May 2005 Archives

The Pint Lock

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Got roomates that filch your ice cream? Ben and Jerry has the Pint Lock for sale for $5.50
This idea came from one of our fans! He wrote us about how he lives in mental turmoil after buying Ben & Jerry's. He was so afraid that his roommates would eat his pint...he couldn't concentrate at work! He suggested we sell our pints in stainless steel, bulletproof containers with a little padlock. While we couldn't actually do THAT, we came up with the Euphori-Lock!

Prickly City

The comic strip Prickly City has been riffing on the Newsweek scandal. Today's is wonderful!
Click for full-size Image

Jar Jar Binks had his uses after all...

Jen and I went to see Episode 3 a week ago and we were commenting on the advances in CG -- I noticed that Yoda had much better hair and skin and facial expressions. Turns out that we have Jar Jar Binks to thank for this... From KTRK-TV in Houston:
Jar Jar to Yoda: I am your father
If you were shocked when Darth Vader revealed he was Luke Skywalker's father, wait 'til you hear this one.

When it comes to technological advances, Jar Jar Binks is, in effect, Yoda's father.

Rob Coleman was in charge of animating both characters. He says he learned so much making Jar Jar realistic, he was able to use what he learned to do the same for Yoda.

Coleman says without Jar Jar, Yoda's light saber battles and emotional expressions in "Revenge of the Sith" would not have been possible.

A downside to biodiesel

Hat tip to Jay Tea at Wizbang for the link to this story from the Boston Globe

Car's alternative fuel said to attract bear
A Winsted man believes the sweet smell of the vegetable oil he uses to fuel his car attracted the bear that damaged the vehicle white trying to get at the biodiesel.

Larry Joy, a 53-year-old electrician, said the bear shattered a window on his 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit, tipped the plastic fuel tank on its side, and gnawed on car hoses about two weeks ago. He said the evidence included muddy paw prints around the broken window and a pool of cooking oil on the rear floorboards.

"I knew what it was after," Joy told The Sunday Republican of Waterbury. "I think it's cool that bears do whatever they want."

Joy uses a combination of diesel and vegetable oil left over from restaurant fry vats to power his car. He says it gets 44 miles per gallon.

The car needs to be started using regular diesel, because vegetable oil is too thick for the engine to handle. When a gauge indicates the engine coolant is at 90 degrees, it is warm enough to thin the biodiesel, and Joy can flip a switch to change fuel tanks.

When the coolant hits about 150 degrees, Joy said, there is a sweet smell.

"My neighbor said it smells like cheeseburgers," he said.

Just wait until the bear goes for desert -- maybe something in your kitchen? We live in a very rural area and taking a short walk in the woods, you can find all kinds of bear scat. There are some very simple precautions to take to prevent them from coming near the house (bird feeder timing and garbage management) so they aren't a problem. This idiot is practically inviting them into his living room and thinking (or not) that "I think it's cool that bears do whatever they want".

Career Limiting Move

Not much of a career but he managed to limit it anyway. A 24-hour gas station operator was working the graveyard shift and started scratching off lottery tickets.

The Minneapolis, MN Star Tribune has the story:

An itch the clerk couldn't stop scratching

Bryan W. Lietz says he doesn't know what came over him.

"It's not me to normally be a thief," the 40-year-old resident of Perham, Minn., said Friday.

But in the wee hours of May 12, as Lietz worked the graveyard shift at the Perham Conoco, he apparently was just that, allegedly scratching off $1,400 worth of lottery tickets without paying for them, according to a criminal complaint.

When he finished, he sat down and penned a letter of apology to his boss.

"I don't know why I bit the hand that fed me or still does," he wrote. "I truly need this job. I don't have a clue why I did this. I don't know really how it happened. But here it is. I did it."

Lietz was charged this week in Otter Tail County with state lottery fraud, a felony offense. He was released on his own recognizance and since has repaid some of what he owes.

He was fired, too.

Wow... $1,400 worth -- even if these were $5 tickets, that is still 280 tickets and if you were scratching them off at a rate of one every 30 seconds, that would be 2.3 hours. He must have been doing them by the fistful!

Power Point

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Nate at Wasted Electrons points to an excellent site for PowerPoint: Jim Placke's PowerPoint Humor page.
Sung to the tune of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
(And with all regrets to Gordon Lightfoot...)

The legend lives on from the Fifth Corps on down,
of the thirty meg PowerPoint briefing.
The software its said never gives up its dead,
when the God of Electrons grows angry.
With officers galore, maybe a hundred or more,
it was said that no one could outbrief them.
The good ACE and crew was a bone to be chewed,
when the God of Electrons came calling.
Lots more at the site including this great quote: "If your words or images are not on point, making them dance in color won't make them relevant." - Edward Tufte Professor Emeritus, Yale University

President Bush and the Palestinians

I was wondering what to make of the visit from Abbas to the White House and President Bush's pledge of $50M to the Palestinian government. Jay Tea at Wizbang has a great thought: The visit and the $50,000,000? It is rope. From Wizbang:
Last week, when President Bush met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and pledged $50 million dollars in aid, a lot of people whom I respect were outraged. There has been absolutely no sign of a true crackdown on terrorism by the Palestinian Authority, and the "cease-fire" the pundits bring up whenever Israel strikes back is a joke. To these folks, what Bush is doing is rewarding the Palestinian intransigence and encouraging more violence against Israel.

I see it a little differently. I have absolutely nothing to back up this theory, but I think it makes sense.
And the Coda:
(I hope) watching to see just how that money gets spent. If it goes towards humanitarian efforts, and truly benefits the Palestinian people, then that would be a good indicator that there is real progress to be made by working with Abbas. But if it goes towards weapons or to line the pockets of the Palestinian kleptocrats that have been stealing from their own people for decades, that, too, will be an indicator about how Mr. Abbas should be treated.

That $50 million is a huge amount of money, but think of it another way: most people won't play a lottery until it gets up to around $100 million -- and at least half of that would go to taxes, anyway. In international circles, it's chump change. It's walking-around money. It's pimp-flash.

But politically, it's a $50,000,000 length of rope. Mr. Abbas could use it as a lifeline, or make a noose and hang himself with it.

I hope that Abbas is sincere in his statements calling for peace, but I'm cynical enough to believe the latter -- especially since a good deal of the Palestinian's income dried up with the fall of Saddam. And once Abbas gives in to his baser nature, we can (at the very least) freeze him out the way we did Arafat. Or we can simply let Israel deal with him however they see fit.
Memo to Mr. Abbas -- the world is a very large stage and there are many players. Wake up and smell the cappuccino! Or as my beloved wife says:
They want a state -- Let's give them one:


Curse Words

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I just love Wikipedia. It started as an idea and has morphed into an excellent resource and one that is a fun sandbox to poke around in. Stumbled into this reference: List of Fictional Curse Words Add to your vocabulary such words as "felgercarb", "shpadoinkle" and who cannot forget the ultimate: "Hab SoSlI' Quch!" (your Mother has a smooth forehead -- Klingon)

Fat Man Walking

Meet Steve Vaught -- very happy, great family but he is fat and was not feeling to good about that. So he decides to get a bit of exercise -- a small walk. From California to NYC. Fat Man Walking is his online journal From the website:

My Name is Steve Vaught, (born Stephen James Liller in Youngstown, Ohio). I am a 39 year old, happily married father of two great kids and I have a pretty good life here in Southern California. You would think that I would be happy because of these things, but I am not. I am not happy because I am fat and being fat makes every day unhappy.

I did not make this website to complain about it however, instead I am doing something about it and this site was made to chronicle my story.

I am going to walk across the United states from San Diego to NYC to lose weight and regain my life!

The rest of the story is that I have not always been fat. I have been many things in my life from a lanky teenager to a muscular Marine and now I am fat. This latest incarnation is without a doubt the worst.

Being fat is physically and emotionally painful. It diminishes the quality of the good things in life and it will ultimately bring about an early demise. So being overweight darkens every good thing that you achieve in your life and even prevents some things from happening at all.

For the last 15 years I have been slowly gaining weight and it seems that whatever I do, it just spirals ever upward. Socially, being fat is hard to deal with because I feel that am looked down upon by people even when they are not doing so maliciously. It may be human nature. You know, "survival of the fittest". Also, I feel as though I am being taken advantage of by companies and people that want fat people to buy their latest "miracle pill" or prepackaged food that will help me lose the weight.

We, as a society, are growing larger and have become a big market for high dollar fast fixes. We are not getting the fix because it is an illusion. Don't get me wrong, if I were given the option I would trade just about anything to be trim and fit again. I have the same excuses, desires and dreams as many others in my position. I know though, that there is no other option but physical exertion to truly get back into shape.

So, after consulting the family and getting their blessing I have made the decision to stop this merry go round and dedicate myself to losing the extra weight. I have an addiction and there needs to be dedication and sacrifice to cure addictions. If I had a drug or alcohol addiction I would go to rehab. Well, what I have in mind is rehab for the fat guy.

I am going to take six months out of my life and walk across the United States from San Diego to NYC. My main purpose in undertaking this journey is losing weight. More importantly though, I need to change the behaviors that have allowed me to be in this situation in the first place. I know that to permanently lose this weight I must learn to be more responsible to myself.
There is a daily log as well as photos -- Kudos to Steve for doing this. This is an awesome odyssey.

Jeepers Peppers

There is a photo of a registered sex offender in Ohio -- a Mr. Brian Peppers. The photo was published on the eSORN website. People started asking if this was Photoshop or what. I checked SNOPES and it's Undetermined. Here is the guy from his high-school yearbook:
Here is his mugshot:
Talk about a face made for radio. SNOPES is suggesting Crouzon's Syndrome. Must be horrible to go through life looking like that but still, it takes a lot to get on the books as an offender so he has some culpability as well.

the French

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A great cartoon from Damian at Pave France:
Damian then says:
France makes its little hop to snatch at the lofty virtues esteemed by nations. But not even the ablest hop combined with the utmost flick of the langue fran�aise can pull down a prize. Alas, power, comity, prosperity, wisdom, and respect, all remain unreachable, ungrabbable, unglaummable. Because unmerited.

But, of course, you know all that.

We mention all this by way of revisiting our earlier item on the French study, Pourquoi Les Francais Sont Les Moins Frequentables De La Planete (scil., Why The French Are The Worst Company On The Planet), which, posted hastily and uncommented, we think deserving of enlargement.

The authors, Messrs. Olivier Clodong and Jose-Manuel Lamarque, present the rare case of truth imitating stereotypes.
Damian has more on his site. Excellent and fun reading. Especially since today is the day the French people vote on whether to ratify the EU constitution which Chirac has been really really promoting. Polls have it split down the middle... Also, I reduced the size and resolution of the cartoon -- visit Pave France for the full version.

Archer Daniels Midland and Ethanol

Very interesting (and well footnoted) report on Archer Daniels Midland, the staggering amount of government funds they receive and their push for Ethanol during the Carter administration. Carter pushed the subsidies for corn growing and for the production of Ethanol despite advice from people who knew the subject. I had written about ADM before here talking about their Sugar subsidies and how these affect other businesses. Back to the report -- here is just a brief excerpt explaining the true cost to the consumer for one gallon of Ethanol:
Perhaps the most honest and thorough analysis of the effect of ethanol on farm income and taxpayers and consumers was done by the USDA's Office of Energy in 1986. That study, which included a lower estimate of the inflationary impact of ethanol production on corn prices, concluded,

Corn prices would increase by $0.02-$0.04 per bushel for each 100 million bushel increase in ethanol-induced demand for corn. However, soybean prices would fall by about $0.04 per bushel and soybean prices would fall by $0.12-$0.15 per hundredweight.

Higher corn prices from additional ethanol- induced demand would increase the cost of producing beef, pork, and poultry. Consumer food expenditures would rise by $8.6 billion, or an average of $2.29 for each additional gallon of ethanol produced.

When all the costs and benefits are tallied, the Government, taxpayers and consumers together would lose $6.1-$7.2 billion or $1.61-$1.92 per additional gallon produced during the 1986-94 period if ethanol subsidies were increased enough to prompt the ethanol industry to produce 2 billion gallons in 1995. Conversely, if ethanol production falls to zero, they would save some $6.8-$8.9 billion, or $1.35-$1.76 per gallon not produced.(49)
The study concluded that increased production of ethanol would cost consumers and taxpayers roughly $4 for each $1 of extra farm income.

The report stated,

Increases in consumer food expenditures caused by additional ethanol production far exceed the increases in farm income. Consumers would be much better off if they burned straight gasoline in their automobiles and paid a direct cash subsidy to farmers in the amount that net farm income would be increased by ethanol production.(50)
Since this report is looking at the money, they aren't following the Thermodynamics. A hint -- it takes more caloric energy to make a gallon of Ethanol than you can recover from the Ethanol. Making Ethanol is an Energy Sink not a Source...

Surplus Stuff

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A great list of surplus outlets From the website:
Vendors listed on this page sell miscellaneous and surplus hardware, tools, lab supplies, motors, adhesives, Dremel bits, screws, gizmos, and whatnots. Stuff you might need for successful hardware building and hacking, stuff you�re inclined to packrat until just the right project comes along. These people aren�t your average thick-cataloged every-part-number-under-the-sun guys�they�re the other guys; the random crap purveyors of the world.
Only vendor I would add would be Don Lancaster's eBay site.

Bad Hair Day

A collection of the worst haircuts ever. From Phatt Phree:

It is said that hair makes the man, and certainly women go to amazing lengths to find a style that will at once enhance their looks and set them apart from other women. Sometimes the pressure and lengths traveled lead to styles and cuts that are just plain terrible. From the old standbys of ugliness like, The Mullet and Comb-Over to new additions to the bad hair lexicon like, The Career Terminator and The Gangsta Pimp- they are all here. We hope you enjoy our list of the 50 Worst Hairstyles of All-Time.

They include such luminaries as Moe Howard:


But they forgot to include Phil Spector -- shown here in a court appearance:


Suppose they gave a party...

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A certain organization is having its 60th B-Day but who will be showing up for the cake? The NY Times has the story:
U.N. Party Planners Wonder, Will Bush and Friends Attend?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has indicated she will not attend. So has former President George H. W. Bush. The controversial nominee for United Nations ambassador, John R. Bolton, has not been heard from, nor has President Bush, who was sent an invitation in February.

Getting big-name administration officials to attend events outside Washington is always a long shot because of their busy schedules. But in the case of the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the United Nations, which will take place in San Francisco late next month, some organizers are wondering if something beyond scheduling conflicts is at play.

Nancy L. Peterson, president of the United Nations Association of San Francisco, a nonprofit group that has been planning the celebration, said no explanation had been offered by the White House. But she said some members were worried that President Bush's seeming disdain for the world organization might be behind the silence and no-shows.

"We are a month out, and that's cutting it close," Ms. Peterson said. When asked if San Franciscans felt slighted, she said, "I think the administration is slighting the American people by not stepping forward on behalf of the United Nations at this turning point."

At the last big anniversary celebration, 10 years ago in San Francisco, where the United Nations charter was signed in 1945, President Clinton played a prominent role. Sherri Ferris, who is organizing the 60th anniversary invitations, said Mr. Clinton's office had indicated that an appearance next month "is still under consideration." She expects many invitees will fix their June calendars next week.
So, ten years ago, someone in SF hosted a big party and wants to do it again. Sorry Nancy and Sherri -- looks like a small din-din with Kofi. Bill may show up but don't count on it, Hillary wants to distance herself from the Moonbats. 2008 'ya know... And excerpting from the penultimate paragraph:
I think the administration is slighting the American people by not stepping forward on behalf of the United Nations at this turning point.
Exscuse me -- the turning point would be if the United Nations DID SOMETHING EFFECTIVVE!
To assess the strength and relevance of the United Nations, you only need to look at what it does. There is an article in today's New York Times which might prove to be a good benchmark as it contains a specific promise from Kofi Annan to a Darfur Chief.
Annan Hears Refugees Tell of Sudan War

Tens of thousands of chanting refugees lined the muddy streets of Darfur's largest refugee camp on Saturday to greet Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations, who later listened as women told stories of being raped during the conflict.

Men carried signs saying "We are looking for freedom and justice," and women ululated to welcome Mr. Annan almost 11 months after his first visit to Darfur.

He listened as refugees complained about the police and Arab militias who they said had attacked, killed and raped their families inside the Kalma Camp in Darfur State.

The state has had some of the worst recent violence in a three-year conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and forced two million from their homes, according to United Nations estimates.

"Since we came to this camp, they have killed 56 people," said Suleiman Abka Taha, a local tribal chief.

Mr. Taha, who was speaking in front of government officials, asked Mr. Annan for a guarantee that he would not be detained for what he said. Mr. Annan asked ministers for such a reassurance and received it from Muhammad Yousef Abdalla, Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs.
I will excerpt and emphasize that last paragraph:
Mr. Taha... ...asked Mr. Annan for a guarantee that he would not be detained for what he said. Mr. Annan asked ministers for such a reassurance and received it from Muhammad Yousef Abdalla, Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs.
Let us look at Mr. Suleiman Abka Taha, a tribal Chief in Darfur and ask where he is once every week. See if he is still living in one month. They will not get him tomorrow, they are medieval and psychotic but they have a feral cleverness. But I bet he will disappear. To look at the history of the UN's actions in this part of the world, read this dispatch from GenocideWatch from August 6, 2004:

One week after the UN Security Council belatedly passed a weak and dilatory resolution in response to the massive human catastrophe unfolding in Darfur, there is good reason to believe that even this exceedingly modest effort is doomed by Security Council politics. Evidently anticipating that he may find it impossible to move the Security Council (particularly veto-wielding China) beyond the essentially hortatory effort of July 30, and that even the largely meaningless "further measures" threatened in the resolution will not be pursued, Secretary General Kofi Annan appears to be preparing to forestall any humanitarian intervention in Darfur that might take place without UN authorization.

No doubt this is justified in Annan's own mind by what he feels is the need to preserve the authority of the UN, even as nothing could more rapidly squander whatever remains of UN moral authority than a failure to intervene in Darfur. Indeed, humanitarian intervention is so clearly long overdue that whatever can be lost in this arena is already very much diminished. Present humanitarian capacity, on the part of UN and nongovernmental humanitarian organizations, is conspicuously and woefully inadequate to present humanitarian need; and even if Khartoum permits deployment of an augmented force of 2,000 African Union troops (an unlikely event), the security needs of the more than 1.3 million internally displaced persons cannot possibly be guaranteed by such a force. Many camps and concentrations of African tribal populations, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, remain utterly at the mercy of the Janjaweed and other armed elements in Darfur.
"President" Bashir also weighs in on this -- remove all fragile objects within your reach before continuing to read:
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Monday international pressure and military intervention would not solve the problem in the western region of Darfur where Amnesty International has charged that Arab militias, the Janjaweed, committed systematic, mass rapes.

Al-Bashir called for enough time to implement a joint plan with the United Nations to achieve security and stability in the troubled province.

He was speaking during an interview with United Press International at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum.

The Sudanese president appeared calm and refuted accusations that his government failed to solve the deteriorating situation in Darfur. He spoke as the ruling National Congress Party warned against an international military intervention and urged general mobilization for resistance.

Al-Bashir denied any government link with Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, who have been accused of committing atrocities and human rights violations against the African inhabitants of Darfur.
Christ on a Corn Dog! When are people going to wake up and stop enabling these thugs and stop trying to give them equal voices under the misguided idea of multi-culturalism.

Ahhh Rats...

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Casio has a cool new phone for outdoors people but it doesn't seem to be available in the USA. Gizmodo has the link and this to say:
Water- and shock-proof, the G�zOne is a hiker�s dream. This phone includes an electronic compass, clock, stop watch, and an external screen. Available in three delightful colors, the G�zOne isn�t available here and never will be. Cry, Mr. Flannel-Shirt-EMS-Cargo-Pants-Man, cry and kayak your way down to that cool little rock climbing spot. Cry.
Casio's site is Japanese but it has some nice photos:
Now if it had GPS like our Nextel Motorola phones, that would be cool.

From the BBC News comes this story of training for the wrong thing:

Powder mix-up fools sniffer dogs
A team of Australian drug sniffer dogs has been sent back for retraining, after it was found they could only track talcum powder, not cocaine.

Melbourne police found that the white powder used to hone the dogs' nostrils was not in fact an illegal substance.

A probe is now under way to see whether any illicit drugs have gone missing.

"They're very good at detecting talcum powder," joked Assistant Commissioner Paul Evans. "If there's any missing kids, we'll find them fairly quickly."

And the bag of powder used for training?

Police in Victoria have launched an inquiry to see whether any cocaine has gone missing.

But Assistant Commissioner Evans said that drugs were sometimes cut with other substances.

It was also possible that the training bag was mislabelled.

"It's embarrassing," Mr Evans told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Hat tip to Mostly Cajun for finding this.

Rumors and lies

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Original post May 27th 10:00pm Pacific Daylight Interesting... I am applying the 48-hour but here are two sets of data that contradict: Some bloggers are reporting that:
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has been dead since Wednesday
And we have Friday's release from Reuters:
Saudi King Fahd doing well in hospital-agency
A good Litmus Test, mais non? UPDATE: May 28th 8:00pm Pacific Daylight Reuters is still running the story. Searching Google News with "King Fahd" gets lots of hits on how he is stable, improving, tired, etc... Searching Google News for "King Fahd dead" pulls up 92 entries, a lot of which aren't relevant (one page talking about the King and also mentioning the passing of someone else). Still, UPI has him as dead since last Wednesday, so does Italian source ADNKI (they say he is clinically dead). Shades of Arafat being stable in the French hospital. Anyone is stable when their body temperature is in the 30's in the morgue refrigerator...

A bunch of friends

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Velociman recounts a time in his life when he worked for a Cabinet Shop on Wilmington Island, GA. He worked with some interesting characters. Velociman:
Back when I was a youngster, between gigs as they say, I was a cabinet maker. On Wilmington Island, where I lived. Very nice custom stuff, and I was proud of my handicraft, but I worked with some bizarro fuckers: Fat Jack, Red, Randy Jack, Li'l Chris, Nigger Boy, Biggun. Good guys, but sordid bastards, if that makes sense. They were known, collectively by everyone, as Back Island Trash. I was one for a while.
He then starts to flesh out the characters -- Randy Jack:
Randy Jack looked like the bass player from ZZ Top, only with lice.
It gets better -- read the whole thing.

How not to snatch a purse...

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A thief finds out that his choice of target was not a good one. This is a silent security camera tape from a Japanese elevator and it has been posted on a Russian website.
DayNews.RU - Elevator Thief
I can't read Russian but it doesn't look good for the thief.

Skunk Baxter

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For those into pop music, this name is probably very familiar. He was a member of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers. It turns out that he is pursuing a very different career these days -- that of defense and counter-terrorism consultant. Charles at LGF links to a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal. The article starts off with a bit of history:
Jeff Baxter played psychedelic music with Ultimate Spinach, jazz-rock with Steely Dan and funky pop with the Doobie Brothers. But in the last few years he has made an even bigger transition: Mr. Baxter, who goes by the nickname "Skunk," has become one of the national-security world's well-known counterterrorism experts.

A wiry man who wears a beret to many of his meetings, Mr. Baxter, who is now 56 years old, has gone from a rock career that brought him eight platinum records to a spot in the small constellation of consultants paid to help both policy makers and defense contractors better understand the way terrorists think and plan attacks.
His first foray into consultation began with an observation and an idea:
His defense work began in the 1980s, when it occurred to him that much of the hardware and software being developed for military use, like data-compression algorithms and large-capacity storage devices, could also be used for recording music. Mr. Baxter's next-door neighbor, a retired engineer who worked on the Pentagon's Sidewinder missile program, bought him a subscription to an aviation magazine, and he was soon reading a range of military-related publications.

Mr. Baxter began wondering whether existing military systems could be adapted to meet future threats they weren't designed to address, a heretical concept for most defense thinkers. In his spare time, he wrote a five-page paper on a primitive Tandy computer that proposed converting the military's Aegis program, a ship-based antiplane system, into a rudimentary missile-defense system.
Missile Defense:
Mr. Rohrabacher passed the report to another influential Republican lawmaker, Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania. Mr. Weldon says he immediately realized that Mr. Baxter could be a useful public advocate for missile defense because his rock-star pedigree would attract attention to the issue.

"Most of Hollywood is from the liberal, 'let's hug the tree and be warm and fuzzy and sing Kumbaya,' bent," Mr. Weldon says. "You put Jeff Baxter up against them, and he cleans their clocks because he actually knows the facts and details." He has appeared in public debates and given numerous press and TV interviews on CNN and Fox News advocating missile defense. He also served as a national spokesman for Americans for Missile Defense, a coalition of conservative organizations devoted to the issue.
Getting his security Clearance:
Mr. Baxter, backed by several lawmakers, got a series of classified security clearances. During one background interview, Mr. Baxter says, he was asked whether he could be bribed with money or drugs. He recalls telling the investigators not to worry because he had already "been there, done that, and given away the T-shirt" during his rock career.
Heh... He would be a fun person to have over for dinner sometime. Probably a lot of great stories...

Farm Blogging

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Jen and I went to a Welding Rodeo last weekend. Text and pictures are up at our other site: Brown Snout Fun stuff and excellent work from the teams.

Artificial Intelligence

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Fascinating article at Kuro5hin -- I have goosebumps as I am typing this...
AI Breakthrough or the Mismeasure of Machine?

If a computer program took the SAT verbal analogy test and scored as well as the average college bound human, it would raise some serious questions about the nature and measurement of intelligence.

Guess what?
The article links to this paper (PDF) published by Peter D. Turney's Interactive Information Group, Institute for Information Technology of the National Research Council Canada, achieved this milestone. The average human score on this test is 57% Their program gets 56% Holy crap! This is a very fun time to be alive! Granted, this is only one small backwater of AI and there are a lot of serious issues that need to be worked on but parsing the relationships between words is not a trivial question and to develop a program that can do this at a human level is awesome work.

A fine little scandal

Things are not what they seem in Orange County, CA and the OC Weekly has the skivvy:

Internal Affairs
Orange County's sheriff and his top deputy planned a dynasty but sex and money got in the way

This is a story about a famous LA porn star, a suspicious detective and a frustrated Orange County sheriff. It's also a story about ex-Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, who is - by his own reckoning - a devoted family man, a hard-working immigrant, and a Mormon who doesn't drink alcohol or smoke. He is, he says, a "genuinely nice guy who has never done anything wrong." And sure enough, if you hang around Jaramillo, you'll see an often polite, always confident man who appears benevolent.

Jaramillo's self-proclaimed innocence prompts laughter among cops who worked with him before he was fired, arrested and indicted on six felony corruption charges last year. These officers say the former second in command at the $500-million-a-year sheriff's department is driven by greed and lust, and is all the more dangerous because he can be disarmingly charming.

But if Jaramillo had severe character flaws, it was a minor one - tightfistedness - that may have begun his undoing.

The article then goes on to cover in some detail Jaramillo's Peccadilloes:

According to grand jury records reviewed by the Weekly, Jaramillo frequently gave Hood film to develop. The film contained nude pictures of dozens of women, including the assistant sheriff's wife, sister-in-law, several secretaries and at least one county employee. Most of the shots were soft-porn, topless poses. Some were taken at police conventions or in Las Vegas. Hood and other sheriff's department employees told investigators Jaramillo put the pictures in a thick photo album, shared his sex encyclopedia at the office and identified the women as his conquests.

The grand jury also heard that the assistant sheriff, whose salary topped $135,000 annually, was a legendary cheapskate. Not only was Jaramillo bold enough to openly celebrate his adultery, he allegedly stuck Hood with the costs of developing the film from his escapades. In 2001, several deputies refused Jaramillo's request that they rent a San Diego hotel room so that he could have a three-way sex romp. The deputies were sure they'd never be repaid.

What bothered Hood most wasn't the film costs, the adultery or the porn. He witnessed Jaramillo badmouth Carona behind his back, steal credit for the sheriff's successes and brag about taking over the department. Hood, a 27-year-veteran cop, thought the assistant sheriff was destined to sabotage Carona.

And collecting evidence:

During conversations with Jaramillo, it's easy to see his mind race from subject to subject. He's funny and opinionated and loves challenges. He talks as if he's invincible. But for four years he made a terrible error. He mistook Hood as either a fan or an imbecile.

