal sex is impossible between LL and Superman.

Artificial insemination may give us better results.


First we must collect the semen. The globules will emerge at transsonic speeds. Superman must first ejaculate, then fly frantically after the stuff to catch it in a test tube. We assume that he is on the Moon, both for privacy and to prevent the semen from exploding into vapor on hitting the air at such speeds.

He can catch the semen, of course, before it evaporates in vacuum. He’s faster than a speeding bullet.

But can he keep it?

All known forms of kryptonian life have superpowers. The same must hold true of living kryptonian sperm. We may reasonably assume that kryptonian sperm are vulnerable only to starvation and to green kryptonite; that they can travel with equal ease through water, air, vacuum, glass, brick, boiling steel, solid steel, liquid helium, or the core of a star; and that they are capable of translight velocities.

What kind of a test tube will hold such beasties?

Kryptonian sperm and their unusual powers will give us further trouble. For the moment we will assume (because we must) that they tend to stay in the seminal fluid, which tends to stay in a simple glass tube. Thus Superman and LL can perform artificial insemination.

At least there will be another generation of kryptonians.

Or will there?


A ripened but unfertilized egg leaves LL’s ovary, begins its voyage down her Fallopian tube.

Some time later, tens of millions of sperm, released from a test tube, begin their own voyage up LL’s Fallopian tube.

The magic moment approaches…

Can human breed with kryptonian? Do we even use the same genetic code? On the face of it, LL could more easily breed with an ear of corn than with Kal-El. But coincidence does happen. If the genes match…

One sperm arrives before the others. It penetrates the egg, forms a lump on it’s surface, the cell wall now thickens to prevent other sperm From entering. Within the now-fertilized egg, changes take place…

And ten million kryptonian sperm arrive slightly late.

Were they human sperm, they would be out of luck. But these tiny blind things are more powerful than a locomotive. A thickened cell wall won’t stop them. They will *all* enter the egg, obliterating it entirely in an orgy of microscopic gang rape. So much for artificial insemination.

But LL’s problems are just beginning.


Within her body there are still tens of millions of frustrated kryptonian sperm. The single egg is now too diffuse to be a target. The sperm scatter.

They scatter without regard to what is in their path. They leave curved channels, microscopically small. Presently all will have found their way to the open air.

That leaves LL with several million microscopic perforations all leading deep into her abdomen. Most of the channels will intersect one or more loops of intestine.

Peritonitis is inevitable. LL becomes desperately ill.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of sperm swarm in the air over Metropolis.


This is more serious than it looks.

Consider: these sperm are virtually indestructible. Within days or weeks they will die for lack of nourishment. Meanwhile they cannot be affected by heat, cold, vacuum, toxins, or anything short of green kryptonite. (*And other forms of kryptonite. For instance, there are chunks of red kryptonite that make giants of kryptonians. Imagine ten million earthworm size spermatozoa swarming over a Metropolis beach, diving to fertilize the beach balls… but I digress.*) There they are, minuscule but dangerous; for each has supernormal powers.

Metropolis is shaken by tiny sonic booms. Wormholes, charred by meteoric heat, sprout magically in all kinds of things: plate glass, masonry, antique ceramics, electric mixers, wood, household pets, and citizens. Some of the sperm will crack lightspeed. The Metropolis night comes alive with a network of narrow, eerie blue lines of Cherenkov radiation.

And women whom Superman has never met find themselves in a delicate condition.

Consider: LL won’t get pregnant because there were too many of the blind mindless beasts. But whenever one sperm approaches an unfertilized human egg in its panic flight, it will attack.

How close is close enough? A few centimeters? Are sperm attracted by chemical cues? It seems likely. Metropolis had a population of millions; and kryptonian sperm could travel a long and crooked path, billions of miles, before it gives up and dies.

Several thousand blessed events seem not unlikely. (*If the pubescent Superboy plays with himself, we have the same problem over Smallville.*)

Several thousand lawsuits would follow. Not that Superman can’t afford to pay. There’s a trick where you squeeze a lump of coal into its allotropic diamond form…


The above analysis gives us part of the answer. In our experiment in artificial insemination, we must use a single sperm. This presents no difficulty. Superman may use his microscopic vision and a pair of tiny tweezers to pluck a sperm from the swarm.


In its eagerness the single sperm may crash through LL’s abdomen at transsonic speeds, wreaking havoc. Is there any way to slow it down?

There is. We can expose it to gold kryptonite.

Gold kryptonite, we remember, robs a kryptonian of all of his supernormal powers, permanently. Were we to expose Superman himself to gold kryptonite, we would solve all his sex problems, but he would be Clark Kent forever. We may regard this solution as somewhat drastic.

But we can expose the test tube of seminal fluid to gold kryptonite, then use standard techniques for artificial insemination.

By any of these methods we can get LL pregnant, without killing her. Are we out of the woods yet?


Though exposed to gold kryptonite, the sperm still carries kryptonian genes. If these are recessive, then LL carries a developing human foetus. There will be no more Supermen; but at least we need not worry about the mother’s health.

But if some or all of the kryptonian genes are dominant…

Can the infant use his X-ray vision before birth? After all, with such a power he can probably see through his own closed eyelids. That would leave LL sterile. If the kid starts using heat vision, things get even worse.

But when he starts to kick, it’s all over. He will kick his way out into open air, killing himself and his mother.


Is there a solution?

There are several. Each has drawbacks.

We can make LL wear a kryptonite (*For our purposes, all forms of kryptonite are available in unlimited quantities. It has been estimated, form the startling tonnage of kryptonite fallen to Earth since the explosion of Krypton, that the planet must have outweighed our entire solar system. Doubtless the “planet” Krypton was a cooling black dwarf star, one of a binary pair, the other member being a red giant.*) belt around her waist. But too little kryptonite may allow the child to damage her, while too much may damage or kill the child. Intermediate amounts may do both! And there is no safe way to experiment.

A better solution is to find a host-mother.

We have not yet considered the existence of a Supergirl. (*She can’t mate with Superman because she’s his first cousin. And only a cad would suggest differently.*) She could carry the child without harm. But Supergirl has a secret identity, and her secret identity is no more married than Supergirl herself. If she turned up pregnant, she would probably be thrown out of school.

A better solution may be to implant the growing foetus in Superman himself. There are places in a man’s abdomen where a foetus could draw adequate nourishment, growing as a parasite, and where it would not cause undue harm to surrounding organs. Presumably Clark Kent can take a leave of absence more easily than Supergirl’s schoolgirl alter ego.

When the time comes, the child would be removed by Caesarian section. It would have to be removed early, but there would be no problem with incubators as long as it was fed. I leave the problem of cutting through Superman’s invulnerable skin as an exercise for the alert reader.

The mind boggles at the image of a pregnant Superman cruising the skies of Metropolis. Batman would refuse to be seen with him’ strange new jokes would circulate the prisons…and the race of Krypton would be safe at last.


Reprinted from All the Myriad Ways © 1971 by Larry Niven.