Conceived above a saloon, delivered into this world by a masked man identified by his heavily sedated mother as Captain Video, raised by a kindly West Virginian woman, a mild-mannered former reporter with modest delusions of grandeur and no tolerance of idiots and the intellectually dishonest.

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Saturday, April 12, 2003

Is that a cell phone in your pocket or can't you get a date? and Wired.


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Scanning through my email, I saw a message with the header "Test Your IQ."

I deleted it without opening it.

Guess I passed.

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Thursday, April 10, 2003

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, we hardly knew ye.

You had to love this guy, the Iraqi Minister of Information. As American tanks, sporting fluttering American flags and American marines yelling "Hi, American Moms!" rumbled by in the background, ol' Mo pointed his Yogi Berra-ish puss straight at the camera and intoned, "Their infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad. Be assured, Baghdad is safe, protected."

Reminiscent of The Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail ("'Tis a flesh wound."), Mo was the only bright spot in the otherwise ponderous 24/7 war coverage. And now he's gone.

But not forgotten.

Relive those golden days of yesteryear at, a site dedicated to the greatest Minister of Information Iraq ever had.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Hong Kong Dept. of Tourism and Gaffes


Even worse, it's real. (Thanks to Dave McNeill)

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Sunday, April 06, 2003

Homeland Stupidity

The mysterious itinerary that caused Gayle Gould heart-pounding concern over President Bush's safety arrived unexpectedly in her mail last week.

Someone had stolen her credit card number and charged airline tickets to her MasterCard.

The traveler booked a seat aboard US Airways Flight 722, which left Atlanta at 6:40 p.m. Sunday, March 23, and arrived in Philadelphia two hours later.

A return trip to Atlanta was booked a week later for March 31, departing Philadelphia at 8 a.m.

At the bottom of the itinerary was the traveler's name: Far D. Nasir.

"I don't know anyone with that name," said Gould, a Pennsbury High teacher who lives in Lower Makefield. "It's a Middle Eastern name. That's what concerned me."

Some will say it's bigoted to draw sinister conclusions from a Middle Eastern name on a pair of illegally purchased airline tickets.

But let's be grownups about the post-Sept. 11, sleeper-cell world in which we live.

It's a fact that Middle Eastern terrorists engage in credit card fraud to fund their activities.

And the nation is at Code Orange which, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, means we face a "high risk of terrorist attacks."

"My worst-case suspicion? That [Nasir] is a terrorist who had come to Philadelphia to do harm. Maybe a suicide bomber," Gould said.

But when Gayle Gould tried to alert the authorities, they weren't interested.

She called US Airways, who told her a boarding agent had, in fact, questioned Nasir about the discrepancy between his name and the one on the credit card.

Nasir told US Airways that Gould is his mother. He was allowed to board.

"I was furious that they did this," Gould said. "I had his name, his return flight number, even his seat number. But they could not pull him off the flight."

Now, maybe Nasir is just a small-time crook who scammed his way into a free flight. Maybe it's not even a real name.

But if you're a terrorist of the jihad variety who scouts or stalks big targets, Philadelphia was the place to be last week.

President Bush and Tom Ridge, the director of Homeland Security, were due for a visit.

The local press was awash in the controversy over terror-proofing Independence Hall, a juicy symbolic target mere feet from newly reopened Chestnut Street.

Gould called the FBI's Philadelphia office. An agent said her information amounted to credit card fraud, which they don't handle.

The agent referred her to the U.S. Secret Service.

A Secret Service agent told Gould the agency handles credit card fraud, but only if it's a substantial loss, say $50,000 or more. Since her loss was $454, they'd pass.

She called the Pennsylvania State Police terrorist tip line. It was busy.

She called the Philadelphia International Airport police. She was told they would act only if the information came from a police source.

So, she called the Lower Makefield police.

"They couldn't believe, with the information I had, that no one wanted to listen to me," she said.

She spent last Friday and the weekend trying to get someone to listen to her.

She e-mailed the White House, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the General Services Administration, all the Philadelphia TV stations.

She received two responses.

A man from the Pennsylvania homeland security office called late Saturday night to say he could do nothing with her information until 9 a.m. Monday- an hour after Nasir was due to depart Philadelphia- because the agency's employees work "banker's hours."

A GSA employee named Jim Zawada sent Gould an e-mail sympathizing with her, but said the issue was not under GSA's jurisdiction.

She called the Philadelphia police again, who gave her two phone numbers, one for the FBI, which was disconnected, and the other for the airport cops, who again said they couldn't do anything.

"All my husband and I wanted was for this guy to be pulled from the flight and questioned," she said.

Gould called US Airways again and asked if she could cancel the return flight ticket, since it was billed to her credit card.

The airline said she could.

She waited until 5 a.m. last Monday- three hours before Nasir was due to depart from the city- and canceled the ticket.

"I figured it would at least inconvenience him and delay him long enough so that if the police or anyone wanted to question him, they could," she said.

I made a few phone calls this week, too.

US Airways had no comment on the Nasir case. The FBI had no comment, either. A U.S. Secret Service agent told me Gould's information was dismissed because "it's so raw"- but then huffily took her home phone number from me and had another agent interview her Wednesday night.

I called the Philadelphia airport police. An officer checked reports for last Monday. No Far D. Nasir was stopped, questioned or arrested for credit card fraud.

Funny. We've all heard those stories of airport security screeners around the country indiscriminately yanking little old ladies from line to rudely search them for weapons.

But a mystery man with a Middle Eastern name travelling illegally in the United States to a city where the president is set to visit during wartime gets a pass.

I wish the people paid to protect us from terrorism would take this stuff as seriously as Gayle Gould does.

But I'll bet Far D. Nasir, wherever he is, is quite happy they don't.

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So there.  
The e-mail address is now something other than saga. used to be until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up and adopting created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the domain name in 1993, and had since that time used as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that was no longer but rather which is longer than and more letters to type than and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than but actually just as functional as I sent e-mails from the address to just about everybody I knew who had used in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that no longer is the they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...


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I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

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