Jaramillo was clueless that the man in whom he'd confided kept mental notes; that the man he'd asked to fix his home computer for free had installed a program to save all deleted files in case there was ever an investigation; and that the man he'd asked to establish a secret cell phone account had kept detailed records of calls and would someday give that log to inquiring FBI agents.

"You can't trust anybody," says Jaramillo.

Hood likely agrees. He got stuck paying the assistant sheriff's film costs. And then, he says, Jaramillo stiffed him on more than $800 in cell phone bills.

And the story gets better and better involving a Porn Star, questionable finances, threats of violence and an ego that keeps going like the Energizer Bunny. Fascinating story -- there is no end to what people will do. The sad part is that if this guy had kept his nose clean, he would have been Chief of Police in a few years but he back-stabbed his Kingmaker. Very very stupid...

Noted author Orson Scott Card delivers a serious cluebat to the Media regarding the Quran and Toilet fiasco.

The Riots of the Faithful
So Newsweek prints an uncorroborated allegation about American interrogators flushing Qurans down the toilet in order to get fanatical Muslim prisoners to talk, and there's rioting and death all over the Muslim world.

There are several lessons to be learned from this incident, some trivial, some quite important.

1. The courts have given the news media carte blanche, in the name of the First Amendment -- but the media are no better than government at exercising unchecked power. When it's known that no one can punish you, a certain kind of person stops caring whether he hurts anybody. And such people tend to rise within any organization that doesn't work hard to have a conscience.

He riffs on this for a while and then goes to item two:

2. Too many people in the "American" media have lost any concept of loyalty to their country -- if they even consider it their country, rather than just their residence.

Yeah, that's right, I'm playing the "patriotism" card. But not the way you think.

Our country is at war. And it's a war in which victory absolutely depends on the Muslim world perceiving it as a war between the U.S and its allies on one side, and fanatical murderous terrorists on the other.

If it is ever perceived as a war against Islam, then we have lost. The world has lost.

Point number three:

3. Muslims in Muslim countries can dish it out, but they can't take it. They had no problem expelling all the Jews from their countries in an ethnic cleansing every bit as vicious as anything the Spaniards did in 1492. They desecrated Torahs left and right. Nowadays they blow up babies and call it a heroic act, because they were Jewish babies.

But let somebody start a rumor that somebody dunked a Quran in the toilet, and they go insane and riot and kill people.

What planet do these people live on?

It's Earth.

What you see in those riots is the result of centuries of being in an almost complete majority -- and having nothing to show for it. Not freedom, not prosperity, not even respect.

Practically everybody they know is Muslim and yet they are still powerless and ashamed and angry.

Go to Orson's page and read the whole thing. I am making very brief excerpts -- the rest of the article is well worth reading. Very clear and to the point...

From MS/NBC comes this story of stunning salesmanship. Stunningly poor and unethical...
Music store sells 11 organs to sick woman
Manager charged with exploiting Alzheimer�s patient

A music store manager was charged Thursday with exploiting a woman with Alzheimer�s disease who authorities say bought 11 organs from him over 18 months � including four on a single day.

Scott L. Heyder, 36, sold the 79-year-old a progressively more expensive string of the instruments beginning in 2003 � even after her family pleaded with him to stop, Pasco County sheriff�s detectives said Thursday.

Heyder was charged with felony exploitation of the elderly and was held on $10,000 bail at the Pasco County Jail.

The woman spent about $25,000 on organs and ended up with one worth only about half that, said sheriff�s spokesman Kevin Doll. He said she has not received any money back from the music store, Fletcher Music Center at Gulfview Square Mall.

"I think it�s unconscionable, especially after the family confronted this salesperson and said, 'Our mother has mental failings due to Alzheimer�s, she doesn�t know what she�s doing,'" Doll said.
A special place in hell for that one... I am of the firm opinion that the retail piano and organ stores are worse, far far worse than used car dealerships. I play keyboards and have been in some of these places and the high-pressure salesmanship for something that is basically a nice bit of furniture with minimal electronics is amazing. They are charging several thousand dollars for junk and the person wanting a good piano or organ need only go to a Professional Musicians store and find something of a lot higher quality for thousand's less. It wouldn't have the nice cabinetry but the overall workmanship and sound quality would be much higher. If the cabinet was all that important, they could use the extra money they saved and have a professional cabinetmaker build something custom. The Piano and Organ store organs are commonly known as Granny Organs and something that cost several thousand new has to be given away or sold (if they are lucky) for a hundred or two. They are of no value. The mechanical pianos aren't much better -- on the cheaper units, the tuning pin blocks are not thick enough to hold a tune over time, the action is generally cheap and gets sloppy in about a year and this cannot be adjusted out, you have to replace the action for those keys. If you want a keyboard and are OK with digital, check out a professional music store, not a piano and organ store. Most music stores will have a rental department and will credit the rental fee against future purchases if you want to try it at home. Taking a look at Fletcher Music Center's website, you can see that they are firmly in the Granny Organ camp. Lowery Organs only -- no Yamaha, Kurzweil (my personal favorite), Roland -- none of the big pro-music names, just Lowery. And of course, the dead give-away, no prices listed anywhere. Compare this with Musician's Friend.

The THX "Deep Note"

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You have heard it in movie theaters -- the big swelling sound that advertises that the cinema has an authorized THX Sound System. Music Thing has a short writeup on the guy who wrote that and how it came into being:
"I like to say that the THX sound is the most widely-recognized piece of computer-generated music in the world," says Andy Moorer. "This may or may not be true, but it sounds cool!"

You can hear the sound here. It's called 'Deep Note'.

It was made by Dr James 'Andy' Moorer in 1982, who has had a very cool career: Four patents, one Oscar. In the '60s he was working in Artificial Intelligence at Stanford. In the '70s he was at IRCAM in Paris, working on speech synthesis and ballet. In the '80s he worked at the LucasFilm DroidWorks, before joining Steve Jobs at NeXT. Today, he consults, repairs old tube radios and plays banjo.

At one point, the THX sound was being played 4,000 times a day at cinemas around the world (that's once every 20 seconds).
The request?
He said he wanted "something that comes out of nowhere and gets really, really big!" I allowed as to how I figured I could do something like that.
And the synthesis technique?
"The score consists of a C program of about 20,000 lines of code. The output of this program is not the sound itself, but is the sequence of parameters that drives the oscillators on the ASP. That 20,000 lines of code produce about 250,000 lines of statements of the form "set frequency of oscillator X to Y Hertz".

"The oscillators were not simple - they had 1-pole smoothers on both amplitude and frequency. At the beginning, they form a cluster from 200 to 400 Hz. I randomly assigned and poked the frequencies so they drifted up and down in that range. At a certain time (where the producer assured me that the THX logo would start to come into view), I jammed the frequencies of the final chord into the smoothers and set the smoothing time for the time that I was told it would take for the logo to completely materialize on the screen. At the time the logo was supposed to be in full view, I set the smoothing times down to very low values so the frequencies would converge to the frequencies of the big chord (which had been typed in by hand - based on a 150-Hz root), but not converge so precisely that I would lose all the beats between oscillators. All followed by the fade-out. It took about 4 days to program and debug the thing. The sound was produced entirely in real-time on the ASP.
The ASP in question was a proprietary Audio Signal Processor that was eventually sold for scrap. Fascinating history for such a cultural icon.

Bullshit Bingo

Mostly Cajun links to a great office game to play while in meetings:

Bullshit Bingo
Jenn Martinez has this article on this new game. As a frequent attendee at meetings, this new game holds promise. Here's a teaser:
3. Check off the appropriate block when you hear one of those words/phrases.
4. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout "BULLSHIT!" Oh, yeah! Talk about enhancing your reputation. This will do it. You might want to polish up the ol' resume, though

My first "real" job was for a public aquarium working at maintaining all of the non-living exhibits (CALM DOWN -- I am talking about movie projectors, PA Systems and stuff here, not dead fish). The head of the department I was in was a crashing bore -- very nice but very much into procedure and micro-management. His short meetings usually took four hours and it was almost impossible to not nod off. I was not alone with this assessment. Fortunately, the public exhibits always had priority and I was usually able to have someone at the front desk page me after the meeting had been under way for 30 minutes or so. Got a ten minute re-cap from someone who had to sit through the whole damn thing.

I was able to think outside the box, establish my new paradigm and work out a game plan to enable a strategic fit. At the end of the day, I was able to call bullshit!

Worked there for three years -- a lot of it was really fun and some great people. A lot of it was mindless bureaucratic stuff...


From Portland writer Michael J. Totten who spent a month there recently.

At Tech Central Station

Resolving the Clash of Civilizations
I recently returned home from Beirut, Lebanon, where I spent a month covering the democratic Cedar Revolution and Syria's withdrawal from the country after a 30 year-long occupation. Few places in the world beat Beirut as a foreign assignment. The city is packed from one end to the other with the classiest hotels, the hippest night clubs, the most stylish bars, the fanciest restaurants, the coziest cafes, and the best shopping districts this side of New York and Paris. But Lebanon's sophisticated and freewheeling culture isn't the only thing that makes a trip to that country both attractive and memorable. Nor is the nascent democracy movement the only encouraging news. One of the best stories out of Lebanon is the one that receives almost no coverage at all -- the end of the long-simmering sectarian hatefest and a genuine yearning for friendship between Christians and Muslims.

Lebanon is approximately 40 percent Christian and 60 percent Muslim. And from 1975 to 1990 a localized clash of civilizations ripped the country to pieces. Beirut was carved into eastern and western halves -- Christians on one side and Muslims on the other. Christians fought Muslims. Christians fought Christians. Muslims fought Christians, Israelis, Americans, and also each other. It was an apocalyptic war of all sects against all, a Yugoslavia of the Levant.

Since the war's end the Lebanese decided to tolerate each other -- except, at times, for Hezbollah who has been known to burn Lebanese flags along with Israeli and American flags at their rallies. Today many Lebanese are moving beyond mere tolerance and forging ties that bind across sectarian lines.

I hopped in a car with Charles, a Maronite Christian who recently returned home from exile in Australia, and Alaa, a member of the Druze community from the Chouf mountains. I tagged along with them while they campaigned in various villages for free elections in May.

"I'm a Christian at heart when I'm in my house," Charles said. "But when I'm outside I am first Lebanese. During the war we Christians and Druze fought each other. But looks at us now." He gestured at Alaa.

Alaa continued for Charles. "Now we're driving around in the same car to build a new Lebanon."

Later I met two Christians downtown -- Jean and Emile -- and they asked me to join them for drinks.

"We used to fight each other," Jean said as he looked askance at Emile. "I was with Samir Geagea."

"And I was with Michel Aoun," Emile said. "But now we are at the same table."

"What, exactly," I said, "were you fighting about?"

Emile shrugged and shook his head, looking slightly embarrassed.

"Look," he said. "If you have a hard time figuring what the civil war was about, don't feel bad. No one in Lebanon really understands either."

The civil war did have its causes and its idiot logic. But it's no wonder most people want to move on. Every sect in Lebanon lost. Syria was the victor. The only good thing that came out of the war is a more mature political culture. There is no ethnic or religious majority. (Muslims make up more or less 60 percent of the population, but they are divided themselves among Shia, Sunni, and Druze.) Everyone is a minority. And everyone knows from experience that they can't take over the country.

Excellent and sweet story -- democracy is what people want when they have the chance. It is starting to take hold in even the most staunchly theocratic cultures.


There must be an Elmer von Hagens out there -- a distant cousin to renowned old-school anatomist Gunter von Hagens. I have long been a fan of von Hagens work -- he takes donated human and animal bodies and has developed a way to "Plastinate" them -- removing all the tissue that can rot and replacing it with silicone resins. His dissection technique is downright artistry if controversial. He has several traveling shows, some touring in the USA now and these shows are making money -- a lot of money. From KGO/TV in San Francisco talking about the Bodyworks show:
The shows have been immensely popular around the world, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. With that kind of money at stake, copy cat shows not produced by von Hagens were inevitable, including the one at San Francisco's Masonic Center.

Bob Henry, Int'l Society for Plastination: "This is what we feared would happen sooner or later, and it's upon us, I believe."
Well, the city of San Francisco is playing host to one such copy-cat show and there is a slight problem. The corpses are oozing fluid. From the same KGO/TV article:
Leaking Bodies Uncovered At Popular 'Body' Show
An exhibit of real human corpses is the most popular show ever at San Francisco's Masonic Center. But problems uncovered by the ABC7 I-Team threaten to shut down the exhibit.

The most obvious problem is the corpses are leaking. To understand how we got to the point of dead, dripping bodies for public view there on Nob Hill, it's important to see how this type of show began and how immensely profitable it can be.
A follow-up article from KGO/TV checks into the origin of the bodies and as they say, follows the money:
Dan: "Where did the bodies come from?"

Allan Casalou, Masonic Exec. Dir.: "They came from the university in Beijing."

The Masonic's executive director and the show's promoter claim they were able to bring the bodies from China with the help of Peking University and Professor EnHua Yu. The promoter, Gerhard Perner, says he pays rent to the Masonic, keeps 15-percent of the show's profits for himself, and sends the rest back to China.

ABC7's Dan Noyes: "Do the profits go to Dr. Yu personally or to the university?"

Gerhard Perner: "To the university."

But university officials say all that's not true. They had no role in acquiring the bodies, they're receiving no money. In fact, they never heard of this body show until contacted by the I-Team. We've learned that Perner was able to get bodies meant for medical research and teaching from a factory in Nanjing, China. It worries San Francisco supervisors that these bodies are now on display on Nob Hill.
Here is a picture of Dr. von Hagens with a friend:
Hat tip to BoingBoing for the link.

Courtroom Dialog

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An oldie and a goodie. Ran into this earlier this evening at a Lawyer Joke website and it deserves repeating. This is supposed to be a true courtroom dialog:
Lawyer: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
Witness: No.
Lawyer: Did you check for blood pressure?
Witness: No.
Lawyer: Did you check for breathing?
Witness: No.
Lawyer: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
Witness: No.
Lawyer: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
Witness: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Lawyer: But could the patient have still been alive never the less?
Witness: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.


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Great rant by Fred Reed at Fred on Everything

Rednecks: The Virtues Thereof
Cornell As Evolutionary Miscalculation

There is a lot of snot and malice about rednecks on the internet. Most of it comes from such cornflowers and honeysuckles as college professors, other witless suburban nonentities, and assorted twits in cities. By 'redneck,' these bundles of intellectual lingerie seem to mean anyone without a college degree who can hang a door or lube his car.

One of them, some sort of biochemical rascal, figured that rednecks were examples of poor evolutionary fitness - compared, I guess, to him. Now, that's a stretch.

Tell you about rednecks. They're probably the only people in the whole country that ain't unfit. What used to be Davy Crockett's country today is full mostly of folk who can't do anything for themselves. They call someone else to fix the plumbing, shoot the burglar, gap their plugs, build their houses, get their kids off drugs. If the cat dies they need a pet-loss grief-management counselor. From a redneck's point of view, the United States is turning fast into people like those nasty white grubs that nekkid savages in New Guinea eat, only with legs.

I know the breed - rednecks, not grubs. I grew up with them, in King George County, Virginia, and in Athens, Alabama in 1957. Back then I thought I was Huck Finn. I may have been right. Certainly the evidence favored the proposition. I'd run through the woods like a Southern Mowgli with a slingshot and later got drunk with the country boys in high school and drove like three dam fools, buy one and get two free. We hunted, and crabbed in the Potomac, and such like. We called people from Massachusetts "Damyanks," or "targets."

Now, the people in KG were either farmers or fishermen. They could build a crab boat from scratch. Try it. What they were, really, was versatile. They'd snatch an old engine from a junkyard Chevy and rebuild it, convert it to marine, and mount it in the boat. They changed their own transmissions, replaced clutch plates, wired the barns they built. They could run a farm, keep old tractors going, blast a stump, raise hogs and slaughter them. They knew guns, and had them. They could hunt, shoot, and fish. They were tough, cut cordwood and split logs and dug foundations. If they wanted a wall, they laid the brick. If something broke, they fixed it.

Maybe they came up a little short on iambic pentameter. Didn't seem to hurt'em none.

And he goes on... These sentiments make me think of the great line by Robert A. Heinlein in his 1973 Book Time Enough for Love

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered and police captured a suspect shortly after. He is now coming to trial. The BBC has the story:
Van Gogh murder suspect in court
The alleged killer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh has made his first appearance in court.

Mohammed Bouyeri, 27, faces charges of murder, terrorism, possession of an illegal firearm and impeding democracy.

Mr Van Gogh was killed after his film about the treatment of women in Islamic society was shown on television.

Mr Bouyeri was seized by the police shortly after the killing. He could be sentenced to life if found guilty.

Described by prosecutors as an Islamic extremist, Mr Bouyeri demanded "a more nuanced and professional" attitude from his accusers.

But he would not say anything else about his case despite prompting from judges.

His lawyer has previously said his client took full responsibility for his actions.
And a bit more:
A prosecutor alleged that Mohammed Bouyeri had calmly shot Mr Van Gogh as he cycled to work and then cut his throat.

The killer then pinned a letter to Mr Van Gogh's chest with a knife. The letter threatened the film's scriptwriter, Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Prosecutors say Mr Bouyeri intended to terrify Dutch society.

"In a letter to his family he said he had chosen to do his duty to Allah and to give his soul for paradise," prosecutor Frits van Straelen said. "[He] wanted to become a martyr."
Emphasis mine -- this is not martyrdom, this is an act of someone who practices a failed culture. Someone who could not engage in intelligent dialog. I have seen the film (it is available for download on the net -- use Google) and it isn't any more damning to the Islamofascist culture than what you read in the news or what is translated from Arabic to English.

The Amazon Basin

A sad story about the Amazon river basin from the BBC written by someone who visited it 30 years ago and who recently returned.

Appetite for Amazon destruction
Earlier this month, the Brazilian government announced that almost one-fifth of the entire Amazon has now been cleared by deforestation.

It is a strange sensation returning to a place you have not visited for 30 years.

And it is even stranger if everything has changed out of all recognition.

I first went to the Amazon basin in 1974.

At that time it was a real Wild West.

The generals then ruling Brazil had decided, in what later proved to be a dangerous simplification, that the Amazon basin was empty.

It was time, they said, to occupy it. So they set about building a network of roads and encouraging loggers and cattle companies to move in.

The article continues with her description of a small hamlet which is now a city of 80,000. Brazil is using these lands to grow soybeans and to produce beef for export. 20% of one of the most unique ecosystems on this planet has been carved up and cleared.

New wine techniques

An interesting article in the NY Times about some Italian winemakers who are pushing the envelope.

New Wine in Really Old Bottles
JOSKO GRAVNER has thrown it all away, more than once. When he started making wine 30 years ago outside this small town in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy, he produced crisp, aromatic white wines in a popular style, using the latest technology.

But he was not satisfied making wines like everybody else. He replaced his temperature-controlled steel tanks with small barrels of French oak, and he won acclaim for white wines of uncommon richness. But not even that was sufficient, and Mr. Gravner began to experiment with techniques considered radical by the winemaking establishment. The hazy, ciderish hue of the resulting white wines, so different from the usual clear yellow-gold, persuaded some that the wines were spoiled. But one taste showed they were fresh and alive, with a sheer, lip-smacking texture.

Was he happy? Please.

Rejecting the modern trappings of the cellar, Mr. Gravner has reached back 5,000 years. He now ferments his wines in huge terra-cotta amphorae that he lines with beeswax and buries in the earth up to their great, gaping lips. Ancient Greeks and Romans would be right at home with him, yet his 2001 wines, his first vintage from the amphorae, which he is planning to release in September, are more vivacious and idiosyncratic than ever.

"With every change, I had clients who lost faith in me," Mr. Gravner said. "The cantina was in a crisis. Now I'm out of crisis, but the rest of the world is in crisis."

Perhaps it's something in the air, or in the wine, but few places on earth have such a concentration of determined, individualistic winemakers as Friuli-Venezia Giulia, particularly in the low rolling hills that stretch across the border with Slovenia. To their fans they make deeply personal, almost artistic wines. To detractors they are fanatical eccentrics.

I wouldn't mind spending a few weeks in that area traveling around, eating the local food and sampling some of these wines. Mmmmm...

High Flight

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A new barrier in aviation has been shattered. From DefenceTalk:
Eurocopter Single-Engine Serial Ecureuil/Astar AS350 B3 Lands on Mt. Everest
On May 14th, 2005 at 7h08 (local time), a serial Ecureuil/AStar AS 350 B3 piloted by the Eurocopter X-test pilot Didier Delsalle, landed at 8,850 meters (29,035ft) on the top of the Mount Everest (Kingdom of Nepal).

This tremendous achievement breaks the World Record for the highest altitude landing and take-off ever, which sets an ultimate milestone in the History of Aviation. Fabrice Br�gier, President and CEO of the Eurocopter Group, world leading helicopter manufacturer, immediately congratulated the pilot and his team for this extraordinary feat. After taking off from its base camp Lukla on May 14th, 2005 at 2,866 meters (9,403ft) Didier Delsalle onboard his Ecureuil AS350B3 reached the top of Mount Everest.

As required by the F�d�ration A�ronautique Internationale (FAI - International Aeronautical Federation), the aircraft remained landed on ground more than 2 minutes on the top of the world before flying back to Lukla.

This feat was renewed the day after.

Stepping out of his helicopter, Didier Delsalle commented: "To reach this mythical summit definitively seemed to be a dream; despite the obvious difficulties of the target to be reached, the aircraft demonstrated its capability to cope with the situation (�), sublimated by the magic of the place".

Old tech beats new tech flat...

From the MAKE: blog comes this story of two people sending SMS messages trying to beat out two old fogies sending Morse Code:
Video: Morse coders beating SMSers
Jay Leno did a text off between two text messengers and two Morse coders. Here's a video of it (WMV). The Morse coders handily beat the young whippersnappers with time to spare. Comments from the Morse code guys here. It might be a fun phone app to make a Morse code messenger, if you kept your headset in and had an external sender, could be interesting. Perhaps a Morse code Skype device...
The idea is fun -- the web site is being hit quite a bit so it is best to download it and view it rather than look at it as streaming. The Morse people creamed the SMS people seriously. It was the backbone of the Victorian Internet after all...
USA Today/AP has the story:
Phone bill traps man
Tennessee's deputy finance commissioner spent 13 hours stuck in an elevator at the state Capitol after no one paid a phone bill.

Jerry Adams, who oversees Tennessee's $25 billion budget, was working alone a few weekends ago when he stepped into an elevator, which promptly broke and left him stranded between floors.

Adams picked up the phone in the elevator, but it didn't work because the bill for the phone hadn't been paid and the service was disconnected, officials said.

Finance Department spokeswoman Lola Potter said the bill was mistakenly sent to the Department of Human Services. Officials there had no record of the line and didn't pay the bill.

In the elevator, Adams said the only thing he could do was push a button that rang an emergency bell. He did that every five minutes for hours, but the building was deserted.

At about 4 a.m. the next morning, the cleaning crew heard Adams stirring and rescue crews finally freed him.

"It was not the way I wanted to spend a Sunday evening," said Adams, who lives alone.
A couple things come immediately to mind. The building probably had a central internal phone system (a PBX). Why wasn't the elevator tied into this system instead of a single outside telephone line. Secondly, it is a trivial matter to organize repeating bills and to anticipate when they are due, why didn't the trolls in Accounting see that an expected incoming bill was not being received and processed. Thirdly, the Department of Human Services was receiving a monthly bill for a phone line -- they went so far as to determine that it was not for one of their telephones. Did the pin-heads there ever stop to think (they probably did and forgot to start again) that this might be an important number and try to find out where it was. I mean really, the phone number should be on the bill and calling an elevator phone during business hours should surely get someone picking up the other end. Fourthly, doesn't that building have some kind of safety committee that regularly checks things like this? I mean DUUHHH... Finally, considering that the poor guy caught oversees Tennessee's $25 billion budget, this will result in some heads rolling and justifiably.

Towel Day

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As it says: Towel Day -- May 25th From the website:
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
May 25th is no date of significance, read the website for the reason they chose it. Some great user photos from the last couple of towel days.

Doing anything third weekend in June?

Planning to be anywhere near Avon, Ohio? Then be sure to visit the annual Duct Tape Festival, June 17, 18 and 19. From their press release:

Duct Tape Festival to showcase dad's favorite tool over dad's favorite weekend

AVON, Ohio, January 18, 2005 -- Dads are like duct tape -- they come in a variety of sizes and colors, they can fix just about anything, and in June both will be honored for their hard work and unbelievable feats. The second annual Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival kicks off June 17, 2005, just in time to celebrate Father's Day. The festival will be an all-weekend event starting Friday at 4:00 p.m. at Veteran's Memorial Park in Avon, Ohio.

This three-day event will celebrate duct tape, its enthusiasts and its wacky and fun uses. The festival also honors the history and heritage of the city that is proclaimed the "Duct Tape Capital" of the world -- Avon, Ohio -- the home of Duck brand duct tape.

From sculptures and fashion to games and a parade, everything at the festival will revolve around duct tape. Festival attendees will be able to make duct tape crafts, like roses and wallets, with professional duct tape sculptor, Todd Scott and duct tape crafter and author, Ellie Schiedermayer.

Henkel Consumer Adhesives, marketer of Duck brand duct tape, will celebrate the sticky stuff with the display of numerous of larger-than-life duct tape sculptures created by local artists. In addition, The Duct Tape Guys, nationally known duct tape evangelists and authors of six books, will have several scheduled performances during the festival's duration.

As the perfect celebration for Father's Day weekend, the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival not only features dad's favorite fix-all, but also includes an antique car and truck show, a "Duct Tape Dad of the Year" contest, and all the classic fair food and rides which make festivals such a great time. Musical performances and booths from local vendors and organizations will also be on-site.

Here is one of the sculptures from last year -- a fire-fly:


I love this stuff -- the country fair that has evolved into something a bit off the bubble. Fun stuff! Jen and I are going to a Combine Demolition Derby in Eastern WA the weekend before. Pictures will be posted...

Digital Noise Reduction

is not always your friend. Especially automated systems (ie: cheap). Some people who are fans of the old cartoons are thrilled to see them being reissued on DVD and then hacked that the systems used to reduce scratches and spots are also taking out parts of the animations themselves. First, two examples:



From the website lyris lite / DVNR screwups comes an excellent explanation of what is happening:

Such comments seem to run off the belief that today's modern video processing technology can instantly fix any sort of blemish seen to be undesirable by the human eye. This is completely false - such defects are very hard to correct.
The best results come each time from restorations done to animated films by people, not computers. This is referred to as DRS (Digital Restoration Services) and is most notably used by the Walt Disney Company, which spends huge amounts of time and money restoring its most celebrated animated classics in this way.
Examples include the new DVD releases of Bambi, Snow White, and Pinocchio (although the last of these examples currently isn't available on DVD in the US). Under DRS, a team of people carefully inspect each frame of film and remove defects mainly by hand. It goes without saying that such a process is not only time-consuming, but extremely expensive, and that very few companies can afford to give their material this first-class treatment.

So, what other solution is there? Automatic DVNR - which stands for Digital Video Noise Reduction, what this article is about. This dirt and scratch removal system is unfortunately the most commonly used. As with any automated computer system that modifies video content, it must be used with extreme caution. Sadly, a lot of the time, this isn't the case. The results of overdone DVNR - essentially, companies expecting a computer to correct problems by itself - are often disastrous, not to mention depressing for hardcore fans of classic animation - in other words, the people who the material was aimed at in the first place.

You see, although it does little to harm live action footage, things go a little pear-shaped when animated content is DVNR'ed. The scratch removal routine does exactly what it's supposed to and sets to work removing thin black lines from the picture. Of course, being a computer, the system can't tell the difference between different types of these said black lines. So, much of the time, the thin black pieces of dirt on the film and the thin black outlines on character drawings (which are of course supposed to be there) are read by the computer as one entity and are obliterated from the image.

I bet that these companies could outsource the noise reduction to this horde of fans. Give them free copies of the final DVD and get a much better product out of it.

