This agency really needs to have their funding cut by 80% - they did great work when they were first formed but they have become an entrenched bureaucracy looking for more power to grab from We the People.

From The Washington Times:

Obama admin asserts dominion over creeks, streams, wetlands, ditches — even big puddles
President Obama’s administration on Wednesday claimed dominion over all of America’s streams, creeks, rills, ditches, brooks, rivulets, burns, tributaries, criks, wetlands — perhaps even puddles — in a sweeping move to assert unilateral federal authority.

The Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, says it has the authority to control all waterways within the United States — and will exercise that authority.

“We’re finalizing a clean water rule to protect the streams and the wetlands that one in three Americans rely on for drinking water. And we’re doing that without creating any new permitting requirements and maintaining all previous exemptions and exclusions,” EPA head Gina McCarthy told reporters Wednesday.

Want to fill in a soft spot in your pasture to grow some crops? No!
Have a creek that once flooded and is now filled with gravel runoff - want to excavate back to the nominal creek bed? No!
Own water rights to a creek and want to build a new water system? No!

These should be well beyond the scope of the EPA - these are more suited to the County and State regulatory boards - they know the land in question. The Tenth Amendment comes to mind again:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

If it is not specifically enumerated in the constitution, it belongs to the states or We the People.

Yes, you could defeat this on a case by case series of lawsuits but the EPA has free lawyers on tap and the average citizen would have to spend $300K to litigate up to a higher court. Who has that kind of money just to fill in a soft spot in their pasture.

Life in NYC - an update

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De Blasio is doing what a Progressive does when his leadership is failing - playing the blame-game. It is not him, it is those pesky gangs that are causing the problems. Gangs that were there when De Blasio took office.

From the New York CBS affiliate:

Mayor De Blasio Blames Gang-On-Gang Violence For Recent Crime Spike
The number of shootings and murders is up in the city, but Mayor Bill de Blasio says gang-on-gang crime is to blame for the recent upswing.

Although the number of murders is on the rise, de Blasio said the situation is better than it has been in recent years, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports.

“We are down compared to last year to date, we’re down from the year before that,” de Blasio said. “Where we’re at this year compared to last year, and previous years, we are still at one of the lowest murder rates we have ever had in the history of the city.”

Play the blame game and cherry pick some numbers. Typical...

From ABC News:

Pentagon Inadvertently Shipped Live Anthrax to Labs in Nine States
Samples of live anthrax were inadvertently shipped to private research laboratories in nine states and one in South Korea that were supposed to have received dead anthrax samples, the Pentagon confirmed today.

There is no known risk to the general public and there have been no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection as a result of the inadvertent shipment, officials said.

"The Department of Defense is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their investigation of the inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis, also known as anthrax, from a DoD lab in Dugway, Utah, to labs in nine states,” said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

They use the killed bacteria to verify their ability to test for Anthrax. This is a major error on someone's part - live diseases are stored differently and in different facilities from their killed counterparts.

Life in New York City

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Why do people keep electing these fools - from the New York Post:

You’re 45% more likely to be murdered in de Blasio’s Manhattan
Murders are way up so far this year in Manhattan, The Post has learned.

Sixteen people were killed around the borough between the first of the year and Sunday. Over the same period last year, the figure was 11. That’s an increase of about 45 percent.

Shootings in the borough have also soared.

There have been 50 “shooting incidents’’ since Jan. 1, compared with 31 in the same time period in 2014 — an increase of about 38 percent. Some of these “incidents’’ involved more than one victim.

The number of shooting victims nearly doubled, from 33 to 61.

The guy cannot manage the city - he got elected because enough people thought his narrative was a good one but he is in over his head.

In a parallel universe

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If computers had never been invented, I would probably have been a locksmith. I am changing the locks on some vacation rentals - key security was not good so starting over.

Fun work - meditative, it either works correctly or it does not. When a key is not available, getting the lock open can be interesting - these people have some great toys for sale.

