From George Washington’s camp at Valley Forge

The following is a letter recently found at Valley Forge:

October 29

Dear Tuesday Night –

Tonight we have made camp here at Valley Forge. Scenic enough, but I am concerned. General Washington has said this is a temporary camp. I think otherwise.

I ate something that was called steak this evening. Steak of what is a better question. General Washington’s horse hasn’t been seen recently. He doesn’t seem the man to eat his own horse, but more the kind to serve it to his men.

There is a large shopping complex here. It is enormous. It even has a Brooks Brothers.

I am cold. But thankfully, I have no tentmate.

I don’t expect this assignment to be very hard, just annoying. But then again, that is a great deal of warfare… doing annoying things, waiting, and then breaking your back to make it to the next day.

Until tomorrow,

Okay, so they didn’t really find that letter here at Valley Forge. But I am here. Actually, I’m in King of Prussia next to the mall. Joy! I’m here on an emergency trip. I have been cleared to enter a highly restricted installation. Joy!

So I get to spend Halloween with spooks near a shopping mall. (Spooks being the affectionate name for people who work in the intelligence arena.) This ought to be fun.

Shrinky Dinks

They’re back. Yes, it’s true. I just saw an ad for Shrinky Dinks.
There have been two major innovations in shrinky dink technology:
downloadable templates and a shrinky dink crucible. Yes, it seems that
Shrinky Dinks ( have found the web. It also
appears that Shrinky Dinks are shipping with a Skippy-esque Eaz-e-Bake
Oven, some specialize space heater that cooks the shrinky dinks. (If
there is a porn censor on your office’s email system, there’s a good
chance that this is going to get flagged. Just for good measure:
shrinky dinks, shrinky dinks, shrinky dinks.)

Now I always thought that Shrink Dinks were just slightly less toxis
than a gas cloud of Bhopal, but I could be wrong…

In other news, Ken made this dessert recently,,6255,15186,00.html . It totally rocks
and is totally brainless to make. I suggest you scrap that diet for
these chocolate lava muffins.

Cooking tips and paranoid ponderings

First, the cooking tips. Well, actually, just a tip, singular. Do not deglaze a pan in which something has been cooking with whole pepper corns.

Joe and I were cooking dinner on saturday. (Lamb top round… yummy.) Joe was dealing with the sauce (Bordellos) which used red wine to deglaze the pan where the lamb was searing. The lamb had whole pepper corns on it. Lamb is out of the pan. Wine is poured into the pan to deglaze… and then we come under fire. Literally, the pepper corns exploded.

Remember when you were a kid a had a bonfire on the beach? Remember burning that cool seaweed, you know, the kind with the little poppers that pop when you burn them. Take that popper popping noise, make it louder, and then pack a bit of explosives in the seaweed and then you begin to approximate what was going on in the kitchen of Hotel Glazer. These little buggers pack quite a punch. To the point that they spread wine all over the kitchen, and I do mean all over. The wall where my phone is, looks like someone was shot. The ceiling (which is 10 feet from the floor and a good 6 feet from the overn) was not spared. The cabinets were not spared. But amazingly, Joe and I walked away spot free.

I happen to discover, during the cleanup phase, that most of the walls in my house are painted with flat paint, which doesn’t repel red wine stains well.

Second, the paranoid ponderings. There are two pieces of technology on our horizon that are a bit scary. And if they are merged, they are terrifying.

Location information. Your cellphone reports your location to the 911 switch board when you call. Well, it is supposed to, according to the FCC. Phase one, the cellphone reports what cell it is from. Phase two, more exact location info… think GPS.

In Europe, location information is just beginning to be tapped in major way. Imagine getting an SMS from a friend when they look at their phone and discover you are around the corner. Think, AIM in the real world… people aren’t online, they are near-by.

A more important application, besides chat, is commerce. Imagine that all your shopping preferences, your cookies from all your browsers, walked around with you. Now when you walk near a Gap, you get a digital ad for 50% the boxers you really like. You walk in, beam a little data to the cash register, and out you walk with a new pair (why are they always called a pair, even when there is one of them) boxers having just made a micropayment which will show up on your phone bill.

There are two major reasons why location information won’t be a major issue for a while. First, because of the telcos backwater technology and competing implementations, ubiquitous location data won?t be readily available for a while. Second, there are people in the government making sure that our privacy is protected… thank you Dean.

The second hunk of technology is nothing new. It’s a database. It’s a huge database that stores demographic info about each of us. It is Larry Ellison’s suggested National ID database, used to issue National ID Cards.

Your identity in a nice neat row in a database. Your family is linked to you. Your friends are linked to you. This information is extremely valuable.

Scared yet… you ought to be.

Now I know that databases like this exist already. For example, I just refinanced my mortgage. I was at my banker’s office today. He got a new credit report on me in thirty seconds. Thirty seconds to gather some rather interesting info about me. On a Sunday no less.

Will this become a major issue in the future. Maybe, but I definitely bet that Larry and Oracle won’t be building the database. Oh, what a relief, a private company won’t be in charge of this data… it will be the government, and we trust the government… right?!

Let’s merge these two little gremlins together. What do we get? My phone, with all my shopping habits, buddy lists, and such is enabled by a National ID. Now my identity and my location start to merge. Identity theft happens all the time… but now the threat is more real that ever. But let’s add a new twist, theft of location. I fool the telco networks into thinking I am someone who I am not and somewhere where I am not.

I think I will stick to leaving the phone at home, turned off, encased in a lead box.

The One Pound Diet

Even with my high distrust of organized religion and my disgust at people who practice a religion but cannot explain to you what the religion is about, I still look forward to Yom Kippur. I like fasting. I need atoning, and lots of it. I think that publicly admitting your wrongs is a good thing. “We lie, we cheat, we steal…”

However, there are some concerns to Yom Kippur. Hunger and hunger management are primary. From sundown to sundown, you can’t eat or drink. (I believe the deep sniffing is allowed but that only works against you.) So what’s a person to do? 24 hours, no grub. Add to this that you have to eat before sunset of the first night and then get to services, where you stand and stand and stand. (That actually might be the biggest difference between Jews and Catholics. Jews stand; Catholics kneel.) You end up eating at 5 or so… when you are not hungry.

I have the solution. It needs a little tuning but the basic idea is sound. Simply, you eat one pound of something the first night. I ate about a pound of pasta. It also helps if you eat it really quickly to hoodwink your stomach. A stomach will realize if you try to force feed it. You have about a seven minute window in which you can eat as much as a whale and after that the stomach catches on to what you are doing and makes you stop eating. But in those precious seven minutes, you must eat a pound of something.

The next day… no food. No nothing. It’s best not to do anything other than dwell on the screwy things you did the year before and pledging to do better the next year. Face it, fasting goes hand in hand with atoning.

And then, after services on the second night… that’s right, you eat a pound of something else. I ate a pound of pepperoni, black olive, and mushroom pizza. (Nothing like starting out a whole new year in which to sin by breaking the Kosher rules and eating pork at home. But then again, I didn’t use a plate, which was the loophole my dad and I leveraged back home.) Then, after consuming a pound of pizza, I immediately, went to bed. That is the part of the diet that needs a bit of tuning.

Moral of the story: If you need to go without food for 24 hours, be sure to eat a pound of something before and after you fast.