Cool new retro-tech

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Artist Rufus Butler Seder developed a fascination with old optical toys and looked for a way to incorporate them into his work. We have all seen little ribbed pieces of plastic with an image embedded which changes as the plastic is moved. Rufus is putting these on walls. Amazing videos. Gorgeous artwork, check out the installation for California Science Center (2.6MB WMV video) His company EyeThinkInc calls these LifeTiles and has this to say about them:
Years ago, a fascination with antique optical toys led Rufus Butler Seder to wonder if he could create motion pictures on a grand scale using no electricity, moving parts, or special lighting. After some experiment he developed an 8" square, lens-ribbed glass tile that was to form the building block for his dream come true. He called it a LIFETILE.

LIFETILES enable Rufus to create "Movies for the Wall": optical glass-tiled murals that appear to come to life, move, and change when the viewer walks or rides by. The medium is durable, maintenance-free, and lends itself to almost any subject or location, outdoors or in. Since 1990 Rufus has created scores of sizeable works for museums, aquariums and other public places around the world.

Rufus says, " I love to capture the kinetic thrill of a dancer's leap or the elastic coil and spring of a running cat, and I also like to see people react to my work. Kids run back and forth, making the pictures move. Adults stop, stare, smile to themselves, and sway from side to side. The people can be as fun to look at as the work itself."
Fun website to poke through...

A new "study" of GM Food

From The Independent

Revealed: health fears over secret study into GM food
Rats fed GM corn due for sale in Britain developed abnormalities in blood and kidneys

Rats fed on a diet rich in genetically modified corn developed abnormalities to internal organs and changes to their blood, raising fears that human health could be affected by eating GM food.

The Independent on Sunday can today reveal details of secret research carried out by Monsanto, the GM food giant, which shows that rats fed the modified corn had smaller kidneys and variations in the composition of their blood.

According to the confidential 1,139-page report, these health problems were absent from another batch of rodents fed non-GM food as part of the research project.

Couple of things to point out:

You do not feed a Rat a diet rich in Corn. They are opportunistic omnivores.

The Independent article makes it sound like the only difference in their diet was GM Corn and non-GM Corn but they do not quote from the article or provide a link to other sources to prove that the diet remained the same.

A question also surfaces as to whether the Rats were ones that were genetically pre-disposed to kidney and blood problems. These would be much more sensitive to any changes in diet and would be a perfect benchmark for such a test. The Independent doesn't say. Finally, they trot this old chestnut out:

Environmentalists will see the findings as vindication of British research seven years ago, which suggested that rats that ate GM potatoes suffered damage to their health. That research, which was roundly denounced by ministers and the British scientific establishment, was halted and Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist behind the controversial findings, was forced into retirement amid a huge row over the claim.

I blogged about this piece of junk science on November 10, 2003 in which I quoted an article at Life Sciences Network

It all began in 1997 with a piece of incredibly shoddy science. A researcher fed raw genetically modified potatoes to lab rats and notice they became sick. He passed the results on to the world's media and what followed was a frenzy with Armageddon-like declarations. On the back of this free publicity the anti-GM lobby launched their crusade.

Six months later two findings were ignored. The first was that the GM potatoes were harmless. All raw potatoes, GM or not, are toxic to rats.

The second was that an anti-GM crusade was an ideal way to arouse public fear and paranoia. Membership in anti-GM lobby groups was up and so was fund raising.

Some of the larger groups, over six years, increased their earnings from under $50 million to over $150 million US per year. Anti-GM hysteria was very profitable. These groups had vast amounts of money under their control and that meant increased power.

Emphasis mine. Unfortunately, Life Sciences Network closed their website in 2004. Anything in overwhelming concentrations is toxic. I have done a Google search for this confidential 1,139-page report from Monsanto and find a few anti-GM people (Greenpeace etc...) referring to it but nothing of the report itself. It was an addendum to the primary report which gave the corn glowing colors... New Zealand approved this corn for sale and their Food Acceptance website discounts the rat study as being inconsequential.

A new drydock

A fascinating story being told by the Seattle Times.

It seems that the state Department of Transportation was building a dry dock on the Port Angeles waterfront. After spending about $60 million on planning, land purchase and construction, it started finding artifacts including 335 intact skeletons. WA State has since abandoned the project. Here is the Seattle Times:

Buried past comes alive
As soon as he saw the dark gray stone, he knew it was special.

"Something about it caught my eye," said Michael Q. Langland, who dipped the stone in a puddle and held it to the sunlight. Patterns, etched by his Klallam ancestors, glinted.

The stone was one of more than 800 etched stones found in that ground, no two alike. Some tell a story or pass on a sacred teaching, such as how to turn a baby from a breech position or bless a pool of water before drinking. "Our first books," some tribal members call them.

The stones are among the most intriguing of more than 10,000 artifacts found at the ancient Klallam settlement of Tse-whit-zen, the largest Indian village ever discovered in Washington.

The state Department of Transportation uncovered Tse-whit-zen in August 2003, while building a dry dock on the Port Angeles waterfront. After spending around $60 million - and finding 335 intact skeletons - the state abandoned the construction project.

But one of the department's costliest mistakes has turned into an extraordinary find: Working side by side, archaeologists and tribal members have uncovered burials, the remains of many structures, and signs of human activity dating back at least 2,700 years.

Their discoveries are a panoramic view into our region's past.
Two of the many artifacts found at the site.
Story Stone (left), Carved Bone Comb (right)

The dig is the largest Indian Village ever found in the Pacific Northwest (the site covers 3.5 Acres) and has artifacts dating back 2,700 years. Amazing stuff! (Tse-whit-zen is pronounced ch-WHEET-son)

Slang expressions from the 1920's

Fun list of slang from the '20s -- how things have changed...
Cat's Meow - Something splendid or stylish; similar to bee's knees; The best or greatest, wonderful.
Flat Tire - A dull witted, insipid, disappointing date. Same as pill, pickle, drag, rag, oilcan
"Now you're on the trolley!" - Now you've got it, now you're right!
Spifflicated - Drunk. The same as canned, corked, tanked, primed, scrooched, jazzed, zozzled, plastered, owled, embalmed, lit, potted, ossified or fried to the hat.
Some are still contemporary though -- Java for Coffee.

Potential Darwin Awards (two)

From the UK Mirror:


Two Star Wars fans are in a critical condition in hospital after duelling with lightsabres made by filling fluorescent light tubes with petrol.

The pair - a man aged 20 and a girl of 17 - are believed to have been filming a mock fight when one of the devices exploded in woodland on Sunday.

They were rushed to West Herts Hospital before being transferred to the specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, in Essex.

Police say a third person present at the incident was questioned.

Petrol is the English word for Gasoline. How crazy is that...

Doesn't look a bit like the real lightsabers and there are a couple free tools out there to rotoscope in the glowing effect after you film it so you can always add the effect later.

Og Speaks!

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Excellent post from Og at Neanderpundit on relationships:
I would do anything for love
but I won't do that.

Look around you at the ones you love.

Ever think to what lengths you'd go for them?
Would you fight to defend them? Probably.
Would you take a life to defend them? Most likely.
Would you die if it meant they stayed healthy? I suppose so.
Would you willingly give a kidney/other organ or part thereof to help them in time of need? Lots of people do everyday.
Would you walk away from your relationship with your loved ones if it meant their improved well-being? Perhaps you would even be strong enough to do that.

I think, what would I not do for my child, my wife? then, like a bag of hammers, it falls on me.

Would you stop smoking? would you eat less, exercise more? Would you be more devoted to your employer so as to improve your financial lot (and therefore, your child's)? Would you make a point of being home on time to have dinner with your family? Would you put up with your wife/husband's carping just a bit more so as to maintain harmony at home for your children?

It isn't the heroic deeds that your loved ones need, it is the small, everyday sacrifices that count. Or, better put, the ones you love need your heroisim in tiny ways, every day.
Unnnhhh... What Og said -- GOOD!!! My Cro-Magnon brain hurts.

Lingua Franca

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The Francophones are a bit touchy about language purity. A Computer is L'ordinateur in French. Television and Automobile snuck through but they are being very watchful about new terms. Weblog? Misanthropyst has the story -- he points to an article at Loic Le Meur Blog and offers:
Well, the Journal Officiel, eh? That settles it, then. "Bloc Notes" it is:

"You know we want to preserve French. Well, our "Journal Officiel" has given an official translation to the word weblog:

"Weblog" should be in French "Bloc Notes"

Literally, "Bloc Notes" in english translates back to "Note Pad".

The "Journal Officiel" even thought about a short version, equivalent to "blog", it should be "bloc" which should translate back to "pad". "
...Note Pad? -- sounds familiar. The cursed Hegemon strikes again...

Tinfoil Hats? Pfffttt -- amateur!

Try a tin-foil house -- from KCRA Sacramento:
South Natomas Home Covered With Sheet Metal
Residents Claim Neighbors Bombarding Them With Radiation

A home in Sacramento's south Natomas neighborhood is surrounded by sheet metal, and neighbors are calling it an eyesore.

The D'Souza family lives in the home on Timberwood Court, and claims the aluminium pieces are necessary to protect them from unknown neighbors who have been bombarding them with radio waves and making them sick.

"(It's) a shield to protect against radiation, because microwave radiation is reflected off of aluminium, so it's a protective measure," resident Sarah D'Souza said.

The D'Souzas said the bombardment began after the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that the radio waves have caused them health problems ranging from headaches to lupus.

Sacramento Code Enforcement officials have gotten involved and ordered the family to remove the metal by Monday or face a misdemeanor citation.

"Eleven years in Sacramento and few other years in Southern California and this is the first time I've ever seen (anything like this). The inside of the house is also covered with foil and the beds are covered with a foil-like material as well," Sacramento Code Enforcement spokesman Josh Pino said.

The D'Souzas said they will comply with the order and remove the sheet metal, but they also plan to gather evidence to show city officials what they believe is a problem with radiation.
A very disturbing article on Norway: Some excerpts:
Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, in April 2005 passed a new Discrimination Act. The act says in pretty clear words that in cases of suspected direct or indirect discrimination due to religion or ethnicity, Norwegians are guilty until proven otherwise. To me, it is surprising that they are allowed to pass such legislation at all. Isn't it a fundamental part of all international law that a person should be innocent until proven otherwise? Aren't our politicians thus depriving Norwegians of even the most basic human rights? However, I have heard claims that it is technically legal to do this. The act was passed in April with the approval of all parties in parliament, more than 80 % of MPs, with the sole exception of the right-wing Progress Party.
"Anti-racist" organizations are given a significant role in the new law. There is a new, state-sponsored Equality Ombudsman who will be responsible for enforcing it, and coerce all employers who refuse to abide by it. A multicultural Inquisition, in other words. Cabinet minister Erna Solberg, who has earlier called for the establishment of a sharia council in Norway, proposed the new act. It will cover everything from the workplace to the housing market. In a recent case, a local furniture store wouldn't allow a female employee to wear a head scarf, arguing that it violated the store's dress code. Solberg�s proposal will toughen the law, and also require those charged to mount proof of their innocence.
An Islamic Mufti in Copenhagen, Denmark, sparked a political outcry after publicly declaring that women who refuse to wear headscarves are "asking for rape." Apparently, he isn�t the only Muslim in Europe to think this way. Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported in 2001 that 65 percent of rapes in Oslo were performed by "non-Western" immigrants � a category that, in Norway, consists mostly of Muslims. The article quoted a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, Unni Wikan, as saying that "Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes" because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative. The professor's conclusion was not that Muslim men living in the West needed to adjust to Western norms, but the exact opposite: "Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it." In January 2005, Norwegian media reported that 2004 saw the highest number or rape charges ever recorded in the capital city of Oslo.
It is truly sad to see a friend of America have their liberties erode like this. The "idea" of multi-culturalism does not work. The melting pot is what happened here and it is one of the primary reasons we are such a strong and vital nation. Sure we have our problems but nothing like what is going on in Norway...

A phone call

Chicago Tribune Rock reviewer Greg Kot wrote about U2's recent concert and he got a phone call from Bono complaining. (The Trib requires an email registration -- use the excellent Bug Me Not to get one to use without giving them your demographic data.) It's a long article complete with an extended interview -- here are a few excerpts:

It's not every day that I answer my cell phone and hear the lead singer of U2 expressing serious disagreement with something I've written, but that day has arrived.

"You've offended us," he says as I weave up Lake Shore Drive during evening rush hour, trying not to crash into a concrete barrier while I reach for my notebook. "There's a dark cloud over us and we need to talk."

I've covered the band for 15 years, interviewed Bono a half-dozen times and attended virtually every one of U2's Chicago concerts since the Irish quartet first played at Park West in 1981. Along with R.E.M., U2 is the most important mainstream rock band of my generation, a band that set a new standard for how an arena rock concert could feel and what it could communicate. In the '90s, Bono, guitarist The Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton gave their well-honed approach a twist on such adventurous albums as "Achtung Baby" (1991), "Zooropa" (1993), the "Passengers: Original Soundtracks I" side project (1995) and "Pop" (1997).

But "Pop" bombed commercially by U2 standards, and the band seemed to lose its nerve. It made two consecutive albums, "All That You Can't Leave Behind" (2000) and "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" (2004), that retreated from the innovations of the '90s and settled for a retro '80s sound. In February, the Tribune published an article in which I chastised the band for a series of dubious artistic and business decisions. It was prompted by a flood of irate e-mails from fans who had paid $40 to join U2's fan club in order to gain access to pre-sale tickets for the band's North American tour. The sale was a public-relations disaster. Some fan-club members reported they couldn't even get tickets, or paid nearly $200 for third-balcony seats, while scalpers were selling tickets on eBay for more than $600. It was the latest in a series of missteps that prompted me to question whether this once-vital band was turning into the Rolling Stones, more of a corporation focused on perpetuating itself than a creative force.

And one more -- Kot talks about his responsibility as a reviewer:

All of this is part of what should be the relationship among the artist, the critic and even the audience, which at the United Center was wildly cheering (as they always do) every note. Critics, on the other hand, are not cheerleaders. They are paid to honestly and passionately react to what the artist does -- for better or worse. When it's the latter, audiences are often more vocal in their defense than the artists. But Bono was different.

Star Wars

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Jen and I saw the new Star Wars movie this afternoon. George still can't write dialog to save his butt but my god, does he know how to think up cool toys... The sets, the architecture of the buildings, the gadgets were awesome. It was also interesting to see the advancements in CG - nothing flashy but very very subtle. Hair used to be very difficult to get right and now Yoda's is now about as photo-realistic as it can get. It was nice to finally have Palpatine (Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid) finally get to play the role with some depth. Overall definitely two thumbs up! The theater had a trailer for the Chronicles of Narnia which also looked really good if they follow the book with some fidelity.

Islamism, fascism and terrorism.

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Spot on series of four articles. The Articles: Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four The Author (Marc Erikson) goes into a bit of the history and timeline of Islamism (what I call Islamofacisim - a Facist Theocratic State system) as opposed to Islam, the religion whose prophet is Mohamed. He starts in the 1920's and continues to the present. From the Editors Note in section one:
As distinct from the world religion of Islam, Islamism - as in part contextually defined below - is a political ideology that adherents would apply to contemporary governance and politics, and which they propagate through political and social activism.
A few excerpts: From Part One:
Among those interrogated by police was a certain Albert Friedrich Armand (aka Ahmed) Huber, 74, a Swiss convert to Islam and retired journalist who sits on the Nada board of directors. Nothing too unusual perhaps, except for the fact that Huber is also a high-profile neo-Nazi who tirelessly travels the far-right circuit in Europe and the United States. He sees himself as a mediator between radical Islam and what he calls the New Right. Since September 11, a picture of Osama bin Laden hangs next to one of Adolf Hitler on the wall of his study in Muri just outside the Swiss capital of Bern. September 11, says Huber, brought the radical Islam-New Right alliance together.
And more:
The Nazi ("national socialist") movement was formed in reaction to the World War I destruction of the "Second Reich", the "unequal and treasonous" Versailles Treaty and the mass social dislocation that followed, its racialist, corporatist ideology laid out in Hitler's Mein Kampf (My Struggle). The Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan Al Muslimun), parent organization of numerous Islamist terrorist outfits, was formed in 1928 in reaction to the 1924 abolition of the caliphate by Turkish reformer Kemal Ataturk, drawing the consequences of the World War I demise of the Ottoman Empire. Ikhwan founder Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian school teacher, wrote at the time that it was endless contemplation of "the sickness that has reduced the ummah (Muslim community) to its present state" which prompted him and five like-minded followers - all of them in their early twenties - to set up the organization to rectify it.
And one more:
Al-Banna's brotherhood, initially limiting itself to spiritual and moral reform, grew at astonishing speed in the 1930s and '40s after embracing wider political goals and by the end of World War II had around 500,000 members in Egypt alone and branches throughout the Middle East. Event background, ideology, and method of organizing all account for its improbable success. As the war drew to a close, the time was ripe for an end to British and French colonial rule and the Ikhwan was ready with the persuasive, religiously-buttressed answer: Free the Islamic homeland from foreign, infidel (kafir) control; establish a unified Islamic state. And al-Banna had built a formidable organization to accomplish just that: it featured sophisticated governance structures, sections in charge of different segments of society (peasants, workers, professionals), units entrusted with key functions (propaganda, press relations, translation, liaison with the Islamic world), and specialized committees for finances and legal affairs - all built on existing social networks, in particular those around mosques and Islamic welfare associations. Weaving of traditional ties into a distinctly modern political structure was at the root of al-Banna's success.
From Part Two:
Osama bin Laden has the money, proven organizational skills, combat experience, and the charisma that can confer the air of wisdom and profundity even on inchoate or trivial utterances and let what's unfathomable appear to be deep in the eyes of his followers. But he's no intellectual. The brains of al-Qaeda and its chief ideologue by most accounts is Egyptian physician Ayman al-Zawahiri, 51, the organization's number two man and former head of the Egyptian al-Jihad, which was merged with bin Laden's outfit in February 1998 to form the "International Front for Fighting Jews and Crusaders".
The opening paragraph from Part Three:
Islamism, or fascism with an Islamic face, was born with and of the Muslim Brotherhood. It proved (and improved) its fascist core convictions and practices through collaboration with the Nazis in the run-up to and during World War II. It proved it during the same period through its collaboration with the overtly fascist "Young Egypt" (Misr al-Fatah) movement, founded in October 1933 by lawyer Ahmed Hussein and modeled directly on the Hitler party, complete with paramilitary Green Shirts aping the Nazi Brown Shirts, Nazi salute and literal translations of Nazi slogans. Among its members, Young Egypt counted two promising youngsters and later presidents, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar El-Sadat.
And finally, the concluding two paragraphs of Part Four:
And make no mistake: In this war against a new, ideologically vigorous fascism, collateral assets of the Islamists, the neo-Nazis of the Ahmed Huber variety which we described in part 1 of this series, or - for that matter - Saudi financiers wittingly pushing narrow sectarian Wahhabism upon youths in madrassas worldwide, are key forces in the enemy camp. Islamism as we have portrayed it in its historical and present dimension is a form of fascist madness - the same type of madness which one of Hitler's closest confidants, convicted war criminal Albert Speer, saw during the Fuehrer's final days. In his Spandau prison diary entry for November 18, 1947, Speer recollects:

"I recall how [Hitler] would have films shown in the Reich Chancellory about London burning, about the sea of fire over Warsaw, about exploding convoys, and the kind of ravenous joy that would then seize him every time. But I never saw him so beside himself as when, in a delirium, he pictured New York going down in flames. He described how the skyscrapers would be transformed into gigantic burning torches, how they would collapse in confusion, how the bursting city's reflection would stand against the dark sky."
A bit of a long post and I am sorry for that but the writer has done an exemplorary job of tracing the roots of this madness and linking it to todays events. Good stuff! I'll be looking for more writing from Marc Erikson in the future.

George Dantzig

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This last one is an obituary. He passed away earlier this month. Slashdot has a brief entry with some links:
George Dantzig, the inventor of the Simplex method for solving Linear Programming problems, died on May 13. He was also the now-legendary student who turned in solutions for what he had taken to be a homework assignment, only to find out they had been posted as examples of what were suspected to be unsolvable problems.
The Mercury News has a much better writeup covering some of his life. Not exactly a household name but one of the absolute giants.

Herbert Streicher

On a bit of a biography kick. This guy -- Herbert Streicher -- is known to some old farts people as Harry Reems.

The Guardian has a fascinating interview with him:

Porn-again Christian
He was a jobbing actor whose energetic role in the most infamous porn movie ever made turned him into a cause celebre and an unwitting spokesman against censorship. It also nearly cost him his life. As a candid documentary is released, Harry Reems tells David A Keeps about his struggle to survive Deep Throat

The man sitting on the edge of the bed and making love to the camera is arousing nothing but suspicion. Could this avuncular chap with the beetle brows and a shock of grey hair - who looks like what they used to call a 'silver fox' 30 years ago - actually be Harry Reems, the first male porn star and one of the few genuine survivors of the 1972 adult film Deep Throat?

Yes, and then again, no. This fellow, born Herbert Streicher in New York City in 1947, sitting here in his bucolic Park City, Utah, mountainside home in a plaid shirt and neatly pressed khakis, has the smile, the voice and the disposition of a breakfast DJ. It is easy to see the ghost of a cocksure rake, the role he played in silly skin flicks with such brio three decades ago, when Harry Reems was one of many noms de porn that stuck. It is even more apparent, however, that he is no longer the firebrand freedom-of-expression spokesperson - and, later, more sadly, the wasted sot - on display in Inside Deep Throat, the wildly entertaining new documentary about the most profitable porno film ever made. It is 15:01 on the celebrity clock for Harry Reems, or, as he puts it, 'I've had my 15 minutes of fame, now I would like my 15 years of retirement.'

The article talks about his childhood, discovering acting and working as a lighting tech for Deep Throat when the actor failed to show up. He was brought to trial for his part in the movie -- from the interview:

He explains the story of the trial as simply as he can: 'I was the first actor ever prosecuted for his work by the federal government. I was brought on trial for conspiracy to transport obscene materials interstate. They were basically saying that because I had knowledge that a piece of obscenity was crossing state lines, that because I didn't disavow and destroy that conspiracy, I was responsible for it.'

The trial commenced in Memphis, Tennessee, in March 1976. From the outset, Harry says, 'It was a stacked deck.' The judge, the prosecutor and the DA were all Nixon appointees, though the president had resigned in disgrace after the Watergate scandal two years earlier.

The prosecutor was 'a right-wing Southern Baptist type, waving the Bible at the jury. No one was allowed to see Deep Throat, no one was allowed to be on the jury who had ever seen a porno film.' The film's director and star were witnesses for the prosecution and granted immunity.

He started drinking seriously, was living on the streets for a while, went into a 12-step program and is now a successful businessman (real-estate). Fascinating story...

Robert Carter

An interesting historical byway. The book is The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves and an excellent review is at The Chicago Tribune. Use Bug Me Not for a user email and password.
Adding a page to the history of Revolutionary-era America
A thought-provoking look at a wealthy outsider from Virginia

It has become standard in American history to accept that the Founding Fathers championed liberty and endorsed slavery. Historians explain this monstrous contradiction by noting that it reflected the realities of American racism or the necessities of the Colonial economy. Some even contend it was the institution of slavery that permitted aristocratic leaders to dare to expand the idea of liberty to include all whites. With the most dangerous poor enslaved, elite men could permit widespread voting without fear that they were endangering their own economic and political control of society.

Into this common understanding of the Revolutionary era Andrew Levy has thrown a twist. One of the wealthiest Founding Fathers made no compromise with slavery, he argues. Instead, in 1791 and 1792, Robert Carter III, the wealthiest man in Virginia, arranged for the gradual emancipation of the 450 slaves who worked on his many plantations. Levy's "The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves" asks two questions: Why did Carter break ranks with other Virginia leaders and promote black freedom, and why has history forgotten him?

Levy is an English professor at Butler University, and his literary training shows in his wonderfully engaging portrait of Carter's world. The Revolutionary luminaries as they are usually presented often seem to have grown up inside a textbook, dressed in drab clothes, reading from treatises and doing nothing much of interest until they suddenly decide to change the world (and even then they aren't very engaging about it). Carter, in contrast, was the grandson of a man who was nicknamed "King" and who was "so serpentine that it was easy to think of him as the devil's partner." Carter's 29-year-old father died of an opium overdose.

The young heir to the nation's greatest fortune was evidently a problem child, so disinterested in school that an observer of the young adult Carter dismissed him as illiterate. Residence in London to finish his education and make business contacts resulted only in licentiousness; the young man probably spent his time gambling, whoring and patronizing his tailor. A novel written shortly after he left England reflected his reputation there, featuring as its antagonist the richest slaveholder in America, " 'a lad of bad principles, unlettered, and of coarse manners,' " a man the novelist carefully named Carter. Back in Virginia, the young rogue was seen as "vicious" and "confused."
This is only part of the review and the book looks really good. Going to put in a request to my Library and see if they can get it from another system. A fascinating time in our history and to have one character so overlooked in the "official history" is intriguing.


Very cool technology -- from Newsday/AP:

Particle Accelerator Used to Decipher Text
A particle accelerator is being used to reveal the long-lost writings of the Greek mathematician Archimedes, work hidden for centuries after a Christian monk wrote over it in the Middle Ages.

Highly focused X-rays produced at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center were used last week to begin deciphering the parts of the 174-page text that have not yet been revealed. The X-rays cause iron in the hidden ink to glow.

"One of the delightful things is we don't know what it's going to say," said William Noel, head of the Archimedes Palimpsest project at the Walters Art Gallery.

Scholars believe the treatise was copied by a scribe in the 10th century from Archimedes' original Greek scrolls, written in the third century B.C.

It was erased about 200 years later by a monk who reused the parchment for a prayer book, creating a twice-used parchment book known as a "palimpsest." In the 12th century, parchment -- scraped and dried animal skins -- was rare and costly, and Archimedes' works were in less demand.

The palimpsest was bought at auction for $2 million in 1998 by an anonymous private collector who loaned it to the Baltimore museum and funded studies to reveal the text. About 80 percent of the text has been uncovered so far.

"It's the only one that contains diagrams that may bear any resemblance to the diagrams Archimedes himself drew in the sand in Syracuse 2000 years ago," Noel said.

While reading an article on the text, Stanford physicist Uwe Bergmann realized he could use a particle accelerator to detect small amounts of iron in the ink. The electrons speeding along the circular accelerator emit X-rays that can be used to cause the iron to fluoresce, or glow.

"Anything which contains iron will be shown, and anything that doesn't contain iron will not be shown," Bergmann said.

Very cool. The majority of the text has already been discovered using techniques from Medical and Space Imaging. Here is a bit more from the article:

Most of the text has been revealed by scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the Rochester Institute of Technology who used digital cameras and processing techniques as well as ultraviolet and infrared filters developed for medicine and space research.

The so-called Archimedes Palimpsest includes the only copy of the treatise "Method of Mechanical Theorems," in which Archimedes explains how he used mechanical means to develop his mathematical theorems. It is also the only source in the original Greek for the treatise "On Floating Bodies," in which Archimedes deals with the physics of flotation and gravity.

Three of the undeciphered pages were imaged last week, and the rest are expected to take three to four years to complete, Noel said.

Floating Bodies was where he got the idea for specific gravity -- this idea was said to have came to him while he was sitting in a bathtub. He was so excited that he ran through the streets of his city of Syracuse shouting Eureka ("Heureka" is a form of the Greek verb heuriskein, meaning "to find"; it means "I have found it!")

Wikipedia has a nice article with lots of links: Archimedes The Archimedes Palimpsest project has its own website.

Also, Jen and I flew down to CA for a cousin's wedding reception a few weeks ago. We were about 4,000 feet over Menlo Park, CA on our way to SJC and there was this long white gash in the terrain. That was SLAC. They have done some awesome research there (three Nobel Prizes worth). The facility is no longer one of the "big guns" of Science but because the beam travels down the tube on a one-way trip (not getting mixed in a recirculating system), it can be dialed in with incredible accuracy. A scalpel, not a sledgehammer and it is still in constant use.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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Jen and I finally got to see it in the theater today. Really enjoyed it. Not 110% true to the book and it left itself open to the Restaurant sequel (which is not a bad thing) but overall, a lot of fun. Now if I can just get that damn "Thanks for the Fish" song out of my head -- talk about brain worms...