First strawberries of the season

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We took a walk through the garden a few minutes ago and the first strawberries are ripe. No comparison to store-bought - talk about flavor-bomb...

Rest of the garden is coming along nicely - lettuce should be harvestable in another week.

A brilliant hack - Dragonfly

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Instead of going for larger and larger telescope mirrors, how about taking some off-the-shelf telephoto lenses and combing them into an array.

From the University of Toronto:

Dragonfly
Dragonfly is an innovative, multi-lens array designed for ultra-low surface brightness astronomy at visible wavelengths. Commissioned in 2013 with only three lenses, the array is growing in size and proving capable of detecting extremely faint, complex structure around galaxies.

According to Cold Dark Matter (CDM) cosmology, structure in the Universe grows from the “bottom up”, with small galaxies merging to form larger ones. Evidence of such mergers can be seen in faint streams and filaments visible around the Milky Way Galaxy and the nearby M31 galaxy.

But the CDM model predicts that we should see more of this structure than is currently observed. However, images obtained using even the largest, most advanced telescopes today contain scattered light that may be hiding this faint structure.

Dragonfly is designed to reveal the faint structure by greatly reducing scattered light and internal reflections within its optics. It achieves this using ten, commercially available Canon 400mm lenses with unprecedented nano-fabricated coatings with sub-wavelength structure on optical glasses.

Also, Dragonfly images a galaxy through multiple lenses simultaneously—akin to a dragonfly’s compound eye—enabling further removal of unwanted light. The result is an image in which extremely faint galaxy structure is visible.

The array began imaging targets in 2013 from its home at the New Mexico Skies hosting facility. Images have shown Dragonfly is at least ten times more efficient than its nearest rival and will be able to detect faint structures predicted by current merger models.

Here is a photo in its current configuration:

20150527-df01.jpg

 

There is a nice paper describing the hardware, software and performance of the scope here: Ultra Low Surface Brightness Imaging with the Dragonfly Telephoto Array

Very clever hack as all the hardware and software costs about $135K - much less than an equivalent quality scope of the same capabilities.

Their paper currency is now worth less than toilet paper.

From Reason:

Venezuelan Bolivar Now Worth More as Toilet Paper Than as Money
Back in February, when the Venezuelan government introduced its official and complicated three-tier exchange rate, 190 bolivars bought you one U.S. dollar on the black market—which is where real people without government connections shop for hard currency in Caracas. Now, just a few months later, the bolivar is worth about half that much. This is a brilliant testimony to the innovative power of the government's socialist policies: faced with a crushing shortage of toilet paper, the Bolivarian regime has converted its own currency into butt-wipe.

Bloomberg notes:

The stunning collapse of Venezuela's bolivar in black market trading this month -- it fell to as low as 423 bolivars per dollar from 279 at the start of the month -- has left Venezuelans scratching their heads,  with many wondering why it has sunk below the value of gold and hard currency the central bank has to back it.

And the end result:

Actual buying and selling of goods and services in Venezuela now requires dollars.

Now tell me again how all the woes of the world can be cured by big central government and top-down planning...

Self-driving car FAIL

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Autonomous cars still have a long way to go:

Hat tip to the UK Independent:

Self-parking Volvo ploughs into journalists after owner neglects to pay for extra feature that stops cars crashing into people
A video showing a car attempting to park but actually plowing into journalists might have resulted from the Volvo’s owner not paying an extra fee to have the car avoid pedestrians.

The video, taken in the Dominican Republic, shows a Volvo XC60 reversing itself, waiting, and then driving back into pedestrians at speed. The horrifying pictures went viral and were presumed to have resulted from a malfunction with the car — but the car might not have had the ability to recognize a human at all.

The accident may have happened because owners have to pay for a special feature known as “pedestrian detection functionality”, which costs extra. The cars do have auto-braking features as standard, but only for avoiding other cars — if they are to avoid crashing into pedestrians, too, then owners must pay extra.

