The Dennis Montgomery affair

Hmm. Seems some software developer claimed he had software that could reveal secret messages in Al Jazeera broadcasts, among other things. The CIA and Air Force bought the software for over $20 million.

And of course it all turned out to be a fraud. The CIA figured that out back in 2003.

And of course, ever since then, the government has trying to hush it all up under a national-security blanket. Nothing at all to do with trying to cover their sorry asses, oh no. It's all about the national security, baby.

Gosh, I feel so much safer, don't you?

Penn & Teller

Had a wonderful time tonight. Penn & Teller were at UF and it was a lot of fun. The cute young half-Japanese woman sitting next to me was laughing uncontrollably and that made everything more fun, too. Especially when someone asked them about Desert Bus.

Then on my way out I saw another cute young woman wearing a Dr. Who shirt and we started talking about the show. That was nice, except she said that she'd heard a whole lot of episodes had been lost, gone forever. She didn't know the details. I've just looked it up and it's true; over 100 early episodes are gone, wiped for budgetary reasons. Tragic.

Mayor Freddy

Sharon, Wisconsin is a village of about 1,500 people. It looks like one of those nice small towns where everyone is friendly and America seems the way it did before we all lost our illusions about it.

And the mayor is a cat.

I want to live there.

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I have before me a package of Thomas' Hearty Grains English Muffins. Emblazoned across the top of this package are the words:

"Hearty Nooks...Tasty Crannies"

Uh, yeah. Guys? Those nooks and crannies you're referring to? Those are the holes on top of the muffin that the butter or jam goes into. There's nothing there. Well...there's air. I don't know about you, but I've never thought of air as being either hearty or tasty.

Gotta love those marketroids...

The Last Call of the Day

(Author's note: This story is based on Season 3, Episode 7 of The West Wing, "The Indians in the Lobby". No copyright infringment is intended.)

*     *     *

Debbie hung up, hit the hold button, and stretched. Around her, the other team members were all on calls. Thanksgiving. Toughest time of the year. Which is why you can't slack for long. One more and you're done for the day. Come on girl, you're a pro, you can do it!

Okay, I'm ready. She took the phone off hold and, as always this time of year, it rang immediately.

"Hello, welcome to the Butterball Hotline."

Silence. Probably put me on speakerphone and went to do something else, she thought, glancing at the call info, they've been on hold for...44 minutes?! Damn! I hope they're in a good mood.


Debbie smiled brightly. "How can I help you, sir?"

"Well, first let me say, I think this is a wonderful service you provide."

Thank God, he wasn't mad. "Well, thank you. May I have your name, please?"

"I'm a citizen."

Weird answer, but after three years she'd heard it all. "I'm sure you are, sir, but if I have your name I can put your comments in our customer feedback form."

"I'm Joe Bethersonton. That's one 'T' and with an 'H' in there."

She typed it in, taking her best shot at the spelling. "And your address?"

As the call progressed, Debbie got an uneasy feeling. She would swear she'd heard this man's voice somewhere before. Never heard his name, though, she'd remember an odd one like that. "Thank you. Your voice sounds very familiar to me."

"I do radio commercials for...products."

"And how can I help you?"

The call continued, with some more weird bits. Mr. Bethersonton seemed a little...odd. A very smart man, clearly, but...odd. Actually, in the three years she'd been doing this job, she had to say this was definitely the oddest call she'd ever had. And his voice was still nagging her. Where had she heard him before? Not in an ad. He sounds so familiar...

"Very good, sir. You have a good Thanksgiving!"

"And you do, too. Thanks a lot!" Click. And that was that. She hung up and stretched again. A few of the other girls were getting their things together. 5:02. Done for the day. Now for home and some quality time with Chris and the kids. Half day tomorrow. She hated having to come into work on Thanksgiving, but hey, it's the Butterball Hotline, what do you expect?

She started to log out of the computer, then stopped. He didn't sound like a Midwesterner. He sounded like a New Englander. She knew all the regional accents by now, taking calls from all over the country. And he took so long, giving me his street address. Was he making it up? Why would he?

Debbie hesitated, staring at the call log for the last call, then clicked the button for the caller ID info. Huh. She was right. He wasn't from North Dakota. That was 701. This was 202, DC. 202-456-1414.

She wasn't supposed to surf the web at work, but she was off the clock now. She brought up the browser, clicked on search, typed it in.

And felt faint. Oh. My. God. His voice...that was... She stared at the screen in disbelief, her hand at her mouth.

"Thank you, ma'am. You have a good Thanksgiving!" Donna, at the next console, hung up and shook herself, loosening up, then glanced over. "Hey Debs. What's going on? You look like something weird just happened."

Debbie looked at her. No way. I can't tell her...she'd never believe it... She closed the browser. "Oh, nothing. Just a guy who was a little weird. Heard it all before, you know?" She smiled and shrugged.

"Yeah, know what you mean. Well, see you tomorrow."

"See you."

Alternative medicine conference hoists self

Some readers (do I have more than one left?) may recall the 1996 Sokal Hoax, in which a physicist submitted a patently ridiculous paper to a postmodernist literary journal and had it accepted, thereby demonstrating the journal's lack of objective standards and rationality.

Now it has been done to so-called "alternative medicine." John McLachlan, a professor of medical education in the UK, submitted an abstract for a nonsensical and absurd procedure to the Jerusalem Conference on Integrative Medicine. He was subsequently invited to present his findings at the conference.

The author rightly points out that this is one instance and one conference. But there is already plenty of evidence that practitioners of "alternative medicine" are open to any old nonsense that sounds vaguely plausible, and don't demand objective evidence of claims. Would-be patients beware!

Paper: Integrative medicine and the point of credulity