Weeder Technologies

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Weeder Technologies looks to be a very cool company.

They make devices that connect to a standard serial port and allow for analog and digital input and output. You buy the cards depending on the function you want and they are about $60 each so the cost is a fraction of the "big" systems. They are using a very clever software hack to allow the units to daisy-chain so you can have up to 32 different modules on a single serial port.

Oh yeah -- the software to talk to all of these guys is a free download plus they are very generous with code snippets and libraries if you want to roll your own. I am looking at ultimately automating as much of the Cider and Mead production as possible and this looks like an excellent place to start.

The fact that they have been in business since 1989 indicates that they are being run well and will be around for a while longer...

Archived email

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I am a firm believer in it. Some companies have a rule to delete email older than a set date. I used to work for one of these and I am sending them the link to this article.
Morgan Stanley case highlights e-mail perils
The $1.45 billion judgement against Morgan Stanley for deceiving billionaire Ronald Perelman over a business deal has a lesson all companies should learn -- keeping e-mails is now a must, experts say.

Banks and broker-dealers are obliged to retain e-mail and instant messaging documents for three years under U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules. But similar requirements will apply to all public companies from July 2006 under the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform measures.

At the same time, U.S. courts are imposing increasingly harsh punishments on corporations that fail to comply with orders to produce e-mail documents, the experts said.

Where judges once were more likely to accept that incompetence or computer problems might be to blame, they are now apt to rule that noncompliance is an indication a company has something to hide.
It is always good to save these. Most email programs allow you to export email into a separate file so you can archive by year and burn them onto two or three CD-ROM disks (in case one goes bad -- also store them in different locations in case of fire) This has saved my butt more than one time.

Hello, this is OnStar. Can I help you?

DOH! From WMFY News:

Toddler Leads Deputies To 1,700 Pounds Of Pot
Sheriff's deputies in Bernalillo County, NM, found nearly a ton of pot at a home, thanks to a toddler and an OnStar in-vehicle safety and security system.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Friday that a 2-year-old boy who was locked in his father's Cadillac Escalade in southeast Albuquerque pushed the OnStar button in the car for help. The device not only can guide a motorist to a location, it can also unlock doors and call for help.

Officials responded to the OnStar alert, and when deputies arrived, they became suspicious when they found a large trailer in the garage.

Inside the trailer, deputies found 1,700 pounds of marijuana worth more than a half-million dollars.

Four men were arrested and are now in federal custody on drug trafficking charges, deputies said.

Honestly Officer, I have no idea how those bags got in my trailer...

Read the Label

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There was a big scare in 1982 when seven people died after taking Tylenol. It was determined that someone had tampered with the bottles and included Cyanide and replaced the bottles onto the shelves. No one has ever been caught although James Lewis was convicted of attempting to extort $1 million from Johnson & Johnson after the fact. He did jail for about half of a 20 year sentence. Now someone has done the same thing with a popular energy drink in Taiwan although this time, the poisoner clearly labeled the drink with the following: "I am poisonous. Please do not drink." The Houston Chronicle has the story:
Cyanide victims think 'poison' warning a slogan
A man in Taiwan has died and four others were poisoned after drinking a popular bottled fizzy drink laced with cyanide and labeled "I am poisonous. Please do not drink."

Some of the victims thought the warning was a new advertising slogan, police said on Thursday.

The manufacturer of Bullwild energy drink, Paolyta Co., ordered an island-wide recall of about 1.2 million to 1.6 million bottles. The drink, which is popular among taxi drivers and workers, has also been taken off shelves in Hong Kong and Macau.
Sheesh! Wonder what was going through the poisoners mind -- was this some form of 'superiority complex' and they were administering an intelligence test. They deserve a long time in the loony bin far away from the rest of the world.
comes proof once again that anyone can put up a website. I present for your enjoyment (and chortles) the Shooter Buddy From their website is an explanation of how it works:
The Earth�s magnetic field helps create the great taste of fresh fruits. During the long growing season, fruit is held in a relatively constant position in relation to the Earth�s magnetic field, aligning the liquid particles much like tiny compass needles. This natural balance gives fresh picked fruit its smooth, natural flavor.

The delicate magnetic alignment of the liquid particles is destroyed during the crushing, straining, pasteurizing, fermenting, and distilling used to manufacture liquid beverages, and much of the smooth natural taste is lost. The traditional slow aging process of wine and distilled spirits allows the particles to once again become aligned by the earth�s magnetic field, but this process takes years, and dramatically increases the cost of the finished product.

The Shooter Buddy quickly realigns the particles in your beverage by surrounding them with extremely powerful Neodymium (ne-o-d�m-e-um) magnets. These are the strongest magnets currently known to man. They�re made from a combination of rare earth elements that create an extremely powerful replica of the Earth�s magnetic field.

In as little as ten seconds, Shooter Buddy restores the natural balance destroyed in the production process, recaptures the fresh taste of nature, and duplicates the smooth mellow flavor generated by years of traditional slow aging.

The commercial beverage industry has discovered the advantage of using a magnetic field to improve the flavor of its products. During the past ten years, numerous patents have been issued for products that apply a magnetic field during the processing of beverages. The designer of the Shooter Buddy product line has meticulously adapted and refined this concept to allow customers to improve the flavor of their favorite individual drinks.
Here are some mugshots of their two products (Junior and Senior)
which clock in at $30 and $50 each (free shipping) The key thing to watch for is that they are claiming that the alignment to a magnetic field takes a long time. It does not, for water, it takes about two seconds. For complex molecules, it takes longer but not much more than ten seconds. How do I know this? Simple. The alignment of particles and molecules takes a known amount of time to settle out after they are perturbed by a different magnetic field. This value is very constant for the material under test and is the core technology for instruments that are used to measure the Earth's magnetic field. When I was in college (1970's), I designed several Proton Precession Magnetometers (patterned after existing units, just upgrading the electronics and software). This technology works so well it is still being sold today. As a molecule realigns to the new magnetic field, the individual particles in the molecule are still spinning and the overall momentum makes the molecule wobble around its axis like a top as it re-aligns. The frequency of the wobble is directly correlated to the overall magnetic field. Unfortunately, for water, the re-alignment takes about two seconds and for the favorite target material (wax) it takes about 15 seconds so you have to keep whacking the stuff (magnetically speaking) every few seconds to keep the wobbling happening. A final nail in the coffin: As you take the shot glass out of the $40 new toy, you are going to rotate it as you bring it to your lips -- will that not negate the effects that you just spent half a days salary on? So you spend the rest of your life sipping cheap booze through straws one ounce at a time and lying to yourself about how good it is...


FINALLY! From the Northwest Herald:
Companies sync dogs-to-buns ratio
It is a source of frustration at cookouts everywhere: There are never enough hot dogs, and there always seem to be way too many buns.

Hot dogs and hot-dog buns are sold in different quantities, but that is going to change beginning today.

Vienna Beef and Alpha Baking Co., which manufactures S. Rosen's buns, promise to sell the buns and hot dogs in the same numbers.

According to a news release, the companies will sign a formal "piece" treaty, vowing to package hot dogs and buns in quantities of eight.

Hot dogs now are sold eight to a pack, and buns are sold with six or 12 in a pack, the news release stated. In order to have an even cookout, chefs must buy 24 of each to ensure that every dog has a breaded mate.

Because of former inequities, more than 2 million buns a year are wasted, the news release stated.
It feels like the earth's axis just tilted a bit.

Rick Santorum meet Mr. Mike Godwin

I had written about this odious little toad before here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here regarding the legislation he is proposing which cuts back the Government's weather information (he is in the pocket of a commercial weather info provider). It seems he has a problem with Democrats and likes to compare them to Adolph Hitler. He has since retracted his statement and little can be found from Main Stream Media reporting the original event (self-censoring are we?). Here is Yahoo/Reuters with the retraction:
Senator Santorum calls Hitler quip 'mistake'
A Republican senator who likened Democrats to Adolf Hitler during a heated debate over the future of U.S. judicial nominees on Friday said such language was a "mistake."

Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania released a statement saying that "Referencing Hitler was meant to dramatize the principle of an argument, not to characterize my Democratic colleagues."

"It was a mistake and I meant no offense," added Santorum, who holds a key spot in the Republican leadership.
And who you ask is Mike Godwin? Allow me to introduce you to Godwin's Law:
Godwin's law (also Godwin's rule of Nazi analogies) is an adage in Internet culture that was originated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states that:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Example of use
For example, imagine two people were arguing over which computer operating system was better, Windows or Macintosh. The Windows proponent might argue that there are more games available on Windows, while the Mac advocate might argue the Mac OS is more reliable, and crashes less. The Windows proponent might counter by arguing that Windows does not actually crash more, and that such a notion is just a stereotype. Frustrated, the Mac proponent might retort "Yeah, well Windows is made by Bill Gates, and he's a power-mad tyrant just like Hitler. I would never use his operating system." Under Godwin's law, the Mac advocate would have just lost the argument.

Rolly Hillas

Rolly started and runs Hillas Packaging. I have not done business with them but they seem to be the place to go for bags, boxes and all sorts of adhesives and packing machinery. He has a Rolly's Thoughts section on the corporate website and this one really caught my eye. Rolly knows what it is like to be in business -- he will be getting some of mine...

Perfect Customer

Dear Web Searcher:

If you are a perfect customer please buy from us. We are far from perfect and you could immediately upgrade our operation. A skilled customer will anticipate that his next day air shipment will be lost in our warehouse and order two weeks ahead. A great customer will know someone at that vendor a thousand times larger than us, located in some storybook place I will never get to visit and make them produce an inconvenient backordered product when I want them to. A brilliant customer can find a package lost by a freight company handling a billion packages a minute and speed it to its proper place. If someone is yelling at me on one line and on another someone is politely asking a winding complicated question a wise customer on the third line will cause me to chill out, stop screaming at the nice one and be patient with everyone. We need you.

The people here are from many places. Some of us speak Thai, Urdu, Mandarin, Spanish and Bosnian-Serbo-Croatian better than English. We are trying hard to improve our English and will improve. In the meantime if you want to yell to someone about our accents, yell at me in English. I am the slow one and can speak nothing else.

Each individual here is struggling with the heavy burden of responsibility that comes with our great blessing of freedom (everything is a trade off). Each of us struggles to get beyond the comforting forms of our many religions to the towering standards of truth, generosity, kindness and humility our faiths demand. Like my first son who was killed in a car accident one of my heroes stays close to my conscious self. The latter was probably not assassinated, soon after I was born for his toothbrush, which is most of what he owned. More likely it was for ideas like an eye for eye and we will all be blind. Observed deeply, a standard that high would make many of us far more humble than we wish to be or in a weak moment hopping mad. Help us do better.

We have changed over the past two years thanks to Zak's web site, a great economy and a lot of hard work. Presently I cannot play soccer at all because of an injury that never seems to heal. I have more time to read now. I miss soccer. Reading is too strenuous and threatening. Our packed warehouse is 17,500 square feet. Manolo, Fatima and often me and Haris keep our warehouse clean. Our sales are in sight of $5,000,000. We have two part-time and twelve full-time workers.

Thank You,

If I was looking for work and lived near that company, I bet it would be a great place to work for. As it is, we are planning to offer shipping for our Cider and Mead products and Rolly will be on the list to get a quote request for boxes.

House Theft

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Strange story from CBS News about a Cleveland man whose mother's house was stolen.

Can't Steal A House? Think Again
When Jon Thomas returned to Cleveland to bury his mother, he thought that was the worst of it. Then, as CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston reports, he drove by her house and discovered a stranger was living there.

"When you find people in your house, you expect to call police, come down, take the people out, arrest them and be happy," he says. But, as it turns out, he couldn't do any of that.

According to official records, he didn't own the house. It had been stolen soon after his parents moved into a nursing home and getting it back wouldn't be easy. CBS News flew Thomas to Shaker Heights from his home in New York to recount his ordeal.

"First of all, they look at me like I'm crazy," he says. "Then they say, 'What?'

"That's the one word everyone says, 'What? What do you mean stolen? You can't steal a house!'"

Even his lawyer was skeptical.

"When he approached me with a story of, 'My mom's house has been stolen,' frankly, I said to myself, 'Maybe this guy doesn't understand how real estate works,'" says Thomas' attorney Dean Boland. "That can't quite be."

But they soon discovered not only how the house was snatched, but how easy it was to do.

"The key documents were a fake ID card, a power of attorney and a quit claim deed ... literally three pieces of paper," says Boland.

A different riff on identity theft. Jon Thomas is an only child but his "sister" produced a forged Power of Atorney and proceeded to transfer the title to a company owned by a Richard Lenard for the princely sum of $25K (house is worth $250K). Lenard's company then took out a mortgage for $200K using the property as equity. They rented the house out as well as holding two estate sales. From the CBS News article:

It took Thomas more than two years to regain his house, and during that time the house was badly damaged by the unlawful tenants. Adding insult to injury, Lenard, the fraudulent owner, actually advertised and held two estate sales, exchanging a family's memories for money.

"If they didn't steal it, they sold it or they destroyed it - $100,000 worth of damage," says Thomas. "All my pictures gone; all mementoes gone; all my keepsakes, gone."

Lenard has been indicted on 38 counts and awaits trial in criminal court. Thomas got his mother's house back but has lost everything that made it a home.

Mr. Lenard needs to spend some time in the graybar motel. About five years should do it. Hard Labor would be a nice touch but I don't think they do that anymore...

A snapshot from New York

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An awesome photograph from DEADPR0GRAMMER'S CAFE From the website:
Resolution 4711: UN Reiterates that It Deplores, Deeply Regrets and Strongly Condemns Deadprogrammer�s Smartass Photography
-- or --
What John Bolton Sees

I took a nice long walk after visiting Trump Tower today, and on my way finally got to see the ungracefully aging United Nations building. There�s this weird fence on a little terrace across from it, and the shot framed itself�.
As in the MasterCard commercials -- Priceless...

Power Toys for XP

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Has ...finally... been released. MSFT has made these since Win98 and they are short EXEs to tweak the settings for that version of Windows -- tweaks that are not normally available to the casual user. I am a firm believer in Power Toys and am wondering what took them so long to release PT for XP. Get all of its download goodness here TweakUI is well worth checking out -- the other stuff is gravy (nice gravy)...
An interesting report in the current Nature:
East Antarctica puts on weight
Increased snowfall could slow sea-level rise.

Increased snowfall over a large area of Antarctica is thickening the ice sheet and slowing the rise in sea level caused by melting ice.

A satellite survey shows that between 1992 and 2003, the East Antarctic ice sheet gained about 45 billion tonnes of ice - enough to reduce the oceans' rise by 0.12 millimetres per year. The ice sheets that cover Antarctica's bedrock are several kilometres thick in places, and contain about 90% of the world's ice. But scientists fear that if they melt in substantial quantities, this will swell the oceans and cause devastation on islands and coastal lands.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that sea level is currently rising at about 1.8 millimetres per year, largely through melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets as a result of global warming. But the panel also expected that climate change would trigger an increase in snowfall over the Antarctic continent, as increased evaporation from the oceans puts more moisture into the air.
Emphasis mine -- Kyoto doesn't even begin to come close to working with something like this -- so why are so many moonbats pushing so hard for it? Oh yeah, some of the scientists comments on this work are great -- here is one from the same article:
"This is a phenomenal piece of research, but it is what we expected," comments David Vaughan, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. "These effects have been predicted for a long time, it's just that no one has measured them before."
Climate Modeling is an evolving Science so why do so many people want to stick with a model that is 20 years old and ignores the most prevalent Greenhouse Gas and allows the two of the most polluting nations to conduct "Bid'ness as Usual". Maybe someone needs to take another look at the politics involved, it certainly is not a Scientific decision...

Winning arguments

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Here is a list of 38 ways to win an argument taken from Schopenhauer's "The Art of Controversy" A few examples:
Carry your opponent's proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it.
The more general your opponent's statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it.
The more restricted and narrow your own propositions remain, the easier they are to defend.

Use different meanings of your opponent's words to refute his argument.
Example: Person A says, "You do not understand the mysteries of Kant's philosophy."
Person B replies, "Of, if it's mysteries you're talking about, I'll have nothing to do with them."

Ignore your opponent's proposition, which was intended to refer to some particular thing.
Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it.
Attack something different than what was asserted.

Hide your conclusion from your opponent until the end.
Mingle your premises here and there in your talk.
Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order.
By this circuitous route you conceal your goal until you have reached all the admissions necessary to reach your goal.

30,000 Calorie Sandwich

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A student writes:

So I'm sure you all have seen the Giant Sandwich. If you haven't, go there now. When I first read that, I realized he is a god among men.

So I got an idea in my head. A particularly stupid idea. This makes it even harder to simply pass up.

I think to myself: "I can top this guy - he didn't fry anything!"

And it begins.

And the result is this -- a 6.5 pound sandwich with 30,000 calories:


Derian proceeds to eat this over the following 48 hours.

Taking Star Wars a bit too far???

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Ran into this pic on the web:


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One of the people listed on my Blogroll to the right is Bill Whittle who posts at his blog EjectEjectEject. He doesn't post every day but when he does, it is well worth setting aside an hour to sit back and read quietly. Bill is an essayist and an excellent one. His latest work is Sanctuary and it just showed up last evening. Part One Part Two I am not going to try to excerpt anything. Go there and read now, he has outdone himself.

Teach your children well

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Hat tip to Physics Geek for this wonderful link to John Derbyshire who talks about an email he received from one of his readers... (convoluted enough for you?)
Good point from a reader: "A quick way to debunk the 'we need more money' claims from public schools: calculate how much they are spending per class.

"Lets suppose the district is spending $8,000 per student, which I believe is below the national average and well below what they spend in your region. If each class has 20 students, which again would be quite low, they are spending $160,000 per class. If there are 25 students then its $200,000. On what? Pay the teacher $80,000 and you still have $80,000 left for the building, administrators, buses, books, etc, $120,000 if you use the bigger class.

"Give me $100,000 to educate 20 kids for a year and I'll gladly quit my job as an attorney, rent the necessary facilities, and provide a much better education to them than the public schools do.

"As a homeowner who would under no circumstances allow any of my five children to attend any public school (which means I am giving up a $1/2 million government subsidy), I find the amounts the government spends on schools to be utterly outrageous."
Makes sense - we tend to think that there is an inherent economy of scale when things get larger. This certainly holds true in a lot of areas but it doesn't seem to when talking about education.

Redneck Jedi

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Kim DuToit is an excellent blogger and he also runs the Nation of Rifleman forum.
This thread
started started up the other day:
You Know You're A Redneck Jedi When...
You hear "Luke, I am your father... and your uncle..."
You ever said the phrase, "May the force be with y'all."
Your Jedi robe is camouflage.
You have ever used your light saber to open a bottle of Bud Light.
At least one wing of your X-Wings is primer colored.
You can easily describe the taste of an Ewok.
You have ever had a land-speeder up on blocks in your yard.
There's more -- good stuff...

A poem

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This poem came up at dinner (my folks are visiting and Jen and I went out with them to a great Italian place about ten miles from our farm) Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things, The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal these words appear: �My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!� Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.
I used to have this memorized when I was in college. Still relevant today -- thinking about yesterdays 'Palestinian' sermon and the current state of the Main Stream Media. Goosebumps...

Say hello to Adrian

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First one of the season -- Tropical Storm Adrian is right on schedule.
Click for full-size Image
Here is the official website: "National Hurricane Center"

From Kodak comes a birthday announcement that has a dark edge to it:

40th Anniversary of Super 8 film
Kodak celebrates 40th anniversary of super 8 film announces new color reversal product to portfolio

From its beginnings as the home movie medium of the 1960s, Super 8 film is alive and well, and serving a vital segment of today's filmmaking industry.

Eastman Kodak Company remains committed to providing Super 8 camera users a range of products and creative choices. As such, Kodak has added a new color reversal film to its Super 8 portfolio-the super-saturated, fine grain KODAK EKTACHROME 64T Color Reversal Film 7280 will be available in August of this year.

"Introduced in 1965, Super 8 film has found new life with each new generation of filmmakers that continue to embrace the format," said Bob Mayson, general manager and vice president for Image Capture products, Entertainment Imaging division at Eastman Kodak Company. "Forty years after its introduction, this small-gauge film still provides an easy, inexpensive way for students and enthusiasts to work at film resolutions and color depths as yet unmatched by the latest digital technologies."

"In fact, many of today's great cinematographers and directors began their careers decades ago, at the counter of their local photo shop, buying a cartridge of Super 8 film."

This is all cool -- Happy Birthday and all that but read on:

As part of the portfolio revamp, Kodak will discontinue sales of its S8 KODACHROME 40 Movie Film. Final sales of KODACHROME Super 8 will be based on product availability over the coming months. Sales of KODACHROME 16 mm films will continue, unaffected by this announcement.

So Super-8 has been alive and well for 40 years and Kodak celebrates this by killing its best film format. Slow speed (you need more light) but wonderful image quality. When I was shooting film, Kodachrome 25 was my film of choice -- slow as snot but the quality and resolution was drop-dead gorgeous. Hat tip to Gizmodo

The true face of Animal Activism

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A chilling story of what Animal Activists are really about. From the U.K. Observer comes this story:
'Hundreds shouted at me, roll over and die'
Science gave a Parkinson's victim new life but animal rights activists called him a Nazi

Mike Robins is a man redeemed. Thanks to pioneering surgery, the debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease that were wrecking his life are now under tight control.

With the flick of a switch, he can turn off the uncontrollable tremors that stopped him holding down a job, having a social life or even getting to sleep. Not surprisingly, Robins reckons he is lucky to be fit and alive. Others are not so sure.

At a recent public meeting to discuss a proposed animal research centre in Oxford, 63-year-old Robins was jeered and ridiculed when he tried to show how surgery, perfected through animal experiments, had transformed his life.

'I was bayed at,' said Robins, a retired naval engineer from Southampton. 'Several hundred people were shouting. Some called out "Nazi!", "bastard!" and "Why don't you roll over and die!" I tried to speak, but was shouted down. It was utterly terrifying.'

The attack has shocked even hardened observers of vivisection debates. 'I have seen many unpleasant things at these debates, but to scream at a middle-aged man with Parkinson's disease and then tell him he deserved to die is the worst I have observed,' said Simon Festing, director of the Research Defence Society, which defends the scientific use of animals for experimentation.
A bit more -- this is from the surgeon who performed Mike's operation:
'I wanted people to see how a person can benefit from animal experiments,' said the Oxford surgeon Tipu Aziz who operated on Robins and spoke at the debate. 'That is why I asked Mike to appear at the debate. I am now very sorry I put him through that horrible ordeal. To these people, Mike's existence is a refutation of their core beliefs. They say animal experiments do no good. Then Mike stands up, switches his tremors on and off, and their arguments are blown away. That's why they shouted him down.'
And the people calling him Nazi think that they are the normal ones. Talk about being disconnected from reality...

RIP Frank Gorshin

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From the WNBC website:
Frank Gorshin, Impressionist And Actor, Dies At 72
Frank Gorshin, the impressionist with 100 faces best known for his Emmy-nominated role as the Riddler on the "Batman" TV series, has died. He was 72.

Gorshin's wife of 48 years, Christina, was at his side when he died Tuesday at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, his agent and longtime friend, Fred Wostbrock, said Wednesday.

"He put up a valiant fight with lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia," Mrs. Gorshin said in a statement.
The Obituary goes on to list some of his many television and film roles. He was a class act and will be missed...

No Leica

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A sad article at Reuters about how German camera maker Leica is undergoing severe financial problems and is not likely to survive. A rabid fan-base is rallying to save it.
Cult camera maker Leica fights for its life
From Robert Capa's war photos of the D-Day Normandy landings to Henri Cartier-Bresson's elegiac images of 1950s Paris life, some of the most famous photographs in existence have been shot on Leica cameras.

But the German firm whose revolutionary small, light 35mm cameras helped create the new genre of reportage in the 1930s, spawning such magazines as Life and Picture Post, is today fighting for its survival, unthinkable as it seems to devotees.

"The name can't disappear. It's an institution. The British Queen will still exist in 100 years and so will Leica," says photographer Michael Martin, who spent years photographing the world's deserts with his Leica, which he considers a "friend."

Martin is in a minority, though, as a growing number of professional photographers too young to remember photography's "golden age" switch to digital cameras -- a trend that has left Leica far behind the likes of Canon and Sony.

"You could almost say they've missed the boat completely," says Paul Withington, Western Europe camera analyst at market research firm IDC.
Missed the boat is exactly what happened. I used to have an M-4 and loved it. Compact, silent and exceptional quality both fit and finish and optically. Leica has made Digital cameras but they have generally been junk -- underfeatured and very overpriced. The article then goes on to talk about their latest product which will save the company -- a digital back that will fit on their existing film cameras. It sells for 4,600 Euros. I could buy a brand-new D2X and a couple more lenses for that much! I switched to Nikon about 30 years ago after my interests switched to close-up and scientific photography and I started needed to see exactly what was going to be on the frame when it was developed. When I moved to Digital, I stayed with Nikon and as such, was able to use all of my old lenses. The old Leicas were classics though -- minimal and superb.

A Sermon from a different Church

My previous post was about a group of Christians who were adopting GNU/Linux Open Source applications for Religious Groups and promoting their use. Not by their own Church but by any Faith.

Charles at LGF links to an excerpt of a Sermon delivered May 13th of this year. Here is the excerpt:

We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again. The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world - except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquility under our rule, because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relived of the Jews - even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew.

The entire transcript is here (it's not long to read -- only a few minutes and the above quote was not taken out of context, the entire thing is that sick) -- the video with English subtitles is available at the LGF link above.

The Sermon was delivered by the official "Palestinian Authority" television channel as part of their Friday service.

I am not dogpiling on Islam -- my first wife was a practicing Sufi (a branch of Islam) and I had the great pleasure to meet some wonderful people. This hate that we see is a corruption, a perversion of a wonderful faith. The people who promote this are untrue to their spirit. Let's just say that when they die, the 72 Virgins ain't init...

UPDATE: Dr. Sanity published an excellent post on this same Sermon -- the Sermon of Hate.

She links to the same English translation and then offers the following thoughts:

Any person of rationality and goodwill should read this and shiver. It is absolutely chilling to think that a human mind could be filled with such hatred and vitriol. In an abstract sense one can barely imagine it, and then you read something like this.

In my earlier post on Why Grown People Use Immature Psychological Defenses, I wrote:
Defenses may be difficult to detect by the user unless conscious thought and emotional honesty are applied to the problem; but they often can be detected by a disinterested observer who can see the distortion of reality that is being displayed. Sometimes the observer may be actually flabbergasted at the way an individual can deceive him or herself.Well, I continue to be flabbergasted (and I am a psychiatrist) at the level of distortion, denial, delusional projection, and fantasy that flows from the adherents of Islam. This sermon was televised on TV by the Palestinian Authority!

Is there no leader anywhere who is capable of penetrating through the self-deceptions, rage and hatred; and lead the Muslim population out of their self-imposed exile from reality?

Until there is, they will only continuously act out their destructive fantasies and every setback will confirm the delusion that they are victims of some massive world-wide conspiracy. If it is a conspiracy they want to find, they need look no further than the venal and fanatical men who lead their nations and coordinate their jihads.

All the evil they so adamantly assign to the Jews lies festering within their own souls.

She nails this on the head. I love the line about "self-imposed exile from reality" -- can anyone honestly deny this? Sad really -- all the children whose minds have been polluted, it will take generations if people start now.

Penguin in the Pew

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Interesting promotion of GNU/Linux for Religious Organizations From their website:
Penguin in the Pew
"Penguin in the Pew", a brief booklet by Pastor Parris, has become an important resource for church leaders and IT Pros around the globe. It has been downloaded over thousands of times since the release of 1.0 last May, and is now available in French. A Spanish translation is underway, and German may be next. A revision is currently underway to address new discoveries and to provide an overview of the now visible and vocal Christian FOSS community.