Seriously WTF???  To not run over humans is an optional upgrade? Expect major back-pedaling from Volvo in 3... 2... 1...

I used to own one - an older 740 turbo station wagon and loved driving it but the scheduled maintenance costs were way too high. It was a fun ride but not worth the couple grand each year for basic oil change and scheduled parts changes.

Loving my Ford Truck - dead simple and great engineering.

This is shaping up to be a long hot summer - from the Z Man:

Charm City
George Soros spent $33 million trying to incinerate Ferguson Missouri, but the little city is still there. The problem is that he bet on a weak horse. While Ferguson is a vibrant example of post-racial America in the era of Obama, it lacks the sort richness and diversity of other cities. Try as they might, the locals just can’t take down a city, even a small one.

Soros should have invested more heavily in Baltimore where the locals really know how to put on a show. Since the police have went on an unofficial strike after the Freddy-Poo Gray incident, the locals have been celebrating diversity with a vengeance. This long weekend has seen 26 shootings and and 9 murders. Granted, it is a three day weekend, but it has been unseasonably mild of late so the murdering season is late starting.

What no one wants to say, but everyone knows is that the cops are now in their cop houses filling out paperwork and doing as little as possible. They see no reason to risk prison for a city government that would rather arrest cops than criminals. The gangsters know it is open season so they are doing what they do and that means taking over the streets, without fear of the cops.

Fundamentally, this is the problem with race relations in microcosm. Blacks did best when whites were completely intolerant of black culture. The talented tenth took the lead in keeping order in the black community, but quietly welcomed help from white society. It was not ideal, but black crime rates, literacy rates, illegitimacy rates and addiction rates were their best in the years before the Civil Rights movement.

Once those constraints were removed, all of the worst instincts of black America were unleashed, mostly on other blacks. That’s what’s happening in Baltimore right now. The cops were doing a good job keeping the problem contained to the ghettos. They were having some success policing the ghettos, lowering crime rates over the last decade. Now, the cage door has been swung open and all hell is breaking loose.

The progressives are trying to overwhelm the system so they can say it doesn't work and install a Utopian workers paradise of their own (coughMarxismcough). Immigration, racial tensions, lowering the standards for public education (Common Core) and limiting access to alternatives (Charter Schools). These are tactics right out of the 1848 manifesto of the ten planks.

Obama has done nothing to calm people - he is intent on stirring the pot and this summer is going to be a bad one. I lived through the riots in the 1960's and I think this is going to be worse.

Call me an old fart as much as you want but I will be happy to spend this summer in the country, playing with my guns and running my small store away from Progressive-run 'big' America. The sooner we get some adults in the room the better...

Picture is worth 1K words:

20150526-sqr.png

Swiped from Rude Science

But I have three manuals as well - my college Olivetti and my Mom and Dad's old machines (Underwoods both)

From the London Daily Mail: (this link is from last year but just finding it now - even more relevant)

Typewriter sales boom in Germany as thousands go back to basics in bid to avoid U.S. spies in wake of NSA allegations
Typewriter sales are booming in Germany as government departments, businesses and people go back-to-the-future to thwart spying by American spooks.

Old tech is trumping the new in the wake of the NSA spying scandals which saw Chancellor Merkel's phone hacked on numerous occasions by Washington and culminated in the expulsion of the CIA spy chief from Berlin earlier this month.

The head of the parliamentary inquiry into spying by the US National Security Service in Germany said his committee is considering using typewriters. But many have already made the switch.

Or you can get an old machine, install Linux and just stay off the internet.

I have been buying the Selectrics at auctions - a lot of times the office equipment from a dead business will go for $50 or less. The furniture (desks, conference tables, etc...) is still valuable but the 'old' typewriters are considered one step above junk. A lot of times I have to fill out forms or multi-part documents - a typewriter is the only way to go.

