One man’s tragic tale documenting the horrors of WWII concentration camp life from the inside

We all know there are terrible tales of military heroism that we don’t get to hear until far, far later. One recent example of this that has come out is the tale of Anthony Acevedo, military medic assigned to a satellite camp of Buchenwald with others in his tropp because they looked like Jews. Because of how the military handles many sensitive incidents, particularly during war, this is a story that was never intended to be known to the general public.

Acevedo’s story is one that was never supposed to be told. “We had to sign an affidavit … [saying] we never went through what we went through. We weren’t supposed to say a word,” he says.

The U.S. Army Center of Military History provided CNN a copy of the document signed by soldiers at the camp before they were sent back home. “You must be particularly on your guard with persons representing the press,” it says. “You must give no account of your experience in books, newspapers, periodicals, or in broadcasts or in lectures.”

I am not here to question silencing those who have suffered through such events. I have worked in a classified environment, and I fully understand and respect the need to initially treat sensitive matters as classified. The military says the reason for secrecy is to protect escape and evasion techniques and the names of personnel who helped POW escapees, and I have absolutely no reason to question that. I do, however, think there is a need for an office responsible for reviewing
these cases after the fact. This is a story that is well worth knowing, and the events Mr. Acevedo describes seem to have no impact on the need to protect that the military says is the case. Certainly, 60 years after the war, I would can’t imagine why he needs to be kept under confidentiality agreement. Understand I’m not saying I know that it is fine for him to talk – I just can’t come up with a reason based on what I’ve read and learned that would support keeping confidentiality in effect.

That said, see some more below the break about Mr. Avecedo’s experience, and learn a little about how his agreement hurt him in the shortterm.

Continue reading “One man’s tragic tale documenting the horrors of WWII concentration camp life from the inside”

ExtremeTech: Technologies we wish had caught on

Recently, I was reading an article at ExtremeTech discussing technologies the site editors wish had caught on. For the most part, I can see why the article creators wish the technologies had caught on, but I confess that I am mostly indifferent to or mildly in disagreement with the items they listed. One mention, however, I felt I could respond to since I long ago mentioned it here on the Blahg. I wanted to remark on the text made in the article in regards to the Microsoft Zune. Rather than start with what I agree with, I’ll pop the negative portion of my rather long comment out first, just below the break, so we can end on the happy, let’s all hug agreement section at the close.

Continue reading “ExtremeTech: Technologies we wish had caught on”

The Kudos Society – My take on the Open Source community

I am working on a set of posts in which I want to talk about Open Source products. Given how long just my introduction to these has grown, I will probably move them over to separate pages on the Blahg. To begin, I am writing a bit on why I am such a fan of Open Source, what tools I use and what tools I recommend for others, and why I try to participate in parts of the Open Source movement. The overall community of Open Source developers, users, and other contributors is something I call “The Kudos Society,” which may deserve at least a small bit of explanation as well.

All that said, what follows below the break is some of my personal history in joining this movement, which hopefully sheds some light on why I care so much about the status and health of Open Source overall.

Continue reading “The Kudos Society – My take on the Open Source community”

Global Warming and the World Wide Pirate Shortage

It seems that piracy is returning to favor in parts of the world. We hear more stories about pirates taking massive tankers and cargo ships in certain parts of the world, and the ransom demands for the return of these ships is growing ever greater. After decades of global warming, there is talk that we are now heading for another ice age.

It has plagued scientists and politicians for decades, but scientists now say global warming is not the problem.

We are actually heading for the next Ice Age, they claim.

British and Canadian experts warned the big freeze could bury the east of Britain in 6,000ft of ice.

There can be little doubt, given the inverse relationship between global warming and worldwide number of pirates (read beginning just above the graph half-way down the article) that these events, the increase in piracy and the return to an ice age, are related. This is simply the environmental impact of a poor world economy, I suspect. As it gets harder for people to earn a few dollars by working, they’ll look to earn a few hundred million dollars from stealing massive tankers. That’s just forward-thinking economics, really.

In response to the multiple looming crises, several world governments have taken to combating piracy. For example, an Indian warship has recently sunk a pirate “mother ship” to fight piracy.