Penguin in the Pew 1.0 inspired churches to switch to GNU/Linux from their legacy software, as well as inspiring efforts among Christians to develop a GNU/Linux distribution for Christians. Penguin in the Pew's popularity among church IT consultants, pastors, and volunteers has led to the current effort by Parris to improve the book in several ways. It now has a section for "non-techies", unveils the mystery of the GNU/Linux filesystem, and includes more information about applications that Christians can use. It also now has an index.
The book is available for sale here and Version One is supposed to be available for download but I cannot find it. The overall idea is a great one and is a good model for any group of people.

Hotter -- I need it hotter!!!

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I like spicy food but some people take things to extremes. The unit of measurement in question is the Scoville Unit which One Scoville Unit represents the minimum heat that can be detected. A company called Extreme Food is selling Blairs 16million reserve:
Blairs 16million reserve
What you will find inside of my Famous Reserve bottle is amazing, a 1ml pharmaceutical grade vial filled with this unreal Pure Capsaicin Crystal.--No more than 999 Bottles will be offered

Heh... For comparison, regular Tabasco clocks in around 2,500 to 5,000 and Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers go from 100,000 to an eye-bleeding 350,000. Commercial police pepper spray is 5.3 Million. Some people are just plain nuts.

The Submarine San Francisco

I had written about her collision with an uncharted undersea mountain before here, here and here. The last entry has this photograph of it sitting in drydock at the Guam naval Base:

Click for full-size Image

Here it is today:

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The NY Times has an excellent article-- it has been time enough for the accident to be fully investigated and the cause determined:

Adrift 500 Feet Down, a Minute Was an Eternity
Blood was everywhere. Sailors lay sprawled across the floor, several of them unconscious, others simply dazed. Even the captain was asking, "What just happened?" All anyone knew for sure was that the nuclear-powered attack submarine had slammed head-on into something solid and very large, and that it had to get to the surface fast.

In the control room, a senior enlisted man shoved the "chicken switches," blowing high-pressure air through the ballast tanks to force the vessel upward. Usually, the submarine would respond at once. But as the captain, Cmdr. Kevin G. Mooney, and top officers stared at the depth gauge, the needle refused to budge.

Moments before, they had been slipping quiet and fast through the Pacific. Now, they were stuck, more than 500 feet down.

Ten seconds passed. Then 20, 30.

"I thought I was going to die," Commander Mooney recalled.

It would be close to a minute, but an excruciatingly long minute, before the submarine's mangled nose began to rise, before the entire control room exhaled in relief, before the diving officer, Chief Petty Officer Danny R. Hager, began to read out a succession of shallower depths.

"I don't know how long it was," Chief Hager said, "but it seemed like forever."

Last week, Navy investigators reported that a series of mistakes at sea and onshore caused the 6,900-ton submarine, the San Francisco, to run into an undersea mountain not on its navigational charts. One crewman was killed, 98 others were injured, and the captain and three other officers were relieved of their duties as a result of the Jan. 8 crash, one of the worst on an American submarine since the 1960's.

But what is becoming clear only now, from the first interviews with Commander Mooney and 15 other officers and enlisted men, as well as a review of Navy reports, is how much worse it nearly was, and how close the San Francisco came to being lost.

The NY Times article also goes into the crash and why this could have happened:

To avoid detection, submarines travel silent and largely blind, relying heavily on charts, and their interpreters, to navigate the undersea landscape. The meeting of this submarine and that mountain beneath the Pacific was in many ways a stroke of hauntingly rare bad luck: everyone relied on the one chart, from a panoply of them, that lacked even a hint of the looming danger. But the submarine's fate was also the result of a confluence of simple shipboard errors.

The Navy has placed the blame on the captain and the crew, and Commander Mooney says, "I accept full responsibility." He acknowledges several critical mistakes, including going too fast, taking insufficient depth soundings and failing to cross-check the route with other charts.

And the seamount in question:

Looking at a picture of that moment, Commander Mooney speaks with pride of the way his crew brought the boat home. But an image discovered on the voyage back also remains seared in his mind, he says, one that helped seal his dismissal and spark broader questions about the Navy's navigational training and support.

That image is a small, light-blue circle on a white background. It signifies a potential hazard two to three miles from where the San Francisco crashed - close enough, Commander Mooney says, that if he had known about it, he would have tried to skirt the area or asked for a new routing. Charting experts now believe that hazard was the mountain, and that its location was imprecisely reported in the days before satellites made navigational fixes more precise.

Commander Mooney said he first heard about the hazard from his boss onshore a few hours after the grounding. It is, in fact, on every chart of the area except for the one that the boat was using - the one that usually provided the most detailed picture of the seabed contours.

Emphasis mine -- cartography problem. Part of the responsibility of being Captain is that you are ultimately responsible for your ship and anything that may happen to her -- still, it's a shame that the Navy will lose the skills of this excellent Officer...


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Very cute film about organic foods -- Store Wars A bunch of people had waaay too much fun with this...

Flushed with pride

Newsweek joins the ranks of the fact-checked Main Stream Media.

Earlier this month, they published accounts of life at Guantanamo Bay which included an uncredited report of a Koran being flushed down a toilet.

This sparked riots in Afghanistan in which 16 people died.

Today, Newsweek published a retraction:

Newsweek Retracts Report About Koran Desecration
Newsweek magazine today retracted a report it published earlier this month that sparked riots in Afghanistan and elsewhere, leaving at least 16 people dead.

"Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay," Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker said in an e-mailed statement.

The retraction followed denunciations of the Newsweek report by Bush administration officials. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan called Whitaker's statement "a good first step."

"We encourage Newsweek to now work diligently to undue the damage that can be undone," McClellan said.

In its May 9 issue, the magazine cited an unnamed U.S. government official as saying investigators found evidence that U.S. guards at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center desecrated the Koran, including an incident in which the Muslim holy book was flushed down a toilet, in order to provoke detainees into talking.

Local Muslim leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan seized on the article and called for anti-U.S. demonstrations. Over a four- day period last week at least 16 people died, a United Nations compound in Afghanistan was attacked and crowds burned American flags and effigies of U.S. president George W. Bush.

Charles at LGF reminds us that the Palestinians did just that and nobody took to the streets. The event is the Palestinian take-over of Bethlehem's Church of Nativity in April of 2002

Even in the Roman Catholic areas of the complex there was evidence of disregard for religious norms. Catholic priests said that some Bibles were torn up for toilet paper, and many valuable sacramental objects were removed. "Palestinians took candelabra, icons and anything that looked like gold," said a Franciscan, the Rev. Nicholas Marquez from Mexico.

And finally, Cox and Forkum nail the issue with this cartoon:

Click for full-size Image

Super water

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This will be interesting if it pans out. From Wired comes this story of some people in Petaluma and an application they have for water.

Super Water Kills Bugs Dead
A California company has figured out how to use two simple materials -- water and salt -- to create a solution that wipes out single-celled organisms, and which appears to speed healing of burns, wounds and diabetic ulcers.

The solution looks, smells and tastes like water, but carries an ion imbalance that makes short work of bacteria, viruses and even hard-to-kill spores.

Developed by Oculus Innovative Sciences in Petaluma, the super-oxygenated water is claimed to be as effective a disinfectant as chlorine bleach, but is harmless to people, animals and plants. If accidentally ingested by a child, the likely impact is a bad case of clean teeth.

Oculus said the solution, called Microcyn, may prove effective in the fight against superbugs, crossover viruses like bird flu and Ebola, and bioterrorism threats such as anthrax.

The company has just been granted approval in the United States to test the solution in the treatment of wounds, and already has government approval in Europe, Canada and Mexico for diverse uses, from disinfectant to wound irrigation.

Doctors conducting trials in Mexico and India are recounting stories at international conferences of their surprise at another feature of the solution: It speeds the healing of severe burns and diabetic ulcers.

According to Hoji Alimi, founder and president of Oculus, the ion-hungry water creates an osmotic potential that ruptures the cell walls of single-celled organisms, and out leaks the cell's cytoplasm. Because multicellular organisms -- people, animals, plants -- are tightly bound, the water is prevented from surrounding the cells, and there is no negative impact.

While super-oxygenated water is nothing new -- Microcyn has its roots in efforts to decontaminate nuclear reactors' cooling pipes, according to Alimi -- it is typically effective for only a few hours after it is formulated. To keep it handy, hospitals and labs must invest in extremely expensive machines costing $100,000 or more.

Oculus has developed a new formula with a shelf life of at least a year, which opens up an array of potential applications.

Very curious -- normally when I hear something like this my bullshit flag goes up but these people are shipping a Veterinary product and the FDA has given preliminary approval.

Chimeras on the net...

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This image has been showing up on the net from time to time.

Click for full-size Image

Snopes tracks down its source.

Here is the artist's home page and the page with the info on this work.

Wonderful stuff...

UPDATE: Welcome to the visitors from WILLisms.

There's more here to check out so click the Main link at the top or just go here.


Sharp Dressed Man

Ever wonder how clowns get their costumes. Here is the source for shoes: Capri Shoes From their website:
The World's Best Made Fully Customizable Clown Shoes
Introducing Oscar Navarro

"I take great pride in my work and go to extreme lengths to give my clients what they pay for. Each of the clown shoes I create are extension of me and are therefore handcrafted with finest materials available. I know of no other custom clown shoemaker who offers the quality and range of products as Capri Shoes. Whether you are professional clown or just starting your clown career I and my staff of expertly trained shoemakers can help you create the perfect pair professional clown shoes."
Yeah but do they smell funny after a while...

Piano Man

Interesting story from England. CBC has the writeup.

U.K. campaign seeks to identify mute pianist
A campaign to identify a mysterious mute piano virtuoso who turned up in Kent more than a month ago is drawing a huge response.

Officials say the U.K.'s National Missing Persons Helpline has been inundated with calls about the mysterious man, after his photo was published in the British press.

Police discovered the man, soaking wet and dressed in an expensive black suit, walking aimlessly in southeastern Kent in early April. The slim, six-foot-tall man has short brown hair and is believed to be in his 20s or 30s. He was admitted to Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham.

Because he was unable to speak, staff gave him a pen and paper hoping that he would write his name or otherwise communicate with them.

Instead, he produced detailed drawings of a grand piano, including the interior. Staff then brought him to the hospital's chapel, where a piano is located, and he proceeded to play for two hours. He also drew a Swedish flag; however, hospital staff believe him to be a British citizen.

In the weeks since, the man has remained mute and generally anxious, except when he is brought to the chapel piano, where he plays for hours on end.

The brain is a curious thing at times...

Wal-Mart in the media

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From the Washington Post (use Bug Me Not for a user name and password to sign in) Wal-Mart To Apologize For Ad in Newspaper
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said yesterday that it made a "terrible" mistake in approving a recent newspaper advertisement that equated a proposed Arizona zoning ordinance with Nazi book-burning.

The full-page advertisement included a 1933 photo of people throwing books on a pyre at Berlin's Opernplatz. It was run as part of a campaign against a Flagstaff ballot proposal that would restrict Wal-Mart from expanding a local store to include a grocery.

The accompanying text read "Should we let government tell us what we can read? Of course not . . . So why should we allow local government to limit where we shop?" The bottom of the advertisement announced that the ad was "Paid for by Protect Flagstaff's Future-Major Funding by Wal-Mart (Bentonville, AR)."

The ad, which ran May 8 in the Arizona Daily Sun, was "reviewed and approved by Wal-Mart, but we did not know what the photo was from. We obviously should have asked more questions," said Daphne Moore, Wal-Mart's director of community affairs. She said the company will also issue a letter of apology to the Arizona Anti-Defamation League. Ouch -- what dimwit thought that would be a good idea for an advertisement...

Click for full-size Image

This is beautiful...

Don't know who is writing this but go here and read: The Darth Side

A sample post from a few days ago:

Blasted Contractors!
Work is a disaster. The blind leading the blind leading the Force-choked.

Cracking the whip. Setting a new tone of efficacy around the Death Star.

Due to the haste with which we are proceeding through the latter phases of this battle-station's construction we have been forced to employ scores of civilian contractors from across the galaxy in addition to our own Imperial Corps of Engineers. This had led to a certain clash of working cultures.

For instance, this morning I critiqued a tragically sub-par piece of workmanship on a tractor-beam repulsolift inversion assembly by snapping the neck of the site supervisor and throwing his limp corpse down a disused elevator shaft.

Imperial engineers would have snapped to crisp attention, of course, but all these civilian contractors did was give me was grief. "Oy, you do that again and I'll have the union on you!" barked one red-faced buffoon.

"It is vital that you enhance the inter-departmental synergies of your operation," I said. And then I killed him.

On a more positive note the world-smashing superlaser seems to be working admirably, much to the relief of the stress-incontinent Moff Jerjerrod (and the relief of his cleaning service). The lower ranks now giggle when he enters the room, whispering about yesterday's chat in the landing hangar in which Jerjerrod greeted the news of Emperor Palpatine's imminent inspection by losing control of his bowels. Though no one let on at the time, you knew they had to be smelling it. It was certain they not be able to hold off on the jokes for long, since Fett's penchant for toilet humour is famous and every cloned trooper is a reflection of that spirit.

After destroying one of Endor's lesser moons I treated the men to a round of Corellian wine. Admiral Piett signalled from Executor that the moon has been completely incinerated, reducing the likelihood of damage from the kind of outflying debris we saw when we toasted Alderaan. The safety control officer was tickled pink.

Tomorrow I have elected to take a tour of the facilities on the forest moon below. My office is packing a picnic.


GM Crops and the Environment

A great post from Back40 at Muck and Mystery shedding light on the benefits of Genetically Modified crops and why some people love to hate them:

Harmful Apologists
The foolishness of opposing GM food and fiber crops from an environmental perspective as well as a human health perspective has been pointed out in many previous posts. The list of benefits is long, everything from reduction of wilderness converted to cropland, to reduced use of toxic chemicals. In each case both the environment and humans, especially agricultural workers and rural residents, benefit.

So, why do environmental posers work themselves into fits about GM? Some apologists claim that their motives aren't environmental so much as anti-capitalist. They oppose companies such as Monsanto or industrial agriculture. Their misdirected and ineffective opposition fails to consider that GM crops can and are being developed by many suppliers, not just large agribusiness companies, and the benefits accrue to even the smallest farmers, perhaps even disproportionately benefiting them compared to large factory farms.

Other apologists claim that the role of environmental groups is to be negative, not positive. They exist to find fault.

Environmental groups are frequently criticized for taking an excessively negative attitude towards the issues they are concerned about. Yet that should surprise no one, since it is after all not their function to promote new technologies, particularly those in the commercial sphere; that can be left the public relations experts.

Rather, such groups are important in any society precisely because of their role in pointing out - and indeed in focusing on - either undesirable side-effects of scientific and technological progress that have been given insufficient attention, or potential dangers before they occur. If such groups had been stronger in the United States in the 1950s, the widespread ecological damage recorded by Carson might never have occurred.

This is complete nonsense. Environmental advocacy is not merely organized doubting. It is a view of socioeconomic behavior that seeks to privilege environmental care and is as much or more about advocating good practices as warning about potentially harmful ones. Good environmental arguments establish the economic benefits of best practices as well as emotive, aesthetic or even quasi-religious beliefs.

Just as importantly, useful environmental advocacy is science based. The claim that If such groups had been stronger in the United States in the 1950s, the widespread ecological damage recorded by Carson might never have occurred is a-scientific as well as a-historical. Prior to the pesticides used in the 1950s truly dangerous arsenic and lead based insecticides were used. DDT, the main target of Carson and other uninformed opportunists, was so much better than older pesticides that it was used widely with huge benefits and comparative safety.

The issue for environmentalists isn't that there are no dangers with DDT use, or that there are no environmental consequences that should and could have been publicized, it is that the benefits of DDT use for the environment as well as human health should have been applauded while seeking to establish guidelines for best practices to avoid indiscriminate or unthinking use.

There is more in Back40's post and it is all worth reading.

What caught my eye is that the Enviros are not looking at history and they are not looking at the future. DDT stands as the best solution to the epidemic of malaria that has been killing over one million people in Africa each and every year. When Carson was doing her research, we were using DDT as a "miracle drug" and spreading it around by the fistful. Cheap and effective.

People learn and a little education goes a long long way. Families in Africa could use a few ounces per year to guarantee a much lower incidence of Malaria with no toxic side-effects to the environment but noooooo -- this is DDT we are talking about -- it is toxxxiiiccc!!!!

It is not that difficult to gain an understanding of the basics of Scientific Method, Arithmetic and Statistics. Why is it that so few graduates of "Environmental Studies" programs seem to have working knowledge of these skills.

A domestic moment...

At least Jen and I don't have to worry about paparazzi hanging around taking photos of me when I scratch my butt...

From Wizbang's Kevin Aylward comes this photograph of connubial bliss:

Quote Of The Day - Truth In Advertising Edition
"After I got married I was one of those people who let themselves go a little bit."

Britney Spears telling Contact Music that as a wife she "doesn't care" what she looks like. By the looks of it 'ol Cletus Federline isn't too worried...

No New Nukes is Good Nukes

Encouraging news from the NY Times regarding some environmentalists seeing the light on Nuclear Power:

Old Foes Soften to New Reactors
Several of the nation's most prominent environmentalists have gone public with the message that nuclear power, long taboo among environmental advocates, should be reconsidered as a remedy for global warming.

Their numbers are still small, but they represent growing cracks in what had been a virtually solid wall of opposition to nuclear power among most mainstream environmental groups. In the past few months, articles in publications like Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Wired magazine have openly espoused nuclear power, angering other environmental advocates.

Stewart Brand, a founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and the author of "Environmental Heresies," an article in the May issue of Technology Review, explained the shift as a direct consequence of the growing anxiety about global warming and its links to the use of fossil fuel.

I wrote about Stuart's article about a month ago here Here is a bit more from the NY Times article:

The changing attitudes are roiling established environmental groups and provoking fierce internal arguments in the United States and in Europe. In this country, some groups used antinuclear campaigns to build membership, financial support and often their fundamental identities back in the 1970's, when Birkenstocks were new and the folksinger Arlo Guthrie was celebrating the antinuclear Clamshell Alliance.

The release of radioactivity at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and the catastrophic explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 brought a halt to any thought of expanding nuclear technology in the United States.

Now, groups like Greenpeace U.S.A., the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Fund and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group argue with one voice that any more time or money spent on nuclear energy would unjustifiably divert resources from more promising solutions, like conservation and renewable energy.

It has been 32 years since the last nuclear reactor was ordered and built in the United States, and 1996 was the last year in which a civilian nuclear reactor - the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar reactor - was commissioned. Nuclear reactors, almost all of them the first generation of this technology, now provide about 20 percent of electric power in the United States.

Knee-jerk politics and not science. Protecting the hard-won turf. Business as usual.

Take a look at the last paragraph -- we haven't had a new rector come online since 1996, all of the other reactors are older, some dating back to the 1960's. When something as complex as a reactor is being planned, there is about a ten year lag from the first pencil sketches to throwing the big switch. This means that 20% of the power for the USA has been generated by plants that were designed mostly in the '50s and '60s. We had a couple of minor incidents and one major one. Not a bad industrial track record.

Chernobyl should never have happened and the poor idiot who caused it paid with his life. The new breed of reactors are a lot safer and cheaper to build and operate.

A most curious loophole

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From BBC News of all places comes this article about a certain point of jurisdiction in Yellowstone Park:
Loophole may allow US crime spree
A loophole in US law may allow people to get away with any major crime within a 50-square mile "zone of death" in eastern Idaho, according to a Michigan law professor.

This lawless oasis is said to exist on the edge of Yellowstone National Park because of a poorly drafted statute in the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Criminals are entitled to be tried by a jury drawn from the state and legal district they committed their crime in, the constitution says.

But, argues Prof Brian C Kalt, while Yellowstone comes entirely under the district of Wyoming, small parts of it spill into the states of Montana and Idaho.

"Say that you are in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone and you decide to spice up your vacation by going on a crime spree," Kalt writes in a forthcoming paper for the Georgetown Law Journal.

"You make some moonshine, you poach some wildlife, you strangle some people and steal their picnic baskets.

"You are arrested, arraigned in the park and bound over for trial in Cheyenne, Wyoming, before a jury drawn from the Cheyenne area.

"But Article III [Section 2] plainly requires that the trial be held in Idaho, the state in which the crime was committed.

"Perhaps if you fuss convincingly enough about it the case would be sent to Idaho.

"But the Sixth Amendment then requires that the jury be from the state - Idaho - and the district - Wyoming - in which the crime was committed.
The article then goes on to point out a loophole or two (intent) but it is an interesting thought for whenever you get the urge to make some moonshine to accompany a stolen picnic lunch.

Modern Snake Oil

Amazing what passes for "medicine" these days. For your edification, the Novalite 3000

What is the Novalite 3000?
The Novalite 3000 is an electronic device that brings the vibrational level of your body back to its natural state of being, electrically balanced. The Novalite 3000 is a Vibrational Integrated Bio-photonic Energizer for vibrational healing. It has several attachments for specialized therapies.

How does the Novalite 3000 work?
Everything in the Universe vibrates, whether it is a grain of sand, a piece of metal, a plant, animal or an organ in your body - each cell resonates, or vibrates, at a specific frequency. Your body consists of a variety of atoms, which contain protons, electrons & an overall bio-electric energy that runs through it. The way you take care of your body physically, emotionally and mentally determines how many negative frequencies or toxins are being built up in it.

Bunkum and twaddle... Their competitor has a Tesla Coil in it. Well, not to be outdone, the Novalite 3000 has THREE -- count 'em THREE Tesla Coils. Take that! I am surprised that the FDA has not sunk its teeth into this tempting target.

High Voltage online groups

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I am into the works of Nikola Tesla (the guy who invented our system of electrical distribution, the fluorescent light, radio, the alternating current motor, etc. etc. etc.) I have been a member of the Tesla email list for some time but someone just turned me on to the forums at FORUM.4HV.ORG Looks to be an excellent online community.
The Grey Lady is an easy target -- the epitome of the Main Stream Media. Nobody skewers it like Iowahawk
In New York, Scrappy Local Newspaper Struggles For Survival
Like the corpses that lazily bob along in the nearby East River, life obeys its own pace in this isolated island community of 8 million in southern New York State.

It is an ancient pace, its cadence dictated by the steady whirr and click-a-clack of word processors, plied by the gnarled hands of skilled opinion craftsmen who once supplied nearly eighty percent of the world's refined punditry output.

To some ears, the din from the mighty opinion mills of this gritty Ink Belt town may be grating; but it has served as a siren call for generations of hungry immigrant OpEd workers.

Each year they come here, from Cambridge and Ithaca and New Haven, young and eager social critics seeking nothing more than an honest day's wage for an honest day's condescension, and perhaps a decent squab pate in white wine reduction.

For the newest generation of polemic workers, though, the promise of that simple Anti-American Dream seems ever more distant. Most of the mills have long fallen silent, tragic victims of cheap foreign radio talk shows and the growing monopoly of multinational corporate blogs.

Now, even the grandest of the old mills - the venerated New York Times 43rd Street Opinion Works - stands at risk. A recent spate of quality control problems, product recalls, management turmoil and a painful round of layoffs is leading many here to worry if the plant is destined to go the way of automats, five cent Cokes and international socialism.
Grab a beer, kick back and settle in for a wonderful read. Iowahawk is at the top of his form with this post. Deadly and spot-on-target.
Hat tip to A Western Heart for this excellent review of the latest UN report with a bit of pesky fact checking thrown in for good measure:
Iraq, before and after
The United Nations have completed "the most detailed survey yet" of life in post-war Iraq, and despite the media's best efforts to paint Iraq as Quagmire Central, the information contained in the survey (while not definitely accurate, of course), is encouraging. Firstly, let's compare the UN's study with the Lancet's debunked study:

UN: 21,600 households surveyed, between 18,000 and 29,000 deaths, probably 24,000, all 18 provinces.
Lancet: 808 household surveyed, between 8,000 and 194,000 deaths, probably 98,000, plus deaths in Fallujah, plus the death rate of the previous time period, only 11 provinces surveyed.

Of course, this means the left will still use the far wilder statistical dartboard that is the Lancet survey, but let's just say that by using a 26.7 times larger survey size, we'll get a slightly more accurate answer. And of course, this is the UN, but considering the death toll is around what I estimate it to be, and the survey appears to be comprehensive, so we'll compare it with pre-war Iraq and other estimates.
Leigh then goes on to list some of the United Nations Reports statistics and follow them up with what life was like when Saddam was running things:
Deaths: 24,000 Iraqis in first year since 2003 invasion
Saddam's reign has an estimated death toll of 1.26 million with 4.54 million refugees created, according to the State Department's figures. Saddam's rule was from 1979-2003, so in 24 years, his average yearly death toll was 52,500, with over 189,000 refugees.

Unemployment: 10.5%, or 18.4% when including those who had given up looking
This compares very favourably to pre-war Iraq, where the unemployment rate was 50-60%. However, don't expect the lefties to stop quoting 70% figures any time soon. On another note, at 10.5%, that puts the unemployment below Germany, and only 1.5% higher than the EU average.

Women: 47 per cent illiterate
This is down from 55 per cent in 2002. The literacy rate for young people is higher than the literacy rate for any other age group except 25-34, showing good hope for the future but a backwards progression during Saddam's later years.
A good dose of reality for those that don't know what is going on over there - lots more numbers at the website...

And having writ...

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They found the owner of the Wendy's Finger. Reuters has the story:
Calif. police find hand that lost Wendy's finger
The finger a Nevada woman claimed to have found in a bowl of fast-food chili came from a male acquaintance of her husband who lost it in an industrial accident, police said on Friday. Police arrested Anna Ayala of Las Vegas last month on charges her false claim had cost restaurant chain Wendy's International Inc. millions of dollars in lost sales, but the origin of the partial human finger at the center of the case had remained a mystery.

"The jig is up," San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis told a news conference. "The puzzle pieces are beginning to fall into place."

He said the acquaintance of Ayala's husband, who lives in Nevada and was cooperating with authorities, lost the finger in an industrial accident in December and provided it to Ayala's husband.
I am very surprised that she thought she could get away with this. Wendy's has a strong case as their losses can be tracked to the timeline of this story. Hope you enjoy prison food Anna...

Only at Wal-Mart

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Traditional family values -- from USA Today
Police: Infant hit with pepper spray during Wal-Mart fracas
A woman doused a 2-month-old girl with pepper spray while feuding with the infant's family in a Wal-Mart, police said.

Lorlie M. Gantenbein, 36, of Sagle, was charged Tuesday with felony injury to a child. She was released on $5,000 bail.

The 2-month-old girl was recovering at home after being sprayed Monday, police Chief Mike Hutter said. The infant was treated at a hospital.

Gantenbein in a telephone interview on Wednesday denied using the pepper spray. She said her 16-year-old daughter used the spray, but did so in self-defense.

Gantenbein said she bought the spray for her daughter as tensions rose between the two families after the Gantenbeins rented property to the baby's family and then evicted them. The feud escalated when her daughter began dating the baby's father, she added.
A sixteen year old daughter dating the father of a baby whose family was evicted from her parents rental property? Ewwwww...

Belt Bling

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Only $29.99 plus shipping.
Available through

Your own soda machine

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The cannonical how-to for setting up a home soda machine. If you drink a lot of soda, it's possible to put together a restaurant grade soda dispenser and get your drinks for a lot cheaper. Has lots of links to vendors.

14 times 8,000 = amazing!

Awesome story of perseverance and dedication. There are 14 mountain peaks with elevations over 8K Meters (26,250 feet -- the same altitude commercial airplanes fly) Now one person has summited them all. From MSN News/Seattle:
First American summits world�s 14 tallest peaks
Conquest of Nepal's Annapurna ends 18-year quest for Seattle man

A Seattle man has become the first American to climb all 14 of the world�s 8,000-meter peaks, an 18-year adventure that culminated Thursday on the summit of Nepal�s 26,545-foot Annapurna.
And more:
Success on third attempt
It was their third attempt to conquer the Himalayan giant, statistically the world�s most dangerous mountain for climbers: One dies for every two who reach the top.

Viesturs nicknamed his bid to reach all 14 of the summits "Endeavor 8000." On a Web page detailing his exploits, he said: "I'm a very goal-oriented person, and I like things that take a long time to accomplish."