Rumblings from China

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If one of their reactors melts down would it be an America Syndrome? From the UK Guardian:

China warned over 'insane' plans for new nuclear power plants
China’s plans for a rapid expansion of nuclear power plants are “insane” because the country is not investing enough in safety controls, a leading Chinese scientist has warned.

Proposals to build plants inland, as China ends a moratorium on new generators imposed after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, are particularly risky, the physicist He Zuoxiu said, because if there was an accident it could contaminate rivers that hundreds of millions of people rely on for water and taint groundwater supplies to vast swathes of important farmlands.

China halted the approval of new reactors in 2011 in order to review its safety standards, but gave the go-ahead in March for two units, part of an attempt to surpass Japan’s nuclear-generating capacity by 2020 and become the world’s biggest user of nuclear power a decade later.

A bit more:

He, who worked on China’s nuclear weapons programme, said the planned rollout was going too fast to ensure it had the safety and monitoring expertise needed to avert an accident.

“There are currently two voices on nuclear energy in China. One prioritises safety while the other prioritises development,” He told the Guardian in an interview at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

He spoke of risks including “corruption, poor management abilities and decision-making capabilities”. He said: “They want to build 58 (gigawatts of nuclear generating capacity) by 2020 and eventually 120 to 200. This is insane.”

Reminds me of the old Engineering statement: Fast, cheap, high quality. Pick two.

Unfortunately, it seems China is going for the first two.

From Associated Press:

APNewsBreak: IRS says thieves stole tax info from 100,000
Thieves used an online service provided by the IRS to gain access to information from more than 100,000 taxpayers, the agency said Tuesday.

The information included tax returns and other tax information on file with the IRS.

The IRS said the thieves accessed a system called "Get Transcript." In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address.

"We're confident that these are not amateurs," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Koskinen said the agency was alerted to the thieves when technicians noticed an increase in the number of taxpayers seeking transcripts.

The IRS said they targeted the system from February to mid-May. The service has been temporarily shut down.

Three and a half months that the system had consistently higher volumes and nobody bothered to check the traffic? If this was a commercial IT group, someone would be fired for incompetence.

Wonder if they found any of Lois Lerner's emails...

Was in town shopping for the store and saw a big plume of black smoke right near where I was heading next. Flipped the radio to a local news station and heard about this.

From station KGMI:

Dump truck tumbles from I-5 onto Bellingham street, catches fire
A dump truck smashed through barriers on Southbound I-5, fell down to the street below near the corner of Iowa and Lincoln and burst into flames today.

KGMI’s Karen Taylor talked to Sergeant Shane Rogers of State Patrol.

Here’s what we know:

Cause was a mechanical issue/failure of one of the front steering wheel columns.
It should have come up in an annual inspection.

The dump truck should never have been on the roadway.

It was carrying a load of gravel/dirt, spilled onto embankment.

Fluids and oils from truck had to be contained by booms to keep it from going down the storm water drains.

Dump truck being inspected before it’s towed away, information will be sent to federal inspectors, who will determine if the dump truck company will face any fines or penalties.
It is NOT the driver’s fault, there is nothing he could have done to prevent it or see it ahead of time.

He is surprisingly unhurt, jumped out as the dump truck was on fire.

There are a bunch of photos on the KGMI site including this one:

20150526-truck01.jpg

Food coma - chicken barley soup

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Got this recipe nailed.

Boiled a couple chicken breasts in water (with bay leaves, a little bit of tarragon***, some Better than Bouillon Chicken base and lots of black pepper) to make a broth. Removed bay leaves and chix breasts and let everything cool. Washed and pre-soaked the pearled barley. This prep time was about 45 minutes including thawing out the chicken breasts (hot tap water).

Went and did something else for three hours (cleaned out the garage, hung out with the critters and worked on the music room project).

Skimmed the crud off the broth and shredded the chicken, added a chopped onion, a big teaspoon of Marmite (pure Umami bomb - here and here), chopped celery, two cans of diced 'maters, the chicken and the barley.

Got this up to a low simmer and went and did email and some surfing for an hour. Come back, adjust and dinner was ready.