An Indian naval vessel sank a suspected pirate “mother ship” Wednesday in the Gulf of Aden and chased two attack boats into the night, officials said, as separate bands of brigands seized Thai and Iranian ships in the lawless seas.

A multinational naval force has increased patrols in the region, and scored a rare success Tuesday when the Indian warship, operating off the coast of Oman, stopped a ship similar to a pirate vessel described in numerous bulletins. The Indian navy said the pirates fired on the INS Tabar after the officers asked to search it.

If the global temperature goes up next week, you’ll know why. Besides, the Indian government is apparently forgetting the trickle-down effect that the $100 million ransom will have on the global economy is the Somali pirates get the money they are asking for. I’m betting it could show up as early as next month in your pay check. If you get a little pay bump or a Christman bonus, remember to thank a Somali pirate.

[tags]Piracy, FSM, Pastafarian, Global economy, Climate change, Global warming, Global ice age, Trickle down economics[/tags]

New thoughts on brain disorder

I have a powerful fascination with all things brain and intellect.  When I was younger, I had a hang-up with the flawed concept of IQ.  Later, when I hoped to become a psychiatrist, I did dvolunteer work in an out-patient mental-health facility.   More recently, I’ve been reading a lot on autism, schizophrenia, and other brain development challenges.  Basically – I like learning more about what goes on within the brain.  Of course, given how limited my access to research is, and how little I’ve read on the subject, my knowledge is pretty damned limited.  Still, when I find an article like this NY Times story on new thinking about mental disorders, I have to check it out.

The theory emerged in part from thinking about events other than mutations that can change gene behavior. And it suggests entirely new avenues of research, which, even if they prove the theory to be flawed, are likely to provide new insights into the biology of mental disease.

. . .

Their idea is, in broad outline, straightforward. Dr. Crespi and Dr. Badcock propose that an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways.

In short, it sounds like when one parent’s genes overpower the other sufficiently, it can affect brain development.  Which parent’s genes exert a greater influence will change how the brain develops.

A strong bias toward the father pushes a developing brain along the autistic spectrum, toward a fascination with objects, patterns, mechanical systems, at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood, their own and others’.

Ah Ha!!!  Psychotic!  And that’s their word, not mine.  I’m sure many men, at this point, would be nodding their head and saying “Of course that pushes the brain towards psychotic.”  Except, of course, most of us man can’t really focus long enough to get this far in the story.  🙂

Better said by NY Times:

In short: autism and schizophrenia represent opposite ends of a spectrum that includes most, if not all, psychiatric and developmental brain disorders. The theory has no use for psychiatry’s many separate categories for disorders, and it would give genetic findings an entirely new dimension.

But before putting too much stock in this theory, realize it has early critics.  And it has early problems worth working through before giving too much confidence in the end concept.

“The reality, and I think both of the authors would agree, is that many of the details of their theory are going to be wrong; and it is, at this point, just a theory,” said Dr. Matthew Belmonte, a neuroscientist at Cornell University. “But the idea is plausible. And it gives researchers a great opportunity for hypothesis generation, which I think can shake up the field in good ways.”

The full story at the NY Times delves deeper in to the thinking behind the theory, how the authors game up with the idea, and why it might or might not develop into something useful.  I just wish I knew enough to make better sense of it and have more of value in commenting on it.

[tags]Brain development, Brian disorder, Psychotic, Autism, Schizophrenia[/tags]

Blind pilot – talk me down

You get in your plane.  You take to the skies.  All seems good.  Suddenly – you go blind.  Now, how are you going to get back home alive?  Well, if you are bad-ass Jim O’Neill, you just get someone to talk you down to a safe landing.

A British pilot who was suddenly blinded by a stroke during a solo flight was talked safely down by a military pilot, the Royal Air Force said Friday.

. . .

The air force said in a news release that O’Neill initially believed he’d been “dazzled” by bright sunlight, and made an emergency call for help. He then realized that something more serious was happening, and said, “I want to land, ASAP.”

Because, well, when you suddenly can’t see, the first thought is probably “Yo, tower – having a little trouble seeing.  Can I get assistance?” I guess.

Now I confess, this is no “I’m trapped by this rock.  Guess I’ll cut off my arm.”  But it’s still pretty bad-ass to land with verbal guidance only.  Well, and skill.  Mad, mad skillz.