A veterinarian by training, Viesturs attained all 14 summits without the use of supplemental oxygen. "I climb without bottled oxygen, even if it keeps me from reaching the summit," he wrote on his Web site. "My personal goal is to see how I can perform, to experience the mountain as it is without reducing it to my level. For me, how I reach the top is more important than whether I do."
Need a definition for the word Iron Man -- look to Ed. That is athletics -- for-profit arena games are not. Here is a gorgeous photograph of the Annapurna summit at dawn:

Give it a break people!

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HD-DVD v/s Blu-Ray The VHS and Betamax wars of this century -- don't people learn? Ars Technica has the story:
Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD: Round XLVI
Sony and Toshiba have been duking it out for next-gen DVD supremacy for a while now, and it turns out that recent reports of an impending truce are almost certainly inaccurate. If you've been following our coverage of this fight, then you know that Sony first quashed hopes for a possible compromise by vowing to fight to the finish. Shortly thereafter, the rumor mill changed course and coughed up the story that Sony and Toshiba were considering a unified format as a possible compromise. That a compromise was in the works has been the conventional wisdom up until today, when two stories hit the wires.
And the final paragraph of the article sums up Toshiba's problem wonderfully:
If you want to read some good analysis of the problems with the new format, check out this Register article. Among the problems are the fact that the new disc will probably lose its cost advantage over Blu-Ray due to the need for factory upgrades, and existing HD-DVD readers won't be able to read the new format. All that, and the format still has 5GB less capacity than Blu-Ray. (Back when I was a youngster, 5GB was a lot of data. We appreciated the value of a gigabyte.)
Sony has a lot of problems following other people's standards but they have zero problems with setting them. In this case, Blu-Ray should be the way to go.
This last issue of the New Yorker concluded a well written three-part article on the current trend towards Global Warming. Well written but not well researched because good research is comprehensive research and takes into account all sides, not just the knee-jerk populist ones... Fortunately, for each of the New Yorker articles, Bill Steigerwald writes a rebuttal. The New Yorker articles are here Part One, Part Two (#3 not online yet) Ben's rebuttals make for great reading -- a cluebat if you will... Part One, Part Two and Part Three If you have read any of my past articles here, you will know that I do not deny the earth is entering a gradual warming period. What I do not agree with is that people are causing this or making it a much larger phenomena than if it was left to "natural causes:. Nine hundred years ago, Viking settlers were growing wine grapes on the south Greenland coastline. In the 1500's, people were ice skating on the great rivers and canals of Europe. When was the last time the River Thames froze over? The primary greenhouse gas is good old H2O, Co2 is a minor also-ran and to track that is being Mr. Bad is an exercise in uselessness...

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

This is ripe: The United Nations Blog is whining that a single independent blogger is calling attention to its mismanagement and corruption (how's that new job going Kojo? Invest in any more soccer teams recently?). From their website: UN Dispatch:
20% of Roger L. Simon's blog entries during the month of April make reference to the Oil-for-Food controversy.

0% of Roger L. Simon's blog entries during April make reference to the following UN-related issues:
And the entry goes and lists 13 items that the U.N. is doing. Let's look at the first four -- I am not cherry picking, I am looking at the first four items: Tackling the threat of transnational organized crime This is a press release from a news agency IPS talking about another conference that the U.N. is involved with. They like conferences especially ones in nice places like Thailand. One excerpt -- Costa is Antonio Maria Costa, director-general of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC):
At the same time, Costa also called for more commitment to take on the scourges of corruption and human trafficking by strengthening the criminal justice systems in countries.

Countries need "proper legislation, honest courts, skilled and aggressive prosecutors and adequate detention facilities" to fight crime or oppose corruption, he said. "Whether we fight crime, or oppose corruption, or struggle against trafficking of people or protect innocent civilians against deadly terrorist attacks, one particular goal stands out: the need to strengthen criminal justice systems the world over."
Decent sentiments -- any teeth to your snarl? Nice try gummy. Shipping supplies to millions of Iraqi schoolchildren This is the shopping list of what the United Nations has shipped over to Iraq to take care of millions of schoolchildren.
The United Nations Children�s Fund (UNICEF) shipped 5,612,257 student kits, 201,416 cartons of chalk, and 5,106,885 school bags for primary and intermediate-level schoolchildren in Iraq from the start of the Iraq War in 2003 through November 2004
Great -- while you have been seeing to those critical issues of chalk, student kits and bags, the Coalition has been taking care of good food, clean water, textbooks, teachers, clothing, medical supplies, working electricity and sewage, building materials, telephones, radio and television, movie theaters, highway repair. Nice of you to chip in -- thanks for all of your efforts. Controlling the Marburg virus Here we start to fall into the Abyss -- this present outbreak of the Marburg virus SEEMS to be declining but which agency should take credit for this and which agency is issuing a P.R. statement sounding like it was the cure.
Medical teams trying to stamp out the worst recorded incidence of Marburg virus in Angola are beginning to get the deadly outbreak under control as cooperation from stricken communities improves, the U.N. health agency said Saturday.

The virus, closely related to the feared Ebola virus, has caused hemorrhagic fever in 266 people and killed 244 of them since March, when the outbreak first came to the attention of health authorities.

As communities began to understand the dangers of the virus, though, the number of new cases dropped from an average of 35 per week to 15, the World Health Organization reported.

"This is good news, but it doesn't mean the outbreak is over," said Dr. Fatoumata Diallo, the WHO representative in Angola.

"The chain of transmission is being broken as we speak. However, this is the most critical time now in the response," said Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO's top outbreak specialist from the agency's headquarters in Geneva. "Continuing and intensifying the effort is what we need to do now, not relax."
The emphasis on the words The chain of transmission is mine. The chain of transmission could have been broken months ago if they had proper sanitation and medical supplies at the hospital. The current outbreak started in October 2004. Finally:
Building thousands of homes for tsunami victims Sounds great but let's follow the money: UNDP and UN-Habitat to Spend $36,1m to Build 9,000 Houses in Aceh
Banda Aceh, detikcom � UNDP in cooperation with UN-Habitat will spend $36,1 million to build 9,000 houses for Aceh tsunami survivors. UNDP will contribute $10 million to the joint fund. To start the program, UNDP has launched another program to sort out tsunami garbage, to find materials that can be used for the housing construction.

"We will provide up to Rp 30 juta ($3,200) for each family who no longer have any house. Currently we are in the process of selecting who will receive the fund," Imogen Wall of UNDP told reporters in Banda Aceh on Friday. And to provide additional material for the houses, UNDP has start the garbage recycling program.
The article continues to point out that they are recycling the "garbage" as they put it and making additional money off of it. And the monies for the housing: 9,000 houses at $3,200 each equals $28.8 Million. And we are talking about a cash input of $36.1 Million plus getting a revinue stream from the "garbage". Wonder where the $7.3 Million Plus is going -- administrative costs? Teenage hookers? Chalk? I am not dogpiling on the UN for no reason -- it has assumed the mantle of being a world governance organization and one of these is needed but as long as they continue to act like little kleptocratic children, their relevance will be gone. Physician, heal thyself!

Gods and Monsters

J Bowen at No Watermelons writes about the pantheon of Greek Gods and what they might be doing these days:

Goddess of software....
If there are still worshippers of ancient Greek gods out there, they've probably been busy hanging new responsibilities on the old guys and gals. Aphrodite would get boob jobs and cosmetic surgery, Hephaestus would get robotics and microchip fabrication, Hermes would have the space shuttle and electric power generation, etc. Demeter might get genetically modified foods and sun lamps, and Hades would sponsor the Democratic Party. I'm not touching Uranus.

(Maybe old afflictions would change too - I suspect that Sisyphus would be a programmer. I can't think of good ones for Persephone and Tantalus).

Who would get software? That sounds like Athena turf to me when she wasn't sponsoring the Republicans and fighting Dionysius for the colleges and the libertarians. But then since it runs about everything nowadays Zeus and Hera would want to horn in, and Hera would outsmart Zeus, so Hera it is.

And here apparently someone wants to give a piece of the software action to Demeter

Sisyphus for programming -- J Bowen has spent some part of their life writing code. Probably has the Tee-Shirt as well...

An identity problem

Denny Wilson at Grouchy Old Cripple lives in Atlanta, GA and writes about the current thoughts on "branding"

Branding Atlanta
GMAFB! Atlanta is gonna spend $15 million to brand itself. Think I'm kidding? Read this
Las Vegas: Gambling. Orlando: Disney. New Orleans: Bourbon Street.
Atlanta: Hmmm . . .
City leaders are trying to define Atlanta for tourists, conventioneers, businesses and even locals.
Is it Scarlett O'Hara or Martin Luther King? Trees or traffic? Hip-hop or NASCAR? Major sports, big business or high art?Howza 'bout "When we say nudie bar, we mean nudie bar. Our strippers bare everything." You're welcome. E-mail me and I'll tell you where to send the check.

Atlanta is losing millions of dollars, boosters say, because it's hard to pinpoint the city's image.
Bill Campbell, probably the most corrupt mayor in Atlanta history, said that people were gonna come to the 1996 Olympic Games for an "African-American experience". Maybe they oughtta try that. Campbell could use the money to pay his legal bills.

Denny used to work for IBM and he riffs on an experience with that company during one of it's many Re-Branding episodes:

Ya know what this bullshit reminds me of? Back in the waning days of the John Akers' regime at IBM, he decided that he was gonna split IBM up into little companies. This was the current MBA fad: small companies able to react quickly to changing market conditions. Scott Adams called this tactic, Battling Business Units. The Education Division, where I worked, spent some gawdawful amount of money to pay some consulting firm to come up with a name for our little company. The winning entry was Skill Dynamics. Almost everyone (including our customers), except Ralph Clark who was the head honcho, thought this name was stupid. We even made jokes about it and thought that our insignia should be a Skill saw. Speaking of insignias, Skill Dynamics paid a consulting firm some gawfawful amount of money to come up with one. It was some printing symbol that no one had ever heard of.

First, kill all the P.R. people...

PETA Kills Animals

An interesting look into the dark side of a very self-righteous organization.

The website is" "Peta Kills Animals" and deals with the actions of PETA at Animal Shelters they run

PETA's Dirty Secret
Hypocrisy is the mother of all credibility problems, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has it in spades. While loudly complaining about the "unethical" treatment of animals by restaurant owners, grocers, farmers, scientists, anglers, and countless other Americans, the group has its own dirty little secret.

PETA kills animals. By the thousands.
From July 1998 through the end of 2003, PETA killed over 10,000 dogs, cats, and other "companion animals" -- at its Norfolk, Virginia headquarters. That's more than five defenseless animals every day. Not counting the dogs and cats PETA spayed and neutered, the group put to death over 85 percent of the animals it took in during 2003 alone. And its angel-of-death pattern shows no sign of changing.

There is a lot to read at this website -- start clicking... The ActivistCash website also has an eyeful.

Unreal Aircraft

The name says it all -- this is a website featuring some of the interesting byways of aviation. For your enjoyment: Unreal Aircraft They have one of my favorites -- the Convair XFY-1 Pogo
Vertical take-off and landing. Flew a few test flights but its performance wasn't equal to contemporary fighter jets so the project was canceled. A shame -- that aircraft is so ugly it's beautiful...

Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde

Good lord has it been that long! From CNN/Money:
Pac Man turns 25
A pizza dinner yields a cultural phenomenon - and millions of dollars in quarters.

It's easy to see "Halo 2" fans lined up for several blocks in the hours before the game is released and think the industry has never been hotter; but if you want to see what a true phenomenon looks like, jump into your wayback machine and head to 1980.

Once you arrive, slip on your "Members Only" jacket and head into any pizza parlor. See that big crowd of people clustered in the back? Odds are they're watching someone play Pac Man.

Arguably the most influential game in the industry's history (with Pong the only other real contender), Pac Man has made more than $100 million dollars one quarter at a time. He's spawned his own line of trading cards, lunch boxes, board games, breakfast cereals and been the inspiration for a Top 40 hit (Buckner & Garcia's "Pac Man Fever" hit number 9 on Billboard's charts in 1982).

This year, Pac Man turns 25 -- but age isn't slowing the little guy down. 1999's "Pac Man World" and 2002's "Pac Man World 2" both sold over a million copies. And Namco has already announced four Pac Man themed games this year - and versions for Sony's PSP will be announced in the near future. TV Plug & Play game collections featuring Pac Man remain hot sellers. And the rise in cell phone gaming has opened up another opportunity for the original arcade game.
Was more into Battlezone and Asteroids myself but Pac-Man was a lot of fun. I'm not into video games that much anymore but I do have to thank them because that industry has driven some amazing developments in graphics cards that have wonderfully trickled down to us photographers and general computer users... Thanks Guys! For more on Pac-Man, check out the Wikipedia article here: Pac-Man

Confidential Information

Amazing lapse of security and common sense at one Circuit City store in Colorado.

Denver, Colorado Channel Seven has the story:

Store's Floor Model Computer Loaded With Woman's Personal Info
Circuit City Says There Should Be No Expectation Of Privacy

Imagine receiving a phone call from a stranger who knew your most private thoughts, knew what you looked like, knew your Social Security number, and even knew how much you make and where you work.

That happened to a Colorado woman after she took her computer to a major electronics store.

Her situation may be surprising given all the warnings about identity theft. But it's not surprising if you think for a moment about what's on your personal computer. There may be files about your income, business records, taxes, personal e-mails, dirty jokes, pictures and more.

It's all personal information unless you took your computer to a local retailer.

Susan, who asked us to conceal her true identity, did just that.

"I do want the general public to know this information. I want them to be aware that their privacy is not protected when they go into that store," said Susan.

That store is Circuit City.

OUCH! She brought a new computer and brought her old one into Circuit City to have the files transferred over to a disk. I am assuming that there was some kind of trade-in given for the old computer as she left it there and Circuit City turned around and sold it. Unfortunately, after copying her files to a disk, they did not delete them from the original hard drive. In fact, when she asked them about this, their reply was:

Susan said it got worse. She said she questioned Circuit City and was told it was her fault for having those personal files on her computer and for expecting Circuit City to protect her privacy.

That's when she filed suit.

Chanel Seven brought some hidden cameras into that store when this news broke and they found that the policy has been changed:

7NEWS' hidden cameras found a change at Circuit City stores after Susan filed suit.

Employees now offer to transfer files for a fee and promise to protect your information.

"We don't download anything onto our computers whatsoever because it's a liability for you and it's also a liability for us as well," said a Circuit City employee.

That's a change from what Circuit City is telling Susan in court. The company says it had "no contractual duty" because the transfer was done at no charge and with no promises to protect her privacy.

Susan believes any reasonable customer expects a major computer seller would protect their privacy.

And the thing that gets me is what is not being talked about. You are buying a computer from a retail outlet -- even if it is a used machine, you should be able to assume that it is free from viruses and mal-ware. What if Susan's machine had a spam-bot loaded or a keystroke monitor? Who would be liable, the seller of the machine or the original owner. Finally, how was the operating system license transferred? If I was managing a store and sold used computers, I would wipe the hard disk of any system that came in (after transferring files of course) and sell the computer with a new licensed copy of whatever OS they wanted. Anything else would be an invitation to disaster...

An interesting story from the Mercury News (use Bug Me Not to get around their stinky login requirement)
DiMaggio glove at the center of memorabilia controversy
Their pockets bulging with cash, checkbooks and credit cards, memorabilia collectors flocked to New York from every corner of Baseball Nation in 1999 to battle over the legendary collection put up for sale by New York Yankees minority owner Barry Halper.

Serious collectors wanted a piece of the treasure Halper had accumulated during 50 years of wheeling and dealing, and the weeklong auction racked up $25 million from the sale of everything from a Ty Cobb jersey to a jar of Vaseline autographed by Gaylord Perry.

North Carolina collector Ralph Perullo arrived at Sotheby's with his eye on Lot No. 1118, advertised as the Rawlings Red Rolfe glove used by the great Joe DiMaggio during the late 1930s. Joltin' Joe even vouched for the glove himself: It was accompanied by an index card that said, "This glove was used in my first years as a Yankee - Joe DiMaggio."

But Perullo says he backed off bidding on the mitt after running into glove expert Dennis Esken at Sotheby's. Esken told Perullo the glove, despite the Hall of Famer's blessing, wasn't even manufactured until 1954 - three years after Joltin' Joe retired. One telltale clue: The glove had lacing through the fingers, a sure sign it was a postwar model.

"If Joe were standing next to me, I'd shake his hand and tell him he was a hell of a ballplayer," says Esken, regarded as the nation's top authority on baseball mitts. "I'd also tell him he's no glove expert."

Even more infuriating, says Esken, the misidentified glove remained on the trading circuit long after the Halper sale, passed along like a rare painting, picking up a letter of authenticity from the hobby's most influential evaluators, Dave Bushing and Dan Knoll, whose seal of approval can make or break an item's sale price. All told, the glove was sold at least three times and brought in thousands of dollars before finally being pulled off the market in 2003. In December, it was returned to Sotheby's, the auction house that originally sold it.

"Bad pieces that continue to circulate through the hobby - that's a major problem," says Josh Evans, president of Lelands, another prominent sports auction house. "People don't want to take the financial hit, so these things continue to go round and round."
Heh -- sort of a nudge nudge wink wink -- we both know it is fake but lets just pretend and you can always sell it to another sucker for more a few years down the road. I know that in the art world, establishing the provenance of a work is sometimes downright impossible. Some museums found out they had fakes and kept the knowledge quiet for as long as they could. In Seattle, there was a major scandal last year with Thesaurus Fine Arts -- the news was broken with an in-depth series by the Seattle Times who purchased a few pieces, had them authenticated and then started to dig. Here is the Seattle Times summary page with links to the various articles and external links to other information.

Thomas Sowell

I have written about Thomas Sowell before here (and follow the other seven links if you like what you read)

Today, he came out with an interesting point. One small taste:

The fashionable notion of "a living wage" is a wage that will support a family of four. And, sure enough, The New York Times finds a Wal-Mart employee who complains that he is not making "a living wage."

How is he living, if he is not making a living wage?

Should people be paid according to what they "need" instead of according to what their work is worth? Should they decide how big a family they want and then put the cost of paying to support that family on somebody else?

If their work is not worth enough to pay for what they want, is it up to others to make up the difference, rather than up to them to upgrade their skills in order to earn what they want?

Emphasis mine -- I have had several "careers" in my life. What I was trained for in school was Marine Biology and Physical Oceanography and all that got me was a low-paying job at a public aquarium in New England. I loved that job but I wasn't making any decent money -- had to do sound for bands in the evening to make rent.

Computers came into the picture and they have been very good to me both in hardware and software. I also took a six year detour into starting and running a copy and printing business. Ran printing presses, made plates, cut paper, nursed a bunch of cranky copy machines along.

I have also worked as a cook, as a test engineer for a commercial audio company (Tapco (the predecessor to Makie)) and picked up construction and welding skills along the way.

I am now engaged in the business of making hard cider and mead and helping Jen to run a 30 acre farm.

People who think that there is one and only one career option available to them are overlooking some very wonderful experiences.

They need to get off their butts and get out there and live and learn!

Heavy Weather

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Hat tip to Brian at Grafyte for this link to the excellent Storm2K. Great online weather information plus a forum for the latest and greatest storm chasing photos. Cool stuff... They use a bit of weather software that I will be incorporating into my online weather station on the BrownSnout website. I had been working on developing a better online display and HamWeather seems to cover everything I was trying to do. I have to display their link at the bottom of the page but the use of the software is free once I do that.

Tony Blair gets it

England's Prime Minister Tony Blair gets it with regards to Nuclear Power and Environmental issues. From The Independent: Blair demands nuclear power to protect high 'living standards'
Tony Blair has ruled out making changes to "living standards" to tackle global warming, and is drawing up plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions instead.

The Prime Minister has personally endorsed "keeping the nuclear option open" and is planning a government statement on a change of policy before the summer, in the face of opposition from cabinet ministers, including Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment. Mr Blair's decision to revive the nuclear agenda was revealed two weeks ago by The Independent which reported that Mr Blair's own strategy unit was working on it. And those people who oppose Nuclear Power?
His remarks infuriated the Green movement: Stephen Tindale, director of Greenpeace, said: "He is implying that anyone who is against nuclear is in favour of making people go back and live in caves. It's absolutely ridiculous. He is saying he is not asking anyone to make any choices to protect the living standards of children in the future."
When you take a good hard look at it, that is exactly what the "greens" are proposing -- keep using conventional fuels and take a big economic hit by being forced to use less power. The alternative energy is a lot cheaper, has much smaller amounts of waste, delivers ZERO CO2 to the atmosphere (although water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas and the measurable effects of CO2 are buried in the statistical noise).

Start by thinking of a tangible object; animal, vegetable, mineral, etc... but not a specific person, place or thing.

Go here and play Twenty Questions 

I tried twice, first with Pipe Organ and next with Goat and it got both of them before we hit the 20th question. This is downright eerie... From their website: is an experiment in artificial intelligence. The program is very simple but its behavior is complex. Everything that it knows and all questions that it asks were entered by people playing this game. is a learning system; the more it is played, the smarter it gets.

Design web pages? Check out OverLIB. From their website:

What is overLIB
overLIB is a JavaScript library created to enhance websites with small popup information boxes (like tooltips) to help visitors around your website. It can be used to provide the user with information about what will happen when they click on a link as well as navigational help (see the examples below). Not to mention that it looks cool, is stable, and has an active developer community to boot!

Downloaded the software and it looks pretty slick -- very low overhead and much better than other pop-ups built into the HTML spec. (I'm thinking specifically of the "acronym" tag which works but has no formatting options and is slow to display...)

The body's use of fats

An interesting article in Medical News Today:

New fat is needed to clear old fat from the system
Where fat comes from determines whether the body can metabolize it effectively. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that the "old" fat stored in the body's peripheral tissues -- that is, around the belly, thighs or bottom -- can't be burned efficiently unless "new" fat is eaten in the diet or made in the liver.

The research team developed genetically engineered mice missing an important fat synthesizing enzyme in the liver. As a result, the mice, called FASKOL mice (Fatty Acid Synthase KnockOut in Liver), could not produce new fatty acids in the liver. Because liver fatty acids are vital for maintaining normal sugar, fat and cholesterol metabolism, these mice must take in dietary fat to remain healthy.

Reporting in the May issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, the researchers say these mice developed fatty liver disease when placed on a zero fat diet.

"When we took dietary fat away from the FASKOL mice, their livers quickly filled with fat," says senior investigator Clay F. Semenkovich, M.D., professor of medicine and of cell biology and physiology. "Their 'old' fat stores mobilized to the liver, but their livers could not initiate fat burning, and the fat just accumulated. We concluded that to regulate fat burning, the liver needs 'new' fat."

The article goes into a lot more detail and provides links to the research behind this. This might be interesting to Diabetes sufferers as well as chronically obese people who do actually try to diet.

Slo Mo

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Dr. David G. Alciatore from the Mechanical Engineering department of Colorado State University is having waaay too much fun with a high-speed video capture camera collecting slow motion studies of common phenomena. Dr. Dave's Hall of Fame include such winners as this Pierced Face and Tongue Jiggle and an egg being dropped onto a mousetrap. Others include firecrackers, water drops, etc... Fun stuff!

Sin City

Jen and I finally got around to seeing Sin City and it was wonderful! This is a film adaptation of several of Frank Miller's noir comics and they are very faithful to the plot and the tone.

Excellent casting, the cinematography was a delight.

This is definitely one to catch on the big screen...

Confiscated from travelers trying to bring them on board an Airplane. For bid now on eBay
Search for other NTSA goodies with this link. Everyone needs 35 pounds of Plastic Handled Scissors!

Worse than Nazism?

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Kevin at Wizbang has an interesting thought regarding the fall of Nazism 60 years ago and what replaced it in parts of Europe:
60 Years Later - Which Was Worse, Nazism Or Communism?
That's question hidden in the background of the celebrations of the end of World War II in Europe this week. Robin Shepherd of the Center for Strategic and International Studies looks at the question, and the motives of those who seek to avoid it.

Bratislava, Slovakia, May. 9 (UPI) -- Amid all the chitchat, commentary and controversy over this though it has rarely broken through: Which was really worse -- communism or Nazism?

One answer, a sensible one at that, is that both systems were so degraded, disgusting and unpalatable that it is impossible to establish a hierarchy of value in which one could possibly stand higher, or lower, than the other. When you've reached the deepest pit in Hell there's nowhere lower to go.
Kevin quotes some more from the UPI article and then closes with this thought:
Some, whose romanticized vision of communism comes via the study of textbooks, to this day fail to acknowledge the horrific consequences of tens of millions of those in Russia and Eastern Europe who were killed in the name of Soviet-style communism. Nazism and communism may be dissimilar in many ways, but when measured by the crude yardstick of genocide, both were two sides of the same genocidal coin.
I think that first sentence explains a lot about today's Moonbats.

Life in Moonbat Land

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This is a hard one to call but that has never stopped me before: I used to live in Seattle for over 20 years and Jen and I lived there for a few years until we found the place where we are now. I had lived in a number of different places and liked Seattle the best -- a good mix of tolerance and resources. From The Seattle Times comes this story of what happens when nanny-state thinking gets carried to an extreme:
Judge awards $45,480 in cat's death
Paula Roemer knows most people don't understand her passion for animals.

Some of her North Seattle neighbors aren't thrilled about the crows she attracts to her back yard with bird seed, she says. When she rescued a scraggly kitten abandoned on a pathway while she was vacationing in Israel 13 years ago, people reacted with disdain.

So when a neighbor's dog mauled and killed that same beloved cat, Yofi, last year, Roemer barely mentioned it to people she knew. But now she feels that she found one person who understood: a judge.

Last week, Seattle District Court Judge Barbara Linde ordered the dog's owner to pay $45,480.12 to Roemer for the cat's death.
And the defendant:
The defendant in the cat case, Wallace Gray, pleaded guilty to an animal-control violation last October in Seattle Municipal Court. Court documents say he admitted that his dog killed a neighbor's cat in February 2004 "due in part to my negligence."

Gray said he just learned of the financial judgment yesterday from a reporter. "This is way out of hand. This is absolutely crazy," he said.

Gray said he had already served 21 days in jail and three months under house arrest for the animal-control violation. He wasn't living in the house with his dog at the time of the attack, he said, and the acquaintance who was taking care of his dog left town before the trial.

"I'm sorry she lost her cat, but I had no control over it," Gray said.
I emphasized three items -- Gray has already spent 21 days in jail for the death of a cat, Gray was not living in the house at the time of the attack and the person who was responsible for the care of the dog at the time of the attack was not present at the trial -- out of town. Let me start out by saying that Jen and I are both very much into animals. We have three dogs, two cats, two goats (with a third coming tomorrow), two sheep (and planning to breed our Ewe), ten ducks and a large collection of Chickens and Guinea Hens due to arrive at the end of this month. Two years ago, we lost a cat (Mistletoe) in an attack from a dog that we had adopted four months previously (Maddie -- a German Shepard who is now living on five glorious cat-free acres with two people who cherish her.) I am saddened by this unnecessary death of a beloved critter at the hands of a neighbors dog but Paula -- get a frickin grip on reality here... These are critters just like you and me and accidents do happen. The award that you received and the onus and penalty that you placed onto Wallace Gray was much more than would be with a case of negligent homicide. That judgment will follow Wallace Gray throughout the rest of his life unless he is able to spend the money to get it stricken from his record. I am not denying that this person had an attachment to this cat that far outstrips any attachment she has with civilization. What gets my goat is that this sort of mind-set is common in Seattle and becoming more and more common in Moonbat land. The idea that the state provides everything and that if someone hurts you, you run to the state and the state makes everything better. Sure, the state taxes you but it also feeds you and gives everyone a good life. Last time I heard a whopper like that it was called Communism and it only killed One Hundred Million People. Its kid brother Socialism has a wonderful track record too.
I will be writing about this on May 1st, 2005 and the title of the post will be: "The first and only Time Traveler Convention" Just as a heads up, according to the conference website: "The Time Traveler Convention"
DUE TO THE OVERWHELMING RESPONSE, NO ATTENDEES WILL BE ADMITTED WHO HAVE NOT ALREADY RSVP'D. SORRY FOLKS, OUR EVENT CAN ONLY HOLD SO MANY PEOPLE. Attendance is by RSVP only -- if you're reading this and haven't already RSVP'd, we're afraid it's too late. The East Campus Courtyard is in between the two red rectangles on this map. If you plan on attending, PLEASE check this page frequently for updates. UPDATE 5/2: Convention events start at 8pm now. Feel free to come at either 8pm, 10pm, or anytime in between. We'd recommend coming early as we hope to get some very interesting speakers and musicians for this time.