The new apples are starting to come in so did a Waldorf salad with Honeycrisp, Pecans and Crasins with a bit of lemon juice and mayo.

Mmmmmm - Food coma...

*** Tarragon - I do mean a very little bit. I made a gallon of soup today and used about a half teaspoon. If you can taste the soup and think: "Hmmm - Tarragon" you used too much. A little bit adds a lot of flavor without being overpowering. It balances the Umami very nicely.

Ted Turner - moron

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The guy was able to amass quite the fortune but his brain has gone soft in the last couple of decades. He is buying into something that is against the interests of any thinking man or woman in the world.

The United Nations is a group of corrupt kleptocrats whose only desire is to build their own power-base. It seems that Turner (and Reuters) is helping them along by subsidizing the indoctrination of future generations of media reporters.

From FOX News:

Foundations plan to pay news media to cover radical UN agenda
The United Nations Foundation created by billionaire Ted Turner, along with a branch of media giant Thomson Reuters, is starting to train a squadron of journalists and subsidize media content in 33 countries—including the U.S. and Britain--in a planned $6 million effort to popularize the bulky and sweeping U.N.-sponsored Sustainable Development Goals, prior to a global U.N. summit this September. where U.N. organizers hope they will be endorsed by world leaders.

The unprecedented media push is formally intended to start on May 25 but is already underway. It is intended to help breathe some new life into a sprawling U.N. effort--supported by, among others, the Obama administration--to create a global social and environmental agenda for the next 15 years.

It is taking place in parallel with an equally strong but unrelated media cheerleading push by supporters of strong climate change action to help set in stone a new global greenhouse gas emissions treaty at a Paris summit in December.

Much more at the article - they cannot control us but they can control what we see and hear. The idea that any problem can be fixed by a bigger and more centralized government is insane. It has never ever worked. Want to fix poverty in Africa? Get rid of the foreign aid that enables and props up the corrupt regimes. Zimbabwe used to be the agricultural powerhouse of Africa exporting crops to the other nations. Now it has to import wheat and corn.

How to be a filmmaker in 32 steps

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Great video:

First, from the UK Telegraph:

HSBC fears world recession with no lifeboats left
The world economy is disturbingly close to stall speed. The United Nations has cut its global growth forecast for this year to 2.8pc, the latest of the multinational bodies to retreat.

We are not yet in the danger zone but this pace is only slightly above the 2.5pc rate that used to be regarded as a recession for the international system as a whole.

It leaves a thin safety buffer against any economic shock - most potently if China abandons its crawling dollar peg and resorts to 'beggar-thy-neighbour' policies, transmitting a further deflationary shock across the global economy.

And the meat of the story:

Stephen King from HSBC warns that the global authorities have alarmingly few tools to combat the next crunch, given that interest rates are already zero across most of the developed world, debts levels are at or near record highs, and there is little scope for fiscal stimulus.

"The world economy is sailing across the ocean without any lifeboats to use in case of emergency," he said.

And second - also from the UK Telegraph:

The world is drowning in debt, warns Goldman Sachs
The world is sinking under too much debt and an ageing global population means countries' debt piles are in danger of growing out of control, the European chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management has warned.

Andrew Wilson, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said growing debt piles around the world posed one of the biggest threats to the global economy.

"There is too much debt and this represents a risk to economies. Consequently, there is a clear need to generate growth to work that debt off but, as demographics change, new ways of thinking at a policy level are required to do this," he said.

Geee Mister Wizard, how about cutting taxes and letting the economy roar to life. Hasn't anyone ever heard of the Laffer Curve? Hasn't anyone learned that redistribution of wealth simply does not work? 

A day of rest

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Slept in after all of yesterday's excitement. Lulu is feeling under the weather so she is upstairs dozing. Making some chicken barley soup for dinner tonight and working on a couple of projects in the house.

Minimal posting this afternoon. Shopping run tomorrow.

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