[tags]Stroke, Blindness, Bad-ass, Royal Air Force[/tags]

Happy Birthday, USMC

November 10th, 1775 – The modern day United States Marine Corp was officially organized as the Continental Marines.

As the first order of business, Samuel Nicholas became Commandant of the newly formed Marines. Tun Tavern’s owner and popular patriot, Robert Mullan, became his first captain and recruiter. They began gathering support and were ready for action by early 1776.

Forming what many consider the toughest part of the US military, the Marines, as an organized group, turns 233 today.  Happy Birthday, USMC.  Thanks for all you do for this country.

In honor of the birthday, here is the text of Marine Corps order No. 47, series 1921, as put forth by Lt. Gen. John Archer Lejeune:

No. 47 (Series 1921)
Washington, November 1, 1921

759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the
10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it
will be read upon receipt.

   (1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by  a resolution of Continental
Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them it is
fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the
glories of its long and illustrious history.

   (2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous
military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the
Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the
Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home,
generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every
corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

   (3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves
with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come
to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

   (4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received
from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit
which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of
the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal
to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will
regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of
the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

Major General Commandant

[tags]USMC, Marines, Happy Birthday, Continental Marines[/tags]

Spitzer and the high-priced hooker

The message here, kids, is that if you pay enough for a hooker, you can walk away scot free when caught.  Particularly, if you are, say, the mayor of New York and you spend thousands of dollars per booty call, you can get away with your marriage intact (good or bad depends on your view of your marriage) and no penalty beyond having to resign your position.

The decision not to press charges against former Gov. Eliot Spitzer for his involvement with a high-priced prostitution ring last year came as no surprise yesterday to several former prosecutors and defense lawyers, many of whom said that the case, while full of lurid and suggestive details, would have been hard to prosecute.

. . .

In laying out his decision not to prosecute Mr. Spitzer, Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said he had three main rationales: Mr. Spitzer had apparently not used any public money or campaign funds for his trysts; there was insufficient evidence that he had broken the law in how he had structured payments to the call-girl ring; and, finally, it was not the policy of his or other federal prosecutors’ offices to charge the customers in matters of prostitution.

Hard to prosecute.  Not policy to charge customers.  Remember that when you get caught in Nevada after paying $15 for a blow-job.  If you are a nobody and buy a cheap whore, you will get busted.  If you are a big-name politico, you get to apologize in public, say you are sorry, then wait for the whole thing to go away.

[tags]Eliot Spitzer, Hookers without penalty, High priced hookers, Scot Free[/tags]

Mathematics: A visual exploration

While checking out the latest news on some of the geeky things that interest me, I found a link to this visual walk through of mathematics. The most interesting facet of the Dimensions Math page to me, and what made me think I needed to post about it, is that the 2 hour video that is the visual walkthrough of math was created entirely with the raytracing program POV-Ray. The entire video is available for free online, can be purchased on DVD, and is licensed for distribution under a Creative Commons license.

A film for a wide audience!

Nine chapters, two hours of maths, that take you gradually up to the fourth dimension.
Mathematical vertigo guaranteed! Background information on every
chapter: see “Details“.

Here is the sample video for the visual walk-through:

Watching this, seeing that it was made with POV-Ray, and thinking of the power of legally freely available tools like this makes me feel that I owe my readers a write-up of some of the many free tools and toys I use on my computer at home and for work.

[tags]Dimensions, Mathematics, POV-Ray, Video[/tags]

Too much pr0n? -or- How can you even surf that much pr0n?

According to rule 34, there is a pr0n for everything on the intarw3bs – if you can think it, there is pr0n for it. Given that, it’s probably unsurprising for most people to know that many people surf for pr0n at some point in their intarw3bs-life (note: I have not been able to verify those statistics yet, but believe from previous research that site to be reliable in this aspect irrespective of other doubts I may have over the site content). However, sometimes, just every-once-in-a-while, there enters the web-world an internet-pr0n abuse story that shocks the mind and makes you wonder, well, WTF were they thinking?

A Japanese civil servant was demoted for logging more than 780,000 hits on pornographic Web sites on his office computer over nine months, an official said Friday.

. . .