I'm from the present, and I'd like to attend, but I can't!
No worries! If time travel is invented in your lifetime, you can always come later. Even if it isn't, we'll have pictures and video up at this site within a week after the Convention.
I'll be heading over there in a week or so -- remember to RSVP first though. Here is a picture of my steed:
Hey, don't laugh, it works...

Darwin Award wannabe

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This one is from Chicago -- from
Cops: Man had 10 beers, blew up house
A 38-year-old suburban man allegedly admitted to police he drank 10 beers before lighting a commercial firework inside his home, blowing up the house and seriously burning himself and a female companion.

"When you see these in public settings, they're 30, 40, 50 feet across at the top," Pat Barry, spokesman for the Will County sheriff's department, said of the firework the man allegedly set off. "Imagine this going off in a room that's about 8 by 8," Barry said.

The incident happened about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in a ranch house the man was renting on the 0-100 block of West Main Street in unincorporated Will County near Plainfield, fire investigators said. A 33-year-old Chicago woman was visiting him.

The firework was in a 10-inch mortar shell when the man allegedly ignited it.
And the logic behind this wonderful idea:
Authorities told WGN-Ch. 9 the couple had been drinking and were sitting in the front living room of the house when the man allegedly brought out the mortar shell.

"Apparently, he thought he would light it, was kind of goofing around, and figured he could put it out," Barry said.

The man was wrong.

The device exploded seconds after being lit, blowing out a wall and every window in the home and setting it on fire. Neighbors heard the blast, called 911 and rushed to the scene.
Emphasis mine -- Christ on a Corn Dog -- what was running through this bozo's mind when he thought he could put it out? A rental unit too. Landlord is gonna love this guy...

Living in 2005

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The Physics Geek offers us 20 ways to see if you are living in 2005. Here are ten of them:
1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave. 2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years. 3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of four. 4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you. 5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have e-mail addresses. 6. You go home after a long day at work, you still answer the phone in a business manner. 7. You make phone calls from home, you accidentally dial "9" to get an outside line. 8. You've sat at the same desk for four years and worked for three different companies. 10. You learn about your redundancy on the 11 o'clock news.
I'm especially guilty of #15 -- visit his website to find out what that is...

Firefox -- first Vulnerabilities found

Firefox is the open source web browser, part of the Mozilla project. Immensely popular (over 50 million downloads so far) and one of its claims to fame is that being a different set of code from internet Explorer, it was immune to the various nasties that attack browsers (browser hijack, mal-ware, malicious pop-ups, zombie takeovers, etc...) Here is a website that offers information on what may be the first known vulnerabilities to Firefox.

Firefox Vulnerabilities: The Official Word
Mozilla acknowledged that there are flaws in Firefox that can make things uncomfortable for the users of the open-source browser.

Although there have been no reports of systems falling victim because of the vulnerabilities, the potential for cross-site scripting attacks prompted Secunia to slap an "extremely critical" rating on the bugs. Web surfers this weekend got a taste of how damaging a successful attack can be to with a proof of concept as well as the release of exploit code by the Greyhats Security Group, according to an InternetNews report.

Today, Mozilla posted a security advisory summarizing the nature of the flaws as well as ways to cut the chances of an unfortunate run-in with a maliciously coded website.

The website gives a link to a dummy malicious website that you can use to test your copy of Firefox. Overall, Firefox is a great browser -- there are a few things that it would not do so I am still sticking with IE for the moment but I am looking at it with each new version. Opera is an alternative browser to check out too -- commercial but worth a look...

Generic items at Cafe Press

There are a number of online stores that will do custom one-off printing and act as an online web store for your ideas. Cafe Press is one such place. Some brilliant joker has come up with a line of generic items and is marketing them through Cafe Press -- some pictures of a few examples:
Wish I had thought of that first...

Free the 'Vettes

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A bit of a sad story here from NewYorkMetro:
'It's Peter Max's Car, Man!'
How one artist's big PR dream left 36 Corvettes in the dust in a Brooklyn basement.

There are 36 vintage Corvettes in the garage below the former Daily News printing plant in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. They're dusty, and secure behind a chain-link fence, as if being held as evidence: one Corvette for each year they were made, starting with a pearl-white '53 convertible and ending with a red 1989 model. Some of their windows are open. Some have flat tires. A lone white '61 rests outside the fence. On its back end, someone has scrawled NO ONE LOVES THESE VETTES! in the grime.

The plant is now a condo, and its residents are wondering why the cars are taking up their spaces. "It's a really beautiful collection," says Drew Hauser. "But it's hard to look at because of the general state of neglect." The only clue as to whose they are isn't even a Vette. It's a yellow VW Beetle adorned with pink clouds, blue stars, and multicolored UFOs�the hippie iconography of Peter Max, the mustachioed pop artist who's painted five presidents, had a one-man show at St. Petersburg's Hermitage, and sold thousands of posters and prints. All of which has made him whimsically rich.

And as he tells it in his studio near Lincoln Center, the Corvette story is a rich man's lark. "I'm not a car guy. I never drive," he says. Nonetheless, on an impulse, he and a friend went to the 1990 auto show and saw the collection there. He decided he'd love to paint them, "Yellow to red, or green to blue." That same friend woke him early the next morning to tell him that they'd been won in a VH1 contest by a Long Island carpenter named Dennis Amodeo. Max fell back asleep. "And I get the biggest PR dream I've ever had," he says. "Suddenly I see my Peter Max Corvettes coming out onto a football field with cheerleaders on top. There are 60,000 people cheering, screaming. A guy in front of me is screaming to the guy behind me�he's holding a frankfurter and mustard is dripping down his sleeve, I see this in my dream�he's screaming right at me, looking through me, 'It's Peter Max's cars, man!' "
And someone else's thoughts about this big dream:
Don Sherman, an editor at Automobile magazine, who hasn�t seen the cars, thinks that Max got himself a pretty good deal; Vettes before �68 are highly sought-after. (In fact, only 300 of the �53s were ever made.) "Just the ones from �53 to �68 are probably worth a million and a half," he says. And he dismisses the dust and scratches as "surface stuff, mostly irrelevant to a collector."

Told of Max�s plan for them, though, he says, "From a car enthusiast�s standpoint, they�re worth more in their deteriorated condition than if they were painted by Peter Max."
Yeah -- really... Peter's career has definitely jumped the shark and he should not use these valuable creations to further a dead career.
I bet there are lots of automobile museums that would treasure this collection. Sad really...
There is an excellent five-part video available at Friends of Science The entire video is 27 minutes long and was produced for Canadian television by the University of Calgary and Friends of Science. There is a problem though -- as reported by CanadaFreePress:
Kyoto Protocol--Propaganda or Censorship?
Last Thursday, I received a telephone call from Douglas Leahey, Ph.D., representing a group of Canadian scientists under the umbrella of "Friends of Science." It seems that they had been talking to Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun, and he had mentioned to them that they should get in touch with me.

Dr. Leahey began by asking me how they could get a 27-minute documentary on television.

I have 15 years experience of fighting with federal and provincial slush funds for that very thing.

I asked some routine questions at first: Did they have a letter of licence? Had they rolled a camera before they got permission? Had they talked to the big broadcasters? Did they have a "pitch" and a budget?

Then I found out what their documentary was about. The story was incredible: it documented scientists--from Canada--speaking out against the $10-billion scam known as the Kyoto Protocol.
And a bit more from the CanadaFreePress article:
The numbers of scientists staggered me--17,100 basic and applied American scientists, two thirds with advanced degrees, are against the Kyoto Agreement. The Heidelberg Appeal--which states that there is no scientific evidence for man-made global warming, has been signed by over 4,000 scientists from around the world since the petition�s inception. I strongly questioned these high numbers, since I�ve had benefit of the Canadian government�s public relations machine on this issue. Dr. Leahey has since sent documentation to back his figures up.

All those scientists were in total agreement: the Kyoto Protocol was complete fiction.

The scientists are so committed to fighting the Kyoto Accord and its misrepresentation of the truth, that they produced a 27-minute documentary and paid for its production with their own money.

The research, the study, the organization, the production of a documentary � those efforts made up the easy part. The tough part was to get it in front of the Canadian people.

The big broadcasters had denied them "the switch" as we call it in the industry: the ability to put it on television for Canadians to see. "Not of broadcast quality," they sneered.

I met with four of the scientists. They showed me the piece. The information held in this 27-minutes should be required viewing for all Canadians. Yet here we have the national broadcasters saying "No"--refusing to broadcast scientific evidence of an important national issue.

The article then goes off to talk about the politics involved in filming something for broadcast in Canada (worth a post all on its own...) Getting back to the Kyoto Protocol -- the key issue here is that certain nations (China and India) are exempt. China especially is producing mammoth amounts of pollution from their coal burning -- pollution which due to prevailing westerly winds in the northern hemisphere, is drifting over the Pacific Ocean and causing problems with the USA and Canadian air quality. The Kyoto Protocol also totally ignores water vapor which is the worst offender when it comes to greenhouse gasses. Finally, the current warming trend of the earth is not man-made, the earth has recently undergone warming and cooling trends roughly every 400 years. Look at the history books... Hat tip to Charles at LGF for the link to the CanadaFreePress article.

A number of people are looking at Hydrogen as a potential fuel. It burns clean and that is about the only nice thing that you can say. It is horribly inefficient, makes many metals it comes into contact with very brittle, it is explosive over a very wide range of dilutions (remember the Hindenburg) The most efficient way to store it is as a liquid (needing a Thermos (Dewar actually) to keep it at around -260C) and due to a molecular quirk, there are more Hydrogen atoms in one Gallon (or equivalent volume) of Gasoline than there are in one Gallon of Liquid Hydrogen. See these PDF files for a lot more information: Energy Fundamentals Electrolysis Lots of other links Anyway, a 15 year old High-School student was written up in the Cortez/Durango, Colorado newspaper for the following stellar achievement:
Cortez sophomore builds model hydrogen car
people-unclear-hydrogen-colorado.jpgWhile Micah Hinton aspires to be a heavy metal drummer, his real talent may be for engineering.

The sophomore at Southwest Open School in Cortez demonstrated this recently when he built a model car powered by hydrogen and placed it on display in a gallery at the school.

Hinton first suggested the idea while studying renewable energy in a class combining science and math taught by Colin Biard.

The notion baffled the teacher. "I never knew they existed," Biard said.

Hinton's car - about the size of a football - runs on distilled water. A solar panel provides energy to begin the reaction that splits hydrogen from water. The car is so efficient it can even motor and create hydrogen at the same time.

"When it's running, it's making water," Biard said. "When it's stopping, it's turning it back into hydrogen."

As a result, the fuel source is never depleted, and the car never needs a fill-up.

"It lasts forever," said Hinton, 15. "It will run off pure hydrogen."

Of course, he said, a life-sized version could look a bit different.

"On a commercial level, you're actually combusting hydrogen," Hinton said, so a solar panel would not be necessary.

During the six-week project, Hinton learned basic electrolysis and a little physics.

"It's interesting to me that you can use water as fuel," he said.

His teacher offered an additional review.

"This is an amazing gizmo," Biard said. "Micah had a lot of fun doing it."
Emphasis mine -- sorry to burst the bubble here but this is a toy kit available to anyone whose parents can spring the $120 price. Little Micah didn't "design" this -- he received a box with instructions and was able to assemble the component parts and make this kit work:
Unfortunately for him, the basic laws of physics are still outside his grasp (it is an Open School after all). The Solar Panel will need to power an 80 Horsepower engine to get any kind of performance from the vehicle (looking at carrying two adults and baggage and being safe to maneuver in traffic)(most current cars including hybrids are more than 100 Horsepower). One Horsepower is equal to 746 Watts A typical high power solar module generates 100 Watts and measures about 2 feet by 4 feet. Doing the math simple arithmetic it looks like little Micah's car will have to tote around a solar panel that is a square seventy-feet per side just to have decent performance during strong daylight hours with zero thought put in to making energy for use during nighttime. Of course, you are not going to be driving all the time during your day, just an hour or so to and from work. And you park at work? And need a parking space that is twenty feet per side to get enough surface area to get enough charge to limp home and of course, this will not generate any surplus Hydrogen for you to use on cloudy days and during winter. And I have not even begun to figure in the fact that motors and transmissions are not 100% efficient. Hydrogen is a wonderful buzzword for people who are trying to escape reality. H2 is not a fuel...

email spam

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This post is different -- not talking about blog spam but email spam that comes into several email accounts that I administer. I have three email addresses linked to my primary domain (s*nthst*ff). Anything that is addressed to one of these gets run through SpamAssasin, filtered for content and then directed into the proper folder (I subscribe to several email lists). I get about 50 hits to SpamAssasin and about 10 SPAM emails to my primary address each day. What I find amusing is that I get about 300 to 500 emails addressed to other names at s*nthst*ff. I have been away for two nights and here is a perfect example of 48 hours take:
Click for full-size Image
You will probably need to Click for full-size Image to actually read this but you can see that for 48 hours, I collected over 1,300 emails and none of them were addressed to any legitimate address. I cited the one from "henry pagano" addressed to "Kenny Fontana" at s*nthst*ff. Bogus and destined for the bit-bucket. Someone who doesn't do this kind of filtering will receive all of these emails in their inbox. I am guessing that the To: line might be a form of tagging to enable the originator to collect the finders fee if someone responds to this scam. If someone hits the return key for a specific email, chances are that they aren't looking to closely at the To: line in the header and when an email processing center recieves the reply, it is a small matter to read off both the return address and to whom the email was originally addressed to. I am getting seriously hacked off at this because this load is causing unnecessary hits to my server (which I pay for dammit!) and considering that the state I live in has instituted some anti-SPAM laws with real teeth in them, I am starting to gather evidence (email message headers, raw server logs, etc.) and will be spending the next couple weeks on a "Journey of Discovery" Needless to say, both blog spam and email spam work-arounds will be submitted to the appropriate fora...

Scamming a scammer...

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I was out of town for a few days. I was planning to find an internet caf� but the one I found had very stupid security (it blocked all cookies but didn't clear out the MRU list between sessions) Anyway, I set a little daemon working for me as it seems that some people who read the blog are somehow linked to the spammers and whenever I announce that I'm going to be out of town for a day or two, the level of spam creeps up a notch or two. It did this again but since I have the option to log the IP addresses of anyone reading specific posts, I also have a good chance of seeing where the spammers are coming from and blocking not just the IP address but the entire fucking netblock. The entire ISP, not just the computer in question. Take that you spam-eating offspring of pigs and monkeys. And just for a heads up little children, your comments, although accepted by this system were put into "purgatory" and held invisible to search engines until my review. I deleted them and made note of the URLs referenced. Outside of that, the trip was wonderful! Let the blogging resume (heh!)

Light blogging for this weekend

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One of Jen's cousins got hitched and we are flying down for the reception. Should be fun -- they are great people and it will be just immediate family. (No 14 bridesmaids and 600 guests) Back on Sunday...

Just because -- #2

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Last January I ran into this charming fellow and decided to post his picture just because I can...
Seared -- seared into my memory... Tonight, it's a photo of an ordnance disposal technician busy at work with one of their friends offering a helping hand:
Click for full-size Image
Rob at Gut Rumbles talked about an essay from one of my favorite writers -- Thomas Sowell. I have written about Sowell before (here, here, here, here, here, here and here) From Rob:
This guy is good
If you don't read Thomas Sowell, you are missing something really good. Too many black editorial writers (in MY humble opinion) ride a one-trick pony--- everything bad that happens to black people today is the result of racism.

Sowell doesn't take that track. He digs a lot deeper and tells the truth. Black "leaders" don't like him for it, but I do.

I caught the tail-end of what he's talking about in the article I linked. I grew up in my really formative years in a coal mining camp in Harlan County, Kentucky. My grandparents both quit school in the eighth grade to get married and run the farm Papaw inherited when his father died.
Rob sets the stage talking about his own family history, grandparents and parents coming from a dirt poor existence where education did not have that much value and his parents transition into realizing that education was necessary for sauces. Rob again:
But my parents both INSISTED that my brother and I get a good education. They saw the light and school came before anything else in our home. Man, if you wanted to get your ass in really hot water, just let a teacher send a note home detailing your transgressions, receive a call from the principal or bring home a bad report card.

If I did that, my ass was grass, and I was mowed very quickly.

I am proud to say that I am the first child born on either side of the family who earned a college degree. Others came after me, but I was the first. My family KNEW that education plus hard work equals success in this country. They preached it, they practiced it and they were successful at it.
Rob then quotes from Dr. Sowell:
White liberals come into this story because, since the 1960s, they have been aiding and abetting a counterproductive ghetto lifestyle that is essentially a remnant of the redneck culture which handicapped Southern whites and blacks alike for generations.

Many among the intelligentsia portray the black redneck culture today as the only "authentic" black culture and even glamorize it. They denounce any criticism of the ghetto lifestyle or any attempt to change it.

Teachers are not supposed to correct black youngsters who speak "black English" and no one is supposed to be judgmental about the whole lifestyle of black rednecks. In that culture, belligerence is considered being manly and crudity is considered cool, while being civilized is regarded as "acting white."
Rob again:
You want to keep the slaves on the plantation? Continue doing what we're doing now. Reinforce bad ideas and ignore the obvious. Nobody HAS to live as a second-class citizen anymore, not in this country. If my family could crawl out of the coal mines and the hollows of eastern Kentucky and produce successful offspring, anybody can do it.

Today, however, calling the typical black ghetto lifestyle self-destructive is a racist notion, and you're better off to keep your mouth shut about it. I won't. It IS a self-destructive lifestyle and nobody HAS to live that way. And I blame white liberals (who "love" black people) and race-mongers such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for wanting to maintain the status quo.

Sweet Bejus! Get an education. Learn a skill. Don't get pregnant at the age of 16. Learn to hold a steady job, work hard and stay out of jail. Is that really so difficult to do? It must be.

A lot of blacks can't manage it. And there's no goddam excuse for that shit.
Hard words but very very true. Shades of what Bill Cosby has been saying for the last ten years about education. My first wife teaches school in the Seattle system. She works as a substitute and the majority of her work is policing the classroom. When we were married (ten years ago), there were schools that she would not set foot in. I can only imagine what the situation is like now...
Interesting article from CBC/Arts. The article features actor Hayden Christensen who plays Anakin Skywalker (Mr. D.V. himself) but includes this interesting (and welcome) bit of news:
Christensen also confirmed recently that Lucas got a helping hand with the script for Revenge of the Sith. In an interview with Playboy, he said the rumours about playwright Tom Stoppard working on the dialogue for the film are true.

Stoppard, known for stage works like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, gave the Lucas-penned screenplay a more "human" dimension, Christensen said.

Critics and Star Wars enthusiasts alike lambasted Lucas for the dialogue in the last Star Wars film, 2002's Attack of the Clones.

Dennis Avner

One of life's more interesting characters... I remember seeing him on television on a feature about people who did body modification. Dennis' desire is to become more cat-like. What prompted this entry was running into a story where is is leaving the San Diego area and moving to WA State (no mention of location). From SignOnSanDiego
Human 'cat' moving fur away to find work
Looking freakishly like a tiger has gotten Dennis "Cat" Avner lots of attention. But it hasn't paid many bills.

That's one reason why Avner is leaving the tiny East County community where he has lived for six years and moving to Washington state. There's not much demand in San Diego County for a computer and electronics technician with tattooed stripes on his face and fangs in his mouth.
The news article has a photo:
Heh -- one great anecdote:
He chuckled when he described a recent visit to Siegfried and Roy's white tigers on display at a Las Vegas casino. Other tourists were taking more photos of him than they were of the tigers, he said.
Dennis' personal website is here -- some fascinating photos of his transformation.

Another day at the office

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Mostly Cajun will post work stories from time to time. He does electrical wiring for industrial plants -- this is a lot different than the wiring you and I have in our homes. I have been building Tesla Coils and other toys since high-school and am in to this stuff. Cajun tells a good story and today's is no exception:
Back to that job thing�
I work very diligently on construction projects to make sure tht my part of the project is complete WAY ahead of schedule, and my current ongoing project was no exception. As soon as a peice of equipment was available to me, we got on it, checked out, put in the settings if necessary, and tested it. And up to the end of last week, I had been successful on this project, making sure that somebody else�s stuff was what everybdy was waiting on.

Well, about a week ago, somebody noticed that the high voltage cables to two new transformers weren�t going to fit right where they�d originally been routed. Picture a section of 15,000 volt switchgear, two circuit breakers, as a cabinet the size of a closet four feet wide and nine feet tall. It�s divided into two sections, an upper one and a lower one. Back in November I �dressed out� the lower cubicle which had previously been a spare, installing all the components and controls and stuff to get it ready to function as the feeder for a new transformer. The upper cubicle had been in service feeding its own transformer since 1980.

Here�s the problem. The cable for the new transformer came up through the floor in the back of the cubicle and went straight up to connect to copper bus bars in the rear of the upper cubicle. The plan for the new transformer was to bring its cables in the TOP of the upper cubicle and route them through it to connect in the lower cubicle. Wouldn�t have been bad, excep that the new transformer is BIG and the cable feeding it is actually nine conductors, three to each of threed cables five inches thick. Oh, it would have fit. and an usncrupulous and unsupervised ocntractor might have installed it that way and walked off the job with it working just fine. But five years down the road when it came time to get in those cubicles and clean and inspect and test those cables, an anorexic double-jointed dwarf couldn�t have gotten in there past all that stuff to work on the upper cubicle.
And the upshot:
...I�ve been in that four by four foot cubicle all day for the last three days. My hands are spasming from cranking on a screwdriver and stripping and crimping control wires. I�m well on my way to our goal of having the first new transformer ready to go on line by next Wednesday.

And because all of a sudden **MY** piece of this grand puzzle became the focus (through no fault of my own) of the project, the �critical path�, I look up from my little cushion in front of that cubicle and see all sorts of interested and concerned dignitaries.

Damn! I LOVE this job!

This might be interesting

From SFGate/AP:

Small Oil Company Touts Discovery
A tiny oil company has snapped up leasing rights to a half-million acres in central Utah that it says could yield a billion barrels or more of oil.

Geologists are calling it a spectacular find - the largest onshore discovery in at least 30 years, located in a region of complex geology long abandoned for exploration by major oil companies. It's turning out to contain high-quality oil already commanding a premium at refineries.

With the secret out, industry players expect a bidding war to break out at the next Utah leasing auction, set for May 17 in Salt Lake City.

At today's prices the oil reserve could bring Utah $5.6 billion in royalties, state auditors conservatively estimate. Although the discovery is still playing out, the oil will take years to recover and some skeptics question the company's projections for a region yet to be fully surveyed.

This may be smoke and mirrors but I do not know and it will be interesting to watch. The company in question:

The find, 130 miles south of Salt Lake City, was made by Wolverine Gas & Oil Corp., a privately held company with just 25 employees improbably located in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Wolverine's test well hit "pay" in late 2003, and by May 2004 it started producing from a single deposit estimated to contain 100 million to 200 million barrels of oil.

Wolverine and government geologists said the company is examining 25 deposits in all that could contain 1 billion barrels of oil.

People say that we are running out of oil. We are but the undiscovered resources are a lot greater than people imagine. I remember the whole 1972 Malthusian farce of the "Club of Rome" "Limits to Growth" publication.
From this website:

In 1972 the Club of Rome published its landmark report, Limits to Growth, which dramatically predicted the inevitable collapse of civilization unless economic growth was halted immediately.

Relying on a computer model developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Limits to Growth predicted that world population would hit 7 billion by 2000 and set into effect a deadly chain reaction. The world would begin to run out of farm land in a mad scramble to feed everyone. The price of natural resources such as copper, tin, silver and oil would climb through the roof as the world began using them up.

Inevitably, no matter what sort of technological innovations or changes in the rate of population growth were made to the MIT model the result was always the same -- the collapse of industrial civilization sometime in the 21st century.

The only solution to avoid this horrible outcome? Strict government-imposed controls on just about everything and a restriction of "average industrial output per capita at about the 1975 level." Failing to act immediately would result in disaster. "Every day of continued exponential growth brings the world system closer to the ultimate limits to that growth," the report claimed. "A decision to do nothing is a decision to increase the risk of collapse."

Of course the Club of Rome's predictions were far off the mark. World population will barely hit 6 billion by 2000 and total farm land has increased by only 5 percent. Although the world economy has doubled since Limits to Growth was published, natural resources remain abundant and cheap. Known oil reserves have doubled since 1980, for example, and the cost of finding each additional barrel keeps dropping.

By almost every measure of the quality of life, from life expectancy to infant mortality to per capita income, the world in 1997 is a far better place to live than it was in 1970 and will likely be even better 25 years from now.

There are several lessons the Limits to Growth fiasco can teach us about how to judge other predictions of doom such as those made today about global warming.

The best thing the environmentalists can do right now is to send their kids to a good school and make damn sure that they get good grades in Math, Statistics and Science and that is Hard Science and not "Environmental Studies" -- I'm talking O-Chem, Microbiology, Physics. That done, they can rest assured that although the "Environmental Movement" has taken a fifty-year leave of absence, the children of these people will look at the real situations with eyes that can actually see what is happening instead of hiding behind computer models that turn out the data that the authors are looking for. I wonder if there is a computer model graveyard. Turned up zero hits on Google. Figures...

You are what you eat...

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There is a nice article on the link between nutrition and emotional states at MSN - although the article is slanted towards women, the content is applicable to everyone -- a brief excerpt or two:
Ross explains that because what and how you eat affects your energy level, it influences your frame of mind. "For instance, everybody knows that you feel better when you exercise," she explains. "But people don't exercise because they're tired, and they have low energy because of their diet." Likewise, not eating well -- consuming too much sugar and caffeine -- may cause sleep problems; lack of sleep will in turn exacerbate anxiety and depression.

The next time you're wondering what you can do to make yourself feel better, check out your pantry before checking in with your doctor.
Items to add to the pantry:
Protein. "Protein is a must if you're trying to level out mood swings," says Ross. "Many people who've been trying to keep fat intake down have done so by eliminating protein, but we need protein: it helps keep our blood sugar levels balanced.
There is more. A lot of this is just basic common sense but the article addresses it well and is worth reading if you don't really have a handle on what you are eating.

Soap Making

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Jen made a batch of soap today. I took some photos and posted them at our Brown Snout website. Cool technology and a very nice result.

Windows music player

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Looks like a nice little player for Windows systems -- Music Cube handles MP3, OGG, FLAC and CD-Audio formats. Others (WAV) are handled by plug-ins. From their website:
about musikCube:
musikCube is much more than an "mp3 player," it is a music "library." musikCube currently supports mp3, ogg, flac, and cd audio file formats. It also features an integrated cd ripper helping you take control of your music from the start. musikCube tries to stay as intuitive and attractive as possible without degrading the performance of your computer. We believe very strongly that your mp3 player should NOT exist only to be eye candy, but be a functional, cohesive part of your operating system. musikCube is the vanilla audio player for windows.
musikCube features include:
  • very low memory footprint
  • clean and intuitive user interface
  • blazing fast navigation
  • fully drag and drop compatible
  • powerful batch tagging
  • an integrated cross fader
  • an integrated cd ripper
To see a screenshot of musikCube in action, click here
Downloading it now -- I'll give a report in a few days (want to try all the features including ripping CDs).

Before RADAR

What technology was used for detecting oncoming airplanes before RADAR was developed?

Acoustic Location -- that's what. Here is a website with some info and photographs. Two examples:

Click for full-size Image
Acoustic locators in Japan: 1930s.
This remarkable picture may have been reproduced before, but I make no apology for showing it here. The impressive array of tubas belong to at least two acoustic locators mounted on 4-wheel carriages. It is a little difficult to work exactly what is connected to what, not least because the background appears to have been erased by some unsubtle retouching, but I think that the format is the same as the British model; there are two horns in a horizontal plane, and on one side of the mounting there are two more in a vertical plane.

To the right, one of the figures is the Japanese emperor Horohito. Behind him are the AA guns intended to be used in conjunction with the locators. The only Japanese gun that I have found documented as being used with a sound locator is the Type 88 dual-purpose AA/coast-defence 75mm; there is not enough visible detail to verify that these are the guns shown in the picture, but they look about the right size.
Click for full-size Image
A US Army sound locator in use.
This photograph was dated January 1943, and was presented by the American media as being current equipment. This was another piece of misinformation as radar sets were already in widespread use for searchlight control at that date.

Note the large diameter acoustic tubes leading to the operator's headset.
This must be United Nations day. Here is another story, this one from SciTech Today and deals with the #1 Killer in Africa. Malaria.
Report: Malaria Kills One Million a Year
Insecticide-treated bed-nets can halve malaria illness and more countries are increasing their use of them. However while 30 million -- 40 million nets are needed each year to protect all young children and pregnant women in Africa, fewer than 15 million were produced last year.

Malaria kills more than one million people and sickens between 350 million and 500 million people a year, mainly in Africa, according to a U.N. report released Tuesday.

The report, released by the World Health Organization and the U.N. children's agency UNICEF, is the first comprehensive report on malaria worldwide.

Nine out of 10 malaria deaths are among sub-Saharan African children under the age of 5; an African child dies of the disease every 30 seconds.

"The numbers are astounding and unacceptable," said Ann Veneman, the executive director of UNICEF. She said the disease is "largely preventable and utterly treatable."

"At present malaria remains the infectious disease that takes more lives of children in Africa than any other -- three times as many as HIV," she said.
Emphasis mine: " the first comprehensive report on malaria worldwide..." They have the gall to complain about the inefficiency of other nations and yet, with a health problem that is killing one million people per year and which can be fixed simply and effectively, the United Nations is only NOW getting around to writing "reports" on the "problem". Want a definition of hubris -- take a look. The article then goes on to talk about the UN's promotion of fancy drugs and insecticide-treated mosquito netting for over beds but the article (and the United Nations) fails to talk about the one known compound that can stop Malaria dead in its tracks. I am talking about a compound so powerful that a few ounces spread throughout a house over the course of a year will kill any mosquito that lands on it. This compound is harmless to mammals, the Mosquitoes do not have the chance to develop resistance and, icing on the cake, it is cheap to produce. This miracle compound -- DDT -- was unfortunately declared to be environmentally bad and it was therefore banned. What was not looked at was at the time of its banishment, people were using handfuls of the stuff and it was starting to accumulate in the ecosystem. Much smaller amounts are equally effective and if people are educated in its use, Malaria can become a very rare things in ten years.
From the Financial Times comes this tale of woe from Kofi Annan: UN chief Kofi Annan warns of nuclear catastrophe

An international conference on the future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty opened on Monday with demands from the US and its allies that Iran and North Korea give up and dismantle nuclear programmes that could be adapted to deliver weapons.

Accusing Iran and North Korea--which the US has accused of forming an �axis of evil� - of being in breach of the 1970 treaty, the US delegation reiterated proposals by George W. Bush, US president, for closing NPT �loopholes�.

Such states should be denied assistance in developing their civilian nuclear programmes, Stephen Rademaker, assistant secretary of state for arms control, told the NPT review conference, held every five years.

Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, warned the 188 parties to the treaty that a nuclear catastrophe would have global consequences. But he also reminded the five nuclear-armed states that are signatories of their duty to make progress in reducing their arsenals. Hey Kofi -- this problem you are warning us about happened on your watch and it would not be a problem if the United Nations has exhibited proper leadership and shown some teeth in its Nuclear or its Human Rights program. You need to find the problem and you can start by talking a long look in a mirror sometime... I'll give you a big hint -- the problem is not the USA.

P2P Software

Peer-to-Peer sharing evolved from the idea of trading music files with other computer users. Software was written to help 'automate' the search and download but the software seems to have certain security issues. If you are not careful, your entire hard disk becomes searchable. I ran into this website: See What You Share which explains the issue and gives examples of files it has found (with pertinent data redacted). Here is one example:
Click for full-size Image

The Origin of Star Wars

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An ambitious essay but they pull it off well...
How did George Lucas create Star Wars?
A critic might say "Oh, Lucas combined Flash Gordon with Akira Kurosawa, threw in some science fiction novels, comic books, The Wizard of Oz, and sewed it all up with Joseph Campbell's ideas on the structure of myth." And Lucas did do all those things, but that can't be the final answer. Every storyteller wants to connect with people as deeply as Lucas did with Star Wars, and everyone had access to the same raw materials. If the process was really so obvious and simple, wouldn't every story be just as good?

For those of us trying to write a story we like as much as Star Wars, how do we even begin? Perhaps the answer lies in Basho's suggestion: "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought." Maybe the key to becoming a skillful storyteller isn't imitation of the storytellers who have influenced us most, but figuring out what they were trying to achieve, then reaching for the same goal ourselves.

This website is filled with educated guesses as to what might have influenced George Lucas when he created the original Star Wars trilogy. The question is never where Lucas found his inspirations, but rather how he wove them together with such intelligence, insight and compassion. What gives a story the power to touch us? How does the imagination work?
A very good read -- the author rambles (in the good sense) from Joe Campbell to Heinrich Zimmer to Tolkein to the Kalevala and the Elder Edda and references the Matrix, the Ring (des Nibelungen), Lensmen and much much more. This website is long and deep -- it's well over fifteen pages but very engaging. Brew a fresh pot of coffee, put on some good music, put the cat out, kick back and start reading...
Kevin Kelly has a wonderful list of Cool Tools which I post about every so often. His latest one looks like it might be good for hikers and backpackers:
Backcountry Bear Basics
Bears are back in the woods. There's lots of folklore about what to do around them. Most of it wrong. Here, in a small book, is the latest straight dope about what you should do if you meet one -- and how not to meet one.
This book is available from Amazon for eight bucks. Here is an excerpt:
There are three key behaviors you need to be aware of:
1. The bear that approaches is usually in command of the situation.
2. The subordinate bear does not end an engagement with a dominant bear; the dominant bear is the first to leave.
3. Merely standing still has signal value; standing still will often alter the ongoing behavior of an approaching bear.
Other excerpts at Kevin's site -- looks like a book to add to our library...

Touch and Go's

A long long time ago, I fell for one of those "First Flying Lesson -- $15 (that shows how long ago) and took about 30 hours of lessons before reality settled in and I realized how much this whole "flying thing" would cost a 20's-something college student.

I soloed in eight hours and then spent the next ten or so practicing touch and go's -- taking off, flying out of control space, entering control space and landing only to rev up the engine and take off again.

This plane is a bit larger than my Cessna 150 and the airfield is a bit smaller than the one I was using in New England.

This event happened about ten years prior to my flying experience and this is the first time I have heard of it. Amazing skill for all hands. From SHOF:

C-130 Hercules on the deck of the USS Forrestal
When one reviews the encyclopedic range of accomplishments by the Hercules and its valiant aircrews over the years, surely one of the most astounding took place in October of 1963 when the U.S. Navy decided to try to land a Hercules on an aircraft carrier: Was it possible? Who would believe that the big, four-engine C-130 with its bulky fuselage and 132-foot wing span - could land on the deck of a carrier?

Not only was it possible, it was done, in moderately rough seas 500 miles out in the North Atlantic off the Boston Coast. In so doing, the airplane became the largest and heaviest airplane to land on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, a record that holds to this day.

When Lt.James H. Flatley III was told about his new assignment, he thought somebody was pulling his leg: "Operate a C-130 off an aircraft carrier? Somebody's got to be kidding, " he said.

Organic Lawn Care

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A very good guide to maintaining a (relatively) weed free lawn and growing healthy soil without chemicals. From the website:
Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy

In a nutshell:
Must do:
  • Set your mower as high as it will go (3 to 4 inches).
  • Water only when your grass shows signs of drought stress and then water deeply (put a cup in your sprinkler zone and make sure it gets at least an inch of water).
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer in the fall and spring. I recommend the Ringer brand.
  • Have the pH of your soil professionally tested. Add lime if it is below 6.0 and gardener's sulfur if it is above 7.0.
  • How much top soil do you have? See how deep a shovel will go into the soil. How deep can you dig a hole in one minute? If you have less than four inches of soil, you must add topsoil.
Now for the verbose details:

This is a game of competition. You want to make things favorable for the grass and unfavorable for the weeds so the grass will choke out the weeds. Naturally.

The Burger Wars

Early in March of this year, I wrote about Kate Stelnick. Her claim to fame is shown in this photograph:


The clean plate once held a six pound hamburger patty with five more pounds of toppings and the bun. This record could not stand and another bar started offering a bigger burger seeing if anyone could eat that. MyWay/APhas the story:

Pa. Eatery Offers New 15-Pound Burger
The burger war is growing. Literally. Denny's Beer Barrel Pub, which lost its crown as the home of the world's biggest burger earlier this year, is now offering a new burger that weighs a whopping 15 pounds.

Dubbed the Beer Barrel Belly Buster, the burger comes with 10.5 pounds of ground beef, 25 slices of cheese, a head of lettuce, three tomatoes, two onions, a cup-and-a-half each of mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, mustard and banana peppers - and a bun.

It costs $30.

"It can feed a family of 10," said Denny Liegey Sr., the restaurant's owner.

Denny's Beer Barrel Pub had offered a 6-pound burger - with 5 pounds of toppings.

In February, a 100-pound female college student became the first to eat the burger within the three-hour time limit. Kate Stelnick, of Princeton, N.J., was awarded a special certificate, a T-shirt and other prizes and Leigey picked up the $23.95 tab for the burger.

One month later, the Clinton Station Diner in Clinton, N.J., introduced a 12.5-pound burger dubbed Zeus.

So Liegey responded, and the Belly Buster was born.

Over the weekend, four men took the challenge, but couldn't get through the entire burger. They opted for doggie bags, instead.

"It's a little too much for me to handle," said Steve Hepburn, of Clearfield. "It's like trying to eat half a cow."

Paging Ms. Stelnick -- white courtesy phone for Ms. Stelnick...


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A delightful list of Heteronyms -- two (or more) words that share the same spelling but have different pronunciations and meanings. Here are a few:
Alternate ALternit- the next choice; ALternait- switch back and forth
Lead LEED- to guide; LED- a metallic element
Minute MINNit- 60 seconds; myNOOT- tiny
Sewer SOwer- one who sews; SOOwer- place for human waste
The website has more examples plus links to other websites also dealing with Heteronyms.
Actor Kenny Baker has quite the roster of film credits to his name (over 30) but he is probably best known for his work stuffed inside that overgrown Shop-Vac that is R2D2. He is now 70 years old and was griping about working conditions while filming RotS - ContactMusic has the story:
Diminutive STAR WARS actor KENNY BAKER stopped complaining about his discomfort inside robot R2D2 during filming for the sci-fi saga's final episode - because the film crew plastered its interior with pictures of naked models.

The 70-year-old star dreaded filming the first five Star Wars films because the awkward metal outfit was unbearable, but his work on the sixth installment, STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH was more tolerable because he shared the costume with pornographic images.

He explains, "The lads surprised me one day by sticking a load of Page Three pictures inside R2D2's head. I got inside and wondered what the heck was going on.

"I got cross-eyed looking at everything in front of me. But it was rather nice. It made it a lot more bearable."
So we should all watch the new movie and see if Kenny favors a certain twist to the head...

Roads and Taxes

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I had written about a galling increase in the price of WA State Gasoline here -- people in all of WA State are being asked to foot the bill for the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. These funds are being collected with a new tax on Gasoline. Our current governor pushed for this even though during her campaign, she said that she opposed new Gas Taxes. I had also referenced two other projects that are being funded through tolls on that part of the project (Hood Canal Bridge and the I-5 Bridge near Vancouver/Portland) Over at Truck and Barter, Kevin writes about another example with a perfect solution:
Private Roads in Northern VA
Well, I never thought I'd see this:

Construction of the first major expansion of the Capital Beltway in a generation could start as soon as next year, Virginia transportation officials said yesterday after signing a deal with two private firms to build toll lanes for a speedier ride on 14 miles of the chronically clogged highway.

The deal calls for adding two lanes in each direction of the Beltway, separated from other traffic... The high-occupancy toll -- or HOT -- lanes would be free for vehicles containing three or more people; other drivers would pay to use them. To keep the lanes from clogging, tolls would increase with the amount of traffic.

The state would not have to pay anything for the new lanes. The private companies would invest the entire $900 million cost of the project in exchange for all or part of the toll revenue...

Fluor Enterprises Inc. and Transurban Group will pay to build the lanes, which could open in 2010.
Of course the details might change, though not the lack of government money. It's a great day for federal and state taxpayers, as well as future DC beltway drivers.
Emphasis mine -- the sliding fee is brilliant. If you do not like it, leave for work a little earlier or find two other people to carpool with you and then you do not have to pay anything. Looks like win/win to me.


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I had written earlier about Rogers Cadenhead who thought about possible names for the next Pope and registered six of them; one of which was Cadenhead is being very cool about this, he is very familiar with the web and wanted to get the name before any Popesquatters -- he is trying to contact the Vatican to see what he should do about it and in the meantime, has redirected the URL to his favorite Charity. Other people are not so altruistic as reported by Netcraft:
Papal Domains for Auction on eBay, Sedo
It didn't take long for popesquatters to try and cash in on domains related to the new pope, Benedict XVI. The domain is for sale on eBay, with a starting price listed at $100,000, and a "buy it now" price of just $250,000. The domain owner is Total Interest Ltd., a Bahamas-based domain company that grabbed the name in February.

Other variations on the papal name taken by former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger are being auctioned at Sedo, where popesquatters Chris and Linda Dunaway of Gatlinsburg, Tenn. are offering an entire portfolio of Benedictine domains, including,,, Pope and

At the other end of the spectrum, blogger Rogers Cadenhead says he has no plans to sell, which he purchased along with five other potential papal domains. Cadenhead, who has written several books on Java development, is being profiled in numerous media stories today, including items on The Washington Post, Wired and blogs Boing Boing and

"I never really registered it with the intent of making money, and I think to crassly auction it would be a sin of some kind," Cadenhead told The Post. "Whatever decision I make will be guided by the desire not to make 1.5 billion people mad at me .... including my grandmother."
eBay has -- to their wonderful credit -- suspended the auction. Some things are such simple ethics problems that there is no question about the correct answer. Sell-Domain (Sedo) is still up and running...
I was not able to attend but it seems that Linux has arrived in Bellingham. From NewsForge:
Linuxfest Northwest 2005 in review
If giving away T-shirts is an accurate way to estimate attendees, then at least 750 people made the trip to Linuxfest Northwest in Bellingham, Wash., last weekend. Linuxfest Northwest 2005 continued the conference's strong focus on highly technical presentations -- this is not a vendor-centric event.

The all-volunteer, grassroots festival is held annually on the Bellingham Technical College campus. The college provides facilities for the event at no charge. Mark Ashworth, a Linuxfest volunteer, explained that the low overhead allows the event to be free to the public and also helps make it all about the technology. Funds are raised through a raucous raffle at the end of the day, and also from the $100 donations that are requested of exhibitors. Ashworth said there are about half a dozen key volunteer organizers and 30 more student volunteers who help out on the day of the festival. "[It's an] all volunteer staff. We're not paid at all," he said.

George Dyson presented the keynote this year on "Von Neumman's Universe." It was based on the presentation he gave at OSCON in 2003. Dyson is a computer "paleontologist," as he describes himself, and happens to live in Bellingham.

On the vendor side, Pogo Linux continued its strong support of the event by chartering two buses to bring people to Bellingham free of charge. Google also made its first showing at Linuxfest with a recruiting booth for potential employees.

One notable difference from Linuxfest 2004 was the lessened concern over legal issues in the GNU/Linux world. In 2004 there was much talk about the SCO/IBM lawsuit, and presentations were given on the matter. Happily, that was not the case this year.
Have to attend the 2006 event. Running Fedora and SuSE on two machines here and ran it for some servers and security machines at my last "real" job. This website runs on a Linux server (as do most). Good stuff...

Cooking tips

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Jen and I both like to cook. I ran into this website that has about 30 neat tips. Some I knew already, some are cool additions...
Les Secrets de la Cuisine
One thing that I�ve learned from working with chefs throughout the years is that tasks that look on the surface to be difficult often are not. When teaching a trick to students, I repeatedly witness the same �ah hah� reaction that I�m sure I exhibited when I first saw a chef do this same thing. It�s the reaction you have to something that seems difficult but turns out to be easy. It�s the reaction you have when you discover how something is done. Over time I started to think a lot of these �tricks of the trade� as being reminiscent of a fraternal organization�s secret handshake, the greeting that only members know. But there never has been anything secret about them, and I never had to join up to learn them.
Here is one (excerpted):
Restaurants have a marvelous machine for rolling dough into thin, even sheets. It resembles a wringer that looks similar to one that used to be found next to a washing machine 50 years ago. ... In kitchens without one of these machines, there�s a simple method that can be used to achieve consistent results. A pair of �rails� can easily be constructed for the rolling pin to rest on as it is moved to and fro. The rails limit the thickness (thinness?) to which the dough can be rolled. At Restaurant Patrick Jeffroy in Carantec, France, they use 3-cm wide strips of tag board cut from an old calendar. Each strip is about a millimeter thick and they stack the strips to achieve different heights.

Alaskan Fish Story

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Looks like some great eating ahead. For a long time, Copper River Salmon have been marketed as "The Salmon" to have. Now, the Tacoma News Tribune reports on a Salmon that's supposed to be even better:
'The Cadillac of fish' is back
Yukon king salmon: Tasty dish available in restaurants, stores again starting today

Move over Copper River salmon - there's a new fish coming out of Alaska that distributors and retailers say has enough flavor to blow even this wildly popular menu item out of the water. It's the Yukon king salmon, and it will be available to domestic consumers for the first time in decades beginning today.

According to Yukon River exporters and brokers, the over-2,000-mile trip from the Bering Sea to spawn gives these king salmon an oil content of up to 34 percent, which they claim makes them richer and more flavorful than Copper River kings. The fish also are high in omega-3 fatty acids, considered to be the healthiest type of fat for the heart.

"I grew up in a fish family," said Brad Boroughs of Pacific Harvest Seafoods in Bellevue, "and we always called them the Cadillac of fish. They just disappear in your mouth."

Boroughs said orders were already streaming in from distributors around the Northwest. Pacific Harvest sells many kinds of Alaskan salmon, including Copper River salmon, he said, but nothing compares to the flavor of the Yukon king.

This is the first year since the 1970s that the river's entire king salmon catch won't be shipped to major Japanese importers - such as the Mitsubishi, Nichiro and Marubenei corporations - which sell the fish to be smoked or made into a flaky condiment. In the face of this demand, Boroughs said, domestic sales of the fish were limited to 5,000 pounds per year.
Salivating just thinking about it...

Go Speed Racer Go!

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Interesting turn of events in Iran. As reported by The Guardian:
The fast and the furious
Laleh Seddigh enraged the establishment when she beat all the men to win a national motor-racing competition - perhaps because that nation is Iran, where male superiority is enshrined in law. She talks to Robert Tait

Her first name means tulip in Farsi, tulip being the flower adopted by Iran's Islamic rulers as a revolutionary emblem, symbolising martyrs' blood. But somehow it is hard to imagine Laleh Seddigh as the poster child whom the hardline conservative mullahs, renowned for their rigid views on female modesty and the separation of the sexes, had in mind when they tried to mould the country into a strict religious state after the 1979 revolution. Quite the opposite, in fact.

For Seddigh has not so much circumvented Iran's gender barrier as blasted her way through it. She has done so by surpassing a host of male competitors in a discipline at which large numbers of Iranian men excel - driving at breakneck speed with apparent disregard for the consequences.

Earlier this year, Seddigh, a 28-year-old PhD student in production management, was crowned the first woman champion in an otherwise all-male field in a national speed race championship at Tehran's Azadi stadium. To win, she careered round the track in a souped-up Proton saloon in lap times as fast as 68 seconds. That success followed an equally impressive triumph in a national rally competition. Doing her own wheel changes and engine repairs, Seddigh and her female navigator raced across a combination of desert and frozen roads in Iran's notoriously rough-hewn terrain to finish ahead of a mixed-sex field.
As the cracks start to show in the Theocracy. Lebanon is doin very well these last few months, Iran may soon follow.

Clinton supports Bush

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Interesting turn of events... President Bill Clinton was speaking at Brown University and although he was critical of Bush's energy policies, he gave firm support to our involvement in Iraq and Bush's plans to push democracy. CNN/AP has the story:
Clinton criticizes Bush energy policies
Former president urges support of democracy in Iraq

Former President Bill Clinton lashed out at the Bush administration's energy policies Friday, criticizing them as "dumb economics" during a wide-ranging speech to a friendly crowd at Brown University.

But Clinton encouraged Americans to support democracy in Iraq, and said they should encourage the Bush administration to work with the rest of the world in bringing peace to the region.

The former president said those who opposed going to war with Iraq had to put those feelings aside. "You should want it to work now," he said.
And another one sees the light...
An interesting article at the Telegraph regarding two noted Scientific Journals, Science and Nature and their refusal to review some papers:
Leading scientific journals 'are censoring debate on global warming'
Two of the world's leading scientific journals have come under fire from researchers for refusing to publish papers which challenge fashionable wisdom over global warming.

A British authority on natural catastrophes who disputed whether climatologists really agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, says his work was rejected by the American publication, Science, on the flimsiest of grounds.

A separate team of climate scientists, which was regularly used by Science and the journal Nature to review papers on the progress of global warming, said it was dropped after attempting to publish its own research which raised doubts over the issue.

The controversy follows the publication by Science in December of a paper which claimed to have demonstrated complete agreement among climate experts, not only that global warming is a genuine phenomenon, but also that mankind is to blame.
This will be damning if people can back it up... And it's not just Scientific Journals here is a bit more (the entire article is excellent).
Concern about bias within climate research has spread to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose findings are widely cited by those calling for drastic action on global warming.

In January, Dr Chris Landsea, an expert on hurricanes with the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, resigned from the IPCC, claiming that it was "motivated by pre-conceived agendas" and was "scientifically unsound".
But of course, would you expect anything less from an organization so closely tied to the United Nations. It wouldn't do to come up with anything that might say that Kyoto was a bad thing now would it...
Washington State had a very close election for Governor. So close that Dino Rossi is still maneuvering to get a re-vote because the margin of victory was less than 200 votes and people have already found several hundred votes that were counted from dead people, people living out of state, convicted felons, people who used a Mailboxes Etc. address for their legal address illegal) The Seattle Times has an interesting report comparing what Gregoire said while campaigning and what she has done since being elected.
What Governor Gregoire said � and did
Gov. Christine Gregoire wasn't pushing for a gas-tax increase or talking much about fixing the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the 520 bridge when she entered her first legislative session nearly four months ago.

In fact, during last year's campaign, Gregoire said she opposed � at least for now � raising the gas tax.

So how did it end up that, on the final day of the session, it was Gregoire who played perhaps the most pivotal role in pushing through the biggest gas-tax increase and transportation-spending package in state history?
Hat tip to Sound Politics for this link. The gas tax is especially galling since the moneys from it are being directed to repair Seattle's elevated Viaduct. The Hood Canal and the I-5 bridge near Vancouver are also being replaced but tolls are being instituted on these to cover the costs.
Interesting riff on names at Tim Boucher's blog. Tim starts off with a quote from an Aleister Crowley grimore:
What I am interested in though is a section of the introduction, which was penned by Crowley, explaining certain metaphysical properties of these demons, which I think is very interesting.

The spirits of the Goetia are portions of the human brain.

Their seals therefore represent (Mr. Spencer's projected cube) methods of stimulating or regulating those particular spots (through the eye).

The names of God are vibrations calculated to establish:

[1] General control of the brain., (Establishment of functions relative to the subtle world.)
[2] Control over the brain in detail. (Rank or type of the Spirit.)
[3] Control of one special portion. (Name of the Spirit.)
He then looks at some names of Goetic Demons:
And then:
So yeah, I was just thinking about how similar those are to the names of different drugs made by pharmaceutical heavyweights like Pfizer and Lilly. Examples:

Somepeople at MIT are hosting the first and only Time Traveler Convention in about a week and need our help to get the publicity out. Here is the website for the event: The Time Traveler Convention and the event itself is being held here:
The Time Traveler Convention
May 7, 2005, 10:00pm EDT (08 May 2005 02:00:00 UTC)
East Campus Courtyard, MIT
42:21:36.025�N, 71:05:16.332�W
(42.360007,-071.087870 in decimal degrees)

A very clever idea -- from their website:
Why do you need my help?
We need you to help PUBLICIZE the event so that future time travelers will know about the convention and attend. This web page is insufficient; in less than a year it will be taken down when I graduate, and futhermore, the World Wide Web is unlikely to remain in its present form permanently. We need volunteers to publish the details of the convention in enduring forms, so that the time travelers of future millennia will be aware of the convention. This convention can never be forgotten! We need publicity in MAJOR outlets, not just Internet news. Think New York Times, Washington Post, books, that sort of thing. If you have any strings, please pull them.

Great idea, I'd love to help! What should I do?
Write the details down on a piece of acid-free paper, and slip them into obscure books in academic libraries! Carve them into a clay tablet! If you write for a newspaper, insert a few details about the convention! Tell your friends, so that word of the convention will be preserved in our oral history! A note: Time travel is a hard problem, and it may not be invented until long after MIT has faded into oblivion. Thus, we ask that you include the latitude/longitude information when you publicize the convention.

You can also make an absolute commitment to publicize the convention afterwards. In that case, bring a time capsule or whatever it may be to the party, and then bury it afterwards.

Can't the time travelers just hear about it from the attendees, and travel back in time to attend?
Yes, they can! In fact, we think this will happen, and the small number of adventurous time travelers who do attend will go back to their "home times" and tell all their friends to come, causing the convention to become a Woodstock-like event that defines humanity forever.

Unfortunately, we of the present (2005) don't have time travel, and so we only have one chance at observing the convention. If the time travelers don't leave us their secrets, we won't be able to go back in time and see our convention in all its glory unless it is publicized in advance.
Might be worth showing up just to see who is there...

Useful college class

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Now here is something I wished was available when I was in college. In Rock Hill, SC, a teacher at Winthrop University is teaching his students a practical version of history. From the school newspaper The Johnsonian:
History professor gets medieval with hobby
At Winthrop University students are fortunate to have many different classes to choose from. Classes for the determined business majors, crafty art majors or even the intelligent biology majors, but what about a class that taught lessons in creating medieval armor?

Not only would students learn how to create and form their own pieces of medieval armor but they could cook different types of birds for example, learn to brew beer and distill wine.
Wine is not distilled and there are Federal laws in place regulating (ie: DON'T DO IT) distillation of spirits but otherwise, it looks like a great way to spend a couple months! We have a friend who is allergic to the Hops used in beer. I homebrew and made her a Gruit -- a Medieval beer seasoned with herbs. Very tasty stuff. The chief bittering agent is Mugwort and I lucked into finding a Mugwort plant at a local garden sale. (I'm planting a brewers garden this spring.)

Up to date news on Iraq

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Ran into this blog which features the most up to date reporting I have seen on the current conditions in Iraq. The author of the blog is a Mr. Jeremy Scahill who writes for that esteemed organization Democracy Now. I present IraqJournal.ORG Mr. Scahill's Bio from the website:
Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist and correspondent for Democracy Now!. He also reports frequently for Free Speech Radio News. He has reported from Nigeria, Yugoslavia, and the U.S. In December 1998, and again in May and June 2002, he reported from Iraq. He has just returned to Baghdad to help bring out news not covered elsewhere.
Here is the most recent post:
Filed March 25, 2003 By the editors of

On March 20, 2003 at approximately 5:35 am local time, U.S, bombs fell on Baghdad, Iraq. This has been followed by days of severe bombing in Baghdad and other cities, and the incursion of U.S. and British ground forces in Iraq. It has also been followed by huge protests in cities and towns across the United States and around the globe.

There are currently no IraqJournal team members in Baghdad. When new material becomes available, it will be posted here immediately.
I don't know how long this bit of leftie lunacy will be up so I grabbed a screencap:
Click for full-size Image

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