The man’s supervisors discovered his extensive porn site visits after his computer became infected with a virus, prompting officials to examine his Web browser’s history.

Those viruses are causing all kinds of problems, though, aren’t they? There is, of course, the possibility that the worker did very little of the pr0n surfing, and the virus caused many non-human-driven pr0n-site hits. The linked MSNBC article does not hit on this aspect of the story, so I can’t personally say how much of this might be automated rather than user-created.

I will admit to being surprised by the punishment for this. Most places I’ve worked, very-light pr0n surfing is enough to get one fired, although most typically a warning on high will come down first unless the viewed content involves non-adult subjects or any animals (yes, I’ve worked in a field where I have to know these kinds of things and have had to monitor people doing this stuff). As already noted in the above quote – the worker was demoted for his actions. Additionally:

Along with the demotion, he received a 20,000 yen ($190) monthly pay cut, Waki said.

Yup. Loss of rank, and small paycut. Now in a society like Japan, where appearances of propriety are so highly valued, I realize this is much more of a punishment than the same actions would be here in the States. I’m still surprised by this, though, as it sounds fairly mild compared to what I’ve seen in places where I was one of the net-abuse monitors.

NOTE: All links above are safe for work – I try hard to keep stuff here mostly worksafe, and hide non-worksafe stuff below “Read More” tags or NSFW warnings.

[tags]Pr0n, 780000 pr0n hits, Virus, NSFW, MSNBC, WTF, Stupid[/tags]

Purple Turtle Products – outstanding bookseller

Recently I ordered a copy of the book Virtual LEGO: The Official Guide To LDraw Tools for Windows from the Amazon seller Purple Turtle Products. I buy from Amazon sellers all the time, and normally don’t post anything about them. However, Barbara and Purple Turtle Products were so amazing to deal with when my book arrived and I had a problem that I wanted to publicly compliment her for outstanding support.

My book arrived last week on Monday and all looked good. When I grabbed it to start working some with LDraw and associated tools on Wednesday, I noticed that a chunk of the included CD was crushed into pieces no bigger than half the size of a pencil eraser. I searched online for the contents of the disc, hoping to just download everything I needed and get to work. When I was unable to find the files I needed, I contacted the general support email for Purple Turtle Products about the problem and got a response within 24 hours. Barbara offered to send me a new disc from another copy of the book they had.

Since I know books resell for less without the CDs than they do with the CDs, I told her that I felt bad because, and I stress, this problem was clearly a book binder’s error, and not a problem caused by improper handling or packaging for shipping. The disc was actually partly folded into the spine of the book, and obviously attached to the binding improperly – I’m guessing a temporary alignment glitch with the book-binding machinery. I offered to at least pay shipping, since I knew they couldn’t be making much of a profit from my purchase. Barbara, as you might guess, would have none of that and sent the disc to me at the start of this week. It arrived today, in perfect condition, and I am now able to practice creating virtual LEGO structures using the LDraw drawing tools and render them after conversion to POV-Ray format.

Thanks Barbara – you have been outstanding to buy from, and I will most assuredly be looking for Purple Turtle Products’ offerings when I buy from Amazon in the future.

[tags]Purple Turtle Products, Amazon seller, Support[/tags]

Dead Like Me – the movie

While trying to find out who one of the actresses is on an episode of the television show Dead Like Me that the wifey-person and I watched tonight, I stumbled on the IMDb listing for the Dead Like Me movie. According to the IMDb listing:

After the departure of Rube Sofer, a new head reaper named Cameron Kane takes over. He’s a slick businessman who couldn’t care less about helping the newly dead. Chaos ensues and brings out the worst in Daisy and Mason who begin drinking anew. George and Reggie re-connect for the first time when George reaps a new friend of Reggie’s.

Sadly, it looks like Mandy Patinkin will not be in the movie. I really like him. I have heard from others that he is difficult to work with, and that’s why he doesn’t stay on shows for very long, but I don’t know that to be anything other than rumor.

No word on the actually release date other than this year. Now I have to make sure to see the movie in theaters when it hits.

edit: See the comments for additional information, including reference to the movie delay, a straight to DVD release, and link to an Ellen Muth fansite you should visit.

[tags]Dead Like Me, Ellen Muth, Rube, Reapers[/tags]